Syncthing, Thunderbird, Baseline, Claude's expanded context, SineRider, Map of GitHub & more

You are viewing issue #44 of the Changelog News(letter). Pop in your in your inbox every Monday.

Changelog News

Developer news from the Great White North

Hello friends 👋

Short(ish) issue this week. Not because there isn’t a lot going on!

Adam and I spent last week in lovely Vancouver at OS Summit North America (here’s some pics from the hallway track). Because of this, my thumb was only lightly on the pulse.

Ok, let’s get into the news. Listen along here 🎧

Syncthing is a continuous file sync program

With 51k+ GitHub stars, this might not be news to you, but still: no central server, encrypted comms, open protocol, cross-platform, no manual network config… too good to be true?

Syncthing screencap

Thunderbird is thriving

Thunderbird (a FOSS email app that’s been around forever) went from survival mode a few years ago to thriving in 2022 thanks to… user donations!

Last year, our mighty donor base – representing approximately 300,000 daily users – contributed a total of $6,442,704 in donations to the Thunderbird project. (Note: user donations represent more than 99.9% of our annual revenue.) Our 2022 donation income was a bright, assertive sign that you also believe in that mission, and you also want to see Thunderbird thriving. Not just in 2023, but decades into the future!

What’s really cool about this is how they don’t have any major donors. According to this, 95% of donations were less than $100, the average is $15.78, and the largest one was €3000.

The 2023 State of the API survey is open

Thanks to Postman for sponsoring this week’s Changelog News 💰

We shape the software industry with APIs and Postman wants to hear from us.

It takes about 15 minutes to fill out, they’ll email you the full report when it’s out, but most importantly: you can win prizes! Up for grabs are one Sony PlayStation 5, one Steam Deck, five $100 Amazon gift cards, and ten $50 gift certificates for Postman swag. 🎁

Baseline: a unified view of stable web features

Hermina Condei:

Starting today, MDN is introducing Baseline labeling on our site and we plan to cover all relevant features in the coming months.

This is a big win for being able to quickly determine if a web feature you want to use is good to go, broadly speaking. Here’s what it looks like in practice for the CSS grid property 👇

Baseline displayed on CSS grid

To do this, they have defined what they consider the “core browser set”, which includes the two most recent major versions of Firefox, Chrome, Edge and Safari.

A primer on vector databases

LLMs are all the rage, and they’re dragging vectors with them. This post by Roie Schwaber-Cohen from Pinecone does a great job of explaining why vector embeddings are useful, differentiating between vector indexes and vector databases, and laying out how vector databases work.

Note: Pinecone is a venture-funded purveyor of vector databases, so keep that in mind while reading.

For an even deeper dive on the topic (also with a Pinecone employee, these folks know how to content market!) check out this episode of Practical AI.

⚡️ Lightning round of cool stuff

  • Fetch: This page performs a live, annotated https: request for its own source. Better felt than telt!
  • Sustain: A handy guide to financial support for open source (recently referenced on the pod)
  • Begin: Liz Rice’s new repo housing all eBPF teaching resources she creates
  • Block: A call to join the author in not uploading people’s work to GitHub (because Copilot)
  • Consume: The simplest RSS feed reader I’ve ever seen
  • Deliver: A self-hosted, universal shipping API
  • Smooth: The Windows 11 desktop experience recreated with Svelte
  • Local: A drop-in replacement of OpenAI’s REST API for inference

Anthropic expands Claude’s context window from 9K to 100K tokens

The average person can read 100,000 tokens of text in ~5+ hours, and then they might need substantially longer to digest, remember, and analyze that information. Claude can now do this in less than a minute. For example, we loaded the entire text of The Great Gatsby into Claude-Instant (72K tokens) and modified one line to say Mr. Carraway was “a software engineer that works on machine learning tooling at Anthropic.” When we asked the model to spot what was different, it responded with the correct answer in 22 seconds.

Claude is just one proprietary model, but this is an example of the kind of improvements we can expect from LLMs all around the industry in the coming weeks and months.

Even Amazon can’t make sense of serverless or microservices

DHH weighs in after the Prime Video team went from serverless microservices to a monolith, saving themselves 90% on operating costs:

What makes this story unique is that Amazon was the original poster child for service-oriented architectures. The far more reasonable prior to microservices. An organizational pattern for dealing with intra-company communication at crazy scale when API calls beat scheduling coordination meetings.

SOA makes perfect sense at the scale of Amazon. No single team could ever hope to know or understand everything needed to steer such a fleet of supertankers. Making teams coordinate via published APIs was a stroke of genius.

But, as with many good ideas, this pattern turned toxic as soon as it was adopted outside its original context, and wreaked havoc once it got pushed into the internals of single-application architectures. That’s how we got microservices.

He also includes a choice quote from Kelsey Hightower on Go Time in 2020:

“We’re gonna break the monolith up and somehow find the engineering discipline we never had in the first place… Now you went from writing bad code to building bad infrastructure.

That one hits hard each and every time…

Hack Club’s SineRider game is now in public beta

Remember when Hack Club founder Zach Latta was on The Changelog? He teased “a math game called SineRider”…

It’s kind of like if you’ve ever played with a TI-84, or if you’ve ever played with graphing calculators, or now for young people today if you like Desmos, this is like the ultimate game for you.

Well, this “game about love graphing” is now ready for our enjoyment. 🕹️

An interactive map of GitHub

The map has more than 400,000 projects clustered into 1100 countries. Each dot is a GitHub project. Click around and see what you can see. Here it is zoomed way in on Awesomelandia

A picture of Awesomelandia inside the map of GitHub

🎧 ICYMI: Recent good pods from us

  • Go Time #275: The DevCycle team joins Jon & Kris for a deep conversation on WebAssembly and Go
  • Founders Talk #96: Adam is joined by Michael Grinich, Founder & CEO at WorkOS
  • JS Party #275: Amelia & I welcome dev/artist Alex Miller to talk Myst, constraints & the wonderful world of grids
  • The Changelog #539: our first #MaintainerMonth pod covers how companies are sponsoring open source
  • Practical AI #222: Travis Fischer from ChatGPTBot on the last mile of AI app development

That’s the news for now. On Wednesday’s interview episode we sit down with the amazing Sarah Drasner to discuss her new book, Engineering Management for the Rest of Us. It’s a good one!

Oh, and it’s time once again to thank our latest Changelog++ members! A big SHOUT OUT to: Nick A, Nick H, Alexander O, Elmer K, H L, Steven T, Patrick O, John M, Markus W, Emily B, Daniel K, Ryan M, Konstantin S & Andrew M! 💚

Have a great week, forward this to a friend if you dig it & we’ll talk to you again real soon.