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.

OSCON08 Day 0

I gave myself plenty of time to get to the ATL airport and I’m very glad I did. It ended up taking around 3 hours just for the drive. Once I got there, all of the airport parking-lots were full. I eventually found a place to park in Park & Ride, got on the bus and headed to the airport. Once I got inside and tried to get my flight coupon I noticed that I didn’t have my wallet.

I ran, ok walked quickly, to the bus that I’d just gotten off of and it wasn’t there so the kind bus driving folks quickly got me back to my car where I found my wallet. Got back to the airport and because my ticket had been purchased the day before I got to get the pat-down. I wonder how long the silliness that is the current airport security will continue. It seems like everyone knows how dumb it is, but we all keep doing it.

Sat around the airport for a few hours and then got on the plane. Where I sat on the runway for three and a half hours. Once we finally took off, I counted 39 planes behind ours waiting to take off.

One thing I’ve learned over and over in my life is that you can never go home. When I was in college, I used to love to go to Denny’s for cheese fries. Nothing was open when I arrived in Portland three hours late, so I thought I’d go to Denny’s for cheese fries! Yea, no. They were terrible. Nothing like I’d remembered.

My hotel is a disaster zone and my room is right by the hallway door, so I got to hear the whine of the staircase and the whump of the door all night!

Despite all of this, spirits are high! I’m at OSCON after all. Keynotes just completed and I’ll do a Day 1 post this evening after I have dinner with my old pal Michael Hall.

WTB free good project software

In my old blog I hinted about a project that I’d been working on and was hoping to release. It’s getting closer to release, so Happy and I spent part of the day looking at “project” software. That’s some crappy nomenclature, but I lack a better term. I’m referring to software like Trac, Redmine, Jira, etc. Something that does issue tracking, maybe a wiki, maybe some forums and maybe some VCS integration.

Trac is out because it’s just awful. Puppet used to use it and I hated every second of it. It was hard to use, but moreover it was hard to read. Issues/Tickets/Bugs/Whatever looked terrible. Oh and the wiki syntax sucked too.

We tried Redmine today and being the ruby noobs that we are, it wasn’t exactly easy to get going. There’s a bug in the release version when using the version of ruby we had and coupled with a few other things that made me feel like it’d be fragile (which is another way of saying I wasn’t sure I was qualified to run it in production.)

Then in the last 10 minutes of the day we tried Jira and holy smokes! For a project our size this thing is enormous overkill. It’s also payware. They have an “open source” license, but the main qualifier to get said license seems to be “being cool enough.” Plus, I fucking despise java. That said, it’s quite a polished package and was amazingly easy to set up. It’s certainly far better than then issue tracking system my work is about to deploy.

So at this point I’m looking over wikipedia’s big comparison chart, but I’ve lost hope and am starting to think that we’ll just end up using smaller pieces rather than an all-in-one solution. For the first time in my approximately ten years of blogging I’m allowing people to comment on my blog! Why not make a suggestion of the kickass project software you use/wrote/love?

So yea… new blog

I finally switched away from my home-grown blog software. It lived for over 5 years, I’m proud to say. Nothing about it was failing, I just got tired of extending it and if you’re not growing you’re dying.

My plan is to migrate the old stuff that wasn’t just crap filler over to this blog if I can pre-date entries. I guess I should have tested that before I went “production.” Being the curmudgeon that I am, I have plenty to complain about in the WordPress department, but I’ll spare you. I’m trying new things and I guess that’s what matters.

Speaking of new things, I’ve started using Ubuntu on my new work machine and my new personal laptop. It’s a painful switch away from Debian and I’m not sure how long it’ll last. Quite sadly my main reason for switching is font rendering quality. That’s right. I have two machines that actually have stuff like Evolution installed because I like how fonts look in Ubuntu and I can’t get them to look that nice in Debian.

While I’m going crazy with new things, I’m also trying new window managers. I tried E17 the other day and remembered why I quit using E back in the E14 days. Just not for me. I also tried KDE4 which is very very much not for me.

I am using Compiz-fusion on both my laptop and work desktop. I doubt very much it’ll last though because it’s very slow (for some reason it makes Google Reader insanely slow on my work machine which is 4cpu/8G, with a real graphics card: an nVidia Corporation Quadro FX 1700 so no excuses) and doesn’t have my precious ctrl-; which I map to a middle-click style paste.

For you non X11 users out there, prior to stupid window environments like GNOME and KDE, X11 used a simple text-buffer for selections. All you had to do was select text and it was automatically copied into the copy buffer; middle click pastes. No pesky keystrokes just for copy and paste. G&K added their own copy buffer that allows for the more windows/mac style copy and paste (meaning more than just text.) I never ever ever use that though, so it’s just a nuisance for me. It’s especially awful because the paste keyboard shortcut differs from application to application and I spend a ton of time in terminals.

So a long time ago I tricked some lisp-er in #sawfish into writing me a universal paste that the windowmanager itself handled and it worked mostly great. Great enough that I’m going to probably go back to sawfish on both machines because the eye-candy just isn’t worth having to use a mouse.

As if that weren’t enough new, I’ve been writing some comics about work and my life. It’s entirely probable that you had to be there and it’s just not funny to anyone else. I’ve also been co-writing some comics with my friend Ed Kelly. And if you act now, I’ll double your order!

Oh and did I mention that I’ve got a couple of youtube videos up? They aren’t great, so please be kind.

The Ultimate DNS Bug?

I subscribe to a lot of tech blogs. I’m sorta amazed that I didn’t hear about this sooner and I’m somewhat confused now that I have!

I saw it on Chris Blizzard‘s site and he links to the O’Reilly article about it.

The jist is that there’s some “holy shit” bug that threatens every single implementation of DNS and that the dude who found it will be letting the cat out of the bag on Aug 3 of this year.

The video is a bit weird though. The panning of the audience and the guy’s delivery almost make it seem like a parody or a joke. It can’t be, though, right?

Fallout 3 and Wii News

Fallout 2 was a really really great game. It had it all. Louis Armstrong, Tool references, oh and great gameplay and story too. I’m really looking forward to Fallout 3 and I hope it’s not too FPSy. The video looks pretty kickass.

I also saw, but was confused by the announcement that Nintendo is releasing a new version of the Wiimote that’s more sensitive(?) or something. The video seems fun, especially since they play the Mario theme which I love.

I’m really surprised at how much I like the Wii. The WiiFit is especially nice given that it’s the first time in my life that I haven’t absolutely despised exercise.