On GitHub Copilot

Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve been following GitHub Copilot since its launch. It is an impressive achievement and a remarkable milestone for the deep learning industry, that’s for sure. We are obviously at the early stages in deep learning applied to software development, and it is somewhat unsettling to ponder what the future might hold in this field. Like many others, however, I worry about code quality issues and the risk of license infringements1. »

The Internet is Rotting

Terrific piece by Jonathan Zittrain, on The Atlantic, on link rot and digital preservation. I love how well documented and informative it is. Yet, it remains perfectly approachable for both the non-knowledgeable reader and the technically savvy. Too much has been lost already. The glue that holds humanity’s knowledge together is coming undone. We need more content like this. Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

Proust's Madeleine Was Originally a Slice of Toast

A long-sought first draft of Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ surfaced a few years ago. Its fascinating story and intriguing news are revealed in a Tablet article titled Proust’s Madeleine Was Originally a Slice Toast. Being the Tablet “a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture”, it makes sense that a good part of the article focuses on Proust’s ambivalence about his Jewishness. Still, there are many other interesting tidbits to be learned. »

A Beginner's Guide to Miles Davis

Sam Enright assembled a friendly Beginner’s Guide to Miles Davis. If you’ve always been curious about jazz but never really managed to get into it, then this resource might serve as a good starting point. I cannot say I’m one hundred per cent aligned with his choices, but we’re close. One remarkable statement I concur with is this one: Jazz is so interesting to me because of its fusion of intricate underlying structure with improvisation and spontaneity. »

Linus Torvalds addresses an anti-vaxxer

Linus Torvalds’ reply to an anti-vaxxer on the Linux kernel list is a must-read. Pre-2018, Linus would have destroyed the poor chump. He’s discouraging further discussion (Kernel list is not the place for that) while providing crystal clear and detailed mRNA vaccine information, all without renouncing to an opening salvo of his good-ole, grumpy style. As John Gruber affirms, this is one rant we can all get behind. Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

Open Source: What Happens When the Free Lunch Ends?

The article I’m linking today is authored by Aaron Stannard and focuses on the drama currently going on in the .NET Open Source ecosystem. We’ve all been there. A dependency we took aeons ago goes unmaintained or changes its licensing model. Why does this happen? Because at some point, projects need to become sustainable or else they fail. […] it’s inexpensive for maintainers to support a small number of users with relatively similar demands - but once a project achieves critical mass and the demand on the maintainers exceeds their desire to supply, something will have to give. »

Trade Wars 2002 and its connection to Eve Online

Trade Wars 2002 was a great 1991 online game I hosted on one of my BBSes back in the day. Not sure if it was Lorien or Phoenix BBS; it might have been the latter given the game’s release date. I totally forgot TW2002 until yesterday when I spotted this 1991: Trade Wars 2002 article on the 50 Years of Text Games newsletter. I humbly confess that, until yesterday, I never made the obvious connection between TW2002 and Eve Online. »

On Programming and Writing

My brilliant friend Salvatore Sanfilippo (otherwise known as antirez of Redis fame) has an interesting write-up on his website. How similar is programming to prose writing? After getting his own feet wet with novel writing, he is convinced that the two activities share many common traits. One year ago I paused my programming life and started writing a novel, with the illusion that my new activity was deeply different than the previous one. »

The Grim Secret of Nordic Happiness

For decades Scandinavian countries have been renowned for their educational systems, low levels of corruption, sustainable economy, social justice, overall quality of life. According to Jukka Savolainen on Slate, the reason why Finns have now been dominating the World Happiness Report four years in a row has little to do with these factors and more with their life expectations. Savolainen perspective is interesting because he is a Finn living in the US. »

Earth Restored

Only 24 people have journeyed far enough to see the whole Earth against the black of space. The images they brought back changed our world. Here is a selection of the most beautiful photographs of Earth — iconic images and unknown gems — digitally restored to their full glory. Toby Ord’s recent Earth Restored project is a must-see. Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

Adding is favoured over subtracting in problem solving (and software systems)

Consider the 10x10 grids of green and white boxes below. How would you make them symmetrical? Most people would add green boxes to the emptier half of the grid rather than remove them from the fuller half. Even when the latter would have been more efficient. The case, along with a similar problem revolving around the stability of a peculiar lego structure, is reported by an intriguing Nature article on the topic of psychology and human behaviour. »

SQLite is the only database you will ever need in most cases

The name SQLite is a nice name, but the “lite” part is misleading, it sounds like it is only useful for tiny things - which is very wrong. SQLite should be named AwesomeSQL, because that is what it is. SQLite is probably the only database you will ever need in most cases Yeah. This article resonates with me. SQLite is the de-facto standard engine for embedded systems. But it should also be the go-to database for all those websites and services that don’t need to scale to multiple machines. »

The Real Book (of Jazz)

What a fascinating read. It sits right at the intersection of two of my (too many) vicious interests: Jazz music and books. Since the mid-1970s, almost every jazz musician has owned a copy of the same book. It has a peach-colored cover, a chunky, 1970s-style logo, and a black plastic binding. It’s delightfully homemade-looking—like it was printed by a bunch of teenagers at a Kinkos. And inside is the sheet music for hundreds of common jazz tunes—also known as jazz “standards”—all meticulously notated by hand. »

Quicker window snapping on macOS

I never see my macOS desktop. It’s always cluttered with way too many open windows. When I spot those fantastic, tidy and clean Desktops on the internet, I envy their owners. I wonder if and how they manage to keep those desktops tidy like that the whole workday. It must feel so good. I try to keep my windows well arranged. The typical setup might be two windows, from two different apps, tiled side by side. »

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Online Anonymity

This is a maintained technical guide that aims to provide introduction to various online tracking techniques, online id verification techniques and guidance to creating and maintaining (truly) anonymous online identities including social media accounts safely and legally. No pre-requisites besides English reading are required. At a glance, I suspect most people will be tempted to dismiss The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Online Anonymity as borderline paranoia. But make no mistake, it is a great resource. »

Get better at programming by learning how things work

When we talk about getting better at programming, we often talk about testing, writing reusable code, design patterns, and readability. All of those things are important. But in this blog post, I want to talk about a different way to get better at programming: learning how the systems you’re using work! This is the main way I approach getting better at programming. Once again, Julia Evans has great sensible advice up on her site. »

Write libraries, not services? Not so fast

Write libraries instead of services is an interesting article I read a while ago. I cannot get it off my head. In an attempt to clear up my mind, I decided to sit down and write about it. I have been writing libraries for a good part of my life. Most of my earlier dev-work resides on thousands of computers in the form of libraries. More recently, I have been writing and deploying remote services. »

My Pusher of Digital Memorabilia

If you are a grumpy old geek like me, you are probably a sucker for vintage computer games too. I don’t play games. Not anymore. I still enjoy reading about them, though. I guess it’s mostly nostalgia. I also believe that the mid-80s up to the mid-90s really was the golden age of computer games. In my book, innovation started with Infocom’s text adventures and soft-ended with Origin’s Ultima Online. After that, it’s been a constant evolution. »

How to Write Good Software Documentation

There is a secret that needs to be understood in order to write good software documentation: there isn’t one thing called documentation, there are four. They are: tutorials, how-to guides, technical reference and explanation. They represent four different purposes or functions, and require four different approaches to their creation. Understanding the implications of this will help improve most documentation - often immensely. I dig Daniele Procida’s take on writing good software documentation. »

How to Shrink a WSL2 Virtual Disk

I discovered you can use the “diskpart” tool to compact a VHDX. This allows you to shrink a WSL2 virtual disk file, reclaiming disk space. It appeared to work for me without any data corruption, taking the file size down from 100GB to 15GB. (source) I adore Parallels “reclaim disk space” feature. Just the other day, I got back 70GB off my Windows Guest in a breeze. I’m coming from VirtualBox, where reclaiming disk space is a significant pain. »