A dev newsletter

A system to create systems

(Illustration from absurd.design)

The thing I love the most in programming is creating tools that help people create other tools. I enjoy making things for the final user but building the pieces that other coders will use in their products always interested me. With a bit of the spirit described at Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution book, coding tools to make tools. A system to create systems.

That usually is not so easy in the current job market. There is not much space out there for people building infrastructure as there are for people building apps or websites. There are much more companies needing someone to customise a system for their needs than writing down a new OS. The reason is obvious.

It seems like most of the time, the people that are allowed to “waste” time building something from scratch or some random tool that no one thought before are students or hackers. Students, I get it; there are many people out there only studying without the need to work to pay the bills. Though, where the hackers get their money from? I kind of always assumed people were working on those projects after working 8 hours for a company.

While reading Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution that I finally realised: we don’t need to be employed for all of our lives. We can try to save some money and work full-time on personal projects while savings allow. Though, to be honest, I believe those hackers in the USA had the mindset to work on their project full time because jobs there are not stable by default. So working on your project is as stable as working for someone else. In contrast, it’s pretty hard to fire someone in Europe/Brazil, making people more “afraid” of going solo for a short period.

Anyway, if we don’t need to be employed all of our lives1, it’s ok to try to build something new. If it’s ok to create something you believe in. It’s ok to make a tool to experiment with concepts. So if I was to spend some time only working on random ideas not related at all to money, what would I work with?

Though, you know, maybe something good will come up of that, or maybe it will just be a failed milk business…

And as you can see, nothing on that list would really require me to work full-time on it, but it’s not easy to work 8 hours, 5 days a week2 and instead of relaxing the rest of your time, sit down and study/work for few more hours. That’s why the whole “spend a couple of months working full-time on your own crazy ideas” attract me so much.

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Articles / Links

Handmade manifesto

Modern computer hardware is amazing. Manufacturers have orchestrated billions of pieces of silicon into terrifyingly complex and efficient structures that sweep electrons through innumerable tangled paths, branchings, and reunions with the sole purpose of performing computations at more than a billion times per second. This awe-inspiring piece of computational wizardry has at its disposal multiple billions of uniquely addressable silicon plates where it can store the results of millions of computations in an array of several vanishingly small chips. All of this hardware, though each component often sits no further than 7 or 8 centimeters away from the others, cycles so fast that the speed of light, a physical law of the universe, limits the rate at which they communicate with each other.

Towards the Science of Essential Decentralised Infrastructures

Dependence of our society on digital infrastructures is growing daily, confronting us with an urgent task of building ethical and democratic alternatives to monopolistic big-tech platforms. We call upon the scientific community to put our talents to this challenge by creating decentralised infrastructures for trust-based economic and social cooperation. We empirically demonstrate that a public infrastructure to establish trust between peers in decentralised networks is possible at a significant scale. Our work is based on over 15 years of improving our distributed systems which were used by more than a million people. We present six stringent criteria for designing trustworthy infrastructure, called zero-server architecture. Adhering to these principles, we designed a novel trustworthy networking infrastructure, called P2P-Apps. It enables smartphone apps to communicate without any server by forming a scalable overlay that uses our generic mechanism to build trust between peers, Trustchain. P2P-Apps are generic and can be expanded to serve as an alternative to centralised infrastructure owned by Big Tech.

Hurd, seL4, thoughts

In the past 30 years, GNU Hurd has been the official kernel of GNU operating system. The term “kernel” may not be precise here. “The kernel” is the classical concept of the monolithic OS design; in microkernel, there’s still the concept “kernel”, but it’s smaller than monolithic. However, GNU Hurd is not following the simple “kernel + userland” design. GNU Hurd is a collection of servers, which can interact with its microkernel GNU Mach by IPC (Inter Process Communication) for system level requesting. Sounds a little familiar? Try to imagine you’re running bunch of dockers on the cloud, and there’s a centralised node for scheduling.

Against Alcohol

At least one in five cases of dementia is caused by alcohol (although there is a study that contradicts this). It can also exacerbate mental health problems, especially anxiety and depression. One major American study suggested that up to a quarter of young alcoholics have social anxiety disorder.

What should the next chat app look like?

As you’re surely aware, Signal has officially jumped the shark with the introduction of cryptocurrency to their chat app.

Basis: a distributed-ledger implementation of a socialist mode of production

  1. I do appreciate people with a family cannot easily do this. People from Global South do not make enough money to sustain themselves without working for a while, and that working full-time on a project you believe is a very privileged position. I’m trying to say here that if we have the material conditions to do it, we are allowed to do it, even if morally, some cultures may see this as a bad thing. ↩︎

  2. Well, that when I’m not oncall ↩︎