• On Taking Notes

    For over a year now, I’ve started taking methodical notes as I go about my daily work as a Software Engineer. I find the process worthwhile.

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  • The REPL: Issue 48 - July 2018

    Web Architecture 101

    The world-wide web is built on top of many abstractions. That is what makes it powerful. As a user, we are typically just concerned with a browser and a “site”. When I first started programming for the web, I learned about HTTP, request and responses. Sometimes, one needs to dig deeper into common architecture patterns. In this article, Jonathan Fulton covers some of that architecture: DNS, load balancers, web and application servers, databases, caching. I found it to be a very useful reference. Note: As is always the case with computers, there are more levels of abstraction to learn: TCP, IP, UDP, TLS, etc.

    Scaling the GitLab database

    Yorick Peterse discusses some of the scaling issues that GitLab went through and how they resolved them. I find these type of articles very enlightening. Both for the solution they chose and for those that they discarded: Your particular scaling problem might look different, making one of those solutions more attractive.

    Queries on Rails - Showcasing Active Record and Arel

    Pedro Rolo discusses how to go beyond basic queries with ActiveRecord and Arel. I personally use techniques similar to the ones outlined in the article often. Caution: Arel is considered private API by Rails maintainers. If you decide to use it, there might be some work needed to ensure your code works when upgrading Rails. I’ve never had a significant problem with that, provided that I have good tests around complex queries. I much prefer Arel to using long and complicated sql fragments as strings. I believe those are even more brittle.

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  • On Remote Work

    A few months ago I changed jobs. My previous job was at a large software company, with offices worldwide. My day-to-day activities routinely included conference calls with people in the Americas, Europe and Asia. For the most part, these were coordinations meetings. My most meaningful collaborations were with the people sitting around me: The members of my team.

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  • The REPL: Issue 47 - June 2018

    How to GraphQL

    GraphQL is an alternative to REST that aims to be more efficient than traditional APIs and allow fast development, both for the server and its clients. This is a fantastic tutorial introduction and hands-on tutorial, with just enough code samples to get a sense of what it is like to write back-end or front-end code in GraphQL. The content is presented in both written and video form. Nice touch.

    Arel with Wharel

    ActiveRecord, the ORM that ships with Rails, is an implementation of the ActiveRecord pattern. It’s elegant API is one of the things that makes getting started with Rails very convenient. Expressions like user.posts.where(published: true) are readable and expressive. When trying to write more complex queries it falls short. In those cases, I usually fall back to Arel, the relational algebra library that Rails uses under the hood. While technically, it’s considered by the Rails core team to be private API, it’s usually very stable. Unfortunately, Arel has a more verbose API. Wharel attempts to fix that. Like Squeel before it, it adds a bit of syntactic-sugar to make interacting with Arel more expressive. It accomplishes this with a minimum amount of code, making it more attractive to use. The author, Chris Salzberg, explains in his blog post the motivation and code behind the library. I look forward to using it.

    The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration

    The findings presented in this paper are that open-office workspaces actually reduce the number of face-to-face interactions and increase the number of electronic interactions. The belief that this is not the case has always baffled me. In crowded spaces, like a big-city subway, stadium lines, or elevators, people tend to avoid eye contact, protect the little personal space that they have, and generally keep to themselves. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s not that people are unfriendly – it’s just that when you clearly don’t have any personal space, you don’t want to give up your mental space! Clearly, this applies to workspaces as well. If I am sitting with people typing in their keyboard all around me in close proximity, you bet I am going to have headphones on and keep my eyes pointing at my keyboard.

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  • The REPL: Issue 46 - May 2018

    The Economics of Writing a Technical Book

    I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a published author. Writing a book is a time consuming. Is it worth it? In this post, Justin Garrison covers in a lot of detail the economics of writing a book for O’Reilly Media. I found it very valuable, as discussions about how much money some makes are hard to come by. The bottom line: After a few months of the book being on sale, he has made ~$23/hour invested. The number would probably go up, since the number of hours it took is not going to change, but the number of sales keeps increasing. My understanding is that that flatten out rapidly after release, though. Food for thought!

    GDPR Hysteria

    hysteria | həˈstirēə, həˈsterēə | noun exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people

    Last year, while working for my previous employer, I spent about half my time working on GDPR compliance. The work involved adding features for data export, data deletion for former customers, notifications around both, etc. The General Data Protection Regulation is a big deal for any company doing business in Europe, even if not located or incorporated there. As Jacques Mattheij points out – in a lot of detail – in the tech blogosphere there is a lot of hysteria around what it means. The post does a good job of explaining what it means and how it’s often misunderstood. Don’t miss the follow-up, with actionable advise on GDPR.

    What is a Blockchain

    I am not bullish on crypto-currencies. Actually, if I trusted that there was a reliable way to bet against them, I would. But what is a blockchain anyway? David Bryant Copeland starts from the ledger and builds his way up to explaining how it all ties together and what problem it solves. The article’s subtitle says it all: A novel solution to a problem no one has.

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