Monday, October 31, 2005

The Problem With The West Coast

So I'll be the first to admit, there are a lot of great things about living on the west coast. I've got a cool job, this place is filled with incredibly cool computer geek stuff to do, it doesn't snow, and the list goes on. But none of that changes the fact that I just got an evite to Rob and Jessica's annual pre-thanksgiving get together, and I won't be able to go.

If/when I bail and head back to the east coast, it'll be because of things like this. I mean really, how can I be asked to pass up on like 10 different kinds of mashed potatoes for multiple years in a row?

Oh well, at least I'll be home for the week between giftmas and new years, that's something.

Monday, October 24, 2005


So I stopped at Fry's on the way home from work tonight, with the intention of picking up a copy of Batman Begins, which just came out on DVD last week.

But of course, they were out of Batman Begins. This happens to me every time I try to get a new movie at Fry's, you'd think I'd eventually learn...

Instead, I picked up the new From the Earth to the Moon boxed set. Man this is a fantastic series. I mean I loved Apollo 13, and this is like watching the 12 hour extended directors cut of that movie.

If you have any interest in all in space, you've probably already seen it, but even if you have you should still pick up the DVDs and watch it again, it's that good.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Week One

So I just finished my first week at CollabNet, and man has it been cool.

I keep having these moments where I'll just have hit send on an email to the Subversion dev list, and I think to myself "ok, now I need to get some real work done", and then it occurs to me that sending that email was part of my real work ;-)

In more mundane news, I've managed to come to an understanding with whatever deity is in charge of the Bay Area commute, and now my morning and afternoon drive time has settled down to about 45 minutes each way. That isn't really all that bad, especially when you consider that it's 45 minutes of actual driving, as opposed to an hour of stop and go hell, which is what I was dealing with at the beginning of the week before I figured out the magical series of roads that would let me avoid taking 101 all the way up the penninsula.

Anyway, I'm off to the east coast for the weekend. Tomorrow is Psi U's 3-3, and everyone knows I just can't pass up an opportunity to spend 12 hours at a party after 6 or 7 hours on a plane. Also notable about this trip is that I'm actually leaving my laptop at home. I can't recall the last time I flew without one, but for once I'm actually not in danger of getting paged at 3 in the morning and having to drop everything to fix some problem. It's a nice feeling.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

A Trip To Windows Land

I'm involved, in one way or another, with several projects that build and run on Windows systems. Now most of the developers tend to be Unix people, so the Win32 side of the fence rarely gets as much love as it should. Part of the reason, frankly, is that it's really easy to get a development version of your average piece of open source software up and running on a Unix machine, and it's really hard to do the same thing on Windows.

Why is it so hard on Windows? Well, there are two major reasons.

First, the tools tend to be harder to get. Your average Unix machine either comes with all the compilers and libraries you're likely to need, or you can get them really easily. The same tools don't tend to come in the box with your standard Windows install, so you have to go out and get them. This means spending money, or at least it did until very recently when Microsoft released their Visual Studio 2005 Express Edition, basically just a cut-down version of Visual Studio that you can download for free. Even with the appearance of a free-as-in-beer win32 development environment (I don't consider cygwin or mingw real alternatives, if I want to use Unix tools I'll do it on a Unix system) it's still pretty hard to get things up and running. Installing the Microsoft Platform SDK and getting Visual Studio to recognize it took me most of this morning, for example. That said, this is a Beta version of the IDE, so hopefully it'll be easier when the real thing ships.

The second problem is sort of a catch-22. It's hard to build most projects on Win32 systems because not too many people do it. This means that the ones who do build them tend to be able to deal with the "Pain in the Ass" nature of the system, so the process doesn't tend to get better. In Unix land there are enough people going through the pain that sooner or later they fix the problems. Thus, fewer people work on the win32 versions because the barrier to entry is so high, and the cycle repeats itself.

Anyway, this weekend I got a bit motivated, and actually downloaded and installed Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition, got the Microsoft Platform SDK working (for the record, the instructions they post don't seem to work for me, I had to use the trick mentioned here where you copy the headers and libraries into the Visual Studio install directory), and I'm inching towards getting Subversion and APR to actually build.

I'm hoping that with the advent of some decent free-as-in-beer tools it'll be easier for us Unix people to actually confirm that things work in Windows land, and the first step seems to be going through the process and figuring out how to streamline it a bit.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Producing Open Source Software

If you've ever wondered exactly what makes an Open Source project successful, and I mean really successful, as in building a sustainable community, not just having one guy madly hacking away in his spare time and giving the results away to the world, then you should absolutely take a look at Karl Fogel's new book, Producing Open Source Software. Karl's one of the reasons that the Subversion community has taken off the way it has, and while reading over the online version of the book this weekend I was continually struck by how on-target his observations were. I mean I was actually there for many of the situations he writes about, and I still didn't see all the angles that he covers.

Seriously, go read the book, and buy a dead-tree version when it hits the stores, you won't regret it.

I was particularly interested in chapter 5, Money.

Why? Well, it's all about how to keep things from getting all weird when people start getting paid to work on the project, either as full time sponsored developers who work for a company with a vested interest, or as contractors paid to fix a specific problem one of their clients needs fixed, or whatever. You see, I'm going to have to deal with that issue personally real soon now. I just accepted a job offer from CollabNet working on their Subversion team, so for the first time my day job will actually be working on some of the stuff I do in my spare time. As you might expect, I'm looking forward to this particular application of the stuff Karl writes about in chapter 5.

This is where I insert the "I'm going to miss the people at Bloglines" and "I'm really looking forward to this new opportunity" sections, but everything I write sounds totally lame. So just assume that I wrote something to that effect, cause I really will miss working on Bloglines, and at the same time I'm really psyched about getting paid to hack on Subversion.