Friday, August 26, 2005

Web Wrangler

Web wrangler (photo by K. Urner, Olympus Stylus 500)

After a meeting at Jake's downtown (happy hour). We discussed turning the design of our site over to her. Currently, our site is little more than a placeholder.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An Adventure

I was out with captain of Meliptus last night, when a sail boat astern asked if we had radio and if so, to turn it on. We caught a coast guard broadcast: to all ships in vicinity, jet ski boat incident Washington shore, any wishing to investigate? Don took them up on it, and we switched to another channel to get details. This was well after dark. We had no direct communications with the shipwrecked crew (yet). I swiveled a search light through the blackness, while Don pushed slowly towards shore.

OK, not shipwrecked as it turned out. Cell phone contact established, with coast guard mediating. Just an out of gas situation, jet ski beached, two individuals (two males, with backpack and BBQ). We couldn't get the boat right up to shore, given busted depth finder and unknown depth. She doesn't like to run aground, Meliptus doesn't. So we commanded either/both to voluntarily swim out, pushing the jet ski (a fairly light water craft). Not a big job for a fit young man in his mid twenties, Patrick, grad of Catlin Gabel, works in chip fab, as we learned of his identity, while towing the depleted craft back across the Columbia (his mate stayed behind with the merchandize (a BBQ shouldn't get wet)).

Mission accomplished, we radioed closure to the coast guard. No further events to report from that night. No encounters with the stealth boat, though Don has pumped gas for the tender boat, which includes crew member "Lara Croft" (an allusion to Damian's keynote).

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Madagascar (movie review)

Another good DreamWorks cartoon with plenty of physical comedy for youngsters, embedded cultural allusions for oldsters with more in memory (e.g. spot links to Cast Away and Planet of the Apes). Credit goes to AMD Opteron-equipped HP servers down on the (rendering) farm. PS: Penguins rule!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

2005 BizMo

On-board monitors
(photo by K. Urner, Olympus Stylus 500)

Left monitor: HDTV connected to HDNet via satellite, and currently receiving Sunrise Earth, a no voice-over, slice-of-life program designed to showcase the high definition picture.

Middle monitor: topomaps and biometrics (e.g. captain's weight gains and losses). This bizmo is tasked with gizmo prototyping and field testing, e.g. of vidcam equipment for exploring abandoned mine shafts (which the topomaps & GPS help locate).

Right monitor: general purpose filesystem e.g. image log and music stash (speakers not shown, color printer behind middle monitor).

Monday, August 15, 2005

1931 BizMo

1931 BizMo
(photos by David Ulmer, Feb 5, 2004)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bridge Pedal 2005

Train crossing
(photo by K. Urner, Olympus Stylus 500)

I was among the first to start this year (6:30 AM). Mayor Tom Potter, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, and Dick Gibson of Providence (whom I know from meetings) gave short speeches. The organizers expressed their fond hope that we'd have no broken bones this year.

Gayle had a bike accident involving a ped and broke her collar bone last year, fortunately very close to the ER at Legacy Emanuel. With something like 18K riders and walkers doing complicated criss-crossing routes, such accidents are always a possibility.

My chain came off two seconds into the course (not propitious) but the rest of the ride was fairly stress free. The bridges were beautiful. We crossed them in the following order: Morrison, Sellwood, Hawthorne, Ross Island, Marquam, Burnside, Broadway, Fremont, St. John's, Steel.

I met up with Larry and Chris and their son Greg (visiting from Russia) atop the Marquam, and just by chance with Sam and LaJean, who'll be giving the Wanderers presentation this coming Tuesday. Sam accompanied Bucky on a trip to the Philippines in the early 1970s, which would've been when I was there, still a high school student (Imelda Marcos made sure Sam and Bucky got some better shoes).

Congressman Blumenauer promised the new transportation bill will be good for cyclists, and that Portland serves as a national model for a bike friendly town. Gothenberg was even friendlier though, with all those wide divided sidewalks (peds and bikes each get a lane, so there's less contending with buses and cars for a slice of asphalt).

Total miles on my odometer (including the distance to/from the event): 38.4.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Lost Lake

Lost Lake
(photo by K. Urner w/ Olympus Stylus 500)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Gibson BizMo

Dawn w/ OSCON sponsor's business mobile
(photo by K. Urner, Olympus Stylus 500)

At some point in all this OSCON business, I attented a Ruby for Java Programmers session, which was very well done. Having studied Java enroute from FoxPro to Python, and being these days a student of Ruby (albiet a very beginning one), I found this bridge useful/meaningful. Check the OSCON 2005 schedule for the name of the presenter, room number, and so on.

Last day of OSCON 2005

I grabbed the 75 bus this AM and got to OSCON early -- plenty of time for coffee and baked goods, conversation with a Perl programmer from Denmark. He asked what I spoke about (my name badge indicates I'm a speaker) and I explained about the Fuller School, how I'm a big fish in a small pond, how open source has facilitated our work enormously and on many levels.


Asa Dotzler discussed a perennial topic: how Linux might do more to help Regular People on laptops and desktops, even while keeping it a kick ass system for developers.

The next keynote by Drew Endy of MIT was about programming DNA -- maybe just to insert some documentation. Yeast consists of about 12 million characters of info. Open source yeast? Problems: (1) balkanization of basic biological functions (patents widely distributed -- imagine individual coders owned each piece of punctuation in a program and needing multiple permissions to write each line) (2) quality of code (3) screwed up rights to reuse, react, reverse engineer.

Tony Gaughan (CA) talked about his experiences with Ingres (now open source). Licensing is confusing (GPL, LGPL, CDDL, CATOSL etc.).

Danny O'Brien talked about good and evil in Open Source (software patents are evil).

My favorite presentation was Saul Griffith's about Howtoons: kids hacking the physical world, using comic book instructions. Lots to learn here, about teaching software skills as well.

The panel on women in open source, and engineering more generally, provided interesting insights. Juggling time commitments and priorities -- an age-old problem (it's what operating systems do). The ability to telecommute certainly helps, especially if you're a parent (this is certainly true for me, a dad).

During the Python lightening talks I was able to squeeze in 10 minutes about hypertoons (with projected demo), a real crowd pleaser. Guido was likewise into graphics: a clock featuring multi-colored turning disks, making use of Tk.

Miguel's concluding keynote gave us a foretaste of where Novell is taking the Linux desktop: X running atop OpenGL (= xgl), meaning Gnome, with Mono at its core, will be able to keep pace with OS X (and the next Windows) when it comes to eye candy. Beagle looks like fun.

Shortly I'll be packing the car for a weekend camping trip -- time to get away from computers for awhile, unless I take the laptop to show hypertoons to Bridge City Friends.

Thanks to all for making OSCON 2005 a fantastic learning experience.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More OSCON Brilliance

Today's keynotes:

The analyst, Nick Gall, showed us how the Internet models what long term investors look for in an infrastructure: an hourglass shape that makes innovation easy on top of a minimal structure: address, format, protocol. Containerized shipping represents the success of this approach as well.

David Heinemeier Hansson: Ruby on Rails trades flexibility for liberating constraints; learn the conventions of the framework, and you'll find Ruby has taken a lot of the responsibility for making your life as a web developer a lot easier.

The HP guy, Kartik Subbarao, explained how Venice models the ideal IT ecosystem, vs. quadrants Desert (closed source), Swamp (roll your own, maybe starting with open source, but failing to collaborate with the open source community), Ocean (completely open, all possibilities, no land). Case study: HP buys commercial support from Symas to coauthor OpenLDAP, an open source project, in support of its internal economy, thereby netting the benefits of commercial support and the participation of a global expert community.

Geeks sit around with with laptops like musicians with their instruments. One of our sponsors this year: Gibson, the guitar company (I snapped a photo of Gibson's bizmo, parked out front).

Next keynote by Robert Lang: a lecture on the history of origami (well developed by 1734). Akira Yoshizawa invented an instructional language for communicating origami (the http of the origami world). The speaker's Black Forest Cuckoo Clock was amazing (as were many of his others).

Today's computational origami is not like the old stuff. Check out the insects! Applications: unfolding space lenses, solar sails, auto air bags, heart implants (e.g. stents). I went to the follow-up presentation, which got into a lot more detail about the mathematics involved (trisecting angles is easy with origami).

And let me not forget the Identity 2.0 guy, who lives in Canada.BC, is over 21, and drives this fancy car -- or so he alleges (he provided no credential I could authenticate other than his obviously considerable talents as a presenter -- good enough for me in this case, plus I've run web audits since).

OSU is FireFox central (bouncer load balances global distribution). The Mozilla Foundation embodies the open source model where organizations are concerned (there's also a subsidiary corporation). Aside: I think the Python Foundation might do more to emulate this model. Expect FireFox to keep getting better (check my post about XUL). Mitchell Baker is one cool geek.

Nathan Torkington is doing a wonderful job of emceeing this O'Reilly event, per usual. We're lucky to have him in our community.


Dawn picked me up out front in the Subaru (Razz) and we drove to Providence Medical Center, where she had a 5 mm mass removed for biopsy using a needle vacuum. I charged my laptop in the waiting room, and read some of that New Yorker article about the new Pope.

We came back after the procedure and I showed her around, starting with the Google booth (good global data), and moving on through ice tea and ice cream stops, sometimes in the company of our old friend since CUE days, Jeff Zucker, a Perl saint and author of an upcoming book on the Perl DBI package. I also introduced her to Guido, Python's big benefactor, with whom I last conversed at that Thai food kiosk near the ferry stop in Gothenberg.


Now I'm in Jim's talk (Miguel is in the row behind me). IronPython is promisingly fast. The Pie-Thon challenge (trying to get Python to run on Parrot, Perl's evolving engine) helped IronPython evolve, as Guido's benchmark tests for Parrot gave IronPython something to chew on. IronPython 0.6 was only 4% slower than Python-2.3 implemented in C. IronPython 0.9 is now out, and allows subclassing of .NET classes within the language, much better COM support.

Jim demoed Avalon running from within a Python interactive shell. Miguel wanted to see the xaml-defined calculator buttons rotated by 45 degrees, using a list comprehension. Hey, it worked! Then he showed a GTK# GUI talking to the Microsoft Word dictionary. Finally, he showed us embedding a Python engine inside C#. I asked him to demo __add__ binding to the underlying overload of C#'s + operator (that worked too). The Visual Studio debugger transitions smoothly between Python and C# stacks (per my question: any debugger would have access to the same hooks in the .NET or Mono framework).

Open Technology in Oregon:

This presentation by the Open Technology Business Center was about bringing O'Reilly's OSCON back to Portland, based on Oregon's strong commitment to open technology, including increasingly in hardware realms. We got a rundown on some of the relevant businesses here, plus looked at a roadmap for going forward (a commercialization funnel).

We need to also focus on the education, nonprofit and government sectors, for which open technology is vitally important, not just as end users, but as contributing innovators and field testers (Project Renaissance model). OSCON should not become exclusively captive to business interests. Apropos of this, the Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON) is coming to Portland in October, sponsored by OSU's Open Source Lab. A questioner (not me) brought up exactly what I was thinking: Paul Nelson's K12LTSP and Free Geek are currently among the most important open source projects in Oregon.

And After:

Party @ Bar 71, deputized a member of the Posse. Chatted with an OSL guy who was big in the rose business (as in delivery of flowers) because he needed to test some software he was developing for a company, and it actually worked. The company itself went bankrupt, but he wound up with a running business. Then some letter in the mail threatened to sue because he had illegal copies of stuff. Upon audit, he discovered no transgressions, then realized this was a bulk mailing. But he was scared enough to think open source must be the way to go, and he's not looking back.