I usually use Instapaper’s share function to list the really good stuff I’ve read, but it’s been a good two weeks and so I’m listing some highlights below. Instapaper on iPhone is great, and Instapaper on Kindle (which has had some recent formatting improvements) is a major part of Saturday morning.
How a technical writer’s Reddit contributions lead to a new career as a Hollywood screenwriter.
Mid-afternoon, Erwin posted the seventh installment, then wrote a brief comment asking the Reddit community what he should do next. “Subreddit? Publish? Pass the torch?” He promised that he would do whatever the top-voted comment told him to do. An hour later, the top-voted comment by a wide margin read simply “QUIT JOB ENTERTAIN ME.”
- How the Daily Mail Conquered England (The New Yorker).
Epic piece on the Daily Mail from the perspective of an outsider given inside access.
The censorship is almost entirely self-imposed, and done through a severe form of natural selection. If you write something that’s blatantly prejudicial but not legally racist, you will be rewarded. None of the front-line reporters I worked with were racist, but there’s institutional racism.
- The USE Method (Brendan Gregg).
Brendan Gregg introduces “Utilization, Saturation and Errors” as metrics to evaluate not-quite-right conditions on servers and systems and then explains the concept with a tear-down of the Apollo Lunar Module.
Given Apollo 11’s 1201 alarm, the suggested strategies for analysis begin with workload characterization. The workload is mostly applied via interrupts, many of which can be seen in the functional diagram. This includes the rendezvous radar, used to track the Command Module, which was interrupting the AGC with work even though the LM was performing descent. This is an example of finding unnecessary work (or low priority work; some updates from the radar may have been desirable so that the LM AGC could immediately calculate an abort trajectory and CM rendezvous if needed).
- No need to hack phones – We stitch ourselves up (The Collective Review).
A writer explains the inside of the DM editorial process; one that ensures a disgruntled homogeny across different authors.
The attack on Janine di Giovanni (a friend and a brilliant journalist who can live her life exactly as she chooses, without any input from me, obviously) kept reappearing and I kept deleting it.
I deleted it a few times too many and the piece I had thought hard about and cared very much about got spiked. I knew it had been spiked because, after a flurry of frantic emails back and forth as deadline approached, The Mail suddenly stopped replying to my messages about the piece.
- How ‘Graphing Calculator’ came to be (Pacific Tech).
Two ex-Apple engineers sneak back in to work on their cancelled project for six months to see it through to shipping.
In August 1993, the project was canceled. A year of my work evaporated, my contract ended, and I was unemployed.
I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple’s doors, so I just kept showing up.
- An interview with Derek Sivers (The Setup).
Almost everything on The Setup is worth reading; I particularly like that Andrew Plotkin uses his iPhone to SSH to a server and run PINE to check his mail. Some people care about powerful workstations, some ur-hackers have surprisingly meager setups, and the expected operating system and editor biases appear.
Derek Sivers stood about because he runs almost nothing, and has a smartphone with no apps, but the few things he does run he loves and invests in.
By default, I boot into raw console mode. No Xorg. No graphics. It keeps me focused and writing, keeps me away from a web browser. I think my best work is done in this mode.
When I do startx, I use the Ratpoison window manager, which I also love. Everything full-screen always. No menu-bars or anything else.
Then I just use xterm and Firefox all day.
- The Unwelcome Mat (The New York Times).
In which the author explains how deeply unfriendly the process of traveling to the US is, even for countries with Visa waivers.
Americans may be surprised by the conclusions of a 2006 survey by the U.S. Travel Association, which found that foreign travelers were more afraid of United States immigration officials than of terrorism or crime. They rated America’s borders by far the least welcoming in the world. Two-thirds feared being detained for “minor mistakes or misstatements.”