- WebGraph — a framework for graph compression aimed at studying web graphs. It provides simple ways to manage very large graphs, exploiting modern compression techniques. (via Ben Lorica)
- Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins — You’ll need to add features to the game itself: learn how to build plugins for your own Minecraft server using the Java programming language. You don’t need to know anything about programming to get started—-this book will teach you everything you need to know! Shameless Christmas stocking bait! (via Greg Borenstein)
- In Search of Perfection, Young Adults Turn to Adderall at Work (Al Jazeera) — “Adderall is just the tip of the iceberg,” Essig said. “There are lots more drugs coming down the pike. The way we set up our cultural model for dealing with psychologically performance-enhancing drugs is a real serious question.”
- Explain Shell — uses parsed manpages to explain a shell commandline. (via Tracy K Teal)
Flow-based, functional, and more
“Small pieces loosely joined,” David Weinberger’s appealing theory of the Web, has much to say to programmers as well. It always inspires me to reduce the size of individual code components. The hard part, though, is rarely the “small” – it’s the “loose”.
After years of watching and wondering, I’m starting to see a critical mass of developers working within approaches that value loose connections. The similarities may not be obvious (or even necessarily welcome) to practitioners, but they share an approach of applying encapsulation to transformations, rather than data. Of course, as all of these are older technologies, the opportunity has been there for a long time.
The Return of Flow-Based Programming
“There’s two roles: There’s the person building componentry, who has to have experience in a particular program area, and there’s the person who puts them together,” explains Morrison. “And it’s two different skills.”
That separation of skills – programmers creating separate black box transformations and less-programmery people defining how to fit the transformations together – created a social problem for the approach. (I still hear similar complaints about the designer/programmer roles for web development.)
The map-like pictures that are drawing people to NoFlo, like this one for NoFlo Jekyll, show how the transformations connect, how the inputs and outputs are linked. I like the pictures, I’m not terribly worried that they will descend into mad spaghetti, and this division of labor makes too much sense to me. At the same time, though, it reminds me of a few other things.
A look back at "Unix Power Tools," "DNS and Bind," and other O'Reilly titles.
Tim O'Reilly: "It's amazing to me how books I first published more than 20 years ago are still creating value for readers."
Brian Kernighan discusses Dennis Ritchie.
I talked on Friday with Brian Kernighan about Dennis Ritchie, who sadly passed away two weeks ago at the age of 70. To a large extent, Ritchie completed what he started.
We need more people who share Dennis Ritchie's spirit.
"UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity," Dennis Ritchie once said. It's true, and we need more geniuses who share his spirit.
On 10/30/11 let's remember the contributions of computing pioneer Dennis Ritchie.
I don't have the convening power of a governor, but for those of us around the world who care, I hereby declare this Sunday, October 30 to be Dennis Ritchie Day.
Steve Jobs and the App Store, goodbye to Dennis Ritchie, and an internal Google critique goes public.
Better late than never, a few thoughts on Steve Jobs. Also, a Unix pioneer leaves us, and Google's dirty laundry is accidentally hung out to dry.
Terminal Tool, Gamifying Education, Exponential Shortcut, and Kindle Spam
- tmux — GNU Screen-alike, with vertical splits and other goodies. (via Hacker News)
- Gamifying Education (Escapist) — a more thoughtful and reasoned approach than crude badgification, but I’d still feel happier meddling with kids’ minds if there was research to show efficacy and distribution of results. (via Ed Yong)
- Rule of 72 (Terry Jones) — common piece of financial mental math, but useful outside finance when you’re calculating any kind of exponential growth (e.g., bad algorithms). (via Tim O’Reilly)
- Spam Hits the Kindle Bookstore (Reuters) — create a system of incentives and it will be gamed, whether it’s tax law, search engines, or ebook stores. Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word. (via Clive Thompson)
Car Monitoring with iPhone, Multitasking, Privacy, and Cool Unix Tools
- ODB to iPhone Converter — hardware to connect to your car’s onboard computer and display it on an iPhone app. (via Imran Ali)
- Multitasking Brains (Wired) — interesting pair of studies: old brains have trouble recovering from distractions; hardcore multitaskers have trouble focusing. (via Stormy Peters)
- Social Privacy — Danah Boyd draft paper on teens’ attitudes to online privacy. Interesting take on privacy as about power: This incident does not reveal that teens don’t understand privacy, but rather that they lack the agency to assert social norms and expect that others will respect them. (via Maha Shaikh)
- Cool but Obscure Unix Tools — there were some new tricks for this old dog (iftop, socat). (via Andy Baio)
PDP-11 Emulated, Crowdsourcing Culture, Deep Knowing, and Scientific Method
- 2010: The Year of Crowdsourcing Transcription — hasn’t finished yet, as NY Public Library shows. Cultural institutions are huge data sets that need human sensors to process, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in years to come as we light up thousands of years of written culture. (via Liza Daley)
- Programming the Commodore 64 — the loss of the total control that we had over our computers back when they were small enough that everything you needed to know would fit inside your head. It’s left me with a taste for grokking systems deeply and intimately, and that tendency is probably not a good fit for most modern programming, where you really don’t have time to go in an learn, say, Hibernate or Rails in detail: you just have to have the knack of skimming through a tutorial or two and picking up enough to get the current job done, more or less. I don’t mean to denigrate that: it’s an important and valuable skill. But it’s not one that moves my soul as Deep Knowing does. This is the kind of deep knowledge of TCP/IP and OS that devops is all about.
- Kids do Science — scientists lets kids invent an experiment, write it up, and it’s published in Biology Letters. Teaching the method of science, not the facts currently in vogue, will give us a generation capable of making data-based decisions.