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Picture Me Coding

Author: Erik Aker and Mike Mull

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Picture Me Coding is a music podcast about software. Each week your hosts Erik Aker and Mike Mull take on topics in the software world and they are sometimes joined by guests from other fields who arrive with their own burning questions about technology.

Produced by Neiko Will.

Logo and artwork by Jon Whitmire - https://www.whitmirejon.com/

Reach out to us here: podcast@picturemecoding.com

38 Episodes
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Following publication of a recent report where 80%(!) of software engineers and managers are reporting burnout, Mike and Erik take on the difficult topic of burnout in our industry. Through a discussion of the definition, causes, and frequency of this phenomenon, your Picture Me Coding hosts decide that maybe software itself is to blame! ResourcesBurnout self-test“Burnout in software engineering: A systematic mapping study“A newer and broader definition of burnout: Validation of the "Burnout ...
Did you ever wake up one day and realize your microservices architecture had transformed into a large distributed monolith? Did your boss come to your house and did your family try to disown you? Mike and Erik have lived that story too! In this episode they wade boldly into the microservices vs monoliths discussion and Mike makes the bold claim that doing microservices isn't even an architecture! Articles We Talked AboutMartin Fowler's definition"How Engineers Can Accidentally Create Di...
Mike made this argument recently that the era of the full stack developer is over. The so-called stacks are still around, but they're now surrounded by so much infrastructure and supporting technology that claiming to be full-stack is misleading. Mike wrote a whole essay about this, in fact, which you can read over here.This week, we talked about his idea that fullstack engineering is going away, and we included commentary from an essay called "The Myth of the Fullstack Developer" as we...
Why Rust?

Why Rust?

2024-05-3057:44

After a few weeks off while Mike traveled the land, your Picture Me Coding hosts are back this week with an episode about the programming language Rust. They've mentioned this language a few times and, inspired by an offhand comment Mike made about how professional software engineers should "know a compiled language," they dedcided to go deeper into the reasons why it's an attractive language and a good tool in the toolbox for any contemporary software developer.They also chat briefly about t...
This week we talked about the greatest philosopher of our field: Edsger Dijkstra. Most software engineers will immediately recall Dijkstra's Algorithm, for finding the shortest path between two nodes in a graph, but Dijkstra's work covers a large range of topics over 5 decades, from code quality to complexity to concurrent programming, and programming languages.In this episode, we talked specifically about the following works, including the original paper where Dijkstra first published what w...
The XZ Apocalypse

The XZ Apocalypse

2024-04-1045:03

A week ago a developer in San Francisco named Andres Freund found a backdoor in SSH which would grant some shadowy figure access to Linux machines running the latest version of a library called liblzma. Even more incredibly, there were various semi-anonymous figures clamoring for inclusion of this compromised version of liblzma into the latest version of various Linux distros. This entire scheme had been underway for over three years before it fell apart under Freund's scrutiny and...
Along with our friend Bob Farzin, we visit upon the sleeping body of AI three ghosts this week: one for the past, one for the present, and one for the future. We make a sincere attempt to haunt the crap out of LLMs like GPT, Claude, and Github Copilot and to give them a truly spooky, creeped out feeling as they look upon what they're doing to their industry. What skills will we need in the future if AI writes all of our code for us? What's going to happen to our tools, our programming languag...
The Ethical Engineer

The Ethical Engineer

2024-03-2053:13

In our industry there are myriad examples of companies behaving unethically, so what power do we have as software engineers to uphold ethical principles and resist bad behavior? In this episode Mike and Erik look at adopting a software engineering code of ethics, relying primarily on the ACM's Code of Ethics as a foundational set of guidelines for ethical and professional behavior. Also, we're not really known for this but it's worth mentioning that this episode may include some hot takes? I ...
Mike's out this week so Erik went into his backyard and talked about famous Naturalists while birds chirped in the background. It's short and unexpected!
It’s a very old software engineering question: should we build the thing or buy the thing? Fred Brooks says "you should always buy." This may even be an existential question: my role is to build things, not to buy them, right? Why would I ever buy anything? According to Mike, learning to answer the "Build or Buy" is an essential part of becoming a software engineer, so we'll try to answer it for you definitively this week!Erik has been listening to Ovlov's Buds while Mike ...
In which Mike and Erik try to understand what "edge computing" means and whether it's meaningful or marketing speak. The topic comes up because Mike decides to run an LLM on his laptop and it turns out that when he's doing this he's participating in edge computing!For musict his week Erik is listening to the Baroness album Stone while Mike has been into Brittany Howard's What Now.
This week Mike and Erik dig into their bookshelves to find and discuss their favorite technical books. As per usual, Mike references a bunch of stuff Erik has never heard of but one new thing this week is that Erik tries hard not to piss off Radiohead fans.Books MentionedUnix Network Programming, W. Richard StevensSoftware Architecture in Practice, Bass, Clements, KazmanFundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics, Foley and Van DamThe C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Rit...
This week Mike and Erik conclude their discussion on complexity with a review of the 2006 fan-favorite paper "Out of the Tar Pit."
As programmers, we want to control complexity and simplify our software, but these things are often hard for us to define. We know them when we see them! This week, Mike and Erik talk about what it means to say that software is "complex" and along the way they'll offer three definitions of complexity, so the next time you're at work and commenting on pull requests and telling someone that what they've written is too complex, you can cite these random guys on this podcast! For music this week ...
This week Mike and Erik chat about deploying software and try to understand how it used to be and characterize what it's mostly like now. What are the best ways to deploy we've seen in our careers and what mistakes can we avoid. As is typical, there is much complaining also.For music this week Mike mentioned Melusine by Cecile Mclorin Salvant, where are we? by Joshua Redman and Gabrielle Cavassa, and Continuing by Tyshawn Sorey. Erik continued on his journey into the peaceful-feelings m...
Mike and Erik share debugging stories...
This week we take on the subject of compositionality, an ultra-abstract concept that might just underlie all the programming things we do. Does this idea really inform our work? Do we need category theory to talk about and understand it? Are we required to care?Here are some references:The Composable Codex | Voltron DataOn the Criteria To Be Used in Decomposing Systems into Modules (1972)Composing Software: The Book - by Eric Elliott"Category: The Essence of Composition" from Bartosz Mil...
Dijkstra's Diss Track

Dijkstra's Diss Track

2024-04-2430:56

This is part II of our Standing on the Shoulders of Giants episode about Edsger Dijkstra, the greatest philosopher of our field.Instead of using social media, Dijkstra would dash off hot takes on his typewriter or his pen and in this episode we cover various of his opinions and essays. You'll hear him say stuff like, "Java sucks" and it's "cowardly to call our errors 'bugs'."Here are some links to the material we discussed:On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science (1988)Letter protes...
In this last recording for 2023, Mike and Erik talk about embarrassing things they've done at work over the years. These are mistakes, errors, screwups and mishaps and, yes, there will be swearing. As mentioned on this episode, we have an email now, so please get in touch with us! Send us your feedback, tips, or ruminations on the show here: podcast@picturemecoding.com.Also, check out the PMC - 2023 Playlist on Spotify. The playlist link is here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4TdS9...
In this episode Mike and Erik talk to Chris Staszak who works for a startup investor in San Diego. Chris teaches the pair of hosts how to pitch startups to investors and also raises some of the common pitfalls in approaching funders and running a startup. In order to test their newfound skills, Erik pitches an AI-powered coffee machine while Mike pitches a solution to the housing crisis involving tents for seniors.If you've ever wanted to start a tech company and learn how to get some fu...
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