Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Little Jars of Formaldehyde

So we were talking at work today about virtualization and clouds of computing and clouds of data (like Amazon/Google style).

I mentioned the other day the whole envelope thing. Like how in the future perhaps applications will just be deployed with everything they need wrapped around them (OS). You just deploy them to your cloud of computers. They can be x86, RISC, whatever you like. The OS can be whatever you like.

Patrick Logan called these applications from the future "little jars of formaldehyde".

How great is that!?

If he made that up, wow.

This would solve all sorts of problems. ALL SORTS OF AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL PROBLEMS!!!

Sure it might bring a few along with it, but SO WHAT!?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cyclocross Bike?

So I have to convince the Mrs., but I really want a bike. I haven't had one in long time.

I walk to/from work every day. One of the better things ever invented. But I want to mix it up with biking as well. Portland is rather bitchn' for biking.

I also want to take this bike up to Forest Park and other tame "mountain bikeish" places. Let's be honest here, I'm washed up. I won't be jumping anything anytime soon.

I test drove a Lemond Poprad today.

And a co-worker & friend of mine Ed recommends these as well:

Surly certainly wins my heart with clever lingo (and the word "surly" is quite versatile):

. . .What does all this mean to you? Options, kid, that's what. Get yer freak on. Gears? Great. Single speed? No sweat. Commuter? Touring bike? Grocery getter? Bring it on. Or, build it as a bonafide 'cross bike and race it. It likes it.

Silly System Beep

Only Ubuntu/Debian complaint so far (or from Ubuntu: linky):

Not to worry, quick google search fixed it within 5 minutes.

Too funny (from the link with the fix):

If you’re like me, you start getting real annoyed, real fast at the system beep that insists on beeping far to often. This system beep emits not from your laptop speakers, but from that deep, dank recesses of ancient pc technology that is a little speaker designed only to beep annoyingly. Short of ripping it out, here’s how to disable it.

Do you have any idea how busy I am Hans Brix!?!

Virtualized Ubuntu

So that was the easiest thing I have ever done.

I settled in to beat my laptop into submission to run Ubunto on Vmware this morning. I figured it would take all sorts of angst.

"It just worked."

This is my first blog post from this environment.

My last workstation Linux install was not so kind. I ran Gentoo. It took 10 days. It really wasn't Gentoo's fault though. I had a very new laptop that had some very new hardware. I did like Gentoo lots. I remember begging X to work. Finally I found some guy on the Gentoo forums (fantastic) that had my same rig and had a x config that had the magic bits.

I'll let you know how the virtualized Ubuntu works.

Perhaps I'll start pronouncing "Ubuntu" correctly now ... nah it is just too much fun for me to pronounce it my own way: "UM-BOOOONtooo".

25-SEP-06 - Updated with proper spelling of "Ubuntu" - man I can't spell or say it!! I'm stupid stupid STUPID!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Virtualization Aha!

We had a visitor from our Belfast, Ireland office yesterday named Iwan. We took him out for a beer after work and discussed all sorts of things.

One topic was virtualization. Among other things, Iwan is involved in infrastructure - he commented that for several years he has had to tell development teams "no" when they asked for a server because they already had too many under utilized machines and were running short of space and $$. But sharing environments comes with all sorts of truly awful wasted energy in coexistence.

He said that virtualization has allowed him to say "yes" to all sorts of requests.

We talked about shipping applications with the OS included in an "envelope". That basically just turns everything upside down.

I don't have a lot of experience with virtualization although people on my team do. I've followed the blog discussions and excitement around virtualization and agreed in general that it is a good. I just didn't feel any excitement about it personally.

I don't know what was said in our conversation last night that pushed me over the edge to have the "aha" moment, but I had one. "Aha!" moments are great. I've been having more then my fair share of them lately. We are living in truly amazing times.

I look forward to future beers (both virtual and real) with my new friend Iwan.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Great Sofware Estimating Book

Wow, I picked up a great book today at Powells Technical. Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell.

We are doing a fair amount of estimating at work right now. We had a long meeting discussing an estimate for a project with heaps of unknowns. We put a decent plan in place for refining it next week on our own, but this book will help a lot I think.

I took a course at OMSE that covered a bit of estimating, but it was far too academic. I flipped through the book from the class I took and while it had some good ideas, it wasn't practical enough. McConnell's book touches on some of the academic approaches, but is very concise and has heaps of practical advise. The best part is it is broken down into 118 "tips" that are the heart of the book. I won't give too much of the book away, but the first tip sums up what is typically the crux of the problem:

Distinguish between estimates, targets, and commitments.

And Steve gives a suggested reading path for people who "need to create an estimate right now" (i.e., me and my team).

I like this book because it is focused on one thing (software estimating) - one absolutely critical thing.

We need more books like this. We can't just have the Mythical Man Month to turn to.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

OSS Derivatives

My friend Alok pointed me at this article by r0ml (Robert Lefkowitz) from over a year ago. I saw r0ml speak at OSCON this year. He is Not. Dumb.

I think that this is about as precise of an answer as you are going to get that will appease those that see OSS as an economic threat (comical).

I guess that this makes it a bit more tolerable that many commercial OSS vendors are pricing their software by the processor. I find this annoying because it means I have to count things and keep spreadsheets. I generally hate this type of friction - who doesn't. I still think that there must be a better way to price OSS. Perhaps they just aren't profitable?

You will likely have to read the article to "get" this quote, but here is r0ml:

. . . Those who have suggested that open source and free software is somehow not capitalistic, destroying the value of software and other such assertions, have missed this alternative explanation. It is just as likely that the free and open source software folk have stumbled across the financial engineering insight that a significant portion of the value of software is the embedded "derivatives"--options or warrants--on future maintenance and enhancement. Whether one believes that software has intrinsic value is related mostly to one's view on the correct value to use for volatility in calculating the option value. Larger values of volatility mean the software itself is worth less. Smaller values of volatility reduce the option price, and the software is intrinsically worth more.

Therefore, the major difference in worldview between open source advocates and proprietary software license advocates is explainable as a differing opinion on the correct value of the volatility of maintenance and upgrade pricing. People who believe that the pricing on maintenance is stable and unlikely to change see greater intrinsic value in the software. People who fear that the pricing is subject to large fluctuations see no intrinsic value in the up-front license; stripped of the options, the license value approaches $0.

For the open source movement, perhaps a better way to position the change that OSS is making is this: we're converting warrants on future maintenance and enhancements into options, which means that instead of having a sole supplier (warrants), we have created a third-party market (options) of these derivatives.

How capitalistic is that?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


+1 for Tim Bray On Innovation.

But fortunes are made, and industry titans are built, where management isn’t really looking, almost always. The big pieces of innovation come out of garages and low-rent offices in lousy locations, and they’re produced by small groups without much management backing. It can be done at big companies (the business personal computer at IBM, Java at Sun) but then it’s always in an off-the-mainstream skunkworks. Nobody—I repeat, nobody—is smart enough to predict where the next big strategic innovation is going to come from. So if you “narrow your innovation focus”, you’re almost guaranteed to miss it. The best approach, I think, is a combination of conscious focused incremental innovation—kaizen—combined with a structure that’s loose enough that when someone wants to hide in a corner and try something crazy, you don’t get in the way too much.

My team has yet to deliver on our name, but with Magnum P.I. code names, an active WIKI, a great coffee shop across the street (J Cafe), a celebration of brains, dissent, decisions, stoofs, and quirkiness I think we are on our way.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Yeah, Open Source Software is just Freeware. Weird commies in their underwear slanging out code for free because ... well who knows. And some academics too. That is all.

Nothing to see here. Just move along please ... MOVE ALONG.

I saw this a month ago, but someone on my team (biggest scariest smartest Viking you ever saw) forward it around again yesterday.

If anyone pours FUD on your Open Source parade, bang them on the head with this.

Um k, a couple excerpts for those afraid of clicking:

Open source is so pervasive that IDC declares in this study that open-source software represents the most significant all-encompassing and long-term trend that the software industry has seen since the early 1980s. IDC analysts also believe that open source will eventually play a role in the life-cycle of every major software category, and will fundamentally change the value proposition of packaged software for customers.

Wait, it isn't just build vs. buy? Yep-um-no.

As business requirements shift from acquiring new customers to sustaining existing ones, the competitive landscape will move towards costs savings and serving up sustaining innovations to savvy customers, along with providing mainstream software to new market segments that are willing to pay only a fraction of conventional software license fees," Picardi added. "Open source software is ultimately a resource for sustaining innovators.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

8 Years of Episodes to Mine

Yeah so, if there was any doubt, we will be mining the 8 years of Magnum P.I. episodes for our project code names. Everybody likes witty code names - EVERYBODY.

Oh, you are using some stupid acronym for your project that everyone hates? Well, as Sarge would say, "you made your choices".

I am quite pleased with this - Magnum P.I. was a great show.

8 years of episodes! That is 8 years of characters! And 8 years of other mindless fun-facts that are at our disposal.

Oh and if you thought you were cool using mountains or rivers or something lame like that for your code names, well, you aren't. You are, admittedly better then the acronym crowd.

Fittingly, our first code name is "Magnum".

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Panic in a WIKI

We are in total brainstorm panic mode at work lately.

A very high level of thinking and learning occurring for the people I work with and me. You know that feeling. When you are full of stress because you have so much to do, but you don't really care because it is so exhilarating?

We are essentially living in our WIKI all day.

It is the most efficient way I have ever had a panic like this before.

We used WIKIs before, but it wasn't like this. The pace wasn't like this.

As an example, yesterday we had to get a slide deck together quickly. I just went into the WIKI and outlined it. And then over the course of the day the presentation magically appeared. It went through many revisions in near real time. It needs a little polish, but all the meat is there now.

If we had tried to meet about this for 1 hour, emailed it around, etc. it wouldn't have worked.

Anyway, been a WIKI fan for a while, but had no idea it could handle panic like this!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Give it a REST

Mark Baker interviewed by Stefan Tilkov.

I get tired of blathering on about WS-*, REST, et. al. but am sure glad Mark still has his mojo. Seriously, where does he get that mojo?