The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Windows moves to Git

The Microsoft Windows operating system has millions of lines of code maintained by thousands of developers. And in the past three months, Microsoft has moved 90% of its code to the open-source Git version control system:

The switch to Git has been driven by a couple of things. In 2013, the company embarked on its OneCore project, unifying its different strands of Windows development and making the operating system a more cleanly modularized, layered platform. At the time, Microsoft was using SourceDepot, a customized version of the commercial Perforce version control system, for all its major projects.

SourceDepot couldn't handle a project the size of Windows, so rather than having the whole operating system in a single repository, the Windows code was actually divided among 65 different repositories, with a kind of virtualization layer on top to produce a unified view of all the code. Some of these 65 repos contained nicely isolated, standalone components; others took vertical or horizontal slices through the operating system; others were just grab bags of different code. As such, the repo structure didn't correspond with OneCore's module boundaries.

Due to widespread developer familiarity and strong support for creating lots of branches with low overhead, the decision was made to use Git as the new system. But Git isn't designed to handle 300GB repositories made up of 3.5 million files. Microsoft had to embark on a project to customize Git to enable it to handle the company's scale.

You read that right: Windows contains 3.5 million individual code files, and there are so many changes to them (8,500 per day on average), they had to create their own super-charged version of Git.

Programming nerds will want to read the whole article. Non-nerds can scroll down for political stuff.

Things I'll be reading this afternoon

Some articles:

And now, Parker needs a walk.

Stuff I'll read later

A little busy today, so I'm putting these down for later consumption:

Now, I must prepare...for Whisky Fest!

Blue-collar coders? Um, no

Via a longtime reader, LinkedIn software engineer David Max responds to Wired article with "no, coders aren't assembly-line workers:"

The implication is that one can learn enough coding skills to get a job writing easy code, and then settle into a long stable career writing more of the same. Maybe, but I doubt it.

The world of software development changes rapidly. Even if we need a lot more developers, that won’t change the fact that keeping up is a continuous effort. Even if the barriers to entry are getting lower such that there are programming jobs that do not require a four year computer science degree, that is still just the foot in the door. Once on the job, you will need to keep actively improving to keep up like the rest of us.

To put it another way, there may be more entry level positions open to people with less training, but that training will likely grow stale. A boot camp program might prepare you for a job, but what you learn today in a boot camp will almost certainly be different from what you would learn two years from now.

This is one reason why I prefer to hire developers with liberal arts degrees. And why I give a very straightforward problem to solve in interviews. And why I ask what books the candidates read.

De-Mosesing New York

New York Times developer Jeff Sisson has put together a mapping application that can remove highways from New York:

Imagine there’s no highway, it’s easy if you try—even easier, since now there’s a map for that. With this latest cartographic venture, you can make the concrete superslabs and soul-sucking underpasses that are the scourge of urbanists everywhere disappear with a mere click.

This is the vision of Jeff Sisson, a developer at The New York Times who dabbles in the kinds of stuff we consider CityLab catnip. You might remember him from such projects as mapping New York’s bodegas. His latest effort is called “NYC (& The World) Without Highways.”

Highway removal in real life is expensive, time consuming, and politically challenging, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will inevitably discover as he plots a pricey demolition of the Bronx’s Sheridan Expressway.

Maybe there's one for Chicago in the works?

Nokia dumbs down

The Finnish manufacturer is bringing back their 2000-era 3310:

Given the rising angst of a society run by technology, Nokia might have picked the perfect time to introduce an antidote to the smartphone. But even under today’s conditions, it is tempting to see the new Nokia 3310 merely as another example of retro nostalgia. Ha-ha, what if you could get a dumbphone instead? It would pair perfectly with a milk crate full of vinyl albums. But it’s also possible that the 3310 marks the start of a new period of technological mobility. One that offers a sense of how even the most entrenched technological habits might yet turn out differently.

It might be premature to announce the end of humanity’s love affair with the smartphone. But the relationship’s cracks are surely showing. Some have immediate consequence. Apps have contributed to a huge spike in traffic accidents and deaths, as more and more people attempt to operate finicky handheld devices while driving. The partial-reinforcement techniques baked into today’s apps and games has become more apparent to users, who seem increasingly resigned to services they also feel no option to quit. And the uniformity in design of devices has arrested their future potential. Every year another glass rectangle, affording no more or less than it promises, which is more of the same.

The smartphone’s conquest is definitive and complete. A decade after its form solidified, the contemporary citizen of the developed world has almost no choice but to own and operate one. And yet, the joy and the utility of doing so has declined, if not ceased entirely.

Hey, for $50 I might pick one up as a backup device, once they're offered in the U.S.

Open tabs at lunchtime


I hope to read these articles sometime this year.


Long day...

The last two days, I've been in meetings more than 7 hours each. I'm a little fried. Meanwhile, the following have popped up for me to read over the weekend:

I'm now off to the opera. Thence, perhaps, to sleep.


High above the North Atlantic, our hero reads the articles he downloaded before take-off:

  • Releasing to Production the day before a holdiay weekend? No. Just, no. OMFG no.
  • American Airlines just won a lawsuit started by US Airways that opens up competition in airfare consolidation—maybe. Bear with it, because this one article explains a lot of what's wrong with competition in any endeavor today. (I'll find a link to the Economist print article I just read on this topic when I land.)
  • The Washington Post helpfully provides 94 questions we Democrats are asking as we slouch towards a Trump presidency. Thanks, guys.
  • In the spirit of Christmas, Citylab remembers when Manhattan had the El. (How is this about Christmas, you ask? No El.) It's interesting to me that only now, more than 60 years later, is New York replacing the east-side transit options with the Second Avenue Subway.
  • Also from Citylab, an interview with Costas Spirou and Dennis R. Judd about their new book Building the City of Spectacle, how Mayor Richord M. Daley remade the city. (Note to self: buy their book.)
  • Finally, the Deeply Trivial blog compiles a couple of videos every Star Wars fan should watch. I know for a fact that the author was born well past the Ewok Divide, and yet seems to have a good bead on the Star Wars universe. Perhaps there is hope for the galaxy.

Today's flight is remarkably fast. We caught the jet stream off the Labrador coast, and with about an hour to go, we're hurtling 1,074 km/h off the west coast of Ireland. This could end up the fastest trans-Atlantic flight I've ever been on, in fact. Details later.

N.B.: Most of the entries on this blog since 2011, and a good number of them going back to 1998, have location bugs that show approximately where I was when I wrote the entry. Click the globe icon directly below and it will call up Google Maps.

If I write an entry at my house, I use a street intersection a few hundred meters away for an approximate location. In a city of three (or, in 1998, seven) million, I feel that's enough privacy. Otherwise, I try to be accurate, even going so far as to whip out my mobile phone to get a GPS fix in flight, as I've just done. Why, you ask? Because it's cool, I reply.

What languages do developers use around the world?

Via Deeply Trivial, the Stack Overflow blog comes up with some answers:

Here on the Stack Overflow data team we don't have to hypothesize about where developers are and what they use: we can measure it! By analyzing our traffic, we have a bird's eye view of who visits Stack Overflow, and what technologies they're working on. Here we'll show some examples of what we can detect about each city based on one year of Stack Overflow traffic.

When developers are using a programming language or technology, they typically visit questions related to it. So based on how much traffic goes to questions tagged with Python, or Javascript, we can estimate what fraction of a city's software development takes place in that language.

London has the highest percentage of developers using the Microsoft stack: while New York had more Microsoft-related traffic than San Francisco, here we see London with a still greater proportion. Since both London and New York are financial hubs, this suggests we were right that Microsoft technologies tend to be associated with financial professionals.

Just another reason why I think London and I should get more deeply acquainted.