Consider the Cheeseburger

Advertising. People in my social circle are used to thinking of it as being an awful institution: greedy, faceless, unscrupulous corporations brainwashing the susceptible masses into wasting their hard-earned money on cheap, low quality, superfluous devices for solving problems no one actually has and that don’t even work. An irritation at best, sheer deceit and manipulation at worst. But in fact, what evils afflict the institution of advertising are reflections of its poor implementation, not of its superfluity. The reason advertising exists is Read more

How to Take CSS to the Next Level

Computationally generating the semantics of a web page—the HTML—has become the standard modus operandi on the web. No serious web developer writes by hand the HTML that their server sends to the browser anymore; invariably, some template engine or other generator intermediates, removing tedium and adding flexibility and power. The same thing is slowly happening to the presentation layer as well—the CSS. This article discusses the high technology that can be brought to bear on computed web layout and styling, both as an advertisement for some impressive existing tools and as a call to action for toolsmiths to fill the gaps I observe. Read more

Cleverness of Compilers 2: How

The Cleverness of Compilers essay described the name of the hyperaggressive compilation game in broad, philosophical strokes. Here, I would like to walk through the Mandelbrot example in some detail, so that the interested reader may see one particular way to actually accomplish that level of optimization. Read more

On the Cleverness of Compilers

The “Sufficiently Clever Compiler” has become something of a trope in the Lisp community: the mythical beast that promises language and interface designers near-unlimited freedom, and leaves their output in a performance lurch by its non-appearance. A few years ago, I was young enough to join a research project to build one of these things. Neglecting a raft of asterisks, footnotes, and caveats, we ended up making something whose essence is pretty impressive: you pay for abstraction boundaries in compile-time resources, but they end up free at runtime. One prototype was just open-sourced recently, so that makes now a good time to talk about it. Read more

Introduction to Automatic Differentiation

Automatic differentiation may be one of the best scientific computing techniques you’ve never heard of. If you work with computers and real numbers at the same time, I think you stand to benefit from at least a basic understanding of AD, which I hope this article will provide; Read more

Digital Foxes

The successful fox must know more than the sum of what the hedgehogs know, for it must know the connections from one thing to another. This fact is key to the design of computer systems for solving certain kinds of problems. Read more