Technical Blog

My commitment to intellectual integrity

23 Sep 2023
meta, academics

I got a strange email the other day. Here it is, with parts redacted: Hi there, My name is G—, I am the main editor at —————. While browsing your site, I noticed you have an amazing article from this page: Link to an extremely old post of mine My team actually just published a comprehensive article on “Semi-related title” which I think your visitors would truly appreciate and add value to your awesome article. ...

Implementing Type Systems as Macros

14 Aug 2023
computer-science, programming-languages, type-checking

There’s a neat paper Type Systems as Macros by Chang, Knauth, and Greenman [1] that describes how to implement a typed language using an untyped host language and macro expansion. The paper is neat, but I found the code hard to follow—the paper uses a compact notation that’s convenient for print, but not so much for reproducing on one’s own. This post is my attempt to implement and explain in more accessible terms what’s presented in the paper. ...

Reflections one year into a PhD program

5 Aug 2023
computer-science, education, career, school, personal

I started my PhD program about a year ago. In my first year I have: Taken 4 “normal” 3-credit-hour classes Participated in 3 seminars Switched advisors Attended 2 conferences (PLDI @ FCRC, JuliaCon) Presented my work at JuliaCon It’s been a lot of work, and there’s been a lot of stress. I’m in a much better place now than when I started, and over all I’m happy where I’m at and where I’m headed. ...

Warp Factor Refactoring in Emacs

1 Jun 2023
emacs, programming, tools

Here’s a nifty Emacs workflow for doing a project-wide search-and-replace on steroids. While I do use refactor tools that come with language servers,1 sometimes those aren’t enough. Consider the case where you not only need to change the name of a function, but also e.g. need to swap the order of two of its arguments. Or you’ve broken one function out into two that need to be chained together. Whatever—there are plenty of ways where the IDE won’t be able to do everything that you need. ...

Writing Racket Macros: define-syntax and phases

19 May 2023
computer-science, racket

There are a bunch of different ways of writing a macro in Racket. There are also some tricky things around phases to keep in mind. This is to help me keep them all straight. 3+1 ways to make a macro # This form: (define-syntax-rule (foo args ...) (use args ...)) is equivalent to: (define-syntax foo (syntax-rules () ([foo args ...] (use args ...)))) Which, is in turn equivalent to: (define-syntax foo (λ (stx) (syntax-case stx () [(gensymed-foo args . ...

Meta: Update should fix RSS feeds

13 May 2023

I recently made an update to how I build my blog. I like writing my posts with Org-mode because it provides a richer markup language than Markdown. Plus, more Emacs = more good. Hugo has support for Org files, but there was a problem with the RSS feed generation: all of my posts written in Org got truncated at some point. I don’t know if the fault lies with Hugo itself or with some problem in the theme I use—whatever it was, I don’t have the time right now to debug that and submit a good bug report or a fix. ...

The kind of thinking computer science enables

11 May 2023
computer-science, education

I believe computer science plays as integral of a part to a well-rounded liberal arts education as does mathematics and linguistics. Why? A liberal arts education is designed to help you think in new and better ways. Computer science teaches novel ways of thinking, reasoning, and approaching problems that are hard to get anywhere else. I took a class on pedagogy when I encountered this puzzle. I answered the question easily, and I caught myself using reasoning patterns from work in programming coming to the forefront. ...

Using a Real Mail Client with Outlook

3 May 2023
emacs, mu4e, email

I recently managed to get access to my Outlook email from Emacs. This took some doing as my university had disabled app passwords. I consider Outlook to be harmful, but inasmuch as companies and schools continue to enforce OAUTH-only authentication with email systems, it is good to find workarounds. This is how I set up email sending/receiving on my computer running macOS with DavMail. I also use mbsync (confusingly also known as isync) to actually fetch my email, and mu/mu4e to index and read mail. ...

Praise for the pragmatic third camp

16 Mar 2023
programming, philosophy, business

Some years ago I came across a blog post that described programmers as being in one of three camps. It's a fun, short post, so I encourage you to go read that real quick, but the gist of it is that programmers generally fall into one of three categories according to what they primarily value: Applied mathematicians, who appreciate elegant solutions to problems. Program execution on von Neumann machines is incidental. ...

Metric Worship, or: How a bad manager wrecked a (small) company

21 Feb 2023
management, career, philosophy

The story I once worked as a part of a company with four employees, all of us programmers. We formed a sort of daughter company with a bigger—though still modest-sized—company that handled our payroll and whatnot. Our work directly helped the parent company, but we were organizationally independent development-wise. I really liked working with that small team: we had a one-hour meeting each week to plan out our work, and a short, casual stand-up each morning to get things rolling. ...