128. Coding on a Plane, Coding on Train

On today’s episode, Dave, who is in Cleveland and William, who is in Hyderabad, talk about coding while traveling, something they both have experience with. Since the Internet has been available on planes, it has opened up enormous possibilities in terms of being able to code while traveling. Dave shares what it was like for him having access on the flight from New York to Cleveland. Having access to the Internet is especially useful for longer flights where you can be more productive. There are also several other modes of transport they both have coded on and they share their top picks for which in-transit options are the best to get some work done. Plus, along with being able to access decent internet, equally important are the food options you have available. To learn more about creative ways of making any commute more productive, join us today!


Key Points From This Episode:


  • The benefit of having Internet on a flight for coding.
  • What StartUpBus is and how it works.
  • Why the train is the best in transit place to code.
  • Whether it is possible to code in the car.
  • The surprising mode of transport that Dave has coded on.
  • Today’s teach and learn: the average uptime for the top 100 sites.
  • What different availability works out to in minutes per year.
  • And much more!

Transcript for Episode 128. Coding on a Plane, Coding on Train

[00:00:02] DA: Hello and welcome to the Rabbit Hole, the definitive developers podcast. Here in Cleveland. I’m your host –

[00:00:08] WJ: In Hyderabad.

[00:00:10] DA: In Hyderabad. Oh my God, what’s going on? I’m your host, Dave Anderson, and we have our producer/cohost.

[00:00:20] WJ: William Jeffries.

[00:00:21] DA: In India, enjoying that biryani.

[00:00:23] WJ: Oh my God! that biryani. It’s so good.

[00:00:26] DA: Mmm. Boom biryani! I’m a little jealous. I don’t think that Cleveland is quite as known for its biryani.

[00:00:34] WJ: Honestly, I hate to be a stereotype, but I usually just get the chicken tikka masala. It’s so good.

[00:00:41] DA: Can’t go wrong. Anyway, since we’re both travelling so far away from our comfortable Rabbit Hole Studio in Manhattan.

[00:00:52] WJ: I miss you, studio.

[00:00:53] DA: Today’s topic is going to be coding on a plane. While you’re travelling –

[00:00:58] WJ: Did you got on a plane?

[00:00:59] DA: I did. I decided I was going to splurge on the flight over. And I debated if I was going to pay for business class. But I was like, “no, this is dumb.” I’m just flying from New York to Cleveland. I’ll just pay for Wi-Fi. That would be much better.

[00:01:13] WJ: How much was it?

[00:01:15] DA: It was like 10 bucks. It’s pretty reasonable.

[00:01:17] WJ: Yeah. That’s so worth it. Was the Internet any good though?

[00:01:21] DA: Yeah. I had a pretty decent connection, and it was really good for like chatting with people. Just Slacking and like sending messages to my friends and stuff on HangOuts. I had like a YouTube video that someone sent me. I was like watching a video and it was like decent quality. It was pretty good.

[00:01:44] WJ: Wow! That’s wild. I never would have guessed. My experience was always struggling to code without access to Stack Overflow, on planes.

[00:01:56] DA: No. We are now in the future. You can get access the Stack Overflow on a plane. I mean, I’ve totally coded on planes when there wasn’t Internet. But I like I remember the first time that I did have Internet, it was just like completely revelatory. But it’s like that thing where – So there was this one interview on The Late Night Show with Louis C.K, where he’s talking about how ridiculous it is the times that we live in where we’re flying through the sky having access to sum knowledge of all of the human race. and then it stops working and people start complaining. They were like, “Oh! This flight is awful.” It’s like, “What? Can’t you appreciate what you have? You’re flying through the sky.”

[00:02:46] WJ: This is being beamed to you by satellites.

[00:02:49] DA: Exactly.

[00:02:50] WJ: In space.

[00:02:52] DA: In space. Exactly. And so, the space satellites are like sending me all the Stack Overflow information I needed to write code. Then we started descending below 10,000 feet and they were like, “okay. We’re going to turn off the Internet now.” I’m like, “no! Mom! I’m not done yet.”

[00:03:14] WJ: Can we just do a lap?

[00:03:16] DA: Yeah. Right. Exactly. Let’s just loop around Cleveland a couple of times. I mean, that’s definitely a lesson learned. It’s amazing having that. But the flight from New York to Cleveland is two hours or whatever, but like you’re only above 10,000 feet for maybe like 45 minutes.

[00:03:38] WJ: Yeah. I had no idea that I would feel like – I actually planned to have a book on the plane, because I did not realize that Internet was going to be an option. I feel like it’s such a chump.

[00:03:48] DA: When you flew out to India, that was like – What? Like a 30-hour flight or something? 26 hours?

[00:03:54] WJ: It would have been 26 hours if I had done the layover to get me to Hyderabad. But instead I just flew direct to Mumbai, which is only like 16 hours. Then I spent the night. Then I went to Hyderabad later.

[00:04:07] DA: Okay. So, did you have the opportunity to use Wi-Fi or do any coding? While you’re flying?

[00:04:12] WJ: I mean, now that I realized that this is a thing, I really totally should have. My plan was like if I finished my book, then I was going to try and do some practice problems, like some Project Euler stuff, and I just had like docs downloaded for different programming languages so that I could reference them. 

[00:04:30] DA: Yeah, and then just working on like the core language itself.

[00:04:34] WJ: Right, because you’re not getting any packages.

[00:04:37] DA: No. Yeah. I think even if I was able to, or if I wanted to start a new project, that would have been pretty challenging with the Wi-Fi. I was able to get a YouTube video to stream, but I don’t know about downloading all those node modules. Those are just like so exorbitant.

[00:05:00] WJ: Yeah, and trying to deal with any API dependencies. That’s going to be a nightmare.

[00:05:06] DA: Oh, yeah. One thing to note. I was traveling one time and I did not pay for Internet and I refused. I didn’t want to pay the $20 or whatever. But then I didn’t realize that my web application depended upon a bundle of JS that was just like hard linked to some website, some external website. So, it just wouldn’t come up properly, until I had like just one drop of Internet, and was able to download the JavaScript bundle and the fonts and whatever. It just looked completely janky.

[00:05:46] WJ: Plane testing.

[00:05:49] DA: Exactly. Yeah. It’s not plane ready, that website. Got to get the service workers or whatever.

[00:05:58] WJ: [inaudible 00:05:57] discover dependencies on your code.

[00:06:00] DA: Right.

[00:06:00] WJ: You should plane monkey to go along with Chaos Monkey.

[00:06:06] DA: Yeah. I mean, you don’t really realize how ubiquitous the Internet is and how many little tiny requests your computer is making until you have to really frontload all of those requests. Have you ever done any other road trips or travels where you coded in transit?

[00:06:24] WJ: So, I haven’t, but my sister was on StartupBus. Have you heard of this?

[00:06:30] DA: No. What is that?

[00:06:32] WJ: It’s a bus that a bunch of people get on and then they try and start companies while they’re on the bus.

[00:06:38] DA: Oh! That sounds like it would be pretty rough. I don’t know about motion sickness. [inaudible 00:06:45].

[00:06:47] WJ: Yeah. Well, people do a lot of hacking on that bus.

[00:06:51] DA: So where are they driving to? Is it like a tour bus? Kind of like a rock and roll band tour bus or something?

[00:06:59] WJ: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a pretty big bus. I think they go – I mean, it’s like a full week-long, it’s like a very long bus ride.

[00:07:06] DA: Oh! Wow!

[00:07:07] WJ: I have a friend who started a company on that bus.

[00:07:10] DA: Really?

[00:07:11] WJ: Yeah. He’s been working with that – That company has been around for like five years now. They have offices in multiple countries, at this point. It’s called Major League Hacking, MLH.

[00:07:24] DA: Okay. I think I’ve heard of that.

[00:07:26] WJ: Yeah. They do like hackathon competitions mostly for universities all around the world now. It’s kind of crazy that that started on a bus.

[00:07:35] DA: Oh my gosh! Did they have Wi-Fi?

[00:07:40] WJ: Yes, they definitely had Wi-Fi. That would be rough. Everybody is just like tethering their phone.

[00:07:47] DA: Just burning down that data plan.

[00:07:49] WJ: Yeah.

[00:07:50] DA: That’s pretty cool. Yeah. I mean, I guess like if you’re not too subject to motion sickness on a bus, it might work. I have a buddy out in, who used to part-time live out in Cleveland, and I tried coding on a bus. I did not feel too good for myself. It wasn’t sitting well with me. But then another time I went out there was with him and I took the train. I took Amtrak, and that was glorious. I think coding on trains is the best of all coding adventures that you can have, because it’s just like such a smooth ride and you’ve got the beverage car in the back.

[00:08:33] WJ: Oh my God! The café car is so clutch.

[00:08:37] DA: Yeah. It’s so nice. You can like kind of get up and change where you’re at. Like a real challenge I had on the flight, which may not have been an issue for you on your flight out. But my 15-inch MacBook Pro was really cramming in there. I felt like I was invading my own personal space and invading the personal space of everyone around me with like opening up this guy.

Yeah, I managed to make it work. I kind of like nudge it over a little bit. But when I had to like open my notes and like look at my notebook too and I was like, “oh god!” So squished.

[00:09:13] WJ: Yeah. I used to have to commute from Philly to New York and back often.

[00:09:21] DA: Oh, on the train?

[00:09:22] WJ: Yeah, on Amtrak. And so, I got a lot of coding done on the train. That’s like a two-hour bus, or a two-hour train ride. So, you can really sink your teeth into a project. I had like a hotspot. Not on my phone. Like a separate hotspot with a separate data plan, which was better than the train Wi-Fi, which is actual garbage. Still pretty rough patches. So, when you did get Internet, it was like, “all right. Let me download whatever packages I need, because I don’t know when the next patch of Internet is going to come.”

[00:09:58] DA: Right. Yeah. It’s not like as predictable as like being at 10,000 feet on a bigger plane. You’re just going to like have a tree or a mount, under something just screwing your business. Yeah, the ride out to Pittsburgh from New York is just pretty beautiful. But there’re spots that are very rural and those mountains get up and the train’s Wi-Fi does not [inaudible 00:10:26] Not pretty.

[00:10:28] WJ: Have you tried coding in a car?

[00:10:30] DA: If I don’t survive coding in a bus, then I’m definitely not going to survive coding in a car. I thought about it. I definitely considered it sometimes, where somebody else is going to be driving. [inaudible 00:10:44] just get a little bit done on the side.

[00:10:49] WJ: I have done it, and it is totally miserable. You’ll get exactly as car sick as you thought you would.

[00:10:58] DA: Yeah, like red-green refactor. Except green is you turning green, because you’re about to hurl.

[00:11:08] WJ: Yeah. I think that’s basically all the methods of public transportation. Did we miss any? Have you ever coded on a submarine?

[00:11:18] DA: I did code on a boat once.

[00:11:21] WJ: Oh my God! You win. Oh man! What boat were you coding on?

[00:11:21] DA: There’s some like pretty dope ferries in the Seattle Bay area.

[00:11:36] WJ: Oh man!

[00:11:37] DA: Yeah. That’s like an hour-long ride to get out to the peninsula from Seattle. So, it’s pretty nice time to chill out and just code and the pretzel with some cheesy dips. 

[00:11:52] WJ: This is brilliant.

[00:11:55] DA: It’s pretty much in the same league I think as like the dining car from Amtrak that I highly recommend, very civilized commute.

[00:12:03] WJ: Yeah. I was commuting on the ferry in New York, taking the ferry from Greenpoint to Jersey City. But you have to transfer at pier 11. So, you’re not on the ferry for long enough to really justify breaking out your laptop. So, I was just doing podcasts. But, man! If that were an hour-long ride and I could really sink my teeth into something. They have a café on the ferry too. So that would be really pleasant.

[00:12:37] DA: Yeah. I think that’s the conclusion we’re arriving at. You get like a mode of transport that’s like over an hour and you have a good café situation going on. You can like get up and roam around a little bit. Then you’re going to have a good time.

[00:12:51] WJ: Yeah. I need like a private yacht with Internet and a café car.

[00:12:59] DA: Or a blimp.

[00:13:02] WJ: I have never blimp. That’s a good one. Maybe a helicopter? You code on a helicopter. Those are flying low enough. You might be able to just get cell signal.

[00:13:18] DA: [inaudible 00:13:18] like an Army of One commercial. Some elite unit of hackers in the army in the chopper. [inaudible 00:13:39]. 

[00:13:42] WJ: Yeah. Are we on of time?

[00:13:38] DA: We’re at 17 minutes.

[00:13:42] WJ: Amazing. I am amazed that we got 17 minutes of content of coding on a plane.

[00:13:53] DA: So, in conclusion, just these flipping codes off my flipping plane, or I guess you can say that. One more take on it. Get these [inaudible 00:14:05] codes off my [inaudible 00:14:05 plane. Or get them on my plane. I don’t know which. Do you have a teach and learn?

[00:14:14] WJ: Yeah. We haven’t done a teach and learn in a while. I learned recently that according to the Alexis statistics, the average uptime for the top 100 sites on the Internet is only 99%. Two nines of availability. That’s it. Do you believe that?

[00:14:32] DA: Even for Google?

[00:14:33] WJ: I mean, it’s the average. I’m sure Google skews things way up, because they are basically never down. The top hundred sites on the Internet, only two nines of availability, which I think works out to something like 3-1/2 days of downtime a year. Or maybe more?

[00:14:52] DA: Wow! That 1% really makes a big difference. [inaudible 00:14:56] down that bad. But I’m doing the math on my head.

[00:15:00] WJ: Yeah. People are always talking about like five nines of availability. How you have to have those 99.999% of time. 

[00:15:11] DA: Is that what people are shooting for? What’s the decent uptime? What should I not feel bad about?

[00:15:17] WJ: I mean, if the top 100 sites only have two nines of availability, then I guess you could feel good about that. I don’t know. I think that we should probably have at least three nines of availability. I mean, it also depends on your use case, right? What is your service? How critical is it? What are the consequences of it being down? 

[00:15:38] DA: That’s real true. I guess not having zero downtime deployment will also like add up over time, like if you have to take yourself out for like a minute or two to do a deployment, then those minutes are going to eat away your nines.

[00:15:53] WJ: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, so you got 365 days a year times 24 hours in a day times 60 minutes an hour. So, if you have 3 nines of availability. That leaves you with only 525 minutes of downtime a year. So, you want four nines of availability. That’s only 52 minutes a year. If you want five nines of availability, that’s 5 minutes of downtime per year. So, you basically – Like nothing can really go wrong, because – If something is down, like five minutes is not enough time to Google the answer and fix it, even if it’s easy.

[00:16:38] DA: Yeah. Especially if you’re on a plane, you’re definitely going to lose a couple of nines.

[00:16:44] WJ: Yeah. Definitely.

[00:16:46] DA: All right. Cool. That was good catching up. We’ll have to talk more about some availability and nines next time.

[00:16:52] WJ: Sounds good.


[00:16:53] MN: Follow us now on Twitter @radiofreerabbit so we can keep the conversation going. Like what you hear? Give us a 5-star review and help developers just like you find their way into the Rabbit Hole, and never miss an episode. Subscribe now however you listen to your favorite podcast.

On behalf of our producer extraordinaire, William Jeffries and my amazing Cohost, Dave Anderson and me, your host, Michael Nunez, thanks for listening to the Rabbit Hole.


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