Inspired by the works of Phil Eaton, I’ve been highlighting articles and projects that I find interesting in
Here is a recap of the interesting articles that came my way in October 2023. This does not mean that these articles were published during this period: some of them are older but I just (re)discovered them now. I’ll avoid referencing my own articles: you can find those by in the archive.
“C is not a low-level language” by David Chisnall on April 30th, 2018.
This is one of those articles that requires an open mind to read and understand the main criticism that the author raises about the use of C these days.
“A fork() in the road” by Microsoft on May 13th, 2019.
Like the previous article, this one is a critique of one of the foundations of Unix and requires being open to criticism to see what it is about. I had read this when it came out years ago, but the article just above reminded me of it because they both fall in the same category of “articles that were written ahead of their times”.
“Should you be scared of Unix signals?” by Julia Evans on June 13th, 2016.
A good and fun article to understand Unix signals. I didn’t know that Ctrl+Alt+Del translated into
init(1)on Linux, for example. What I was missing from this article was a mini-rant on the lack of
SIGINFOhandling in Linux: if you have used other Unix systems, you know that pressing Ctrl+T causes the running program to print progress status to the console, which is super handy when running things like
“Software engineering is about thinking, not typing” by Jordan Kaye on October 11th, 2023.
Agree with the premise of the post that coding without thinking can be wasteful. Countless times, I’ve been coding deep down for an hour, only to go get coffee and realize I was on the wrong path all along. However, I’d also add that software engineering is actually about typing: just… a different kind of typing. Change proposals, design documents, opinion memos… all of these have to be typed, and going through the writing process helps tremendously in organizing ideas and plans.
“Write more “useless” software” by ntietz on June 26, 2023.
Yes, more of this! It’s fun/rewarding/exciting to write a piece of code just for the sake of it, and it’s exhausting to have to come up with “value add” rationales (ehem monetization strategies) for every little thing we do these days. This is why I work on EndBASIC, for example.
“Just paying Figma $15/month because nothing else fucking works” by fasterthanlime on October 19th, 2023.
A fun read. This one is about how we avoid paying for cheap things for weird reasons and settle for alternatives that suck. In his case, he claims “protestant ethics” but I have the same problem and I grew up without those. And this is why I’m working on EndTRACKER instead of paying for Substack. Well, actually, I’ve just started driving Substack, so the real reason is because I want to own my content in a future-proof manner.
“Was Rust Worth It?” by Jarrod Overson on October 26th, 2023.
A very balanced review of Rust through which I found myself nodding all along the good, bad, and ugly parts. I’ve covered some of the criticisms in the past in more detail too, including in “Rust is hard, yes, but does it matter?” (May 2022) and in “A failed experiment with Rust static dispatch” (August 2023).
“The bakery is just someone else’s oven” by Diego Elio Pettenò on April 30th, 2023.
Interesting complement to the “paying Figma” article from above, which I reached through a controversial post on how X is saving money by dumping the cloud. Yes, cloud bills are huge and in “the happy case” you can probably build and host a service yourself. But when you have to start planning for corner cases and deal with operational costs, things aren’t as cheap. Plus it is critical to consider the opportunity cost of running your own services against doing something else.
“Through the Ages: Apple CPU Architecture” by Jacob Barlett on October 30th, 2023.
A light walk through the four different CPU architectures that Apple has used throughout its history, how they differ between each other, and how Apple has been able to successfully pull off such difficult migrations without vanishing into oblivion. But what’s more interesting here is this comment from David Chisnall in the Lobste.rs discussion correcting many of the simplifications and inaccuracies in the article.
“8088 BIOS” GitHub Project.
I had fun peeking through the NASM source code and remembering “the good old times” of me writing boot sectors with FAT12 parsers in them.
“CPCBox” project page.
I keep coming to this site as part of my work on EndBASIC, and as part of wanting to play my favorite old game from when I was a kid: Builder Dash. The keyboard controls suck but choosing to use a joystick allows using the cursor keys for movement. Audio doesn’t work though, as it seems to be using some deprecated web technology.
“Bill Gates demonstrates Visual Basic [video]” by Bill Gates in 1991.
What have we lost. There has not been anything similar to Visual Basic for more than 20 years now (except Delphi I hear). I remember moving to Linux and trying to find something like this, only to be told to use Glade which… well… a UI designer that spits out code is not the same as an integrated IDE. And nowadays, with web technologies, there is nothing that approaches this level of usability, yet?