October 29, 2008

Travel + Nanowrimo = Madness

Long time egofood readers might remember that I took part in NaNoWriMo about 4 years ago, writing the truly awesome 'Bruce Napoleon, Vampire Veterinarian'. No, don't remember it? Really? It was a New York Times bestseller!

Philistines.

Ok, so I'm kidding about the times...and the nobel....and that whole 'awesome' adjective. 

Anyhow, here's what I'm faced with in November: Late Halloween night, I fly to Israel by way of Newark, and then back again, then in mid November, I fly to Minneapolis. This adds up to about 40 hours in the air. If I can write 1250 words per in-air hour, I could meet the 50k word requirement for NaNoWriMo pretty quickly.

The real question is if I can find an inspiring enough tale in my head to write. Between work and family including I've been pretty ...well...uncreative is a charitable way of putting it. Let me paint a picture for you...If you use chess as a measure of higher brain function, I was rated approximately 1600 about when I started at Google, but over the last year, according to chessmaster, I've dropped below 1000. I basically took almost 3.5 years off from playing between the masters and the new baby so its an interesting before and after measure.

Similarly, I've not been blogging much, and its not writers block so much as merciless idea cost cutting. I ask myself before every post "Is this worth writing at all? Who will care? Will someone else blog about it? Do I care enough about idea X to want to express it?" It's been surprising how often the answer has been 'no'. For instance, at Google, we have released about 10m lines of code this year, and I've blogged about that on our official blog and let the rest of the blogging world and press handle it from there. They got it mostly right, so I'm mostly happy.

What did they miss? Well, some clearly didn't understand the security model, others, how open source licensing works and how it interacts with a formerly incredibly closed industry. How far HTC, Google and T-mobile are pushing openness in the space, and it is so very open compared to previous offerings. It's not 'rms' open yet, but I can see a day when we'll be there, and it'll be sooner than later.

Also, the war mentality in the technology press is so pervasive I halfway expect technology related PTSD articles to start coming out. G1 vs Apple, G1 vs Symbian, G1 vs Freerunner, G1 vs your mom, etc... It's incredibly tiring and shows an ignorance of the vast opportunity for truly open technologies and even the bare opportunities in the cell industry for smartphone overtaking the old barebones phones.

To expand: There is os much on-die capability available for so little money that all phones should soon be smart phones. Since the parts cost of a proprietary cell os is significant in the bill of materials, all phones will consider open baseline operating systems like Android and in a few years, Symbian and others. As people replace their barebone phones with new phones, they are more likey to have a smart os and thus there is a ton of opportunity there. So lay off the war mentality. 

Sheeze.

More later...

October 2, 2008

Brilliant Science Foo Camp Writeup

John Gibley, one of our guests at Science Foo Camp, has written up his experiences and it gives the reader a great feel for the event.  Science Foo camp is probably my favorite of all the Foo Camps. You leave it with your mind buzzing, you know, and it takes months to wear off. Foo camp is similarly aweomtactular, but Science Foo is nice as its focus is largely away from computer science, where I spend most of my time. 

Anyhow, check out the article, it's really well written.

September 5, 2008

Been Pretty Busy....


You know, people think comics are easy, they're not. I had to make the ink and paper myself, otherwise Mr. Fancy Pants McCloud wouldn't print the thing. So frustrating. 

More about chrome and such later, for now, enjoy this parody of the now internet famous comic, from a something awful photoshopping thread.


July 31, 2008

OSCON .... and .....Pretty Pictures or Content?

Why not both?

What am I talking about? Well, I'll tell you. I've been speaking at OSCON for one company or another for about 9 years now, and have attended for about 10. I've dutifully given my talk, slapping up slides for each of them, and my evaluation scores have been consistently between 4 and 5 (our of five). Having run conferences and sat on numerous committees, this is a pretty great record and with the exception of one talk given in 1997 (?) at Linuxworld where I -totally- bombed, I generally score pretty consistently around 90%.

I change my 'stump' speech every year or so, to keep things fresh and keep myself from getting horrifically bored giving the talks, and also to accommodate the youtubing of my previous talks. Why would people come see me give the same talk in person as I given before and is available online, after all?

Anyhow, for this OSCON, I gave, with Leslie Hawthorn, the 'Google Open Source Update' which I describe as a status report of what we've done as a company over the last year. We do this each year at OSCON. One of my evaluation forms comments said it was "more like a report to management than a presentation" which is actually exactly what I was going for. A report to the community of developers so that they can undertand our open source work at Google. This also came off as bragging to one evaluator, but that's okay.

One thing I did different this year was not use slides (Leslie had some) as I didn't really see the point of flicking past numbers that I was speaking anyhow. But I was totally nicked for this, it brought down my average below 4 for the first time in years. So fine I will give the pretty slides next year :-) Maybe a graph or two, even. That'll show em!

OSCON was a decently good time. As usually I spent more time in the hall talking with friends, and colleagues, than going to talks, but that is the nature of conferences for me nowadays, which is good and bad. One person I actually talked with for more than 2 minutes for the first time was Mark Spencer of Digium, who I kind of bonded with. Turns out we had gone to the same ALS back in 1998 and we lamented the shows demise and movement to Oakland , which was one of the factors in its death.

ALS was a scrappy regional southern show, that was run in Atlanta by the ALE Lug. It attracted all kinds of folks in the southeast who you aren't as likely to run into in SF, Portland or New York conferences. The secret of tech conferences is that even marquee shows like OSCON have a heavy regional component to them, and so I've felt that there is a unserved need for a solid open source conference in the 'GNU' South.

Maybe Georgia Tech can revive ALS? One proposal was for Digium to move Astricon to Alabama, where Mark and his folks are based. This year, Astricon is in Phoenix, and conflicts with a Google Developer Day that I am committed to keynoting at, so I can't go. I really think that Asterisk is one of the most exciting things going on in oss development right now. It's hella disruptive and strikes at the heart of the telecom world.

Anyhow, the most important thing that happened at OSCON this year (Besides my amazing talk, clearly) was Brian Aker's release of Drizzle. That project, which is a return to the fast, small, and out of control roots of MySQL has serious legs and is a welcome departure from the more complicated, stored procedures, lots of locking, and harder to scale, road that MySQL seems to be going down.

For a taste, see "Oscon in 37 Minutes" a fun video that was put together as a kind of highlights reel for the conference.

July 28, 2008

Tenori-On Top of things...

A fellow at work, David Sparks, recently lent me his Tenori-on, an unusual instrument from Yamaha/Toshio Iwai. I've posted some of my early, not so great, work on my wiki, and here's what you'll find.

I thought it would be interesting to hear a song and hear the process of creating it. The Tenori-on is -wicked- addictive and fun to use.

Track 1: T-Const

A lame name for a lamish song. I actually like a lot about it. The push layer is -terrible- and so that's why you don't hear much of it.

This is recorded as a wave and encoded to a 192 kBit/s, 44.100 Hz, Stereo mp3.

Track 2: Composing T-Const

This is the recording of the process of composing on the Tenori-on What to listen for:

  1. Pauses in change...means I'm either listening or copying blocks.
  2. Weird one off instruments and sounds... meaning I'm testing new instruments on a new layer and notes.
  3. Total Drop Offs...meaning I'm saving the song to the sd card
  4. My lameness...meaning I'm composing electronica. I like doing it though, so I make fun of myself as a defense mechanism.

This is recorded as a wave and encoded to a 64 kBit/s, 44.100 Hz, mono mp3.

It's fun to listen to the composing after the 'final' product, it has a how did I get there from there feel. Enjoy and let me know what you think....or...you know...not.

July 15, 2008

1-888-4vault-tec

There are .... 101 million callers ahead of you......so....cool.....

June 26, 2008

Wall-E Was Wonderful

Hi Egofoodians. Forgive my excitment, but I had the good luck to see Wall-E on tuesday and it was pretty amazing. I'm not a Pixar fan boy, either, but it was a terrific movie. Artistically speaking, it was a beautifully crafted film and the story is touching and affecting. One surprise was how little actual dialog there is. It is a little off putting until you get into it and might be best shown to a non-sugared kid, but it's really amazing. It's mostly robotic beeps and voices and the odd word here and there.

On any one frame there is more going on than in the entire shrek series. From the very first frame you realize the amount of work they put into the models and renderings and tools in the movie.

The human (and thus talking) presence in the film is almost Idiocratically funny. I don't want to ruin or spoil the film, as I tried to avoid any real mention of the plot so I could be better entertained by the movie and that was a good idea. Thanks to Pixar for having me out. The screening room theatre that they have there is amazingly emotionally enveloping. If you ever get a chance to see a movie there, definately take it, you fool.

Edit: the short that preceded it was a perfect bit of tex-avery hyperkinetic fun. A short skit about a rabbit. a magician and his magic top hat.

June 18, 2008

Commodification

You know, I think I like Commodification over commoditization for almost every single use I've heard commoditization used. Just saying. Google Trends agrees. Wikipedia considers them as being synonyms and Google's define operator (define:commodification,commoditization) has more glorious definitions for commodification.

That is all.

May 22, 2008

At the end of the day, this can only be a good thing...

One thing I noticed right around September 2001, was the growth of the phrase "At the end of the day" as a conversation halter. It annoyed me. It seems so lazy to add that to pretty much any sentence. Well, I'm here to tell you, my dear reader that "Can only be a good thing" is the "at the end of the day" for 2008. Where "at the end of the day was used by people to replace actual conclusion making, "this can only be a good thing" falls into almost the same category. That is all.

May 20, 2008

I don't get it : FriendFeed

I've been messing with FriendFeed, but I don't get it yet. Just saying. Does that mean I'm old? Unhip? Maybe. The synthetic feed thing can be done via a public shared tag on reader, right? Or is there something else that it does? Ah, the internet! Is there anything it can't do 5 different but similar ways?

May 19, 2008

Banlieue 13 (District B13): Da Octopuss

For the Le Parkour fans out there (friedman, I'm talking to you) who have seen the movie "Banlieue 13" by Fifth Elementer Luc Besson, I threw together a soundtrack on Imeem. Enjoy.

For those of you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can watch District B13 on Netflix watch instantly, basically its a somewhat violent exposition of gang violence with a crapton of Parkour thrown in. It's enjoyable in the way that Luc Besson movies can be. Fun style, music and great pacing. For those of you who are still scratching their heads, since this was a French movie that didn't see much in the way of international distribution, the soundtrack is impossible to find online or in the states, but it was clearly made. Next time I'm in France, I'll look for it, but when I looked around on Imeem, they had the individual songs so I pulled together the soundtrack into this playlist.

The soundtrack has a fair amount of talentless rap , with some good techno mixed in, which gets pretty industrial at times. "Funki Slow Motion" is probably my favorite. Much of the soundtrack I could leave on the floor, but that and the other Da Octopuss songs are pretty fun. Caveat: It's all in French :-)

Enjoy the soundtrack!

May 14, 2008

Worth a Listen: The Plimsouls, Everywhere at Once

I've been uploading some stuff to imeem. check it out. The Plimsouls is one of my favorite bands. Qualifies as oldies, mind you, nowadays, but the number of times I played this tape would overflow a long int. You might need an imeem login to enjoy more than 30 seconds, but its worth your time to get it. It takes maybe 2 seconds and then you have access to unlimited music.

May 13, 2008

Now that's funny..... WWT on Mac.

This is probably the funniest system requirements line I've seen to date:

From the Worldwide Telescope Site:

For Mac:
  • Microsoft® XP SP2 (minimum), Windows® Vista® (recommended) with BootCamp
  • Mac with Intel Core 2 Duo (2.2 GHz or faster) processor recommended
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM; 2 GB RAM recommended
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card with 128-MB SDRAM or recommended
  • HFS+ hard disk format (also known as Mac OS® Extended or HFS Plus) and 10 GB of available hard disk space
  • 1440 x 900 or higher-resolution monitor
  • Mouse or compatible pointing device
  • Mac OS® X version 10.2 (Jaguar) and Boot Camp; Mac OS X Leopard is recommended
  • Microsoft DirectX Runtime 9.0c and .NET Framework 2.0
  • Required for some features; Internet connection at 56 Kbps or higher through either an Internet service provider (ISP) or a network. Internet access might require a separate fee to an ISP; local or long-distance telephone charges might also apply

For those of you who aren't computer people, they're requiring that you own windows if you want to experience this on a mac. I mean, really? That's pretty funny.

'If you are a basketball player, you can play basketball with me too. Just throw away the basket ball, buy a soccer ball and don't use your hands!'

May 1, 2008

Judge orders halt to spraying for moth, Zombie apocalypse will have to wait

In this article: Judge orders halt to spraying for moth we learn that Judge Burdick has put spraying of moth phermones on hold pending further environmental review.

What you don't know is that here in the Zombie Abatement Corps (ZACs, for short) , we've been keeping a very close eye on this case. You see, we've found that the symtomology present in class G Zombies is catalyzed by certain hormones that are very similar to those that would have been employed in this spraying. While Class Gs are low functioning shamblers, and relatively easy to kill, we hardly can allow an untested spray of this nature to continue before we have a chance to test this compound for its zombie producing ability.

This spraying, which targets the Light Brown Apple Moth, is a synthetic hormone that, moleculary speaking, is nearly identical to the cdc synthesized and sequenced zombotanical catalyst "golemerase" that escaped the lab and caused the Lithia Springs zombie massace last fall.

Do I need to remind you of Lithia Springs? I doubt it, we all knew someone caught up in that attack. We lost some 40,000 souls to the infestation, and we spent a good month plus rooting out the last of them. I was stationed there during the action, and it was the worst experience of my life, I lost a lot of friends that month.

Anyhow, the reality is that we're worried that this could get as far as it did and we didn't become aware of it until recently. We can't be everywhere and if you start hearing the words "synthetic hormone" in connection with insect control, think about Lithia and the people there who were insufficiently observant. And then call or email us.

It's not like a class G Zombie is even all that scary. You'll have plenty of time to get away from these 'stumbling menaces'. But if you are old enough, or inexperienced enough, you'll be stuck, and we ZACs can't be everywhere, we can't save everyone. Anyhow. we'd like to thank Judge Burdick for his help in stalling the spraying until we're done with our tests on the compound.

A note to all ZACs subscribed to this feed hunting Class Bs in British Columbia, be careful out there, we're thinking of you.

Check it out, Predictive text drop down..

So I'm pretty happy with how the Predictive text module is coming. Ranking is still crap, but it's usable, UI wise. Here's a shot for you to see. The mode of operation is dead simple. You type, after you cross 3 letters the dropdown floats under your cursor and as you type more letters the predictive text choices become fewer and fewer. You slap enter to use the highlighted one, arrow up and down to pick another one, or hit escape to get rid of it. It's pretty exiting to see it working. I'm using a really nice dictionary, but there is no ranking to speak of, so for instance if I'm typing "hel" the first choice is helical and not helicopter, which I'd imagine is more popular. I gotta get my greasy hands on an open version of our published n-gram data (which is ranked) and incorporate that, if it makes sense.

The ui isn't perfect, I need to put in a way to clear it when you go up too far or down too far. For instance, if you hit up , say, twice in the above, it should clear it out. Or should I rely on the user trianing themselves to slap escape? Time will tell.

April 30, 2008

What about that word processing program?

This is the first post written using IsolWrite. It is going pretty smoothly, the predictive text system is still pretty useless, if fun. It is still in phase one. The formatting was done in blogger. It's not that sexy yet.

For the 1.0 open source launch, I need to do the following:

Pre-Launch:
  • Font selection and manipulation (ui is there, not exposed yet)
  • Right-click menu reworking. It's pretty awful right now, but the target functions work. (tbd)
  • RTF save/load (tbd)
  • Autosave activation (feature is written, no ui to turn it on)
  • Autoload of last doc (tbd)
  • Phase one of pt system, (functionality: done, ui: icky)
  • Fix Predictive Text (pt) ui. It's terrible. (tbd)
  • Allow user to turn on PT in prefs, default will be off till pt phase 4 (tbd)
  • Apache headers on the code. (tbd)
Post-launch:

1) Further iterations of the pt system.
  • phase 2: User supplied words
  • phase 3: ranking of suggestions
  • phase 4: n grams & ranking thereof
  • phase 5: online sharing of pt updates combined with the google n-gram data, if it is licensed for that. Via google app engine.
2) blogger/lj/blog software api tie ins
3) spell correction
4) Inevitable rewrite and visual improvements.

Oh, and the name? IsolWrite. As in: It's All Right! Got DNS for it and everything. I've put up the code project and grabbed a Google App Engine area for the online components that I'm thinking up for phase 5 of the pt system.

April 29, 2008

April 28, 2008

No, Shame on Daya Baran

First, go read this screed against Tim O'Reilly:

WebGuild: Shame On You Tim O'Reilly

I'd like to point out that we emailed Daya about this continuously leading up to the meeting asking him to talk to us about the name, and he refused to do so. So now he pouts when we boot him.

We were very happy to host the meetings, but when the leadership of a group gets weird, we'd rather not host them anymore. Webguild isn't the first, nor is it the last group, that we'll both host and then not do so.

Google isn't a hotel, for god's sake, we don't have a duty to continue or to ever offer space to a group. Once we do decide to allow a group to be hosted, we make it clear that this privilege can stop at any time and that there are no guarantees. Most groups say "Okay, thanks for the hosting in the past" and find other venues. There are plenty of them in the valley.

I've been on both sides of this problem, hosting dozens of groups over the years at Google and before at VA Linux, and in 2000 I ran a linux users group and we were always vigilant to be a good guest of the companies that hosted us. That included answering any and all queries when posted to us.

Tim did not tell us to remove the Webguild from Google. He doesn't have the power to do so. Daya did by not responding to our queries in a timely fashion. DeWitt, Myself and others decided that Daya's behavior would reflect badly upon Google at some point. We were clearly right.

What Daya says in arrogance is what I call asking people to be accountable for their actions.

Sheeze.

New Keyboards, C# and more...

In an attempt to help my typing be a bit more orderly and less finger-across-the-keyboardy, I've adopted one of those split keyboard things at work. It's been pretty fun actually, I've stopped crossing over as much and am soft of re-learning typing.

Like many developers, I taught myself to type. When I took my keyboarding class in High School, the teacher took one look at my 80+ wpm and sent me to the computer lab, writing me off as a lost cause. My fingers were all over the place, you see. For years, I've had this private conceit that my subconscious has optimized my typing for coding and not writing , you know, more semicolon optimization than for plain old words. I'd imagine that some enterprising linguist has looked into letter frequency for languages and tried for a programmer optimized keyboard. And, yes, I've seen the happy hacking keyboard, and frogpads, and the rest, that's kind of not what I'm talking about.

Speaking of frequency, the current task in the c# program is writing a predictive text input system for the app. Why am I concentrating so much on this tech when it is usually the province of accessibility people or mobile developers. It's easy: I want to type faster. And its a fun, computer sciencey problem. I'm concentrating on basic dictionary and ui stuff right now, next will be frequency weighting, then n-gram frequency. The funny thing bout this is that the app, as it is based on the .net framework, is only 30k (48k with thew about box image) and the starting dictionary that I'm working with is 500k.

Course, I don't use them all. I've biasing out the words less than 3 characters, so that cuts down the dictionary size. At this stage, its mostly program flow and ui work, not computer science. I only started coding c# two weeks ago, so I'm still pretty obtuse about the language. If you looked at the code for the fullscreenexample, you'll have figured that I'm a rank tyro at the language. I'm surprisingly self conscious about my skillz with the language, and programming in general. It's been a long time since I coded this much, but it is very fun.

That said, C# as a language is a little weird for me, I was never a big java person, so the whole world of virtual machines feels a little cheap to me. Visual Studio and C# seem to provide a lot of functionality for not a lot of work, and so it doesn't feel like much of an achievement to have done what I've done to date.

A proper predictive text engine which would be generally usable in windows as well as in a word processor would be something a bit meatier in my mind. Anyhow, once the basic frequency rating stuff is done, I'll do a 1.0 release of the app for everyone to laugh at.

April 27, 2008

It is the poor carpenter who blames his tools...

This week, OLPC had a dust up, a kerfuffle even. Walter Bender, OLPC's former president of sofware, left the organization. Why? Well, some think it was because of the possibility that XP will be installed on the OLPC. Later in the week, Nicolas Negroponte decided to share with the world that he felt it was the fault of the open source community that the OLPC wasn't enjoying the success he promised. Some people even bought it.

You see, when the highly successful Give One Get One lost the orders of 16k people. That was the fault of open source. Clearly. Duh!

Widely reported apparently unfixable (?) problems, with the keyboards, that was clearly the Linux kernel's fault, causing keys to stick to each other.

Significant delays in manufacturing, that have nothing I'm sure to do with the scope and timing of the project, are clearly the fault of the python interpreter that Sugar runs on.

Sarcasm aside, the problems with the OLPC are surmountable and its goals are likely still achievable, given the right kind of ministration. I know this because I was in the Linux hardware business for a while and it's not always easy, but it will take serious, detailed execution, not blaming the community of developers who have done nothing but give away their software to the world for it to use.

Blaming open source developers for the problems of a platform is absurd, blaming your own development cycle, well, maybe that makes more sense, but that's not what happened. I understand that shipping tricky hardware + a new interface on top of Linux, or any kernel, can be hard. But blaming open source for what's going on at OLPC seems, well, distractingly nasty.

Which brings me to this article, it is worth reading as a study in how weird coverage of open source can get.

April 26, 2008

Full Screen Applications in C# (adventures in C#/Windows Forms)

So I've been messing with C#, as you might remember from a previous post, and I thought I'd post a code snippet for folks who hit this problem. It's woefully underexplained online. What am I talking about ? Truly full screening an application in C#, meaning, no taskbar, windows chrome, or anything.

Find the example application with source, released under the Apache license, of course, on code.google.com at http://code.google.com/p/csharpfullscreenexample/

A note about this, I've synthesized this from a variety of documentation and other examples online. To give anyone too much credit would be weird, but there are some alternative sites purporting to describe this. If you find that their advice is falling short pay extra attention to the 'important' comment lines in Form1.cs , that's where all the meat is in the program. Order of operations matters big time, basically.

April 21, 2008

A Short Post

I am timing this post to be as exactly long as the song "Flash" by Queen. You'll remember previous timed posts (14 minutes) and my upside down post. Yes, I'm stunt-blogging, so look out.

I've been traveling a bit, but I'm back through almost July now, which is pretty awesome. I've been in the following countries since I last posted: The UK, Norway, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. It was a pretty awesome trip over about 10 days. Spoke at three conferences, and met with a lot of our European Googlers. Missed the Norway ooxml protest by a day, but I met with the folks who were there the day before at Go Open, a very nice conference in OSLO.

Damn, only 13 seconds left.... lessee, maybe one more song's worth of blogging. Okay, there you go, "Where's your head at" , by APC, 4.5 minutes long. High energy, for sure.

Anyhow, Go Open was fun. The organizer and myself went on morning TV to promote the conference, so you gotta go see that, we all but made omelettes there in the in-studio kitchen. It was very fun. After OSLO, I flew to Amsterdam for Euro Apachecon. I'd never been to Amsterdam before, and its a -fun- town. Great times were had by all, even by a square like me.

Lengthly travel messes with my internal clock a bit though, and while I try to be party fresh, I find that I need to give myself some time to pay back sleep debts, which I always worry will cut into the very reasons that I go to these conferences, namely to learn and then to speak. Regardless, I'm basically domestic boy until September when I might fly back to Zurich for Hackontest, a contest my group is sponsoring.

Finally(ish): You might now know this about me, but every couple of years, I sample the latest compiler/ide's from Microsoft, Eclipse and the rest and try to write a substantive program or two in them. Well, maybe not substantive, but at least interesting. I was spurred on this time by the current vogue in "writing" environments. These are text editors that block out external stimuli, blacking out the screen and such, to encourage non-distracted writing. Sadly, most of those I sampled are quite poor so I won't link to them. The best is maybe Writeroom for OS X, but there are many bad bad bad software packages out there.

For instance, the song changed a little earlier to the DJ Tiesto version of Silence, which gives me another 4 minutes. And there is a x-chat window going to the right of this text area, where summer of code hopefuls wait for us to finalize who is an who is not in the summer of code. The angst is palpable. I mean, you can practically sculpt it, you know?

Anyhow, as is usual, more later....

(editing was done during Nina Simone's Feeling good, coming in at about 3 minutes long.)

March 25, 2008

Bloxes at Google Chicago


So we got a hold of a pallet of Jef Raskin's Bloxes (as created by Asa, his son) and we built around 200 of them. It was a fun thing for us to do while catching up with each other in Chicago during our team meeting. I've uploaded a gallery of images of the fun we had.

Bloxes are pretty neat and remarkably strong. Only one caveat: Nothing worse than a cardboard paper cut. I'm all healed now, mind you, but watch your fingers. No one likes a papercut or a bloody blox.

March 17, 2008

Updates: SOC Orgs selected, Funabol CEO ignorantly slags on Google and I visit the National Ignition Facility

What a day! We announced the organizations that we selected to take part in the Summer of Code today. This is the culmination of days of review, looking at over 500 organizations. This was an incredibly hard thing to do. This year the quality of the applications was incredibly high. So high in fact that we chose to take on a good 30+ new organizations, but we still had to turn the majority of the applying organizations down. The program is only so big, after all.

One of the unfortunate disappointments of the Summer of Code is how few large companies have taken on this model of large scale, broadly expansive open source benefit. I'd like to see companies that benefit so much from Open Source from open up the kitty and run similar programs. I'm not going to name names here, but there is a lot of companies saying they love open source, but seem to only look after a very small number of projects, and for very little actual larger impact.

I won't lie, the Summer of Code could be seen as expensive, for sure. Google will spend over 5 million dollars on it this year alone, but it represents a terrific way to support the overall ecosystem of open source development. At the very least, there are three more seasons wide open for this if other companies would like to run similar programs :-) Combined with our other open source programs, including generating millions of lines of code since its inception, and hosting 80,000+ projects, I'm really proud of our work as a company in the open source world.

Which brings me to recent comments from folks at Funambol and a few others online. The argument goes like this: Since Google doesn't support their pet project/license or whatever, we are abusing open source. This is ignorant at best and pathetic at worst. Mind you: I think it is okay to say that you'd like us to give back more, or release some piece of technology, as it is natural to want this, but to then say we are abusing the GPL or some of other license is absurd.

I'll say this: People who use the words "ASP loophole" need to go back and read , carefully, the 2 most recent versions of the GPL. There is a reason there is no expansive language that would preclude ASP use of these licenses without incurring the need to redistribute code. The reason is that once you define distribution as web performance, or performance via a network port, it is difficult to understand where the redistribution requirements end. This means that simple tcp/ip communications over the internet, REST and AJAX calls could be considered infecting in an expansive reading of the license.

I'd like to share my thinking on the AGPL, so here is inside baseball of this: The AGPLv3 says this in its preamble:

To "convey" a work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make or receive copies. Mere interaction with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying.

But then in sections 10 and 13 , it says:

In 10) Each time you convey a covered work, the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensors, to run, modify and propagate that work, subject to this License.

In 13) Notwithstanding any other provision of this License, if you modify the Program, your modified version must prominently offer all users interacting with it remotely through a computer network (if your version supports such interaction) an opportunity to receive the Corresponding Source of your version by providing access to the Corresponding Source from a network server at no charge, through some standard or customary means of facilitating copying of software.

So I would say that these concepts and specifically when conveying is distribution need some annealing before we consider the AGPLv3 an understood license. We should see how the proponents of the AGPL (primarily SaaS vendors and the like) interpret these clauses and what they expect of the users of this software. In short: I think the AGPL needs work or more history by a much greater number of adopters before I consider it usable.

To wrap up open source talk, one last thing: a pet peeve, GFS is a userspace filesystem, for cripes sake, not a kernel filesystem. See section 2.3 of the GFS paper if you care to read more about the design of GFS. It is an awesome paper.

The National Ignition Facility:

I got a tour today of the laser bays, target area and the rest at the NIF. It was so cool. That's really all I have to say about it. Wow. It is such a remarkable project. I mean, holy crow, it was so cool. That's all.

March 12, 2008

Standards on thier head...

˙ʍou dn ǝpıs ʇɥƃıɹ ɹoʇıuoɯ ɹnoʎ dılɟ uɐɔ noʎ

¿uoıʇıpɐɹʇ oʇ ʎʇılǝpıɟ ǝlqɐuosɐǝɹun ǝɯos ɟo ʇno uı ǝƃlnpuı ǝʍ op suoıʇɔıɹʇsǝɹ ɹǝɥʇo ʎuɐɯ ʍoɥ

˙pǝɯɹoɟ sɐʍ pɹɐpuɐʇs ʇuǝʇsısɹǝd ɐ 'snɥʇ puɐ ˙ɥɔuı ɹǝd sʇop 003 oʇ pǝlʇʇoɹɥʇ sɐʍ ʎʇılıqɐ sıɥʇ 'ɹǝɟɟnq ʎɹoɯǝɯ sʇı uı sǝƃɐd 2 ploɥ oʇ ɹǝʇuıɹd ǝɥʇ ʍollɐ oʇ ʇɐɥʇ ɥɔns sɐʍ ʎɹoɯǝɯ ɟo ʇsoɔ ǝɥʇ ʇnq 'ɥɔuı ɹǝd sʇop 063 oʇ dn op oʇ ʎʇılıqɐ ǝʌıʇɐu ǝɥʇ pɐɥ ʎllɐnʇɔɐ '11-dpd ɔǝp ɐ ʎq uǝʌıɹp sɐʍ puɐ -puoɔǝs- ɹǝd sǝƃɐd 2 ʇɐ pǝʇuıɹd ʇɐɥʇ ɹǝʇsuoɯ pǝzıs ɯooɹ ɐ ɹǝʇuıɹd ɹǝsɐl ʇsɹıɟ ǝɥʇ

˙ɥɔuı ɹǝd sʇop uı uoıʇnlosǝɹ sʇı ƃuıɹǝpısuoɔ uǝɥʍ 003 ɹǝqɯnu ǝɥʇ ɥʇıʍ dıɥsuoıʇɐlǝɹ pɹnsqɐ ɐ sɐɥ 'ǝuo uʍo noʎ ɟı 'ɹǝʇuıɹd ɹnoʎ 'ǝɔuɐʇsuı ɹoɟ ¿ƃuıǝq oʇuı ǝɯoɔ spɹɐpuɐʇs ʍoɥ oʇ ʇɥƃnoɥʇ ʎuɐ uǝʌıƃ noʎ ǝʌɐɥ ˙dn ǝpıs-ʇɥƃıɹ ɹoʇıuoɯ ɹnoʎ sı ʎɥʍ ʇnq 'uʍop ǝpısdn sı ʇsod sıɥʇ ʎɥʍ ʇou sı uoıʇsǝnb lɐǝɹ ǝɥʇ.

March 11, 2008

Only One Day Left for Organizations to Apply to SoC

We've got some -amazing- groups who have applied, but I wanted to give the ol' internet one last ping. If you are a -currently- shipping organizations with a community that can readily welcome newcomers, consider applying for the Summer of Code.

February 27, 2008

Find me at Drupalcon next week, and a short note on the MySQL Acquisition

I just totally nailed my talk at Drupalcon next week to blather on and on about the open sourciness thing to the Drupalians. Drupalites? Drupies? Yes....that's it, Drupies! Anyhow...assuming I'm not totally killed by the crowd for calling them Drupies, I'll be lead off a 1 .5 hour session which will culminate with Leslie Hawthorn detailing the great work that Drupal did in GHOP, amongst other topics.

I'm really happy in that I'll be able to intersect with my old friends Brian 'Krow' Aker of MySQL (now sun....so... MySunQL? SunSQL? I kid...) and Miguel, if he is in town. Anyhow, we're planning on a nice dinner one of the nights of the show, in which I will pump him for information on optimizing MySQL on Linux, and what might need to be done there ongoing.

I think it is an interesting study of the Ebb and Flow of open source business to see MySQL ebb into an aquisition by Sun while companies like Drupal dip their toe into the commercial world as Acquia. It'd be easy to sound smug and superior by saying something like "Everything old is new again" but I'm not going to do that, because the road to profitability and/or success in open source is a deeply challenging one and very different for every company. No more or less challenging than the proprietary world mind you, but still..

Anyhow. Enough rambling. Congrats to my pals at MySQL for closing the deal with Sun and all that. Hope is works out great for all involved. Strong thought and project leadership in MySQL is really important, and it is my hope that Sun can bring some of its significantly smart engineering knowledge to bear on the brilliance that Brian, Monty and so many smart developers have brought to MySQL.

February 26, 2008

Kindle vs Iliad: Future! The Future I tell you.

So I'm sitting in Washington, DC's Union Station waiting on a train to take me north to Boston when I glance over at the dude sitting a few seats away. He's reading the Wall Street Journal and there is an article on the cover that I'd like to read.

I whip out the Kindle, download that days copy, and seventy-five cents later, I'm reading it.

It was pretty cool, actually, I read my article and the rest of the paper there on the Kindle, and it was really neat. The only real problem with the Kindle is the size of the screen, having used the Iliad e-book reader with it's significantly larger screen, reading a book on the Kindle feels claustrophobic, and the inter-screen flash that is endemic on screen readers right now (both the Iliad and the Kindle do this and it is part of the nature of the technology) seems worse on a smaller screen due to the fact that there is less information gained during any one page turn.

Anyhow, so I've been experimenting with the Kindle, and here's some thoughts I have on it and how it rates next to the Iliad. I've used both of them to read multiple purchased books, including the Diamond Age (Iliad) and Snow Crash (Kindle), blogs, and personal documents, when possible.

Also, the Kindle screen actually broke on me, but I'm not sure whose fault it was, as there was no precipitating event, but amazon was -really- great about replacing this, and I felt as if this was the norm, not an exceptional, event.

Kindle:

Pros:
  • Really amazing software, seriously.
  • Bitchin' little scroll wheel display thingy.
  • EVDO whispernet is from the future.
  • Great battery life and sleep management.
Cons:
  • Buttons everywhere. I challenge newcomers to the platform to pick up the device without hitting a button.
  • Absurdly silly keyboard. Angled keys seem strange and hard to press interesting combos like alt-p one handed or in low light.
  • No usb port for mounting a usb light, which is super handy to do for reading in low light situations on the iliad.
  • Weird importing rules. In fact, I'd say damn stupid importing functionality. Great on things you buy, shitty on things you don't/shouldn't have to like blogs /technical docs and pdfs.
  • Hacker hostile
  • No charging from usb (trickle-charging is a lie).
  • Stupid non-standard power.
Iliad:

Pros:
  • Awesome, amazing, screen size
  • Decent battery life.
  • Just barely okay device software.
  • More hacker friendly, SDK is available as are some 3rd party programs.
  • Fantastic memory support.
  • USB port for handy use of a usb-light, external edvo/cell connection or memory stick (it's intended purpose)
  • Amazing device for on-screen editing (All hail the wacom stylus pad built into the device)
Cons:
  • Shit sleep support, you basically need to do a full shut off/turn on the device to use it. It's fast at this, but still.
  • Shit fonts in the mobipocket viewer. Ever heard of serif fonts, iRex and Mobi? They make people happy when reading smaller fonts as it gives the eyes hints.
  • No bitching amazing whispernet.
  • Software is shit if you leave the stylus behind.
  • No charging from the usb.
  • USB/Power dongle makes me want to smash with hammer.
  • Deeply shitty/baffling client software (thank goodness for mobipocket desktop)
  • Bug on first power-on means the first or second rendered mobipocket page should be rerendered by doing a forward/back page.
Commonalities:
  • Both are lighter than the Deathly Hollows.
  • Both hold tons of books.
  • Both are super readable during the day, in full sun.
  • Both have less albedo so night reading is trickier than a regular book.
  • Both have the same/extremely similar inter-page flash.
  • Both should have better client/pdf support.
  • Both should have better support for RSS feeds. Whether through Amazon or Mobipocket, they both suck. This isn't a coincidence, as Amazon uses and owns Mobipocket.
  • Both need a way wider selection of books (again, both are mobipocket consumers) or they will both fail. There simply isn't the selection to support the market. So I still carry books.
Final thoughts:

Domestically, the Kindle will win for the EVDO bitchenness. But I'll actually carry around the
Iliad. Both are too expensive and need more books to be made available before they'll be popular.

February 14, 2008

New Zealand, Webstock and Backgammon, oh my..

Yep, I'm on a plane again. This time on a flight from Sydney Kingsford to Aukland (and later to Wellington for webstock). Air New Zealand is plying me with red wine, which is nice, and lamb, which is nicer and it strikes me that a little over 16 hours ago, I was in SFO boarding a similar flight to Sydney.

Why it strikes me is that I was worried, having not flown internationally for about three months, was that I might have lost the knack for long flights. There was a little bit of dread going on in my head when considering the 15 hour flight, then a 3 hour flight to NZ.

But it was cake. I even managed to sleep for 6 or 7 hours (in one hour chunks, mind you), I caught up on the new terminator show, which is just barely okay enough to watch, and some other TV, copied from the Tivo, and managed to get nothing else done. It was mostly about consuming media. I didn't even play any games, modulo a few games of backgammon against the computer.

I find backgammon against a computer to be a very deterministic thing. Depending on the rolls, I can tell within the first turn or two how likely it is that I will be able to defeat the computer. Hoyle Backgammon is a pretty crappy program, too, but it is good enough to beat you if it rolls well. You can definitely beat it points-wise, though, as its risk algorithm that decides whether or not to accept a doubling is flawed and it tends to accept it when only a flop-sweaty drunk would do so. But it keeps my 'gammon skills sharp for that inevitable day when I must play to save the world against an unseen alien enemy from beyond.

Okay, so maybe that won't happen. But it's nice to not be terrible at it. I want to be not terrible at chess too, so I've been noodling with chessmaster when on planes. The latest patch to the 10th edition is a no-cd patch, thank you very much, and so I don't need to whip out the portable dvd-rom drive to start with the chess learning.

Here comes breakfast. More later...

Later....

I'm now in Wellington , approaching day 2 of webstock. Webstock is just about the best show I've been to in a long time. They treat speakers very well and the speakers are almost universally interesting and compelling. Totally worth the trip, time, and sponsorship dollars from mother company. For you New Zealanders, you should make time for this next year.

Wellington continues to charm, too. It is a very small city, incredibly walkable and sweet. It reminds one of a smaller version of San Francisco, but with a more European/British flair to it.

More later :)

February 3, 2008

Pride goeth....

No, this is not a post about the whole Microsoft/Yahoo thing, which, by the way, seems to be a plot by those two companies to double the kilobytes coming into my email box. This is instead a glorified link to a terrific article about the recent problems at Société Générale. This writeup in the wall street journal is full of terrific and quite personal details and gets right to the root of the problem, that this was a trader who was insufficiently observed and was given a remarkable amount of power, little oversight and was driven by insecurity and pride.

That said, I'm not sure that I buy that he did anything illegal... maybe the faked emails and hedges looks like fraud, but it might just be a violation of corporate policy, and you know, one that failed to respond to its compliance desks concerns about the trader anyhow.

If he had made money, he'd have been celebrated as a hero, frankly, and that's probably why the bank ignored their compliance desk's many warnings. Anyhow, read that and then read this great book about the unravelling of long term capital management.

January 26, 2008

Shelving Books and Muscle Memory

When I was a younger man, I worked for a store called Waldensoftware in the Tyson's Corner mall in Northern Virginia. This was a solid job for a 16 year old kid who was into computers. The store sold computer science textbooks and software for PCs and Macs.

Often, they would loan us out to the main Waldenbooks shop in the more heavily traveled part of the mall, and we would shelf and sell books. The thing I remember from working in both locations most is 'shelving'. Shelving is the practice of tidying and facing books on the shelf so that they don't look disorganized. Flip, cover, flip, cover, align, lineup, flip and cover. You can even subtlety promote some books and deemphasize others. For instance, in modern parlance, Neal Stephenson (of Snow Crash fame) has no need for any more publicity to sell books, but since he's often placed not so far from John Scalzi (a newish up and coming science fiction author) you could face the Stephenson books spine out and the Scalzi books cover out.

Those coming in for Snow Crash can always find it, and maybe, just maybe, they'll buy a copy of old man's war in the process. They get to read about Hiro's adventures amongst the loglo and maybe discover a new author. Everyone wins!

Here's the thing. Now, some 20 years later, I still do it. If I'm in a bookstore, I can't not do it. If the shelves are even slightly uneven or in disarray, I start shelving. Flip, cover, flip, cover, align, lineup, flip and cover. It's weird. I find myself doing it unconsciously. It's startling really, it's like my body decides to go do things why I'm otherwise engaged. It's plain weird.

This happened a few days ago when I was at Border's in Palo Alto. We were looking at guide books for an upcoming trip when I look down and *poof* I'm shelving.

So weird.

January 10, 2008

This is a test...

Trying to embed an object here:



You see, I've been experimenting with different widgets and such. You can ignore the tests posts, but I find them -awesome-. Also, I love flash block. The above widget should show a music playing widget from iMeem. If it doesn't, then , well, it doesn't.

January 9, 2008

Ph33r the Cut3 ones

So, remember all those children's stories and cartoons that portray nice, woodland creatures as gentle, loving, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly entities with only the best interests of humanity in their hearts?

It's a dirty, filty lie.

First, Deer attack me on route 50, as detailed here a few years back. Now, dive bombing suicide squirrels. Let me expand, I was walking to my car and under a bough of trees. Nice shady oaks.

I hear a rustle. I think....hmm, getting pooed on by a bird would suck, so I'm not going to stand under this tree. The birds in the neighborhood have a history of, I kid you not, attacking my car mirrors and windshield wipers. Seriously annoying, even if they don't do much damage past a few paint chips taken out and mirrors that need cleaning.

But I digress, back to the suicide squirrels....

So I'm walking, having swerved to not be under the tree when I hear a solid, meaty "whack!" not 3 feet from me where I had been standing. There was the aformentioned squirrel. A dark mottled brown/black fat little bastard with a penchant for murder and evil in his acorn addicted heart. He was fine. He looked at me, hissed and ran back up the tree, no doubt to prepare for the next victim, likly an orphan, a nun, a girl scout selling cookies, or an orphan nun cookie selling girl scout.

Anyhow, I survived this assault, but so did my nemesis. Is a vicious, hateful, painful altercation predestined? Will I come home with the wounds and scratches of domination or the full stomach of victory? Only time will tell. I suspect that, like GLaDOS, I will be still alive.

(I found the drunk evil squirrel photo on the internet. And , yes, I finished Portal, it was awesme and amazing and perfect)



(the cake is a lie)

January 3, 2008

See you at my IAP Session?

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! In two weeks hence I will be giving my 3 hour history of open source class during MITs Independent Activities Period. I tried this out at Google last month and it was recevied really well. It's even got pictures of kittens in it, it's so awesome. It bleeds awesome. It oozes awesome. It practically awesomes awesome. So come and check it out. It's three nights in a row at 7pm in E51 (sloan building). See you there!