Mike Loukides

Mike Loukides is Vice President of Content Strategy for O'Reilly Media, Inc. He's edited many highly regarded books on technical subjects that don't involve Windows programming. He's particularly interested in programming languages, Unix and what passes for Unix these days, and system and network administration. Mike is the author of System Performance Tuning", and a coauthor of "Unix Power Tools." Most recently, he's been fooling around with data and data analysis, languages like R, Mathematica, and Octave, and thinking about how to make books social.

The reason everyone should learn to code

It isn't to produce a nation of coders.

Why do we want everyone to learn to code? It’s certainly not to produce a nation of coders. I have no delusions about everyone learning to code: it’s not going to happen, and may not even be desirable. But the underlying rationale behind a slogan isn’t the slogan itself; it’s what the slogan enables. I’m not terribly interested in whether…
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Is Valve’s SteamBox a contender for the next developer workstation?

Valve might be positioned to do to Macintosh hardware what the Mac did to the PC market over a decade ago.

A scenario started playing through my head the other day. In the late 1990s, Apple looked dead. Then they released OS X, plus very cool shiny hardware. That put Apple back in the game and gave them the life they needed to bring about the iPod, etc. Apple’s revival didn’t come from iPods and iPhones; it came because they…
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The return of local retail?

Local retail revival won't hinge on online-style consumer data intrusion; it will require getting back to basics.

About a month ago, IBM published its five tech predictions for the next few years. They’re mostly the sort of unexceptional things one predicts in this sort of article — except for one: the return of local retail. This is a fascinating idea, both in the ways I agree and the ways I disagree. First, I don’t think local retail…
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Robots will remain forever in the future

As robots integrate more and more into our lives, they'll simply become part of normal, everyday reality — like dishwashers.

(Note: this post first appeared on Forbes; this lightly edited version is re-posted here with permission.) We’ve watched the rising interest in robotics for the past few years. It may have started with the birth of FIRST Robotics competitions, continued with the iRobot and the Roomba, and more recently with Google’s driverless cars. But in the last few weeks,…
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The birdie and the shark

Twitter isn't quite beyond jumping the shark, but it has taken a big step backward.

While I’ve been skeptical of Twitter’s direction ever since they decided they no longer cared about the developer ecosystem they created, I have to admit that I was impressed by the speed at which they rolled back an unfortunate change to their “blocking” feature. Yesterday afternoon, Twitter announced that when you block a user, that user would not be…
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The software of regret

Computing should enable us to have richer lives; it shouldn’t become life.

At a recent meeting, Tim O’Reilly, referring to the work of Tristan Harris and Joe Edelman, talked about “software of regret.” It’s a wonderfully poetic phrase that deserves exploring. For software developers, the software of regret has some very clear meanings. There’s always software that’s written poorly and incurs too much technical debt that is never paid back. There’s…
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Mediated visions

Technology has changed, but humans haven't — what is it about mediating an experience through a frame that makes it seem better?

ImpactLab has posted a nice pair of photos contrasting 2005 and 2013 in St. Peter’s Square. 2005 looks pretty much as you’d expect: lots of people in a crowd. In 2013, though, everyone is holding up a tablet, either photographing or perhaps even watching the event through the tablet. The ImpactLab post asks about the changes in our technology during…
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Pranking Black Friday

Raise consciousness about the silliness of the Black Friday ritual — do anything but shop.

This time last year, Cathy O’Neil and I traded emails about the US’s annual orgy of consumerism. I promised her an article for her Mathbabe blog, which I still owe her, and we wondered how to raise consciousness about the silliness of the Black Friday ritual. I remembered something a friend and I did back in grad school: we…
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Power over USB

USB could make power consumption more intelligent, but security concerns need to be addressed.

I’ve been reading about enhancements to the USB 3.0 standard that would allow a USB cable to provide up to 100 watts of power, nicely summarized in The Economist. 100 watts is more than enough to charge a laptop, and certainly enough to power other devices, such as LED lighting, televisions, and audio equipment. It could represent a…
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Programming with feedback

Feedback is an elegant and effective way to control complex, dynamic processes.

Everyone knows what feedback is. It’s when sound systems suddenly make loud, painful screeching sounds. And that answer is correct, at least partly. Control theory, the study and application of feedback, is a discipline with a long history. If you’ve studied electrical or mechanical engineering, you’ve probably confronted it. Although there’s an impressive and daunting body of mathematics…
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