Computer Things: 2019-2020
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Computer Things: 2019-2020

About the Book

A compilation of all Computer Things newsletter essays in 2019 and 2020, including essays that were for subscribers only. Some of the public essays include:

  • The most expensive software per byte
  • How everybody misunderstood the "Literate Programming vs Unix Philosophy" 'debate'
  • How knowing math helps you write better software
  • Why blaming defects on "programmers" and not the broader system is a waste of time.

Some of the private essays include:

  • Why Vim is a bad representation of what a "modal editor" is
  • The difference between "code" clever and "insightful" clever
  • Fringetech
  • Multiple first drafts of essays that eventually went on my official website.

Some administrative material was pruned, otherwise all essays are left as-is. Thank you for reading!

About the Author

Hillel Wayne
Hillel Wayne

I have a blog at and a newsletter at

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The kind of thing this is gonna be
  • On Hating Your Tools
  • New Post: Formally Modeling Database Migrations
  • On Documentation
  • Data and Reality, 2nd Edition
  • Software isn’t designed for power users
  • Automation vs Augmentation
  • New Post! Plus Upkeep
    • New Post: How Fast Do I Talk?
    • The Crossover Project
    • Link: A Cool Game
  • We Are Not Special
  • Canonical Examples
    • Newsletter Links
  • Back on Windows
  • What is a “beautiful” proof?
  • A few smaller updates
    • Ethnography of antipatterns
    • Crossover project update
  • New Essay! (Also Workshop Field Notes)
  • Workshop Improvements
  • Increment Magazine
  • Science Turf War
  • Computer Things: YOW Roundup Edition
    • YOW
  • Why Python is my Favorite Language
  • Why Python Is My Favorite Language
    • Solving this
  • On Marketing Formal Methods
    • Marketing Formal Methods
  • Back up your arguments plz
  • Bill Kentstravaganza
  • New Essay, Intentional Errors, and a TLA+ CLI
    • New Essay
    • Intentional Errors
    • TLA+ CLI
  • Three Ways Juggling is Like Programming
  • A Totally Polished and not-at-all half-baked Take on Static vs Dynamic Typing
  • New Essay: The Business Case For Formal Methods
  • On Emulation
  • Project updates, request for help, braindump
    • Random Thoughts
  • New Essay: Feature Interaction Bugs
  • 10 Most(ly dead) important programming languages (first draft)
    • tlacli now a python package
    • First draft
  • Happy Precedence Day!
    • Formal Methods Tweetstorm
    • Precedence is weird
  • Donald Knuth Was Framed
    • YOW! Talk
    • Donald Knuth Was Framed
  • On Scaling Mental Models
    • No Newsletter Next Week
    • The Actual Thing
  • The Opposite of Documentation is Superstition
  • Online Workshops, Project Updates, New Post
    • Leo Trip Report
  • On Customization
  • Special Purpose Languages
    • Github acquires NPM
    • Special Purpose Languages
  • Please don’t write your documentation in Markdown
    • What to use instead
  • Language Warts and Vim Trix
    • New(ish post)
    • Language Warts
  • What’s the Most Expensive Software Per Byte?
    • Expensive
    • Small
    • Small and Expensive
    • Very Small and Very Expensive
    • Small and Hideously Expensive
    • Conclusion
    • Update 2020-04-03
  • A Very Brief Intro to Formal Methods (aka my job)
    • Formal Methods
  • Announcing Alloydocs, updates on major projects
    • Alloydocs
    • What’s Next
  • Making Illegal States Unrepresentable
  • Workshop Announcement, Vim is a bad modal editor
    • Vim is a bad modal editor
    • Better modal editors
  • New Essay, Office Hours, and a short essay
    • New Essay
    • Terse Programming Languages
  • Sneak Peek: Constructive vs Predicative Data
    • Techniques for constructive solutions
    • Thoughts
  • How I Write Talks
  • Rage Against the God Machine
  • New Essay: In Praise of AutoHotKey
    • New Essay: In Praise of AutoHotKey
    • Nothing else for now
  • If Inheritance is so bad, why does everyone use it?
    • Some thoughts on first-generation solutions
  • Workshop Innovations and New Website Essay
    • New essay: constructive versus predicative data
    • Workshop innovations
  • Defects are not the fault of programmers
  • Some Ranting About Examples
  • Monads and Transducers are Literally 100% The Same Thing
  • New TLA+ Workshop, New PBT Essay
  • Understanding Fairness
    • Stuttering
    • Strong fairness
    • Thoughts
  • Why You Should Always Blindly Chase Industry Trends
    • “Are we really engineers” video now available
  • Why You Should Always Blindly Chase Industry Trends
    • Disclaimers
    • Technical Benefits
    • Career Benefits
    • Personal Benefits
    • Conclusion
  • Situated Software
    • New essay
    • Situated software
  • I have become ideas guy
    • Random Thoughts
  • Merchants on the Ivory Road
    • Merchants on the Ivory Road
  • J sieves as a tool of thought
    • J sieves as a tool of thought
    • Sieves
  • Syntax highlighting is a waste of an information channel
  • New essay and some thoughts on humility
    • New essay
    • On Humility
  • Software correctness is a lot like flossing
  • How knowing math helps you write better software
    • Bonus: De Morgan’s Paradoxes
  • Test Inference
    • Miscellaneous thoughts
  • New Essay and a Very Peculiar Optimization
    • New Essay
    • Storing Sorts
    • Discussion
  • What’s the Deal with Message Passing, Anyway
    • Tweetstorms
  • Please read the paper before you comment
  • Formal Specification Languages
    • Conclusion
    • Tweetstorms
  • Treasure Hunting in the Noosphere
    • Office Hours
    • Fringetech
    • Tweetstorms
  • Finding Go Concurrency Bugs with TLA+
    • Discussion
  • That Time I Almost Joined a Software Cult
  • Write Notes for Your Code
    • New Essay
    • Write Notes For Your Code
  • Updates on the Crossover Project
  • Software Engineers Don’t Have Disciplines
    • What is a discipline?
  • New essay, new “book” thingy
    • New Essay
    • New “Book”: Graveyard
  • Mystery Knowledge
  • We’re Bad at SAT Solvers
    • We’re bad at SAT Solvers
  • We have met the Excelnemy and he is us
    • Whoops on SAT
  • Edge Case Poisoning
    • Addressing edge case poisoning
  • The Pendulum Swings Eternal
    • Alloy Stream
    • The Pendulum Swings Eternal
  • Sneak Peek: Two Workers are Quadratically Better than One
  • Two Workers are Quadratically Better than one
    • Planning Ahead
    • Specifying Throughput
    • Specifying Latency
    • Two Workers
    • Generalizing the Model
    • Conclusion
  • TLA+ Helped Me Count to Six
  • New Essay, Universal Examples, Old Essay
    • Universal examples
  • Programs Writing Programs
    • New Essay
  • Programs Writing Programs
    • Other uses
    • Misc
  • No, your clean code won’t save the planet
    • Why do people do this?
  • Why I Still Use Vim
  • Weird Examples and Weird Tools
    • Weird Examples
    • Weird Tools
    • Twitter
  • Knights, Puzzles, and Hypermodels
    • Knights, Puzzles, and Hypermodels
  • There’s always more history
  • Computer Things: Vacation Phone-In Edition
  • Safety and Liveness Properties
    • Limitations of LTL
    • Exotic Properties
  • Oracle Testing
  • New Essay, New Workshop, Thoughts on Cleverness
    • On Cleverness
  • The Most Important Video Game Ever Made
    • The Most Important Video Game Ever Made
  • Cross-Branch Testing
  • Notes

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