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Archive for March, 2007

SICP Indian Edition

March 31, 2007 4 comments

I was not aware of this before, but an Indian edition of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (2nd ed) is available now. Thanks and congratulations to Universities Press for bringing this classic out in India.

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Categories: software, tech

Career Advice

March 19, 2007 1 comment

Via Reddit – couldn’t resist link jacking. 🙂

I used to do interviews for hiring students from campus. One question I often tried to ask folks from branches that don’t involve programing is “Now that you have chosen to go into a programing career, how did you arrive at this decision? What did you do to prepare yourselves for it?”. Very few students I have interviewed have given a convincing answer to that question – I have got the impression that many people choose the programing career because everyone else is doing it.

I wish they had the above image as the cover of some text book.

Categories: developer, fun, links, software, tech

Should my JavaScript-heavy enterprise application support IE?

March 17, 2007 9 comments

At work we are developing an application that makes heavy use of JavaScript (yeah, like everyone else these days!:). The application is still under development, but we have made some alpha releases for our sales folks to demonstrate it to potential customers. The application, right now, is sluggish and has memory leaks in IE – in FF it works beautifully well!

Sales, QA and business analysts use IE, but developers use Firefox. Firefox respects CSS, it has a fast JavaScript runtime and supports better development tools (Firebug, in particular, is god send!). IE6 is sluggish and has quirky CSS support.

Within the development team we often joke that we might have to show a splash screen with “Detected IE; launching in slow-mode” when a user launches the application on IE. But Giles Bowkett’s post “The Business Case For Firefox” had me thinking seriously – should we really support IE?

Our application is targeted at businesses; a fixed number of users (employees of our customers and their customers) would be using it daily to get their job done. Productivity is very important under this circumstance, so any sluggishness in the user interface is not acceptable. Speed of the application, as perceived by the user, is much dependent on the speed of execution of JavaScript. I admit that we can definitely tune our JavaScript code to run faster – but shouldn’t we also be looking at getting a faster runtime too?

Since the users of our application are a captive audience, we might also be able to convince them to use a particular browser – you can take the stance that “this website, viewed with this browser is the application“! Will this work in practice? Would we be able to convince our customers to switch (if they are not already using it) to Firefox?

The development effort has budget considerations too. The project stakeholders need to be aware that supporting IE properly is an activity that is going to take some cost – do they really care to have it, or will they like some other feature in the application instead. Giles make some excellent arguments on this, and I think I should be making them to my bosses too; let them be aware at the least.

PS: I don’t have any experimental data to prove that the IE JScript runtime is sluggish. I have that empirical impression from my experience using IE. Please drop me a comment if you have data for or against my conjecture.

Categories: javascript, tech

Can we get past Melbourne, 1981, please?

March 14, 2007 3 comments

While the Cricket World Cup has started and as teams and fans warm up to the competition, there is a hot war-of-words brewing up on the sidelines. Sunil Gavaskar has been exchanging verbal blows with Ricky Ponting. IMHO, this could have been avoided and both sides could have kept their dignity and refrain from washing the dirty linen in public.

Having said that, there is one comment I have to make on the topic.

Gavaskar was far from popular in his playing days. Many people I have talked to/read remember him as a great batsman but don’t have many kind words for him as a person. Only Geoffrey Boycott would have surpassed him in the ability:popularity ratio. 🙂

But whenever Gavaskar is criticised for whatever reason, there is one incident that almost always get mentioned – his threat to walk off of a Test match at Melbourne in 1981. You can watch the video of the incident here, or read a detailed description here. Chris Cairns mentioned it recently, and so did Ricky Ponting now.

I am wondering if people are referring to this incident once too often. While I agree that Gavaskar did not cover himself with glory that day, I think he didn’t do anything unpardonable enough to have “holier-than-thou” fingers pointed at him this often. For one, Gavaskar did not throw away the match – he only threatened to. Secondly, it was not unprovoked either – throughout the series India had been on the receiving end of some dodgy umpiring (television replays and eye witness accounts suggests that Gavaskar might have got an inside edge after all). Of course, Lillee did his bit to flare up the flames too.

So please, can we move past Melbourne 1981?

PS: So far, this incident had been the biggest stick his detractors used to beat Gavaskar with – but I think he had just given them a new one.

Categories: cricket

What are others reading/planning to read

March 14, 2007 2 comments

From Reddit, What books are on your wish list?. The discussion points out some interesting books.

Categories: software, tech

Why I don’t buy computer books anymore

March 14, 2007 3 comments

My friend Pradeep had recently written about his resolution to read more books. When I saw Clinton Forbes post ‘Do you still buy computer books?‘ I realized that I my book-buying habits have also changed lately.

Like Clinton and Pradeep, I love books. Over the last 8 years since I started working, I have spend considerable money on buying books. Also, I often visit bookstores and spend time there. Whenever I have traveled outside the country I have made it a point to visit the local book stores and buy books that are not available in India. And I used to buy some book or the other every time I visited any bookstore. I used to joke that me going to a bookstore is like a goorkha taking his knife from its sheath – they just have to draw some blood (likewise, I just have to buy something).

But lately I have reduced the number of books I am buying. The reasons I can think of are:

  1. I don’t find as many interesting books anymore. Most of the newer books I see in the bookstores are about some API or the other – and I am now capable of learning most APIs using publicly available documentation. The more such books I read, the lesser I would be needing them in future.
  2. Many of the books are of very temporary value. I find myself less and less willing to part with hard-earned money to buy these books.
  3. I already own a copy of most of classics – books, unlike the ones mentioned above, are worth re-reading after a few years.
  4. The books I really want to read are not available in India. For instance, I really wish to read ‘Programming in Haskell’ – but it is not available in India.
  5. I don’t like business policies of some of the bookstore. The one I visit most often is Landmark at Forum – the place is nice, spacious, and they try to keep it organized. But this is the only bookstore I have come across which charge sticker prices for technical books. So I browse for books at Landmark, and order them online from Sapna (from whom I get nice discounts; if you are in Bangalore, I recommend Sapna). But I no longer buy a book on impulse – often, by the time I get back home, get to my computer and browse for the book on Sapna, I would have changed my mind! 🙂
  6. I have an Oreilly Safari subscription. I really like Safari. Often I want to skim through a book, and refer something – Safari is very cost-effective for that. The only downside with Safari is that many “academic” books are not available on it.

I don’t miss not buying books. And it’s not that I have stopped buying completely – its just that I don’t buy as many as I used to. I haven’t reduced the time I spend on reading either – but now I spend more time reading stuff online. The only downside is that reading on a computer doesn’t have the same “feel” as holding a book in your hand, and I sometimes miss the aroma of a new book.

Categories: software, tech

Before we start …

March 9, 2007 Leave a comment

Nirmal Shekar writes in The Hindu:

Let us resolve that we will never again say that Team India carries the hopes of a billion people and the prayers of that many are with Rahul Dravid’s men. The truth — if anybody still cares for it in this age of ephemera, an age of boosterism and saturation coverage of popular sport in the media — is that a vast majority of that billion has rather more mundane everyday concerns. Their hopes and dreams are not hooked to the fortunes of the men in blue.

Unless something unexpected happens, we can be assured that cricket would be the hottest topic of discussion in our media for the next few weeks. Before it gets to full swing, Nirmal’s article is well worth a read.

Categories: cricket, links