Recent Books — OpenGL, McKillip, Film Grammar, Beatles, Lexicon, Coben, Annihilation, and more

  • OpenGL Programming Guide by Shreiner, Sellers, Kessenich, Licea-Kane. Incredibly boring in a good way. Very useful depth walkthru of OpenGL.
  • Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson. Boring in a bad way, unreadable. The author attempts to wrap his nonfiction treatise with some thin and dull characters who lead boring lives. Gave up on.
  • Riddle-Master by Patricia A McKillip. Fun semi-classic fantasy romp. Nicely wraps up in a modest number of pages unlike the modern commercial 10+ tome series.
  • Grammar of the Film Language by Daniel Arijon. Great reference on a topic I was clueless about, hat tip to Paul. A little dated but super useful.
  • Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald. Another excellent history of the Beatles, focusing on their songs and what was going on in the culture and the group at the time. MacDonald takes a very critical look at the songs at times, which makes the discussion all that much more compelling.
  • Lexicon by Max Barry. Fun adventure with very erudite zombies.
  • Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke. Uber-creepy story of a woman in the grips of a possible breakdown, or is something else going on?
  • Missing You by Harlan Coben. Another solid Coben, started out a little slow, but grabbed by the end.
  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. At first I thought this was going to be yet another post-apocalyptic dystopian series written to sell books, but this is something quite different. An expedition enters a blighted area in the south, and nothing is what it seems — the nature of the blight, the goals of the expedition, the members of the expedition all have hidden natures. I’ve pre-ordered the next book.
  • Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff. A man unravels the life of his father — a conman, liar, thief, but still a loving father. Complex relationship.

A note on Raspberry PI power supplies

Just a reminder to self — some of the kits out there come with <1 amp supplies, and most come with 1 amp. The 1 amp supply is barely adequate for the base rpi plus camera. Less than 1 amp and camera use will drop your internet connection.

Now if you add in a USB wifi dongle, 1 amp no longer is sufficient. I am having to use a powered hub.

I’d suggest a 2 amp minimum supply.

Help needed on objective-c/requirejs interop

I am hosting the webview controller in an OSX app. I have followed the code sample in calljs and i can successfully call javascript functions inside script tags from objective-c. This integration requires that the objective-c program know the name of the javascript function. for instance i have a javascript function called “objective_c_entry()”, and in my objective c wrapper, i can call that entry point using:

NSString *callResult = [[webView windowScriptObject] callWebScriptMethod:@"objective_c_entry" withArguments:args];

Now I want to move all my javascript into require.js modules; i am not clear how to reference a function in a require.js module from within objective-c. if i am moving my “objective_c_entry” function into a require.js module named “integration”, what string do I pass to callWebScriptMethod?

Dear Satya, please include an ssh client — and this only scratches the surface. Of all the reasons why I don’t use a Windows machine for development, this is the stupidest, and simplest to fix. Just ship a reasonable ssh client, it is not that hard.

Recent Books — kind of on a Beatles kick

  • Tune In by Mark Lewisohn. Fascinating telling of the Beatles’ early years. Massive detail. Uplifting in many many ways, the group overcame great odds, while staying true to themselves. But never let your kids catch you admiring this book, the young Beatles were not exactly role models.
  • All The Songs by Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin. Exhaustive notes on the writing and recording of every Beatles’ song, which provides an interesting window onto the arc of the group.

OK I need an OSX Webview/Webkit expert…

So I have a little app that hosts the Webview control and doesn’t do a whole lot more. I am running it on a MacBook Pro Retina display. I’ve enabled fullscreen display, I’ve set the window in the xib to be full retina 2880×1800.

But the webview seems to think it is running at 1440x790ish or so. Basically half res. As reported by NSScreen. And it is pretty clearly running at half resolution.

The same web page looks fine in Chrome, full retina resolution.

Ah interestingly, in Safari, it is also running at half resolution. Hmmm.

Nothing obvious on StackOverflow. Nothing obvious in Apple developer doc (tho I certainly probably missed something).

UPDATE: Mr. Sobeski gave me some ideas. The retina devicePixelRatio is probably involved. Apparently this creates some problems in some configs. might be a direction to try.

I have finite outrage capacity.

Bigotry, poverty, abuse, healthcare, education, government waste and incompetence — I could go on, these are big issues in our society, and I can get outraged about them and have occasionally done so. There are certainly other issues in this category.

Whether or not a certain kind of taxi service can operate in a certain way, or whether or not cars can be sold in a certain fashion at a certain location? Yawn.

Recent Books — Parasite, Ice Harvest, Crace, Fowler, Mr Peanut, Byatt, Auchincloss

  • Parasite by Mira Grant. The start of a new series by the author of the Feed series, which I found to be among the best of the zombie novels I read. This is also a lot of fun, a twist on zombies, in some way much creepier. Looking forward to rest of series.
  • The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips. A Fargo-esque spiral of crime and misdeeds. Fun.
  • Harvest by Jim Crace. Crace does not write happy tales. This story details the collapse of an insular farming village in the face of political and economic change, and how one man in the village experiences the changes. Kind of grabbed me tho it is a mostly depressing little tale.
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Gripping. A woman tells the story of the unusual family tragedy that occurred at age 5, and how that has rippled through her life and her family’s life. Very hard to put down, and the messages will sit with me a long time.
  • Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. Three intertwined marriages beset by problems and power struggles, with some Hitchcockian murder built in, or maybe not, and with a mix of fiction and maybe truth. A lot going on here. And a lot of pain. Not sure how I feel about.
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt. Snore. I need to remember that Man-Booker Prize != interesting.
  • The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss. A charismatic school founder and his impact on all the lives of the people around him, both good and bad. The power and charisma of a founder/leader can lift some people up and drown others. Really excellent tale and relevant in many walks of life.

I’m starting to care more about my LinkedIn profile

IMG_0130I didn’t really want to, I don’t use LinkedIn much, but we are hiring a couple people for the stealth startup I am working on, and I am starting to see traffic to my profile that might be related to job search. And so I am starting to think my profile should look better (thought I haven’t done a thing about), and I considered paying for a higher grade of LinkedIn service so that I could see who was pinging me. But, wow, $240 a year for LinkedIn business service?? That explains their lofty valuation I guess. That is a very rich price to expect of every business professional, the marginal cost to provide the service is effectively $0. I’d worry that this price will drive substitution, it is certainly making me think about that. I need to get a lot more for my $240 than they are offering.

Who else gets $240 a year from business professionals for a software/communications service? When a corporation rolls this up for all their sales and marketing people, how are they going to feel about it? I am sure there is a corporate discount plan tho.

Aim high, Ultraviolet, Aim High

Over the holidays I had to create an Ultraviolet account. I was trying to watch a movie on our new XBOX One and I could only find it on the Vudu provider, and so first I had to create a Vudu account, and then that chained into having to create an Ultraviolet account. No idea why all this fuss was required, and I didn’t really know what Ultraviolet was for, but we got to watch our movie.

Now one month in, I get a piece of marketing spam from Ultraviolet, and now it is all clear:

Imagine … the freedom to access your movies and TV shows through many retailers

Wow. Mind blown. What a world that would be. I am so thrilled and excited. It sounds so much better than the 20 other legal or not-so-legal ways to watch videos. And I am so glad that retailers are fully involved, that sounds like it is going to be so much better for me.

Javascript is the worst tool ever. Actually every tool is unhappy in its own way.

Javascript tools suck, all the sample code on the web is invariably wrong in some way, variable scoping as practiced is horrible, debugging is terrible. And I am just focused on a single browser target! I’ve spent a day chasing after some pass-by-reference and scoping problem. Grrr.

Of course when I spend a day on Objective-C problems, I am pretty convinced it is the worst tool ever with its bloviated syntax and huge masses of obsolete sample code.

And when I spend a day on python I get so cranky about crappy IDEs and crappy debuggers and crappy library documentation.

The only constant is me, probably I am doing it all wrong, regardless of the environment.

Barnes and Noble (@BNBuzz), can’t you at least try?

5 people in line waiting to pay at Barnes & Noble Bellevue vs 1 chatty cashier. 1 Nooklehead standing over at the Nook stand doing nothing while we are all trying to give the store money.

I finally called the store and asked whoever answered to come up front and help, they said they were busy with a customer. When it was finally my turn the clerk spent 1 minute on the script trying to get me to sign up for their loyalty card — not understanding that the last thing I want to do is buy more books here.

So many things wrong here. As a start, give the idle Nook dude a square reader and let him do check outs on the Nook. Giving him something to do, a chance for me to handle a Nook, and completing my transaction more speedily.

Hey I’m now a member of the (github) mile-high club!

cloudsDid my first git push while in-flight! Awesome. Doesn’t feel dirty at all!

Resisting temptation for lame cloud computing joke.

UPDATE: not surprisingly, I am also now a member of the mile-high “broke the build” club!! Along with the mile-high “you stupid jerk, now fix it” club.

Recent Books — Burning Paradise, Submergence, Reacher, This Town, S


  • Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson. YA pre-apocalyptic alternative history. Fun premise: a somewhat-intelligent organism has pervasively and surreptitiously infected the earth’s biosphere for hidden purposes, but some humans have started to trip to the fact. So fun but characters weak.
  • Submergence by J. M. Ledgard. Moody tale about a spy and scientist submerged in their respective worlds, submerged in very different ways, trying to come out of their worlds and build a relationship. Not sure how I feel about, I think I’d have to be in just the right mood to like this book.
  • Never Go Back by Lee Child. Another great Reacher book, stronger than some, we see inside Reacher a little more as he grapples with the possibility that he is a father. We need more of this in the Reacher series.
  • This Town by Mark Leibovich. Inside look at Washington DC. The author knows it is a cesspool, and writes appropriately cynically, but it comes across even worse than he thinks. and he is pretty open about what a self-dealing cesspool it is. So, read this if you feel like stocking up on cynicism.
  • S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. Well. This book is flawed, the story wavers, it is a pain in the ass to read, there is no way to buy a convenient electronic form because of the physical complexity of the book. And those are all the reasons why I like it as well — ambiguity, confusion, excellent use of physical media, etc. If you wonder how physical books can survive the onslaught of e-books, this is a great book to read and think about.

Microsoft needs to get out in front of the developer parade

David Sobeski has a great writeup on facebook covering Microsoft’s methodical destruction of developer trust over the last 15 years:

I am relearning how to be a software developer after many years away and it is notable that, not only am I not using any Microsoft technologies or tools, nothing from Microsoft even entered the consideration set as I selected targets, libs, tools, etc.

Rehashing all the missteps is entertaining, David does a great job of that, I never tracked all this stuff and many of the acronyms and decisions around them are lost in the fog of history. For whatever reason, Microsoft is at the nadir of its developer influence.

If I was the new CEO at Microsoft, fixing this would be job 1, and I wouldn’t be timid. I would have a 6 month plan to make Microsoft relevant to every developer. And there is no way to do that without buying a bunch of assets to get out in front of the existing parades. I’d buy Github or Atlassian. Stackoverflow. I’d buy or embrace a Linux dist — CentOS maybe, or screw it, just buy RedHat. I’d jump into the vagrant/docker world and buy a position in that space. I’d buy modern leading noSQL and Hadoop distributions. Xamarin as a tool. And 10 more things. At the end of this, Microsoft would be in the conversation with every developer on the planet. OK it would be a chocolate mess of technology assets, but read David’s write up — Microsoft has a chocolate mess of assets now, without any developer relevance.

I wouldn’t worry at all in the first 3 years about cleaning all this up and rationalizing it. I’d run the teams separately, I’d encourage them all to go go go, and I’d create organic opportunities for them to talk and discuss collaboration, without forcing it. Relevance as measured by developer use, and speed of evolution would be my top criteria. Every developer who is not using a Microsoft tool or runtime would be viewed as a failure. Internally I’d direct the Visual Studio team to become the tool for every developer, regardless of what platform they are targeting — iOS, Android, AWS, whatever. Rationalization could come later if at all.

This strategy will create confusion, overlaps, duplications, conflicts, and chaos — but dammit, Microsoft will be relevant again. Relevance will make up for a lot of sins.

Best board games of the holiday season

We always go on a bit of a board game binge over the holidays. We played some holdovers from past years — Settlers of Catan, Seven Wonders. I got an awesome bamboo catanboard for Catan, that was a great gift. And we got the Cities and Leaders expansions which added additional layers to this game. 7 wonders is a typical resource accumulate, barter, and build game, with a ton of strategic options.

triassicAnd then we tried a bunch of new games, the ones that passed the bar:

  • Triassic Terror. The great thing about this game is that we all finished within a couple points of each other, and the outcome was in doubt throughout the game. I have a lot of admiration for a game design that keeps everyone engaged and excited, the designer clearly thought hard about scoring mechanisms. Makes me think a lot about how to design games — if I were designing a game, I’d ignore the genre and backstory and visuals to start, and just get the mechanics and scoring system down, with a goal towards keeping everyone in the game. Only after I had nailed that would I start to overlay the story and visuals. I’ve bought a lot of games that had a great look or great theme, but fell apart completely as a game.
  • The Phantom Society. A very different game of ghosts and ghost hunters. Super simple game setup and game play so you can bring in people who don’t love the complexity of games like Seven Wonders, but you can seriously overbrain this game.
  • Renaissance Man. This game was good but not great. A lot of richness at the beginning of the game, but towards the end the paths all kind of peter out and the game gets a little constrained. But we played it several times and didn’t give up on.

We had some failures too but I won’t dwell on those…hope your holidays were good!

Our package is visiting all of central Washington

UPS facilities must be absolute zoos at this time of year. The status for one of our packages below. Here’s hoping it doesn’t loop again at Redmond.

  • December 18, 2013, 5:44 am, Redmond WA US Out for delivery
  • December 18, 2013, 5:29 am, Redmond WA US Package arrived at a carrier facility
  • December 18, 2013, 3:55 am, Pacific WA US Package has left the carrier facility
  • December 18, 2013, 3:29 am, Pacific WA US Package arrived at a carrier facility
  • December 18, 2013, 12:23 am, Moses Lake WA US Package has left the carrier facility
  • December 17, 2013, 11:30 pm, Moses Lake WA US Package arrived at a carrier facility
  • December 17, 2013, 9:46 pm, Kennewick WA US Package has left the carrier facility
  • December 17, 2013, 9:06 pm, Kennewick WA US Package arrived at a carrier facility
  • December 17, 2013, 8:01 pm, Walla Walla WA US Package has left the carrier facility
  • December 17, 2013, 7:15 pm, Walla Walla WA US Package arrived at a carrier facility
  • December 17, 2013, 11:06 am, Walla Walla WA US Possible delay in delivery due to arrival at incorrect carrier facility
  • December 17, 2013, 11:06 am, Walla Walla WA US Possible delay in delivery due to arrival at incorrect carrier facility
  • December 16, 2013, 8:45 pm, Redmond WA US Package arrived at a carrier facility
  • December 16, 2013, 8:15 pm, Seattle WA US Package has left the carrier facility
  • December 16, 2013, 5:55 pm, Seattle WA US Package arrived at a carrier facility
  • December 16, 2013, 3:55 pm, Louisville KY US Package has left the carrier facility
  • December 16, 2013, 1:33 pm, Louisville KY US Package received by carrier
  • December 15, 2013, 6:18 pm, US Package has left seller facility and is in transit to carrier

Recent Books — Vanished Kingdoms, Testament of Mary, Prince of Risk

  • The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin. Very moving tale of the last days of Jesus, written from the viewpoint of his mother. Great capturing of the anguish of a mother losing a son in terrible fashion.
  • Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies. Thorough discussion of 17 kingdoms/empires/states that have disappeared from the world. Not Rome or Sparta, but lesser known examples, that probably all thought they would last forever. Humbling but a bit of a slog.
  • The Prince of Risk by Christopher Reich. After the prior book needed some mental floss. Reich writes a solid suspense tail. A fine distraction.

What exactly are people searching for when they search for “Bud Light”?

From Twitter, apparently Bud Light is the 2nd most popular search on Google for a beer brand:

I’m scratching my head, what exactly do people need to find out about Bud Light? I have nothing against Bud Light. It is ubiquitously available and ubiquitously advertised. Certainly people aren’t having problems finding the product at Retail. Certainly there is no mystery about what it is. I just can’t figure out what people are thinking when they decide to turn to Google to learn more about Bud Light.