GNU Terry Pratchett

Recently, pretty much the entire geek/fandom community was in full on mourning over the death of fantasy author Terry Pratchett.

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Oh Swype, Where Have You Been All My Life?

For years my Android using friends have been revving about Swype.

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The Chrome Conundrum

I Love/Hate Chrome!

Having used the Chrome browser regularly for a couple of years now, I really love quite a number of things about it.

  • It’s fast
  • The developer tools are superb
  • It has a vibrant user community, including a number of very smart people whose opinions I respect who are also huge fans

However, its implementation under Mac OS X, my operating system of choice, is rather flawed in a number of respects that drive me crazy:

  • Its external monitor support is awful.  If I have Chrome open on my Macbook Pro, then disconnect my external monitor and go to a meeting, all my windows have vanished into la-la land, and no amount of killing and restarting Chrome will bring them back.  Also, creating new windows fails silently as well, I presume Chrome thinks the windows are going to the external monitor which is no longer connected.
  • No easy, native Java support! I know, I know, I can just about hear the hipster geeks rolling their eyes at this, but face it kiddos, Java was running mission critical systems while you were in diapers.  It’s not dead, it’s not going away, and it’s an incredibly useful tool – for Chrome on OS X to not natively support Java in the browser is unforgivable.
  • Unresponsive developers – Check out the Chromium bug list and you’ll see droves of OS X users screaming for Java support – and dead silence from the developers.

I haven’t yet made the decision to switch back to Firefox full-time, but they’re certainly driving me in that direction.  I loved Firefox for years until I fell in love with Chrome’s speed, sleek design and awesome devtools.

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The Joy of DevOps (Or, Return of the Living Generalist!)

One of the things I have always enjoyed about what I do is that I have, from pretty much day 1 in the technology industry, worn many hats.

No matter what my job title said, I have always done pretty much whatever needs doing whether or not it crosses into what others might consider a discipline that’s not in my job description.

I like it that way. I enjoy picking up new skills, flexing my mental muscles in new ways and exploring the uncharted territory that is every new technology to rise out of the primordial ooze of Github (Or Sourceforge before it).

Way back in 1992 when I got my first job in the technology industry, I met a very wise man named Dale Dougherty (I hope I’m not mangling the spelling, it’s been over two decades! (If you’re out there Dale, give me a holler will you? I’d love to get back in touch) and when he asked what it was that had driven me into technology, and after I told him in the naescent, halting terms I could form at the time he smiled and said “Ah! You’re a generalist. Unfortunately, those are undervalued these days. It’s a great shame” or something to that effect.

Boy was he right. For the next 20 years I would end up doing tech support, sysadmin work, software development, and finally release engineering.

The industry began throwing up high walls and fences around places and processes we all used to take for granted.  “You can’t do that, you’re not a developer!” “Only sysadmins get root and access to production machines!” “You’re a release engineer, not a developer!” Ad infinitum.

Fast forward to 2009 when folks came up with the DevOps manifesto, in which a positively radical idea is proposed: All these distinctions are useless. They do nothing to make organizations more efficient, and instead bottleneck and pigeon hole good people, keeping them from feeding their passion.

Needless to say, I love it here. I get to bring all the experience I’ve accumulated in 20 years hard labor in the code mines to bear, and it feels really good.

I’m building infrastructure in the cloud, learning about load balancing, high availability and I’ve just barely begun.

As much as the layoff I just went through was painful as they always are, that moment of dislocation pales in comparison to the satisfaction I feel in what I have accomplished in the few short months I’ve been doing this, and the incredible excitement I feel as my horizons have been exponentially broadened.

As I write this, I’m several thousand feet up, bouncing along over the clouds on my way to Santa Clara, California for the annual Velocity conference.

It’s an incredible meeting where some of the best and brightest in our industry come together to make the web go faster and more reliably, and I can’t wait to dive in and start learning :)

[Update: I’m posting this weeks later, because things get hectic. Such is life. Velocity was amazing.  Look for another post on that coming soon.]

Posted in Geekery, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I’m Glad Google Is Retiring Reader.

Because I and about a zillion other jilted Reader fans have now found Feedly.

Feedly is what Reader wanted to be when it grew up, but never had the chance to become.

Yes, it’s that good.

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A couple of weeks back I was laid off from Blue State Digital.

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I’ve gone native. (Or – Google’s UI and I are parting ways)

Today Google announced that they were releasing a new Composer for GMail.

It’s awful.  They made the window small, and right justified it.  I feel like I have to crane my neck at an unnatural angle in order to see what I’m writing, and worse yet, they’ve turned my good old message composition interface into something akin to a web forum or chat window.

This is NOT what I’m looking for in my email user experience.

A few months back, Google also did a full on revamp of the GMail UI that utterly convinced me they have an unrelenting hatred of the visually impaired. The entire screen looked as if it had been bleached of color and life, and the contrast was so low I could literally barely read it at all.

After squeals of protect from a large chunk of their user base, they relented and produced a ‘high contrast’ setting, which was better.

In short, I can’t keep feeling like I’m being punched full in the face by Google every few months. I respect their right to innovate their products in whatever way they see fit, but thankfully I don’t have to choose between liking it or hitting the road.

I’ve switched to Apple’s and iCal. They work great, aren’t actively hostile to the visually impaired, and allow me to keep using the Google back end so I can keep my old email addresses and contact info.

Apple may be many things, but one thing they are great about is providing accessibility features for the handicapped. It’s not like I have any illusions about being a minority – most people can probably read the ghostly low contrast color theme just fine, and probably like the fact that their email now looks more like IM.

More power to them I say :)

Update:  Can’t lie, it’s been a rough go.  Gmail’s IMAP access throttles throughput beyond a certain point, and Apple Mail can’t handle the large mailboxes I have even with having given them a serious slim down.  I really wish there were a solution to this problem.

Update Update: I’ve essentially given up on this :( just plain stinks.  It might be fine for folks with a single account or maybe very light usage on multiple accounts, but with two Gmail accounts and lots of labels, it’s downright abysmal.  It takes 15-20 minutes to get everything in sync, and then often takes another 20 minutes just to exit the app! This is not my idea of an enterprise class  eMail application.  I’m disappointed in you Apple!


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What This Election Means To Me

For me, this election is personal.

When a candidate and the party that backs him set out to legislate what goes on in the bedroom (telling us who to love and marry) and in the doctor's office (making decisions about my reproductive health and that of my wife) it's an affront to me and every like minded American.

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The walled garden is the future of computing.

These days it seems like almost everybody (at least almost everybody in the technology world) has made bashing Apple their new favorite past time.

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Trying out VimRepress


In an ongoing effort to immerse myself in Vim as much as possible, I’m trying out a plugin called VimRepress – a fork of the popular Vimpress plugin.
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