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dws (341)

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Journal of dws (341)

Saturday February 19, 2005
07:50 PM

Tools hiding in plain sight

[ #23262 ]

Years back I bought a solar powered calculator that does hex and octal. (Actually, I bought six, since they were on closeout sale for a couple of bucks each. I gave four to coworkers, and took one of the remaining two home.) Whenever I run into one of those bit pattern problems (like funky subnet masks), I reach for the calculator.

This week, while working on some problem that required radix conversion, the teamate I was pairing with reached for... the Windows calculator. The words "but ..." had nearly made it out my mouth when he pulled down the View menu and selected Scientific. Suddenly, there was a calculator that could do radix conversions. Right there in front of me where I'd never noticed it, because I'd never had the need or urge (or curiosity) to pull down the View menu to see what the options were.

Makes me wonder what else is hiding in plain sight.

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  • Real calculators can be more satisfying. Great move on scooping the close-out of the hex calcs.

    Someone else recently told me that they couldn't do their trig homework since they couldn't find their TI Silver and the Windows calc didn't do trig, and were amazed when shown the VIEW|Scientific option. (And of course, that spreadsheet does it too.)

    As to Hex conversions, TIMTOWDI - you can frequently do it with Perl pack(), unpack(), or sprintf() too.

    # I had a sig when sigs were cool
    use Sig;
  • People like most animals use search patterns when looking for things. If we find "X" in location "1", we expect to find other "X-like" things in "1-like" locations. We don't even bother looking for "X-like" things in "2-like" locations. As a gerneral rule it's pretty efficient, books live in book cases, CDs in CD racks and so on.

    The problem with life is that unless you are a hacker and are constantly taking things to bits to find out how things work, you have a pretty poor set of experiences, and so your

    -- "It's not magic, it's work..."
  • Sometimes, the best tool is whatever you're comfortable using. Like CALC.EXE,, some closeout solar powered calculator, or even the trusty old dc:
    $ echo "16 i 9A p" | dc
    $ echo "154 16 o p" | dc