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Beliefs, behavioral patterns, thoughts, and institutions of the developer community.
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Command line interface lifehacker.com

I raised my kids on the command line... and they love it

John Goerzen built a computer for his 3yo, installed Debian on it, and set up a GUI for it.

The looks of shock I get from people when I explain, as if it’s perfectly natural, that my child has been able to log in by himself to a Linux shell since age 3, are amusing and astounding. Especially considering that it is really not that hard.

It’s not that hard, but it is so foreign to people that they’re quickly impressed by such things. Still, John decided to introduce his kids to a GUI eventually:

Jacob mastered the basics of xmonad really quickly. Alt-Shift-C to close a window. Alt-Shift-Q to quit back to the “big black screen”. Alt-Shift-Enter to get a terminal window.

We launched thunar (the XFCE file manager) and plugged in his camera. He had a good deal of fun looking at photos and videos from it. But then I dropped the true highlight of the day for him: I offered to install Tuxpaint for him. That’s probably his favorite program of all time.

Tux Paint!

History dev.jimgrey.net

Working in the software industry, circa 1989

Gather round while Jim Grey tells a (long) tale.

My 33rd anniversary in the software industry was the Sunday that just passed, July 3. I remember the date because my second day on the job was a paid holiday!

I want to show you just how far our industry has come and how much we’ve learned.

The more things change:

Lots of things we all take for granted didn’t exist. The Internet existed but not the Web. Software was delivered to customers on tapes or floppy disks. The CD burner was still a few years in the future. Java didn’t exist, JavaScript didn’t exist, .NET didn’t exist.

The more they stay the same:

There was a holy war over text editors. IDEs weren’t a thing yet, so we all coded in a text editor. I was firmly in the Emacs camp, but most of my co-workers loved vi.

Career successfulsoftware.net

No-one knows what they are doing

Wise words from Andy Brice:

When I was a child I assumed that all the adults running the world knew what they were doing. Now that I am an adult, I am under no such illusions…

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Most of us who are running businesses had no real idea what they were doing when they started, and still struggle with decisions now.

I tell people this all the time when they ask me for advice. I’ll still give them my advice. But it comes with the disclaimer that I really have no idea what I’m doing. 😆

Lars Wikman underjord.io

What ID3v2 could have been

Lars Wikman on the history of ID3 tags:

If you were a Winamp user back in the day, or curate an MP3 collection currently, you might recognize the humble ID3 tag. It is what the metadata in the MP3 file is made up of. First it was pretty limited in the version later dubbed ID3v1. Like any good 2.0 they added a ton more fields, features, removed character limits and it was suddenly ID3v2. The latest spec is ID3v2.4 while the most commonly adopted one seems to be ID3v2.3. I recently found myself having a reason to dig into this specification.

I wonder what reason he might have to dig into this spec? Could it be for a soon-to-be-announced collab with his friends at Changelog? 😏

This post is not about the technical intricacies of the format… This is about a simpler time, where people saw the wild possibilities of music on computers and when people cared about files, damnit. This is about some of the most interesting and entertaining things I’ve run across while reading the spec.

Cloud github.com

Store files as YouTube videos == infinite disk space

YouTubeDrive is a Wolfram Language (aka Mathematica) package that encodes/decodes arbitrary data to/from simple RGB videos which are automatically uploaded to/downloaded from YouTube. Since YouTube imposes no limits on the total number or length of videos users can upload, this provides an effectively infinite but extremely slow form of file storage.

Filed under: ways-no-youtube-engineer-ever-imagined-people-would-use-their-software

Jan Schaumann netmeister.org

If programming languages were Futurama characters

Good news, everyone! Jan Schaumann merged Futurama with your (least) favorite programming languages. Amy Wong is… Ruby?!

Object-oriented, cute, really popular, and a bit naive. Had a bit of Fry grafted onto herself for a while. Also had a thing with Bender. And Zapp. Easy going, but doesn’t do well in difficult situations, falls over easily.

Bender is Shell. Fry is Perl. If you care at all for his reasoning, you’ve already clicked through!

Gui Heurich code-anth.xyz

Chunky Bacon

Gui Heurich on one of the legends of the Ruby community, _why the lucky stiff.

Through the things that he built, the way he performed, and the books that he wrote, _why makes us think about code and also about ourselves. It makes us think about ourselves as programmers. In a sense, _why was the meta-programmer, the one that generates other programmers by promoting reflexivity.

Data visualization howisfelix.today

Felix Krause put his "whole life" into a single database

I used scare quotes around “whole life” because those are his words and surely there’s a lot more to life than things you can quantify, but still: this is interesting

Back in 2019, I started collecting all kinds of metrics about my life. Every single day for the last 2.5 years I tracked over 100 different data types - ranging from fitness & nutrition to social life, computer usage and weather.

This data produces 44 graphs that are all shared publicly on the website.

Felix Krause put his "whole life" into a single database

Dominick Schroer schroer.ca

The joy of small projects

Dominick Schroer:

When was the last time you completed a project? When was the last time you started a project? Have you every felt that you were trapped working on something that you don’t enjoy anymore? Size is something that I’m sure most developers with the drive to do side projects have felt. Recently I have been completing more projects with more success than ever before. This is my new process.

His 4-step process is so simple it might be brilliant.

Career lepiter.io

Developers spend most of their time figuring the system out

So what?

Well, that is the single largest expense we have. If we want to optimize anything in our discipline we should look at this part first. We talk often about how we build systems, but how often do you talk about how you spend the “figuring out” time? If we do not talk about it, it’s not explicit. If it’s not explicit, it does not get optimized.

In addition to the author’s suggested solution to this problem allow me to add: developer retention! Nobody has more to figure out in a system than the people who just joined the team. Cut down on that (via better compensation, workplace satisfaction, etc.) and you cut way down on that oh so expensive “figuring out” time.

Developers spend most of their time figuring the system out

Culture mashable.com

How Tumblr taught young women to code

Last year, TikTokker Avery Steeves posted a video asking why no one talks about how there’s an entire generation of teenage girls who taught themselves to code HTML on Tumblr. “People are like, ‘Oh, there’s no girls in STEM,’” she says, imitating the faceless internet mob. “No, there were! They were just making pale blogs.”

OK so we don’t usually link to Mashable (first time ever?), but this was cool news to me, so I thought it was worth passing along. Long live HTML!

Communications randsinrepose.com

What we lost (when we went remote)

Rands asking himself some tough questions about our “new normal” remote work environments:

Relative to the Pandemic, the single biggest work question I’ve been asking myself for two years is: what did we lose? What is the measurable and objective loss for teams not working in close proximity? I’ve been looking for cracks. I’ve been looking for leading indicators of future doom. The Great Resignation seems like a proper crack, right? But are people quitting their jobs because they can’t work together or because their current job sucks and all this terror in the air has given them a new appreciation of what really matters?

A sobering perspective.

Culture cheapskatesguide.org

The old internet shows signs of quietly coming back

Old as in old school cool not old as in passe:

Despite the new gatekeepers’ best efforts, the old Internet never completely disappeared. Personal websites created by individuals that have always been the meat of the old Internet are still around. They are still about exploration, innovation, fun, and all the rest. Try as the new gatekeepers have, they simply have not had the power to eradicate the old Internet completely. All they can do is pretend it does not exist. And, that is exactly what they do.

But…

… the old Internet seems to be slowly and quietly coming back, and it is coming back even better than before. Now it has better technology and an additional well-defined purpose that it never had before.

Some people have begun to refer to personal websites as the “indie web”, the “small Internet”, or the “smol Internet”. Some seem to reserve the last two terms exclusively for the Gemini Network, which nearly quadrupled in size last year. But, I think all three terms should also apply to some of the other networks that use alternative networking protocols–the Gopher Network, the Tor network, and the ZeroNet network, to name a few.

Chris Manson chris.manson.ie

It's all gravy

This is a short post by long-time open source maintainer Chris Manson about commitment to tasks in the open source world and how life always takes priority over dev.

We always need to keep in mind that most open source contributions are given from people that are opting to give up their spare time (usually for free) and the level of expectation can never come anywhere close to the sort of relationship that an employer might have with an employee or contractor.

Pairs well with Every commit is a gift. 🍷

Security whitehoodhacker.net

IoT hacking and rickrolling my high school district

On April 30th, 2021, I rickrolled my high school district. Not just my school but the entirety of Township High School District 214. It’s the second-largest high school district in Illinois, consisting of 6 different schools with over 11,000 enrolled students.

Who doesn’t like a good rickroll story? This one’s replete with screencaps and video footage

JavaScript bryanbraun.com

I keep making things out of checkboxes

Bryan Braughn has been making good use of his Checkboxland library (which makes it easy to display text and animations on a grid of checkboxes). He’s made games, image transfers, and even videos like the one below. But then, some introspection:

This whole process has been fun but I really ought to stop.

I got nerd sniped, hard. Sure it’s harmless fun, but I’m starting to feel guilty spending months tinkering on these things when I’ve got the tools and skills to put actually useful stuff into the world. I feel like Superman, using his powers to fry an egg.

I understand where he’s coming from, but I also believe experiments like Bryan’s are what make the web great and when they inspire someone else to build something, they are absolutely “actually useful stuff”. Don’t you?

I keep making things out of checkboxes

Culture habr.com

I ruin developers’ lives with my code reviews and I'm sorry

This post is a confession of an “egocentric maniac” (his words) and how damaging code review can be:

This review I kicked off the article with? I didn’t send it. Instead I gave the guy a couple of comments and politely asked to fix a couple of things. No big deal if the code’s not good, I can fix it myself it I need to. But I can’t fix the psyche of a guy broken by dozens of harsh reviews.

My personality today isn’t my disease. It’s a disease of the whole industry, at least in Russia. Our mentality is predicated on the cult of power and superiority. And that’s what we need to fix: just stop being that. It’s quite easy, actually.

Culture rachelbythebay.com

Code runs on people. Please keep it simple.

A (short) must-read piece from rachelbythebay:

“Everyone knows” that code is something you type into a computer, that gets interpreted by a computer, and is run by a computer. But that’s not really the end of it. Before that, it’s being “run” on whoever’s working on it. After that, it’s “running” on whoever’s digging into it to fix a bug or add some feature.

You can throw all kinds of wicked, nasty, complicated, Klein-bottle-wannabe tricks into code and the computer will shrug and slog on through it.

Try feeding that same mess to a human and you will have a variety of problems. We see them every day, and, unfortunately, we /create/ them every day.

Medium Icon Medium

An attempt to answer the question, “If software engineering is in demand, why is it so hard to get a software engineering job?”

I’ve often wondered this as well. My conclusion, after not thinking too deeply about the issue, was that it’s a combination of the difficulty in match making and poor tooling. (There are many startups trying to solve those problems, but it doesn’t seem like anybody has cracked the nut yet).

There’s lots of wisdom in this post by Curt Corginia:

A wise, mature person would treat the software engineer interview process as a pure learning experience. He, or she, would enjoy learning about companies out there for the sake of research, interacting with key players, and mastering the art of whiteboarding. It would just be like a fun game.

I don’t think of it like that, but a mature person would. Do what I say, not what I do.

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