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Good reads, March 2014

A summary of the interesting articles I've found this month.

Why Puppet/Chef/Ansible aren't good enough (and we can do better): This is mostly about the Nix package manager and the new linux distro NixOS which is entirely Nix-based down to the bone. I haven't used it yet, but I had to admit this is what I was trying to achieve back in the 1990s with the simple package management system I made... but I didn't go far enough. These people did. I'm looking forward to trying this out. DEC64 is a new (proposed) floating point format. I fear that most people don't understand how floating point numbers are stored on computers so this will be wasted. However I'm fascinated by the implications of this new (proposed) format. Basically 54-bits are used to store an integer and 8 bits are used to store the exponent. So, you know how big numbers are often written "1234E45"? Well, in this format you store "1234" in the 54-bit part and "45" in the 8-bit part. If two numbers have the same exponent the math is just integer math (assuming no overflow).

Multipath TCP: I had misconceptions about this. It turns out this is a system for doing TCP over all your interfaces at the same time. For example, a mobile phone has a Wifi NIC and an LTE "modem". MPTCP let's you open a connection to a web site on Wifi and LTE at the same time, load balancing between the two; transparently switching between them as one has more errors or dropouts, etc. I think this would make my mobile experience so much better that I plan on changing mobile platforms the moment someone supports this. Of course, it has to be supported on the website end also, but I can hope. Evil thought: The IPv6 people should convince kernel developers to only implement this for IPv6 and declare it to the "the killer feature of IPv6". Considering that LTE is IPv6, this isn't too far fetched.

Looking back on "Look Back" videos: Facebook is doing some interesting SRE and development work. This is an interesting look inside what they do.

Go Read: One Year with Money and App Engine: When Google Reader was cancelled, Matt made a clone called "Go Read". At the 1 year anniversary here's his look back at his experience building a business and making it profitable. It turns out a key part was optimizing not the code, but his usage of Google App Engine. Interesting quote: "App Engine charges for data stored in its amazing datastore (my favorite feature of App Engine and the only feature I'm aware of that has zero competitors in the cloud space. When you compare to AWS prices, no one mentions the datastore.)"

How We Make Trello: This is a great writeup of how Trello works ... on the inside. It turns out the web client is doing all the smarts in the browser and talks to their API just like the mobile app does. More web apps should be like that. If you aren't using Trello you should check it out. People love it so much that I get fanmail just for recommending it. One of my talks at Cascadia IT 2014 included 3 slides on Trello. The next week I got email that said, "I especially want to thank you for Trello - what a simply elegant app--wish I'd found this sooner--it's a breeze and SO HELPFUL! I've tried other PM tools that I like but that seemed to take too much setup and maintenance time (like Basecamp, etc.). Trello is about as perfect as it gets."

Why Roslyn is a big deal: I'm a total fanboy for reading about compiler internals. If reading about LLVM got you hot and bothered, check out Microsoft's new compiler project. By making the compiler out of re-usable components, it is going to make their IDEs and, heck, their entire tool chain a lot, lot, better. Why aren't the LLVM people applying this kind of thinking to IDEs?

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Good Reads

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Hey there, about multipath tcp, apple started playing with it in iOS 7:

my understanding of the situation is that it's only used for certain specific tasks as of now but they intend to try and push all apps to use it.

all phone OSes should probably implement this.
.... but then again, I hate smart phones :P

ios7 supports multipath


You asked why the LLVM people aren't applying the Roslyn thinking to IDEs. There definitely are LLVM devs applying this line of thought to IDEs--you'll find them with "Xcode" or "Developer tools" and "Employer: Apple" on their badges at WWDC.

Why everyone *else* isn't working on this kind of thing... I can't say. I think GCC is far too entrenched in the open source world, and I applaud FreeBSD for the effort it took to make it their only compiler for version 10.

I should say that FreeBSD's default system compiler is clang, not gcc. Others are available, as usual, from the ports tree.

The paragraph about Go Read should specify App Engine instead of Compute Engine.

Fixed. Thanks for the correction!

Thank you for a nice annotated bibilography.

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