Older blog entries for robey (starting at number 27)

15 Jun 2001 (updated 15 Jun 2001 at 02:48 UTC) »

I feel that some people may be getting annoyed that i generally use this site as a journal of my own thoughts and stuff instead of a journal of my tireless efforts to advance open source software and further the Cause and the Movement. therefore i will geek out a little bit.

Say2 has finally started seeing more interest and traffic on the mailing list, and Scott wrote a good beginning of a native GTK client for it, so i'm very psyched (but now that i'm employed again, i have less time to work on it). Some interesting topics have been argued -- the current one being whether nicknames should be allowed to be in UTF8 like everything else. Users already have an ascii registered id that can be used to identify them, so the nickname becomes just a visible, er... nickname. I'm starting to be won over to the idea that these should be able to be expressed in the user's native language. I wonder if any other chat system has tried that before.

My new server machine (for lag.net) is basically up and running. Apache and CVS and all that are already on it, and a half dozen of the users have already been migrated. The main headache i forsee is moving email. When i first started wanting to host email, qmail was relatively new, and sendmail was such a pile of manure that i rushed right into qmail, with the result that i know almost nothing about maintaining a mail server that uses sendmail. And after many years of running qmail, i'm really sick of it. So the new server machine is running postfix, which i find much more to my taste. The challenge will be to move all the qmail config (mailing lists, virtual hosts, restricted smtp relaying, etc) to postfix. I think i just need to sit down on some weekend and make a day of it.

New job: Yup, after only a few weeks (and it felt like even less) I started my new job on 4 June at Danger. Of the places i interviewed, this one was my top choice, so i was pretty happy that it worked out. That's also why i haven't had a lot of time to do journal entries either. More later!

It really pisses me off when conservatives claim that the energy crisis is because of California's desire to conserve resources and not trash the environment, instead of the obvious cause: an almost religious belief that because the western world won the Cold War, extreme capitalism is the ultimate answer, and we should privatize even basic utilities like electricity.

I have yet to see a clear line of cause and effect drawn from environmentalism and conservation to massive power shortages. But I've seen several very thoughtful articles on how the rush to deregulate everything in a fit of capitalistic zeal caused the power crisis to be nearly inevitable.

Of course, it's easy for conservatives to paint broad strokes and say "since California is having trouble, it must be because of their differences, like their belief in green causes". Logic becomes irrelevant, but this is nothing new to extreme-right arguments. I'm just annoyed that they keep repeating them, hoping they'll become more convincing with every retread.

I'm not a liberal. I want lower taxes, a smaller government, and more local autonomy. But by turning the power crisis into a California vs. US fight, the east-coast government has completely alienated me. And probably most other California moderates.

Do we really need to be part of the Unites States anymore?

Wow, i just noticed that Adam got on here a month ago -- cool! (Okay, i'm slow on the uptake.) It's fun to read the journal entries of my friends and [ex]coworkers to see what their take on things is. And a lot of the Eazel people have suddenly started posting entries again, which is nice.

You'd think with all my "free time" that i'd have plenty of time to work on say2 and other projects, but the reality is that i don't. Spent a lot of time doing housework that had been put off for too long, talking to recruiters, and going to interviews. Had a few interviews so far, and one offer. Probably have to decide next week what i'm gonna do.

Stopped for coffee at the Other Office a few weeks ago with Eskil and Arlo, then we collected Ian and went to Riacce, which is always an excellent place to have great food on a beautiful patio, get progressively less sober, and empty out the contents of your wallet. Certainly can't complain, though -- because i can't think of anything else like it in the bay.

Last weekend Rupe came over, and we poked around on his car mp3 player. It seems to be more for show than for practicality: it makes a big deal out of saying things like "Car MP3 player is now online!" over the stereo, but can't do things like playlists yet, and has a very tiny drive for storing music. Rupe pulled out of his trunk the large Compaq that makes up the bulk of the system, and we debugged a bit of the python(!) code in it. He was using threads. It was the first time i'd had to think about threading problems in over a year, which made me a little sad. We went to Fry's and picked up a new 40G disk for it, but then i remembered all the phun he's going to have with a larger-than-8G disk on an old Compaq pentium 133. So he decided to put off installing it till later.

Apple held a little recruitment/reunion lunch for ex-Eazelites on Thursday. Good sandwiches, and a hefty chunk of my ex-coworkers were all there (even Eric, the magic build guy!). I talked to several managers (or were they? actually i'm not sure what they were) that were doing cool things, but i couldn't tell how serious any of them were about doing interviews or anything, so i guess we'll see.

Friday i went with some friends to the "gay day" thing at Great America (a theme park). $60?! I'm not sure i got 10 burritos worth of fun out of it, but it was nice to ride a bunch of coasters at dusk with minimal lines. Chris and i talked Walt and Andy into trying the wooden coaster, which had a very short line. That short line turned out to be because the coaster can only run every five minutes! When we finally got to ride it, we found out why. I think my internal organs are still re-adjusting to their correct positions. Afterwards i had to assure the others that most wooden coasters are actually maintained, and don't shake you like a soul machine and give you whiplash.

Still playing Myst III like i'm obsessed, but i'm getting near the end (i think) so i've been slowing down. Also finished moving the say2 development stuff over to a new machine, and started dusting off bugs and working on them. Think that's what i'll do tonight.

I've been meaning to write a new journal entry for a while now, but been kinda bummed in general so haven't felt like it. Over the past few weeks it became increasingly obvious that Eazel wasn't going to manage to pull off any of the last-minute funding attempts, and that they would have to close their doors (the euphemistic way of saying "completely run out of money"). So all work (and all pseudo-work) came to a stop, and we basically just hung out working on our resumes and stuff. I caught up with a lot of the mailing lists i'd never had time to read, and then unsubscribed from most of them.

Eskil, Arlo, Ian and I (often joined by Adam, Mike, John and some other stragglers, in varying combinations) would go across the street for coffee and sandwiches at least once a day, usually 2-3 times. I started to pick up a bad coffee habit (still coming down) and they got to know us really well. There really wasn't much else to do. Sometimes i would try to sit in my cube (actually a large 4-person cube) and work on my own projects, but when your cube is the place where everyone collects to chat and be bummed out, it's hard to concentrate.

On the Thursday before the final announcement (the 10th), Greg asked me if i wanted to skip out on work and go down to the Monterey aquarium with him and his ex-co-worker Joanne. Well, uh, sure! Not like there's much else to do! It was a lot of fun; Joanne was cool. We did it just like we were skipping out of high school: first to Krispy Kreme for donuts for breakfast, then pack up on water and drive down to Santa Cruz. Neither of them knew how long the drive would be, so i had to be the bearer of bad news (it's almost a 2-hour drive from Mountain View), or good news (the drive was beautiful), depending on how you look at it.

The aquarium was much as i remembered it, but still fun. Greg took lots of pictures, especially of the jellyfish area. One room had a gigantic tank with a hodge-podge of things, including a big sea turtle! But just like last time, the sea turtle stayed up near the top and didn't become very photogenic. We checked out a new section on the "deep sea", which was a little corny but interesting. At the entrance, a plaque announced that the exhibit was sponsored by Chevron. At the end, suddenly there was a wall of photos of gas pumps, refineries, and (inexplicably) massive freeway traffic. Captions explained that even better than sea life, the deep sea was home to... oil! Glorious oil! So you see, the captions explained, the deep sea is useful! Joanne got seriously sick then.

On the way back, we stopped at Pink Godzilla and had an early dinner of sushi. (Well, why go to Santa Cruz if you aren't going to stop for sushi?) And then back to the city to watch ER, which apparenly Joanne is very addicted to. Afterwards we caught the end of a night of drinking at the Kilowatt by a bunch of ex-co-workers, some of whom had been there since 5pm! I always seem to miss the serious drinking.

More later; this is already dauntingly long.

Seattle was fun -- hung out with Josh, Sammit, Dennis & Vicki, and Selbie (at various times and never simultaneously). Josh's apartment was a different kind of mess than usual: boxes everywhere. He claimed he'd been cleaning up a lot recently, and at first i didn't believe him, but after the first day i realized this kind of mess really was a lot cleaner than the normal kind. It was still way past the point where i would've done a panic-clean, but for some people that's not really a priority.

Greg and i arrived on Thursday night and Josh took us to a little yuppie bar with good sake and acceptable sushi. We crashed and then Friday spent most of the day finding lunch and contacting friends while Josh went to work at Avogadro (the name that constantly confuses me because of my utter devotion to advogato). Found a burrito place and got a burrito, despite my misgivings that Seattle is not known for burritos. It was extremely bland and boring until Greg showed me his discovery: they want you to put the salsa and toppings on yourself! After this revelation, the burrito was much better. Then we met up with Josh at work and Greg took a nice panorama of the Seattle skyline from their top-floor balcony.

For dinner, we met Dennis [i am forbidden to ever call him Denny again] and Vicky at a Greek place, with Sammit. The food was awesome: i got good souvlaki for the first time in probably five years. Sammit was looking a lot better than I imagined, after all his scary talk on say2 about cancer. He'd lost weight and grown a little salt-n- pepper goatee which actually made him look more cool than old.

Afterward we hung out at a cool bar called Barça which for some reason had Boddington's on tap. Talked politics and stuff for a while until our voices became hoarse, then got dragged to a bar called "Cuff" which Josh and Sammit swore up and down was not a leather bar. Inside, we found various people in leather gear, several hundred daddy bears, and a two-story tall rendition of a Tom-of-Finland style leather man. Also a couple of guys were dressed up in full football gear. Since that's not a leather bar, i wonder what the real Seattle leather bars are like.

Saturday we hung out with Selbie and went to the Seattle World's Fair fairgrounds. There was supposed to be some sort of Japanese cherry blossom festival, but all we could find was a mall that had a bad karate demonstration going on. So we popped over the Experience Music Project (EMP to those in the know) and checked out probably about 10% of it before Josh finally caught up with us (another victim of the weird cell-phone vortex over Seattle) and we talked in the bar a lot.

Even though it's very cliche, a lot of our trip to Seattle involved sitting around in various places and drinking beer or coffee. I expected the Seattle-ites to go "no! we cannot live this cliche!" but nobody did. I certainly can't complain: sitting around and drinking coffee is a great way to pass time.

That night, more bars (this time with Josh and Selbie) and then sleep and then barely catching our flight back to SFO on Sunday afternoon. The rest of the week passed in a blur, because absolutely nothing goes on at work anymore except trips to the cafe across the street, moping around, and periodic news of our attempts to get funding. I actually feel guilty when i'm doing work-related stuff (mostly patches to various python gnome modules to make them work well with reef).

As i type this, i'm on a flight to Seattle with Greg to visit some friends. Well, most of them visit the bay area enough that i don't really need to go to Seattle to see them, but it was a good excuse to get out of the bay for a weekend. Alaska Air never leaves on time, but at least the flight is only half-full, so we got to pick our own seats and spread out in them. Greg is already asleep.

Life at Eazel has slowly been disassembling itself. Those who work on Nautilus have continued plugging at it, but those of us who used to work on Trilobite or the server have been pretty unfocused. The reef project seems like a very cool idea, but it's hard to be motivated into working full-steam on it if the company may not exist in a few more weeks. So i've mostly ended up doing many small projects on it, scattered around: fixing up a few python libraries, doing a few proof-of-concept sample scripts, and doing a lot of maintenance things we'd put off before.

In the meantime, i've also done some non-trivial work on say2, worked with Arlo to get our mp3 server kicked into shape and looking a lot cooler, caught up on some of my huge backlog of mail, and gone for a lot of coffee runs at the cafe across the street. Eskil, Arlo, Ian, Mike and i have practically made it into a secondary office, though i'm not sure lots of coffee is the best way to deal with employment uncertainty.

The weather has been nice enough that i've been biking to work almost every day (figured that it would be pretty hard to find another job close enough to bike to from home). Now that it's time to type it in, i'm realizing that i really haven't done that much in the past couple of weeks.

Whew, long week. But it's barely ended and the next one is already set to begin.

My friend Rabbit visited from D.C., arriving on Tuesday. We promptly went out to the "Trannyshack" (a fun drag show on Tuesday nights in SF) with Walt, Rupe, and a few other people. Greg was feeling sick and couldn't go (which would prove to be an ominous sign). The show was great! Possibly the best one i've seen. Afterwards we usually just drink another beer or two and leave, but Rabbit got the dance bug and basically danced and chatted people up until 3am. It's funny, he gets really extroverted when drunk, and will just run up to strangers and start talking to them. Finally we went by the Rusty Penny for sobering up and got home at 5.

The next day i felt really light-headed and sleepy, but i figured that was just from staying out drinking the night before. Yakk and i talked about say2 for a while at work, and he got me psyched to do the next major chunk of work on it (splitting the channel server from the registry server), even though i knew i wouldn't have time that week. He and Mike are the only Eazel people who have expressed any interest in what we're doing, so it's encouraging to get feedback.

Since Rabbit is the only bassist Dead Dog has ever had, we always try to play a show while he's in town, so this time was no exception: Matt hooked us up with a two-night gig at the illustrious New Hack City on Friday and Saturday. So that night, we started practicing in earnest, even though we all suspiciously felt light-headed and sleepy. I was a bit nervous about the number of songs we planned to play, but we got it trimmed down pretty well and started to make real progress.

By Thursday morning, it was definite that we were all starting to get the dreaded Greg plague, so we pumped ourselves full of medication, and Matt handed out liberal doses of hippie vitamins, and slept a lot, and tried to practice. Finally our drummer (Orange) showed up -- first practice with any drummer ever! I was extremely nervous that having a drummer learn the songs the day before a show might be a disaster, but we plugged through each song one by one, and by the time we finished with the set, i felt a lot better about it. Orange didn't impress me much at first, but he caught on so fast and threw out so much energy that i started to think, "This is going to work!"

Friday morning i felt better. Probably better enough to go back to work but i decided to recuperate instead and live with the guilt. It was either sleep + practice or work + practice and i decided to let sleep win a round for once. Once i was rousted, we packed up, drove to SF (horrible traffic -- i could never live in that city) and set up in NHC. We got through another practice round (that's two!) before people showed up, and then played a somewhat satisfying but fairly sloppy set. By sloppy i mean that i messed up a lot (probably everyone else was playing fine). This crowd was mostly friends of Matt, including Strick, who had just arrived from his most recent trip to Asia. Afterwards we went to a cool nearby bar called "Pow!" and then drifted toward the End Up, which has changed so much since i was last there that i was fairly disgusted by it.

Of all the weird coincidences, while i was there, a guy came up to me and said "Robbie?" I thought, this is probably another eggdrop kid who has only seen my name in writing and doesn't know how to pronounce it, so i corrected him. He said, "from Tennessee, right?" (Huh?!) "It's Bradley!" Whoa!! It was one of my best friends from high school! He was the one who first dubbed me Robey. He moved out here a while ago but didn't know how to contact me! I invited him to Saturday's show, which must've been a trip for him. He's also apparently dating a member of the Killkenny Cats (an old Athens band) which just completed the 360 degrees of absolute weirdness.

Saturday we chilled and then played another set, much tighter and more together and far fewer mistakes by me (though still enough). K8e (a girl we met the night before) did a few opening songs for us, and we're hoping to include her as "part of the band" (as much as there's any meaningful membership here) next time we play or record. Matt got it all on Minidisc, so i'm looking forward to hearing how the show came out, when listened to in the cold light of day. This night the crowd was mostly yak people and some of my friends, including a fairly perplexed Bradley.

That night we drove back down to Mountain View, picked up food at Jack, lamented about the lost hour, and then stayed up to watch varying amounts of Meet the Feebles (if you haven't seen this movie, go watch it now!) -- most of us fell asleep before it was over. I think i managed to watch almost 100% of it, though. Early Sunday morning, Rabbit had to leave to fly out to D.C. again. I wish we could play with him and Orange more often now.

I have typed far too much for even the most patient person to read, so i'll stop now.

So, i guess the most interesting thing to happen since my last journal entry is:

  • we shipped Nautilus 1.0
  • we had massive layoffs
...of course, each event on the same day, within hours of each other. After working like a dog on the installer (which still had a couple of nagging problems when it shipped), i was much too zonked to take in all of it. Eskil and i were supposed to get Wednesday through Friday off as a vacation after the installer madness -- i came in for a final lunch on Wednesday and then bailed for the rest of the week, though i couldn't resist popping back in on Friday afternoon to find out what was going on (too much curiosity). Eskil managed to stay away for the rest of the week. It really sucks that it happened on release day (worst timing i've ever seen), and i miss a lot of the people who left.

On the same day (Tuesday), we were looking at upcoming shows and i found out that Idlewild was playing that night! So i called up Greg and we went off to see them -- they rocked! Maybe i was just in a completely exhausted, defeated mood, and their anger was what i needed. The opening bands sucked beyond belief: some SF band that desperately wanted to be all the lame parts of the Beastie Boys with none of the cool parts, and then some totally poser Brit band called "brassy" that was mostly just "assy" (came up with that myself, ha ha, i'm so cool). They were all attitude and no music. But Idlewild kicked everyone's ass and then kept going -- yeah! I've had "100 Broken Windows" in my portable CD player for a while, when i go biking.

The skeleton crew that remains at Eazel has focused on a system involving running python bundles inside a Nautilus view. It made me skeptical at first (especially the part about python) but i've become a convert since then. Python isn't so bad, but it's still no perl. Sadly the GTK bindings for python are way better than the C bindings. I've spent some time doing wrappers for parts of trilobite so that they're accessible from python, and done an enaml binding for python and a little bit of say2 client binding.

Need to get dinner now, more later.

Well, i'd started writing a diary entry last weekend, but PG&E decided that last Sunday night would be a good time to hit Eazel with a random power outage, so the entry got lost before i submitted it. Yes, PG&E does this even when there's not a power crisis. My lost entry started out saying that it's still raining all the time, but in the last week, it's dried out and warmed up, so most of last week was very nice. Hope it stays this way for a while.

Finished reading "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius", and it was pretty good, but i often got tired of his overly pretentious writing style. I think that may be unavoidable in anything done by my generation (and the author had obviously read David Foster Wallace stuff before). The Modern Humorist website mocking the book ("Harry Potter and the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius") is laugh-out-loud funny.

Nautilus 1.0 ships this week and it's been completely insane around here. As usual, the installer is the flakiest part of it all, and not heavily tested until the last possible minute. Since it takes more time to track down and solve an installer bug than a normal bug (because of the way it's built and the elaborate methods needed to reproduce bugs), it always ends up being a disaster. This time, there were several bug reports about the installer exploding at random -- these were extremely aggravating because they're almost impossible for me to reproduce, and seemed to be non-deterministic. The pressure around all of this was driving me up the wall (we haven't had any downtime since the last pressure-cooker situation around the PR3 release).

Maciej saved the day by casually mentioning that he thought static-linked imlib was buggy, relating to a visual problem in one of the dialog boxes. After i got a few stack traces for the random installer crashes, they all seemed to be crashing in imlib, so i bothered Maciej about it again, and gears started turning in his head. It seemed hopeless to me: if a fundamental piece of gnome is fundamentally broken (and this happens more than i'd like), how much can we do with less than a week left? But Maciej stayed up all night and hacked imlib out of the installer, cut-n-pasting a bunch of code and removing a bunch, and the next morning we had something that seemed to work! The week improved considerably from that point on (which also coincided with the end of the continuous rain).

Eskil continued to work at a steady (and, for anyone else, unsustaintable) rate on other weird glitches, and suddenly we've reached a point where i think what we ship won't be so bad after all -- in fact will actually be pretty good. It's been even weirder because most of the rest of the Nautilus team has been finished for a week or more, so they've already started unwinding from the crunch (and got suckered into helping on the installer from time to time). Looks like i'll get a few days off next week for my own unwinding, and i'm having warm-fuzzy dreams of just waking up, wandering downtown, having coffee, reading a book, and pretending not to speak english.

Eli just dropped by my cube and pointed out that he never gets mentioned in my diary entries. I was going to say something sarcastic now, but actually he's been a good first line of defense, trying to narrow down installer bugs and delay people from filing them while i tried to machete through the pile i already had. Now to keep them at a minimal level until Monday.

More dreary rain. This time i'm up in the city (SF, for anyone reading outside the bay area). Greg and Erin's friend Andy is visiting after traveling around various parts of Asia, and so probably annoyed that most of the food in this neighborhood is some form of Asian cuisine. Breakfast was a comfort food of grilled corn scramble at Q, then a huddled march to Green Apple Books where we must've spent at least an hour. I picked up a copy of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" (yes, i'm a mass-marketed sucker, but it looked good) and a relatively small tome on Roman history.

The say2 webpage has been updated finally, with links to snapshots of the current perl (curses) client and the sephiroth server. Greg has finally checked in his prototype java gui client, which is looking pretty cool so far -- maybe a snapshot will be posted soon. Also i went to a little effort to describe the protocol better, now that clients are being written. Josh has started work on a Windows VB client, too, i think.

Work has been fairly annoying. The install stuff is shaping up pretty well, but it's all starting to be tested, and everyone thinks their bug has higher priority than anyone else's, and they're all "blockers" (bugs that block other people from working), which becomes a zero-sum game where i stop caring. Everyone in my group except me is going to Guadec in Copenhagen this April, and i can't pay my own way (i'll be lucky to get my taxes covered this year) so it's kinda depressing. I try not think about it. Also it's been hard to concentrate when i'm at my desk because our building has gotten so crowded now that there's a constant stream of people wandering through our cube and chatting.

Oops, let's talk about cheery things again. Greg got me the Final Fantasy anthology (games 5 and 6) as a late Christmas present, so i've been playing 5 a lot to unwind. Even with the crappy Nintendo graphics, it's a really engaging game, and i keep getting caught up in it.

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