A large crater to dump my thoughts

DNA explained for software engineers

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One of my favourite talks at SHA2017 was Bert Huijben’s talk explaining DNA to computer scientists.




Written by aristillus

September 10, 2017 at 20:33

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The harmony of things

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The technical and scientific talks at the CCC are usually of very high quality. The more philosophical and political talks tend to be more hit and miss.  However, when these talks are well done, they can be really good.

My absolute favorite this year was Joscha’s speculative Machine Dreaming.


Written by aristillus

January 3, 2017 at 00:03

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This is perfect, from one of my favorite albums in the last decade:

Written by aristillus

November 15, 2015 at 15:07

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve longed to travel. Discover new places. Meet new people. Find out what’s beyond the horizon. Satisfy my ever-present curiosity.

I travel regularly for work, but it’s usually to the same places on the world. I’ve been on vacation to other places, but always only for a couple of weeks. Always as a visitor, never really as a nomad.

One of the things I would still like to do is give up life here in the west for a while and just be a nomad for a year or two, with nothing on me but a mid-size backpack. For some reason, I never took a gap year before or after uni.

It’s now actually possible for me to do this – I’ve got some reserves, no debts, no dependents or relationship – but I still struggle with actually going. I’m actually very happy where I am at the moment. Part of me is worried that taking a break will hurt my career, and that it’ll be hard to find a job as good as I have now when I return. So is this just fear for the unknown, should I just not be such a chicken and take that break while I can?

Currently playing: Brandi Carlile – Forever Young

Written by aristillus

January 15, 2015 at 17:13

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Reading update

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It’s been a while since I have managed to do a proper book review, so I’m going to just list books rather than produce a lot of prose. Over the last couple of months I read:

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

Post Office by Charles Bukovski

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Written by aristillus

January 15, 2015 at 00:45

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Reading Update: Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg

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Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg

Scott Rosenberg, who is a journalist writing for Salon, followed the team of the Chandler Personal Information Manager (PIM) around for the half a dozen years since their founding back in the early naughties.

The Chandler project was started by Mitch Kapor, the original author of Lotus 1-2-3. His goals for the project were ambitious and idealistic – he wanted to build something that could not just replace Microsoft Exchange, but that was also Open Source, decentralized and more generic. Like himself, the team around Kapor consisted of many veterans of successful software products. Despite that, the book ended up chronicling a tragic history, rather than an epic tale of success.

Over 5 or 6 years Rosenberg documented the progress of the project, it was redesigned from scratch again and again, important components were thrown out and rewritten, and personnel joined and left – all without anything being released that was actually useful to end-users.

Rosenberg writes in a way that is understandable for non-programmers – there are some technical terms, but for the most part the book is about the people, their motivations and their interactions. The book gives the reader some impression as to why large software projects are hard, but at the cost of making it sound like a mystical, nobody-knows-what-they’re-doing kind of process.

For programmers, there is a lot of classic computer science history – weaved through Chandlers tale – that is probably not very interesting, but that’s fairly easy to skim over. As a software engineer, I did cringe as I read about mistake after mistake that the Chandler team made – all of this seemed way too familiar.

If anything, Chandler serves as a warning as to what can go wrong with a software project.

Written by aristillus

November 25, 2013 at 00:12

Reading update

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Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

The main premise of this book is a world with a class system in which what colors you can perceive is what sets you apart. The protagonist is a “red”, who has been sent to the outer rims of civilization because he has shown signs of rebellion – attempting to improve queuing. It’s an interesting premise – and the book is full of absurdist humor. The story and the characters weren’t as interesting.

The Children of Men by P.D. James

If there is no future for the human race, what is the point of fighting for anything – of rebelling? P.D. James describes a world of infertility in which the last remaining youth is revered and everybody is meekly waiting for the world to come to an end. It’s an interesting concept for a post-apocalyptic book, but I felt the book was long-winded and then ended prematurely.

Three Famous Short Stories by William Faulkner

When I was visiting New Orleans we heard various stories about William Faulkner and his time drinking in the city. I had never read any Faulkner, so I figured now would be a good moment to try some. I eventually found a tiny book store – housed in one of the places Faulkner had lived. It was run by an old American lady and her dog, and I suspect they had been there for the last 20 or 30 years. Every visitor was consistently sniffed by the dog and greeted by the old lady. I asked her for recommendations on a first Faulkner and this is what she gave me.

These stories were a mixed bag. Spotted Horses did nothing for me. Old man was better – not because of the story but because of the characters. The Bear was my favorite, in particular his recreating the air and atmosphere of hunting in the south.

Written by aristillus

July 27, 2013 at 12:02