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March 29 2012

Developer Week in Review: Google I/O's ticket window open and shuts in record time

This week, I'd like to take a moment to thank the good folks over at Parkland Medical Center, who took pity on the retching, sweat-covered soul who appeared on the doorstep of their emergency room last Friday morning. They swiftly (well, after 15 eternal minutes in the waiting room, which is pretty swift for a walk-in to an ER) got him hooked up to an IV and introduced the two God-given holy fluids of morphine and Dilaudid. On a totally unrelated note, I'd like to proudly announce the birth of a healthy 3mm kidney stone at 5PM last Friday. Donations to its college fund can be made ...

Extending the trend line doesn't look good

Google IOLast year, Google I/O sold out in under an hour. This year, it only took 20 minutes. If we extend the trend-line out a few years, the only people who will be able to get in will be those who have access to micro-second responsive stock market trading programs and hyper-tuned eBay auction sniping software.

At least, however, Google fans have some clue when the registration opens for their conference. Those of us still waiting for Apple's WWDC conference know it will have to open for registration soon, but the exact date and time is a mystery. Thankfully, the multi-thousand dollar registration fee tends to make WWDC a bit slower to fill up, but it will still be a race for those who require authorization from their management to go (some of us get authorization months in advance, specifically for this reason).

If there's a solution to this classic supply versus demand problem, I can't see it. Regional conferences reduce the benefit of getting all the developers together in one place and would have the companies sending their development staff to the four corners of the world. Maybe Apple and Google need to start renting out football stadiums instead of conference facilities.

More pigs spotted airborne

For those who have been taking a skeptical view of Microsoft's avowed embrace of the open source movement, there's more reason to believe it's genuine. This week, Microsoft released a whole crop of its .NET technology to its CodePlex open source repository, and the company did it under the hyper-liberal Apache 2.0 license rather than something proprietary and restrictive. In addition, Microsoft has started using the developer-friendly git source control system — another attempt to make itself more compatible with the open source community as a whole.

Of course, releasing portions of its proprietary environment as open source is still an attempt to get people to use Microsoft's technology as a whole, including Visual Studio, but the more it puts out there under licenses that include patent grants, the more possible it is to incorporate compatibility with Microsoft products in non-Microsoft platforms and products.

Was the cake made out of 0xDEADBEEF?

It's practically unimaginable today, but when the gcc compiler was first released 25 years ago this week, the only way to compile your code was to pay your hardware vendor for a proprietary compiler package, sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars.

In the intervening years, the shining star of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has become the go-to (excuse the expression) compiler for most modern compiled languages, available on and for just about every hardware platform you can think of. It doesn't have the death-grip hold on the industry it once did, with Apple among others moving to LLVM, but it was the first and for a long time the best compiler money couldn't buy. You may argue with the current philosophy of the FSF, but give it due props for opening up the world of programming to the world by making free tools available to anyone who wanted them.

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December 02 2011

Four short links: 2 December 2011

  1. Challenges in Teaching Biology -- everything that Alison says about teaching biology is true of teaching computer science. Read, learn, evolve.
  2. First Open Source Netflix Projects Released -- Curator makes Apache Zookeeper easier to use. (via Ian Kallen)
  3. LLVM3 Released -- these are key tools for reliable development of fast systems. I think of it as JVM without the bloat, though undoubtedly that's unfair to both Java and LLVM. (via Hacker News)
  4. Scribe -- Zooniverse tool for crowdsourcing transcriptions. (via Tim Sherratt)

September 02 2011

Four short links: 2 September 2011

  1. Invisible Autoupdater: An App's Best Feature -- Gina Trapani quotes Ben Goodger on Chrome: The idea was to give people a blank window with an autoupdater. If they installed that, over time the blank window would grow into a browser.
  2. Crackpot Apocalypse -- analyzing various historical pronouncements of the value of pi, paper author concludes "When πt is 1, the circumference of a circle will coincide with its diameter," Dudley writes, "and thus all circles will collapse, as will all spheres (since they have circular cross-sections), in particular the earth and the sun. It will be, in fact, the end of the world, and … it will occur in 4646 A.D., on August 9, at 4 minutes and 27 seconds before 9 p.m." Clever commentary and a good example when you need to show people the folly of inappropriate curve-fitting and extrapolation.
  3. clang -- C language family front-ends to LLVM. Development sponsored by Apple, as used in Snow Leopard. (via Nelson Minar)
  4. OmniAuth -- authenticate against Twitter, GitHub, Facebook, Foursquare, and many many more. OmniAuth is built from the ground up on the philosophy that authentication is not the same as identity. (via Tony Stubblebine)

January 06 2011

Four short links: 6 January 2011

  1. Wikipedia of Long Tail Programming Questions (Joel Spolsky) -- StackOverflow has mechanisms to remove the need to reask common questions. The editing feature is there so that old question/answer pairs can get better and better. For every person who asks a question and gets an answer on Stack Overflow, hundreds or thousands of people will come read that conversation later. [...] This is fundamentally different from Usenet or any of the web-based forums. [...] it’s actually a community-edited wiki of narrow, “long-tail” questions. Joel then goes on to plead, When you see a question that seems like it might reflect a common problem, don’t just answer it to get a few points. That doesn’t make the Internet any better, which sounds like a broken incentive system (get points for reanswering common questions, not for merging). The Wikipedia reference reminded me of Benjamin Mako Hill's comment to me at dinner several years ago, that Wikipedia's invisible advantage is the naming system where each concept has a single name. Stack Overflow's content-matching smarts will have to substitute for the naming scheme, and that could be tricky.
  2. libphonenumber -- Google's Java and Javascript libraries for parsing, formatting, storing, and validating international phone numbers. (via Hacker News)
  3. CoffeeScript -- a little language that compiles to Javascript. Just went to v1.0.
  4. Open Source Community Building: A Guide to Getting it Right (Dave Neary) -- The history of free & open source software development is filled with stories of companies who are disappointed with their first experiences in community development. The technical director who does not understand why community projects do not accept features his team has spent months developing, or the management team that expects substantial contributions from outside the company to arrive overnight when they release software they’ve developed. Chris Grams once described the Tom Sawyer model of community engagement - companies who expect other people to do their job for them. Make sure you don’t fall into that trap. (via Glyn Moody on Twitter)

December 27 2010

Four short links: 27 December 2010

  1. emscripten -- LLVM to Javascript compiler. Any code that compiles to LLVM can run in the browser (Python, Lua, C++). LLVM is open source virtual machine that Apple bought into (literally, they hired the developer).
  2. 30 Lessons Learned in Computing Over The Last 10 Years -- Backup every day at the minimum, and test restores every week. I don't think I've worked at an organisation that didn't discover at one point that they couldn't restore from their backups. Many other words of wisdom, and this one rang particularly true: all code turns into shit given enough time and hands. (via Hacker News)
  3. What Your Computer Does While You Wait -- top-to-bottom understanding of your system makes you a better programmer.
  4. How to Visualize the Competition -- elegant graphing of strategy. (via Dave Moskovitz on Twitter)

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