It’s the end of the year, so I figured I’d kick this blog off by highlighting the excellent work of other authors’ blogs, articles and long-reads which I enjoyed through the year. This is by no means a comprehensive list - I’m just going through things in my Instapaper account, which is largely just stuff I thought to archive rather than delete once I’d read it. And, there’s an obvious technology bias towards the content. And not all of them were all written in 2019 either. Nevertheless, it is presented below in a loosely categorised form.
- How to structure a multi-file C program (part 1, part 2) is a good introduction to starting a small C project from scratch.
- I find Writing Sustainable Python Scripts to be a good Python equivalent that covers the essentials for a new project.
- A fantasy baseball site is certainly not the first place I’d be looking to for programming tutorials, but somehow it’s featuring one of the best introductory write-ups on Rust that I’ve discovered (ignoring the Rust Book). Don’t be disheartened by the XML parsing in part 1, it is addressed in subsequent parts..
- When “Zoë” !== “Zoë”: Being Unicode-aware in your string handling.
- Object-oriented Programming: The Trillion Dollar Disaster. And if you’re done with that, take a look at Functional Programming? Don’t Even Bother, It’s a Silly Toy by the same author.
- Comparing user Distinguished Names is not straightforward when there’s many ways it can possibly appear.
- Implementing a Regular Expression engine.
- A compilation of Kubernetes failure stories with the goal of helping people learn from other incidents.
- On Infrastructure at Scale is one such blog linked from the aforementioned compilation. How a networking disruption resulted in a series of events and cascading problems.
- I grew up worshipping the skills of demoscene coders, so A Mind Is Born was a real treat to read, where the author explains how he wrote a 1st-place-winning demo for the Commodore 64 in just 256 bytes.
- It’s probably an inflammatory title, but I found myself strongly agreeing with the message in 10 Signs You Will Suck at Programming. It’s certainly no “10X Engineer” at least…
Tech industry and related malaise
- Lessons from 6 Software Rewrite Stories: Lovely read about several good and bad case studies involving big rewrites. It was great to discover that the New York Times still has its review of Netscape 6 online too. Oh, for the days when a new web browser version could warrant such a lengthy article..
- Data Science is Different Now: This opinion piece makes a case for what skills a growing glut of data scientists should really be learning.
- Three Years of Misery Inside Google, the Happiest Company in Tech paints a dire picture.
- The Trauma Floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America, equally so.
- 10 Personal Finance Lessons for Technology Professionals. I’m still trying to be finance literate.
- A Business With No End. This tale of trying to trace the source of a spiderweb of Internet marketplace stores is just mindboggling.
- In a similar vein of sleuthing shady Internet people is I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb.
Security, Reverse Engineering
- I’ll admit that I do admire the moxie of the students featured in Smart like a fox: How clever students trick dumb automated programming assignment assessment systems.
- How Dropbox Securely Stores Your Passwords: It’s from 2016 so I don’t know if it’s still current, but it’s still a good read and good to see a company be open about such a thing.
- You couldn’t find a greater contrast than reading about a study claiming programmers will err towards implementing poor password security unless specifically directed.
- Investigating a Recent eBook DRM System: I’m always impressed by the thought processes employed by reverse engineers and this blog is a good example.
- ..as is Looking Inside The Box, which discusses reverse engineering the Dropbox client.
- Rounding out the trinity of reverse engineering articles is Extracting Super Mario Brothers levels with Python, in which the author leverages a Python NES emulator and some clever coding to extract Super Mario Brothers level graphics.
I apparently do like my movie longform articles:
- The Making of The Exorcist: In a few years The Exorcist will be fifty years old; this article explains why it’s lost none of its power to terrify.
- They Came. They Sawed. is a similar article about the making of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- My favourite movie reviewer (AYCYAS) recently wrote an excellent piece on the Australian classic Wake In Fright.
- The Mortgaging of Sierra Online: Picking a single Digital Antiquarian article as a “favourite” is a nigh-impossible task, but this entry - which covers Sierra during the peak of mid-90s era CD-ROM multimedia frenzy - triggers the most nostalgia in me.
- Ghoulish Acts and Dastardly Deeds: A captivating longform piece about the hunt for a pipebomb terrorist in New York City during the 1950s.
- I watched the excellent documentary Three Identical Strangers this year. Double Mystery, by the New Yorker, covers some related ground and is an excellent accompaniment. (in order to avoid spoiling its impact, I would strongly recommend watching the documentary first though)
- 27 Questions to Ask Instead of “What Do You Do?”. Asking someone how they feel their life has gone so far is a bit heavy, though.
Noah Gervais’ longform commentaries on games are so good that it finally pushed me over the edge to begin supporting creators on Patreon rather than just blithely consuming content. His series of travelogue videos covering a journey across the American west in a VW Van are so stupendously good, they became a major influence on me doing my own trek through Yosemite this past winter. As one commenter in the videos writes,
“If aliens find Earth abandoned and dead, I want this video to be the last surviving human recording.”