The Queen of Code

Back on my early teens, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I read a few articles about the history of computers and computer programming. I remember reading about UNIVAC, the Von Neumann machine and ENIAC. I remember reading a sentence or two describing how women in the U.S. Navy became the first computer programmers. Unfortunately, that is all I remember. That is why I enjoyed so much the documentary “The Queen of Code”, directed by Gillian Jacobs for ESPN Films.

My learning of the history of my profession has some serious gaps in it. And none of these gaps is more important than the life and career of Admiral Grace Hopper. If you have any appreciation for the software industry, do yourself a favor and watch this fantastic 16-minute film. I am admittedly a little late to the party linking to a year-old video, but it is so good that it is worth the late re-link.

The Blog Awakens

The Force Awakens

With less than a month away from the release of The Force Awakens, I decided to write down my predictions as well as my personal wish list. Yes, I’m a nerd. I want to revisit this after the movie is out and see how well I did. Let’s begin with a few predictions about the plot: 

  1. The Skywalker family line continues with Rey: Yes, just like everybody on the Internet, I also believe that she is Princess Leia and Han Solo’s daughter. 
  2. There will be multiple new heroes who are strong in the force: If the character of Rey is in the bloodline of Anakin Skywalker, it is practically a lock that the force will be strong in her, even if she still needs to find this out and be trained. However, I predict that there there will be at least one more hero who will be force-sensitive, and that will be Poe Dameron. The now canonical Marvel comic book series Shattered Empire strongly hints that Dameron will grow up in proximity to a source of particular strength in the force. 
  3. There will be a hero who is not strong in the force: Unlike the trailers will have us think, I believe that the character of Finn will not have a story arc that will turn him into a Jedi. Even if the last movie trailer shows Finn wielding a lightsaber, I believe that this is more circumstantial than because he is going to be the next Jedi. I believe that his character will be the archetypical hero who rises, but he does not have to be a Jedi in order to do this. He will be a non-Jedi hero like Han Solo.  
  4. Finding Luke Skywalker will be a substantial part of the plot line: There is a reason Luke Skywalker has not been prominently featured in any of the trailers and posters released so far. The last Jedi alive will first appear on screen in a scene that will echo Mister Miyagi coming to rescue Daniel LaRusso from the Cobra Kai. It will be a great scene, and they’re saving it.
  5. Anakin’s lightsaber will return to the screen: This is the same lightsaber that Obi-Wan handed to Luke and which he later lost at the end of Empire. Yes, it fell down the chasm in Cloud City when Luke lost his hand. But that chasm led to somewhere and someone down in Bespin will have recovered it. This lightsaber does not return to Luke, but as we’ve seen in the trailers, someone hands it over to Princess Leia and she passes it down to another character—potentially Finn, but I would not be surprised if it is first handed to Rey. 
  6. There will be a new order of the Sith, but not a new prophecy: There will not be a new prophecy, that ship has sailed. However, in order for the force to remain balanced, certain creatures will have to be strong in the dark side of the force as well. We will see at least two Sith characters, master and apprentice. Some things never change. 
  7. While weakened, the Empire has not yet been defeated: In the time between the Skywalker twins were born and the beginning of Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine dissolved the Galactic Senate and rose to power with the use of a clone army conveniently built in secret. In contrast, this new Empire was not given the same luxury. The rebellion’s victory in Jedi, while not absolute, was sufficient to send the Empire into disarray. Thirty years and multiple battles later, this Empire is now the underdog. However, the tides are beginning to turn and the Empire is gaining strength. That is where the story will begin. 
  8. R2-D2 will not be featured as much as BB-8: George Lucas always mentioned the Akira Kurosawa films on which the minor characters tell the story from their point of view. This has always been part of the DNA of Star Wars: All six prior films are told from the point of view of the droids. If Luke Skywalker will not be seen from the beginning of the movie (see prediction #4), and if according to the teaser trailer, R2-D2 is secluded alongside him, then it follows that we need a new droid to be witness to the new storyline. Call this the passing of the baton, if you may. But if BB-8 does not become the next R2-D2, he will at least become a second R2-D2. 


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Here are my predictions about the opening and closing credits of the movie (Did I mention I’m a nerd?): 

  1. The order of the production credits before the classic Star Wars crawl will be Disney, Lucasfilm, Bad Robot. When each of these logos appear on the screen we will hear a modified, orchestral version of the Disney jingle instead of the 20th Century Fox fanfare composed by Alfred Newman. 
  2. There will be a classic Star Wars crawl and it will have an “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” header. The opening text will clearly mention who are the heroes and at least one villain. I expect the crawl to include the words “rebellion” and “empire”. 
  3. The ending credits will include Gorge Lucas, but not credited as creative consultant. Rather, I expect something along the lines of “Based on Characters from Star Wars by George Lucas”. 
  4. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac will be credited together on the same screen on this exact order, echoing the way the relatively unknown cast was credited in the original trilogy. This will be the first screen of cast credits. 
  5. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford will be credited together on the same screen on this exact order, which is the same as in the original trilogy. This will be the second screen of cast credits. 
  6. The new villains will be credited together on the next screen of cast credits, followed by Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker on yet another screen. After this, we will see the traditional vertical scroll with a list of the remaining cast. 


John Williams' Recording Studio

Now a few predictions about the music: 
  1. The music will blow us all away. Period. 
  2. Since the modified ending to the special edition of Jedi, John Williams began to feature vocals in a few of his new compositions. While I do not expect a return of the Duel of the Fates and Battle of the Heroes themes, I do expect new themes featuring vocals (a choir). 
  3. Williams will continue to use leitmotif throughout the new trilogy. The classic characters will continue to appear on screen with their existing themes. However, their compositions will be more subtle for each original trilogy character. That is because there will be a handing over of the themes to the younger cast. I expect Rey to get a new composition based on Princess Leia’s Theme and Finn to get a new composition based on  Binary Sunset from Star Wars. Equally, the main antagonists will get a new composition based on Imperial March.  


Millenium Falcon

And finally, my personal wish list for The Force Awakens. These are not predictions, but rather things I would like to see: 
  1. Someone will “have a bad feeling about this”. 
  2. Luke will have yet another lightsaber, since he threw away his at the end of Jedi. I am thinking yellow or purple, like some members of the Jedi council. 
  3. BB-8 will compete with R2-D2 in at least one scene. 
  4. Princess Leia will use a lightsaber and/or the force. Thirty years later, she surely has learned at least how to do the Jedi mind trick. She cannot be left without the chance to show her force sensitivity on screen. 
  5. Han Solo will have a heroic death, sacrificing for his daughter Rey. His death will echo Obi-Wan’s and Qui-Gon’s. This is the scene on which we see Rey is crying over someone. Her father’s death will be a catalyst similar when Obi-Wan died in front of Luke and Qui-Gon died in front of Obi-Wan. 
  6. Chewbacca will die before Han Solo, thus paying his life debt to him. 
  7. The Millenium Falcon will continue to fly and will not be destroyed. 
  8. There will be at least one jab at the prequels and/or George Lucas. Expect a line on which someone is called a Gungan in a derogatory way, taxation of trade routes are mocked, or something along those lines. 
  9. There will not be a single mention of midichlorians. 
  10. There will be dozens of easter eggs from the J.J. Abrams universe: A Slusho logo, the Cloverfield monster, the Bad Robot itself, etcetera. 
  11. We will see Lando Calrissian in some way or form, or at least we will hear him mentioned as heroically dying on a battle. 
  12. Admiral Ackbar will utter the word “trap”. Movie crowds worldwide will go nuts. 
  13. We will not see any force ghosts on this film. No Yoda, no Anakin, no Obi-Wan. If at some point in the new trilogy Luke Skywalker dies, then he would become the next force ghost. I have him dying on the episode VIII, and thus become a force ghost for episode IX. 
  14. Some people will love it, some will hate it; but The Force Awakens will become the highest-grossing film of all time around the world. 

That’s it! What are your predictions and wish list?

App Camp for Girls

It is saddening to see that after seventeen years as a software developer, working with colleagues of the opposite gender continues to be the exception. That is why I supported the App Camp for Girls campaign on Indiegogo the moment I heard about it.

This project, founded by Jean MacDonald, reached their goal of $50,000 in only three days; and today they reached their second goal of $100,000. The way the developer community rallied to support them is one of the best stories in our industry this year. 

It is exciting to see what they have accomplished already, and I look forward to seeing their project grow. As a father of two little girls, ages 5 and 4, my hope is that initiatives like these will be available to them when they grow older.

While I do not know you personally, Jean, thank you for inspiring girls to dream big. Find out more about App Camp for Girls on their website.


Today I found out about TinkerLearn from the fine folks at Mysterious Trousers (I love that name). It is an interesting concept: Instead of selling a programming book to teach iOS development, they sell the complete source code of fully-developed apps. These apps are designed to highlight the different aspects of iOS and Objective-C. As you read the source code, you will find within it explanations, links, and even exercises. They guide you thru modifying the source code in Xcode and understanding what is it that you are implementing.

I like the idea of having the app code itself be the textbook. Their pricing seems right: Lessons from basic to advanced cost between $2 and $6. This seems targeted to those developers with a different learning style–a sizable market that so far has been well served by series such as the ones from Head First Labs. In our fast-paced world of software development, any book you purchase today at the store is already outdated. That is why I would like to see affordable products such as TinkerLearn that can in theory be updated incrementally and kept current. I will be checking TinkerLearn out.


Ship Everything

Manton Reece, on shipping products:

You have to ship everything because time is precious. Make the decision early on about whether to start. If it’s worth coding, it’s worth letting the world see.

Just like the old adage goes: Shipping is a feature and your software should have it.


What We Are Losing

Andrew Keen, writing a terrific opinion piece today on CNN:

Social media’s ubiquity means that we are losing that most precious of human things—our sense of self.

NSScreencast and NSBrief

I recently discovered NSScreencast, a website produced by Ben Scheirman, which features screencasts on iOS development. I just watched the episode on UITableView paging and I think it is very well produced. The site requires a paid subscription for new episodes. From the looks of the sample episodes, the subscription seems to be well worth the $9 a month.

I discovered NSScreencast by listening to NSBrief, a podcast by Saul Mora. If you heven’t heard of NSBrief, I highly recommend it. It is hands down one of the most interesting technical podcasts out there for iOS and Mac OS X developers. Every week it features some of the best and brightest members of the Apple developer community.

Support independent developers!


Writer’s Block

Andy Ihnatko’s advice to writers is also great for those of us who write software:

You don’t have Writer’s Block. You’re bored with what you’re writing right now. So write something else! You think what you’re writing stinks. You’re probably right; well, keep working and make it better! You don’t know how to continue? This means that you’ve encountered a problem and the problem won’t just resolve itself so you should just keep hammering at it.

You don’t feel like writing? Don’t beat yourself up. Read something. Or admit to yourself that there’s more to your life than just writing. Take the day off. It’ll be fine.

And if you ever find yourself moaning that you feel like you’ll never write again…oh, please. Stop being a baby and write something, already.