Category Archives: Culture

Facebook’s and eBay’s monopolies are very different from, and scarier than, Google’s. But what about Amazon?

People talk a lot about “Internet monopolies like Google and Facebook”, as though they are the same kind of thing. Even as astute a commentator as Tim Harford (alias “The Undercover Economist”) lumps them together in statements like “Google dominates search; Facebook is the Goliath of social media; Amazon rules online retail”.

But these “Internet monopolies” actually fall into completely different categories.

Google dominates search because it offers the best general-purpose search engine currently on the market.

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“What should I prioritise that ahead of?”

My colleague Jason Skomorowski and I (and many others) work together for Index Data on the FOLIO library services platform. There is a ton of work to do — fascinating work at that, so that I often find myself working on it in the evenings, not because of deadline panic but just because it’s fun to do.

Often when a request for a new feature comes in — whether it’s user-visible functionality, or more exhaustive test coverage, or better continuous integration support, or improvements to documentation — Jason often asks this key question:

“What should I prioritise that ahead of?”

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Rebooting Linux with every new kernel

Back in the early 1990s, when I was working on Sun’s Unix boxes, it was routine for them to be up for multiple years at a time. A reboot was a big event.

Now here we are in 2017, and every single update to the Linux kernel — of which there are several every week — requests a reboot.

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All you need to know about version numbers in one page

A colleague asked me a couple of days ago: “So we roll version numbers forward only with breaking changes, right?”

Well, the best approch for any sane project in 2017 is to follow Semantic Versioning. That is not a long document to read, but here is a summary. In a nutshell, version numbers have three facets, major.minor.patch.

  • If your new release breaks something that used to work, increment major.
  • If your release adds new functionality that clients might want to rely on, increment minor.
  • If your release only fixes a bug, increment patch.

Then dependencies of the form “^3.4.2” (for example, in package.json for a JavaScript project) mean “that version, or anything backwards-compatible with it”. Which means the same major version number (3 in this case) and the same or better minor number (4 or higher); or, if the minor version is the same, then the same or better patch level (2 or higher).

This is an excellent, simple and battle-proven system.

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A few thoughts on bringing up children with inquiring minds

As an offshoot from my tweeting about a session at the AAAS meeting, I found myself challenged: “what are some practical things you did with your sons when they were young to nurture critical thinking?”

the-thinker

Given that I wrote some brief answers in response, I thought I might as well write them up here. This is by no means exhaustive, just a few thoughts and memories.

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Why Trump matters to me: I love America

aYou might legitimately ask why I am whining on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about Donald Trump, when he is president of a country that is not even in the same continent as mine.

One perfectly cromulent answer would be that America’s economic and military power means that whatever it does has implications for every country; and that is true. But for me the issue is much deeper than that.

usa

The real issue is that I genuinely, deeply love America, and I hate to see it abused.

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** Reminder ** Biometrics Registration

Just got this email from our boys’ school


Dear Parent

Just a gentle reminder to return the reply slips for the Biometrics registration as soon as possible please.

I understand that 6th form believe they do not need to register. This is not the case, all pupils need to return their slips and register.

The registration days will be held in the Sports Hall on Friday 2 December and Friday 9 December and further information on times etc. will come from form tutors in due course.

Thank you for your co-operation.

[Name redacted]
Finance Manager


Hmmm.