Michael Donaghy wonders why Rust -- which forces programmers to do manual memory management -- seems to be gaining traction, and surveys the state of typed languages:
Even as I've admired the design work going into Rust, I've been confused by its growing popularity. A language without garbage collection, in 2015? There are use cases where you need that, and a replacement for C++ in its remaining niches is a worthy goal, but for most developers managing one's own memory is an extravagance, akin to growing one's own food - something you might do on a hobby project, but never for a paying client.
It seemed bizzare that users of Python or Ruby looking for an ordinary, general-purpose language with a decent type system would fall on this systems language. Rust's spectacular engineering makes memory management far less of a chore than it's predecessors - but a chore it remains. The language puts an emphasis on memory usage that- well, saving memory is never unwelcome, but for general-purpose languages there are generally better places to spend your budget.
But then I tried to put myself in their position, and survey the landscape of mainstream functional languages - or rather, mainstream languages with decent type systems - with fresh eyes.
I am excited by Rust. For me, it's the most interesting programming language of recent years. When I switched to Ruby from Java, the dynamic typing was freeing and made me feel super productive. But now I've worked on a few large projects where I keep wishing I could enforce some type safety. In retrospective, it was Java's lame type system that was the problem.
Rust has a lot going for it: the type system is great, it enforces immutability by default, and it's fast. But to me web programming matters most because that's the work I do. And it's not clear how well Rust will work for web programming. Rust makes managing memory easier, but you still have to do it.
Sometimes I think I would like a language like Rust that's aimed more directly at web systems programming. Something like Go, but caught up on the last 30 years of programming language design research. Donaghy's survey of the available options is not super-promising, but maybe OCaml is more what I am looking for.
(There are many additional comments on this piece, including responses by the author, on Hacker News.)
Another story (this one from Portland) about an in-demand mixed-use neighborhood that can't be replicated because current zoning makes it illegal.
Of course, a jumbled neighborhood like mine would probably be regarded by many residential realtors, local officials, and even prospective home purchasers as a bad investment. After all, it’s about as far from the suburban residential model as possible. But in fact, this neighborhood, while providing many apartments (formerly) affordable by lower-income renters, was and is highly sought after. According to Zillow, homebuyers in this neighborhood pay more than twice as much per square foot to live here than they would in the region’s suburbs.
One reason the prices are so high is because the supply of this kind of neighborhood has been limited by zoning, parking regulations, street design standards, school design standards, and building codes. We need many more neighborhoods like this all across America, so that all of the increasing numbers of people who want to live in places like this can afford to live in them.
Does that mean do away with all regulations? No. But it does mean that we need to stop assuming that everyone wants to, or can afford to, live in a big-house on a big lot in a residential-only neighborhood. We shouldn’t be making it illegal to build the kind of neighborhoods, like mine that are increasingly popular and in short supply.
Astronaut Scott Kelly posted this photo of San Francisco from the ISS:
I really like this photo because it shows the topography of San Francisco better than any other photo I've seen. The angle and the shadows make it really obvious where the hills are. You can even see the horseshoe-shaped contour of my neighborhood, Potrero Hill.
Andy Jenks of Drive Capital (which led the $27M Series B investment in Minneapolis startup Lead Pages) writes about moving to the Midwest and his impressions of the challenges and opportunities of building a company there.
Here addresses one thing I think is true about the most successful Midwestern companies: they are focused on building real businesses that solve real problems in exchange for actual money:
These companies are busy building first and raising capital second. The biggest successes in the Midwest aren’t financially engineered.
Half the time, it doesn’t even occur to Midwestern entrepreneurs to raise venture capital until they no longer need it. You don’t hear the constant coffee-shop talk about who is raising their next mega-round. In the Midwest, things are more straightforward. It’s all about building real businesses.
In a capital constrained environment like the Midwest, I think this is the best approach. It beats whining about how you can't raise any money.
David Talbot's false choice
My book club recently read David Talbot's Season of the Witch which is about the transformation of San Francisco in the 1970s, from the perspective of 2012. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I couldn't help noting this passage:
The housing battles of the 1970s were the crucible for an entire generation of new activists in San Francisco. The city was a finite peninsula of competing dreams and ambitions. Was it to become a Manhattan of the West, whose office towers and high-rise apartment buildings over-shadowed everything else, or remain an affordable, human-scale city of light nestled into the hills and hollows?
In the end, San Francisco chose neither. Its "human-scale" masks a terrible auto dependency and inadequate public transportation system, while the failure to build up (even a little -- Paris very human-scale but over three times as dense) has turned the city into an unaffordable playground for the wealthy and young.
Lukasz Piwek has compiled some nice examples of how to build Tufte-esque data visualizations using R.
I believe that the single most important thing a team can do collectively to improve its throughput is to make code review a (or better yet, the) top priority for all team members. This is the most compelling and concise reason I could come up with, so I'll call it out as blatantly as I can:
Pending code reviews represent blocked threads of execution.
Glen Stanford, formerly engineer and engineering manager at Twitter, has a great writeup about conducting effective code reviews, for both submitters and reviewers.
The kind of person who owns a cargo bike
A while back, I tweeted about buying a cargo bike.
I like imaging buying a cargo bike, because it lets me see myself as a better person.— Luke Francl (@lof) August 3, 2014
I liked the idea of having a cargo bike because I wanted to be the kind of person who owned a cargo bike. As my friend Chris put it, "I'd carry everything on it. I'd never need to use the car. It'd be amazing."
But I wasn't really looking for one.
Not to say I hadn't looked. I was particularly enamored with the cycle truck style. If money were no option, the Ahearne Cycle Truck would be my choice — truly a thing of beauty.
So when a fully loaded Surly Big Dummy appeared on Craigslist with a reasonable price, I debated a while, and then jumped on it. It's not necessarily what I would buy if I was building one from scratch, but it really is well set up for the urban cyclist: locking wheels, fully set up Extracycle racks, and a massive U lock with attachment.
That is to say, I am now the kind of person who owns a cargo bike. From the first day, it's been a fun addition to my collection of bikes (I now have two in San Francisco and mumble mumble some in Minneapolis).
You can't want to go places quickly on the Big Dummy. You just pedal. Reaching maximum speed is like what I imagine driving a big rig truck is like. You have to shift up to your highest gear in stages, over a space of blocks. As the guy I bought it from put it, the bike is so long, you have to parallel park it. Getting up my hill with its 10% grade is hard, even unloaded, but the low gear is low enough to make it possible.
Cargo bikes are more common than they used to be, but even today, it is a sight worth remarking on. I've never gotten so many comments or seen so many smiles while riding a bike. For some reason, middle aged black guys seem to really enjoy it.
I joked that if I owned a cargo bike I'd bike to the farmer's market every weekend. And you know what? I have biked to the farmer's market a lot more since buying it. I'm not sure I've ever bought enough such that it would, strictly speaking, be impossible to haul back on my regular bike (using two paniers and a backback). But the cargo bike makes it a cinch, and since I have it, I use it.
After all, I'm the kind of person who owns a cargo bike.
Speaking at DevOpsDays Minneapolis
The conference is sold out, so no tickets are available, but if you're in attendance, stop by and say hi.
Of course, once the technologies of communication, transportation, and weaponry became cheaper and more democratized, it turned out the masses were surprisingly hostile to elite rule and weren't afraid to show it. So perhaps it's not so impossible to say after all. In fact, most humans throughout history probably haven't favored "meritocratic" rule, but mostly had no practical way to show it except in small, usually failed rebellions. The Industrial Revolution changed all that, and suddenly the toiling masses had the technology to make a decent showing against their overlords.