Archive for April 18, 2024

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Daniel C. Lynch, RIP

Katie Hafner (via Hacker News):

In 1986, Mr. Lynch decided to hold a workshop to train vendors and developers to configure equipment for routing traffic through the internet. The point was to make different manufacturers’ equipment work together and demonstrate the uses the internet could have for businesses. The first event, attended by 300 vendors, was run largely by volunteers, who snaked cable through the room and programmed specialized computers called routers, which were just becoming commercially available, to communicate with one another.

“His brainstorm was that you couldn’t be there unless you were willing to interconnect with everyone else,” said Vinton G. Cerf, a vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google. Mr. Lynch required the attendees to adhere to TCP/IP, a language spoken by computers connected to the internet that was quickly becoming the industry standard.

Mr. Lynch started calling his event Interop in the late 1980s. Within a decade, it had become one of the world’s largest computer exhibitions, helping to create a global community of specialists capable of supporting a networking standard that made it possible for all the world’s computers to share data. One computer industry analyst called it “the plumbing exhibition for the information age.”

See also: Internet Hall of Fame and A Brief History of the Internet.

Legibility and San Francisco

Niko Kitsakis (tweet):

Why is San Francisco not the best typeface for a user interface? After all, Apple has gone through quite some trouble designing it in-house. Do a search on the matter and you will find articles and videos for deve lo pers, where the people from Apple explain their thinking. They talk about optical sizes, different use-cases, space efficiency, expressiveness and so forth. It all sounds very professional.


Apple’s San Francisco falls into the same category as the Japanese sword: It might, from a technical standpoint, be a very well designed typeface, but it’s the wrong kind of typeface to begin with. Apple’s typeface lacks two things that any typeface (to a different extend) needs: Personality and purpose.


If you compare San Francisco (or SF Pro as Apple also calls it) to FF Unit, you’ll see that the numeral “1” and the shapes of the first three letters of the word “Iliad” are much more distinct from one another in FF Unit than the same characters (or glyphs) are in in SF Pro. This was done on purpose, of course: Typefaces like FF Unit were de signed with legibility in mind, and one of the things a type designer does in that case, is ensuring that visually similar letters have shapes that make them more distinct from one another.


Why Has Figma Reinvented the Wheel with PostgreSQL?

Sammy Steele:

The data revealed that some of our tables, containing several terabytes and billions of rows, were becoming too large for a single database. At this size, we began to see reliability impact during Postgres vacuums, which are essential background operations that keep Postgres from running out of transaction IDs and breaking down. Our highest write tables were growing so quickly that we would soon exceed the maximum IO operations per second (IOPS) supported by Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS). Vertical partitioning couldn’t save us here because the smallest unit of partitioning is a single table. To keep our databases from toppling, we needed a bigger lever.


Horizontal sharding was an order of magnitude more complex than our previous scaling efforts. When a table is split across multiple physical databases, we lose many of the reliability and consistency properties that we take for granted in ACID SQL databases.


We built a DBProxy service that intercepts SQL queries generated by our application layer, and dynamically routes queries to various Postgres databases. DBProxy includes a query engine capable of parsing and executing complex horizontally sharded queries. DBProxy also allowed us to implement features like dynamic load-shedding and request hedging.


We avoided having to implement “filtered logical replication” (where only a subset of data is copied to each shard). Instead, we copied over the entire dataset and then only allowed reads/writes to the subset of data belonging to a given shard.

Denis Magda (via Hacker News):

Figma doesn’t use the open-source distribution of PostgreSQL. Instead, they utilize PostgreSQL as a service by subscribing to Amazon RDS. There’s an interesting, often overlooked fact about PostgreSQL managed services provided by large cloud providers and smaller vendors. While these services usually offer all the core PostgreSQL capabilities, the list of supported extensions is at the mercy of the service provider.

Now, we have CitusData, a mature PostgreSQL extension for sharding, and we know that Figma uses RDS, a fully-managed PostgreSQL service by Amazon. However, if you check the list of PostgreSQL extensions supported by RDS, CitusData isn’t included[…]

So, now, let me speculate. The real reason why Figma reinvented the wheel by creating their own custom solution for sharding might be as straightforward as this — Figma wanted to stay on RDS, and since Amazon had decided not to support the CitusData extension in the past, the Figma team had no choice but to develop their own sharding solution from scratch.

Cryptocurrency Apple Antitrust Lawsuit

Juli Clover:

A lawsuit targeting Apple’s refusal to allow apps to support cryptocurrency transactions was today tossed out by a San Francisco judge, reports Reuters. The lawsuit, which was filed by Venmo and Cash App customers, claimed that Apple drove up the fees charged by Venmo and Cash App by not letting payment apps facilitate cryptocurrency transactions.

The plaintiffs alleged that Apple curbed competition in the mobile peer-to-peer payment market with its App Store guidelines. No option for cryptocurrency has supposedly caused Venmo and Cash App to raise prices for transactions and services due to “no competitive check.” A payment app that is based on decentralized cryptocurrency technology would let iPhone users “send payments to each other without any intermediary at all.”