Posts tagged ‘nerdiness’


My name, written in Hindi, written in Unicode:

ऐलन डेिवडसन

Yeah, that’s right—real programmers code in binary (or hexadecimal, if they get lazy). The coolest thing about this is that if I had been more confident, I could have done it without getting help from the Internet. but I wasn’t, so I double checked stuff online. I’m still not entirely sure I got it right, so if you or someone you know is familiar with the Devanagari alphabet, please double check my spelling. I have written this so that people who don’t have Hindi vowel-rendering turned on (which I suspect is the majority of my readers) will see this correctly, while anyone who actually has a computer set up to read Hindi/Sanskrit/&c will think the ि and व should be swapped. I’m aware of the problem, but can’t fix it for everyone.

Unicode is surprisingly intricate: like x86 machine code, UTF-8 (the most common encoding of Unicode, since it’s backwards compatible with ASCII) and UTF-16 use a variable-length encoding for characters, so that common character sets like ASCII take up less room than uncommon ones like Braille (which is not as widespread on the Internet as it is elsewhere). Unicode text files typically start off with a Byte-Order Mark, which describes the basic unit size of characters along with the endianness of the machine on which it was encoded; these BOMs are partly why it’s such a universal encoding system. Unicode actually raises some pretty challenging questions in terms of “alphabetical” sorting and accent placement, and even presents some security problems by opening the way for homograph phishing attacks (for instance, see this Shmoo article on IDN attacks, which mentions that www.pа can be registered with a Cyrillic first ‘а’ and could be full of scams. Yes, I have written both the URL and the ‘а’ with the actual Cyrillic letter).

Yes, it’s totally dorky to learn about Unicode, but it’s actually kinda cool at the same time.

A nerdtacular moment

My frisbee claims it is 175 grams, but it certainly doesn’t feel like the regulation weight. Consequently, I wanted to weigh it. The problem? I don’t have a scale. However, I have a bathtub, a whiteboard marker, a large bowl, and a bottle that claims to hold 237 ml. I fill the bathtub partway, and put the bowl in it. I fill up the bottle and pour it into the bowl, and then mark on the bowl where the level of the bathtub water is. I empty the bowl, put the frisbee in it, and mark the height of the water on the bowl again. I take the frisbee out of the bowl, and mark the height of the bathtub water on the bowl when it’s empty. I then take the bowl out of the water and measure the distances between the 3 marks. The distance from the bottom mark to the top mark should denote a volume of 237 ml. The distance from the bottom mark to the middle mark should indicate the volume of water whose weight equals that of the frisbee. After a little algebra, I decided that my frisbee weighs roughly 200 +/- 50 grams. I guess it may very well be labelled correctly.