Sunday, August 12, 2018

Do NOT Use auto property

So I was writing this class and I was frustrated with the time it took to complete an operation compared to another class that I wanted to replace. Anyway, I am using Visual Studio 2017 and I get this very nice grayed out font on one of my fields and a nice suggestion complete with an automatic fix for it: "Use auto property". Why should I? Because I have a Count property that wraps a _count field and simply using the property is clearer and with less lines of code. It makes sense, right?

However, let's remember the context here: I was going for performance. So when I did ten million operations with Count++ it took 11 seconds, but when I did ten million operations with _count++ it took only 9 seconds. That's a staggering 20% increase in used resources for wrapping one field into a property.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1), by Victoria Schwab

book cover The idea is nice: multiple versions of the same city of London, somehow named the same, even when the countries and the languages and the magic is different from world to world. Then there is the magician who can go between worlds and the charismatic female thief who accidentally steals from him exactly in the moment of a great change in the structure of power between these worlds.

While I liked the idea and even enjoyed the characters, I felt like Victoria Schwab was more in love with the story than with the characters. Barely sketched, they do things because they do things, not because of an inner drive that makes a lot of sense for them. Even the villains are standard psychopaths doing bad things because they like doing bad things. Plus they kind of suck. I liked A Darker Shade of Magic, I think I may read the rest of the series, but I barely managed to feel anything for the characters. Whenever something needed to happen, some prop or person appeared right then and there. Everybody had stunted emotions that only seemed to push people to action when the plot required it, rather than as a natural consequence of feeling something and plot holes were a plenty.

The bottom line is that I can't recommend this book to anyone, even if I enjoyed reading it.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Facebook are asses and IFTTT messed up, so there might be some issues with my blog posts on Facebook

On the 3rd of August I get this email from IFTTT, a service I have been using to automatically post Blogger posts to Facebook: Hello siderite,

Facebook has recently made significant changes to their platform. One of those changes includes removing the ability for third party applications, like IFTTT, to publish status messages, link posts, and photos on your behalf to your personal Facebook profile.

The following three Facebook actions will be removed from IFTTT starting today, along with any Applets that used them:
  • Create a status message
  • Create a link post
  • Upload a photo from URL

While it’s unfortunate to see some of your favorite Applets removed, we support Facebook’s decisions to evolve their platform in the way they best see fit.

Thank you for your understanding.
The IFTTT Team

It was nice that at least they warned me, but how can anyone imagine that the best way to announce breaking changes in your clients' systems is to write an email that says "from this very second we are going to rip it all away from you"? Even funnier, they link to this Facebook policy change link that was published on April 24th and which announces their own breaking changes starting from the 1st of August. See, IFTTT? This is how you warn your customers: three months in advance.

Strangely enough, some of the applets work, while some just disappeared. I don't mean disabled, I mean completely gone, with no trace or warning on what they had been. Probably these will soon be gone as well. So expect (from this very second) that blog posts will not appear regularly on Facebook until I fix the problem with my own tool. On the other hand, you can always subscribe to the blog itself via RSS, a well proven technology ever since 1999 (that's the reason they partied then). You know that something is good quality when engineers name it: the first letter of its acronym comes from another acronym and when you don't understand what it means even if you have all the words.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

book cover Imagine Me Gone is one of those books that I thought I should read because it received prizes for great writing. Maybe I'm too stupid to understand why something that doesn't say anything in the first 5% of it is a good book. The subject is great, too: a family of five people that each describe their lives while battling crippling depression.

I think Adam Haslett found a good way to convey depression: talk endlessly about random pointless things, describe the weather, the way light bounces off of things no one cares about, don't actually express anything or mention anything interesting and occasionally say something really heavy or personally relevant with the same boring and bored rhythm and style. It makes sense, it's the way people feel when in the thralls of this terrible affliction: nothing matters, nothing stands out, it's all grey and pointless. However, a good book means more than just making the reader feel suicidal, it has to have some story to care about, some characters that stand out, anything than just forcing the reader to fight throwing away the book in boredom.

That is why I couldn't even begin to finish the book. I wasn't interested in the depressed description of someone I couldn't care less about, talking about how she handles the depression of others. I can only assume that the high marks for the book are coming either from writing that went completely over my head or from people who were affected by mental illness in the family and read about themselves and got the book. My family is not without its share of psychological problems, but I've had just about enough of it as it is.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Revenger (Revenger #1), by Alastair Reynolds

book cover I've read some books in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation series and I more or less liked them. So when I've heard of a new book from the same author I've decided to try it. The result is mixed. For most of Revenger I disliked the characters and the story, but the ideas in it made me want to see what was going to happen next.

What you need to understand is that this is a straight pirate story, only set in the future and in space. It starts with two girls that decide to leave their world and join a spaceship crew in order to make some money. Only they get jumped by pirates, so one of the girls must fight the system and her own nature to become hard enough to find the pirates and save her sister.

The problem is that the characters are hard to empathize with, are pretty inconsistent and always stretch belief in this world in which space crews are uneducated louts speaking in jargon and going from world to world in search for ancient technology they cannot understand that was left by long gone alien races. The only part of the book that made me want to read the next one was the very end, the rest was people acting weird, not thinking too much and speaking a lot.

Bottom line: I can't recommend the book. I might read the next one, after all the books in Revelation Space had wildly varying degrees of quality. The ideas are nice, the implementation is what hurts the book.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sovereign (Nemesis #2), by April Daniels

book cover I liked Dreadnought, the first book in the Nemesis series. It was fresh, with a sympathetic character that went through some major changes in life. The team was interesting, the villain, too. A bit too female centered, a bit naive, but hey: it's about a teenage transgender superhero. What could I have expected? It says something about the book that I read the next one in the series.

Unfortunately, I almost disliked Sovereign. The discussions about weird sexuality (without actual sex scenes) and the characters that are connected to transgender issues increased, the character development stalled, some people simply disappeared (Danny's parents say two phrases in total in one appearance), the villain's motivation is stupid, the heroics are random and the drama and tension that should have kept a reader to the edge of the seat, curious to see what will happen next, are almost non existent. When people die, the heroes kind of shrug it off: "oh, we killed some people. Sucks!" Not an actual quote, but it felt like this. And the only reason why they find out about the villainous plan is because the head vil is literally inviting Danielle to his mansion to explain said plan. Some things happen just because the story couldn't go on without them, and it's painfully obvious. I understand April Daniels may have identified too much with her characters and is not eager to torture them, but the book felt like a kiddie show in written form.

I finished the book, but I won't be interested in the future of the series. And it's too bad. I felt that this concept was going places.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Winter Tide and The Litany of Earth (The Innsmouth Legacy #1), by Ruthanna Emrys

book cover Ruthana Emrys wrote the short story The Litany of Earth as a reinterpretation of Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth, where the people of Innsmouth were actually the victims of persecution from the government. Extending the story to the first book in a trilogy, Winter Tide acts as a sequel to the Lovecraft short, telling the story of some of the few people of the water working with the US government to investigate the misuse of their magical rituals.

If in Shadow over Innsmouth, the horrible fish people were being righteously rounded up by the authorities and interned into camps, their town and traditions forcibly destroyed, in this book they are the victims of persecution, a subspecies of humans that just wants to be left alone. Their magical rituals are more about communion than power, but some of them can be terribly misused, like the body swap technique. This gives the author opportunity to add to the story the Yith, ancient race of mind travelers who have the only concern to archive the experiences of sapient beings before they go extinct - with the added horror that they face any extinction event themselves by mass swapping into another civilization, leaving those poor souls displaced in unfamiliar bodies and facing certain doom - depicted by Lovecraft in The Shadow Out of Time, as well as hint of a body swap misused as means of trying to achieve immortality, as told by Lovecraft in The Thing on the Doorstep. So when one of the last females of the water people is asked to help by an FBI agent, she decides to put aside her distrust and horror and help the ones who murdered her people in the purpose of at least preserving her race's reputation and preventing the use of their magical arts in the terrible world wars the air people were waging.

You have to admit when you think Lovecraft, you don't often imagine a gay female author writing about the importance of diversity, community and love, yet this is what Winter Tide is. And it has a quintessentially female style of writing, where the lead character helps the people she should normally hate in order to bring peace, she solves problems by bringing people together and treating them with familial love and encouraging their differences rather than using violence. Her purposes are selfless and she wields power not as a sword, but as shelter.

While the style felt a little too formal and the pace was rather slow at the beginning, I found myself wanting more by the end of the book. It felt like a strange melange of Lovecraftian lore, notoriously difficult to bring to a modern form - yet Emrys did it effortlessly - and a style of writing that brought it back to a more ancient feel, thus relating modern themes in a work that still tastes like Lovecraft. The second book in the series, Deep Roots, just came out and I intend to read it as well.