Older blog entries for GJF (starting at number 11)

Today I am taken by the microcosm which is the <project>McFeely</project> project team. I feel compelled to give advice even though I am no better off than they are.

I too live in that murky sysadmin/would be progammer world. I took the leap a few years ago to become a consultant (actually I was pushed). But I have one client for whom I am basically an employee - so I end up facing many of the same questions of focus, direction, goals and definition that cdent discusses in his diary. Strangely, he also brings up the calculus people - geometry people spectrum. My thesis supervisor described this as holistic thinker - linear thinker and suggested that I sat in the middle too. I compare this to my work mates who have a thirst for detail that I avoid if I can. I find myself programming less and less, but remaining very opinionated about the projects I work on. I guess that's the overview thing.

jlf (a friend of cdent) complains of being dragged into the politics of his workplace, ouch. Workplace politics is a huge problem - also do you really want to be a manager or is it the only route up in your organisation. I've often wondered what became of the chief programmer team concept pioneered by Frederick P. Brooks it's worth trying to sell the concept to management (even if only to get yourself a reputation as a creative thinker). If you haven't read Brooks' book the "Mythical Man Month" it is a classic case study of (failed?) Cathedral development methodologies.

nymia asks "how contractors like me could get into the free software and open source market". I recently won a nice contract to build a community web site (which I have to fit in after hours of my other client). It is a government contract, so although their stock contract demanded copyright ownership, they were perfectly happy to place the source under a GNU licence. There are plenty of organisations who are driven by social rather than business goals (government, unions, charities), and plenty of other businesses who wouldn't know what to do with source code if it hit them in the head. If (realistically) they will never sell their in-huse software, and it won't be of use to their direct competitors, then you should be able to sell them on Open source on the basis of price, performance, compatibility etc.

He roa rawa te kakau o taku paipa - the handle of my pipe is way too long.

p.s. oops there is no <project> tag.

gwm reminds me:

"Human languages are very interesting and important cultural marks to be ignored in favor of some "English is enough" philosophy."

As I may have pointed out, I work mainly on Windows (NT), at a company which also sells software. One of the applications we developed (I only really did translations) is a product called "Language Manager" which translated Windows 3.1 menus and buttons into another language on the fly. The applications being translated didn't need to know they were getting translated. It was highly successful, we finished it in 1994 just 1 year before Win 95 made Win 3.1 obsolete. Progress has stalled on the port to Win 95/NT but as we have now too much other work. I've been pushing to release it under the GNU licence in the hope of getting it finished.

Language Manager is of course very Windows specific and it was never written with portability in mind. But it does seem to me that the concept of giving user control over user interface language is a good idea. Is there anything similar out there in the X free world?

Is anyone out there keen on working on a project like this?

Just updated my home page and added a link on my gjf page on Advogato.

Some interesting discussion about trust metrics have arisen since bagder posted the advogato stats. I'm bemused by the Linux vs BSD stuff - I guess the BSD crowd are seen as outsiders which they were, but I see that lilo deliberately formed an alliance by identifying Masters in the BSD community and certifying them directly to that level.

It seems I am a beneficiary of that alliance as many of the people who have certified me are involved with BSD. ovec points out that you can have 5 apprentice certifications and still be observer hey that's me!Ovec also notes that a sociological factor may also be operating which I suspect is also true. I've been working with computers (on and off) since 1978, I'm really not that keen on becoming an apprentice, but then I'm an outsider and <admission>commercial software developer</admission> no-one here knows me, and there may be other things about my contributions that set me apart. But I agree, it is odd that it seems difficult to make apprentice, but easy to make journeyer.

Well, I'm continuing my experiment with advogato. I've been considering projects that I can initiate etc. At present my biggest (almost open source) contribution is Te Pukapuka Kura Maori which is a 19th century Maori language school reader that I laboriously typed and placed on the web. I've talked elsewhere about my plans to do some development work on advogato and an RTF to web application based on style sheets. I've installed one of the alpha releases of advogato on my test server, but I haven't got it going yet. (The module is listed on server-info, but the <location> returns zero-length data to my browser).

Woohoo

Got three new certifications - I'm on my way to being apprentice.

I haven't certified many people, there are a couple like rms I almost certified, but then I realised that if you wanted to launch an attack on the advogato, the best way would be to impersonate a few famous people. How can I be sure that rms is actually rms? I can't really be sure unless he mentions Advogato on his home page, or posts enough diary entries to Advogato to persuade me that the person behind the pseudonym is actually rms.

To go one step further down this track (blind alley). Maybe someone could use a robot, primed with rants taken from his web site, that could successfully impersonate rms or some other well known open source evangelist.

I've been working on a backup system for a client - it works like this:

In an all NT environment I need to backup hard-drives onto a server. The hard drives are NTFS and not configured for network access. I'm working on getting a Linux installation working that will read the disk and use either Samba or ftp to copy the data onto the NT server.

I think I'm almost there. I've been amazed by what Linux can do. I'm hoping to:

  • Boot from (a diskette image) on CD... I've never made a bootable CD before.
  • Load the linux root partition from a disk image on the CD - using the loopback device (and ramdisks for writable directories like /var)
  • Mount the NTFS format hard drive, then smbmount the server share. Then tar/gzip the data onto the server
  • Examine the tar archive to make sure everything is OK before writing a new disk image over the old NTFS drive using Norton Ghost.

So far I have a bootable mini-linux with all the necessary features (NTFS, loopback, SMB, network card driver) compiled into the kernel. Just need to get the networking scripts written. Then move the boot diskette onto a CD.

I'm impressed by the loopback device, I didn't know about it until I started on this. I kind of like rolling my own kernel too - but working out what files I need to run Linux is kind of difficult.

I went to party last night, it was an office warming for a small design company. Lavish! Stage lighting with 3 big screen projectors and a flash sound system, DJ, bongos and around 1am a singer - mainly techno stuff. Lots of food (huge plates of chocolate strawberries). Lots of exotic (looking) drinks including tons of little jellied spirits?

Actually, I didn't try the little jelly things, as I don't drink. My partner does so we wove our way home about 3am.

5am Tuesday morning

We printed a complete draft of my partners thesis this morning (only had to print 1.5 times - a section break was marked as "odd page" so after fixing that had to reprint remainder of document to get page numbering right). I find myself moaning about Word and M$ products more and more.

Talking about Word, I've come to the conclusion that there is something badly wrong with the conceptual model of a document that they use, aside from the fact that it contains a pile of stuff that should be thrown out (e.g. how many ways are thre to draw a box around something in Word?).

Yesterday had my first long bike ride in two years (since my last bike went into retirement). It's good to be back on the road. I was going to stay on the flat, but couldn't resist tackling one of Wellington's hills. My legs held out pretty well, hope I'm not too sore tommorrow.

I've built myself a second Linux server at the office. That's 2 Linux servers now, they're both "turbochip" 133MHz boxes one of them has been running 200 days now - and it doesn't even have a UPS. It seems I'm building a 486 farm. I've taken to running VNC on them and accessing them from a window on an NT box.

I run icewm as my window manager on the servers as it seems to have about the right combination of light weight and features. I try to choose a theme that doesn't remind me of Windows... Moving the UI to my workstation seems to make the systems more responsive.

22 Oct 2000 (updated 22 Oct 2000 at 15:44 UTC) »

I'm hanging in there. I can't really get the drift of this public diary thing.

Maybe I'll have to actually contribute something to some open source project somewhere. I've been considering doing some docs for Maori language versions of Abiword, and maybe a HOWTO for using macron fonts (for Maori language accent characters) with xfs. Otherwise, I thought maybe a filter module for Apache that will translate special characters (UNICODE &amacron; to รค for example) based on user preferences stored in a cookie?

Oh and another thought:
I'd kind of like a search tool for mod_virgule, anyone got any suggestions on how to implement it, that would be a reasonable project for me as if noone else writes it I'd probably have to anyway...

Htdig or Swish++ or something else?

jmelesky had the kindness to certify me as apprentice. He says:

"The tragedy of my life is that i disdain Perl, and yet rely on it for my livelihood. *sigh*"

I know how it feels... I don't like scripting languages ever since the first time I tried to write a real life application in gwbasic. And the tragedy of my life is relying on M$ Access development for my livelihood.

I have not previously been active in Open Source advocacy or development, but I am impressed by it. I have spent countless hours over the last 2 years trying to find some free disk space to get myself a working Linux partition. Of all the things that made me believe (hope) Linux is the way of the future Gimp and the desktop themes convinced me. The Gimp because it is cross-platform and desktop themes because I can (point to it and) say "you try that on WinXX".

By the way, people spend so much time putting Linux down for being too hard to use or install - don't believe the hype. Every other day I have new problems with the NT servers and workstations I look after. I recently had an NT install where it needed to access the floppy to load the SCSI drivers - "There is no floppy drive on this PC" - but there was one, four attempts later I had to make some install disks and boot from floppy (instead of CD) that worked... after that there was the network card problem... and about a hundred restarts later it finally goes. Give me insmod and ifconfig any time!

Recently I had the good fortune to win a contract to develop a community web site. My client, was far sighted enough to allow me to base the whole thing around Open Source software. I was looking around for a suitable web based discussion board, but only recently did I discover mod_virgule. Not only is it written in C - but it has Trust Metrics - I was going to have a sort of a referendum generator, but I think trust metrics are a more appropriate way of managing a community site. Anyway, I intend to try building it as soon as I've got my new web server set up.

I'm hoping that my requirements line up with the work currently being done on mod_virgule by lkcl et al. I would be keen to participate in my first Open Source project.

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