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Joy

There are a lot of people who will tell you that they derive satisfaction from the act of programming. I’m not one of them. I hate programming. With a passion. Or, at least, what I think of when I hear the term ‘programming’ — you know, the actual sit-in-front-of-a-computer-and-type-out-the-code-that-implements-the-solution-that-you-really-want-to-solve part. I hate that. The problem solving part I really like.

I’m not sure how small of a minority I’m in — or whether it’s even a minority. For all I know, there are a lot of people like me who enjoy tackling technical challenges for hours but dread having to sit down for the briefest of moments to write even a single line of code.

I think the reason I feel this way is that most programming languages make you painfully aware of the disparity between having a well-thought-out idea and actually implementing it. Even if you’ve gone through the effort of painstakingly detailing a solution, the actual translation into code feels anticlimactic at best — an added chore to complete after the ‘real’ work is done. And yet, completing that chore is the difference between having a tangible result or not.

This is why I love Ruby. I don’t think I’ll ever truly know what it feels like to think directly in code, but Ruby is the closest I’ve ever come to seeing programming and problem solving as one continuous action from conception to execution.

From someone who has hated programming, but loved problem solving, a language like Ruby has been the deciding factor between getting something done versus just wishing I could find a way to express myself that isn’t plain painful. I’ll gladly take personal productivity over performance pretty much any day.

Happy 21st birthday, Ruby! Thanks for caring about how I feel. And making the programming as fun as the problem solving.

Apple event predictions

Apple is holding one of its annual media events today at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and everyone with a pulse knows what Apple will unveil at this one — the next iPad.

Think about that for a second. We all know what’s coming later today, and yet anyone with even a hint of technophilia is salivating for Apple’s latest delight like Pavlovian dogs. That’s partly because Apple has trained us well, but mostly because Apple lets us know precisely what it wants us to know and nothing more, making that “something we really have to see and touch” all the more compelling.

It’s also this dosed flow of information that makes speculating upon Apple’s next move so intriguing, and it’s in that spirit that I take a gander at divining the specifics of today’s event.

A new iPad is a given, though the official moniker (3? 2S? HD?) is not. Same price, same capacity, and same form factor, though likely 1mm thicker to accommodate for some heavily revamped internals. Available for preorder this Friday. In stores a week later.

The most prominent feature? Double the resolution/quadruple the pixels — and, yeah, that’s a Retina display whether you’re a marketing guru or a mathematician.

An improved processor is a no-brainer — likely a dual-core A5X but possibly a quad-core A6 (each individual core being an ARM Cortex A9, but if it’s dual-core, possibly two A15’s — confused yet?). Ultimately, given the new display and Apple’s penchant to subordinate specs to user experience, I’d expect a much greater focus on substantially improving the GPU than the CPU. A bump to 1GB RAM is all but guaranteed.

A bigger battery, better cameras (as much as 3MP front, 8MP back), and LTE have all been rumored, but I’m only betting big on the first one. I still don’t see much value in a good camera module on the back of a tablet (OCR perhaps?), but with Apple’s recent push into photography coupled with that beautiful display, I suppose it’s one of the few times they’ll chase specs. As for LTE, as much as I appreciate the speed, I still don’t think it’s widespread enough and sufficiently power efficient, but I definitely expect it debuting in an iPad before we see it on iPhone.

My pie-in-the-sky prediction:  localized haptics using piezoelectric actuators — Apple is going to make the new iPad tactile. Don’t see the home button going away without such technology — and even so, it’s safe to say it’ll be right where you’d expect it this afternoon. Not as sure about the dock connector, though.

As for software, it’ll probably run iOS 5.1 at release with Siri a safe bet assuming Audience’s new chip supporting far-field speech is ready. I’m sure we’ll probably see an epic game from Epic Games with face-melting graphics. I’m also betting on a version of iPhoto — or even Aperture — for iPad. It’s so obviously the one piece of Apple software still missing from it’s slate. Finally, I’m going out on a limb and saying Microsoft will release Office for iPad later today. I’m still unsure whether they’ll actually be on hand to show off their creation at the event itself (I’m guessing not), but it wouldn’t surprise me.

A new Smart Case, like the Smart Cover, is likely. A stylus is not.

Oh, and one more thing. Meet the new Apple TV — as in the set-top box, not an actual television. With it, support for 1080p streaming and full HD content in iTunes. I’d also expect the new Apple TV to be more like a console, supporting apps and games via AirPlay — an iBox, if you will. It’ll be the new must-have accessory for every Apple device.

An ode to the book

When I was a child, I dreamt of building my own home – a quaint cottage rooted in the woods on my own secluded island whose sole exterior architectural marvel would be its blending in as if it perfectly belonged. The interior rooms would be equally nondescript – clean lines, simple colors, soft lighting, and sparse furnishings – save for one massive central room to which all others would lead: a library housing my entire collection of books.

It is said that home is where the heart is, and even at a young age, books lay at the center of mine. Apart from friends and family, nothing shaped me more than the words written therein. Whether it was for imagination, inspiration, erudition, or stimulation, books never failed to sustain me.

Books were to my mind and soul what food and drink are to the body – necessary. And yet, they were sufficiently diverse to suit every taste in the palette. One could as easily indulge in books as one could be poisoned by them. You are, after all, what you consume. The law of the balanced diet applies to reading as equally as it does to eating.

So, I read a bit of everything – what I liked; what I disliked; what excited me; what bored be; what pleased me; what revolted me. To be clear, I had my preferences. I would choose the classics over contemporary fiction any day; graphic novels routinely bested economic treatises; and there was more to mull over in a mystical text than the average scholarly tome.

Though my tastes continued to refine, my appreciation for books remained in the broadest of senses. As I grew older, that appreciation grew into an admiration not only of the content but of the physical anatomy of the book. Reading wasn’t merely a psychological experience but a sensual one, too. The weight of the book, the feel of the spine and cover in the hand, the print on the page, and, of course, the turning of each leaf was inextricable from the phenomenon of reading one.

So much was my fascination for books that in my early 20s I began collecting them semi-seriously, amassing a considerable personal library with a few editions worth more than most would pay for the latest in consumer technology.

My tastes extended to the aesthetics of the book itself. Each book was a self-contained whole. Its physical form ought to complement its content. Seeing both parts of Either/Or or Goethe’s Faust in the same physical entity struck me as Frankensteinian, never mind monstrosities like complete works or [shudder] anthologies. And yet, through it all, I cherished a soiled paperback of Nietzsche’s Joyful Wisdom as much as an early edition of Khayyám’s Rubáiyát.

Oh, to be young again and dream! Though I have yet to own my first home – let alone my own island – and my library amounts to several sated bookshelves, my fondness for books remains undying. Though I still find it nigh impossible to divorce the experience of reading from the book itself, the open mind I developed experiencing a plethora of them reminds me to be open to the possibility.

And so, I prepare to bid the book adieu. Farewell! I love thee, but I love reading that much more.

Larry Ellison hires Mark Hurd as co-president of Oracle

Despite an impressive track record at Hewlett-Packard, I am not a big fan of former HP CEO Mark Hurd who was ousted from his position after an investigation by the company board into an inappropriate relationship with an independent contractor revealed fudged expense reports. Larry Ellison, CEO and founder of Oracle — and close friend of Mark Hurd — begs to differ, going so far is to say HP’s dismissal of Hurd was “the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.”

Although I tend to believe Mr. Ellison says some pretty controversial things, many with which I do not agree, I do admire that he took the initiative to hire a man whom he holds in such high professional esteem. At the very least, his actions are in line with his words — however off tangent they may seem to be.

Source: New York Times via Daring Fireball