A good way to be­come a gen­er­al­ly hap­py per­son is to find your tal­ent and a way to live by it. My tal­ent is soft­ware; and writ­ing about soft­ware.

Soft­ware in my life­time has been most­ly a won­der­ful way to live, be­cause we're just learn­ing how to do it and any­body with some time and tal­ent and ini­tia­tive can try out any crazy idea. Most of them don't work, but that's OK.

I am oc­ca­sion­al­ly de­light­ed and of­ten ir­ri­tat­ed by my in­ter­ac­tion with com­put­er­s. We have so much pro­cess­ing pow­er and so much mem­o­ry and such great tools and we still fail, most times, to pro­duce things that are fun to use. Every time I start out with a new soft­ware tool (a video ed­i­tor, a stylesheet lan­guage, an in­stant mes­sen­ger) I know in ad­vance that there are go­ing to be some mo­ments of ex­treme pain when I want to do some­thing ob­vi­ous, ba­sic, and nec­es­sary and I can't fig­ure out how to do it. Then once you know how to do it, you un­der­stand why that is the nat­u­ral and cor­rect way.

The les­son is that soft­ware is hard, that what is nat­u­ral and cor­rect is of­ten not self-evident, and that we have a lot of learn­ing to do.

I am typ­ing this on a Mac­in­tosh lap­top (beau­ti­ful LCD screen, slick pe­riph­er­al­s: good), one of the "Titanium" mod­els (s­carred and ug­ly af­ter six months' use: bad), us­ing the Emacs text ed­i­tor (in­finite­ly pow­er­ful, in­finite­ly flex­i­ble, very fast: good) in non-WYSIWYG mode (some­what crip­pled be­cause I can't use the func­tion keys as func­tion keys: bad), and will run it through a Perl script (fast, flex­i­ble, won­der­ful text-processing prim­i­tives: good) us­ing the XML::Pars­er mod­ule (I had an im­mense strug­gle with CPAN, in­volv­ing a ma­jor new Perl re­lease, to get it work­ing: bad) to gen­er­ate an HTML+CSS ren­di­tion (decent-looking "liquid" screen lay­out achieved with not too much work: good) that checks out in mul­ti­ple browsers (but Mac OS X gets con­fused about what its host­name is ev­ery time I take it some­where else and the DHCP re­set­s: bad).

That's just the way it is.

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
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