The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Wikked Performance

Since I announced Wikked here, I’ve been mostly working on fixing bugs, editing the documentation1, and evaluating its performance – which is what we’ll look at here today.


The big question I wanted to answer was how far you can go with just the default configuration, which is based on SQLite and requires no setup from the user. The reason for this was twofold:

  • I needed to write some advice in the documentation about when you should start looking into more sophisticated setups.
  • I plan to setup a public test wiki where people can try Wikked directly, and I needed to know if it would go down after I post the link on Reddit or HackerNews.

Announcing Wikked

There hasn’t been any updates on this blog for a few months, and there was a good reason for that: I was working on someting new.

The problem is that I was trying to get this new project to a “good enough” state to launch publicly… but somehow I ended up in a seemingly infinite loop of improvements, refactorings, and bug fixing.

Eventually I snapped out of it: fuck it, let’s launch it as is, and see if anybody cares enough to complain that it’s not good enough. I wrote some basic documentation, fought with setuptools for packaging, and uploaded it to the Python package server.



So lo and behold, here is Wikked, a wiki engine entirely managed with text files sitting in a revision control system.

I think it’s pretty cool, so come read more about it after the break!


PieCrust 1.1

It’s been long overdue, since PieCrust 1.0 was released more than 4 months ago, but at last it’s here: PieCrust 1.1!

Pumpkin pie

Every time I figure I will go with a “release small, release often” kind of philosophy, I still end up with more of a “wait, I’ll just get this last feature ready first” kind of vicious circle… sigh.

Anyway, grab the new release, or keep reading if you want to know about the most important changes. As always, big thanks go to the people who reported bugs and/or helped fix them, or generally participated in the evolution of PieCrust.


Fucking pick one

Paul Stamatiou has been getting a lot of attention about his article “Android Is Better”. And beyond the obvious flamebait (which seems to be working quite well), he makes a couple of points that I agree with:

  • Most people probably use more Google services (for good or bad) than Apple services, and will find the Android experience better integrated if they tried it.
  • Notifications on Android are a million times more useful and productive than on iOS.
  • It’s a lot easier to customize your phone to your specific workflows.
  • The back button and intents make it a lot easier to work between apps.

These are actually the main points that made me switch to Android a couple years ago, along with a bigger screen.

Some points however I disagree:

  • Google Now is not “magical”. It’s downright creepy and makes your device slow.
  • I don’t find Android’s UI inherently better or more elegant than iOS’, or vice-versa. I’m used to both either way.
  • You still find a lot more polished and refined apps on iOS, which is not to say they are more useful or functional, as people often mix up the two (if anything, Android’s ugly apps actually do more things). But since I’m not an app-whore – I must have only a dozen non-stock apps on my phone and they’re almost all cross-platform – I frankly don’t care. The only app I miss is Sparrow, but that bird is flying away.

Marco Arment has written a nice commentary on the story, where he first criticizes Stamatiou’s use of absolute statements (emphasis his):

Paul’s headline is his thesis, conclusion, and call to action: Android is better, and everyone should try it and will likely convert like he did. But after reading the article, I’m more convinced than ever that the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS.

That sentence contains two huge qualifiers: the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS. I’ve learned to write and think with a broader view, since it’s less insular and more accurately reflects reality. (The world is a big place.)

While reading Paul’s article, I was often struck by how differently he and I use the same technology.

His article exudes a narrow tech-world view by having no such qualifiers.

That’s fine, and as a guy who has always chosen his tech (hardware and software) based on specific needs, and not on generic opinions and reviews, I can’t agree more. I often say that if I ask a question like “what is the best X?”, and someone answers “it’s Y!” without even asking for more details about my situation first, I’m probably not going to listen to that person, quietly labeling him as fanboy or short-sighted in my mental notebook.

I wish Marco would talk to his online buddies about this, actually. For example, MG Siegler, once wrote:

I don’t know about you, but when I read my favorite technology writers, I want an opinion. Is the iPhone 4S the best smartphone, or is it the Galaxy Nexus? I need to buy one, I can’t buy both. Topolsky never gives us that. Instead, he pussyfoots around it. One is great at some things, the other is great at others. Barf.

Fucking pick one. I bet that even now he won’t.

Maybe he just doesn’t read reviews like I do. I just want a reliable opinion of what a product does well, and what it doesn’t. And then I’m going to decide which one is the best, based on what I need. But apparently, Siegler wants somebody to tell him which one is the best.

And then there’s John Gruber. I’m pretty happy with my Nexus 7, myself, but apparently “most people […] agree it was a turd”. In comparison, his first-generation iPad “works just as well as the day [he] bought it”. But oh, wait:

Update: A lot of pushback from readers on my claim above, arguing that their first-gen iPads have been rendered slow and unstable by iOS 5 (the last OS to support the hardware). My son uses mine for iBooks, watching movies, and playing games. Mileage clearly varies with other apps. (And yes, the App Store app in particular is a bit crashy.)

So yeah, mileage clearly varies on the iPad, but not the Nexus 7. And funny enough, my iPhone 3G was also rendered slow and unstable by iOS 4, the last OS to support the hardware. If I was paranoid, I would think Apple likes to leave users with a broken device to force them to upgrade, but hey, your mileage may vary, maybe your iPhone 3G is doing great.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that everybody’s got different requirements, budgets and usage patterns. One thing that often gets overlooked by Apple fans, for instance, is that in some countries (like here in Canada) you can’t get an iPhone unless you spend a minimum of $40-ish/month on a data plan. If you want a cheaper plan like me (I use a 500Mb plan which lets me do everything I want except streaming music/video), you have no choice but to go with another OS.

As far as I’m concerned, my iPad and my Nexus 7 get along fine in my backpack, and they must know I love them just the same – just for different things.

Image Comics going DRM-free

Image Comics is now selling DRM free digital comics on their website.

Image Comics

This is huge. Image Comics is the third biggest comics publisher in the U.S. after DC and Marvel. It “owns” famous titles like Spawn or The Walking Dead, and other very good series like Fatale, Invincible, Saga, or Morning Glories (I say “owns” with quotes because the whole concept of Image Comics is to publish creator owned comics, so those titles are actually owned by their respective authors).

With Comic-Con only a couple weeks away, they’re probably hoping (and I’m hoping too) that DRM free digital comics will be a hot topic of discussion, with them at the top. I mean, look at what Image Comics’ Eric Stephenson has to say about it:

My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment. There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.

This is quite an enlightened view on piracy for someone in his position. My hat’s off to you, sir.

Now does that mean Comixology‘s in trouble? Not quite yet, no:

  • First, Image Comics will still sell their issues through them – they’re just adding the option to buy directly from them for people who are, like me, quite keen on actually owning the stuff they buy.

  • Second, as far as I can tell, there’s no back catalog available yet, so you can only buy the new issues coming out now.

  • Third, there’s quite a difference between tapping a button in the Comixology app to buy and read a comic, and buying a comic on a website, downloading the file, transfering the file to your reader app, etc. One takes 2 seconds, the other 2 minutes (if you count storing a copy on your file server). Most people go (erroneously) for the faster and more convenient solution.

  • Fourth, I noticed that some issues are more expensive on the Image Comics website compared to Comixology.

But I’m cautiously optimistic. Hopefully, Image Comics will want to invest a bit in making their own sales portal better, so that they can get the whole price of an issue for themselves (I can only imagine what’s left from an iPad sale once Apple and Comixology have taken their cut…).

I’m crossing my fingers for Dark Horse to start removing DRM in a few months. Unlike DC and Marvel, they’re independantly owned, and have their own online store, so that puts them in the best position to follow suit. They may not be able to do it for their whole catalog (for example, licensed IPs like Star Wars, Buffy or Avatar may have constraints attached), but they could probably do it for titles like Hellboy and B.P.R.D, assuming Mike Mignola is on board with DRM-free comics. One can only hope…