Useful stuff – 2008 – first half

Having a Google account is sometimes useful in ways you hadn’t planned for. For example, at a few different employers I’ve been at, I’ve had to prepare for reviews by providing a list of accomplishments to my supervisor. One decent tool for generating this list is email, though it can take some time. Another useful tool is the Web History feature of your Google account.

Though this isn’t necessarily indicative of everything I’ve accomplished in the first half of 2008 per se, it’s definitely indicative of the types of things I’ve generally been into so far this year, and it’s interesting to look back. What does your Web History say?

  • Gearman – this is used by some rather large web sites, notably Digg. It reminds me a little of having Torque and Maui, but geared toward more general-purpose applications. In fact, it was never clear to me that PBS/Maui couldn’t actually do this, but I didn’t get far enough into Gearman to really say that authoritatively.
  • How SimpleDB Differs from a Relational Database – Links off to some very useful takes on the “cloud” databases, which are truly fascinating creatures, but have a vastly different data management philosophy from the relational model we’re all used to.
  • Reblog – I found this in the footer of someone’s blog post. It’s kinda neat, but to be honest, I think you can do similar stuff using the Flock browser.
  • Google Finance APIs and Tools – did I ever mention that I had a Series 7 & 63 license two months after my 20th birthday? I love anything that I can think for very long periods of time about, where there’s lots and lots and LOTS of data to play with, where you can make correlations and answer questions nobody even thought to ask. Of course, soon after finding this page I found the actual Google Finance page, which answers an awful lot of potential questions. The stock screener is actually what I was looking to write myself, but with the data freely available, I’m sure it won’t be long before I find something else fun to do with it. I’m not a fan of Google’s “Feeds” model, but I’ve dealt with it before, and will do it again if it means getting at this data.
  • Bitpusher – it was recommended to me as an alternative to traditional dedicated server hosting. Worth a look.
  • S3 Firefox Organizer – This is a firefox plugin that provides an interface that looks a lot like an FTP GUI or something, but allows you to move files to and from “buckets” in Amazon’s S3 service.
  • Boto – A python library for writing programs that interact with the various Amazon Web Services. It’s not particularly well-documented, and it has a few quirks, but it is useful.
  • OmniGraffle – A Visio replacement for Apple OS X. I like it a lot better than Visio, actually. It has tons of contributed templates. You shouldn’t have any trouble making the switch. A little pricey, but I plunked down the cash, and have not been disappointed.
  • The Python Queue Module according to Doug – Doug Hellmann’s Python Module of the Week (PyMOTW) should be published in dead tree form some day. I happen to have some code that could make better use of queuing if it were a) written in Python, and b) used the Queue module. I was a little put off by the fact that every single tutorial I found on this module assumed you wanted to use threading, which I actually don’t, because I’m not smart enough…. though the last person I told that to said something to the effect of “the fact that you believe that means you’re smart enough”. Heh.
  • MySQL GROUP modifiers – turns out this isn’t what I needed for the problem I was trying to solve, but the “WITH ROLLUP” feature was new to me at the time I found it, and it’s kinda cool.
  • WordPress “Subscribe to Comments” plugin – Baron suggested that it would be good to have this, and I had honestly not even thought about it. But looking around, this is the only plugin of its kind that I found, and it’s only tested up to WP 2.3x, and I’m on 2.5x. This is precisely why I hate plugins (as an end user, anyway. Loghetti supports plugins) 😉
  • Lifeblogging – I had occasion to go back and flip through some of the volumes of journals I’ve kept since age 12, wondering if it might be time to digitize those in some form. I might digitize them, but they will *not* be public I don’t think. Way too embarrassing.
  • ldapmodrdn – for a buddy who hasn’t yet found all of the openldap command line tools. You can’t use ‘ldapmodify’ (to my knowledge) to *rename* an entry.
  • Django graphs – I haven’t yet tried this, because I’m still trying to learn Django in what little spare time I have, but it looks like there’s at least some effort towards this out there in the community. I have yet to see a newspaper that doesn’t have graphs *somewhere* (finance, sports, weather…), so I’m surprised Django doesn’t have something like this built-in.
  • URL Decode UDF for MySQL – I’ve used this. It works really well.
  • Erlang – hey, I’m game for anything. If I weren’t, I’d still be writing all of my code in Perl.
  • The difference between %iowait in sar and %util in iostat – I use both tools, and wanted the clarification because I was writing some graphing code in Python (using Timeplot, which rocks, by the way), and stumbled upon the question. Google to the rescue!
  • OSCON ’08 – I’m going. Are you going? I’m also going to the Oregon Brewers Festival on the last day of OSCON, as I did in ’06. Wonderful!
  • Explosion at one of my hosting providers – didn’t affect me, but… wow!
  • hypertable – *sigh* someday…when there’s time…
  • Small-scale hydro power – Yeah, I’m kind of a DIYer at heart. I do some woodworking, all my own plumbing, painting, flooring, I brew my own beer, I cook, I collect rain in big barrels, power sprinklers using pool runoff to give my lawn a jumpstart in spring… that kind of stuff. One day I noticed water coming out of a downspout fast enough to leap over one of my rain barrels and thought there must be some way to harness that power. Sadly, there really isn’t, so I did some research. It’s non-trivial.
  • You bet your garden – I also do my own gardening and related experiments.
  • RightScale Demo – WATCH YOUR VOLUME – a screencast showing off RightScale’s features. Impressive considering the work it would take me, a lone admin, to set something like this up. The learning curve involved in effectively/efficiently managing/scaling/monitoring/troubleshooting EC2 is non-trivial.
  • Homebrew Kegerator – Maybe if this startup is bought out I can actually afford this thing to put my homebrewed beer in. The 30-year-old spare fridge in the basement is getting a little… gamey.
  • The pound proxy daemon – I use this. It works well enough, but I’ve crashed it under load, too. I’ve also had at least one hosting provider misconfigure it on my behalf, and I had to go and tell them how to fix it :-/
  • Droid Sans Mono – a fantastic coding font. Installing this font is in my post-install routine for all of my desktops.
  • Generator tricks for systems programmers – David Beazley has made available a lot of Python source code and presentation slides from what I imagine was a great talk (if you’re a systems guy, which I am).
  • The Wide Finder Saga – I found this just as I was writing Loghetti. There are still some things in Mr. Lundh’s code that I haven’t implemented, but it was a fantastic lesson.
  • Using gnu sort for IP addresses – I’ve used sort in a lot of different ways over the years… but not for IP addresses. This is a nice hack for pulling this off with sort, but it doesn’t scale very well when you have millions of them, due to the sort utility’s ‘divide and conquer’ method of sorting.
  • Writing an Hadoop/MapReduce Program in Python – this got me over the hump.
  • Notes on using EC2/S3 – This got me over some other small humps
  • BeautifulSoup – found while searching for the canonical way to screen scrape with Python. I’d done it a million times in Perl, and you can do it with httplib and regex and stuff in Python if you want, but this way is at least a million times nicer.

Well, that’s a decent enough summary I guess. As you can see, I’ve been doing a good bit of Python scripting. Most of my code these days is written in Python instead of Perl, in part because I was given the choice, and in part because Python fits my brain and makes me want to write more code, to push myself more. I’ve also been dealing with things involving “cloud” computing and “scalability” — like Hadoop, and EC2/S3. I haven’t done as much testing of the Google utility computing services, but I’ve used their various APIs for some things.

So what’s in your history?

  • András Bártházi

    There is definitely no problem with Subscribe to Comments under WP 2.5, and beleive me, it’s one of the most useful plugins. MUSTHAVE.