Archive for the ‘Other Cool Blogs’ Category

Plug-ins: isn’t there a better way?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

If there’s one thing that bothers me about using a ready-made solution like wordpress for my blog, it’s plug-ins. I hate software plug-ins. The first question every support engineer for any software product that supports plugins asks in response to a trouble report is “are you using any plugins?” And when you say “yep, I’m using plugins!” the reply from support is to disable them immediately and see if the trouble goes away. That’s a problem.

What’s worse, if the plugins are maintained by a third party (often the case), there’s no telling whether or not they’ll exist when the next version of the base software is released, or whether they’ll be supported in future versions of the software.

Two examples that touch my daily life are Firefox, and WordPress.

Lately (since around March) I’ve been having lots of trouble with Firefox. I thought upgrading to Firefox 3 would’ve helped, but it really didn’t. Running it on OS X, Firefox hangs frequently enough that I’m actually considering using Safari (I do NOT like Safari). Know what happened right around that time? Ah – I found the firefox plugins for managing EC2 and S3. So today I’ll uninstall those and see if it helps.

With WordPress, there are two things I’m missing: I need to let readers subscribe to comments via email, and I need better Google AdSense for Search integration with WordPress. Both things are kinda maybe supported in one version or another “but should work under…” – whatever. I don’t really want to spend my time downloading, reading the documentation to do the install, doing the install and configuration, etc., and then finding out that it doesn’t work, or worse, having it look on the surface like it works, but then finding later that it fails in evil-but-silent ways.

These two products are by no means exceptions. Moodle, PHP-Nuke, XOOPS, MediaWiki, Twiki, Postnuke… and for that matter, OpenLDAP, BIND, SSH, MySQL, Sendmail, PAM… all have plugins available written by other folks, and all have bitten me at one point or another. Usually when it comes time to upgrade the base software.

I’m not saying anything new here. People have had this problem with lots of different software products for a long time. My question is “why is this still a problem?” I’m not asking this because I have some magical obvious solution or answer, I’m asking because I feel like there’s probably more to it than I’m grasping. I’m not a masterful developer, or even a masterful software project manager, so I’m calling on all of you who are (or are closer than I am) to help me understand the problem. Some day, I might find myself in a position to take the wrong or right path where plug-ins are concerned, and I’d like to be more informed than I am so I can avoid putting users in the position I find myself in when I use other peoples’ software. Has Joel blogged this yet? If so, I can’t find it. Links please?

High Performance MySQL on Safari!

Friday, June 20th, 2008

All right! In the past, some books seem to be delayed in getting into O’Reilly’s Safari site, but on the day that Baron announces the book’s arrival, I find that I’m able to access it in Safari right now! Sweet!

For anyone flying to a conference – flyer beware

Friday, June 13th, 2008

I’m going to OSCON in July, and I know that just about everyone I know who is a participant in this crazy life we call IT (or web 2.0, or whatever it’s called now), is flying to a conference or something in 2008. I’m starting to notice more and more posts like this one, so if you can avoid it, don’t put anything in a checked bag that you can’t afford to lose, and avoid US Airways, and pass it on, because when you see the list of things they don’t cover in their lost baggage policy, you’ll suddenly feel like you’re lucky to still have anything you ever checked with your bags.

O’Reilly OSCON… and Brew Fest!

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

I’m going to the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) again this year. I went in 2006 as well, and had a blast, in addition to learning quite a bit, and meeting tons of people whom I’ve been acquainted with online for a long time. That was 2 years ago. Since then I’ve been acquainted with lots *more* people online, and I’m hoping I’ll meet at least some of them this year.

If you’re not going to OSCON, you’re not only missing out on a great technical conference that will leave you physically tired from all of the activity and at the same time unable to sleep from the ideas sparked by the day’s events, you’re also missing the Oregon Brewers Festival, which takes place just as OSCON is wrapping up.

I have a medium-sized home brewery that a buddy and I built from scratch. Over the years we’ve brewed and tasted all kinds of beer. But you can’t get all beers everywhere, so traveling is a good opportunity to taste wild and exotic beers, or just local beers you can’t get at home. It’s odd, but while you can get easy access to beers from Germany, Belgium, Poland, England, Scotland, and Ireland, you would be hard pressed to find a good number of great beers from the West Coast of the US on the East Coast of the US. And the West Coast has a lot happening, beer-wise.

Beer festivals are also where some brewers pull out all the stops. In ’06 I went with a buddy and actually had not one, but TWO different watermelon beers – a variety I had not even heard of until I showed up at the counter. One was pretty good, the other tasted like Watermelon Bubblicious, but the experience was fantastic. Every have rock candy made from hops? Pretty good I tell you!

Anyway, I was thinking of getting a larger group together to attend this years Brew Fest, so if any geeks out there have an interest in beer, let me know. And if you DON’T have an interest in beer, you should DEFINITELY let me know. I’ve converted numerous friends and family who say they don’t like beer to becoming more familiar with styles they actually will go out and buy, unprovoked, voluntarily! Saying you don’t like beer is like saying you don’t like food. There’s just too many kinds of beer to say you don’t like beer. Maybe you don’t like hops, in which case you might like hefeweizen, but have probably never heard of it. Maybe you don’t like really fizzy beer, in which case you might like various Belgian ales, a Barleywine, a porter, or any beer with a less fizzy, more creamy, or less prevalent head on it.

Anyway, I’m going, and it’s fun. If you have an interest, do join in, whether you go with a group I put together or not!

Do You, Um…. Brew?

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

A long time ago, a buddy of mine got me into brewing beer. I’m not talking about buying a can o’ syrup and adding water – I’m talking about buying grain, taking it home, milling it, mashing it, hopping it, fermenting it, bottling and kegging it…. *really* brewing beer.

Anyway, it turns out that a good number of the members of the local brew club in my area also work in IT. Since lots of other folks who visit here also work in IT, I figured I’d give a shout out to anyone who also brews, and point them at two things:

1. Some time ago, I started an IRC channel for home brewers. The channel is #homebrew on irc.freenode.net – please join us!
2. I’ve been the primary poster on the blog my buddy and I started to post our recipes and notes and stuff. You might find some useful stuff there http://www.bamfbeer.com

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Yes, one Chevy Volt Please

Monday, January 8th, 2007

I came across this entry on autobloggreen.com about the Chevy Volt, which is GM’s latest stab at convincing us that they really do put some effort behind getting an electric car out the door to us sometime in the next millenium. I have to admit that, while I’m wholly *unconvinced* that I’ll ever see this car on a showroom floor near me, this car is totally cool.

My disclaimer is that I have clearly not done the research to figure out if this car is as green as it could possibly be or whatever; I don’t know if it takes more energy than traditional means through the charging process, mainly because I’m not an engineer. But the concepts they’re working with and the problems they’re aiming to solve at least shows that they understand that simply putting out a car that runs on electricity and forgetting about every single other detail will not fly.

First of all, this car isn’t something you would shudder to be seen in. Sure, it’s no Ferarri, but neither is anything else (except… a Ferarri). This car looks worlds better than those cheeseball little fiberglass boxes they wrap around the hybrid vehicles.

Speaking of hybrid, I’ve always had a problem with hybrids, and the Chevy Volt improves upon one aspect of the hybrid that I dislike: I’ve always looked at the design of the hybrids as a sign that the technology is not done yet. If it were, you wouldn’t need it to be “hybrid”. Let’s not forget that “hybrid” in “hybrid vehicle” is referring to the fact that there are two technologies working to get the job done, because one of them is costly, wastes energy and gives off emissions (that’d be the gas) and the other one nobody has learned to implement in such a way that it can replace the first one.

Well, GM didn’t totally throw gasoline out the window, but they’re using it in a bit of a different way from traditional hybrids – here’s the deal: you plug the Volt in to charge, say, overnight. In the morning, it has a full charge, which is enough to get most people back and forth to work (they’re shooting for a 40-mile range). However, it also has an internal combustion engine capable of running on gasoline or any of a number of bio-fuels. This engine isn’t connected to the wheels in any way, but rather the engine is used to charge the batteries. In this configuration, a car with a full tank of gas (a 12-gallon tank) and a full charge will go 640 miles. For reference, this is a bit more than double the distance I could go in my old Chevy Celebrity, which I believe had a 16-gallon gas tank.

So now the issues. As usual, the battery technology isn’t done yet, and when they’re done with that, they need to figure out how to make the thing cheap enough that people will actually buy the thing. Both issues seem to be major unknowns right now. I wish them luck, because I’d like to have something like this sooner than later.

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