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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Continuity. Previously, I was a Software Developer at Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.


Traveling Ruby: self-contained, portable Ruby binaries

by Ben

Traveling Ruby lets you create self-contained Ruby app packages for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Source: Traveling Ruby: self-contained, portable Ruby binaries

Richard Stallman’s GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty

by Ben

Stallman was one of the first to grasp that, if commercial entities were going to own the methods and technologies that controlled computers, then computer users would inevitably become beholden to those entities. This has come to pass, and in spades. Most computer users have become dependent on proprietary code provided by companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google, the use of which comes with conditions we may not condone or even know about, and can’t control; we have forfeited the freedom to adapt such code according to our needs, preferences, and personal ethics. “With software,” Stallman still frequently observes, “either the users control the program, or the program controls the users.”

Source: Richard Stallman’s GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty – The New Yorker

Chrome dropping support for OSX 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8

by Ben

Today, we’re announcing the end of Chrome’s support for Windows XP, as well as Windows Vista, and Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8, since these platforms are no longer actively supported by Microsoft and Apple. Starting April 2016, Chrome will continue to function on these platforms but will no longer receive updates and security fixes.

Source: Google Chrome Blog: Updates to Chrome platform support

Snow Leopard (10.6) is the Windows XP of the Mac world in many ways. A surprising 10% or so of Mac users are still using it and presumably unable to upgrade, either because they are using an early 32-bit Intel Mac or are using a 64-bit Mac that Apple decided not to support with Mavericks (10.9). (This includes most polycarbonate MacBooks and other models, including those without enough RAM.) If you are running a version of OSX before 10.9, the simplest way to ensure continued support would be to switch to Firefox. (You could also use Windows or a flavor of Linux, both of which would provide a supported version of Chrome on older Mac hardware, but that does mean leaving OSX behind.)

It’s unfortunate that Google is dropping Chrome support, and that Apple left particular Macs behind, especially since some older Apple models will run 10.11 just fine. I find it ironic that Microsoft Windows still supports the same hardware that Apple has abandoned, as it could have run OSX 10.9.

The history of grep, the 40 years old Unix command

by Ben

“grep was a private command of mine for quite a while before i made it public.” -Ken Thompson

Source: The history of grep, the 40 years old Unix command

What can a technologist do about climate change?

by Ben

Many household things that consume significant energy — air conditioner, water heater, clothes dryer, electric vehicle charger — have some tolerance in when they actually need to run. You don’t care exactly when your electric car is charging as long as it’s charged in the morning, and you don’t care exactly when your water heater is heating, as long as the tank stays hot.

If your water heater could talk to your neighbor’s water heater and agree to avoid heating water at the same time, it would flatten out the demand curve, and help avoid the ups and downs that must be serviced by peaker plants. The water heater could also work aggressively when solar power was plentiful and hold back when clouds went by, to match the intermittency of renewables and require less energy storage.

Source: What can a technologist do about climate change? A personal view.

There’s a huge amount of information about solving climate change in this article. I highly recommend taking a look at it if you’re interested in such things, even just to be humbled by it. There’s a lot to do over the next 15-25 years, so let’s get started!

Choose Boring Technology

by Ben

Let’s say every company gets about three innovation tokens. You can spend these however you want, but the supply is fixed for a long while. You might get a few more after you achieve a certain level of stability and maturity, but the general tendency is to overestimate the contents of your wallet. Clearly this model is approximate, but I think it helps.

If you choose to write your website in NodeJS, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to use MongoDB, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to use service discovery tech that’s existed for a year or less, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to write your own database, oh god, you’re in trouble.

Source: Choose Boring Technology

The slides are good too. This isn’t to say Node.js or Ruby are bad choices, but rather “don’t add new tech just because it’s shiny.”

PHP: The Right Way

by Ben

An easy-to-read, quick reference for PHP best practices, accepted coding standards, and links to authoritative PHP tutorials around the Web

Source: PHP: The Right Way

I rarely write PHP anymore, but this seems like a good resource.



Final Fantasy 7’s Cloud Coming to Super Smash Bros Wii U, 3DS

by Ben

Final Fantasy VII protagonist Cloud Strife will face off against Mario and friends.

Source: Final Fantasy 7’s Cloud Coming to Super Smash Bros Wii U, 3DS – IGN

The Doors Sing “Reading Rainbow” Theme (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

by Ben

Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’

by Ben

Magie filed a legal claim for her Landlord’s Game in 1903, more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

She created two sets of rules for her game: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents. Her dualistic approach was a teaching tool meant to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior.

Source: Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’ – The New York Times