Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I'm Sorry, But "Mr. Lyres" Won't Be Seeing You Anytime Soon

Today, I invite all the Musings readers who are way more computer-savvy than myself to have a little laugh at my expense (after all, if you can't laugh at yourself, you can't laugh at others, right?). Sure, I know my way around the Internet very well and have no trouble with garden-variety HTML (and also possess what I consider to be "mad Googling skillz"), but something I figured out this weekend reminded me of what a complete "n00b" I still am in many areas.

This is how it all started: there's a huge road construction project in my city, almost literally within rock-throwing distance of my house, that's been going on for over a year now. I've gone to the city's website on many occasions to check on its progress, as well as that of some other upcoming projects in my area. I noticed that the URL for the page looked something like this:

There were some unusual things listed there, such as the "NR/rdonlyres" part, but it didn't grab my attention too much...yet.

Here's one more thing about me: I'm a pretty big road geek. If I hadn't gone into music (or architecture, which was another possibility until my high school math teachers pretty much snuffed my desire to do anything with that much math in it), I might well have gone into civil engineering, designing roads and the like. I used to draw up entire cities' worth of street grids when I was bored in school, and sometimes, while driving, I'd just follow a road to see where it went.

Because of that predisposition, and the fact that I drive around a lot (and am always looking for more efficient ways to get places), I'm often checking the various local road websites (NTTA, TxDOT, etc.) to see when new projects in my area (and other places I visit a lot, like Austin and Houston) will be built. And every road schematic on that site included the term "rdonlyres" just like the city's site did. I jumped to the conclusion that there must be an engineering firm headed up by one R. Don Lyres that was responsible for all these types of things in the state (and if you have trouble conceiving of "Don" as a middle name--as opposed to the more formal "Donald," that is--you must not live in the South).

So I wallowed around in my ignorance for quite a while, continuing to see the handiwork of Mr. Lyres on other engineering projects, and the only thought that went through my head was that business must be really good for the Lyres firm. But this weekend, I was Googling for something else, and the "NR/rdonlyres" thing appeared on other URL's as well--things that had nothing to do with engineering or Texas. Maybe it wasn't someone's name after all...

I thought about it for a second, before researching it: What did all the "rdonlyres" pages have in common? Looking at a few, it occurred to me that the appellation only applied to PDF's. Then I looked at the character string differently, and the word "only" jumped out at me in a way that it never had before. Was this the clue? Let's separate the elements by isolating that word: "rd only res." Hmm--could the first part be "Read only?" That would make sense with a PDF. Read only...resolution? Maybe that was it.

It was obviously time to hunt for it online, so I did, and it turns out that I was close; this answer page defines it as "read only resource." That certainly makes sense. (And if anyone knows what the "NR" that precedes it stands for, go here and post the answer, as nobody's chimed in so far. Then please come back and post it in the comments here as well.)

So I felt a little silly when I discovered the truth; so much for "Mr. Lyres" and his thriving business. But at least I know now.
What's the silliest misconception you've ever had about something computer-related?

This technology will scare a lot of people: For those who just can't wait till they get to the bar to belt out their favorite song, a Japanese firm has come up with a portable karaoke machine (alcohol not included.)

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