Lenny Domnitser’s
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This is a static archive of the domnit.org blog,
which Lenny Domnitser wrote between 2006 and 2009.

My Mind is Blown

If you like computer languages, set aside 40 minutes and watch the Subtext demo video, and then a few hours to digest it. Thanks to Eileen Head for telling me about it. (Disclosure: I’m enrolled in her class.)

I was skeptical about a visual programming language, since the ones I’ve played with—Lego Mindstorms and Yahoo Pipes—just got in the way. This one looks better—the environment provides impressive static analysis magical, and the direct editing of the program tree looked like Lisp. (This is based on my meager exposure to Lisp. (I can’t help but make a Lisp joke here. (Can you see it? (No?))))

When the video got to the central idea, though, I realized that Jonathan Edwards is a genius.

In every programming language I’ve seen, when the program must behave non-linearly, there is either code duplication or mental jumps that must be made between parts of the program. Subtext lays out a program in 2 dimensions, with deciding and doing on orthogonal axes. Of course, the underlying execution still requires duplication and jumping, but the mental model has neither.

There is a theory that a programmer must be able to load an entire program into his mind to understand the context he is working in. That may be true for 1-dimensional text languages, but Subtext’s seem to present all the context one needs in a clear and compact 2-D table.

Visual languages are probably not the future of programming. I think much of what is impressive about Subtext is the development environment, and text languages can probably come close to Subtext. Lisp looks the closest, but I have a lot to learn about Lisp and other languages before I can form a real conclusion.

I am eager for a public release of Subtext, but even if no significant program is ever written in the language, it brings up questions we thought were closed, and proposes a revolutionary and elegant alternative to the 1-D world view programmers have had.

sudo aptitude install python-stepic

That command won’t work quite yet, but Stepic will be in the next releases of Debian and Ubuntu. Thanks to Scott Kitterman for contacting me about this back in November, and doing the necessary technical and bureaucratic work to put my code in the world’s best Linux distributions.

I’m in college, so this should be rather helpful when I’m applying for jobs or grad school.

19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots

The Boston Globe’s prewritten book about the Patriots’ hypothetical Superbowl win was pulled from Amazon. Foreseeing this, I grabbed a screenshot and saved the cover.

Cover:

19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England's Unbeatable Patriots

It’s kinda blurry, looks like it says “unseatable”, not “unbeatable”.

Screenshot: click through to see.

Highlights from the Amazon page:

Prewritten

The Associated Press prewrites obituaries for young, self-destructive celebrities.

The Boston Globe wrote a book about the Patriots’ hypothetical undefeated season. My favorite part:

Amazon.com screenshot. For sale: Patriots 19-0 Historic Championship book bundled with NY Giants: 2008 Superbowl Champions