Apr 20, 2018

Do you know what database indexes are and how they work? Do they seem hard to understand? They don’t have to be. The basic principles you need to know are simple and easy to remember. And developers need to know the basics of indexing: your DBAs can’t save you, because discovering you need an index after you deploy a feature is often too little, too late.

The Simple And Sinister Kettlebell Workout

Apr 18, 2018

Someone asked me on Twitter some time ago if I was familiar with the Simple and Sinister kettlebell workout. I was not. Now it’s one of my go-to workouts. It’s remarkably simple, yet extremely hard and effective.

Sizing Up People

Apr 14, 2018

Many people such as venture capitalists have met and judged me and my team over the years. I’ve always found this simultaneously amusing and frustrating, because in my experience, they’re more wrong than right. I became seriously allergic to this. But then I put on their shoes and walked a few steps, and the results surprised me.

Apr 8, 2018

I have a deliberate strategy that guides who I follow on Twitter, and the tools and techniques I use to curate my feed. I’m not sure how unusual it is; perhaps many of us do the same types of things but don’t share our thinking with each other. I wrote this post in case my thinking is useful to others.

Switching from MathJax to KaTeX

Apr 7, 2018

For several years, I’ve used MathJax on this blog to typeset mathematical formulae in LaTeX notation. MathJax is fully compatible with LaTeX, and makes it simple to create beautifully typeset equations such as the following:

$\rho = \frac{1}{2} \left( \sqrt{2} \sqrt{\lambda+2} + \sqrt{2} \sqrt{ \frac{ -2 \lambda - \lambda^2 + \sqrt{2} \sqrt{\lambda+2}}{\lambda+2}} \right)$

MathJax is sophisticated, but it’s large and has a lot of dependencies. It’s not slow, but KaTeX is even faster. KaTeX is a lightweight drop-in replacement. I’ve switched to use it instead.

How to Extract Content From a PDF

Apr 7, 2018

I’ve occasionally needed to extract text and/or images from a PDF. I’ve found a couple of easy, free ways to do this on MacOS.

How to Protect Your Speaking Voice

Apr 3, 2018

Losing your voice is an incredibly painful, frustrating, and debilitating experience. I’ve lost my voice a few times at conferences, especially in the first couple of years when I was new to the scene and wasn’t aware of how all the stresses could overwhelm me. I’m not a professional, but I’ve learned a few things, tried some other things, and haven’t had trouble with my voice for many years. Here’s what works for me.

Running on Empty

Apr 2, 2018

Last week I spoke at SRECon about how systems behave when they’re stressed to the point of reaching their limits. Interestingly, I was near my personal limits at this point. Nothing dramatic: just travel, sleep deficit, jet lag, and impatience with a project I’m working on. Even as I spoke about observing systems, I was observing my own behavior and seeing evidence that I needed to ease up a bit.

Markdown Presentations With RemarkJS

Mar 30, 2018

I switched from traditional presentation programs to RemarkJS, and I’m glad I did. RemarkJS (or Remark) is a free, open-source presentation system that lets you write slideshows in Markdown and present with your web browser. It strikes a great balance: it is simple and has just enough functionality to make the most important things delightfully easy—but it’s not limiting. It’s powerful enough to build advanced presentations. Most of all, it makes me happy, because it gives me control and makes me more effective.

Mar 29, 2018

We’ve all stared in frustration at a system that degraded into nonresponsiveness, to the point that you couldn’t even kill-dash-nine whatever was responsible for the problem. A key fact we all recognize, but may not recognize as significant, is that this isn’t a sharp boundary. There’s a gradient of deteriorating performance where the system becomes less predictable and stable.

Mar 28, 2018

What gets measured gets managed, and that’s as true in the business as it is in the product. In fact, arguably we’ve been a lot more sophisticated on the business side than in our systems, for decades.

Configuring Chrome for Privacy and Convenience

Mar 23, 2018

I’ve recently set up a new MacBook, which helped remind me of some of the settings I’ve configured in the Google Chrome browser, to keep it from accumulating lots of “stuff” over time: history, cookies, and so forth. The accumulation of this stuff eventually represents a loss of privacy and control that I dislike. On the other hand, browser features such as history are convenient, and I don’t want to disable them entirely. I just don’t want too much of them. This blog post is about how I’ve found a balance that I like.

Pixel Tempted Me But iPhone Kept Me

Mar 16, 2018

I switched from Android to iPhone a few years ago, and with the recent advances in Android and some of the issues that have crept into iPhone, I wondered whether I should switch back. To help me decide, I got a Google Pixel 2 and used it for a week, with my iPhone turned off and put away. In the end, Android was much better than it used to be, but not good enough to woo me back. Here’s why.