24 May 2016

Firstest

Len Shustek explains why writing the history of computing is harder than it looks. He discusses the recent book by Thomas Haigh et al., ENIAC in Action: Making and Remaking the Modern Computer.

22 May 2016

Read a book

J. Bradford Hipps answers a rather parochial and oft-cited post by Vinod Khosla:
[I]f anything can be treated as a plug-in, it’s learning how to code. It took me 18 months to become proficient as a developer. This isn’t to pretend software development is easy — those were long months, and I never touched the heights of my truly gifted peers. But in my experience, programming lends itself to concentrated self-study in a way that, say, To the Lighthouse or Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction do not. To learn how to write code, you need a few good books. To enter the mind of an artist, you need a human guide.

19 May 2016

Block that button!

David Sleight provides some inside-baseball info about ProPublica's revamped mobile apps, including the yogic contortions required of this non-profit to satisfy Apple.

13 April 2016

Rando

John D. Cook alerts us to a pitfall in seeding a random number generator (RNG) for multiple processes/threads (for instance, for a Monte Carlo simulation):
Applying the analog of the birthday problem to the RNG seeds explains why the project was launching processes with the same seed. Suppose you seed each process with an unsigned 16-bit integer. That means there are 65,536 possible seeds. Now suppose you launch 1,000 processes. With 65 times as many possible seeds as processes, surely every process should get its own seed, right? Not at all. There’s a 99.95% chance that two processes will have the same seed.