Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Ada as a Second Language, Second Edition

I'm still working my way slowly through Cohen's Ada as a Second Language, Second Edition. Ada takes a much more conservative approach to reliability than any of the BCPL/C languages (including Java), and in some cases more even than the Pascal/Modula/Oberon languages, so there are more restrictions on how some things are treated. Looking carefully at the language, I can understand the reasons for the restrictions, but abiding by them takes more up-front planning than is promoted by the BCPL/C languages. Is the additional effort worth the extra reliability for general purpose applications programming? That's what I hope to find out. It's easy to see, now that I'm back to using a language that doesn't include garbage collection as part of the standard, how much easier garbage collection makes interface design; Modula-3 or Java have a definite advantage here.

Recent Reading

  • The Anubis Slayings, by P.C. Doherty. This is the third in Doherty's series of enjoyable mysteries set in ancient egypt during the reign of Hatusu (or Hatshepsut) and featuring Amerotke, the chief judge of Egypt. In this book Amerotke must deal with compilcations and murder resulting from diplomatic negotions for a peace treaty with the defeated ing Tushratta of Mitanni.

Recent Reading

  • Blood and Fog, by Nancy Holder. This Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel was mentioned briefly on a newsgroup or mailing list I read (I can't remember which) and sounded interesting (a Victorian Slayer and Jack the Ripper), so I when I saw it at the library I checked it out. It was ok, but nothing special.

  • Poets and Murder, a Judge Dee mystery by Robert van Gulik.

  • Empire from the Ashes, by David Weber. This is an omnibus edition of Mutineers' Moon, The Armageddon Inheritance, and Heirs of Empire. Straightforward, well written military science fiction.

Software Engineering; Recent Listening

Software Engineering is not (yet) Engineering

SWEBOK, the IEEE Computer Society's Guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge, is available as a public draft for trial. It is written to be the basis for licensing software engineering professionals.

I do not think that "Software Engineering" is mature enough that it is an actual engineering discipline, and I do not think that "Software Engineers" should be licensed, although I would not be upset if governments refuse to allow computer programmers to be called "Software Engineers" because they aren't licensed engineers.

The ACM does not promote licensing of software engineers.

Cem Kaner's thoughts on SWEBOK are interesting.

Recent Listening

Current Listening and Recent Reading

Current Listening

  • whites off earth now!!, the trinity session, the caution horses, black eyed man by the Cowbody Junkies.

Recent Reading

  • Ada as a Second Language, Second Edition, by Norman Cohen.

    Weighing in at three ounces heavier than The C++ Programming Language by Bjarne Stroustrup, Ada as a Second Language seems to be at least as complete for Ada 95 as Stroustrup's book was for C++. It's definitely the book to have for a complete explanation of Ada 95, and it's well written and clear.

GtkAda and Recent Reading


The GtkAda folks have released a new version of GtkAda for Gtk+-2.2 and it includes an easily installed binary release. It looks to me like the easiest way to get started writing cross-platform Gtk+ programs is to install GNAT 3.15p and GNATWIN then install the new GtkAda release. Reasonably complete examples are included in the distribution.

Recent Reading

  • The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin. I was very glad to see that there were still Earthsea tales that LeGuin wanted to tell. Both of these books are quite good.

  • A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer. This is a very entertaining Ruritanian fantasy in an alternate world with a touch of magic. I've enjoyed her other works as well: The Serpent's Egg, When the King Comes Home, and Sorcery and Cecelia (co-written with Patricia C. Wrede). I haven't read River Rats yet, though.

  • The Haunted Monastery, a Chinese Detective Story, by Robert van Gulik. An enjoyable Judge Dee mystery.

Recent Reading

  • The Light Ages by Ian R. MacLeod. Well written and interesting, but ultimately rather depressing.

  • A Regimental Affair by Allan Mallinson.

  • Slayer's Handbook for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Roleplaying Game, from Eden Studios. Writers: C.J. Carella, Timothy S. Brannon, David F. Chapman. Editors: M. Alexander Jurkat, David F. Chapman. At 156 pages, this slick, color hardback is a little smaller than I'd like to have seen, but it's well written and full of useful ideas, especially for the Director who is looking for ideas for a new Series. It has several good ideas for alternate Buffyverses.

Recent Reading; Computing: Ada

Recent Reading

  • Honorable Company by Allan Mallinson.

  • The Haunted Monastery by Robert Hans Van Gulik. This is one of Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries, set in ancient China. Very good.

  • Ada 95: The Craft of Object-Oriented Programming by John English, online edition. A good introduction to Ada 95.

Computing: Ada

I've been looking at GtkAda, an Ada binding for Gtk+. It's pretty complete, and is portable between Unix and MS Windows, with a MacOS X version in the works. An explanation of how to create the environment for you'll need for using recent versions (Gtk+-2.2.x based, from CVS) with recent versions of GCC under MS Windows is available. (Update: a new binary release makes things much simpler.)

Recent Reading: Mallinson

Recent Reading

  • A Close Run Thing, by Allan Mallinson. This novel of the British Cavalry at Waterloo approaches its subject more in the manner of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin books than that of Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe books, and is a welcome entry into the field for that alone. I don't think Mallison pulls this off as well as O'Brian did, but the books are still worth reading.