The Most Fun You Can Have With a Computer

03 Jan

Early 2014 I needed to write a website transaction monitor, that receives instructions on transactions to perform on websites using a real web browser. It performs the transactions and verifies that the website is working. Examples of transactions include log in to a website to verify that users can still login, or checkout on an e-commerce site to verify that the shopping cart is working. Being mostly an OOP programmer (with Ruby exposure to high order functions and anonymous functions), I quickly realized that my imperative style of programming would not be sufficient for this project. This program needed to be declarative and correctness was extremely important.

It was time to search for solutions outside the Ruby community and outside any community that favors OOP or imperative programming.

I first turned to the Common Lisp community searching for enlightenment, I started with the book “Practical Common Lisp” by Peter Seibel. Common Lisp seemed cool, way more capable than Ruby but I wasn’t feeling any enlightenment. My biggest problem with Common Lisp was that the language and its tooling is outdated in today’s modern programming world. Luckily I found and switched to Scheme.

After reading the book “Simply Scheme – 2nd Edition: Introducing Computer Science” by Brian Harvey, Lisp clicked in my brain, I got my first spark of Lisp enlightenment. I then read the “The Little Schemer” by Daniel P. Friedman, which is now one of my favorites books. Scheme became my favorite programming language.

Next I read the Wizard book, “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs” by Harold Abelson, then came the next level of enlightenment. Few chapters into the book I found answer to writing my declarative website transaction monitor. In a few lines of code, I wrote a website transaction monitor that works like a tiny lisp interpreter, takes instructions for transactions in the form of S-expressions which gets evaluated and performed on a website using a real web browser. This was written in Ruby available here on github, its part of a bigger project I’m working on and i’m still going to be cleaning it up.

At that point I was all about Lisp, I tried to see if I can use Scheme in the real world. Chicken Scheme is a good implementation to use for real world Scheme apps but around that same time, I discovered Clojure.

Clojure and its tooling is modern, and even got some inspiration from Rails and the Ruby Community. Clojure has programmer happiness in mind. I started learning Clojure bought the books “Programming Clojure” by Stuart Halloway, “The Joy of Clojure” by Michael Fogus, “Clojure Cookbook: Recipes for Functional Programming” by Luke VanderHart. Published my first Clojar little-couch, which is a simple port of my RubyGem Leanback from Ruby to Clojure. All just for fun.

I write Ruby code fulltime at my day job, my side projects are 99% Ruby, I’m heavily invested in the Ruby ecosystem, and Rails is still a powerhouse in web development, Rails is always a safe bet when building a web application, most problems you run into have already been solved by Rails. These are strong arguments for me sticking around with Ruby otherwise I would switch to Clojure/functional programming and never look back.

I wanted to experience a pure functional language, so I started learning Haskell, read and still reading “Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!: A Beginner’s Guide” by Miran Lipovaca. I enjoyed the book but I need to read other sources to understand Monads. I plan to spend some more time playing with Haskell in 2015. To fully understand functional programming I feel I should learn a pure functional language thoroughly. For now Haskell is my first choice with OCaml a close second. I also have Elixir in mind as a language to get into at some point.

In 2014, through functional programming I re-discovered programming once again, it felt like the time I first started programming, I felt that sense of adventure and endless possibilities. 2014 was the most fun I have ever had programming. I can say with evidence, that functional programming is the most fun you can have with a computer.

Also worth mentioning, I enjoyed reading the book “Functional JavaScript: Introducing Functional Programming with Underscore.js” by Michael Fogus.

Great essay by Paul Graham on Lisp and programming languages


This thing of ours, has gone mainstream

14 Nov

You know that something has really gone mainstream when it appears on a South Park Episode. This year it appears as if Trey Parker is actively reading Hacker News. Things I thought only belonged on Hacker News front page are now appearing on South Park episodes, software is really eating the world. If you doubt it, watch south Park’s current season.

South Park Season 18
Episode 1 – Go fund yourself – about startups and crowdfunding, features kickstarter
Episode 4 – Handicar – About Car sharing, and Electric Cars features Lyft, Uber, Tesla and Elon Musk
Episode 5 – The Magic Bush – About Drones and privacy
Episode 6 – Freemium isn’t Free – About Freemium and mobile apps business models.
Last night’s episode 7 – Grounded Vindaloop – About virtual reality. Features Oculus freaking Rift.

Big question, what is Trey Parker’s Hacker News handle.

South Park is the definition of mainstream, the discussions on HN that we thought the rest of the world would not care about is now the center and focus of the mainstream. Now is definitely a good time for kids to start learning programming.


Startup idea: Elastic Cloud for Music

24 Sep

I would like to see a music streaming service with a vast music collection similar to Spotify and Rdio but instead of providing an app and charging users for subscription, this startup would simply provide an API that gives developers access to build apps with their music collection and charge developers for bandwidth and storage, similar to the way Amazon s3 charges for bandwidth and storage.

It would be like the early days of twitter when developers could plug in to twitter’s pipeline and build social apps, but the difference here is that is that this startup already has a business model. So no conflict of interest with third party developers.

With the creativity of developers I can only imagine the diversity of music apps we could see from this. Developers with special interest in certain music genres could create human curated music apps for the genre. There will be genre specific music discovery apps and music streaming apps that are tailored for specific situations.

I hope someone would build this service.


First computer scientists to win an Oscar

29 Jan
Loren Carpenter, Rob Cook and Ed Catmull

Loren Carpenter, Rob Cook and Ed Catmull

In 2001, Loren Carpenter, Rob Cook, and Ed Catmull of Pixar won an Oscar for significant advancements to the field of motion picture rendering. It was the first time for software developers to win an Oscar.

April 2001 IEEE Spectrum

The above is the cover of April 2001 IEEE Spectrum magazine,  I still remember it,  I was a computer science student in Nsukka, Nigeria, back then, and I remember, this cover and this article in the magazine, was among the most inspirational things I ever read as a computer science major in Nigeria.

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Posted in Business


Most Hated Programming Languages on Hacker News

11 Oct

From the recent poll on Hacker News “Poll: What are your liked and disliked programming languages?” I compiled a list of all the programming languages ordered by the percentage of their dislike votes. Cobol & Coldfusion are the two most hated languages with 94% dislikes. C & Python still gets a lot of love as the two most liked languages. I find it strange that my favorite language Ruby is not even in the top 15 most liked. Most Rubyists believe Ruby is the best scripting language to ever run on a computer, but 38% of these votes don’t agree, Ruby and Javascript are tied at 38% dislikes.

Complete list (Ordered by Percentage of Dislike votes:
Cobol – 94%
Coldfusion – 94%
Visual Basic – 88%
actionscript – 82%
PHP – 76%
Rexx – 72%
Groovy – 69%
Fortran – 67%
Java – 67%
Tcl – 64%
Perl – 61%
Delphi – 60%
C++ – 58%
Objective-C – 58%
CoffeeScript – 55%
Pascal – 48%
ada – 47%
R – 45%
Shell – 44%
D – 39%
Other – 39%
JavaScript – 38%
Ruby – 38%
Scala – 38%
Forth – 31%
Smalltalk – 30%
Assembly – 29%
C# – 29%
SQL – 28%
Ocaml – 27%
F# – 27%
Go – 24%
Erlang – 23%
Clojure – 21%
Rust – 21%
Haskell – 20%
Lisp – 18%
Lua – 16%
Scheme – 15%
Python – 13%
C – 12%


Intel’s Original Business plan

14 Sep

Intel’s original one page double-spaced business plan for investors, as typed by Robert Noyce:
intel original business paln

Something Ventured
– Intel Museum and Darius Mahdjoubi, October 2005

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Posted in Business


Ruby Class Variables in the main context

05 Sep

Since ruby class variables belong to the class hierarchy, all objects in that class hierarchy all the way up to ruby’s main object, share the same class variable. This could lead to unexpected behavior, especially since the class variable can be modified in the main context. See below modifying @@name in the main context changes its value on all objects.

class Cat
class Tiger < Cat
  def me
    @@name = 'tiger'
  def show
tiger =
#=> "tiger"
#=> "tiger" 
class Cat
  def me
    @@name = 'cat'
  def show
cat =
#=> "cat"
#=> "cat"
#=> "cat"
@@name = 'animal'
#=> "animal"
#=> "animal"
#=> "animal"

Coffeescript Cheatsheet for JQuery

02 Sep

Corrections and suggestions are welcome.


More readable Javascript code

30 Aug
// BAD
$( document ).ready(function() {
    $( "#magic" ).click(function( event ) {
        $( "#yayeffects" ).slideUp(function() {
            // ...
    $( "#happiness" ).load( url + " #unicorns", function() {
        // ...
var PI = {
    onReady: function() {
        $( "#magic" ).click( PI.candyMtn );
        $( "#happiness" ).load( PI.url + " #unicorns", PI.unicornCb );
    candyMtn: function( event ) {
        $( "#yayeffects" ).slideUp( PI.slideCb );
    slideCb: function() { ... },
    unicornCb: function() { ... }
$( document ).ready( PI.onReady );



gem install worldpeace

06 Aug

What’s the one gem you wish existed but doesn’t?

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