Everyone Needs a Great Editor

One of the things that I'm most enjoying about my move back to development is regaining mastery of the text editor. There is nothing like wielding a powerful text editor effectively. Visual Studio is an impressive IDE but its text editing powers never wowed me like others I've used in the past. The one I'm using now is better than any I've experienced.

I'm speaking, of course, about Sublime Text. I bought it with my own money, which is high praise considering the dearness of its price and my, um, frugality. It's the first editor that holds a candle to jEdit, my previous winner in the category.

The thing is it's far better than jEdit! Here are just a few of the reasons (here are more of them):

I'm trying to build up my ST skills gradually, integrating a new one only after I've hit my stride on an existing one. I'm very productive so far, but I can still see a lot of room for improvement.

Getting Angular

Tomorrow I'm flying to frigid Salt Lake City, Utah to attend ng-conf. I'm so excited! I haven't been to a conference in several years (I think WWDC 2009 was the last one) and this one's sold out.

My new role (details coming soon) involves a lot of JavaScript and Angular is my preferred MVC framework. I may use this blog for some public notes in the next two days. Or I may just continue to let this thing lay dying of neglect. Time will tell.

When It's Time to Change

My former boss—a mentor that presided over my entrance into management—recommended Jack Welch's Winning and it really resonated with me. His injunction to "face reality, not as it was or as you wish it to be" is great business advice.

(It's similarly great advice on a personal level as well. Having a false sense of self leads to the erection of defense mechanisms like rationalization of ones foibles or flaws. At worst, it leads to evasion: the refusal to think.)

How many businesses or industries have failed because they didn't adapt to changing conditions. Wishing things were different is not a strategy: hope cannot pay dividends. The best businesses are ones that abandon unprofitable lines or innovate even in their dominant products.

At Go Daddy, our new CEO recently covered this subject to great effect with his notion of "the table." We were rightly proud of our positive traits, but we rarely discussed our negative aspects—the behaviors that were holding us back. So long as they remained "under the table" we could not and would not change them.

Bringing that up at the CEO level in a companywide Town Hall meeting was the best thing that could have happened. The future of the company has never been brighter and the latest marketing efforts are but one example of that.

[The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of GoDaddy.com, LLC.]

Unholy Abomination

This commercial (and the whole series of them) are very disturbing to me. Not only do the anthropomorphized cereal squares eat each other, they somehow have bizarrely-long tongues. These tongues are several times longer than their bodies. And, lacking arms or hands, they use them for a variety of non-traditional tongue purposes.

So gross!

New Digital Digs

I've finally gotten my new MacBook Pro laptop for work. It's an 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7, with 16 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. As I handed my old MacBook Pro to Desktop Support, he actually said, "Whoa!"

The only thing after my first day of usage:

Defining History

I realized after listening to Scott Powell's interview about history that my own definition of history was buried on this site. Definitions are vital because they delimit one's study and serve the need for clarity.

History is the study of the human past with the end of understanding the present.

It occurred to me, upon reflection, that I should perhaps append "and future" to the definition. This is basically what Powell suggests the purpose of history is—to "instruction, inspiration, and insight." But I'm not so sure.

History, per se, doesn't offer guidance about how to live, how to effect cultural change, or how to organize society. Those are the province of philosophy. History as a subject amasses data about the course of humanity. History as a discipline creates the tools for inferring what has transpired from what is available to us now.

This knowing where we are and how we got there is vital. History provides the context of the present. To expect of it the task of philosophy is misguided; history is the fodder—a broad, wide-ranging set of concretes—that allows us to induce philosophic principles.

That being said, the purpose of any particular person for studying history should be exactly what Powell indicated. However, historians should not do that work for their readers: they should focus on accurately laying out the facts with minimal interpretation and instruction. Otherwise historical accounts become mere pabulum like Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

English Nuttiness

One of the many things that having children has taught me is that English is a very difficult language. If they weren't totally immersed in it from birth, I don't know how you'd learn it. (As an aside, I have a lot of respect for anyone that picks English up as a second language.)

A favorite quirk of mine is how pronunciations change wildly and seemingly for no reason. For example:

Life the thing we only have one of (hard "i")
Live what we do with that (short "i")
Live from New York, it's Saturday Night (long "i")
Lives the present participle (short "i")
Lives two or more (long "i")

For more English fun, you can't go wrong with contronyms.

Impressive Digs

Yesterday I finally had the chance to take a tour of our main data center. I have been in server rooms before, but never a modern, massive complex so I was really looking forward to it.

It was quite eye opening to see the scale that we operate at. Here were a couple of my surprises:

  1. It was huge! We're using 100,000 square feet of the total 300,000 square feet.
  2. To get to any server room you have to get through at least an iris scan and sometimes a vascular one.
  3. It was quite warm! In my experience (long ago), the server rooms were generally frigid and you couldn't stay in there for too long without preparation. These were at least in the high 70s and possibly mid-80s.
  4. We probably won't need to expand past our current usage for several years due to advances in server technology. We can densify the racks in lieu of needing new ones.

After the tour, I got to speak to a group of Northern Arizona University students pursuing their CIS and CS degrees. It was rejuvenating to boil down why I love working at Go Daddy so I could explain it to them.

[The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of GoDaddy.com, LLC.]

Two Videos Worth Watching

Reading through this Hacker News thread, I came across dozens of great talks to check out in the future. So far I've watched two and I think they're worth sharing:

  1. Wat: it's practically programming standup, poking fun at some of the "quirks" of Ruby and JavaScript. Plus it's four minutes long, shorter than an Ignite talk.
  2. Inventing on Principle: this one's longer at 54 minutes but so incredibly inspiring. It's a talk about life in the guise of a reconception of human-computer interaction. After watching it, I immediately started following him on Twitter and checked out his amazing Web site.

If there are any awesome talks you'd like to share, I'm very interested and my email address is over in the right side bar.

Drastic Actions

I've had a great idea for an iPhone app for a couple months now and even created an Xcode project for it, after spending a bit of time planning it. It's one whose paper equivalent I use nearly every day so having a digital version would be super handy. If I had already made it, it would occupy a spot on the bottom Dock, which holds four apps.

So I deleted one of those apps, leaving an odd and disconcerting Dock. I'm hoping that that irritation will provoke me to actually fill that spot.

Feed Shop

Google recently announced that it is discontinuing its Reader product after July 1st, 2013. Naturally, the Internet went bonkers. It was a timely confluence of a) Google, b) a product dear to the technorati, c) a field bereft of serious competition, and d) a Wednesday.

Google as a company operates at a scale that allows many on the Internet to conclude that normal rules don't apply and believe that it operates services out of some sense of public duty. It is routinely taken for granted (e.g., see the outcry when they started charging for Google Apps) by people who have no idea how much it costs to offer these products.

Usually it can give these applications away for free because they can pay the costs of development and operation from some other source like ads. But there is no significant money to be derived from RSS and feed reading—I'd imagine that Google needs to reap tens of millions to make something like this worthwhile.

If it has tens of millions of active users, then charging them directly is not an option:

30MM active users x 0.01 willing to pay = 300K or $33/year

That 1% willing to pay drops precipitously at $33 per year, which makes the economics even worse. And people who actually use a feed reader are not predisposed to respond well to ads inserted into their feed reading experience.

Feed reading is a niche market and will survive as such because it serves a very valuable service for the people that use it.

I've been asked repeatedly about what alternative people should use. I think it's too soon to tell: every option out there right now is swamped by the deluge caused by the announcement. It's going to take a couple months to address the influx and achieve a rough parity to make a more compelling product. I advise waiting until May at least and then seeing what's available.

And be prepared to pay. If it's a service worth using, you should want to support it at a reasonable price.

The Right Way

It has come to my attention that some people dispute my way of replying to email threads. I elide all but the minimum necessary to supply the context.

Be brief without being overly terse. When replying to a message, include enough original material to be understood but no more. It is extremely bad form to simply reply to a message by including all the previous message: edit out all the irrelevant material.

That's from RFC 1855, people. You think you're better than an RFC‽ Come on!

Thoughtful Reading

I know people who read and read, and for all the good it does them they might just as well cut bread-and-butter. They take to reading as better men take to drink. They fly through the shires of literature on a motor-car, their sole object being motion. They will tell you how many books they have read in a year.

Unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection (it is an awful bore at first) upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of a night are chiefly wasted. This means that your pace will be slow.

— Arnold Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day

My own reading is quite slow because of all the pregnant pauses, but this quote is a great reminder that I need to mull more. I would also recommend Henry Hazlitt's Thinking as a Science, which is where I discovered Bennett's book.

Previously on Lost

Speaking of Lost, you absolutely should watch the epilogue included on the Season 6 DVD's bonus features if you haven't already. It's entitled "The New Man in Charge" and it's very revealing.

People Chow

A Web developer in Atlanta has developed a meal replacement called Soylent. This drink seemingly achieves what I wanted many years ago.

There are a couple objections raised in various fora:

  1. This guy's just a Web developer. How could he have succeeded where all these vested interests have failed?
  2. His concoction is missing the mark on our nutritional needs and he's a goner.

As a fan of the idea behind the product, I want to address these without commenting on his specific solution since I haven't tried it and am barely familiar with the field of nutrition.

I think that this type of product hasn't really been tried outside of medical supply firms. If you look at the field of convenience foods, they typically compete on quality, taste, or price. I have to think that the market for a simple, plain drink that addresses extreme laziness is pretty limited. Most people I know like cooking, variety, or mouth feel. Most people, when learning of Soylent, recoil at the idea of eating the same glop every meal.

So it doesn't surprise me that this market hasn't developed and it doesn't surprise me that someone like me would have created this.

But has he gotten it right? He claims to have read a nutrition textbook and looked on the Internet for the necessary nutrients. Naturally, this has people in an uproar—forgetting that people eat a lot of junk, many exclusively so. The human body is pretty forgiving about what you shove down your mouth hole.

In my original blog entry, I suggested that "People Chow" should take a solid form. I think this is probably a better direction than Soylent because of the need for solids to keep the muscles involved in peristalsis from atrophying. Plus, the idea of adding milk to the solids could provide some variety.

At any rate, I am excited that there's some progress on this front. I signed up to be a beta tester and will document it here if I make it in.

Little Bits of Review

Here are some brief thoughts on what I've watched lately.

  • Lost: I swore off Lost entirely after the series finale. I thought it was a terrible end to an outstanding television show. I decided back in January to re-visit the entire series and see if I still felt the same way. I don't. There are still a maddening number of unanswered questions, but I'm at peace with that and just enjoyed the amazing ride.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: this is one of those great movies that are easily overlooked. I'm not going to describe anything about it because the less you know, the better. It's an amazing twist on the horror movie genre, like Scream ostensibly was only more clever.
  • American Reunion: I liked the earlier movies for what they were, but this was just terrible. It lacks any of the simple pleasures of the others, and it really felt forced.

Reviews in the Small

I used to review movies here all the time, giving them a sentence or two and capturing my opinion briefly. I liked the format, but I just never kept it up. Here's the movies I've seen this year so far:

  • The Raid: Redemption: this is a super-violent action movie from Indonesia but it is possibly the best action movie I've ever seen. Jackie Chan's best is better—his style of comedy pushes it over—but this is jam-packed, non-stop action. Beautiful action, at that.
  • Ted: having been a longtime fan of Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles, I thought this would be a sure-fire laugh riot. It was mostly a raunchy groaner but the scene of partying with Flash Gordon was funny.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: good fun for the whole family. It wasn't particularly memorable but it sure beats the deplorable Madagascar 3 or inane Ice Age movies.

My First Aphorism

Code belongs in production.

I have had this as my mantra for as long as I've been developing software professionally. Tonight we released a new version of my product and so I tweeted it in celebration.

That got me to thinking: did I coin that phrase or did I read it somewhere? I often forget some clever tidbit that I've read, so it wouldn't have surprised me to find it in a Google search.

But there were no matches! I therefore claim its origin.

Time to Shed

Winter is normally the time when I lose the weight I gained over the summer. Unfortunately, I did not take advantage of the cooler temperatures nearly enough and succumbed to the temptations of my wife's excellent cooking. I weighed myself this morning and I came in at 196 pounds—not bad by any means but heavier than my preference of 180–185 pounds.

So it looks like I'm going to have to step it up a bit by doing the No S Diet and some Urban Ranger. I got a FitBit One for Christmas and that'll give some quantification to my walking.

I really like the No S Diet because it's easy to stick to and doesn't force you to get rid of the food you have on hand. Many a diet was wrecked by the latter:

Funny Wondermark comic

Build Your Own Audiobook

I'm a fan of Instapaper the service and the iPhone app. Lately, though I have accumulated a queue of quite-long articles that I can't seem to decrease. I really want to read the content I save for later; this backlog feels qualitatively different from the substantial RSS backlog I've built up in Google Reader.

I got to thinking that it'd be handy to listen to my Instapaper items. I remembered the developer's blog entry touting his accessibility improvements and that got me to thinking: why not use VoiceOver? This seemed like the ideal use since the Instapaper-stored content is primarily textual and simplified.

Sure enough, it was easy and performed beautifully—enabling me to listen to an article or two while I did the dishes. Here's how to do it:

  1. Set up the triple-tap of the Home button to toggle VoiceOver.
    1. Go to Settings.
    2. Tap on "General."
    3. Scroll down and tap on "Accessibility."
    4. Scroll to bottom and tap on "Triple-click Home."
    5. Tap on "VoiceOver" and save your setting by going back.
  2. Open Instapaper and the article you want.
  3. Triple tap the Home button.
  4. Swipe downward on the screen with two fingers. This starts the actual reading.

The neat thing about this is that Instapaper automatically saves your place and syncs it with all devices, so resuming where you left off is easy.

[UPDATE (12/18/2012): Other options brought to my attention include Instapaper to Podcast, Voice Dream Reader, and Readomator. I still like my way best for the time being because it's free and uncomplicated.]

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