Older blog entries for ianmacd (starting at number 91)

I wonder whether anyone is still reading this? I would set up a blog, but I wouldn't update it frequently enough, so why go to the trouble?

We're going to see Killing Joke tomorrow at Slim's in San Francisco. That'll be a real blast from the past. I haven't seen them since 1993 (I think) in Amsterdam's Paradiso.

After that, I grab a night flight to Austin, Texas for the 2003 Ruby Conference.

What else has happened in the last few months? Well, Sarah and I spent a couple of weeks in Iceland to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. That was in August and early September.

In October, we moved from Menlo Park to Mountain View, another Silicon Valley town.

At the end of October, we spent a few days in Maine for the wedding of John, my brother-in-law, and his then fiancée, Sara. I then spent a couple of weeks working from Google's New York office, which was a pleasant change from the Mountain View office.

At the end of those two weeks, we headed up to Westpoint, in New York state, where Lauren, Sarah's bridesmaid from last year, was getting married to her fiancé, Brian.

So, the last few months have been all about weddings, moving and travel.

I'll be looking forward to getting home from Austin and not having to travel for a few weeks. Christmas is just around the corner, though, and I'm sure that'll see us in Providence again.

Apart from that, there's no real news to report.

It really is a small world, I tell you.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I travelled to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii's Big Island. One sunny afternoon, we drove via Saddle Road from sea level to the base of Mauna Kea, where we started our ascent of the volcano along its narrow, winding road.

At 9,000 feet, we pulled into the car park of the visitor centre, where it was pouring with rain and freezing cold. The air was also decidedly thin. Not two hours earlier, we'd been lying in the lukewarm water of Hapuna Beach under a baking sun.

As we parked our 4 wheel drive vehicle and headed for the visitor centre to gather information about the conditions at the summit, a man walked up to us and asked if he could hitch a lift to the top.

As soon as I heard him speak, I recognised the distinctive lilt of Bruce Perens, Electric Fence author and one-time Debian project leader.

An hour of acclimatisation later, the three of us drove slowly to the summit at a height of 14,000 feet. There, we walked around the shiny domes of the observatory and light-headedly discussed Linux while reeling from the altitude.

To make the experience complete, we tagged onto the last half an hour of a guided tour around the observatory.

There, in the control room of one of the telescopes, we spotted a couple of unmanned PCs running Linux (unmanned, because the astronomers work only at night). xscreensaver was running, but the owner of the machine had not locked his session, so I nudged his mouse to see what was he running. Some specialised astronomical application was busy gathering information I could not recognise.

A whiteboard behind the astronomers' desk contained the networking information for their station, which was presumably connected over microwave to the University of Hawaii. Bruce and I took photographs of the PC and the whiteboard, while the other tourists looked on, bemused.

Anyway, you fly to an island in the middle of an ocean to try to get away from it all for a few days, and end up running into a famous Linux personage whose software you've used, whose papers you've read and whose talks you've attended.

Who'd have thought?

Everyone seems to have a weblog these days, which makes me curious how many people Advogato has lost over the last year or so, as people decide to host their own diary amongst links to the fast and fatuous.

Given that I can't seem to drum up any regularity to my postings here, I don't think a blog for me would really be worth the effort of setting it up in the first place.

For anyone who cares, here's a brief update.

I'm still working for Google, coming up on two years of employment now. The company has grown 400% in number of employees in that time, which effectively means I work for a very different company now than the one I started at two years ago. It's been an interesting, if not particularly rewarding experience.

Recently, Google acquired Blogger, an event of some significance to many, but something quite meaningless to me.

Sarah and I are off to Hawaii in a couple of weeks for our third trip to the islands. This time, we're visiting the eponymous island, also known as the Big Island. I can't wait to go to Volcanoes National Park. It's only for a long weekend, but I can't wait.

July will see me fly to Canada to attend the Ottawa Linux Symposium, which I haven't been to since 2000. That'll be a lot of fun. Sarah will be joining me later in the week.

That'll be quite a romantic trip in a sense, as I spent a month in Ottawa in the summer of 2000, when Linuxcare packed me off to their Canadian office when I couldn't stay in the US any longer on my visa-waiver.

Our much vaunted return to The Netherlands has been put on hold, as I sacrifice the short-term comfort of living in a sane society in order to vest in more stock. The hope is of an eventual pay-off that will guarantee some long-term happiness. It goes well against the grain and I feel like a whore, it must be said, but if the pundits are right, this strategy might just pay dividends in the long run. I certainly don't intend to sacrifice my ideals for a cash gamble ever again.

I really can't say when we'll leave the US and return to Amsterdam, but it's definitely still the long-term plan.

I've been very busy with Kerberos V and LDAP coding in recent weeks. This has seen me pull my rusty C skills out of the cupboard, which has been surprisingly rewarding and revitalised my interest in the language.

I've eaten way too much food lately and purchased far too many DVDs. America rubs off on you if you're not careful.

It's hard to imagine I left Linuxcare some two years ago. I have such nice memories of the place, that my departure seems much more recent.

It's even harder to believe that it was five whole years ago that I started work at Sonera (then Telecom Finland) in De Meern in The Netherlands. That's undoubtedly the most important and most fun job I've ever had. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Man, I wish I could go back in time and experience some of those times again.

Well, I don't have much else to say for myself at the moment. Nothing "adventurous and revolutionary" looks likely to happen any time soon. I live in suburban hell and numb the pain with material acquisition, a kind of socially encouraged heroin. Oh well, nothing is forever.

What can be said about this week? Words are not enough to express my disgust for George Bush and his loathesome band of war criminals as they lawlessly ravage Iraq, causing death and destruction in their wake. These grey-haired, impotent old men sicken me with their lies and deceit, their cynicism and overbearing self-righteousness.

I can only hope they are one day forced to answer for their actions at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (but, of course, Bush opted out of that, too, didn't he?)

In other news, Sarah and I spent a week in Amsterdam last week, seeing old friends and generally just hanging out and taking in the old home atmosphere. We also viewed a few flats with a view to moving back there.

Lastly, my green card was granted earlier in the week, signalling one of the final stages in my immigration saga. It's a provisional one, of course, which we'll need to petition the INS to convert to a permanent one a couple of years from now.

How ironic that I should be granted the right to live here at a time when it is so unpleasant to actually be here, knowing that my taxes are being used in support of this corrupt regime.

I spent a couple of hours today adding the ability to determine Ruby module dependencies to rpm. rpm 4.1 already does this for Perl modules, so it seemed a worthwhile addition to be able to perform the same magic for Ruby, since I pretty much use that language exclusively these days (apart from bits and bobs in C, but that's usually just for extending Ruby).

Anyway, I've submitted the code to Jeff Johnson, so perhaps it will make its way into the CVS tree.

Another year arrives and another passes by. The headlong march into decrepitude continues. This will be a year for major decisions and major consequences stemming from those decisions. One thing's for sure: it's going to be difficult, adventurous, exhilarating and revolutionary.

On a different note...

I'm tired of working with over-zealous twenty-something sysadmins who think they number among the profession's elite and yet have no awareness of their limited experience and the resultant myopia that distorts their view of the field and hinders their judgment.

Working in Silicon Valley can make you feel your age if you've been around the block a few times, lived in other cultures and worked for a variety of companies, both pre- and post-Internet explosion.

Sigh... the old bastard is feeling distinctly cantankerous today, isn't he?

Christmas is almost here and Sarah has departed for Providence, RI. That leaves me alone with my laptop and a bunch of unopened DVDs. Somehow, I think I'll make it through the weekend. I, myself, depart for Providence Monday evening.

I passed my California Driving Test today. What a joke that was. It's a mystery to me why you can't obtain an American licence on the basis of possessing a European licence, since European countries require a much more stringent driving test.

The timing was rather grand: my Dutch licence expired two days ago, so it's nice to know that yet another piece of bullshit bureaucracy is behind me.

I got offered a job in Purmerend the other day. This was an actual, real job; none of your recruiter-spun pie-in-the-sky, but a real honest-to-goodness job back home. This is encouraging. There really are still jobs available back in The Netherlands and my CV is still worth dropping me a line for, even though countless numbers of qualified people back home are on the dole and looking for a job.

I'm currently reading Teach Yourself Ruby in 21 Days by Mark Slagell. The Teach yourself books are often dodgy, but this is a great one. Even though I've been programming in Ruby for coming up on a year now, I've found quite a lot in this book that I either hadn't found in other books or hadn't been able to fully understand.

After years of inefficient use of both Emacs (for e-mail and DocBook) and vim (for everything else), I've finally decided to get to know vim inside-out and abandon the use of Emacs altogether.

Both programs are sufficiently complex that I've grown tired of not having mastered either in all the years I've been using both of them. It's time to unlearn my workarounds and harness the full power of my editor in the hope that it will improve my productivity.

Finally, never mind The Lord of the bloody Rings; go and see Bowling for Columbine instead.

We're back in the USA after travelling across Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and trying to adjust to the doleful drudgery of daily life.

Although we now feel thoroughly relaxed and refreshed, as always, it'll be interesting to see how long we can hang on to that holiday afterglow.

We had a fantastic time in Asia and took lots of photos. I can't wait to arrange a trip back, so that we can cover southern Laos, central Vietnam and Cambodia.

Just a couple more weeks until we head to Providence for Christmas. Another year flies by.

On the immigration front, I now have my employment authorisation card (which theoretically relieves me of the ball-and-chain that ties me to a single employer) and an advance parole travel document, the latter of which isn't all that much use in view of the fact that I already hold a work visa.

My fingerprints have been taken, I'm in the FBI computer, and the green card process continues.

26 Sep 2002 (updated 9 Dec 2002 at 03:10 UTC) »

Another month has passed and much has happened.

For one thing, I'm now married. Check out the wedding photos that our guests have sent us and the professionally taken photos.

The honeymoon was a big project that could be postponed for another day, so we chose to give ourselves one less thing to worry about and concentrate on all the trivial crap that goes into making a successful wedding.

With that now out of the way, though, we've been free to concentrate on the honeymoon, and we've decided to spend a month trekking around Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. So now we're busy reading Lonely Planet books and arranging visas.

Speaking of visas, I've started doing the paperwork for a green-card. I have no desire to stay in the USA long-term, but it would be more convenient to have one than to not, so it seems worth the hassle. My employer is paying for the application, anyway.

Can you believe that the INS wants me to prove that I don't have syphillis or tuberculosis? I suppose there must be enough of that here already.

I've written a new extension to Ruby, this time an interface to Steltor's CorporateTime calendar server. It's called Ruby-CorporateTime.

I'm not usually one for spending time and energy a proprietary product in this way, but we use it at work and I haven't found a decent calendaring solution in the free software world, so it seems reasonable to spend some time on this until something better appears.

Speaking of open source calendaring solutions, whatever happened to Dave Sifry's OpenFlock? The home page hasn't been updated for going on two years.

Today's the day the teddy-bears -- or Google employees in this case -- have their company picnic in San Jose.

This evening, Sarah and I fly out overnight to Providence and then drive up to Port Clyde, Maine for the wedding next Friday.

It's still hard to believe that when I return, I'll be a married man. Hmm.

Another month flies by.

I often whinge about having tno time to do anything, but things are really starting to come to a head now.

The wedding is just three weeks ago and there are still quite a few preparations to be made. I don't have any weekends left, though, as friends from overseas will be starting to arrive on the west coast soon, before making their way eastwards for the wedding at the end of the month.

To distract myself from the pain of impending domesticity, I treated myself to a Sharp Zaurus PDA. What a nice little thing, this is.

It was a bit of a hassle to get my low-power Socket Wi-Fi card up and running on my WLAN. This required cross-compiling a new kernel on my laptop and flashing the ROM of the Zaurus, which was a little nerve-wracking, considering it was the very first thing I did with my unit.

Since then, I've been cross-compiling cool applications like Kismet and adding essentials like OpenSSH, rsync, wireless-tools, Perl and Ruby. It's very cool to have a Ruby and Perl interpreter in my pocket wherever I go.

Syncing with the desktop required a kernel patch to get the peer-to-peer IP over USB working with the totally unsupported Qtopia software for Linux, but it worked without too much arsing around.

In conclusion, the Zaurus is an awesome little toy and I even find it useful for actual work, but it's probably too complicated for the masses. It locks up with alarming frequency when installing new applications and performing other operations. In addition, really exploiting the coolness of the thing requires pulling up a bash prompt on the thing and dicking around in config files. Anyone without Linux knowledge (or a very strong desire to quickly acquire it) would be swimming at this point.

Anyway, as practically every minute of my time from now until the wedding is spoken for, I'll quit this diary entry and go and do something more productive instead, like write my speech. Ugh!

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