Anti-Social Social Networking

Sun 12 November 2017 by psu

Back in 2008 the Internet was a simpler place. Here's how it broke down:

  1. To talk to people 1-1 you knew in real life, or sometimes to people you worked with, you used mostly e-mail but sometimes "instant messaging", which used to be different from texting because texting was ...

Category: Computers

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Books to Read About Computer Programming

Mon 28 March 2016 by psu

Eleven books to read if you want to be a computer programmer.

  1. The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - Abelson and Sussman

  2. Programming Pearls - Bentley

  3. The Mythical Man Month - Fred Brooks

  4. The Dragon Book - Aho, Ullman, Lam, Sethi

  5. The Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder

  6. Algorithms - Cormen/Leiserson/Rivest ...

Category: Computers

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Who are the Programmers

Thu 12 November 2015 by psu

The 2015 Splash/OOPSLA conference was in Pittsburgh this year, so I took advantage of this fact to go see what the academics had to say about some aspects of what I do every day: program computers to do silly things. Even though I haven't been around academics since ...

Category: Computers

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Turing Complete

Sun 15 February 2015 by psu

As part of his future dork training, we took the boy to see The Imitation Game. This film is essentially a work of fiction loosely based on the life of Alan Turing. Though almost completely conventional in its structure and outlook, the film was enjoyable enough, I guess. It's ...

Category: Computers

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The Inscrutable Tubes

Wed 26 November 2014 by psu

Here is what a wise man once said about software:

The complexity of software is an essential property, not an accidental one. Hence, descriptions of a software entity that abstract away its complexity often abstract away its essence. For three centuries, mathematics and the physical sciences made great strides by ...

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Just Teach It

Mon 23 June 2014 by psu

I have never liked the term term computer literacy. This phrase was coined in the early 80s right around the time the first consumer computers became available. Then, as now, there was a lot of anxiety around the machines. Then, as now, people weren't quite sure what to make ...

Category: Computers

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To The Fog!

Sat 14 June 2014 by psu

A wise man once said:

A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.

Since you are no doubt an erudite reader, you'll know that the wise man was Leslie Lamport, a computer scientist ...

Category: Computers

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What Programming Languages Say

Sun 08 June 2014 by psu

It's probably not surprising that the easiest way to get programmers to talk to you is to ask them about programming languages. Mention your favorite new toy and you will get hours of excitement, invective, or a schizophrenic and bipolar combination of both. Therefore, it is also not surprising ...

Category: Computers

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This is Your Brain on Software

Fri 27 December 2013 by psu

In his new book, How Music Works, David Byrne has a lot to say on the effects of digital technologies on how music is created, recorded, distributed and sold. One of the keener insights he has is this one, about software that supports musical composition:

Though software is promoted as ...

Category: Computers

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Software Models and Hello World

Mon 25 November 2013 by psu

I was at home for Christmas one year reading the New York Times on my laptop as we do, when my brother asked a random and off-hand question. He said "If all a computer can do is store zeros and ones, how does it end up drawing text and pictures ...

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The Ultimate Goto

Wed 17 November 2010 by psu

When I was in college I was something of a programming languages hobbyist. I think all young dorks go through this phase. Programming languages are fascinating repositories of different ideas for creating abstractions for constructs that programmers find themselves building over and over again. Back in the day, one of ...

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Backups

Tue 30 March 2010 by psu

You need to do backups. Back when computers were primitive and useless, backups were not as much of a problem because no one was storing anything in the machines. But these days, computers have grown up and it’s possible that your entire life is stored in your laptop. So ...

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What Computers Do

Thu 22 October 2009 by psu

Every once in a while someone who I don't know will find out that I work with computers. Often when this happens they get a look on their face like they have just found a great free source of technical support. I try to quickly end any such misconceptions ...

Category: Computers

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Moore and Me

Tue 06 January 2009 by psu

One of the many ways in which I’ve had a lucky life is that I grew up with Moore’s law. I became aware of computing hardware just about the time the integrated circuit came on the scene. From high school to college to graduate school and into my ...

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The Abstraction Distraction, Part 1.

Mon 28 July 2008 by psu

Abstraction is the activity that lies at the core of much of computer science, and computer hardware and software engineering. Understanding what the word means is thus at the core of understanding both how and why computing systems are are put together and evolve the way they do. It is ...

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Marginal Added Value

Mon 14 April 2008 by psu

There are two universal rules about people who work in software:

  1. Inexperience breeds an unrealistic optimism towards the power of new tools.

  2. To offset (1), experience breeds an unrealistic hatred of all tools.

We have seen this cycle play out over and over again in the design, implementation and adoption ...

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The Digital Archive of Everything

Thu 20 September 2007 by psu

I was walking around in my local Borders a couple of months ago just after they rearranged the Music and DVD section. My eyes scanned through the shelves of DVDs, and I realized something that was at once horrible and amazing. There, on the shelves, was most of the history ...

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Not Just Coding

Mon 29 January 2007 by psu

Note: This is a reprint of a piece from tleaves. Go to the original page if you want to read the extra comments.

We were driving home tonight, and NPR was interviewing some Robert Frost scholar about the publication of a book of Frost’s cryptic notebooks. It took the ...

Category: Computers

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This is What I Do

Wed 03 January 2007 by psu

Once in a while, in the midst of casual conversation, someone will ask me what I do. When I was a graduate student, I would mutter something about computer science research, algorithms analysis and by the time the word “geometry” came out of my mouth after “computational” their eyes would ...

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No Free Silver Bullet Lunch

Fri 25 February 2005 by psu

So my buddy Pete took me to lunch today with some fellow software engineering friends of his. While munching our rather excellent Indian buffet food, one of the engineers related an incident that happened to him on vacation. He was walking back to his hotel room, and he overhears one ...

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The Axiom of Choice

Thu 17 February 2005 by psu

I have been fortunate enough to get my hands on an iPod Shuffle. I was mostly seduced by the look of the item, but wasn’t sure how the screenless shuffle- only interface would really work out in practice. Surprisingly, the Shuffle is by far my favorite iPod device for ...

Category: Computers

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Software Engineers: A lexicon

Sun 06 June 2004 by psu

I’ve been working at software companies for the last 15 or so years of my life. In this time, I’ve worked with a lot of people who call themselves software engineers. The following is a collection of shallow, unfair, insulting and overly general classifications of the types of ...

Category: Computers

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