Older blog entries for bdodson (starting at number 9)

Wow, summer's already over. I now have a new project released as open source: SHPTRANS. This is command-line GIS utility, also sporting an ArcView GUI, sort of like my other utility NTXShape in that regard. This one does map projections rather than file format conversions.

I wish SourceForge had an appropriate Trove category for GIS; the closest that I can find is Scientific/Engineering.

What else did I do this summer?

I did some work on Scintilla, contributed a few useful patches (useful to me, at least), and put together an installer for Scintilla Text Editor. This has been a very gratifying experience for me: a programmer's text editor is a lot closer to mainstream than the GIS-related work that I do. Watching the number of downloads, I am definitely motivated to keep this one maintained. (Thanks Neil for linking to my site.)

One of my tools, AVPython (Python for ArcView GIS), got implicated in a "best in category" award from the map gallery at the ESRI International User conference in July. AVPython wasn't the focus of the poster, of course (AVPython is just plumbing and that doesn't make for a winning poster); it was about a project called avTerra which integrates Microsoft TerraServer into ArcView. avTerra uses AVPython to pull this off. It won the "integration" category. This is exactly the sort of thing that I had in mind when I created AVPython. (Thanks and congratulations, Howard!)

What else? Spinner-Wiki has been fixed up some; I think I've worked out all the bugs caused by hosting it without admin priviledges, e.g. on SourceForge. It is probably stable enough to be used on other sites now. It is probably still more stable when used in an environment where you have admin priviledges, though; I installed a copy of it at work, sort of like a web journal and guest book, and it has been pretty solid for the past year or so.

I published a version of Jakarta Tomcat configured to install easily for use with ESRI ArcIMS. Unlike the standard distribution of Tomcat it bundles Jikes and does not require the JDK. Also, it is based on 3.2.4 rather than the latest in the 4.0 series, since 3.2.x is the latest that ESRI has certified for first-level support. Although it's intended primarily for ArcIMS I suppose there's nothing preventing you from using it in some other way. (But you would probably get better mileage from 4.0.x)

I've also been learning about Jython servlets, and about templating engines (my current favorites are FreeMarker and WebMacro, although I also hacked on Tea and Velocity). I'll definitely be taking that knowledge into work next time we do an ArcIMS Java server-side app.

Why do I work on such a variety of projects? Well, I suppose it helps to take my mind off work after hours, while still allowing me to feed my computing addiction into the wee hours of the morning. That addiction especially needs feeding on those occasions when I end up on email and teleconferences all day. Anyway each of the projects, taken individually, is small enough that it doesn't require daily effort on my part. The variety allows me to hack on whatever suits my mood.

Lately my role at work has been changing to include more project management and less implementation. This is out of necessity - the office needs that - and it's a positive change as far as I'm concerned since I get more human contact at work this way and can always satisfy my technical cravings at home.

(Needless to say, I'm single. Ha ha. Who could put up with me?)

"The [Free Software] Foundation believes that people should be free to study, share and improve all the software they use, as they are free to share and improve all the recipes they cook with, and that this right is an essential aspect of the system of free expression in a technological society."

Counterpoint: When you enjoy a delicious meal at a restaurant, should you consider yourself entitled to the recipe? Maybe that should be up to the chef...

3 Jul 2002 (updated 3 Jul 2002 at 03:45 UTC) »
bytesplit: don't know if you'll see this but, aside from bash's history, you might find the script command useful. script ~/session-jul02.log would spawn a new shell and write all of your typed input, and any program output, to the named logfile. It doesn't capture output from curses-based programs, but it's great for exploring line-oriented shell commands. Just type CTRL-D or exit when you're done exploring for awhile. Then you can scan through the logfile to review what you learned.
18 Jun 2002 (updated 18 Jun 2002 at 04:23 UTC) »

How many words do I know? - one word, repeated again and again

The fox glides across a meadow; birds still; a fieldmouse stops in its tracks

The endless predation of things: I hunt my own shadow in these dark hills

Tu Fu's at my side: we write poems: float them away on the wind - Allan Cooper

16 Jun 2002 (updated 16 Jun 2002 at 22:54 UTC) »
Regarding the trust metric
I was surprised to become a journeyer already, after only two journeyers certed me as a journeyer, and one of the "seed" trusted masters certed me as an apprentice. Not that I dispute it; I maintain three open source projects now and have published / contributed to others in the past. Still, it does seem generous, so I looked around at some other accounts to get an idea of how it works overall.

What I found is that it's generous for everybody. If the goal is to encourage activity within the community, i.e. if mod_virgule "feeds" on this activity, then it is in mod_virgule's interest to stroke a person with a nice inflated cert. That's fine - as long as we take it for what it is and keep it real.

I will give another example besides myself, because sometimes ya gotta stir the sh*te. I see bytesplit has recieved about a dozen apprentice certs and two journeyer certs - one of which is a self-certification; the other of which is by someone bytesplit certified as a master. I assume the self-certification doesn't count. (The other person, whytheluckystiff, is certified by many as a journeyer. Although I don't know him, that looks about right.) So as far as I can tell, based solely on whythelucystiff's vote, bytesplit gained journeyer status.

I am not going to come down on bytesplit. He just came to my attention because he makes the headlines a lot. In fact, I'm tempted to cert him as an apprentice. Outwardly, he does appear to have an interest in becoming a good programmer, and also when he comments on an article, it is usually a positive contribution. His diary paints a different picture though. bytesplit, I don't know whether this is a game to you or whether it comes from genuine interest in open source; either way, if you present the same image in your diary as you present elsewhere, you'll be more successful.

One more example, although I don't remember who it was: last week I saw a diary entry that said "I'm no longer an active participant in the open source community, and have not been in 18 months. Please re-think your ratings with this in mind." Perhaps there should be a way to decline a certification vote which you think you haven't earned?

freshmeat has restored the comment that I mentioned, in which I talked about how I hoped to extend this software on Unix. I didn't ask them to restore it. Perhaps its temporary disappearance was due to a technical glitch rather than an overzealous editor. Anyway freshmeat, you are helping me reach my audience, and you're doing it for free. Thanks.

15 Jun 2002 (updated 15 Jun 2002 at 17:20 UTC) »

Freshmeat continues to operate with all the diplomatic tact and unilateral benevolence of the New York Soup Nazi (ref. Seinfield). They did list NTXShape there, but they edited the description down to only mention the parts that run on Unix "today". So I posted a comment saying "uh, we also have API bindings for Visual Basic and a graphical interface for ArcView - and with volunteer support I'd like to make cross-platform bindings for Python and/or SWIG; and a cross-platform graphical interface". But, instead of helping me enlist people so I could make this software better for Unix users, they said "Visual Basic is not Unix. ArcView is not Unix. No freshmeat for you!"

salmoni: thanks for the vote of confidence. I shouldn't knock freshmeat; I'm glad they exist. They'll help Unix users find NTXShape, even if their editors won't help me find volunteers to help improve it.

Goal Drift: I'm not sure where I saw that last night, maybe raph linked it. My goal is for NTXShape to be known by, and useful to, those who need it. Making it better is a secondary goal. I should keep that in mind.

At first I thought that, in blocking my comments, Freshmeat's editors had lost sight of their goals. Upon thinking about it some more, and reading their "about" page, I realize their purpose is to catalogue software so Unix users can find it. That is the service they provide. By bringing more eyeballs to the software, they might encourage or even help the author to improve it further but that's a side-effect, not a goal. (Since FreshMeat and SourceForge are both owned by OSDN, perhaps they need this clear division of purpose so they don't steal one another's thunder.)

15 Jun 2002 (updated 15 Jun 2002 at 05:07 UTC) »

Every once in awhile I happen upon some mention of one of the first open source contributions that I made, an XInput driver and notes to get a Calcomp DrawingSlate tablet working with XFree86 3.x. That was years ago; more recent versions of XFree86 include built-in support for Calcomp tablets courtesy of Martin Kroeker. Yet, funny though it may seem, my old hack still gets top ranking in Google when you search for "calcomp xinput".

(Speaking of time warps, as I write this, it's 2:00am June 15. I forgot that, when I post to Advogato, I'm in California where it's still yesterday.)

Well I gots my immediate gratification, and my freshmeat page.

feji: Yeah Freshmeat calls it "Unix" but they'll list Linux-only projects. The Solaris makefile wasn't what was lacking; they just needed to see a link to the source code so they'd know the Unix support (meaning Linux/Unix support) wasn't vapour.

13 Jun 2002 (updated 13 Jun 2002 at 08:10 UTC) »

Well it looks like Freshmeat is going to come through for me after all. They just couldn't find my Unix source code (it was in CVS, but was not in a tarball). I've made some minor changes to my web site to make the Unix stuff more visible, so now it should go through easily.

Speaking of the web site: http ://ntxshape.sourceforge.net/opensource.html might be an interesting read. It talks about the different open source licenses, and how NTXShape ended up with MPL.

Well, I have my project NTXShape running on SourceForge. Freshmeat won't take it though, saying they only list Unix projects. So, I rolled up my sleeves and got it working on Linux - this was on my short-term plan anyway and most of the groundwork was done - and then re-submitted to freshmeat. Again they say I must support Unix. So last night I got it to compile and run on Solaris/Sparc, and compared the results to the Win32 and Linux versions. They all work the same. Still they say "no freshmeat for you."

The Linux and Sparc support were on my to-do list, so I'm glad I found an excuse to do that, but now I want the immediate gratification!

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