Amazing Savants

Even though no one posted that they watch the videos (thanks!) I’m posting these anyway. So screw you!

We’ll start out easy. This one is only 5 minutes and it will blow your mind.

Derek is a musical genius. There are 5 parts to this story, each about 10 minutes. If you start, you won’t stop. It’s astounding.

Daniel Tammet has an amazing brain. He can learn languages to fluency in a week, do insane math. He can recite Pi to 22,500 decimal places. It’s another 5 part series with each part being around 10 minutes.

I almost hesitate to post this one, but it’s a great story too. I hesitate because this is the story that inspired the movie Rain Man. Why does that make me hesitate? Because every one of these stories is worth your time, not just the one that’s the least fearful because of its familiarity.

Don’t watch the first one of each and say “oh that looked interesting, but I need to go watch that movie that looks like it’s going to suck but I’m going to watch it anyway” or “I would have watched those, but I had to listen to another song with the word ‘baby’ in it” or whatever lame excuse you’ll come up with. Watch them all. You’ll be glad you did.


Do what your parents did! Get a job sir!

In case WordPress unhelpfully strips the embed code from my feeds, here’s a link to the video.

The video stands completely on its own, so I’ll just say: go buy the latest Harvey Milk album. It’s great! For a more substantial taste, you can listen to the full track on their website.

Oh and Beck is still derivative crap.


News You Can Lose

Nobody told me there was yet another digital display interface standard. HDMI is so last year I guess. It’s cool that it can do native fiber though!

The Wii has been hacked and someone ported mplayer to it so that it’ll play DVD’s now and do other cool home-brew stuff. Cool. See also.

They’re triple-dipping another Lebowski with a 10th anniversary … DVD(?!?!!). WTF? Why not Bluray? Oh and your site sucks. You’re welcome.

If you know me, you probably know that I LOVE me some Boris. Well Boris are good buddies with this band Sunn O))). One of the Sunn O))) dudes plays a Bean (like me) and I’d heard some of their stuff on Skreemr (beware the popups!) so I thought I’d pick up one of their records. Bzzt. Not so great. Some cool drone stuff, but too much demon-voice (as Ed calls it) for me.

My big project release is inching closer. Don’t forget to breathe!

A while ago I picked up an HP dv2845se (laptop). I’ve had an HP workstation (from the workstation, not desktop line) at work for years and love em. The laptop, however is a piece of crap. They keyboard loses strokes. The trackpad falls asleep randomly. The soundcard is a soundcard in only the most academic sense of the term. It’s completely useless for doing any kind of recording even with a fancy mic hooked to it. The video card over-heats all of the time. The wireless is a bit flakey and was somewhat of a pain to setup in Linux. It’s almost enough to make a guy buy a mac. Ha! I’m kidding of course.

I have to imagine someone makes a decent laptop. I wonder if I’ll be forced to buy a gaming laptop just to get something capable of doing real work.

I keep meaning to do my youtube savant documentaries post, but wonder if folks actually watch the vids I post especially when they’re long-ish. If you do, post a comment! These docs are great!

Audio-surf claims to make a video game from analyzing your music. Seems like a cool idea.

Thanks wordpress for losing a huge chunk of my post!


This and That

I finally got Jose Gonzalez’ new album and it’s mostly great. I was lucky enough to find a couple of completely kickass videos of my two favorite songs on youtube. I embed them here for your pleasure.

Man, I wish I could have Jose come to my house for a personal show! I haven’t been playing as much lately, so my playing/learning The Nest tonight has my right-hand fingers quite sore. I need to get back into it.

I picked up I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski (the book from the LebowskiFest guys) recently and it’s really a funny and informative companion to the movie.

Another post, another cool TED talk. This time on the intelligence of crows. Who knew?

A tip: Just as seeing someone wearing a visor at a party (male or female) should be your cue to leave; reading or hearing the phrase “quiet desperation” should be your cue to stop reading/watching. Perhaps you never thought of that, but that’s what I’m here for. Sam Rowe: Lifecoach.


More Must-See Videos

If you don’t know Errol Morris, go rent or buy all of the documentaries he’s directed (feel free to skip his non-docs!). I haven’t seen his new film, Standard Operating Procedure but I’m excited to do so. The film is about the events surrounding the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse. I came across a rather lengthy, but oh-so-worth-it online video of Mr Morris at a New Yorker festival discussing the film (linked from this larger piece with other videos at the New Yorker.) Even this film about the film showed me that I’d completely misunderstood the photos and the photographers. I’d bought completely into the coverup. It’s really amazing that the government is so good at twisting things.

On a lighter note, I recently posted about TED. If you missed the post or meant to get back to it later, GET BACK TO IT. They’re all AMAZING. Be sure to add this one to your list. Holy shit, how does he do that? It’s a short video, go watch it!

So we’ll do a disturbing video and then a light video and now another really disturbing video. You may have seen this video on YouTube. I personally find it to be incredibly bizarre and even emotionally scaring. And also, this is a video starring Garfield and Odie. It will destroy you. Please don’t watch it. It’s called 04/25/1979. I warned you. It’s 1.5 minutes.

So now that I’ve destroyed you, I’ll bring you back to life with my current and fairly long standing favorite YouTube video of all. I love this video so much. It’s three minutes thirty-five seconds. I promise that watching this video will improve your day.

If you have time to watch some shitty trailer for some shitty sci-fi film that “looks terrible, but I’ll probably see it anyway” then you have time to watch at least the last three of these videos. Go do it!

Next time on Must-See Videos, I’ll be posting some crazy-amazing videos about savants. Your life now has purpose.


Bash SSH Happiness

So Dennis? (whose name doesn’t appear anywhere on his blog except for in the URL) wrote a cool bash script to create aliases for every host in your ~/.ssh/known_hosts file. I found some bugs/problems so I spiffed it up a bit. As the comments say, you should pipe the output to sort(1). I’ve tried to make the text as small as possible, but it won’t all display. I tested selecting it and even the parts that don’t display end up in my clipboard, so there ya go.

shopt -s extglob
    case $1 in
        ?([-+])+([0-9]) )
            return 0;;
        *) return 1;;

if [[ -d ~/.ssh ]]; then

    # Touch files we expect to exist
    if [[ ! -e ~/.ssh/config ]]; then touch ~/.ssh/config; fi
    if [[ ! -e ~/.ssh/known_hosts ]]; then touch ~/.ssh/known_hosts; fi

    # Parse ~/.ssh/known_hosts and ~/.ssh/config to find hosts
    for x in `sed -e 's/[, ].*//' ~/.ssh/known_hosts; awk '/^Host [^*?]+$/{print $2}' ~/.ssh/config`; do

        # Don’t override commands
        type "${x}" > /dev/null 2>&1 && continue

        # Remove the domainname
        # you don't want IP addresses for aliases, trust me.
        isint $y && continue

        # If it's a short-name, move on
        #[[  "${z}" == 'edu' ||  "${z}" == 'com' || "${z}" == 'net' ]] || continue
        # So the above is commented out because you'd be surprised at how much 
        # you rely on your search path. You should pipe the output of this script to
        # sort and your fqdn's will override your shorts.
        echo alias "${x}"=”ssh $x”

        if [[ "$y" != "$x" ]]; then
            if ! type $y > /dev/null 2>&1; then
            echo     alias $y=”ssh $x”

Dennis also mentions that you might want to add HashKnownHosts no to your ~/.ssh/config file. If you have some hashed keys in your file, you should remove them before running this script. Sadly I couldn’t find any way to programmatically convert a hashed file into a non-hashed file. But to make up for it, here’s a bonus alias!

# removes _exactly what you type_ from ~/.ssh/known_hosts
# meaning 'grapes' gets you the key for 'grapes' vs ''
alias forget="ssh-keygen -R"

OSCON08 Wrap-up

A few things to wrap up.

  • The Stress on Programmers Slides Man oh man I wish there was a recording of the talk. I looked over the slides and they don’t do the talk justice by themselves as one might expect.
  • Glenn posted some comments that I think have the slides for the XMPP talk I saw.
  • OneLessMac I didn’t buy a sticker, but I love the idea and think it’s great that I’m not the only one.
  • Last.FM I’m notoriously slow to new stuff, so take this with that. I don’t get it. I mean I sorta get the basic concept, but it doesn’t seem all that useful or interesting.
  • I said I was a bad whinger. After further thought, I don’t think that’s true. I think I more often than not try to present a solution to whatever it is I’m unrelentingly complaining about. :)

Down The Line

A while ago, Glenn and I saw Jose Gonzalez in Atlanta. It was a great show. He played this song then, but didn’t have a name for it. At the show it was much more intense, iirc. I wish I could get a copy of the board recording for that show. I really love the song. I can’t wait to hear the new album.

BTW, Google Reader visitors, there’s a video embedded here. :)


OSCON08 Day 2

Today’s keynotes didn’t do much for me. The first guy was trying to justify intellectual property as a concept. Epic fail. The rest weren’t really all that noteworthy other than a good message to stop whinging. I’m a bad whinger.

Two things I’ve noticed about the conference so far:

  1. For supposedly smart people, everyone seems to sit in the isle seats first, forcing everyone to “excuse me” past them making it awkward for all involved. Sit at the damn wall!
  2. Geeks have horrible taste in music. I’ve heard some of the worst music ever at this conference.
  3. The wireless is way way worse than last year. Is a broadcast domain of really the best we can do?

First talk of the day: Effects of stress on programmers. Presenter is British which for some reason makes him instantly affable. He talks a lot about neuroscience and how our brains work with different stimuli. Interesting stuff. He suggests a reduction in light levels while programming which is something we already do. He also says that people can become addicted to stress and makes comparisons between stress’ effect on the brain and cocaine’s. He also suggest that there are people who follow procedure because it’s all they have and there are people who are capable of full cognition of problems and tasks and that those people will solve those problems in better ways. He says Six Sigma is all about limited cognition and following procedure. I wish all of my bosses and their bosses were at this talk. I ask, “What’s a snowdrop?” (It’s a flower.)

Mindtouch Deki which is a new wiki that’s getting a lot of buzz. Mozilla switched their docs to it recently. I talked to these guys a bit in their booth and they suggested we use them + Jira. The demos are really quite impressive. They have MediaWiki converters that handle templates. It has an “adapter” for Bugzilla. (I don’t know what it means either at this point.) CTO looks like and has similar mannerisms to my erstwhile co-worker Kelly Mills however he has a thick german accent. So Not Kelly Mills! Deki seems quite nice. One day I bet it will replace our MediaWiki instances. Some windows vista related accidental comedy in the presentation.

Ran into Luke and James Turnbull at lunch and 100% convinced them that XMPP was Puppet’s future. I expect the tarballs shortly. :)

CSS for High Performance Javascript UI is much more basic than I expected. Bail. I head over to “What to expect in Ruby 1.9” and it’s way too specific; talking about individual functions and so forth that have changed. I’m not there yet, so I wander around until it’s time for the Puppet talk.

James covers a lot of ground with a lot more philosophy than I’d expected. He does a great job. Several questions afterward and someone suggests a BOF. I hope that happens.

I talked to one of Luke’s friends who has written a cool interface to RRDTool that does some cool javascript/ajaxy stuff for moving around in time on a graph. I showed him our stuff and he got really excited and has asked to be an early tester! Exciting stuff. I thought about giving a lightning talk, but I figured that the network was so terrible it wouldn’t really show our stuff in a great light as the experience degrades linearly as latency goes up.

PHP Data Objects is next. Not a lot new, but I think PDO will be a good direction for PHP.

Capistrano is an SSH parallellizer. The guy starts his talk by saying that it’s 5pm on Friday and you want to [make a bunch of changes]. !? Who does that? He calls directories “folders.” Capistrano seems like a really bad idea. It’s a DSL that lets you define shell one-liners that will be executed on remote hosts via a single SSH connection for each “task.” Bailing.

There might be a puppet BOF tonight, if so, I might add a new post or edit this one, probably the former. OSCON was a lot of fun and energizing as usual. I’m very glad I came.


OSCON08 Day 1

Breakfast was tasty, but the good grub was dwarfed by the conversation at the table. I sat down at a table of four or five guys and no one seemed to know each other. These two guys who were both in their mid 40’s kept trying to out-geek each other. It was really quite unintentionally comical.

The one guy was especially hilarious because he had all of these parroted mannerisms. You know how little kids will see an adult say something and then the kid will do it in exactly the same way with the same hand-gesture and vocal inflection? Geeks to that too and this guy apparently opted to use the mannerisms of geek presenters in lieu of developing his own personality.

When anyone mentioned anything, he felt the need to repeat it back to them in “his own words” which were often the same words that were already said preempted by phrases like “So that resolves to…” etc. He also loved to use the “letting you know I’m making up generic examples” set of vocal inflections and gestures. So for example someone would say “My company rents DVDs to independent rental stores.” and he’d say something like “In other words, your company rents DVDs to independent rental stores so that when ~~joe customer~~ wants to rent a movie, they’re renting your movie with the store as a middle man.”  Gee, thanks for explaining that again, uber-geek! Because I was completely baffled the first time!

I just sat there in silence chuckling to myself. I really wish Doug had been there, because he would have loved this guy.

During the first break, I checked out the exhibit hall. I think there were at least 4 CMS solutions out there and only one fit the needs of our upcoming project: Jira. I talked to the guys from Atlassian (who makes Jira) and they were super nice and seemed excited to have a non-paying (potential) customer! They convinced me that we should give it another, better shot. Sorry, Hap :)

I stayed too long in the hall and was late to my first presentation. There’s a new policy at the convention center that you can’t stand(!) in the presentations. You must find a seat. The person enforcing the policy said something about “fire marshall,” so I assume that’s why. So I had to squeeze past a bunch of people who refused to just scoot down one seat.

The presentation was about going open-source with a project and it made several excellent points, but one hit home more than the others. The presenter didn’t use this analogy, but I think it fits. Releasing an open-source project is like giving birth to a baby. You don’t release and then go back to your old life. You now have another job as a project maintainer and it’s a hell of a lot of work even if no one contributes any code at all. I hope his slides end up being available because they had a lot of great stuff in them.

My next talk was about using XMPP (Jabber) as an alternative to REST. You know you’re in the right talk when all of the big wigs are there and excited to hear what the presenters have to say. It was a really great talk. One of the presenters works for Flickr and he described a scenario where an external site polled their RSS feeds over three million times in one day to find out about 54 thousand users and during that day only 6700 of their total users (not of the 54k) had made updates. If instead they had a constantly open connection, polling goes away and updates can now be thought of as instant messages. The bandwidth goes way down and you don’t suffer other sorts of bandwidth problems like the “width” of an RSS feed. That is to say if the RSS feed contains only 10 or 15 items and you upload 40 photos at once, your external service can’t possibly get every update.

I hope Luke from Puppet was there because I now think that XMPP would be vastly superior to REST for something like Puppet. As the presenters said, polling sucks. This was a great talk. I wanna use XMPP for everything now (even though I know the presenters weren’t presenting it as a solution to anything other than a specific problem.) If Puppet were to use it, suddenly you have things like inter-machine dependencies and instant updates. To me it seems like a huge win.

Speaking of Luke from puppet, I saw him at one of the couches after the presentation so I walked over and gave him the “hey, what’s up” index finger. When not-Luke gave me the “who the fuck are you” eyebrows I realized my mistake and pretended to be distracted by something else.

I saw Larry Wall with his con-shirt on. I knew it was him before I could actually make out his face.

Next up: Google GXP. Um, soft-talking monotone and instantly starts talking about java classes. zzzzz Bail!

Head over to Ubuntu Server presentation for Hap. They haven’t talked to Oracle and made jokes about suggesting MySQL as a better alternative. Seemed like really nice guys. Talked quite a bit about KVM and that they see Linux virtualization going that way instead of Xen. They also said that with their new virtual maker awesome++ thingy you could go from zero to running virtual machine (with OS) in about 90 seconds.

Hypertable is next. Hypertable is a clone of Google’s Bigtable horizontally scaling database. Presenter really knows his stuff, but isn’t a good presenter. He sorta mumbles and trails off sometimes. He looks like a cross between Travis Draft and William Fitchner. The talk is largely over my head so I find myself daydreaming.

By this point I’ve seen not-Luke at least 4 more times and been convinced once that it was really him this time. I’ve heard “Last FM” mentioned several times, so I need to remember to check it out. I’d seen references to it around, but didn’t realize it was what all of the cool people were doing. I’ve also seen a lot of talks and things about Postgres, but in all the talks people use “MySQL” as the generic database noun.

While daydreaming in the Hypertable talk I realize that the server-side code in our soon-to-be-released project should have some sort of simple alerting that takes place via an external hook or filter. External so that it can be its own thing that can mature at its own pace. I also think more about the going-OSS talk and realize that I have a lot of documentation to write and help write. I wonder too if simultaneously generating graph overlays if the number of graphs is below X would be fast enough.

My next talk was called Eat My Data and it was great. The presenter was really funny and smart. His biggest laugh was for “Have you ever tried reading POSIX? It’s a lot like being drunk, but without the plesant feeling.” The presentation was about how everyone who writes programs gets I/O wrong and risks your data almost always. And of course he’s right, at least in my experience.

I then actually ran into Luke. I told him my idea about XMPP and, being Luke, he wasn’t too excited about it. Perhaps I planted a seed though. Maybe I’ll find out at his talk today. (Yes, it’s the next day and I’m catching up.)

I went to some shell scripting talk, but the guy was talking about Eric Raymond and quoting his book in a monotone voice, so I bailed and went to writing an RSS reader in ruby, which was canceled. :( So I ended up in another XMPP talk which was merely ok having had its bubble burst by the earlier talk.

I met Michael and we went to the former Portland Chophouse. Yes, thanks to a huge corporation, the great, expensive food that was is now just expensive. That part of the dinner was extremely disappointing.

The company, on the other hand, was great. Michael is super smart and funny. His dry delivery makes his comedy seem so effortless. It was a lot of fun.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that the uppermost point of the shower head in my room is at the height of my collar-bone. Nice! Seems like I forgot something else, but I can’t recall it now. Off to the keynotes for the morning. More later.