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Pocket reading list - Week 4.1 of July.


The Ukrainian Hacker Who Became the FBI’s Best Weapon—And Worst Nightmare - What I find most amazing about this article is what the hacker says about his fellow mates, that all they want is a job and if they found one that paid well and was stable, they wouldn't have much need to hack and make money the illegal way. This is, in my opinion, in general true for a sizable human population that defaults to stealing and cheating to make their livelihood, because they didn't have the option to work towards a legal/stable livelihood and now they're having to make ends meet one way or another.

Canada’s $6.9 Billion Wildfire Is the Size of Delaware—and Still Out of Control - Just another reminder that Nature is a force out of our control. After settling down in every remote corner or the Earth, moving to the top of any and every food chain, we humans might feel invincible. But events like this remind us that nature around us is very fragile and can be disturbed beyond the point of return.

This wasn't a man-made problem, afaik. But there have been wild fires caused by people leaving behind cigarettes, partly burnt camp fires and what not. And wild fires actually do the forest some good, in the sense that it cleans the area and leads to new growth. But the fact that people are living in such close proximity to such areas, the fact that out settlements have given rise to conditions such that a wild fire can jump from one region to the next, leveling a large swath of land than what could've been possible had humans not meddled with the ecosystem.

Refusing to Be Measured - We are in the era of big data and all around us, people are coming up with products to quantify things, in this case, quantifying the productivity of a faculty member. While such quantification can be a good thing, for the faculty member as it can help them understand whether or not they're growing year-to-year, and for the institute to understand whether it's spending its resources intelligently or if there are avenues to improve; the exercise might lead to problems if the quantification process is faulty. If one uses solely journal publications to quantify a faculty member, they are discarding their teaching abilities. This is not to say that the publishing industry is, in itself, a mess and it can take many months to the order of years and numerous revisions for a paper to get accepted in a journal.

Solving a Century-Old Typographical Mystery - One more interesting story to have come out of the world-wide web and the digitization of literature, specifically, old papers in this case. This is the account of one man who searched through old papers looking for ads from that era. The article points out, which I agree with, that ads from a bygone era throw light on some interesting things about that time, things which might not be inferred from texts or serious literary works.

How Typography Can Save Your Life - The more I've read, the more i'm interested in how typography matters in day-to-day life. I remember reading about why comic sans is hated all around, which concluded that comic sans wasn't made for HD monitors and that when it was introduced, it was in fact the most legible font. A change in font can change a reader's mood or set the tone for the article.

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on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.



I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…