Friday, October 20, 2006

Close to the machine

I have just finished reading a book called "Close to the machine" by Ellen Ullman. Ellen is a software engineer who owns a virtual company that writes code for people who want it. The book is a strange mixture of literate musing of being alone in an electronic world and about the joys of hacking code. Her company is a small start up with essentially no staff. If she needs people for a contract she hires some temps for a while. I particulary liked the parts where she is worried about being left behind in the software world. The ever changing world of computers and software takes it toll. There are also some good scenes where she is managimg projects and has to prove herself to a coder who is stick with a bug with his visual basic program. At some point, she just seems to lose the need to learn new things when a company come in with some new technolgy that she can't be bothered to learn. Luckily she gets a grip and carries on. Now that I have more free time, I feel bad because I still don't have time to learn about the latest fads, such as Ruby and schematron. It doesn't help matters when Amazon keep recommending books about the Ruby programming language. As Ellen notes the fear keeps us going, even when it is clear we are being out hacked. The book is also political. When she was young she was a communist and feminist activist. However, as she gets older she drifts more to Anachro-Capitalism and kindness. Perhaps as we all do. In the post I got a copy of the "the art of unix programming" by Eric Rayomnd. Even if I read this I am nore I can catch up.