Recent reading

I've been reading a lot lately, and on rather diverse subject matter. My usual reading diet is actually a lot more skewed towards the personal blogs, of a largely nontechnical narratorship. This post will be a little of everything, some out of scope for this blog. It's a bit overdue from when I wrote it, but fortunately it's content that lasts.

  • Douglas Crockford (Javascript Architect at Yahoo!, and the most readworthy grandfaherly voice on javascript online) gives a healthy summary of how to write javascript like a native, avoiding the new keyword like the plague wherever you can, as it is a tarpit of not-what-you-think-it-is (and a hairy, largely impenetrable mess to debug, when you get it wrong). It's a brief run-down on just the howtos without the full in-depth perspective of the whys and why-nots, and well worth your time, especially if you come from the Java camp (or anywhere else in class land where you lean heavily on the new keyword).

  • If you're really curious about the full view (or the advanced class on the intestines of the language side of javascript / ecmascript), and have an hour to spare, you should seriosly consider watching his three-part Advanced Javascript presentation (continued in part 2 and part 3), covering inheritance, modules, debugging, efficiency and JSON in a more in-depth fashion. Just the bit about how to activate Internet Explorer's easter-eggishly hidden heavy-duty and notably free debug features might be worth your time, actually. By the time I post this, YUI blog has posted it too (it has been floating silently at Yahoo! video for quite a while), where you can find a zipped version of the powerpoint slides, as well.

  • A similar, and not quite as technical session on the history and evolution of the DOM and how best to work it (a pragmatic, standards considering run-down, also three-part hour-long presentation) was posted a while ago on the YUI blog, giving me the heads-up about these things being published at all. His javascript writing is in most positive senses encyclopedic, though some of it requires you to know your higher order computer science to get the full picture and value of it. This presentation doesn't, though, and it gives you the often sad and painful story how we got from there to here in web standards.

  • To round off, Dean Edwards contributes the last javascript related news in his discovery of a new javascript object orientation device, in the form of compartmentizing inheritance using frames -- how to make your own prototype-extended types without infecting other code, and, by implication and conversely, how to run your own javascript code without polluted prototypes in an environment that is. (Unless someone else picks up the ball on that latter aspect, I might have to do the research and write up an article about it myself, at some later date.)

  • A Sunday a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon GNU Lilypond, a freeware music notation program, and got the sudden idea that I wanted to transcribe Tourdion, a French drinking song from around year 1500, that my local choir sung (among other things) on our week-end trip to Budapest a month ago. Anyway, Lilypond, much like TEX, revolves around a plaintext notation for (music) layout, which it then renders into beautiful postscript, PDFs, SVGs or similar. In theory it is prepared for midi output as well, but I don't think that is implemented yet.

    It took a few hours, with ample help of its great online documentation, and then I had my score and a great print-quality version (145kb pdf) to keep and to share (and a variant of my own on the tenor voice, which I first misread it as, and kind of grew attached to). The Lilypond notation of the song ended up 4 kilobytes long.

  • In poring through the Lilypond docs, I also encountered Erik Sandberg's Master's Thesis Separating input language and formatter in GNU Lilypond (Uppsala University, Department of Information Technology March 2006 -- 750 kb pdf), which, among other things, had a great geek's guide to (English) music terminology and notation in its appendices. Excellent; just what I needed to brush up a little on my music vocabulary.
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