Donald Ka-NOOTH and the Art Of Computer Programming

Anyone involved in computer programming should be familiar with the works of Donald Knuth (the K is hard and the name is pronounced Ka-Nooth).  If not, the New York Times can remedy that, having recently published a profile on Knuth titled The Yoda of Silicon Valley.
Wise he is.  Show he does, the dark and light arts of algorithms:
Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms Volume 2: Semi-numerical Algorithms Volume 3: Sorting and Searching Volume 4A: Combinatorial Algorithms
A very important concept, however, can be found in the title.  While students study computer science, Knuth reminds us it's still an art.  In that sense, I would compare his books to the collected works of Shakespeare -- creative, insightful, but difficult to read and better understood in a study group or book club.  Whether Knuth or Shakespeare, their works are rarely read in their entirety, but their impact can still be felt throughout society.
Programming is a science, but it is apart from the natural sciences like…

A New Battery for an Old MacBook

The trackpad felt firm and did not click readily.  Channeling Sherlock Holmes, I deduced the culprit was a slightly swollen battery pressing up from underneath.  Well, that and an alert ⚠️ on the menu bar clued me in that it was time replace the battery.

A trip to the local Apple Store confirmed my findings.  But Apple couldn't replace the battery because they didn't work on machines older than five years (something about keeping parts in stock).  My MacBook Pro was a late 2012 model, or six years old.  The Apple Tech referred me to a third party authorized repair center, but in that moment, I decided to try the DIY route with iFixit.

On their website, I looked up my model and purchased the appropriate battery, along with the Apple specific tools I needed to complete the swap.  I also found well written tutorials, a difficulty rating, and feedback from other do-it-yourselfers.  This battery replacement was easy and at $102.89, cost effective.

My MacBook Pro now has power to w…

Holiday Borg

The Borg were a fearsome adversary introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  With a collective hive mind, they assimilated entire worlds, stealing their technology and enslaving the population to serve as drones.  Able to adapt to and neutralize any defense thrown up by their victims, the Borg were relentless.

While much has been written about the Borg, here are some little known facts about them.

Earth's first Borg was Earnest Borgnine. His name should have given him away, but he looked human and was very likable.

A very distant descendant of his was Annika Hansen, better known as Seven of Nine.

Earth did eventually succeed in capturing and containing the Borg.  Below is a monument to this achievement.

And turning the tables, we see Christmas has assimilated the Borg.

Happy Holidays!

The Best Selling Tech Book On Amazon Is ...

After reviewing some books I considered classics¹, I wondered what tomes were popular nowadays.  I was disappointed to learn the #1 best seller on Amazon, in the category of data structure and algorithms, was Cracking the Coding Interview.
Was this a direct result of raising students on "teaching to the test?"  Were companies so confused about hiring, they needed to administer a programming puzzle to find a suitable candidate?
The reviews ranked Cracking the Coding Interview highly, and the contents were substantive, not fluff.  Yet, glancing over to my bookshelf, I would want candidates to be acquainted with titles like these: More Programming Pearls by Jon Bentley, The Cathedral & The Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond, Algorithms in C by Robert Sedgewick, and a classic-to-be, Joel On Software by Joel Spolsky.

When software development was novel (circa 1980), a popular notion was that the skills required for programming were similar to the skills needed in music and chess.  Fi…

Bookshelf Classic: Byte Magazine - Inside The IBM PC

While not a book, it is a classic. Published November 1983 with 720 pages, the magazine featured articles describing the innards of the IBM Personal Computer. The clever cover art shown here was created by Robert Tinney.  Byte's Robert Tinney era spanned from the mid-70s to 1990, and his covers showed an uncommon thoughtfulness.  Think vinyl record album sleeves of the day, where the artwork could have meanings on multiple levels.

Inside, you can find an interview with Philip Estridge, president of IBM's Entry Systems Division, and it included a discussion about keyboards. IBM was renowned for building high quality keyboards, and the unique tactile and audible feedback carried over to the keyboard for the IBM PC.  But the atypical placement of the left shift key and the return key, along with the function keys being on the left instead of across the top, prompted Byte to remind Estridge that "some customers were upset."  The layout didn't match the keyboards of …

Why I Like vi

Having already written about hardware tools, this post examines one of my favorite software tools, namely vi (aka vim ).

I've chosen the photo essay format, because vi, like a clever joke, an amazing magic trick, or a masterpiece of art,  is ruined if you try to explain it.

Automate Dark Mode in Apple OS Mojave

Back in the monochrome days of PC computing, our choices were green on black, or amber on black.  The amber monitors actually cost a bit more because European studies of the day showed amber was easier on the eyes.

Apple's Macintosh Computer introduced the black text on white paper look.  In emulating paper though, I found my eyes fatiguing more quickly.  I expressed to a friend and colleague that it felt like a swath of electrons beaming into my eyes, in which he replied, "okay."

To this day, I'm not sure if he was in solid agreement, or patting my head and humoring me.  Judge for yourself with the sample color schemes I've created at the end of this post.

With macOS Mojave, Apple introduced Dark Mode, which in essence, is a return to the calm and focused energy levels of green, amber, and black. I really like it, but one cannot live on dark chocolate and dark coffee alone.  We can switch between Dark Mode and Light Mode via the System Preferences.

But wouldn&#…