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Showing posts from November, 2009

Parsing a JSON document and applying it to an HTML template in Google Go

Here's some simple code to parse a JSON document and the transform it into an HTML document using the Google Go packages json and template.

If you've done anything in a scripting language then you'll probably be surprised by the generation of fixed struct types that have to match the parsed JSON document (or at least match some subset of it). Also because of the way reflection works in Google Go the struct member names need to be in uppercase (and for that reason I've used uppercase everywhere).

import (

type Row struct {
Column1 string;
Column2 string;

type Document struct {
Title string;
Rows []Row;

const a_document = `
"Title" : "This is the title",
"Rows" : [ { "Column1" : "A1", "Column2" : "B1" },
{ "Column1" : "A2", "Column2" : "B2" }

const a_temp…

Installing Google Go on Mac OS X

I decided to have a go with Google Go since I'm an old fogey C/C++ programmer. Any new innovation in the C/C++ family gets me excited and Google Go has quite a few nice features (garbage collection is really nice to have and channels make me think of all the work I did in CSP).

I decided to go with the 6g compiler since gccgo doesn't have garbage collection implemented yet and hence there's no way to free memory. The only way to get 6g is to mirror its Mercurial repository. So...

Step 1: Install Mercurial

For that I used prebuilt packages from here and got Mercurial 1.4 for Mac OS X 1.5 (no, I haven't upgraded to Snow Leopard yet).

Step 2. Set GOROOT

I just did a quick cd ; mkdir go ; export GOROOT=$HOME/go to get me started.

Step 3. Clone the 6g repository

That was a quick hg clone -r $GOROOT followed by the hard part: compiling it. You need to have gcc, make, bison and ed installed (whcih I do since I do development work on my Mac).

Step 5. S…

Geek Weekend (Paris Edition), Day 4: Institut Pasteur

Leaving my SO in bed at the hotel with a nasty bacterial infection and some antibiotics, I went with timely irony to visit the home and laboratory of Louis Pasteur at the Institut Pasteur. (It's pretty easy to find since it has a conveniently named stop on the Paris metro: Pasteur).

At the Institut Pasteur there's a wonderful museum that covers the life and work of Louis Pasteur (and his wife). It's housed in the building (above) where the Pasteurs lived. There's a single room of Pasteur's science and the rest of the house is Pasteur's home; so a visit is partly scienfitic and partly like visiting any old home. I was mostly interested in the laboratory (although seeing how he lived---pretty darn well!---was also worth it).

Pasteur wrote standing up at a raised table (much like old bank clerks used to use) and his lab is full of specimens that he worked on. There's a nice display about chirality which Pasteur had initially worked on while study tartaric a…

Geek Weekend (Paris Edition), Day 3: The Arago Medallions

The old Paris Meridian (which was in use up until 1914) passes not far from The Pantheon which I visited to see Foucault's Pendulum. It's actual longitude today is 2°20′14.025″.

To mark the old meridian the French decided to install some art work and they commissioned an artist called Jan Dibbets to build something appropriate. What he did was embed brass disks in the streets of Paris marking the meridian and turning the whole city into a sort of treasure hunt.

These Arago medallions (which celebrate the meridian and the life of Fran├žois Arago) cut through the very heart of Paris. They make a wonderful way to see Paris at going on a treasure hunt. And the meridian goes to the very heart of something important: the meter. The original definition of a meter was based on the length of the Paris meridian from the north pole to the equator. Arago surveyed the meridian and came up with a very precise definition for this fundamental unit of measure.

Here's a photo I took of on…

Parsing HTML in Python with BeautifulSoup

I got into a spat with Eric Raymond the other day about some code he's written called ForgePlucker. I took a look at the source code and posted saying it looks like a total hack job by a poor programmer.

Raymond replied by posting a blog entry in which he called me a poor fool and snotty kid.

So far so good. However, he hadn't actually fixed the problems I was talking about (and which I still think are the work of a poor programmer). This morning I checked and he's removed two offending lines that I was talking about and done some code rearrangement. The function that had caught my eye initially was one to parse data from an HTML table which he does with this code:

def walk_table(text):
"Parse out the rows of an HTML table."
rows = []
while True:
oldtext = text
# First, strip out all attributes for easier parsing
text = re.sub('<TR[^>]+>', '<TR>', text, re.I)
text = re.sub('<TD[^>]+>', '<TD>…

Geek Weekend (Paris Edition), Day 2: Foucault's Pendulum

Not very far from The Curie Museum is the former church and now burial place for the great and good men (and one woman) of France: The Pantheon. Inside the Pantheon is the original Foucault's Pendulum.

The pendulum was first mounted in the Pantheon in 1851 to demonstrate that the Earth is rotating. The pendulum swings back and forth in the same plane, but the Earth moves. Relative to the floor (and to the convenient hour scale provided) the pendulum appears to rotate.

The pendulum is on a 67m long cable hanging from the roof of the Pantheon. The bob at the end of the cable weight 27kg. In the Pantheon the pendulum appears to rotate at 11 degrees per hour (which means it takes more than a day to return to its original position). If it were mounted at the North Pole it would 'rotate' once every 24 hours, the pendulum's period of rotation depends on the latitude diminishing to 0 degrees per hour at the equator (i.e. it doesn't 'rotate' at all).

If you take …

Geek Weekend (Paris Edition), Day 1: The Curie Museum

So, it was off to Paris for the weekend via Eurotunnel and I managed to fit in four places from The Geek Atlas in four days. I was staying in a hotel in the Latin Quarter which is a stone's throw from... The Curie Museum.

Here's Marie Curie's laboratory:

The museum covers the lives and works of two Nobel Prize-winning couples: Pierre and Marie Curie (they discovered Radium and Polonium) and their daughter Irene and her husband Frederic Joliot (they discovered artificial radioactivity: you could make a substance radioactive by bombarding it with alpha particles).

Their Nobel Prizes are on display as is the equipment that they used (including the apparatus for measuring radiation by measuring ionization of air---which itself had been discovered by Becquerel).

Here are the Nobel Prizes:

Although I love the science section of the museum (including the laboratory where they worked with a piece of paper from one of their notebooks with its radioactive thumb print---they weren't …