Random Links on Writing (Technical) Books

I stumbled upon a blog post by Baron Schwartz, the author of High Performance MySQL, today apropos of nothing. He wrote about his experiences writing the book in What is it like to write a technical book? His editor followed up and Baron finished with some final comments. I’ve always liked writing and found this long post very informative – and, as a geek, I especially liked his use of regular expressions to catch some bad habits he had.

This is turn led me to What I’ve Earned (And Learned) From Writing “Beginning Ruby” by Peter Cooper. Although, I must confess, I’m somewhat uncomfortable with his position on pirating his own book.

The conclusion I draw from these and other posts is that unless you have an extremely popular technical book, don’t give up your day job. Looks like I’ll be shepherding packets and wrangling servers for some time to come!

If these posts were of interest, then these may also be:

So I’ve Made the Switch from SVN to Git…

…and I’m bloody delighted. 

The straw finally came when Nick forced my hand for a project we wanted to release through our work in INEX. I was pushing for Google Code but he had his heart set on GitHub. Now, in fairness, GitHub has some SVN bindings but after some research, I decided to dive right in.

Now, there’s both a steep learning curve but also a complete change of mindset required from centralised source code management (SCM) with SVN to the distributed model of Git. In the end, most projects will decide on a canonical Git repository anyway which pushes you slightly back towards centralised but there’s still a world of a difference.

So, what’s so good about Git? Well, lots. But first and foremost is it’s exceptionally powerful yet simple branching and merging that just works. And works fast – remember, with Git everything is local.

One work flow that used to kill me in SVN was that you’d be implementing feature X but someone needed bug Y fixed immediately involving some of the same code. Getting just the fix for Y in was tough and complicated. And branching in SVN isn’t quick or simple. In Git, I branch from the main development branch for every new feature, bug fix, etc and then merge what I need between them and back into develop when they’re ready to be pushed back to the agreed canonical repository.

I’ve been so impressed with Git that I’ve moved an open source project we created in Open Solutions over to Github: ViMbAdmin. I’ve also forced the rest of my team in Open Solutions over to Git and migrated a number of customer projects already. And we’re reaping productivity rewards!

How we work Git for projects was taken from this excellent post which I would fully recommend: A successful Git branching model.

Useful Git Links:

An Apology to Wesley… ish…

I wrote in my last blog (and first for quite a while) that “to be clear – I always hated Acting-Ensign Wesley Crusher.” Strong words. So Wil’s book arrived from Amazon yesterday and I finished it this morning. And, 267 pages later, I’m feeling a little guilty about my clarity above.

[Just A Geek] Wil’s book is good. Very good – it’s the first book in a long time and only auto-biography that I read cover to cover over the course of a evening/morning. It’s very much about the battle between embracing the legacy of being a Star Trek actor and trying to get away from it. About coming to terms with the decision to leave the show and dealing with the consequences. In Wil’s words, it’s about angst. But I’m not writing a review here. It’s about far more than his experiences with Star Trek and if you were even remotely a Trekkie or just interested in a good and true story, go buy it. The link/image to the right for the book I’m talking about is taken from Wil’s own site and so hopefully he’s up for merchant royalties if you choose to buy via clicking here.

A recurring theme in the book is the many many times Wil took shit for all the people that hated Wesley. From his own blog and also reproduced in the book:

“So you didn’t like my fucking character on a fucking TV show I haven’t even worked on in Ten. Fucking. Years. Thank you for blaming ME for the writing of a fictional character, on a fictional TV show. That makes complete sense, considering all the input the writers would take from a 15 year old kid. Have you ever bothered to ask? Did it ever occur to you that I just said the lines I was given? I’m sorry Wesley messed up your precious television show. Fortunately, there were whole seasons after I quit, without me. So you can watch them, and feel better. But don’t take it out on me. I’m just an actor, doing the best job he could with what he was given. So I worked on a TV show. So I have made a living as an actor. Big deal. I’m no better than anyone else, and I have never said I was, or thought I was…

“Congratulations, sir. I’m glad that your empty, pathetic existence is made whole by shitting on a person who you’ve never even met.

“You know, I promised myself that I wouldn’t get into this. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get sucked in to the mire with the lowest common denominators. Well, guess what, guys? I don’t care if you’re “The Guy From TV” or if you’re “The kid from math class”. Being personally attacked hurts. It sucks. I wonder, do you spend a fifth of the time you spend dumping on me doing something constructive with your life? I certainly hope so.”

Now, I don’t feel guilty about the above. I clearly made the distinction between character and actor in my post. But I do feel a bit guilty and I empathise with Wil that there are so-called Trekkies out there that wouldn’t or couldn’t make this distinction and, furthermore and worse, would take it out on the actor. Gobshites.

I also stand over my cringe and credibility comments about Wesley yesterday but I didn’t go on to say that, to be fair, the character grew up over the years. In particular, I thought The First Duty was a great episode and it showed Wesley as a real person. It also had a fantastic scene between Picard and Wesley where Picard lectures Wesley about duty and truth. We saw the boy become a man and face his fears on the Battle Bridge in possibly the best two-part TNG episode of all time, The Best of Both Worlds. The Game was also a good episode but that may have had more to do with Robin Lefler (Ashley Judd) than Wesley 😉