Friday, January 30, 2009

Unfortunate words

leverage: To utilize or exploit in an unspecified, hand-wavy, and generally unplanned manner.
We leverage the core compentency of our acquisitions in this sector to maximise ROI throughout the project lifecycle.

pundit: A cheerleader in the sport of politics.
Pundits are claiming that the candidate's gaffe is an opportunity to appeal to blue-collar voters, in stark contrast to his opponent's overly intellectual demeanor.

punditry: The presentation of half-considered opinion as research- or poll-backed fact. Generally considered the province of pundits and journalists.
(See above)

blogosphere: Amateur hour in the world of publish-or-perish.
Lo, it is easier for a shark to stop swimming, than for a blogger to refrain from banal commentary.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Productive Programmer

Just tore through Neal Ford's Productive Programmer (978-0-596-51978-0), ended up with mixed feelings about it.

The first part of the book is pretty decent, with pointers to some good tools. This is also a weakness: the book is not going to be a timeless classic, and will likely be of half utility in two to five years.

The second part has good advice, but is mostly a rehash of agile methodologies. Agile has (or rather, has appropriated) a lot of good ideas, but it is ultimately a methodology, and methodologies lead to two things: zealotry and incomplete projects.

The advice given tends towards the obvious ("use the command line", "learn keyboard shortcuts", "make macros and scripts"), and UNIX is presented as something used by Other People.

In fact the book seems to assume that the reader is encumbered by the two most enfeebling technologies out there: Windows and Java. Windows is inescapable as a platform, but one always has the choice not to code like a Windows programmer (excuse me, "developer"). Java seems to be the language of choice in... well, in companies that I have no interest in working for, so nothing lost there. Buying into the Windows Way or the Java Way means you've created a lot of your own problems, and if this book helps you solve some of them, more power to you.

For the non-Windows-and/or-Java Way programmer, stick with the classics by Brooks, Hunt/Thomas, Kernighan, Plauger, Bentley, Fowler. Maybe some Beck, but you have to be careful with evangelicals.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Free as in...

Finally got sick of building custom Linux kernels just to change CONFIG_HZ from the inane default of 250 to something that makes the 10ms timer in my (proprietary) device driver work reliably (instead of firing 83 times a second). Switched to hi-resolution timers, and immediate encountered this:

FATAL: modpost: GPL-incompatible module my_module.ko uses GPL-only symbol 'hrtimer_cancel'

Turns out, after reading stuff like and, that the lunatics have taken over the asylum: specific kernel subsystems can be restricted so that only GPL modules can call them.

This is ludicrous: why should GPL code care who calls it? This has nothing to do with distribution; this is *usage*.

Not to mention entirely unlike the "free as in speech" ethos that the FSF claims to support. "Free speech" generally doesn't imply "say anything you like, just don't say it in kernel mode!".

Between this GPL nonsense and the changing of the CONFIG_HZ default value in a minor release, the Linux kernel is proving itself quite unreliable. I may have to move this entire product over to FreeBSD.