Book Design

Charles Petzold and Jeff Atwood have gotten in a bit of a kerfluffle that, I think, is an unfortunate example of how online writing can escalate and over-dramatize disagreements between even two talented writers. I’m sure that Atwood appreciates Petzold’s work and I’m sure that Petzold appreciates constructive criticism. I’m not going to link to the original posts, because I think that they were both perhaps overly curt and I don’t want to fan any flames.

But I do feel strongly enough about the issue to say this: Petzold’s Applications = Code + Markup is a very good book. It’s dense in a good way (if you’ve been following the dustup, read the pages in Atwood’s original post).

Petzold’s work also has a conscious narrative philosophy. Petzold talked about this when he was writing the book. Atwood praises the layout choices made in another book (which I haven’t read) and his arguments are credible. But Petzold, too, made deliberate choices on these very issues and I don’t think that it’s fair to dismiss those choices as if they were accidents of an outdated approach to book design.

Dynamic Language Runtime / IronRuby Inst-analysis

That Microsoft was going to increase support for dynamic languages is no surprise: they’ve been talking about that since (at least) PDC ’03 and various hires and initiatives have clearly been in the works. I haven’t seen the DLR yet, but my big question is: what version / runtime / patch level of the CLR  and libraries becomes the lowest-common denominator for Silverlight (i.e., cross-platform, in the browser)? Because for better or worse, that becomes the platform for dynamic languages in the .NET world.

I am surprised by the IronRuby announcement (and officially bestow the He-Man Programming Award to John Lam). I really thought we were going to see some form of Ruby#:Ruby::C#:Java. Although I’m happy (Ruby is now my #1 administrative programming language), I was actually hoping to see a new language. Ruby’s a fine language, but it doesn’t have a good story for concurrence, it has a boring model of XML (unlike VB), it has some unattractive Perl-isms. Most importantly, I think MS does a good job when they have the flexibility to evolve the language and, simultaneously, can devote the resources to developing the compilers, libraries, and toolsets.

IronRuby announced

Scott Guthrie just announced IronRuby! Yeehaw!!!!!!

Silverlight binding; demoing on Mac

Dynamic Language Runtime announced

“Shipping later this week” (I’m sure he means shipping a beta / CTP)

Uses Ruby naming scheme when programming .NET libraries (weird. Not sure I like that.)

“Switch the console into Python mode, Ruby mode, VB mode” (he means something called “Dynamic VB”) is the commmunity site

(No sign of DLR / IronRuby / IronPython / Dynamic VB on that site as far as I can see)

“Componentize dispatching code, code generation, that sort of thing that compiler vendors do” … namechecks to Hugunin and Lam … we shipped this morning the DLR source code” on Codeplex …

( ? )

First, we’ll need 3 monoliths…

Voyager is moving at ~17KPS … divided into 300,000 KPS … multiplied by 3600 * 24 * 365.25 … multiplied by 20. ~370,000 years to reach Gliese. To me, a 200-year mission is about what I could imagine our civilization buying into. No way gravity assist can scale; I don’t think solar sails scale; no way we’re putting enough nuclear bombs into space to do an Orion thing. Lessee… Wikipedia says ion drives have exhaust speeds of ~30KPS … And this Wikipedia article seems wildly optimistic about “technologies requiring further research” … Some kind of electromagnetic mass-driver I can imagine (but then, my brother-in-law works at Fermilab, so I’m biased) …

Update: Surely (?) Dan Ciruli is correct in his comments that without friction, you can go much faster than your exhaust … So let’s say ion drive … Lessee … 10^-4 g … d = 1/2 at^2 … turnaround at 10 light years … ~620 years with a peak velocity of 9000 km/sec … now we’re talking … get a little more acceleration and we’re on that planet like locusts on a cornfield.


IMG_0193Just back from a 4-day mini-vacation in Kauai, hiker’s paradise (well, if your idea of paradise is a hike in the rain to the world’s highest swamp along knife-edge ridges with 3,000′ drops…) Looks like I missed lots of interesting goings-on and Mix is going to generate tons of posts, so back to work. In the meantime, you can check out some photos at Flickr.