Felix Crux

Technology & Miscellanea

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I’ve just added a new section to my recommended reading list for software professionals (introduced and explained here). This new section covers the presentation of information, design, and user interfaces/experiences.

I’m not a designer, and reading these books won’t make you one either. But every developer should know how to present information and interfaces clearly and comprehensibly.

You can find the list itself here.

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I’ve started putting together a list of the “core” books I recommend for people interested in exploring different facets of our field. I certainly don’t think you need to read all of them to be a capable software professional; rather it is the list I would put together if asked about how to learn more about specific areas.

This list came about because after compiling similar lists two or three times over the years in various places and formats, I’m following good development practice and factoring it out for reuse and sharing.

You can find the list itself here.

The list is far from complete; in fact today I’m starting with just one area: the culture and history of our field. Over time I will add sections on technical system design and architecture; project and people management; data visualization, information presentation, and user experience design; etc. Let me know if there are areas you want covered, or if you have recommendations of your own!

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One of my favourite features of the Firefox web browser is surprisingly unknown and sadly underused. Keyword search bookmarks let you kick off a custom search of any site straight from the address bar (a.k.a. the “awesome bar”). For example, if you typed “w hedgehog”, you could go to the Wikipedia page for the little critters, or “img hedgehog” could show you a cute image search.

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…or at least the best one I’ve managed to come up with.

The venerable cron utility has some well-known shortcomings, chief among which is how difficult it is to monitor the health and output of scheduled tasks. The default setup tries to email output, but on a typical laptop, desktop workstation, or even on many servers, it’s common to not have a working system-wide mailer configuration. Many users therefore set up “wrapper” scripts that handle logging, time­stamping, and so forth. This is the best one I’ve managed to come up with.

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One complex scenario that can cause accounting headaches is when you need to track money movements across a group of accounts that are divided between different parties, and need to be reported on both jointly and separately (for example, members of a household, or partners in a small business). Ideally, tricky things like joint accounts and inter-party transfers would be reported clearly and correctly.

Naturally, there’s a way to make this work in Ledger, but it requires a bit of setup!

(This post is part of a series describing how I use the Ledger accounting system. For an introduction to Ledger and this series, or to see all the entries, have a look at the first post).