6502's cornerThe smoke and the food

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The smoke and the food

Note:This is a poor tentative of translating an italian idiom that's said "Tutto fumo e niente arrosto" (literally "All smoke and no food") meaning that sometimes even if there's a lot of appearance there's no substance.

When I begun in the first 80s, the computer programming was something almost unknown by the masses. Computers where not used in small companies and the job of a computer programmer was understood only by few people.

Nowdays the situation is quite different; computer programming is now taught as a complementary discipline in several different schools and even most of the office automation programs have some macro language that's used by a significative percentage of users.

Nowdays there are also a lot of magazines and books that are entirely dedicated to the computer programming. Unfortunately a lot of that is just smoke.

The increasing number of programmers, real o potential ones, made the whole category an interesting target for marketing activities. This is quite evident when you consider how the evolution of development products is now aimed to flashing look and to the fashion of the moment; even eventually if this means slower and heavier products or if this means removing something useful (who liked more the old help system in microsoft products please raise a hand).

Moreover in several cases you get the clear impression that behind the "specialist's" magazines there's a purely commercial interest and that the teacher of how to program is someone that is really not interested in the field at all.

Let's give some example:
Dr.Dobb's Journal (italian version)

The american version of DDJ is or surely has been a reference point for a computer programmer. It's surely not a magazine for someone that wants to approach the field of computer programming but offers a great source of infos for professional programmers.

It's the kind of magazine that you will end up looking for in your library; the kind of magazines that you would never throw away.

Unfortunately I've been tempted by the italian version of this magazine and I got a severe delusion.

I can't tell exactly what I was expecting... but from the italian version of such a big name I surely would expect at LEAST a good translation.

Anyone knows what the "mandatarie" calls are in a VXD ?

Note:The meaning of "mandatarie" in italian is completely different from the meaning of the english word "mandatory" that I suspect was present in the original article.

Excluding a few of these funny blunders, the reading of the articles is a real pain; and gives you nothing.

Was it too much to expect that who was translating the articles was also knowing the meaning of them ? Was it too much to expect, as an alternative, someone checking the quality of the translation ?

The italian version of DDJ, judging from the content, has as ONLY target being a translation of the original version of DDJ. And completely misses the target.

I'm a bit upset thinking to my $4 in the pokets of a few laughing managers that couldn't care less about programming.


I'm quite undecided about DEV... it's surely a magazine that we were missing when we started. And in a few issues I've been looking over the sholder of my friends (I've to confess I'm not a regular buyer of the magazine) I found some very interesting articles.

Unfortunately in the last number I bought I found an article that enforced my opinion that almost everyone can write almost everything in that magazine with no serious quality check.

One of the articles always present in the magazine is dedicated to C++, and in the July/August issue that article was discussing the implementation of associative arrays.

I've also to confess that I'm not a blind lover of C++ (I think it's often comfortable but seems to me that the logical design behind it is quite a bit broken) but since I'm a passionate supporter of associative arrays I decided to read the article in the details.

The sad story is that reading the article one gets the clear impression that the author never implemented associative arrays, that he doesn't understood C++ operator overloading and that moreover he has some problem with algorithms in general.

Without discussing all the points in detail I'll just enumerate that the implementation of the associative array was "disgusting" (linear search) and, even worse, that as a possible improvement the author was suggesting qsort and bsearch instead of a linear scan. In the C++ field there's a quite evident confusion about the logic of overloading the "[]" operator and the proposed approach was anyway a very bad example of object oriented programming (a method was supposed to work on an intermediate result saved in a private variable computed by the execution of another apparently unrelated method). Even from the pure programming point of view the proposed code was terrible (who would ever reallocate an array for every added element?).

Not knowing C++ isn't a crime, as it's not a crime not knowing associative arrays. Even writing articles about something you don't know isn't a crime. But anyway I thought it was The Right Thing to complain with the magazine about that article that I think completely useless if not dangerous for a beginner.

Unfortunately the only answer I got from the magazine was that my complain was redirected to the author (from which I received a few days later a mail that wasn't adding anything meaningful to the discussion). For who's really interested (and can read in italian) here you can find my complain and the two answer I got.

My complain was not directed to the author but to who was doing the quality check on the articles the magazine was going to publish. Seems I was writing to no one ...

In a few words ... if you're going to buy DEV then please pay a lot of attention in what you find in it. It's not all true. Moreover never consider the description they give of the authors: the one of the author of that C++ column is surely exaggerated, if not invented ... or may be the one described makes his cousin doing the writing and just signs the articles.

Computer Programming

This is an interesting magazine; lately however they turned out being really too much MS oriented and this made the magazine just another bleating sheep in the flock.

Quite funny was the publishing of a CD-Rom named "Linux Tools" containing a lot of nice programs for Linux. Too bad they masterized the CD in a format that no Linux machine can read correctly; all the long file names were corrupted when read from a Linux system and this made the installation of all the packages almost impossible.

Was it too much expecting someone to check the CD-Rom before starting the production ? It wasn't a bug that appears only in very special situations: anyone checking the CD with a Linux system would have found it immediately.