Genuine opinions, thoughtfully presented

November 12, 2015 | personal, programming
When I was in high school, I used to do competitive speech.1 I didn’t really want to do competitive speech as such; what I wanted to do was competitive debate. After all, debate was way more fun: you got to argue, on purpose, about things with little actual consequence! And you got more points for being the best arguer! What’s not to love? Sadly, my school didn’t have enough people to do both debate and speech; we had to pick one, and since the overwhelming majority of my fellow classmates wanted to do speech, we did speech.

The More Things Change

October 13, 2015 | programming
React, if you’ve somehow missed it, is the new hotness in web programming. The idea is simple: each React component describes its view idempotently, in JavaScript. The view is rendered entirely based on a small amount of state the component keeps internally. Given the same state, a given component will always render identically. This in turn means that when data changes, React can apply just what changed to the browser’s DOM, saving it from having to re-rendering the entire page.

Remember to Reevaluate

September 18, 2015 | programming
I really dislike MySQL. I haven’t used it in a long time, but I remember that it basically just stores all of its data in a flat text file. No transactions, no write-ahead log. In fact, there’s barely even any real data integrity. You have to run a repair process on boot to fix table corruption in the case of hard shutdown. There was an alternative thing you could do that fixed that, but it was an option, and no one had it enabled by default.

Thoughts on Entitlement and Pricing

September 4, 2015 | personal, programming
Yesterday, JetBrains announced new pricing for their line of developer tooling. Previously, you could buy their products for anything from $50 (for WebStorm) to $675 (for ReSharper Ultimate), with lower prices in most cases for yearly upgrades. Yesterday, JetBrains changed that and announced JetBrains Toolbox. For $12/month, you can get access to one of their products, or for less than double that, $20/month (discounted to $150/year for current customers), you can get access to all of their developer tools.

Unorthodocs: Abandon your DVCS and Return to Sanity

February 27, 2015 | programming
Hi. My name is Benjamin, and I’m a DVCS apologist. I’ve pretty much always been a DVCS apologist. I know quite a few people who’ve been using DVCSes since Mercurial and Git, and a few who go back to BitKeeper, but I can totally out-hipster you. I was there for Monotone. I actually remember struggling to grok tla, and being happy that someone took the time to write baz. I remember the promise and the failure that was Darcs.

Don’t Forget to Take Vacation

December 23, 2014 | personal, programming
Hello, world! A lot of you are on the last bits of your vacation this week. That is awesome. There is likely no better time you can take vacation. Your team has hopefully shipped all deliverables for 2014 Q4. You have likely planned out Q1. You almost certainly have no real bugs in production. Cthulhu willing, you have automatic regression and integration tests so that you can rest assured knowing that The Person Who Does Not Vacation can safely fix anything that does come up.

Having Fun: Python and Elasticsearch, Part 3

December 3, 2014 | programming
Welcome back to having fun with Elasticsearch and Python. In the first part of this series, we learned the basics of setting up and running with Elasticsearch, and wrote the very basics we needed to cover basic indexing and searching of Gmail metadata. In the second part, we extended the search and querying to cover the full text of the emails as well. That theoretically got us most of what we wanted, but there’s still work to be done.

C++ Programming and Brain RAM

November 13, 2014 | programming
I have a tricky relationship with C++. There is a narrow subset of the language that, when properly used, I find to be a strict improvement over C. Specifically, careful use of namespaces, RAII, some pieces of the STL (such as std::string and std::unique_ptr), and very small bit of light templating can actually simplify a lot of common C patterns, while making it a lot harder to shoot yourself in the foot via macros and memory leaks.

Having Fun: Python and Elasticsearch, Part 2

November 7, 2014 | programming
In my earlier post on Elasticsearch and Python, we did a huge pile of work: we learned a bit about how to use Elasticsearch, we learned how to use Gmvault to back up all of our Gmail messages with full metadata, we learned how to index the metadata, and we learned how to query the data naïvely. While that’s all well and good, what we really want to do is to index the whole text of each email.

Having Fun: Python and Elasticsearch, Part 1

November 4, 2014 | programming
I find it all too easy to forget how fun programming used to be when I was first starting out. It’s not that a lot of my day-to-day isn’t fun and rewarding; if it weren’t, I’d do something else. But it’s a different kind of rewarding: the rewarding feeling you get when you patch a leaky roof or silence a squeaky axle. It’s all too easy to get into a groove where you’re dealing with yet another encoding bug that you can fix with that same library you used the last ten times.