What’s in the February PragPub?

How much of your time in software development is taken up by explaining? Explaining how to build something or how something works or why something is broken — I’m guessing the answer is, a lot. And a lot rides on how well you do your explaining. The wheel will keep getting reinvented so long as somebody has the job of making a wagon and can’t understand existing wagon-making explanations.

I’m not sure I explained that well.

Fortunately, a really good explainer has taken up the task of explaining how to explain. Russ Olsen has explained Ruby and Clojure in a couple of books that merit your attention, and this month in PragPub he shares some of the things that he’s learned about building a good technical explanation. It’ll make you a better programmer.

One of the badges of a good, seasoned programmer is being able to claim that you are a full-stack developer. As Paul Butcher points out in this issue, a modern full-stack developer needs to be able to write code that runs in three very different environments: back-end, web client, and mobile client. That’s a lot to master, and anything that makes the process easier is worth its weight in pancakes.

JavaScript, the language a full-stack developer seemingly can’t avoid, doesn’t exactly make life easier, though. Can we do better? Yes, Paul says, with Clojure, the only language that offers both significant benefits over JavaScript, and is ready for production use today. That’s his claim, which he intends to justify over the next four months in a new series on full-stack Clojure, starting in this issue.

Also in this issue is a big article on discrete event simulation by Dmitry Zinoviev. Computer modeling and simulation (M&S) lets you create systems and behaviors that in unsimulated real life would be prohibitively expensive, unethical, or just impossible to build, such as a Mars rover, a centaur, or a cruel autocratic regime based on slave ownership. In his article, Dmitry shows how to do simple discrete event simulation with SimPy — an M&S module written in pure Python.

Columnist Marcus Blankenship writes about that fabled big rewrite, Antonio Cangiano has all the new tech books, your editor riffs on tech news and offers up a puzzle, and John Shade, not afraid to take on a big topic, tackles bigness itself. All in the February, 2018 PragPub.

TWiT 1/28/18

We’ve known since 1977 what a hologram should look like. A tiny blue Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan asking Obi-Wan Kenobi for help. That’s the vision. And we’re getting closer to realizing that vision. But there are a lot of technologies that represent steps along the path to the Princess image, as Mike Elgan describes, and they’re interesting in their own right.

Mike always finds interesting new technologies. Like the phone-powered nose-hair trimmer or the saliva scanner he describes in a recent blast from his site. (You may have to dig for those specific items, but you’ll unearth other gems as you do.)