13 December 2010

Reviews: Debugging and Write Portable Code

Two books I bought recently were ones I expected to be easy going. They were, but I think they were still worthwhile.

Debugging: The 9 Indispensable Rules for Finding Even the Most Elusive Software and Hardware Problems by David J Agans is about, well, debugging. Anything, not just software. It’s full of war stories from many domains (including cars, houses, and Sesame Street). The rules are how to logically approach problem solving, and make sure the problem is actually solved (rule 9). Most of it is common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to see it distilled. And based on the war stories, it’s easy to get wrong. Of potential use to non-developers: there’s a chapter on applying the 9 rules from the Help Desk, when you can't observe directly.

Interestingly, one of his war stories was kind of mentioned in...

Write Portable Code by Brian Hook. I’d had some dealings with Brian when I was at GameHouse, so I knew he knew his stuff. This book too was largely review (I’ve had to deal with getting code to run on different processors and compilers), but again it’s nice to have things spelled out sometimes. And I’d never heard of compile-time asserts or #pragma STDC before. Some of it’s a bit dated (version control in particular — and it must have been written right before the Mac Intel transition), but much of it is stuff you’d still have to deal with when moving between Mac and Windows — or even Mac and iOS. (Scalability is one aspect of portability.)

12 December 2010

High-Bandwidth Sneakernet

I love the plan to deal with the huge amounts of data expected from a proposed black hole imaging project. Each station will create about 22 terabytes of raw data per day. “No imaginable link from remote mountaintops permits live telemetry of such a torrent. Astronomers will physically pull eight-pack cartridges of disk drives from the data recorders. ‘We’ll mail them,’ says Doelman. ‘You can’t beat the bandwidth of a 747 packed with hard drives.’”

09 December 2010

iPad Data Gotcha

Just spent way too much time on the phone with AT&T. I haven’t completely resolved problems I was having with cellular access for my iPad, but I can give a warning: be 100% sure your email address is correct.

If it’s not, you won’t be able to log in again (since it’s your account name). And you won’t be able to retrieve a lost password, even with the web form that asks for IMEI and ICCID, because it’s sent to the wrong address. Nor can AT&T change it for you. And you won’t be able to stop automatic billing.

The whole idea of having plans that purport to be by the month, but expire, seems pretty lame, and is ultimately responsible for my problems. But that’s perhaps the topic of another post.