Interesting Things #5 — The Last CPU


Welcome to the fifth edition of Interesting Things, a curation of interesting stories and links from tech, indie business, science, and adjacents.

The following are things I came across during my Internet wanderings. I find them interesting, and I hope you do too.

Happy reading!


The Last CPU [pdf] — As more and more work is offloaded to specialised hardware, should there still be a CPU?

Multiplayer Doom on Cloudflare Workers — What if we ported Doom multiplayer to the edge network?

Stopping Time: An Appreciation of Objective-C — Savoring one small piece of it one last time before it disappears.

Welcome To The Terrible World Of Prescription-Only Apps — Get ready for apps which cost $899 and require a doctor’s prescription (!).

Innovating with Rust — How Amazon uses, and contributes to, Rust.

Increasing our development confidence and productivity with Bors — How a little GitHub bot keeps our Rust project passing CI in master 100% of the time.

New system cleans messy data tables automatically — A new machine learning system uses probabilistic programming to clean dirty datasets and tell you how confident its answers are.

Modern Javascript: Everything you missed over the last 10 years — I didn’t cover everything that’s changed over the last decade, just the items I find most useful.

Incrementally porting a small Python project to Rust (Apr 2021) — I ported the project one module at a time, rather than all at once.

Discover CSS polygon shapes — Discover new CSS polygon shapes generated with css-doodle and mathematical functions.

Baseline implementations should be predictable — Unpredictable code with special cases can perform well on benchmarks, but it’s hard to tell the difference from real workloads.

Debugging random slow writes in PostgreSQL (Apr 2021) — Understanding and mitigating randomly slow writes in PostgreSQL.

Mostly harmless: An account of pseudo-normal floating point numbers — Pseudo-normal numbers represent a gap in floating point number classification in the long double format.

How necessary are the programming fundamentals? — We’ll introduce the field of algorithms and data structures and show why large companies like Google and Apple are so focused on it.

Weekend hacking: wireless charging for a HP-25 calculator — Calculator from 1975? Meet modern wireless charging.

Atomics in AArch64 — We’ll look at the performance of a simple atomic operation on a couple of Arm AArch64 machines.

DOM Events — Learn how the DOM Event system works through exploration.

The art and science of a great video thumbnail — What makes a great thumbnail and how to extract them from videos?

Why do database columns have a character length of 191? — 191 is such an odd number. How did we get here?

Codespaces: GitHub’s Play for a Remote Development Future — See discussion about remote development halfway through the text.

No, Utility Classes Aren’t the Same As Inline Styles — A discussion and contrast of two CSS patterns.

How to look at the stack with gdb — A quick walkthrough of how you can use gdb to look at the stack of a C or Rust program.

Language models like GPT-3 could herald a new type of search engine — A new idea from researchers could make web search more like talking to human experts.

The Easiest Way to Debug Kubernetes Workloads — kubectl debug, a new command, injects a special type of container into problematic Pods and allows you to debug.

Code Quality Metrics Are Guides, Not Goals — Measure code quality with metrics, but use the metrics to discover potential opportunities to improve.

#indie biz

Selling Tiny Internet Projects For Fun and Profit — How I sold my project Earlyname, how much I sold it for, and how to sell tiny internet projects.

Two months in: How the SaaS that was built in 7 days is going — A lot of new developers give up a month later when they fail to net a single upvote. I’m playing a different, long-term game.

How many people continue to use your product six months after they sign up? — Before you can begin measuring the number of people who use your app you have to define what ‘using your app’ means.

Micro-Communities - and why you should start one too — You don’t need to create a 5k community from day one. Start with a Micro-Community next time.

Lessons All Founders Can Learn From Slack’s Famous Second Act — Slack’s famous pivot didn’t happen on accident.


From Its Myriad Tips: Mushroom Brain — How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures.

If Necessary, Mars Rover Curiosity Could Rip Its Own Wheels Off to Stay Mobile — Since wheel wear can’t be avoided, the backup plan is to find a nice sharp rock and use it to rip out the insides of its own wheels.

The Profound Potential of Elon Musk’s New Rocket — An aerospace engineer explains why SpaceX’s Starship will change everything.

In Mahle’s Contact-Free Electric Motor, Power Reaches the Rotor Wirelessly — There’s no wear and tear. No rare earths, either.

Scientists catch exciting magnetic waves in action ‐ Researchers have confirmed the existence of magnetic plasma waves in the Sun’s photosphere.

New Black Hole Math Closes Cosmic Blind Spot — A mathematical shortcut for analyzing black hole collisions works even in cases where it shouldn’t.

Mammals can breathe through anus in emergencies — Japanese scientists who studied an unusual method of delivering oxygen in mammals hope to one day try it in people. Another link.

The Largest Cells on Earth (Apr 2021) — Deep in the ocean abyss, xenophyophores can grow as large as basketballs.

From apes to birds, there are 65 animal species that ‘laugh’ — Laughter is spread widely across mammals and occurs in birds too.

Highest ever energy light captured by Chinese mountain observatory — Brightest cosmic light detected on Tibetan Plateau may help rewrite laws of physics. Another link.

Can Machines Control Our Brains? — Advances in brain-computer interface technology are impressive, but we’re not close to anything resembling mind control.

Securing a swift return: how a simple brick can help migratory birds — Hollow rectangular bricks help offset habitat loss.

Quantum machine learning hits a limit — A new theorem has poked a hole in the accepted understanding about information scrambling.


Inside an International Tech-Support Scam — How a computer hacker infiltrated a phone scam operation to expose fraudsters and their schemes.

Why We Need To Adopt The 3-Year Rule Into Our Lives — A lot can happen in three years if we stick to something long enough. Or nothing at all if we just let the time slip on by.

Programming and Writing — Programming big systems and writing novels have many common traits and similar processes.

Stop Spending Time on Things You Hate (Apr 2021) — Your time on Earth is precious and limited. Here’s how to waste it.

The Memex Method — Your blog is a public searchable retrospective database.

Prioritise The Highest Order Bit (Apr 2021) — Why focusing on the most important thing often means letting other things blow up.

You Probably Won’t Change Your Mind After Reading This — The availability and understanding of information might not directly shape beliefs and preferences.

Saying the difficult things — The valuable part is the flip side of that. It’s saying the things that are difficult to say, because that’s what actually builds up the trust.

The Transitory Nature of Content on the Internet — We are told that content posted on the Internet lasts forever but nothing is eternal, not even on the Internet.

Avoiding the Frigid Hellscape of Online Marketing — An Internet Marketer Offered Me $100 to Betray Myself and My Community.

Using AirTags to detect stationary iPhones — Leave an AirTag in a room or house and you can infer whether it’s unoccupied.

the famine of big thinking — We build what technology companies, investors, and tech-savvy people want, but not what humans and society need.

Clarity is an underrated skill — Being able to define a problem or explain a scenario clearly, precisely and unambiguously is something every developer should strive for.


Spectrogram — Music is for everyone. Play with simple experiments that let anyone, of any age, explore how music works.


If you enjoyed these stories, I’d love it if you shared this newsletter with a friend or two.

And should you come across anything interesting in your wanderings, please email or tweet me! I’d love to give them some exposure too.

Happy reading!