Linked List: March 2014

Mozilla in Trouble #

This does not look good. It would be best for Mozilla if Eich resigns:

“When Eich was CTO, we knew he’d made this donation, but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal, because we knew he was the guy who invented JavaScript. The Internet said, ‘Oh, well, there are crazy people with opinions all over,’” Catlin said. “This was different. CEOs drive the direction, the HR, the strategy. And they are the face of the business. All of a sudden, he became the final authority.”

From Photoshop to Gimp #

The times they are a-changin’.

Freeman Dyson Rebel Without a Ph.D. #

Photograph of a child on a tree.

What is it about numbers that made you want to figure them out?

It’s just like asking, “Why does a violinist like to play the violin?” I had this skill with mathematical tools, and I played these tools as well as I could just because it was beautiful, rather in the same way a musician plays the violin, not expecting to change the world but just because he loves the instrument.

You became a professor at Cornell without ever having received a Ph.D. You seem almost proud of that fact.

Oh, yes. I’m very proud of not having a Ph.D. I think the Ph.D. system is an abomination. It was invented as a system for educating German professors in the 19th century, and it works well under those conditions. It’s good for a very small number of people who are going to spend their lives being professors. But it has become now a kind of union card that you have to have in order to have a job, whether it’s being a professor or other things, and it’s quite inappropriate for that. It forces people to waste years and years of their lives sort of pretending to do research for which they’re not at all well-suited. In the end, they have this piece of paper which says they’re qualified, but it really doesn’t mean anything. The Ph.D. takes far too long and discourages women from becoming scientists, which I consider a great tragedy. So I have opposed it all my life without any success at all.

How is it that you were able to escape that requirement?

I was lucky because I got educated in World War II and everything was screwed up so that I could get through without a Ph.D. and finish up as a professor. Now that’s quite impossible. So, I’m very proud that I don’t have a Ph.D. and I raised six children and none of them has a Ph.D., so that’s my contribution.

IE 8 is Dead #

Software architect and Microsoft MVP Troy Hunt:

IE 8 support is now on a very rapid decline that will only accelerate. If you’re using IE 8, it’s time to either upgrade it or pick another browser.

Facebook, Ready Player One #

The move to a computer-augmented reality continues. I wonder if Mark has read Ready Player One — a great contemporary novel given to me by my friend Bryan. Recommended reading if you like computer games or are interested in where computers and humans may be going.

I do wish Oculus had chosen to remain independent, as does Minecraft creator Notch.

Gollum Simple, Git-powered Wiki #

Todo: Use this when a wiki is needed.

An Interactive Guide to the Fourier Transform #

Great article on a great website.

Swiss-Style OpenStreetMap Tiles #

Here’s an example — click on the layers icon on the top-left, then on ‘swiss style’.

Outreach Program for Women Wins FSF Award #

Congratulations to the organizers of the program which won the Free Software Foundation’s Award for Projects of Social Benefit:

…presented to a project or team responsible for applying free software, or the ideas of the free software movement, in a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society in other aspects of life. This award stresses the use of free software in the service of humanity.

Dr. Feynman, What’s a Computer? #

We will expose what a computer really is.

One of the miseries of life is that everybody names things a little bit wrong. And so it makes everything a little harder to understand in the world than it would be if it were named differently. A computer does not primarily compute in the sense of doing arithmetic. Strange. Although they call them computers that’s not what they primarily do. They primarily are filing systems.

…54:20:

We try to make these things work as efficiently as we can with the materials that we have. Materials are different than nerves and so on. If we would like to make something that runs rapidly over the ground, and we could watch a cheetah running, we could try to make a machine that runs like a cheetah. But it’s easier to make a machine with wheels.

…1:15:07:

If you want to make an intelligent machine you’re gonna get all kinds of crazy ways of avoiding labor, of saying don’t pay any attention to the problem, of sneakily evolving some kind of psychological distortion where you always do the same thing and don’t worry about anything else — and so on so I think that we are getting close to intelligent machines, but they’re showing the necessary weaknesses of intelligence.

WTF, HTML and CSS #

Reasons your HTML and CSS may be fucked.

Ted Nelson on Education #

You see, education is a process of ruining subjects for you and the last subject to be ruined determines your profession. Each subject is personified with the face of this local ogre, or perhaps in some cases with a wondrous person, who then represents that subject and you never find out that every subject has something in it of interest to you. Every subject can have something in it that you take into your heart. I thought I hated history, I thought I hated mathematics, because of the people I encountered and so some other way around. I would like to see a school system where you simply say to the kids at fourteen not “you have to sit here for four years and enduring and enduring and enduring and being endangered and insulted” but rather “You can get out of here as soon as you present for examination any of these any 80 of these 1000 mini-courses on this sheet. You can take more if you want and learn more before we send you out there. Have your choice.” Then I think we would see real motivation, because right now there is no way students can exercise initiative, except a) if they are male, disobeying, or b) if they are female, getting pregnant, or c) totally obeying and outdoing whatever the teacher wants, which is done by very few. Whereas if we give people a way to learn by initiative then we’d fix the problem but nobody wants to do that.

From the closing panel at the 1995 Brown/MIT Vannevar Bush Symposium, featuring Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee.

Taking a Selfie #

Nice story on a venerable website: Language Log. I like the classic Verdana typesetting and their comments policy, especially the first point:

Be brief. Blog posts may be long or short; blog comments should be short. If you have a lot to say, post it on your own blog and link to it. If you don’t have a blog, you could start one easily (for example here or here). Or you could link to a document that you’ve published on your own web site, or (for example) here.

Via TOP.

Scribe Open Source Rich Text Editor #

This is awesome. Copying and pasting text from Word files seems to work fairly well, instantly generating HTML with all the cruft removed.

I’ve set up a demo at scribe.hypertexthero.com

Ripples in Space and Mind #

Confirming inflation would mean that the universe we see, extending 14 billion light-years in space with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, is only an infinitesimal patch in a larger cosmos whose extent, architecture and fate are unknowable. Moreover, beyond our own universe there might be an endless number of other universes bubbling into frothy eternity, like a pot of pasta water boiling over.

Carl Sagan talks about the possibility of an electron being a whole universe in the Cosmos episode The Edge of Forefever (around 55 minutes and 10 seconds in):

If the Cosmos is closed, there’s a strange, haunting, evocative possibility — one of the most exquisite conjectures in science or religion. It’s entirely undemonstrated — it may never be proven — but it’s stirring. Our entire universe, to the furthest galaxy, we are told, is no more than a closed electron in a far grander universe we can never see. And that universe is only an elementary particle in a still greater universe, and so on, forever. Also, every electron in our universe, it is claimed, is an entire miniature cosmos, containing galaxies and stars and life, and electrons. Every one of those electrons contains a still smaller universe — an infinite regression, up, and down. Every human generation has asked about the origin and fate of the cosmos. Ours is the first generation with a real chance of finding some of the answers. One way or another, we are poised at the edge of forever.

And from What Are Gravitational Waves?:

Einstein knew that general relativity did not mesh with another theory of physics called quantum mechanics. Whereas general relativity talks about gravity and the universe as a whole, quantum mechanics talks about the small scale of particles and the other forces of nature, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetism. Despite almost a century of effort, the world’s physicists have not been able to show how these theories work together. The primordial gravitational waves were generated when gravity and the universe were working on the same scale as particles and the other forces of nature. This detection and the subsequent analysis will hopefully tell us how. If it does, this could lead to what physics wistfully call “the theory of everything”.

USA and UK Now in Reporters Without Borders’ Enemies of the Internet Index #

Great work, people!

Manuals #
Comic from XKCD.

For the ‘e-learning’ crowd.

Flying Toasters in CSS #

My favorite screensaver.

Django, Gunicorn & Nginx Deployment Setup #

Lots of good information in one place. See also: Serving multiple Django applications with Nginx and Gunicorn.

Agile Dead, Long Live Agility #

Agile ‘coaches’ and ‘practitioners’ are too often disguised professional superheroes.

Dave Thomas:

Here is how to do something in an agile fashion:

What to do:

  • Find out where you are
  • Take a small step towards your goal
  • Adjust your understanding based on what you learned
  • Repeat

How to do it:

  • When faced with two of more alternatives that deliver roughly the same value, take the path that makes future change easier.

And that’s it. Those four lines and one practice encompass everything there is to know about effective software development. Of course, this involves a fair amount of thinking, and the basic loop is nested fractally inside itself many times as you focus on everything from variable naming to long-term delivery, but anyone who comes up with something bigger or more complex is just trying to sell you something.

Making Music With D3 #

Intuitive arrangement.

Paper Microscope #

50 cents. Magnifies 2000 times. Dig the 70s groove music, too.

Scout Realtime Server Monitoring #

In your browser.

Learn Regular Expressions #

In about 55 minutes.

Streisand Effect #

I learned about the Streisand Effect — "…phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet” — while reading this Hacker News thread about a congressman attempting to censor an interview with Edward Snowden. The interview is today and will be streamed live on the Texas Tribune website. You can also watch it after it is done in the American Civil Liberties Union website.

HTML5 Guitar Tuner #

Useful.

Tango With Django #

The aim of this book is to provide you with a practical guide to web development using Django. The book is designed primarily for students, providing a walkthrough of the steps involved in getting your first web applications up and running, as well as deploying them to a web server.

Fig #

Fast, isolated development environments using Docker.

‘fideloper’ in the Hacker News thread:

Vagrant builds virtual machines for you. Like another computer inside of your computer.

Docker can run within a VM, or on your computer if you’re not on a Macintosh (Mac’s kernel is…for now…not supported). I usually create a Vagrant virtual machine of CoreOS, which works with Docker very nicely.

Docker is a utility which uses “containers”. Docker containers are usually used to run one process at a time (apache or mysql or python or grep or anything, really).

You can connect multiple docker containers to create a functioning app. Running one for database and other one for running your code would a simple example.

Fig tries to make the process of making Docker instances work together easy.

Paragraph Permalinks #

There’s also a Wordpress plugin.