Tag Archives: tech

10G of audio

By the end of last week, I had more than 10G of audio on my desktop, from various interviews that I had done and not yet edited. This weekend, I got rid of about 3G of that, but there’s still a lot to go. So hopefully there will be new FeatherCast episodes in the next few days. Sounds like David has been recording some stuff too. Not sure which one(s) will get released first, but with ApacheCon US coming up real soon, there’s less need to ration them.

Geek Out, Friday

Aug 20, 2006
Kitulgala, Sri Lanka

The last week has been absolutely amazing, and yesterday ended it with a bang. Following a whole week of FOSS conferences (7 conferences or gatherings of some description) the LSF (Lankan Software Foundation) held the GeekOut as a wrap-up, for the geeks to get together and engage in non-geek activities, as well as a chance for informal discussion of many issues.

30 of us came to Rafters’ Retreat in Kitulgala, about 3 hours east (well, the way our bus driver drove!!) of Colombo.

The drive from Colombo was a bit of a surprise to me. The entire drive, the road was lined on both sides by shops, homes, small businesses, and other buildings. I had figured that once we got outside of the city, there would be stretches of emptiness, or perhaps farmland. But, it turns out, at least in this part of the country, it’s very densely inhabited.

We arrived in Kitulgala just as it started raining. (It has rained much of the time that I’ve been in Sri Lanka.) The bus is too large to actually pull in to the grounds of where we’re staying, so we parked across the street and down a bit, and started piling out into the downpour. We stood for a while up on the porch of a building there, waiting for the rain to slacken, but that didn’t happen.

Eventually we decided to make a run for it. We took off across the street in the rain.

About halfway across the street my backpack decided that it wasn’t zipped up properly, and came all the way open, spilling all of its contents into the street. Including my camera, cables, microphone, mic stand, and lots of papers. Everything except my laptop, in fact.

With the help of a bunch of the guys, we scooped everything back into the backpack, zipped it correctly, and hurried the rest of the way across. It seems that nothing is permanently damaged, except for most of the papers. Fortunately, there was nothing irreplaceable in the papers.

Shortly after arriving, we had some dinner. As with every meal since I’ve set foot on the island, dinner was amazingly good. The food here is sort of like Indian food, only rather different. It is fairly spicy, although at the hotel the tone it down a lot for the benefit of us soft-tongued westerners. At FOSS Enterprise, and here at the Retreat, they have been giving us the genuine article, and it is fantastic, if somewhat painful. 🙂

That evening we stayed up until 1 or so (the younger guys stayed up a lot later than I) talking about Open Source, local politics, the school system, and involvement in Apache.

Folks in “developing nations” (although more and more I wonder about this seemingly arbitrary division of the world up into categories, and the stigmas associated with it, but that’s a post for another day) *GET* Open Source in a way that we don’t in the USA. They understand that one of the core benefits of FOSS is the ability to have a local economy that isn’t beholden to Mr. Gates and Mr. Bush. By having a local software industry, they can make decisions that are in the best interest of their own nation, rather than being forced into particular decisions by multi-national corporations.

Certainly, the same is true of any industry, but software seems to be one area where huge percentages of the world are completely dependent on one company – Microsoft. And it represents a disproportionate percentage of national budgets, which increases as computers become more important in daily life.

To Be Continued … (Saturday’s writeup coming soon)

Giant Killer Robot Eats Cars!!!

This story is perhaps *the* perfect illustration of why government should use only open source software. It’s also the perfect illustration of why the “lease not buy” model of software licensing is so completely broken.

And it involves a giant killer robot eating cars. (Ok, not really, but I imagine a talented journalist could turn it into that.)

It really is the perfect story in every way.

Palm T|X

I’ve aquired a Palm T|X. It is very nice in many ways, but, for me, the best part about it is bluetooth. The ability to synchronize over a non-wired connection means that I will sync more often, thus immediately making this a more useful device than any Palm device I’ve ever had before. It meant that changes I make on my destop calendar, or my Palm calendar, are (almost) immediately available on the other – something that took days or weeks on previous Palm devices, due to the enormous inconvenience of dragging out a USB cable, untangling it from the other USB cables, and syncing.

Granted, it takes a lot longer to sync over bluetooth than over USB. This doesn’t actually bother me a lot, as I just sync when I’m not using the Palm. Also, due to the range of bluetooth, I don’t have to be tethered to the computer, so I can sync from another room when needed.

The 802.11 networking is very handy also, but, so far, is mostly a toy. Although I did use it *extensively* yesterday in troubleshooting web servers, so perhaps it’ll be more useful, in short bursts, over the long haul. I’ve got an ssh client installed on it, and have used that quite a bit. I was rather disappointed, and somewhat surprised, to not find any free IRC clients. There are several commercial ones, which is almost as surprising. Imagine charging for an IRC client. That’s kind of weird.

Perl lightning talks

The Perl lightning talks have been a staple of the Perl Conference, and, later, the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, for as long as I’ve been attending it. And YAPC, too, although I haven’t been to YAPC in many moons. They were somewhat different this year. Not hugely, but subtly.

MJD observed that, when he started them, the purpose was to get folks who would otherwise not give talks to give brief presentations in a low-stress environment. 5 minutes is enough to get a taste of public presenting, but not long enough to get too terribly intimidated.

Over the years, it became a bit of a sideshow, with elaborate presentations, complete with slides and sound effects. And of course MJD as the MC, complete with funny hat and gong. And so folks who wanted to give a five minute “here’s what I’m working on” or “here’s my cool idea” talk were overshadowed by the brilliant presentations by Audrey Tang and Andy Lester and the like. Also, talks lean towards the comic routine rather than the technical talk. Indeed, technical lightning talks tend to get heckled on IRC, and yawned through, waiting for the *real* lightning talks.

We started doing Lightning Talks at ApacheCon a few years back, and they have become part of our conference culture. We, too, tend to favor the entertainment talks rather than the technical talks. That’s fine, in that it draws a crowd, and folks hear interesting ideas, and it’s a great community event. But we need to remember what the initial purpose of lightning talks really is – to give folks a shot at the mic, if only for a few minutes.

Of course, I don’t run the lightning talks, so feel free to ignore me. 🙂

You should switch to …

I find myself rather frustrated with the geek tendency to use “you should switch to …” as a proposed solution to problems.

“How do I get postfix to run header checks?” “Switch to Exim”

“How do I delete a line in vi?” “Switch to emacs”

“How do I install foo with Yast?” “If you were running Debian, you’d just have to use apt-get”

“I have this problem with svn” “You should switch to source safe”

“How do I get php installed on Apache on Windows” “Install Linux”

This is pretty much never the right solution. Yes, occasionally, it’s the right solution. But this is very infrequent. Folks have made decisions about what software they are using. Or, as frequently, that decision has been made for them, and they are not at liberty to change it. And it’s not really useful at that particular time for them to explain to you the rationale for that decision.

And, yes, I know, you’re trying to be helpful. But it’s not. Really.

Yeah, I’m being grumpy this evening. Sorry. I should go to bed …

Google project hosting

I attended the Google announcement of their new open source project hosting service. I’ve been trying to log in and create a project, and I’m getting rather frustrated. Apparently my google account isn’t the same as a gmail account, and one has to have a gmail account. Apparently I never did get around to signing up for a gmail account, and one can’t sign up without an invitation. I thought they were past the invitation stage. Obviously not. So, one of you folks needs to send me a gmail invitation so that I can put a couple of my projects into this new hosting, and see how wonderful it is.

The demo of the service was very impressive. In particular, the bug tracking system was very impressive. Simple, yet flexible. It’s a shame that the bug tracker itself isn’t open source.


Jesse announced Hiveminder at OSCon. Stated simply, it’s a ticket tracking system for your life. A web-based ToDo list. Based on RT, but much simplified, it lets you put your todo lists here, export them to ical, and do the notification kind of stuff you’re used to with your favorote bug tracking system.

I somehow doubt that I’ll actually end up using it long term. I’ve tried web-based todo thingies in the past, and none of them had as much staying power as just putting things in my PalmOS device. But it’s better than most. We’ll see.

Keynote and Subversion

As a number of other people have pointed out, the latest version of Keynote (3.0.1 for those keeping score) blows away .svn directories when you save a file. And, for the record, it also blows away CVS directories.

It used to preserve them on save. No longer.

This means, in short, that I can’t store my conference presentations in revision control.

Given that most of my conference presentations get updated and recycled and rewritten and reused several times a year, this makes me very very nervous. Any document that’s important to me, and not in revision control, makes me very nervous. After all, laptops get dropped. Files get deleted by mistake. Changes get made unintentionally and need to be reverted. And I really need to retrieve that example that I used to have in here on slide #26, but which is gone now.

I’m really not sure what to do. I could go back to using PerlPoint (writing in POD, generating HTML – several generations removed from something TomC wrote many moons ago), but I have grown quite attached to the things that Keynote lets me do.

Oh, and when I went to the Apple bug reporting website, I got “An Exception has Occurred (click triangle to view)”.


I guess I’m just out of luck for now.