Thursday, December 25, 2014

Impulse Tracker open-sourced

Impulse Tracker was an influential piece of software in the 90's electronic music scene (and is doubtless still influential today, but isn't used as much, naturally). Its author just open-sourced the whole thing. It would be an interesting code understanding/exegesis target.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Generating mazes and dungeons

Truly fascinating and well-written article on maze/dungeon generation, with interactive JS illustrations. This is the kind of writing about programming I love. [hnn]

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Really teensy ELF executables

Binary data parsing - well, reverse binary data parsing... or something. Cool article, anyway.

Introduction to Data Analysis

Online course material.

Remote controlling browsers

So a significant portion of "business things" that a workflow/business process system has to handle consist of things done in browsers.

Sure, sure, you can automate Web things effectively with a bot, but sometimes what you're controlling is a JavaScript application that, honestly, will only run well in an actual browser. It's a pain, but there you go.

One avenue has traditionally been IEMech (moribund at the moment due to OLE/COM complexity that has changed in later versions), but there are also different remote control solutions available for Firefox and Chrome.

Firefox's FF-Remote-Control is a great little add-on that works quite well. For the time being, therefore, Firefox is going to be my automated browser of choice even though Chrome is currently my actual browser.

For Chrome, the situation is somewhat different, as Chrome's security model doesn't permit an add-on to listen on a port. As a result, the Chromi extension hits a running server on localhost (the Chromix remote-control system). It doesn't seem as flexible as FF-Remote-Control, but I haven't spent much time with it yet.

So: for now, Firefox.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Rant is a language for random text generation. Looks pretty neat!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Fuzz testing

Fuzz testing is throwing randomly perturbed inputs at a given piece of software to see what breaks. I was entirely unaware of the state of the art of fuzz testing, though. afl-fuzz is a tool that watches the execution traces of its target while reacting to the input. It can synthesize a legal bash script from nothing, by watching how bash reacts to different byte sequences. (And it discovered that bash vulnerability that made everybody upgrade last month or so.)

To which I can only say: holy Toledo. I have seen the future.

It discovered CDATA sections in XML. Randomly. Against the expectations of its author, who says, "it's an example of the fuzzer defiantly and secretly working around one of its intentional and explicit design limitations". Evolution is weird. Almost magic.

It made a legal JPG from the seed string "Hello" - again, by noticing different execution paths taken in response to different bytes of input. Here are some test sets for graphics. Interesting stuff.


Just a note on progress, for later calibration of my past timelines: I've got Decl 2.0 parsing working rather nicely (still a few loose ends) and I have an excellent plan for integrating it into a notes application for literate programming. I think the combination will end up being something pretty powerful.

My first real target for transformational exegesis using this kind of tool will be Melanie Mitchell's Copycat - I want to get it converted to Clojure so it will run on something I actually own. But I'm also exploring various programming sequences and contests as a way of provoking thought about the actual writing of software.

Anyway, that's all pretty jargon-laden but it means something to me. At a later date I hope to circle back around and write about this stuff in more detail, but I'm not in that phase of the cycle at the moment.