Category Archives: _Micropost ๐Ÿช

How to be happy

Note to self:

  1. Remember: You are already enough just as you are, right here, right now. You don’t need to achieve or do anything. 1
  2. Remember: The only competition in life โ€” if you must think of it that way โ€” is to know yourself as fully as possible, and act with maximum authenticity towards that truth.
  3. Remember: All things considered, you have it good โ€” many around the world would kill to switch places and inherit every single one of your problems.

It will never be easier than right now

This is a mindset I use to help with procrastination. It first came to me in my senior year on university when I needed to do lab reports. At that point, I had been doing lab reports for 8 years โ€” ever since the start of high school. And throughout that whole time, they were always excruciating.

But I realized that they were excruciating partly because I always waited until the days before the deadline to do them, which was about a week after the actual lab. By that point, the details of the lab were much fuzzier, making the lab report way harder.

It occurred to me that even though all I wanted to do after the lab is forget everything about it and push it off to the side, that exact moment โ€” right after the lab โ€” would be the easiest moment to ever do the report. As more time passes, it will strictly get harder as I begin to lose the context of the lab.

So I sucked it up and started to immediately go to the library right after the lab and simply do the report right then. It worked very well and I only wished I had started the habit years earlier.

I try to remember this lesson and apply it to my life now. If there are situations where I need to do something, and no additional information will arrive that will influence how the job gets done, I try to do it as quickly as possible to take advantage of the context fresh in my brain.

TIL: Debugging microcontrollers may require hardware breakpoints

I was debugging a microcontroller recently and was surprised to see that I was limited to 4 breakpoints. That surprised me because I’m usually only used to seeing that kind of limitation when using watchpoints, not breakpoints. (See my youtube video for more on this).

But it makes sense after all โ€” code running on this microcontroller is different than in a process in an OS’s userspace because the code will probably be flashed into some kind of ROM (Read Only Memory) (or EEPROM). Since the code is unwritable at a hardware level, the typical method of inserting software breakpoint instructions isn’t possible. So the alternative is to use the microprocessor’s support for hardware debugging, which occupies hardware resources and is thus finite.

What cured my writer’s/publisher’s block

I’ve managed to make writing fun again and have been publishing a lot on my blog lately.

It’s due to three reasons:

1 – Having explicit content categories creates the freedom to post things that aren’t highly effort intensive deep dives.

By introducing explicit post categories (i.e. Micropost, Lab Notes, Essay, Deep Dive, etc) I feel much more free to post without the expectation that every post needs to be a time consuming, deeply researched technical post (which are the kind of posts that are popular).

I don’t have time for those lately, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write or post anything! Explicitly tagging something as a micropost or lab notes takes a lot of the pressure off, and makes me much more willing to write and publish.

2 – I stopped sharing on Twitter.

The curse of growing an audience is that posting to that audience has increasing weight as the audience grows, which creates stress and friction about posting. What if I post something that people don’t like and I lose a bunch of followers? What if I’m straight up wrong? What if I want to share something but don’t have time to fully polish it and people judge me? What if I post too often?

It’s also distracting to share on Twitter, and very difficult to not monitor notifications afterwards.

Furthermore, writing on Twitter was actually difficult in that it took extra energy to abide by the character limits, or fit things into threads otherwise. Writing freeform of my own blog is easier in this regard.

Not posting on Twitter removes a nontrivial amount of friction and stress that used to prevent me from sharing.

3 – Using WordPress (i.e. not a static site generator) removes a ton of friction.

The fact that I can click buttons in a web interface, write and post as easily as sending a tweet makes all the difference.

It’s so nice being able to change the website without coding. For instance, I just added a “Popular posts” feature in the sidebar in the last 5 minutes. Turns out Jetpack already has the feature included and I just had to enable it. I don’t even want to imagine what it would have taken to implement that by hand or with a static site generator.

Though not as fast a static site, the blog loads fast enough and I’m more than happy to take the performance hit.

It’s also awesome that I can quickly edit posts to fix typos, even from my phone with the WordPress app. I do this very often.

(bonus reason: It’s also due to the realization that posts don’t have to be long, can be written in one sitting, and don’t have to be absolutely perfect!)

How to not feel dumb around “smart” programmers

When going to programming meetups, conferences, or starting a new job, it can be extremely easy to feel dumb around other engineers there. Sometimes these engineers truly are geniuses, but many times they’re not as “smart” as your immediate imposter syndrome is leading you to believe.

My advice, especially for beginners, is to remember that these people are probably talking about a domain they are extremely familiar with, and have spent probably 1000x the time with than you. You probably have stumbled upon to a topic that they are specifically knowledgeable about, which gives the impression that they’re ultra smart (and you’re ultra dumb, for not knowing anything about it).

The key is to remember that this impressive depth of knowledge is likely limited in breadth. If you were talking about your domain, you’d might know a lot more than them.

It’s also easy to feel dumb when watching a conference talk. My trick here is to remember that the reason this person can speak so confidently about such a technical topic is because, again, they’ve spent 1000x more time on it than you have. They’re had their face pressed directly against this problem for a long time, which is why they know all this and can talk about it.

This comes from my experience:

  • Entering the programming world (feeling dumb at hacker club in college)
  • Enter the infosec world (feeling dumb at infosec conferences)
  • Going to conferences not directly in my expertise (i.e. the LLVM Dev Mtg)
  • Entering the audio programming world (feeling dumb at audio conferences)
  • Feeling dumb in many, many conference talks

Distance between application programming and standard library programming

This is a rough, potentially half-baked thought:

This might an interesting metric to compare programming languages: distance between application programming and standard library programming.

In general, standard library programming is more difficult than average application programming for any programming language. Or at the very least “different” in some way — language features used, programming style required, etc. That difference might vary depending on the language.

Mainly, I’m thinking about C++, where standard library programming requires expertise in C++ template meta-programming (TMP) (i.e. to implement std::variant), which is effectively an entirely different programming language, existing in the C++ type system. While many application developers may also be competent in TMP, there are many that aren’t (including myself). It’s possible to be a very productive C++ programmer, and STL user, without being an expert at implementing generic libraries using TMP.

Given this, my impression that C++ has a relatively high distance between application programming and stdlib programming.

Python of course also has some distance here. I’m not qualified to speak on it, but I can imagine it also involved more obscure language feature that do not occur often in normal app development. I would guess that this distance is less than C++.

Lastly, C is an interesting language to consider because it offers such a spartan feature set that there aren’t particularly that many more language features available to be used. (I’m probably wrong here and there are obscure things I’m not aware of, including symbol versioning for compatibility). But in general, my assumption would be that C has a some limited distance, given it’s restrained feature set.

Ultimately, this metric is probably impossible to quantify and may have limited value, but is something I find intriguing anyway if it were to exist.

“What could go wrong” considered harmful

The retort “What could go wrong” is one of my big pet peeves.

It’s often used in response to a failure of a complex system or operation. Sometimes the system had clearly poor design, making it warranted. But more often these comments reek of hindsight bias and carry an arrogance โ€” as if the speaker could have easily avoided the failure if they were the one in charge.

It’s possible to construct that kind of retort for almost anything if you try hard enough:

  • “Flying massive metal tubes around in the sky filled with hundreds of people, what could go wrong?”
  • “Cementing metal wires into the mouths of children, what could go wrong?”
  • “Shooting lasers into peoples’ eyes, what would go wrong?”

But if you did so, you’d actually be wrong a lot โ€” because there are many complex systems that function correctly for most users, most of the time. They function because many people have poured blood, sweat, and human ingenuity into them to make them reliable. And it’s often not intuitive that they can work.

Even if sometimes people are truly negligent and deserve it, I don’t find the phrase of net benefit to the culture. I consider it harmful because it ups the consequences of failure โ€” a necessity for innovation โ€” in exchange for cheap virtue signaling from bystanders who often have no experience in the domain.

So rather than assuming incompetence, let’s all be a bit more charitable. The world is complex and less intuitive than it looks.

WIP: Reflections on audience building

Here are a few reflections after building two separate online audiences with 1000+ followers (comfort and offlinemark).

Audiences require active maintenance .

  • If you don’t actively maintain the audience by regularly posting content, the actual effective audience size declines over time (despite the concrete number staying the same) as audience members become inactive on the platform.

They grow in fits in bursts.

  • In my experience, the audience growth was not linear, but occurred in fits and bursts of about a hundred followers for major events or releases. Sometimes things just pop off. For offlinemark there were a few major events that got me several hundreds of followers each time. Plus, these tweets sometimes get retweeted and have second lives on the internet, getting me a bunch of new followers for free.
    • Demand paging blog post
    • /proc/self/mem blog post
    • Git tweet about referencing commits by commit message
    • Thread about forking being unsafe in real-time contexts due to page faults
    • A few other tweets.

Audiences grow within some specific context where you’ve established reputation, and do not engage with content that’s outside that context.

  • offlinemark is within the technical context and other kinds of content like about my music or other thinking is not engaged with nearly as much.

Releasing content to a large audience can be very distracting.

  • It’s extremely difficult to have content being going viral and not be glued to your notifications.
  • What if you’re wrong in a major way? What if you’re getting cancelled somehow for something you said?
  • At the very least, it’s an incredible amount of dopamine and affirmation that takes immense self control to not bask in.

Goal: Become a pro systems programmer

That’s a personal goal of mine. I’m not sure why, but I think it comes from spending a long time in computer security and feeling unsatisfied with just breaking “low level” software โ€” I want to be able to build it too.

But what does “pro” mean? What does “systems programmer” even mean?

Here’s what comes to mind:

Little skillSome skillPractical experience with
Fluent in a systems programming language. Able to write idiomatic code.x
Understanding of modern systems programming concepts โ€” e.g. smart pointers.x
Understanding of operating system and hardware/software interfacex
Competent with C/C++ build concepts โ€” e.g. headers, source, compilation, linkingx
Able to engage professionally in open sourcex
Competent with git โ€” e.g. can rebase, rewrite history and prepare perfect patch series (no stray newlines, commits build on each other, etc)x
Understanding of multithreaded programming and concurrency. Able to write idiomatic multithreaded code.x
Skilled with development tools โ€” e.g. debuggerx
Competent with performance profilingx
Understanding of how to model data with a static type system โ€” e.g. static vs dynamic dispatch, polymorphism, OOP concepts, reference vs value semantics.x
Understanding of I/O programming, esp. async I/O.x
Understanding of different OS platforms โ€” e.g Linux, Windows, macOSx
Experience with a variety of architecturesx


  • Become highly skilled in C++ template meta-programming


  • 2014 โ€” First professional Linux kernel experience (internship)
  • 2016 โ€” Landed a job working on symbolic execution engine (Trail of Bits)
  • 2019 โ€” First professional C++ work (Trail of Bits / osquery)
  • 2019 โ€” Landed commit in lldb
  • 2020 โ€” Landed commit in Linux kernel
  • 2021 โ€” Landed a full time C++ job (Ableton)
  • 2021 โ€” Built significant git competence (Ableton)
  • 2023 โ€” Built significant Linux kernel & hardware / software interface knowledge at work (Ableton)
  • 2023 โ€” Built knowledge of data modeling with static type system (Ableton)

Smartphone anxiety

Why do I have such anxiety when my phone isn’t on me, which prompts me to periodically tap my pocket to check on it?

A few key properties of phones:

  • Will cause significant pain and expense, in both time and money if lost
  • Small
  • Carried around everywhere

Beyond keys and wallets, there are not many other objects that can inflict so much pain & expense on one’s life if lost, while simultaneously being small and carried everywhere, which increases the chance of losing it. Thus producing a natural reaction to check if it’s there, and anxiety if not found. And furthermore, unlike keys and wallets, phones actively provide dopamine.