TDot’s Mailbag v1.0

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Aug 20, 2009 in Mail | Subscribe

Before jumping in, I’m going to try and write these daily posts in the middle of the day from now on. I’ve noticed that when it gets late and I haven’t typed something, I’m more inclined to put off case briefs in order to write an entry. Although I’ll probably post less content as the semester grinds on and I have less time, I’m trying to keep with Jansen’s advice of posting daily so I don’t abruptly give up on it ;)

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As odd as this might seem to the non-CSC folks out there, I actually forgot I had an email address for this blog that had been passed around in a couple places (and evidently forwarded on from there).  I created it right before running the WordPress installation, but I maintain just shy of 20 different websites for various groups with dozens of email addresses so I just forgot about it afterwards.  When I randomly remembered it last night and added it to my list of accounts in Mail.app, I had a few dozen emails from WordPress and surprisingly a few emails from folks I don’t even know.

So I’m bundling that with recent Facebook and text messages into a quasi-“Reader Mail” segment :)

Q: Alice1 writes:

What does law:/dev/null mean?

A: On any Unix-based operating system (e.g. MacOS X, Linux, etc) the word(s) before the “:/” is the name of the volume (the disk).  On Windows it’s probably called something like “Local Disk” or “C” or something similar; Mac and Linux users get to personalize theirs (despite my age I’m a fan of Pokémon video games so my laptop drive is named “Umbreon”).

Those same Unix-based operating systems have a folder at the root of their filesystem called “dev” which is shorthand for “device”, which includes files that are used for interfacing with programs.  Input is done by writing data into those files; output reads data from those same files.  So, for example, input from your keyboard is typically routed through the stdin file (“standard input”), output to the console/terminal/screen goes through stdout (“standard output”), disk0 is the file representing your hard drive, and so on.

null is the “null device”, which basically is a “fake” device used for discarding input as soon as it’s received and not displaying to anything or sending it anywhere. If you ever go to the office of a grouchy IT worker, you might see a sign that says “All complaints will be filed in dev/null” or something similar, which roughly translates to “Don’t bitch because you’re going to be ignored and anything you write down will get thrown in the trash.”

I’m pretty egregiously oversimplifying all of that for those who aren’t technically inclined, but putting it all together in a nutshell law:/dev/null would be the null device on the volume named “law” where you’d send any input you want discarded as soon as it’s entered ;)

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Q: Bob from my alma mater writes:

Did your entry from yesterday about That Guy actually happen?

A: Oh yes. Ooohhhhh yes.  I wrote it as a quasi-judicial opinion to be mildly humorous, but That Guy was very real and the withering-but-deserved tirade he endured from Professor Torts happened as I laid it out.

If any of my Section 103 folks happen to read this, feel free to jump in and vouch for me :)

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Q: Cici writes:

Did you really count the lights from your apartment to school?  Are you OCD?

A: (1) Yes.  (2) Maybe.  I just counted the lights because it seemed every morning I was late I’d hit a majority of them, so I figured I’d test my theory :P

There are 16 total from the apartment to the parking lot by the way…

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I’ll add more as I go through them, I’ve still got a few left but may save them for whenever I run out of something worthwhile to say ;)

Enjoy your evenings everybody! :D

  1. All of these names will be pseudonyms, so don’t worry if you write in :) []

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