0006: more internal consistency, how safe is zig, bullshit jobs, debt, utopia of rules, kevin's zig adventure, pinebook pro, trio

Published 2021-03-19

As expected, I didn't have much access to electricity in the first two weeks of march. Things are getting back on track now.

I put a bunch more work into the internal consistency article.

So the main remaining todos are:

This ended up being a much bigger project than I had intended, but I'm feeling pretty good about the results

I have no idea what kind of things people are paying me money for. If you email me and tell me ... I might still not do those things, but at least it won't be because I assume that everyone wants more long posts about consistency models instead :)

Other new stuff:

Kevin's post on porting a rust program to zig made the rounds last week.

The comments reminded me how bad voting is as a mechanism for surfacing good information. For example, the most highly-voted suggestion on both r/programming and r/rust introduces a virtual function call per pin set, a painfully expensive operation on a 64 MHz arm chip. Whereas the suggestion with much less code and no overhead ended up near the bottom of the page.

Not to mention the rust mailing list concluding that the zig version was nicer only because the zig mmio library has homogenous types, which is an impressive misreading given that half of the article is devoted to explaining how the zig version deals with the heterogenous types. As it happens, both versions of the api are near-identical because they're both generated from the same xml file.

But apparently a wave of new people showed up in the zig community shortly after, so at least some people found it compelling.

I spent the first two months of this year working on a pinebook pro, a $200 arm laptop. It was a surprisingly good experience.

I stuck with manjaro for the base system, since it seems to have the latest drivers, and used nix to install everything else. Almost all of my regular tools worked out of the box (nixops wouldn't build and rr doesn't support older arm cpus).

I typically got 6-10 hours battery life. The frame feels solid. The screen is fine, if a little dim. The keyboard feels great but has terrible rollover (eg can't send caps-shift-letter). The touchpad is garbage, verging on unusable even after firmware patches.

Heavy websites like slack were a drag, but day-to-day coding was fine.

I wouldn't recommend buying one right now, but if they can improve the touchpad and keyboard in the next generation then it might make a solid travel laptop.

I recently reread some of the early design docs for trio. They're one of my favourite examples of taking a tangled problem space and reducing it to its essence: