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Literate Vimrc
Tyler Cipriani Posted

Literate ~/.vimrc

This blog post is my ~/.vimrc now.

Hold on, let me explain.

Why would anyone do a thing like this?

I have tons of comments in my ~/.vimrc file. I try to leave a lot of comments because everything in my Vim configuration is hard-won knowledge. My ~/.vimrc is accumulated knowledge from the day I first opened the editor and couldn’t figure out how to leave until now, many years later, when I open my editor and don’t have any reason to leave. I have tweaked, cajoled, and tamed this beast called Vim. I think a lot of folks have configuration kind of like that – it’s knowledge that is locked-away, not privately or purposefully, just badly-documented and ubiquitous. This is a problem.

So I made a thing.

This is an experiment that seeks to answer: can my ~/.vimrc be a page on my website?

Literate programming

Literate programming is the idea that your code should work as a narrative as well as a functional piece of software. This is a practice that was popularized by Donald Knuth and was utilized in writing the source code for TeX.

The are times when literate programming may not be appropriate; however, in this instance – the case of a .vimrc – I feel like literate programming will be helpful to remind me what a setting is and why I applied it. This also may mean that my accumulated Vim knowledge (however limited it may be) is more generally accessible than if it were just a plaintext documents sitting in my dotfiles.

Literate Vimscript

My resolve to make a literate ~/.vimrc led to some searching on DuckDuckGo and a slow, settling realization that I was going to have to write the plugin that does this. Keeping your Emacs configuration as a literate document written in org-mode is pretty common practice at this point, so I made the faulty assumption that a Vim configuration written in Markdown would be a common aspiration as well.

I was wrong and thus was the genesis of LiterateVimrc.

“Literate” Vimrc is more than a bit of a misnomer. It, unlike Donald Knuth’s vision of Literate Programming, does not support a loosely coupled web of macros – instead it just lets you write a file in Markdown that has codeblocks (as defined by v0.27 of the CommonMark spec) containing Vimscript as your ~/.vimrc file.


To install LiterateVimsrc copy the autoload/literavevimrc.vim file into your ~/.vim/autoload directory, move your current ~/.vimrc to ~/ and add ~~~ to to first and last lines of that file (to create fenced codeblock). Inside your (now empty) ~/.vimrc add the line execute literatevim#load("~/") and everything should remain the same.

Now you are free to add text explaining your configuration and divide your configuration into blocks. This blog post is currently acting as my ~/.vimrc file, as of this writing. This may be a bad idea. I do expect to update it somewhat regularly, but his frontmatter should remain the same.

My ~/.vimrc

This begins the content of my ~/.vimrc file. It includes various explanations and links that may only make sense to me. Here be dragons. You have been warned.

The first lines that should be in every ~/.vimrc – disabling arrow keys – because it’s not enough to use vim, you’ve got to live it.

noremap <up> <nop>
inoremap <up> <nop>

noremap <down> <nop>
inoremap <down> <nop>

noremap <left> <nop>
noremap <right> <nop>
inoremap <left> <nop>
inoremap <right> <nop>
" B A start

What is this ‘Vee-Eye’ of which you speak?

Vim’s compatible mode means lots of plugins won’t work. It evidently means that you can’t use \ in vim scripts to break a command across a few lines. nocompatible is also necessary for Vundle which is my vim packagemanager of choice.

set nocompatible


All of my plugins. To install all of my plugins on a brand new machine I can run vim +PluginInstall +qall, which is pretty neat.

filetype off " required
set rtp+=~/.vim/bundle/Vundle.vim
call vundle#begin()

" let Vundle manage Vundle, required
Plugin 'gmarik/Vundle.vim'

" Other plugins
Plugin 'vim-pandoc/vim-pandoc-syntax'
Plugin 'tpope/vim-surround'
Plugin 'groenewege/vim-less'
Plugin 'kchmck/vim-coffee-script'
Plugin 'kien/ctrlp.vim'
Plugin 'Lokaltog/vim-easymotion'
Plugin 'jistr/vim-nerdtree-tabs'
Plugin 'scrooloose/syntastic'
Plugin 'godlygeek/tabular'
Plugin 'majutsushi/tagbar'
Plugin 'goldfeld/vim-seek'
Plugin 'altercation/vim-colors-solarized'
Plugin 'joonty/vdebug'
Plugin 'vim-airline/vim-airline'
Plugin 'vim-airline/vim-airline-themes'
Plugin 'scrooloose/nerdtree'
Plugin 'Shougo/neocomplete'
Plugin 'Shougo/neosnippet'
Plugin 'juvenn/mustache'
Plugin 'nathanaelkane/vim-indent-guides'
Plugin 'tpope/vim-fugitive'
Plugin 'tpope/vim-rsi'
Plugin 'dag/vim-fish'
Plugin 'rodjek/vim-puppet'
Plugin 'ClockworkNet/vim-vcl'
Plugin 'airblade/vim-gitgutter'
Plugin 'fatih/vim-go'

call vundle#end()            " required
filetype plugin indent on    " required

A Random solution to a random problem

This disables Background Color Erase (BCE) when the $TERM env var contains the text 256color. The problem I was seeing is summarized on Suraj N. Kurapati’s blog post.

This may, in fact, not be necessary. At least according to reddit

if &term =~ '256color'
   set t_ut=

Basic options

let mapleader=','
set t_Co=256              " My terminal's got all those colors, yo

set title                 " Change the terminal title
set encoding=utf-8        " Show utf-8 chars
set showcmd               " count highlighted
set ruler                 " Show where I am in the command area
set showmode              " -- INSERT (appreciation)-- :)
set laststatus=2          " always show the status line
                          " ↪ (0 = never, 1 = default [multi-window only])
set mouse=a               " Use the mouse

set modelines=0           " Don't read first/last lines of file for settings
set hidden                " Stash unwritten files in buffer
set vb                    " Don't beep at me
set cursorline            " Highlight current line
set scrolloff=3           " Start scrolling when I'm 3 lines from top/bottom
set history=1000          " Remember commands and search history
set backspace=2           " Backspace over indent, eol, and insert
set mousehide             " Hide the mouse pointer while typing

set number                " Show linenumbers
set nowrap                " Turn off linewrap
set list                  " Show invisible chars
set tabstop=4             " 4 spaces
set shiftwidth=4          " 4 spaces
set softtabstop=4         " 4 spaces
set expandtab             " Expand tabs to spaces

set hlsearch              " highlight my search
set incsearch             " incremental search
set wrapscan              " Set the search scan to wrap around the file

set ignorecase            " when searching
set smartcase             " …unless I use an uppercase character


I have actually been considering what it would be like to work without syntax highlighting. I may be too far gone to start trying, but it’d certainly make me more attune to various code problems rather than code colors. In any event, with some of the huge files I view the syntax sync minline option and the synmaxcol=2048 are lifesavers.

syntax on                 " Syntax highlighting
syntax sync minlines=256  " Makes big files slow
set synmaxcol=2048        " Also long lines are slow
set autoindent            " try your darndest to keep my indentation
set smartindent           " Be smarter about indenting dummy

Format options

c - Auto-wrap comments using textwidth, inserting the current comment leader automatically.

o - Automatically insert the current comment leader after hitting ‘o’ or ‘O’ in Normal mode.

t - Auto-wrap text using textwidth

q - Allow formatting of comments with “gq”.

r - Automatically insert the current comment leader after hitting in Insert mode.

I have a different setting for format options when emailing in mutt. There I use set formatoptions=aw which works for format-flowed emails.

set formatoptions=cotqr  " I like smart comments


At some point in the past I used to use the marker for folding (which was opened with {{{ and closed by }}}) I found this a nice way to divide up things like my ~/.vimrc for instance; however, what’s even nicer is folding on indent. It makes reading yaml files super easy. I read lots of very (VERY) large yaml files. I suppose I could do this with an autocmd, but I set it globally instead ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

" set foldmethod=marker     " Fold on 3x{
set foldmethod=indent
set nofoldenable          " But turn it off initially


I needed this for running some commands in Vim inside fishshell which I used for a time and then abandoned. I think that fishshell is really great (and it’s an actual programming language), the problem with it is two-fold:

  1. Nobody wants to push fishshell on a server – which I understand
  2. Using it requires a million little hacks like the one below

This is the flip side of fixing all the dumb decisions of the bourne shell – everyone else has already worked around them (obligatory xkcd).

" set shell=/bin/bash\ --login
" set shell=bash            " Needed if using fishshell

Backup and Swap files

I hate all the little backup and swap files all over the place. There has been 1 time when these would have come in handy in the past decade as far as I can remember.

set nobackup
set nowritebackup
set noswapfile


" Colorscheme
" colorscheme solarized
" let darkcolorbg='#839496'

set background=dark
let darkcolorbg=234
colorscheme Tomorrow-Night

" GUI Font (same as my gnome-terminal font)
set guifont=Source\ Code\ Pro\ 14

" Use the same symbols as TextMate for tabstops and EOLs
set listchars=tab:▸\ ,eol:¬\,trail:·

Vim 7.0.3 new features

Maybe I should update the stuff that hedges on a machine not having Vim 7.0.3 since version 8 is out now. This is a project for later.

if v:version >= 703
  set colorcolumn=75
  hi ColorColumn ctermbg=234
  set undodir=~/.vim-undo
  set undofile
  set undolevels=1000 "max number of changes that can be undone
  set undoreload=10000 "max number lines to save for undo on buffer reload

  " Toggle line numbers in normal mode, set by default
  set number relativenumber
  function! NumberToggle()
    if(&relativenumber == 1)
      set number norelativenumber
      set number relativenumber

  nnoremap <leader>n :call NumberToggle()<cr>


I don’t really know why I still have OSX hacks in all my dotfiles. Maybe someday I’ll be forced to jump off the Linux ship. I assume I’ll be jumping to a BSD or something at that point though.

if has("unix")
    let s:uname = system("uname")
    if s:uname == "Darwin\n"
        set clipboard=unnamed

Very Magic

I’m not sure if I should turn this off. Half the time I think it’s great, the other half it’s a pain. I guess leaving it on for now seems fine.

nnoremap / /\v


" Vimrc editing
nnoremap <silent><leader>ev :vsplit $MYVIMRC<cr>
nnoremap <silent><leader>sv :source $MYVIMRC<cr>

" un-highlight search results
nnoremap <silent><leader><space> :noh<cr>

" Toggle auto-indent before clipboard paste
set pastetoggle=<leader>p

" Shortcut to rapidly toggle `set list`
nnoremap <silent><leader>l :set list!<cr>

" Normal/Visual tab for bracket pairs
nnoremap <tab> %
vnoremap <tab> %

"Opens a vertical split and switches over (,v)
nnoremap <leader>v <C-w>v<C-w>l

"Moves around split windows
nnoremap <leader>w <C-w><C-w>

"Close a window
nnoremap <silent><leader>q :q<cr>

" Close buffer
noremap <silent><leader>d :bd<cr>

" Buffer previous
noremap <silent><leader>z :bp<CR>

" Buffer next
noremap <silent><leader>x :bn<CR>

nnoremap <S-Tab> gT
nnoremap <silent> <S-t> :tabnew %<CR>

" Set working directory
nnoremap <leader>. :lcd %:p:h<CR>

" Vmap for maintain Visual Mode after shifting > and <, prevents the use of
" '.' to repeat
" vmap < <gv
" vmap > >gv

" Better use of folding
" nnoremap <leader>z za

Status Line

I leave this status line here more as a reference than anything. Currently (as can be seen in the Plugins section) I’m using vim-airline for my statusbar.

augroup ft_statuslinecolor
    au InsertEnter * hi StatusLine ctermfg=196 guifg=#FF3145
    au InsertLeave * hi StatusLine ctermfg=130 guifg=#CD5907
augroup END
set statusline=%f    " Path.
set statusline+=%m   " Modified flag.
set statusline+=%r   " Readonly flag.
set statusline+=%w   " Preview window flag.
set statusline+=\    " Space.
set statusline+=%=   " Right align.
" Line and column position and counts.
set statusline+=\ %l\/%L\ \/\/\ %03c)


Don’t expand tabs in Makefiles or php files

autocmd FileType make setlocal noexpandtab
autocmd Filetype php setlocal noexpandtab
autocmd Filetype go setlocal noexpandtab

Highlight any trailing whitespace in red

highlight ExtraWhitespace ctermbg=red guibg=red
match ExtraWhitespace /\s\+$/
autocmd BufWinEnter * match ExtraWhitespace /\s\+$/
autocmd InsertEnter * match ExtraWhitespace /\s\+\%#\@<!$/
autocmd InsertLeave * match ExtraWhitespace /\s\+$/
autocmd BufWinLeave * call clearmatches()

Ensure that puppet files are handled properly in Vim. IIRC I pulled this line from the office wiki somewhere…

" detect puppet filetype
autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.pp set filetype=puppet
autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.pp setlocal tabstop=4 shiftwidth=4 softtabstop=4 expandtab textwidth=80 smarttab

These are the settings I use for my email. I try to send format=flowed emails that sill look good in terminal readers like Mutt.

augroup mail_filetype
    autocmd VimEnter /tmp/mutt* set formatoptions=aw tw=72
augroup END

Plugin settings

" Tagbar (requires Exuberant ctags 5.5+)
nnoremap <silent><leader>c :TagbarToggle<cr>

It’s kind of insane that you can use Vim to drive a debugger like XDebug. As evidenced by the path maps here, I haven’t used this in a while and it was a pain to setup when I did. Kept here as a reminder that Vim is amazing.

" Xdebug local debugger
let g:vdebug_options = {
\    'server': '',
\    'port': '9000',
\    'path_maps' : {
\        '/srv/www/': '/Users/tyler/Development/upsync-vagrant/shared/people'
\    }
let g:syntastic_javascript_jshint_conf="$HOME/.jshintrc"
let g:syntastic_error_symbol = '✘'
let g:syntastic_warning_symbol = "▲"
" let g:syntastic_python_python_exec = '/usr/bin/python3'
let g:jedi#force_py_version=2

NERDTree was the first plugin I ever installed.

" NERDTree Settings---------------------------------------------------- {{{
"map <leader>t :NERDTreeToggle<cr>
nnoremap <leader>t :NERDTreeTabsToggle<cr>
" Close vim if NERDTree is the last thing standing
autocmd bufenter * if (winnr("$") == 1 && exists("b:NERDTreeType") && b:NERDTreeType == "primary") | q | endif
" }}}

" Included for Airline ------------------------------------------------ {{{
let g:airline_theme = 'tomorrow'
let g:airline_powerline_fonts = 1
" let g:airline#extensions#tabline#enabled = 1
" }}}

" CtrlP --------------------------------------------------------------- {{{
let g:ctrlp_max_files = 0 " Set no max file limit
let g:ctrlp_working_path_mode = 0 " Search current directory not project root
if executable("ag")
  set grepprg=ag\ --nogroup\ --nocolor
"  let g:ctrlp_user_command = 'ag %s -l --nocolor -g ""'
  let g:ctrlp_user_command = {
    \ 'types': {
      \ 1: ['.git', 'git --git-dir=%s/.git ls-files -oc --exclude-standard'],
      \ 2: ['.hg', 'hg --cwd %s locate -I .'],
      \ },
    \ 'fallback': 'ag %s -l --nocolor -g ""'
    \ }


let g:ctrlp_show_hidden = 1

These are all settings for neocomplete and neosnippet which requires Vim 7.0.4 or higher and +lua when you do vim --version.

if v:version >= 704 && has("lua")
  " Neocomplete.vim --------------------------------------------------- {{{
  " Disable AutoComplPop.
  let g:acp_enableAtStartup = 0
  " Use neocomplete.
  let g:neocomplete#enable_at_startup = 1
  " Use smartcase.
  let g:neocomplete#enable_smart_case = 1
  " Set minimum syntax keyword length.
  let g:neocomplete#sources#syntax#min_keyword_length = 3
  let g:neocomplete#lock_buffer_name_pattern = '\*ku\*'
  " I will probably never hit <TAB> 10 times
  let g:neocomplete#max_list = 10

  " Automatically open and close the popup menu / preview window
  au CursorMovedI,InsertLeave * if pumvisible() == 0|silent! pclose|endif
  set completeopt=menuone,menu,longest

  " Define dictionary.
  let g:neocomplete#sources#dictionary#dictionaries = {
      \ 'default' : '',
      \ 'vimshell' : $HOME.'/.vimshell_hist',
      \ 'scheme' : $HOME.'/.gosh_completions'
          \ }

  " Define keyword.
  if !exists('g:neocomplete#keyword_patterns')
      let g:neocomplete#keyword_patterns = {}
  let g:neocomplete#keyword_patterns['default'] = '\h\w*'

  " Plugin key-mappings.
  inoremap <expr><C-g>     neocomplete#undo_completion()
  inoremap <expr><C-l>     neocomplete#complete_common_string()

  " Recommended key-mappings.
  " <CR>: close popup and save indent.
  inoremap <silent> <CR> <C-r>=<SID>my_cr_function()<CR>
  function! s:my_cr_function()
    return neocomplete#smart_close_popup() . "\<CR>"
    " For no inserting <CR> key.
    "return pumvisible() ? neocomplete#close_popup() : "\<CR>"
  " <TAB>: completion.
  inoremap <expr><TAB>  pumvisible() ? "\<C-n>" : "\<TAB>"
  " <C-h>, <BS>: close popup and delete backword char.
  inoremap <expr><C-h> neocomplete#smart_close_popup()."\<C-h>"
  inoremap <expr><BS> neocomplete#smart_close_popup()."\<C-h>"
  inoremap <expr><C-y>  neocomplete#close_popup()
  inoremap <expr><C-e>  neocomplete#cancel_popup()

  " Close popup by <Space>.
  " inoremap <expr><Space> pumvisible() ? neocomplete#close_popup() : "\<Space>"

  " Enable omni completion.
  autocmd FileType css setlocal omnifunc=csscomplete#CompleteCSS
  autocmd FileType html,markdown setlocal omnifunc=htmlcomplete#CompleteTags
  autocmd FileType javascript setlocal omnifunc=javascriptcomplete#CompleteJS
  autocmd FileType python setlocal omnifunc=pythoncomplete#Complete
  autocmd FileType xml setlocal omnifunc=xmlcomplete#CompleteTags
  autocmd FileType php set omnifunc=phpcomplete#CompletePHP

  " Enable heavy omni completion.
  if !exists('g:neocomplete#sources#omni#input_patterns')
    let g:neocomplete#sources#omni#input_patterns = {}
  let g:neocomplete#sources#omni#input_patterns.php = '[^. \t]->\h\w*\|\h\w*::'
  let g:neocomplete#sources#omni#input_patterns.c = '[^.[:digit:] *\t]\%(\.\|->\)'
  let g:neocomplete#sources#omni#input_patterns.cpp = '[^.[:digit:] *\t]\%(\.\|->\)\|\h\w*::'

  " For perlomni.vim setting.
  let g:neocomplete#sources#omni#input_patterns.perl = '\h\w*->\h\w*\|\h\w*::'
  " }}}

  " Neosnippet.vim ------------------------------------------------------ {{{
  " Plugin key-mappings.
  imap <C-k>     <Plug>(neosnippet_expand_or_jump)
  smap <C-k>     <Plug>(neosnippet_expand_or_jump)
  xmap <C-k>     <Plug>(neosnippet_expand_target)

  " SuperTab like snippets behavior.
  imap <expr><TAB> neosnippet#expandable_or_jumpable() ?
  \ "\<Plug>(neosnippet_expand_or_jump)"
  \: pumvisible() ? "\<C-n>" : "\<TAB>"
  smap <expr><TAB> neosnippet#expandable_or_jumpable() ?
  \ "\<Plug>(neosnippet_expand_or_jump)"
  \: "\<TAB>"

  " For snippet_complete marker.
  if has('conceal')
    set conceallevel=2 concealcursor=i

  " Enable snipMate compatibility feature.
  let g:neosnippet#enable_snipmate_compatibility = 1

  " Tell Neosnippet about the other snippets
  let g:neosnippet#snippets_directory='~/.vim/bundle/vim-snippets/snippets'
  " }}}
" }}}

Indent guides are neat. I need to figure out a way to have the ctermbg vary with colorscheme though :

" Indent Guides ------------------------------------------------------- {{{
let g:indent_guides_enable_on_vim_startup = 1
let g:indent_guides_auto_colors = 0
let g:indent_guides_space_guides = 1
autocmd VimEnter,Colorscheme * :hi IndentGuidesOdd  ctermbg=234
autocmd VimEnter,Colorscheme * :hi IndentGuidesEven ctermbg=none
" }}}

Custom Functions

:BangOpen lets you open the file that results from the output of a command. I was sort of surprised I had to write a function that did this. The most common use case would be: :BangOpen which script_I_wrote_thats_in_my_path_but_I_forget_where.

SetSpaces is a function that Steve Barbera wrote that I think is kinda neat. It sets all of your spaces and things to the same value with one command. This is kinda what modelines are for, but modelines have always struck me as weird and potentially dangerous (which is why I have them disabled in Basic Setting).

" BangOpen ------------------------------------------------------------ {{{
function! BangOpen(arg)
    execute 'tabe ' . system(a:arg)

command! -nargs=1 BangOpen :call BangOpen(<f-args>)
" }}}

function! SetSpaces(arg)
    echo "settings spaces to: " . a:arg
    execute 'set tabstop=' . a:arg
    execute 'set shiftwidth=' . a:arg
    execute 'set softtabstop=' . a:arg

command! -nargs=1 SetSpaces :call SetSpaces(<f-args>)

I must’ve been having some trouble with keycode mapping and added these. I can’t remember the context of these.

set timeout
set timeoutlen=2500
set ttimeoutlen=10
Deterministic Turing Machine in Python
Tyler Cipriani Posted

Below is a Turing machine implementation based on the example in Understanding Computation by Tom Stuart. The Turing machine is an entertaining thought exercise that makes computer science feel a bit like poetry. Most things I learn on about computers on a day-to-day basis are decidedly unpoetic.

Deterministic Turing Machine
This is a turing machine written in python. This code closely follows code from
chapter 5 of the book _Understanding Computation_ by Tom Stuart.
This is basically a Finite State Machine with a tape.

import collections

LEFT = 'left'
RIGHT = 'right'
BLANK = '_'

Rule = collections.namedtuple('Rule', [

def rule_applies(rule, state, tape):
    """Determine whether a rule applies to a state."""
    correct_state = rule.state == state
    correct_read = rule.head == tape.head
    return correct_state and correct_read

def follow_rule(rule, state, tape):
    """Follows the current rule."""
    if rule_applies(rule, state, tape):
        state = rule.next_state
        tape.middle = rule.write

    return rule, state, tape

class Tape(object):
    """Represents the tape in a turing machine."""
    def __init__(self, left=None, middle=None, right=None, blank=BLANK):
        """Initialize and show initial state."""
        self.left = left or []
        self.right = right or []

        self.middle = middle
        if self.middle is None:
            self.middle = blank

        self.blank = blank

    def move_right(self):
        """Move tape one unit right, add blanks as needed."""
        self.left = self.left + [self.middle]
        if self.right:
            self.middle = self.right.pop(0)
            self.middle = self.blank

    def move_left(self):
        """Move tape one unit left, add blanks as needed."""
        self.right = [self.middle] + self.right
        if self.left:
            self.middle = self.left.pop()
            self.middle = self.blank

    def head(self):
        return str(self.middle)

    def move(self, direction):
        """Move tape left or right."""
        if not direction in [LEFT, RIGHT]:
            raise RuntimeError('Unrecognized direction "%s"' % direction)

        if direction == LEFT:
            return self.move_left()

        if direction == RIGHT:
            return self.move_right()

    def __repr__(self):
        """Tape state with current head in parens, like _12(3)4."""
        out = '{}({}){}'.format(
            ''.join(map(str, self.left)),
            ''.join(map(str, self.right)))
        return out

class DeterministicTuringMachine(object):
    """This is a turing machine."""
    def __init__(self, state, tape, accept_states, rules):
        Initialize machine
        :state: - integer - that represents the current state of the machine
        :tape: - Tape - the machine's tape
        :accept_states: - [integer] - represents states when the machine has
                                      exited successfully
        :rules: - [Rule] - list of rules for the machine to follow
        self.state = state
        self.tape = tape
        self.accept_states = accept_states
        self.rules = rules

    def accepting(self):
        return self.state in self.accept_states

    def stuck(self):
        """Stuck when we have no next rule."""
        return not self.next_rule

    def working(self):
        """Working when not done and we still have rules to apply."""
        return not (self.accepting or self.stuck)

    def next_rule(self):
        """Get next rule."""
        rules = self._find_rules()

        if rules:
            return rules[0]

        return rules

    def _find_rules(self):
        """Find a rules we can apply."""
        applicable_rules = [rule for rule in self.rules
                            if rule_applies(rule, self.state, self.tape)]

        return applicable_rules

    def step(self):
        """Apply any rules we can find."""
        _, self.state, self.tape = follow_rule(
            self.next_rule, self.state, self.tape)

    def run(self):
        while self.working:

This machine contains objects for a tape (Tape), rules for a machine to follow (Rule), and an object representing the state of the Turing machine itself (DeterministicTuringMachine).

Incrementing binary numbers

Given the appropriate set of rules, this machine can perform general computing tasks. In the book, the rules for incrementing a binary number are used as an example.

We start with the number 10111 (A.K.A, 23), which we’d like to increment by 1 to get 11000 (A.K.A., 24). To begin we set the tape with the number we’d like to increment with the read head of the tape resting on right-most digit of the binary number:

# Tape looks like: 1011(1)
# Where () represents the read/write head
t = Tape(left=[1,0,1,1], middle=1)

This machine will have three available machine “states” that help to define the rules for the Turing machine to follow. When the machine is in a particular state, and encounters a particular condition (i.e., the read head is over a particular number) it will follow a particular rule – that is, it will write either a 1 or a 0, move the read head either LEFT or RIGHT, and, possibly, change machine state. These rules are based on machine state in combination with a read condition.

The machine will start in state 1. When the machine enters into one of the accept_states, the machine will stop processing. The only accept_state for this machine is 3.

# Availale states in this example are 1, 2, 3
initial_state = 1

m = DeterministicTuringMachine(
    state=initial_state, tape=t, accept_states=[3], rules=[
        # if the state is 1 and the read head is ... etc
        Rule(state=1, head='0', next_state=2, write='1', move=RIGHT),
        Rule(state=1, head='1', next_state=1, write='0', move=LEFT),
        Rule(state=1, head=BLANK, next_state=2, write='1', move=RIGHT),

        # if the state is 2 and the read head is ... etc
        Rule(state=2, head='0', next_state=2, write='0', move=RIGHT),
        Rule(state=2, head='1', next_state=2, write='1', move=RIGHT),
        Rule(state=2, head=BLANK, next_state=3, write=BLANK, move=LEFT)

If we call the step method of the state machine we can trace how it follows rules.

>>> m.tape
>>> m.step()
>>> print(m.state)
>>> print(m.tape)

Since it was in state 1 and the read head was over a 1 it followed rule Rule(state=1, head='1', next_state=1, write='0', move=LEFT) – it wrote 0 in its current location, it moved the read head LEFT, and stayed in the 1 state. Since the state is still 1 and the read head is once-again over a 1, the same rule will be followed again:

>>> m.tape
>>> m.step()
>>> print(m.state)
>>> print(m.tape)

Calling the run method of the machine will continue to follow the defined rules until state 3 is reached:

>>> print(m.state)
>>> print(m.tape)

Turing machines are magic, I guess is what I’m saying.

What I Told the FCC
Tyler Cipriani Posted

I think that new FCC proposal for “Restoring Internet Freedom” would completely destroy the internet. Should this proposal go any further, the internet will no longer be recognizable within a very short amount of time. I’m worried that I will no longer have a place on the internet because my internet activity and work isn’t designed to invade people’s homes and privacy to sell them things they don’t need. Non-profits on the internet are dead.

This proposal is entirely rent-seeking by big ISPs. ISPs will make more money without providing any additional service for users, and the FCC would be enabling it all.

Big Disclaimer

This is a post where I feel it is important to make absolutely clear that my views are my own and do not represent the views of my employer(s past or present)

My comments to the FCC

The FCC has opened their proposal to public comment and I encourage you to do so.

Here’s what I wrote:

I am a Colorado resident and I’ve worked as an internet engineer for my entire professional career (small disclaimer that my views are my own and do not represent those of my employer), and I’m worried that new FCC rules may allow large ISPs to destroy the internet.

The current state of the internet is possible because ISPs aren’t selling tiers of websites to their users. If we create internet fast-lanes, then we create a tiered internet. This is currently the way cable channels already work: if you just want CNN and ESPN you can pay one amount, but if you want HBO you pay a little more. The problem is that the internet is constantly in flux, there are constantly new websites being built. This is a major driver of economic growth and is good for everyone who uses the internet.

If you start offering internet fast-lanes, internet tiers become possible: if you just want Facebook and Google then you pay one amount, but if you want Wikipedia you pay a little more. Ipso facto, Wikipedia is unavailable to a portion of the internet population.

There may be those who make the argument that this is how the free market works: if Wikipedia were good, people would be willing to pay more for it; however, this artificial choice between Google and Wikipedia is only made possible by a perversion of the design of the internet. Bits of information are bits of information, an ISP is arguing that websites should pay more while it offers the same service. ISPs want Netflix to pay more than Google for them to move 100 bytes from the internet backbone to your houuse. Moving 100 bytes from the backbone to someone’s house, the so-called “last mile”, is same amount of work whether those bytes are from Google or Netflix so why should Netflix have to pay more?

Meanwhile, large ISPs that move bits from the internet backbone over the “last mile” do not compete with one another by means of designed but unspoken collusion. The suggestion that an internet user should have to choose between Google and my blog is being made by companies that make all of their money by rent-seeking and now demand more money for less service. Consumers are not being protected, only ISP shareholders are.

This proposal has the net-effect of censoring the internet so that only websites that have enough money to pay protection fees to ISPs will be available to people. This proposal is censorship that stifles freedom and innovation and will destroy the internet.

/me drops mic.

Yearly Reading: Done and To Do
Tyler Cipriani Posted

Reading fiction is not that dissimilar from watching a movie in your brain. The ways in which audio-visual consumption of fiction and reading fiction diverge is in their demand on engagement – when reading I must learn new words, I struggle to find meaning, I use my imagination, I slowly strengthen understanding – I meet books more than half-way in my mind’s eye.

Movies and television, in contrast, demand less engagement from the viewer – much of the vision and interpretation is handed (or forced) on the audience. As popular movies and TV demand less, they also seem more apt to acquiesce to popular whim – mirroring the culture that consumes them rather than challenging it. The level of engagement demanded by audio-visual entertainment is also subject to a shifting baseline – that is, it’s gotten less challenging over time.

This is not a knock on all television and movies as a form of art. Often television, movies, and documentaries are the perfect medium to convey a particular message. Also, there are many movies and television programs which are, in fact, very challenging to their audience in addition to being very enjoyable.

Also, it is noteworthy that I tend to read mass-market crap – the book-equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup. I’ve come to terms with this fact. I read some crap, I read some good things, occasionally I’ll read a few great (and nominally “great”) things. I end up with a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from reading crap rather than watching crap – YMMV.

This is a long way of saying – I think that reading is a Good Thing™ and I want to do more of it. To enforce more of a habit, I set reading goals for myself at the start of each year. In 2015 I wanted to read a book a month. In 2016 I wanted to read 2 books a month. In both 2015 and 2016 my grasp has exceeded my reach – which is not how goals are supposed to work.

Books read in 2016

  1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  2. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  3. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  5. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
  6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  7. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  8. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
  9. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  10. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  11. Stoner by John Williams
  12. Prost! The Story of German Beer by Horst D. Dornbusch
  13. Bock by Darryl Richman
  14. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
  15. Room by Emma Donoghue
  16. Kitchen Confidential: adventures in the culinary underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
  17. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  18. Watchers by Dean Koontz
  19. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  21. Everything but Espresso by Scott Rao
  22. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  23. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  24. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  25. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  26. CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
  27. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
  28. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  29. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I also reviewed a couple of these books over the course of 2016, hopefully I can continue down that path in the year to come.

Goals for 2017

I’m going to try to read roughly a book a week in 2017 – 50 books for the year. Hopefully 50 books is an ambitious enough goal. Additionally, I’d like to try to do 6 book reviews on this blog as a means of:

  • Tracking what I’ve read
  • Checking my understanding
  • Engaging and owning what I’ve read

I’d also like to lay claim to my crazy ambitious plan to read 4 whole, real, grown-up (i.e., not beer- or computer-related) non-fiction books this year.

As I’m proclaiming these goals publicly for the first time, I’m sure I’ll come up woefully and shamefully short – yay blogging! :)

Book Review: CODE by Charles Petzold
Tyler Cipriani Posted

CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold

The language of computer hardware and software is not particularly well hidden in my experience. The more I interact with software, the more those interactions reflect their makers and materials. This fact is slowly permeating the zeitgeist as we all, collectively, realize that facebook is not the open internet (no matter how much it may insist on its own benevolence), and that the current state of AI is simply one of money laundering for bias. While it is increasingly true that our high-level interactions with machines are broken, it’s important to recall that we haven’t fixed any of the low-level problems either (tried subtracting 399999999999998 from 399999999999999 in Google’s calculator lately?).

These incredible Rube Goldberg, hacks-all-the-way-down, leaking piles of abstractions that are modern computers are fascinating and powerful. The modern computer reveals its own history – each layer of abstraction representing a previous geologic era. The ancient .plan files of the Sumerians and Hittites.

CODE builds forward through time. Revealing each innovation necessary to create a fully functioning computer. It works its way towards the modern computer starting with binary data representation using morse code. From there it covers non-base-10 number systems, telegraphs, electromagnets and the invention of the relay, the flip-flop switch that allows temporary storage of a single bit. All of this background culminates in a truly wonderful chapter in which you use this technology to build a fully functional computer in your mind’s eye.

The book goes on to explain the Von Neumann architecture and from there moves into topics with which I am more familiar – high level programming languages, object-oriented programming languages, and “The Graphical Revolution”. In these later chapters, an evident object-oriented/graphical/IDE as the logical end-point for computing bias rears its ugly head, but in a book published by Microsoft Press it’s a surprisingly light touch.

CODE is one of the more interesting technical books I have ever read, and also one of the few that I read cover-to-cover over the course of a few reading sessions. It is a story rather than a series of ideas surrounding a theme. It is a history book, not a handbook.

My one critique is that the chapters after the climactic computer construction feel a bit disjointed. There is no real conclusion to the book – I expected a more satisfying wrap-up than I was given. Instead of a tying-up of loose-ends we move on to topics like object-oriented programming, and IEEE 754 floating-point numbers. While the treatment this book provides these topics is interesting, the organization is somewhat lacking.

To spite the lack of organization towards the end of the book, I found CODE a wonderful read and would have no qualms recommending it to anyone at any level of computer literacy.

Rating: 9/10

Meta Note:

As part of my effort to delve more deeply into reading, I will be featuring more review-type content. I will be tagging it all with the “books” tag. If you hate this, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for “computing” to continue to read my insights on something I’m perhaps even the slightest bit qualified to talk about in any sort of informed way.