Quotable: Ta-Nehisi Coates
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Quotable: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nahesi Coates on writing:

Writing is really hard work–mostly because thinking is really hard work. When you don’t want to do that work, but you want the meager payment it offers, the fleeting fame it brings, then you resort to thinking on the cheap. You go for shock. And you do it that way because you have nothing to offer except your rep as contrarian, and a provocateur. You do it because you are lazy.

Links from May 20
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Links from May 20

Long delayed roundup of links:

Why is MySQL more popular than PostgreSQL?
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Why is MySQL more popular than PostgreSQL?

Why is MySQL more popular than PostgreSQL? The fact that it is more popular is indisputable — take a look at MySQL’s market share page. My experience with PostgreSQL is very limited and my strongest impression was that the command line client has a weird interface, beyond that, I know little. PostgreSQL advocates are pretty convinced of its superiority over MySQL on every level.

PostgreSQL was released in its current form in January 1997. MySQL was initially released in May 1995, but the first version that saw really wide adoption — version 3.23 — came out in January 2001. I’ve always used MySQL but I never made an affirmative decision to choose it over PostgreSQL. Is there a reason why MySQL is more popular other than the power law reasons? What gave it the initial edge in adoption?

Update (5/21): This post is also being discussed at Hacker News. Check out the discussion there as well.

Boiling the frog
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Boiling the frog

Atlantic Monthly writer James Fallows is on a mission to get people to stop using the boiled frog metaphor because frogs won’t actually stay in a pot of water as the temperature rises to a boil. He proposes as an alternative a cat litter box metaphor.

Here’s an email I sent to him explaining why one is inadequate as a substitute for the other:

I don’t think the cat litter box analogy is a perfect substitute for the boiled frog. The point I take away from the litter box is that people to become accustomed to conditions that make people who are not so conditioned wince. The point of the boiled frog analogy (despite the fact that it is not scientifically accurate) is that if environmental conditions change slowly enough, people will not perceive that change until it’s too late.

If I get a job on a chicken farm, the first day it’ll smell the same as it does a year later, but it won’t bother me nearly so much. I’ve changed, but the situation has not. In the boiled frog case, it’s the environment that’s changing. So despite the fact that the analogy is nonsense, it remains useful.

I expect it’s here to stay.

Rumsfeld’s special messages to President Bush
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Rumsfeld’s special messages to President Bush

GQ has obtained one of the most astounding things I’ve seen — a series of covers from daily Pentagon intelligence reports prepared for the President during the Bush administration. Each includes a photo with some military theme and a selected Bible verse. Here’s one example:

int_report_saddam.jpg

It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the Pentagon (under Donald Rumsfeld’s guidance) was angling to play into President Bush’s well-documented belief that he was on a mission from God to take on evildoers. No matter how much we learn about the Bush administration, we always find out it was worse than it appeared.

Here’s the accompanying article.

The inevitable MySQL fork
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The inevitable MySQL fork

MySQL is near and dear to my heart — I use it for just about every project I work on. And like many people, Oracle’s acquisition of Sun leads me to worry about MySQL’s future. However, I’m not sure that the new MySQL fork from Percona and Monty Program Ab will lead us to the promised land.

What scares me most is that the new database will not support InnoDB. That makes sense, because InnoDB was already an Oracle property even before the Sun acquisition, but moving away from it will be scary for many users. Time to figure out whether Primebase XT is ready for prime time, I suppose.

Update (May 20): MariaDB will support InnoDB. See the comments.

Losing patience with Obama on gay rights
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Losing patience with Obama on gay rights

Andrew Sullivan is losing patience with the Obama administration when it comes to gay rights issues:

Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level. Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).

And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada. We’re firing Arab linguists? So sorry. We won’t recognize in any way a tiny minority of legally married couples in several states because they’re, ugh, gay? We had no idea. There’s a ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants? Really? Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to join Joe Solmonese and John Berry for cocktails? The inside of the White House is fabulous these days.

The gay rights issues Sullivan brings up are basic issues of fairness and justice, and seeing no action on them is incredibly frustrating. Politifact counts five promises that Obama made regarding gay rights issues — three have not seen any action, one (repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”) is stalled, and the other (hate crimes legislation) is rated has having been kept. Lifting the absurd immigration restrictions for HIV-positive people is not on the list.

Complaints from the left on these issues have a chance of leading to further action, so I’m complaining.

Google advertises Chrome
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Google advertises Chrome

How committed is Google to driving Chrome adoption? They’re running TV ads to get people to try it out. Farhad Manjoo speculates on why people aren’t adopting Chrome, but not so much on why Google really wants them to adopt it. I don’t think anyone has really explained what Google hopes to gain by driving adoption of its own browser — and clearly, given the TV ads, they are very committed to this project.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s far too early to write off Chrome. Google needs to worry about winning over the alpha geeks. If they can do that, larger adoption is almost certain a few years down the road.