USPS Tracking Stinks

Living in Hawaii makes you aware of the shortcomings of the USPS. I received a Christmas present on April 17 (and yes, it was sent in December). A few weeks ago, we Express Mailed some x-rays to Oahu, a distance of about 80 miles as the sooty shearwater flies. It took 6 days. Now, I’ve got an important shipment on the way and have been “tracking” it at the USPS Web site.

USPS tracking is terrible. When the Express Mail didn’t show up in Oahu, I waited through interminable customer-service calls to try to get a tracer going. What I found is that, even if the tracer began (they wouldn’t even begin a trace until, I think, 7 days had passed), they don’t have detailed information — there was no way to know where the missing package went astray, whether in the Kona office, in transit, or in Oahu. To me, that means that no one would ever be accountable. UPS and FedEx tracking marks the packages as they move in and off trucks and warehouses.

Unfortunately, USPS is vastly cheaper than UPS or FedEx to the islands.

ANTLRWorks Seems an Incredible Tool for Domain-Specific Languages

 Via a comment by Gregg Irwin, here’s a REBOL-based control language for Excel by Robert Muench. (Wow, REBOL: There’s a blast from the past!). Sample code:

goto cell “B6”
change to “Testing”
select “B7”
set to “=B4 * B5”
select “A5:A9”
change to “=$B$5 * PI()”

Nice!

I also cruised on over to the ANTLR homepage to download the latest version of what I consider the best tool for DSL work and found the beta of ANTLRWorks. Holy moley! This is one of the best advances in development tools I’ve seen in many years: it’s a GUI for developing grammars. It has an integrated interpreter and debugger. Check out the screenshots for a taste. The only thing I could dream of being better would be a testing framework to compare inputs to abstract syntax trees!

ANTLR 3.0 (the version in beta) doesn’t seem to yet have its output templates integrated, so I think at the moment you can only generate Java-based parsers. Check out the screenshots for a taste: