Programming Sucks

Remember that stuff about crazy people and bad code? The internet is that except it’s literally a billion times worse. Websites that are glorified shopping carts with maybe three dynamic pages are maintained by teams of people around the clock, because the truth is everything is breaking all the time, everywhere, for everyone. Right now someone who works for Facebook is getting tens of thousands of error messages and frantically trying to find the problem before the whole charade collapses. There’s a team at a Google office that hasn’t slept in three days. Somewhere there’s a database programmer surrounded by empty Mountain Dew bottles whose husband thinks she’s dead. And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don’t even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn’t make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.

If you are in the market for reading some crazy rant, read this. It goes like that from top to bottom.


I read books on my iPad, quite a lot of them. I switched to eBooks full time years ago and haven’t looked back. Beside the ubiquity of having your books always with you, a main factor always was that I just don’t have the space to store the necessary number of dead-tree copies in addition to all the physical books accumulated from decades of reading, it is just not possible1.

Therefore, eBooks were a godsend for me. I could read as much as I want and still not need further shelve space. I get my books partly from Amazon (and read them via the Kindle app) and partly from iBooks. Both of these apps allow for a limited amount of customization, in other words: it is possible to adapt the reading experience to your liking by setting a dedicated font face or line spacing.

However, the amount of possible customization is rather limited. I understand that the vast majority of readers is probably OK with the options, many of them will probably not even use a single option for customization ever and just go on with the default settings.

Probably on the basis of usage intelligence, both Apple and Amazon seem to think that there’s enough ways to customize for everyone, but I personally disagree. I would really like to be able to set my favorite fonts, and not just be confronted by a limited amount of options that are all terrible (and that’s it).

Of course, there are reader apps on the App Store that support the amount of customization that I would like to see in an eBook reader. The most notable examples from my point of view are Marvin and Hyphen. I have used both apps, and Marvin came out as my favorite reading app.

A while ago, I bought a copy of Matt Gemmell‘s first novel, “Changer“. I purchased my copy in Matt’s web store and opted for the ePub version to read it in Marvin. I liked the novel, and much more I liked the reading experience. Man, I wish that Amazon and Apple would open up their apps for more customization, it was a real joy to read the book in Marvin.

I will continue to use Marvin to read e.g. programming books from O’Reilly or user manuals for various software tools (for example DEVONthink) that are offered in ePub format. I wish that more novels would also be available in non-DRM ePub, but that is probably just wishful thinking.

Of course, it may also be possible for publishers to wrap their DRM in a library and open that for third-party ePub readers, but that is probably not realistic due to the market share of third-party readers2.

Anyway, Marvin has my recommendation and I am looking forward to any future features it may come up with.

  1. Yes, I know, libraries are a thing. However, my reading taste is not in the mainstream of most of the libraries in my accessible range. 
  2. I don’t have any numbers, but I guess that the sum of all third party readers is still in the low one-digit percentage.