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Saturday 29th July, 2023 - Alternative Dev Culture (Issue #125)
Loads of stuff: DevTools, Aliens, On prem infra, history of student protests in France, layer2 infinite scalability, and travel podcasting
Hello and welcome to my newsletter!
Another season 2 instalment…
While putting together this week’s issue it occurred to me that a sort of theme that emerged was non-traditional, non-mainstream dev culture. I’m a big fan of the US. I’ve been there several times, travelled across the continent, and I’ve been following the web development and tech spaces there for years. I love it, but there’s a lot going on outside the US and Silicon Valley. This issue is a bit of a celebration of that, a celebration of all things alternative, which is fundamentally part of the overall computing narrative. Tech and dev is worldwide.
Though there are a lot of different tech topics covered this week, the flavour that permeates everything is one of alternatives to mainstream dev culture. From russian hacker culture and open source CSS dev tools, through the on premises infra movement, to the history of student protests in France, to big advances in alt coin layer2 scalability. And there’s even some left field chronicling of travel in Albania of all places. I nearly forgot, there’s also some cool stuff about aliens, the most non mainstream topics of them all.
In a way for me, this week has been a bit of a washout. I ran out of Github build minutes so that put a complete stop to interactive development. Real bummer. On the other hand, I’ve been able to actually write a whole lot of code, completing the implementation of a handful of interesting new features and some big code simplifications for my static site generator. Mostly around RSS but also, interestingly, around sitemaps. It feels like lots of progress, though none of it is tested yet. I have a whole load of branches I’ll need to integrate when Github is back running builds.
Of course without build minutes, I haven’t been able to build the website, so no links or blog posts, it’s pretty much all podcasts this week, but there are some great ones.
I’m feeling sort of good about things today, though it has been quite a slog, with a litany of escalating blocking in real life. First Github build minutes, then Instapaper app crashing, then my charging cable acting up again, trouble installing a new iOS app I was testing out to name just a few. One thing after another. And a waterfall of seemingly synchronised price changes in places I go to buy food. Very bizarre and frustrating. Some days it just feels like the whole entire world is out to get you, and blames you for everything. Where everything you do is wrong. But you got to press on regardless, try to keep smiling or add a bit of humour, even if it’s interpreted as a declaration of war. Inter-cultural dynamics is so so difficult sometimes. But it’s worth the effort. I think so anyway. Alternative dev culture, we live in a world of fascinating possibilities.
Quick follow up from last week’s issue #124, my theory that Synthetic Biology was having a moment doesn’t in fact appear to be correct. View numbers were a bit higher than usual but nothing like the previous SynthBio issue that was 4x normality. So who knows what happened there, probably just got lucky.
The Crypto, AI & Synthetic Biology Trinity (issue# 124) https://markjgsmith.substack.com/p/mark-smiths-newsletter-22-07-2023
A little disappointing cause I’d put quite a lot of thought into the narrative, but that’s life sometimes. I still think it’s an interesting area of tech, and after hearing about crypto layer2 scalability progress, I still think these are very complimentary technologies. Though there are a lot of moral hazards that will need to be considered. Anyway, just wanted to mention the observations.
On with this week’s podcast selections…
Andrey Sitnik - PostCSS, Browserlist, Autoprefixer, Evil Martians (DevTools.fm Podcast) - Tells the story of the path he took in the russian open source movement of the 90s. From reading specs, through to building some of the most used CSS tooling in the industry. It’s interesting to hear the differences between US and eastern europe / russian scenes. He delivers the best explanation I’ve heard about the importance of the new OKLCH color format and a very interesting look at the local first development movement. I really want my website to be available offline, so that part was great. I enjoyed getting out of bitcoin, and world politics content for a bit and into nerdy webdev talk. https://www.devtools.fm/episode/60
Is the Government Hiding Aliens? With Mathew Pines (What Bitcoin Did Podcast) - Definitely the most serious look at the recent rise in interest in UAPs. I don’t think it’s coincidental that there has been a shift in perception of these topics, it coincides with the race to get humans into space, but also with the race to create artificial intelligences with AI tech, so it’s bound to become something we will need to approach with more rigour. There’s a fascinating detailed look at the layers of secrecy in the intelligence agencies, and also a fasinating and clear headed breakdown of the various possibilities for some of the wilder theories. I think it’s also relevant to anyone involved in computer security, since there is big overlap with social engineering techniques. I also happen to think the analysis could be useful in human - human culture integration, an area that is a lot more complicated, nuanced and bizarre than most people imagine. And you know aliens are cool these days. It’s not that weird anymore to talk about this stuff. https://www.whatbitcoindid.com/podcast/is-the-government-hiding-aliens
Bringing the cloud on prem Ep#8 (Changelog and Friends Podcast) - Great episode. I’ve been thinking for years how cool it would be to have full cloud development environments locally. If you’ve ever worked as part of an engineering team that manages on premises infrastructure, as I have, you’ll find this episode really interesting. Very Linux nerdy. Jerrod has an amusing fascination for a potential homelab product, I think he’s right. Personally I would go even further. As a web developer what I want is a small portable raspberry pie type device, same size as a mobile phone battery, that could host a small local WIFI network, and a full web stack, with something like Github actions, and ability to quickly startup minimal cloud components like storage, queues, databases etc, but also virtual firewalls, api authentication and authorisation and that sort of thing, so I could build cloud native apps totally offline and on the move. https://changelog.com/friends/8
Paris 1968: The Students Revolt (The Rest is History Podcast) - It’s been a while since I had a history episode in the newsletter. This was a great episode, looking at, and in places, comparing the evolution of the higher education systems of UK and France. Really interesting history, and expertly done as Dominic used to live in France so has quite a good grasp of the finer details, all be it from an expat perspective. The period from the 60s to the 90s saw a huge change in how our societies developed, all sorts of demographics and cultural stuff I hadn’t considered. You’ll have a much better idea of what it means to be french, but also british, after listening to this. It’s a two parter, I’ve only listened to part 1 so far. Update: I listened to part 2 earlier and it’s phenomenal, maybe even better than the first episode. I was completely mentally immersed and transported into the period, made better by the fact that they recorded both episodes in actual Paris. https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9yc3MuYWNhc3QuY29tL3RoZS1yZXN0LWlzLWhpc3RvcnktcG9kY2FzdA/episode/OGQ5ZTc0OTAtMjkyOS0xMWVlLWE1NzgtYzM3NzcyN2E4MGUx?sa=X&ved=0CAYQkfYCahcKEwiw65voyrKAAxUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAQ
Polygon’s Endgame: Polygon 2.0 with Sandeep Nailwal & Milhailo Bjelic (Bankless Podcast) - Layer 2s are having a bit of a moment in crypto. I hadn’t appreciated what a shift it’s going to be until listening to this episode. Polygon is like Lightening for Bitcoin but it will connect many more chains, so you’ll be able to seamlessly move value between them. It’s a heck of an ambitious project, but looks to be achieving the project goals. Definitely an interesting project to be aware of, even if you are a non-promiscuous strict bitcoiner. https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9yc3MuYWNhc3QuY29tL3RoZS1yZXN0LWlzLWhpc3RvcnktcG9kY2FzdA/episode/OGQ5ZTc0OTAtMjkyOS0xMWVlLWE1NzgtYzM3NzcyN2E4MGUx?sa=X&ved=0CAYQkfYCahcKEwiw65voyrKAAxUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAQ
Sun, sand and success (Flying Frisby Podcast) - Somewhat off topic for the newsletter, and a departure from his usual financial / money / commodities topics, this is basically a travel trip report of his holiday in Albania of all places. I’m linking to it because I was surprised at how excellent Dominic is at travel writing and audio. It’s one of those episodes where you think isn’t podcasting great as a medium. I hope he does more of these.
Like I was saying earlier not a huge amount of links this week, though this just popped up in my inbox via James Clark of Nomadic Notes and fits in very well with this week’s alternative theme:
The world’s last Internet cafes https://restofworld.org/2023/internet-cafes
As always feel free to checkout all the other links on the linkblog:
That’s all from me…
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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!