Interesting things this week

12 Awesome CSS3 Features That You Can Finally Start Using is a good article covering some CSS3 features that are finally “real” enough to use (i.e. most available browsers support them). Of course, the flashy features are also the least useful. The winners for things you’ll actually use are calc(), gradients, webfonts, and sane box sizing.

Amazon and profits are making the rounds again. I don’t care about “news”, it’s more the thinking behind this. Several posts have offered their opinion, and this is relevant for those who think about how to run businesses. One ex-Amazon employee wrote a thoughtful article titled Amazon and the “profitless business model” fallacy where he covers the thinking behing growth and profits, especially when it comes to visibility: obviously huge parts of Amazon are profitable, or there’s be no large amounts of money to plow into new infrastructure.

Spyder, previously known as Pydee, is an IDE for Python somewhat targeted at the scientific community.

Software interviewing is still an art, not a science. This is a problem. I’m not sure I agree that FizzBuzz is a question I should be asking candidates, as Brian Brunner avers in For the Love of God, Ask FizzBuzz. Yes, you expect candidates for software engineering jobs to be able to program, and yes, distressingly often they cannot. But I’m never going to employ someone who can only program to the FizzBuzz level. However, I do agree that you don’t employ just based on resumes or claims of past experience. What you should do is first ask a programming question at the lowest level that the person could be employed at. Additionally, you could triangulate – if the candidate claims to be at a specific level, then ask a programming question aimed at that level, and then go down if desired – we’ll hire junior engineers, and if the senior candidate can only program at a junior level and is willing to be employed as a junior to start, that’s fine.

C– bills itself as the new assembly language, or rather the portable assembly language that compiler front ends should emit. Alas, this seems like a dead project, the FAQ mentions 2004, and the “old news” mentions 2001. This came out of Microsoft Research, or rather from Simon Peyton Jones who works at Microsoft Research. Also, as the FAQ points out, the name C– is too clever by far to avoid having been used by other unrelated projects.

The week in reading—October 14th-20th 2013

Now with partially read technical books. I managed to read no novels this week, somehow. I’ll have to rectify that next week.

Books

Learning Python, 5th Edition, Mark Lutz

I finally decided I had to become a decent Python programmer. This involves writing lots of Python code, but for me it also means a lot of reading, because I want to short-circuit as much as possible; I don’t want to discover all the idiomatic or best ways to write things on my own through trial and error, I want to find them out. But that also means you don’t just copy other peoples’ code, you need to understand why things are done.

So I started reading Learning Python, as the nearest approximation. The 5th edition is fairly massive, over 1500 pages. I’ve read through to about page 500. It’s not dense, and I wish there was some other book that was more of a reference. There are the Python reference pages and tutorial, but those are too sparse – they are reference, and I want the commentary that explains why one way and not another.

I had read part of the 4th edition, and the 5th edition seems like it’s a lot better. It has all the beginner books, and the pacing for someone who needs a lot of handholding, but I skip through those bits quickly looking for the techniques and the reasons behind them. I would recommend this book to others, but you have to read it, it’s not laid out well enough to be something you can skip around in. Or rather, if you could skip around in it, you probably know Python well enough that you don’t need this book.

I’m at the stage now where I can write reasonable Python programs without syntax errors every 4th line, and that I can write working code mostly the first time, and that I’m writing 500+ line programs that are still readable. I find that I do like Python a lot more than Perl. I’m sad, because I really liked Perl, but Perl isn’t as amenable to writing substantial programs. Python is more like a “real” language.

Fetish Goddess Dita

I buy art books. That’s what this is, an art book. Well, it’s a bondage art book, since Dita is a bondage model and a burlesque performer. A lot of the shots are in her favorite vein of 1930s Germany and America. At one point, she made waves as a new Betty Page – she manages a striking similarity/homage. The phrase I heard a few years ago to describe this kind of material was “artcore”. It’s a descriptive phrase.

Pinxit, Mark Ryden, Taschen

Mark Ryden only came to my attention a few years ago, when I started reading Hi Fructose, a fairly new art magazine quarterly that started in 2006, and now a book with what might be his entire oeuvre to date has been released. This is a large-format book, and it’s Taschen, which means it’s not hideously expensive (I love Taschen).

How to describe him? He has a juxtaposition of high-gloss innocence with undercurrents of darker worlds. He’s a phenomenal artist. I would say he’s a surrealist. His first solo exhibition was in Pasadena in 1998, The Meat Show, and he’s been growing in popularity ever since.

Another phrase I’ve seen used for artists like Ryden is “magic realism”, because of the combination of the ordinary and the fantastic. His work, while detailed, can look simple at first, until you examine a painting and see more detail every time you look at it; subtle density might be another way to state it more succinctly.

Certainly, comparisons to Salvador Dali are not out of line, and yet it’s more due to the heavy use of metaphor and surrealism.

I’ll be returning to this book many times over the next few years. Seek out Mark Ryden’s art and you’ll see what I mean.

Magazines

Economist, October 12th-18th 2013

The American government shutdown is in its second week, and it gets serious by October 17th. Oh, the drama! Seriously, I’m glad I don’t read daily news, it would be the same thing every day, repeated ad nauseum.

Even though China and Brazil’s “managed capitalism” is fading (Brazil is in trouble, China is slowing down, China has huge problems facing it), there’s still a belief around the world that raw capitalism is bad and needs hand-holding. The special in the Economist this issue was on the gating of the economy – not a return to outright trade barriers, but yet barriers all the same, whether in the guise of subsidies or capital controls or other less blatant ways to interfere. These never seem to work well in the long run, but in the short run they often appear to work; probably luck and coincidence.

Germany and Europe have a looming problem with electricity, and the perils caused by renewable sources (we don’t have sinks to put excess electricity into, at least not at scale).

And healthcare.gov was a disaster at rollout. I saw the figures for how much it cost to develop, and I tried to guesstimate how big a project it is. I feel like Blizzard has done things at equivalent scale that actually work and we spent pennies on the dollar compared to what the government spent – our $5 million produced a system that worked at the scale that healthcare.gov failed at, despite costing in excess of $400 million. This seems to be true of many large government IT projects. I feel that it can’t just be incompetence or bloat, there has to be massive institutionalized fraud going on.

The Economist had the class and the balls to directly confront a controversy with Ecuador, or rather a story they published that was vehemently denied by Ecuador’s president (involving just who is to blame for some big oil-related problems from the past 20 years). They gave the other side inches and seemed to represent their point of view, but also finally said “no, really, we are pretty sure we had it right, so maybe you should check your facts”.

A lot of the world is still dysfunctional or evil – India seems largely incompetent, Africa is still full of warlords, Syria is in flames, Brazil is hostile to its own businesses, Venezuela is determined to commit economic suicide (but trying to blame things on “American conspiracies”), Russia as led by Putin is nearly an enemy, China is freaking everyone out. Lots of things to fix and improve. Maybe Africa can become the bright spot in the next 50 years.

Twelve Tomorrows, MIT Technology Review, 2013

This is the second year that Technology Review has released an issue, so it’s now credible to call it a yearly magazine. This is a science fiction anthology with new stories: “Visionary stories of the near future inspired by today’s technologies”.

The opening entry is an edited version of an interview with Neal Stephenson. It’s followed by one of the more bizarre stories I’ve seen from Brian Aldiss, a story that would not have been out of place in Dangerous Visions. Cheryl Rydbom has a fairly prosaic story about identity theft. The story Transitional Forms by Paul McAuley was pretty strong (it’s about artificial life), but the story Pathways by Nancy Kress is the best story in the magazine, both very emotional and very short-term future.

The story by Allen Steele was disappointing – it was a good story, but it would have been cutting edge in the 1950s, not today. On the other hand, The Ian McDonald story The Revolution Will Not Be Refrigerated was strong and fresh, even though it mined tropes equally as old as the Allen Steele story. The story by Nancy Fulda was good but again a little too late.

Bootstrap by Kathleen Ann Goonan was pretty brilliantly written, and so was the Greg Egan story Zero for Conduct. The last two stories, Pwnage by Justina Robson and Firebrand by Peter Watts, were almost brilliant. I liked them, but I didn’t love them as much as they deserved.

This outing was more consistent and more interesting than last year’s group of stories. Can next year continue the improvement? That would make this a series worth following.

Linux Format, Issue 176, November 2013

The feature article was “Build your own distro”, and it covered the gamut from the friendly and on rails Ubuntu and Fedora bases, the online SUSE Studio builder, and an Arch-based approach. The magazine also had the normal compendium of news, reviews and tutorials.

The New Yorker, Sept 23, 2013

I bought this issue a month ago, and kept putting off reading it. There was a moderately interesting article on Eileen Fisher, of Eileen Fisher the clothing chain. There was a more interesting article on Bustle, a new online magazine for women (bustle.com). And then I realized why I kept skipping past this magazine on the stack. Oh well, can’t always hit it out of the park, I guess. Moving on.

The New Yorker, Oct 14 2013

One of the title articles was pretty good, the others I didn’t care for much.

STARTUPism was an exploration of San Francisco tech culture by way of following Johnny Hwin, which the article portrayed as being representative of the new San Francisco culture. San Francisco periodically changes its image, and the latest image seems to be “startup”. Everyone is doing a startup, everything is filtered through the idea of a startup, and nothing is too staid to avoid yet another innovative way to look at it. It’s interesting also because it’s not “the Bay Area” any more, it’s San Francisco – it seems like people and businesses are moving back to the city. But also interestingly, it’s not about big money any more, it’s about a lot of small bets. The article was also another data point in what I think will happen – lots of serial entrepreneurs will burn out or slow down and go to work for a bigger company. The theme of the article was “is the startup the new hippy culture?” I don’t think there are parallels that work.

The article on the self-destruction of Dewy & LeBoeuf, one of the biggest law firms around, was probably gripping to many people, but I got tired after a few pages, and started skimming. There were no lessons; people overreached, people fought, poor financial decisions were made, and a firm went bankrupt. I suppose these kinds of articles have to be written so that people can learn from others’ mistakes. Or at least, point out “why did you repeat the mistakes of X?” later on.

Perhaps the most interesting bit in the magazine was the length review of a new book on Henry Wallace, someone I knew little about, and I suspect applies to you, dear reader, as well. Henry Wallace was Roosevelt’s Vice President from 1941 through 1944, and although a somewhat flawed individual, or perhaps one who made poor, uncritical choices, was a champion for farming, and founded some agriculture giants (such as Pioneer Hi-Bred and Hy-Line Poultry). One of his failings was a preoccupation with mystical literature – he is the one who transplanted the pyramid-with-an-eye symbol from the American seal to the back of the dollar bill. Another of his failings was outright favor for Stalin and Russia in the years following World War II. This led into his 1948 Progressive Party, which was largely hijacked by American Communists, and ended up with Wallace finally angrily denouncing Soviet Communism in 1952. He was a man with principles, and a lot of people draw parallels with Al Gore, the other famous almost-President. Both had strong principles, had a hard time selling others on them, and might have either been great presidents or disastrous presidents – having principles is fine, but if you do crazy things because of your principles, bad things happen (cue Tea Party exiting stage left, hopefully).

Economist, October 19th-25th 2013

I was relieved to learn that the impasse in American politics was resolved, albeit temporarily. That was the cliffhanger I was left with from last week. I enjoyed the Economist’s parallel – “Imagine you are in a taxi and the driver suddenly turns violently and speeds toward a wall, tyres screeching, only to stop at the very last moment, inches from the bricks—and cheerfully informs you that he wants to do the same to you in three months time.” It’s sad, but American politics may actually be more dysfunctional than all the European countries we are so fond of looking down at.

The cover article, and a feature story, were about the huge problems with accuracy in science nowadays, or at least in publications. Attempts at reproducing results from published experiments now largely fails, indicating huge flaws with the original research. Last year, researchers at Amgen could only reproduce 6 out of 53 landmark cancer research studies. Other sting-like operations uncover poor to no peer review process, letting articles riddled with errors go all the way to publication. Few erroneous articles are publicly retracted; scientists in the know see the errors, but outside the specialty, the errant articles are still taken for gospel. it’s all very bad for progress.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikva, one of the two members of Pussy Riot sentenced to jail, is still making waves. She released a letter detailing well-known but mostly-hushed-up rampant abuse in the Russian prison system, which apparently still resembles the gulag archipelago from the last century. Hopefully she’ll not pay for this, because conditions as described in the prisons are horrible.

And evidently Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s tech-savvy boss, who I had just been reading about last week, is being poached to run Apple’s retail operations. She’s been credited with a revitalization of Burberry, and it’s assumed that she’s going to do more than just spruce up Apple’s retail stores. Certainly one assumes she’s slated for more, since she was the head of Burberry, and on paper will now be a “mere” senior vice-president. Maybe this is a long-term cultivation as Tim Cook’s successor? That would be awesome, and something relatively new in the tech world. One can but dream.

UnitTest++ use cases

The simplest main for UnitTest++ looks something like this:

int main(int /*argc*/, char** /*argv*/)
{  
  return UnitTest::RunAllTests();
}

This will run all the tests that were linked in (UnitTest++ registers tests with global constructors, so no explicit registration is needed).

However, you can exert more control by picking a specific TestReporter, and using a TestRunner. The above can be written verbosely as this:

int main(int /*argc*/, char** /*argv*/)
{
  UnitTest::TestReporter* pReporter =
         new UnitTest::TestReporterStdout;
  UnitTest::TestRunner runner(*pReporter);

  int result = runner.RunTestsIf(UnitTest::Test::GetTestList(),
                                 NULL, UnitTest::True(), 0);
  delete pReporter;

  return result;
}

For example, you could create a new TestReporter that, say, wrote the output as XML so it could be read by a program that likes XML (say you’re using CruiseControl or Jenkins).

Or you could pass a filter to RunTestsIf.

int RunTestsIf(TestList const& list, char const* suiteName, 
               const Predicate& predicate, int maxTestTimeInMs);

If you pass a non-zero value to maxTestTimeInMs, then tests are aborted (and failed) if they take longer than the specified value in milliseconds. If you pass non-NULL to suiteName, then only tests in the named suite are executed. And if you pass a predicate function, then you can do anything you want. Predicate is actually a template parameter for the class that RunTestsIf is a member of, but despite being so clever, it has to be a function that takes a pointer to a Test and returns a boolean. Here’s the built-in True() predicate as an example.

struct True
{
  bool operator()(const Test* const) const
  {
    return true;	
  }
};

but you could write a slightly more complicated functor that compares against a specific suite name and test name:

struct IsSuite
{
  IsSuite(const std::string& suiteName, const std::string& testName)
    : suite(suiteName), test(testName) {}
  bool operator()(const UnitTest::Test* const test) const
  {
    return 0 == suite.compare(test->m_details.suitName) &&
           0 == test.compare(test->m_details.testName);
  }
};

and then use your predicate in your RunTestsIf call.

For a more extended version, imagine that you have a regex pattern in your predicate, and then run suites and/or tests in suites against that regex pattern, and then you name suites and tests to facilitate this.

Reference

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3546054/how-do-i-run-a-single-test-with-unittest/17389355#17389355

Web fonts

http://www.google.com/fonts

http://hellohappy.org/beautiful-web-type/

http://www.awwwards.com/best-20-webfonts-from-google-web-fonts-and-font-face-embedding.html

http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-google-fonts/

http://www.onextrapixel.com/2013/07/03/30-beautiful-google-fonts-for-your-website/

http://www.creativebloq.com/typography/free-web-fonts-1131610

http://vandelaydesign.com/blog/design/google-fonts-for-web-design/

Also see

http://vandelaydesign.com/blog/wordpress/comparison-of-theme-clubs/

The week in reading—September 30th-October 13th 2013

Yes, this is actually two weeks. I was lazy last week, in that I spent a few days camping and then jumped straight into work without doing my self-assignment.

You’ll have noticed few technical books or journal in previous lists or this one, despite the fact that I probably spend half my time reading such things. That’s because I don’t actually finish many of them. I’m going to start listing them anyway, and I’ll state how much of the book or journal I read. I probably read 25% of the average technical journal, or 50% of a technical book.

Books

The Kings of Eternity, by Eric Brown

I’m really enjoying reading Eric Brown. This is the fourth book of his I’ve read, and all in recent months. I’ve bought most of his books over the past few years, but they are part of my ever-growing “to read pile”.

This is, for lack of a better term, a scientific romance. It tries to evoke the sense and feel of a 19th-century science fiction book, and marry it with some modern knowledge and sensibility, without being “oh so clever at what we know now”. While I wouldn’t call it his masterpiece, or the book of the year, I liked it a lot.

It’s firmly grounded on Earth; all the off-Earth action happens off-stage, as it were. And it’s largely about the characters and how they respond to big events, and not the events themselves. So in one sense, it feels somewhat muted, but again that’s part of the tone the author was shooting for, it does feel a lot like an H. G. Wells novel, without being any kind of homage or copy.

Lead protagonist and friends get involved in intergalactic war, one goes off to fight, the rest stay on Earth and, well, live. If you happen to read the book, you’ll see what I mean.

1636: The Devil’s Opera, by Eric Flint and David Carrico

I love the 1632 series, so named because that was the first book in the series. In a nutshell, a town named Grantville and immediate surroundings in Marion County, West Virginia, is propelled back in time from the year 2000 to 1631. That’s the one fantastic thing that happens, the rest of it is what you get when you take Americans with modern knowledge and drop them right into the middle of the Thirty Years War, and translocated into Germany to boot. So one moment of science fiction, and then the rest belongs in the “Alternative History” genre.

This is I think the 20th book written in this series. There are actually at least four “series” going on. There the one with the main protagonists, the movers and shakers of the world, both modern Americans and down-time big players (Cardinal Richelieu, for one). There’s a series that involves a bunch of second-string players, although I don’t mean second string in any derogatory sense, it’s just that these people are actors on smaller stages. And then there are at least two other “series”, although it’s more thematic, since these are mostly short stories that explore the changes to the world, either from an “up-timer” point of view (Americans tossed back in time), or a “down-timer” point of view (1600s people confronted with Americans and their way of thinking).

I love this series because most of the book is actually not on masterminds, but on day-to-day events. It’s history, and it’s politics, and it’s religion, and it’s sociology, and it’s technology.

There’s a big cadre of readers who have become writers in this series, people exploring some idea to its logical conclusion. How can you make a jet plane, for example? How do you change a world’s view towards sanitation? What about computers, when the people in this town just have the high school library to go  on, and whatever computers they came through time with?

1636: The Devil’s Opera is in this second series. A number of history-changing events have occurred, and this second series follows up each event from a different point of view. In this specific book, the up-time wife of an up-time admiral commissions a song that solidifies a protest movement, and an opera that is a capstone on an overall shift in behavior. When you take Americans and drop them into a rigidly hierarchical society where farmers and tradesmen are practically owned by nobles, which side do you think the Americans fall on?

Over half the books have been directly written by Eric Flint – I suspect the 1632 world is what he’ll largely be known for, in years to come.

I love it, I highly recommend all the books. They are fun, and you think a bit, and you learn a bit. Here’s a link to a Wikipedia article that does a better job of describing the series:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grantville_(1632_series)

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

This book is phenomenal. I’m not going to call it book of the year, or one of the 100 books you must read, but it really blew me away. Imagine a sentient ship, having lived for about 3000 years, and at the start of the book this being is now in a single human body, and wants to right a great wrong.

Oh, and the empire she toiled within is pretty despotic; it has shades of Warhammer 40k, or the universe hinted at by the Riddick movies, or say some of the dystopian European graphic novelists, or Christopher Moeller’s Iron Empire comics. And yet, it’s not as black and white as that, because people live and eat and have sex and make art.

She moves within the human part of the galaxy, and only interacts with humans in this book, but humans are not the dominant race in the galaxy. There are aliens, but they are pretty damn alien, and while a big part of the forces driving the story, aren’t actors. This is a human-level story, except for the ship AIs, and that story is also only alluded to, it seems like the ships might have been co-opted/enslaved by the dominant human empire during its expansion.

The writer employed a fantastic literary device. The main character (first person), refers to everyone as she. Part of it is explained early on, the character is in a society where she has trouble telling gender, and the language is evidently very gender-driven, and she’s reflecting on that in an internal monologue. But even when she knows someone is a he, or someone else says he, she thinks “she”. I found this awesome, because while in the here and now it can be seen as a statement, it’s also something that will still read properly down the road, it won’t date. Without it, the book would still be great, it’s very minor. But it was cool.

The book could easily stand on its own – it told a story that came to a conclusion. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see more stories told in this universe, and there’s an obvious opening or two.

Read this book. You won’t regret it.

Magazines

Economist, October 5th-11th 2013

I had to wait until the past Tuesday to read the Economist, since I was camping. I even made a joke about it while camping. But as a result, I’m slightly behind now, I haven’t quite finished the most recent Economist issue, this is the one from last week.

The start of the American government shutdown; Ukraine has to choose between the EU and Russia; climate change; roundabouts as a British export to the world; the dreadful launch of Obama’s health reform; an Anna Nicole opera closes; and that was just the first few pages.

I love the political art in The Economist – although it’s not something you can collect on its own (because the pictures would have little meaning without the context of the stories they are placed in), the art is funny, irreverent, relevant and acts as an exclamation mark. It’s a huge part of the charm of the Economist, but generally has an even tone, even when it is mocking one actor or another. For example, a duel with Silvio Berlusconi shooting himself in the foot while Enrico Letta looks on smirking is even-handed to the vast majority of people (it’s what we saw to happen), but must be infuriating to Berlusconi and his handfuls of remaining supporters.

I also learned that Greece finally cracked down on Golden Dawn; that London has a thriving start-up cluster that may grow big and while Germany has a start-up cluster it has had no breakthroughs yet, that people are trying to turn Frisbee catching into a new big-name sport (really? sounds loony); and an article on Paul Klee and a big retrospective on his work now at London’s Tate Museum.

This issue had the 5th of 5 articles in a series on the 2008 financial crisis; the entire series is well worth reading as a basic primer on modern banking.

Scientific American Mind, September/October 2013

To me, Scientific American is a pale shadow of its former self, much less the spin-offs like this. I periodically pick one up anyway.

The major takeaway from this issue is that we had an unhealthy amount of attention paid to self-esteem starting in the 1980s, and it should stop, because we’re obsessed by self-esteem, and it is bad for us, at least when it comes to high-skill jobs. High self-esteem makes it hard to see your shortcomings, and thus you’re likely to not fix them. And if a surgeon has shortcomings, people die. Or if a musician has shortcomings, no one listens to their music. Unfortunately, the flip side of this is the old trope about the tortured genius, something I have personal experience with. Not the genius part, per se, just the angst and depression.

Evidently the trick is to be compassionate rather than having self-esteem – you can be compassionate and still improve yourself, and you’re less likely to be depressed to boot. There’s a fair amount of research, albeit still fuzzy. I’ll check back on this in a few more years.

The other cool bit in the magazine was a collection of current thinking and knowledge about learning – what works and what doesn’t. This thinking is driven by lots of experiments and tests, and not by anecdotal or testimonial  reporting. In other words, while it may not be the final answer, it’s far better than the tribal lore we had in previous generations. Science is wonderful.

What works?

  • self-testing (especially before you’ve learned the material)
  • spreading study over time
  • ask why (“channel your inner four-year old”)
  • explain it to yourself

What doesn’t work

  • Highlighting
  • Re-reading
  • Summarization
  • Keyword mnemonic

Hopefully at some point this will trickle down to kids, who are still being taught largely ineffective techniques.

The New Yorker, Oct 7 2013

I go through spurts of reading The New Yorker. It’s an interesting magazine, and genuine, I just don’t quite fully live in its world. I easily could. Well, maybe not; I have roots in other worlds that aren’t quite compatible with the world of the New Yorker. But, I can visit and stay for a while.

This issue’s cover was “The Newspaper that took on the N.S.A.” – it was an article on The Guardian, and to a lesser degree on Glenn Greenwald etc. I had actually never heard of The Guardian until Glenn Greenwald’s articles got a lot of attention, and now I am in the camp where I hope The Guardian can continue to exist, because it’s the only remaining example of the Fourth Estate that I know of. All of the previous champions have hobbled themselves – I no longer respect The Washington Post or The New York Times, they’ve bowed their head too much to the government. And most of the British papers are a travesty. I imagine there are some others worldwide, I just don’t know much about them.

There was also an article on Philip Roth, some interesting interviews with Egyptian preachers in the days surrounding the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, a piece on Joyce DiDonato, a reigning mezzo-soprano in the opera world, and a review of the TV show Masters of Sex, which I guess I need to watch – this is about Masters and Johnson.

ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, Vol 20 No 1, 2013

I buy a lot of journals, and skim through them, reading the occasional article. For me, it’s a long-term bet, because most of this stuff is useful 10-20 years down the road.

The theme of this issue was on embodied interaction. This has been trying to come to the forefront for years, although the closest we’ve gotten in terms of large numbers of users is in things like the Wiimotion and Kinect controllers; most of this has been in academic environments. It’s definitely something we as humans want – we like touching things, and involving the whole body sounds like it would be a good thing. But it’s also tough, because most computer input needs to be precise, and it takes a lot of training for gestures or movements to be precise.

I skimmed through the articles, but nothing really caught my attention.

Linux Format, issue 175, October 2013

This is my favorite remaining mass-market technical magazine. Most of them have gone the way of the Dodo (starting with Byte’s departure some years ago).

I keep reading it, and it’s still mildly worth it. I just don’t know what to say about it.

Fast Company, issue 179, October 2013

I sporadically read this, typically when the cover catches my eye. This time it was because this was “the 10th annual innovation by design issue”, and because it had a big article on Apple that promised “the real truth about how Apple does design”.

I enjoyed the timeline in design – they covered the past 10 years of design highlights. There were a number of 2-page interviewlets with CEOS and their design chiefs, and to their credit Fast Company covered a lot of companies, not just the usual tech companies – Burberry, Nike, Pepsico.

But the point of the magazine for me was the Apple article. They tracked down a lot of big and small players, or at least the ones that would talk, and it was an interesting montage, because quotes from one person would contradict another. Instead of trying to create a single story, they just tried to pull on the threads. I can’t say I learned a lot, but it was interesting.

The other article I found interesting was on Fab, the new “I want to be the major player in retail” company. Fab has been growing fast, and we’ll see if they can reach Amazon heights or higher. From the article, it seemed like Fab was looking to displace Ikea, JC Penny, Bed Bath & Beyond, and not so much Amazon or Walmart. I’ll have to try buying something from Fab and see how it goes.

Wired, 21.09 September 2013

I still love Wired magazine, even though I stopped reading it regularly some years ago. I was a reader starting with the first issue, and recently I’ve been reading most issues, so maybe I am a regular reader again.

Lately, Wired has been jam-packed with interesting and useful things. It’s now less about the articles for me that predict the future, and more about the covering of the future that is here today. This is one of those magazines where you want to read it while sitting at a computer, so you can follow up on what you just read.

But, for example, I really want to play Day Z now. Or go work for Github.