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February 2nd, 2009:

Cleaning Up 21-Year-Old Writing

Context changes are expensive, whether you’re a writer or an operating system. That’s why I like long, uninterrupted days to write. Writing in small chunks on large projects never worked well for me; I’d rather pull three ten-hour days than find thirty disjointed hours in the course of a week and waste half of each of them trying to recover my train of thought.

So it’s been with the fourth edition of Assembly Language Step By Step. I’ve spent most of the last four days blasting away at it, and if I haven’t returned to the Carb Wars here, that’s the reason. All in good time.

This is a big project, probably the biggest I’ve attempted since Drive-by Wi-Fi Guide, and it’s likely to be eating my life until June. There’s a great deal of new material to be written, and a lot of concepts to be covered that just weren’t issues under DOS. For example, when you work at the assembly level under Linux, endianness comes into play and needs to be explained, even though 85% of the world’s desktop hardware is little-endian.

That’s actually been fun; as I’ve said many times, the very best way to make sure you understand something is to explain it to somebody else. What’s been humbling is running into writing bad enough to make me wince. Every so often, I have to push back in my chair, heave a deep sigh, and ask myself the purely rhetorical question: “Geez. Did I write that?” (I did. 21 years ago. Practice helps…)

No problem; this is what editors do, though I am very glad that we’re not using typewriters anymore. And unlike certain other projects I’ve worked on, the author in this case takes criticism well.