September 2009 Archives

Interesting stuff that I think you should look at:

  • Dark Stalking on Facebook — you’re probably leaking more information on Facebook than you think you are, even if you’ve got your privacy settings dialed up to ‘tin-foil cap’.

  • Tim Bunce has a Perl myths presentation — see it on slideshare. Good ammo if you need to justify starting or continuing Perl usage in your organization.

  • Via JMason, a post on Continuous Deployment illustrates the “take something good to a ridiculous extreme” principle as applied to testing and deployment procedures. This is inspiring, in a “To Dream The Impossible Dream” sort of way…

  • Speaking of language advocacy, nopython.

  • The British Prime Minister, prompted by a petition signed by thousands of British citizens, apologized for the treatment of computer science pioneer Alan Turing. In the wake of WWII, Turing — who played a critical in breaking German codes, providing information that was key to winning the war — was persecuted for his homosexuality, order to undergo “chemical castration”, and ultimately committed suicide. The apology concludes:

    So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

    In the words of many, “Good.”

As I continue to clear out the link backlog, I came across this quote from a Fortune profile of Apple COO Tim Cook:

Tim Cook arrived at Apple in 1998 from Compaq Computer. He was a 16-year computer-industry veteran — he’d worked for IBM for 12 of those years — with a mandate to clean up the atrocious state of Apple’s manufacturing, distribution, and supply apparatus. One day back then, he convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia.

“This is really bad,” Cook told the group. “Someone should be in China driving this.” Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, without a trace of emotion, “Why are you still here?”

Khan, who remains one of Cook’s top lieutenants to this day, immediately stood up, drove to San Francisco International Airport, and, without a change of clothes, booked a flight to China with no return date, according to people familiar with the episode.

via Daring Fireball

A while back, Paul Buchheit wrote a nice piece on rapid prototyping of new features in lieu of lots of upfront meetings and presentations.

Maybe that’s why I’m skeptical of ideas that are sold via brilliant speeches and slick powerpoints. Or maybe it’s because it’s too easy to overlook the messy details, or to get caught up in details that seem very important, but aren’t. I also get very bored by endless debate.

The point of this story, I think, is that you should consider spending less time talking, and more time prototyping, especially if you’re not very good at talking or powerpoint. Your code can be a very persuasive argument.

(You might not recognize the name ‘Paul Buchheit’; he’s otherwise known as “the guy who created GMail and AdSense for Google”.)

Stolen from all over the place, this Hierarchy of Digital Distractions is awesome. I particularly love that ‘landline’ is rendered in an Olde English font…

After reading Edward O’Connor’s guide for blog templates in HTML5, I’d like to find the time this weekend to rework the templates for this blog using new HTML5 tags like <section> and <article>.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s going to be enough weekend in my weekend to get around to that…

Some useful stuff I’ve recently added to my Emacs config (which I should really get around to moving to github already…):

  • FlymakeCSS explains how to hook up Flymake with a local copy of the W3C CSS validator to give on-the-fly syntax checking (with color highlighting for errors) for your CSS files. The utility of this isn’t as great as doing the same thing for your code (which Flymake can also do, of course), but it’s pretty cool, and not that hard.

  • Making Emacs Growl explains how to use the ToDoChiKu package to hook Emacs up to the Growl or Snarl notification systems. Again, maybe not the most useful thing ever, but sort of cool to play with.

  • Finally, the AutoIndentation page on the EmacsWiki has a couple of tips about configuring Emacs to correctly and automatically re-indent pasted code. This is extremely useful.

Last but not least, for the Vi(m) users out there, has a very useful short Vi(m) tutorial. Check it out!


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You may or may not have heard, but there was a big right wing rally in DC this past weekend. If you followed me on FaceyTweetSpace, you’d have seen this:

Incoming train just off-loaded an insanity of wing-nuts. (Yeah, that’s the correct collective noun for that group.)

Anyway, just in case you didn’t believe me, DCist has a gallery of some of the more outstanding participants. Just another weekend in the big city…

About a month ago, Hal tagged me on the 50 concert meme that was going around. I was actually intending to make my own list, as Matt, one of my college roommates, posted his version around the same time, and that kicked off an entertaining “How could you leave off X?” discussion. But, as will happen, it sort of slipped my mind, until I found the open tab with Hal’s list this morning — and this seems like the perfect Sunday morning activity, really — so here goes…

OK, here are the rules. Test your memory and your love of live music by listing 50 artists or bands (or as many as you can remember) you’ve seen in concert. List the first 50 acts that come into your head. An act you saw at a festival and opening acts count, but only if you can’t think of 50 other artists. Oh, and list the first concert you ever saw (you can remember that, can’t you)?

Should you choose this challenge, here’s what you do: Copy my note. Click on “notes” under tabs on your profile page. Select “write a new note” in the top corner. Paste the copy in the body of the note. Make your list. Change the number at the top, and add your title. Once you’ve saved, don’t forget to tag friends (including me) on the right.

I’m only doing 30 or so, because I’m lame. To make up, I’ll give unnecessary biographical detail… (these are in a rough chronological order):

  • First show: Sugarcubes/Siouxsie Sioux/New Order. This was around ‘88 or ‘89, at Sandstone in KC
  • Nine Inch Nails, at the first Lollapalooza, again at Sandstone
  • Jane’s Addiction, twice — Lollapalooza, and in Omaha, in, I swear, a gym.
  • Fugazi, Kansas University Student Union Ballroom, 1989.
  • Depeche Mode, at The World in Chicago, 1989 or 1990.
  • Soul Asylum, three times — Gabes and twice at Riverfest
  • Big Audio Dynamite — Riverfest.
  • Big Citizen, numerous times, 1990-1993, Iowa City
  • The Replacements — in Iowa City, at Carver-Hawkeye(?), 1990(?), touring behind their “big fucking hit”, as Paul Westerberg slurred into the mic.
  • Tripmaster Monkey , numerous times, 1990-1993, Iowa City
  • Rex Daisy, numerous times, frequently at the Yacht Club, 1990-1993, Iowa City
  • Iowa Beef Experience, at Gabe’s, freshman year. CHAOS.
  • The Dangtrippers, once or twice, Iowa City
  • Head Candy, once or twice, Iowa City
  • Sugar, University of Iowa Student Union, 1992? I know I was at this show because I remember the bruises the next day. The actual show, not so much.
  • U2 in Ames, 1992, ZooTV tour — and after this I swore off stadium concerts forever…
  • Archers Of Loaf, 1994 or 1995, at the run-down all ages venue in Tucson
  • Dead Hot Workshop, opening for:
  • Gin Blossoms, Tucson, 1995, in some ballroom on the east side of town
  • The Mollys, New Years Eve show in Tucson, 1998 or thereabouts?
  • Belly, University of Arizona Student Union, 1999?
  • The Get-Up Kids? This one is a long story… Approximately 1999, after I had given a talk to ~2000 people at the RNA meeting, wandering the University of Wisconsin campus, moderately intoxicated on beer and post-talk endorphins, I wandered into the Brickskeller Rathskeller (the bar in the Student Union — thanks to @vkurup for the correction on the bar name). I’m pretty sure the Get-Up Kids were playing. I wanted to stay but got dragged back out to go to the end-of-conference dinnner.
  • Lucero, twice, both times at the Black Cat.
  • The Weakerthans, at the Black Cat.
  • The “Revival Tour” — Chuck Ragan, Tim Berry, Ben Nichols, Frank Turner, at the Black Cat.
  • Anberlin, at the 930 Club.
  • Angels & Airwaves, also at the 930.
  • Drive-By Truckers, with TheWife, at the 930. Unfortunately, Patterson Hood was sick, so we didn’t get the full-on experience…

And just to wrap it up, shows I’m going to before the end of the year:

  • Yo La Tengo, next week
  • Lucero, October
  • Get Up Kids, November

Consider yourself tagged on this one if you want to be.

Of all the new distributed version control systems, I like Git the best. I’ve found it to be the easiest one to wrap my head around, the ability to use it to interact with SVN or even CVS repositories means you can enjoy the capabilities of next-generation revision control without waiting for the rest of your dev team to catch up with the times, and the ecosystem of Git-related tools just keeps getting better. In particular, GitHub, despite some recent hiccups, is a real joy to use. (UPDATE 20090915 GitHub is moving to Rackspace. Hopefully that addresses the recent issues.) If you have Free/OpenSource code, I strongly suggest you consider hosting with them. Even better, pay them to host your private stuff too. Then you can feel justified in bitching about the site when it acts a bit wacky…

Here are a few Git-related links I’ve piled up recently:

  • Scott Chacon — one of the people running the aforementioned GitHub site — has recently written a new book about git. The whole book is available online under a CreativeCommons license, as is the source for the book. I haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet, but I’ve enjoyed other Git-related educational materials from Scott and I expect this book is of the same high caliber as the rest of his stuff.
  • If you want or need to host your own web interface to a git repository, the standard tool is called gitweb. It’s got the same rough’n’ready style of interface and monolithic CGI design you may know and love from such products as cvsweb and svnweb. The good news is that there’s an effort under way, called Gitalist, to rewrite gitweb as a modern MVC-style web app, using the Catalyst framework. That will hopefully make it more extensible, customizable, and generally fill it up with goodness.
  • Of course, Git integrates with Emacs; you can get all the gnarly details at the Git page on EmacsWiki. Personally, I’m quite fond of Magit for my Git-from-Emacs needs.
  • If you’re interested in getting started with GitHub, you may want to look at a recently released GitHub setup starter script. Haven’t played with that myself yet, but I would be interested to hear what people new to GitHub think about it.
  • Finally, in a sign that the geeks are starting to get really serious about this piece of software, somebody has parodied the classic Ed, man! !man ed to produce git, man! !man git.

Enjoy 09/09/09 and we’ll see if I can make three days in a row tomorrow…

I’m sitting on my porch, listening to the rain, keeping an eye on the charcoal I’m starting in the grill, and it’s really feeling like the last days of summer here. Back to school time, back to Real Work. Let’s see what we can make, eh?

Yeah, I’m trying to get back on this horse. Again. (I’m not the only one, either…)

If you glance over at the Archives you’ll see that the first post I ever made here was way, way back in September of 1998. I’m not sure this site was a ‘weblog’ at that point, per se — more of a journal cum Changelog, really — but that particular distinction is currently even more academic than it used to be. However you slice it, it means this site is eleven years old this month.

Eleven. Friggin’. Years! Man.

One of my long-term goals has been to get all the different web sites I’ve got unified into some sort of common system or framework, so they’re all updated the same way using the same tools. Part of the plan was that this wunderkammer software would include some sort of support for blogging. That may still happen at some point, but for the moment I’ve thrown in the towel and moved everything to MovableType. There’s still a lot of fixing up to do around the edges — there’s a ~1.5 year chunk of missing posts that I still need to add to the system, posts are tagged incorrectly, I think most of the images didn’t survive the move, little stuff like that — but here we are.

Here we go.

For those of you curious about how close I did get to my goal — I’m reasonably close, I think. Everything involved with the sites is in one big git repo — including all the MT stuff — meaning I can sling copies of it around all over hell and gone and keep them all in sync with a minimum of trouble. With the exception of the MT stuff, everything is handled consistently, with a toolchain that’s 90% Template Toolkit. (The remainder is Markdown and miscellaneous Perl.)

At some point, I’m going to port things over to Melody. There are a couple of semi-serious annoyances I’ve hit with MT4 — the use of Image::Magick for one, lack of batch image uploads for another — and I think the Melody community has the best chance of getting those itches scratched.

Another thing I’d like to do is integrate my FaceySpaceDentTweets into this weblog a bit better — Dan is doing a good job of that, I think. I don’t think the tool I want will be particular hard to roll up; it’s more a matter of figuring out what rules I want about what goes where.

Both of those, however, are a little bit down the road. The current goal is to focus on the blogging, not the blogging software — burn off the accumulated link backlog, stretch some writing muscles, all that good stuff.

Here we go.