Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before.
Well, not exactly. But I dreamt that Yahoo bought Google.
That's funny for a lot of reasons. But it was pretty cool in the dream.
I'm still on West Coast time. I managed to sleep until roughly 11:30am this morning. Grr.
For a long time, I was a loyal patron of the Northwest, Continental, America West family of airlines. I started flying with them for my old job (Columbus to Houston maybe 8 times), flew to Japan in 1999, various trips to the east cost on Continental and generally managed to accumulate frequent flyer miles. It was good. I was happy.
I have enough miles now to go anywhere in the US, round-trip. Twice. I should really use them one of these days. But for the last 2 years, all I've flown is American Airlines. Let me tell you why.
American (and American Eagle) flies where I want to go. Most of my flying now is from San Jose to either San Diego (OSCON for 2 years) and Toledo, Ohio (family visits a few times a year). When I used to fly Continental out of San Jose, I had to fly into either Detroit (via Northwest) or Columbus on Continental. That sucks. It means a 1 or 2 hour trek to Toledo from there. By flying into Toledo, my parents can fetch me at the airport in about 10 minutes.
More room in coach. It's not just a gimmick. There really is more room in the coach seats. It makes a difference, especially when you're using a laptop. When you're sitting in the same little seat for more than 3 or 4 hours, it's really nice to be able to stretch your legs a bit.
Laptop power at the seats. Every American flight I've been on has laptop power available (via a standard automotive-style cigarette jack) in most rows. In the front of the plane, nearly every row has them. As you go back they're a bit less frequent. But I never seem to have much trouble getting into a row with power. It has been a problem only once.
With power at the seat, I can work on my book or magazine articles, code, blog, listen to CDs or MP3s, and so on. I could tolerate an 8 hour flight with a decent power supply. I can't imagine why the other airlines haven't caught on yet. This is the only way for a geek to travel.
On a related note, it's supposed to hit 75 degrees today in Santa Clara. I have a feeling it'll be in the 30s or 40s when I land in Chicago and again in Toledo.
I had forgotten how COMPLETELY INSANE my life is on the day before a trip. Wow. Non-stop crazyness. I've got a ton of crap to do tonight when I get home. Luckily, I can skimp on sleep and snooze on the 5-6 hours of plane rides that I'm in for.
Sigh. For most of the day I thought it was Saturday, only to eventually realize that tomorrow is Monday, so today must be Sunday. I hate it when that happens.
Ah, well. It'll be a short week for me, work-wise. I'm at Yahoo on Monday and then it's off to Ohio for a week starting really early on Tuesday morning. It's the normal San Jose to Chicago to Toledo route I'm so familiar with on American Airlines.
In other news, I'm weird. According to my sister, who recently said this in e-mail: "Why do you have something about your trip to the dentist on your web site?? You are weird!"
At least little has changed since I was ten years old. :-)
I guess that means she discovered my weblog. The big question is whether to bother trying to explain it over the holiday. If I do, I'll probably also end up having to explaining it to my Mom as well. And it'll mean having to answer the "who would ever want to read about that?!" questions.
Is it just me, or does the Free Software Foundation not get the web? I've seen amateur projects hosted on SourceForge that do better than the FSF sometimes.
Here's an example. I'm having problems building some software. I suspect that I need a newer (or older) version of GNU Bison. So I find the main page for it here. Does it tell me what the most recent version is? No. Does it tell me when it was released? No. Does it tell me what the recent changes in the last few releases were? No.
What the heck?
Okay, it does tell me that I can find alpha/beta releases at [some url] but they don't even bother to make the URL a hyperlink! That's right, I'm supposed to cut and paste it into my browser's address/url input box. All of the help related e-mail addresses on the page have been obfuscated. Really. Go look.
Yes, these are the same people who want Linux to be called GNU/Linux.
There's a reason that most project web sites have certain pieces of critical information on the main page--project news/announcements, releases, screen shots (if applicable), features, e-mail, bug tracking, etc. This isn't rocket science anymore, it's well-traveled ground.
I used to build nightly snapshots of the MySQL development trees (both 3.23 and 4.0) on both FreeBSD an Debian. But I stopped that a month or two back while I was debugging more important stuff.
I recently decided to get back in the habit and try building snapshots of MySQL 3.23, 4.0, and 4.1 on my machines. I had lots of configuration and build problems. It turns out that I didn't have exactly the right versions of various tools installed. So, if anyone else runs into this, here's what you need.
You don't want autoconf2.13, automake1.4, automake1.6, or automake1.7. You need exactly what I listed. Really.
Isn't the GNU tool-chain fun?
I hope this helps someone else. I wasted quite a bit of time on it.
Maybe I'll share my automated update and build scripts next...
Update: You'll also need an older Bison. The 1.75 in Debian testing dies with funny errors, while I've found that Bison 1.35 works quite nicely.
Firewire Dino is stomping through town and he means business. With piercing red eyes and an open mouth that lights up when plugged in to the Firewire bus, Firewire Dino is as menacing as he is useful. When he's not destroying your desk* he's helping you with your Firewire connectivity problems.
That's too funny to not blog. Thanks to Derek for mentioning it.
Update: The link works now. Sorry.
Cool. This flash application on the NBC11.com site shows you a Bay Area map and identifies dead zones for all the major cell providers.
I've been mentally and physically off-line for a couple days. A ton of people at work all seem to have gotten very sick as of Tuesday night. I'll spare the details, but suffice it to say that I've not been this sick in a long, long time.
They suspect a problem at URL's, our campus cafeteria. Whatever it was, I sure hope they figure it out and are able to prevent it in the future.
I hope to at least stay awake most of today. Now what am I going to do about this pounding headache?
Jeffrey arrived at 7:20am so we could car-pool down to Hollister. No sense in us driving separately. The ride down was excellent. There's very little traffic on 280, 17, 85, or 101 that early on a Saturday morning!
I wasn't sure what to expect. He briefed me a bit, since he'd been to Hollister twice before for lessons. I was going to sign up for their Discovery Soaring Package. That gives me 4 "discovery" flights. It's intended to give folks a feel for flying before they commit to taking lessons for real. But since I knew I wanted to fly again, I was planning to use my discovery flights as lessons if possible.
We arrived and I got to check out the facilities. They've got a nice setup. I wasn't used to seeing gliders stored outside. But, hey, the weather is nicer in California than in southern Michigan. The club has a good collection of gliders.
We met Jim, Jeffrey's instructor, and sat with him for a while to go over flight basics. I helped a few folks move gliders around and helped to launch Jeffrey on his first flight of the day. It had been 11 years since I ran a glider wing, but it came back easily.
I then got to meet Gus, my instructor for the day. I helped him pull out the ASK-21 for my first flight.
Before I knew it, I was strapped in to the glider and we were on the runway. Moments later, we were hooked up to the tow rope and ready to fly. Gus flew the takeoff and the first 1,000 feet. He then offered me the controls so that I could try flying tow for a while. I was pretty bad. I had the glider going all over the place. It was quickly clear that the skills I had developed back in High School were still buried somewhere in my memory.
Gus took the controls numerous times to straighten things out. I took time to look over the local landscape and get a feel for the area. Hollister is located roughly between Monterey Bay and a mountain range.
We released from tow at 6,000 feet and I took the controls. I spent a fair amount of time practicing simple turns, getting the know the area, speed control, and orienting myself to flying again. Gus pointed out major landmarks along the way and demonstrated medium and steep turns. He also stalled the ASK-21 to prove was a gentle stalling glider it is. I was impressed. It was a lot smoother than I remembered.
Before long, he asked me to head back toward the airport and guided me through the landing pattern. I flew the downwind, base, and most of final. He flew the last 30 seconds of final and landing.
Back on the ground, I was feeling a bit of motion sickness. My body really needed some time to re-adjust to flying again. I was also feeling rather warm. I shouldn't have worn the sweatshirt in in the cockpit. Since it was sunny and the canopy acts as a greenhouse, I was very warm. The ASK-21 doesn't have very good airflow.
After sitting on the ground for a while, helping others launch, and just hanging out, I got to go up for a second flight.
This time around, I flew in a Schweizer SGS 2-32, the primary trainer model used in Hollister. Gus explained that the 2-32's controls are bit less sensitive and figured that'd help with my tendency to over-control the glider during tow. It turned out that he was right--to a degree. Not only did I fly a little better on tow, the 2-32 has a lot more headroom in the cockpit.
It turns out that the 2-32 also has much better ventilation and airflow, I wasn't nearly as warm during the second flight.
The second flight was more of the same. I flew a bit more on tow and then practiced turns and a couple of stalls to get a feel for how the 2-32 handles. I quickly decided that I like the 2-32's handling characteristics a lot more than the ASK-21's.
Gus demonstrated a few more maneuvers including a couple of steep turns (2+ Gs of force) that made me feel sick. I again flew most of the landing. Pulling out the spoilers on final was quite a shock. With full spoilers, the 2-32 falls like a rock! The big warehouse we were flying over suddenly was coming up at us very rapidly!
Back on the ground, I felt like shit but was glad to have flown a second time. The 2-32 was clearly a better glider for me--at least while I'm re-learning everything.
Once I got back home, I still felt quite bad. It wasn't until a bit later that I figured out why. First, I had a lot of Sun. I had forgotten to take a hat with me, so that gave me a bit of a headache. Secondly, I had been flying on an empty stomach and was quite hungry. Finally, I hadn't had nearly enough fluid. I was quite dehydrated. After about 3 glasses of water and 45 minutes of laying down, I felt A LOT better. I vowed to make sure I had adequate liquids to drink next time around.
Notice the blog style similarities? :-)
So I settle down in the in the dentist's chair and explain the situation. The dentist looks at the tooth in question, says "uh oh" and turns to the hygienist/assistant and says "You better get him numbed up. This tooth is crumbling."
You see, about 9 months ago, Dr. Huntley had identified two teeth that he wanted to eventually get crowns on to replace the old (from childhood) fillings. He was afraid they'd eventually crack. Well, one did just the other day. It's a good thing I called soon and got it checked.
So now I have two temporary crown/fillings in place and the lower-right half of my mouth is slowly getting feeling back. I'll go back after Thanksgiving (and my trip back to Ohio) to have the real things installed.
In related news, my new Braun electric toothbrush is quite nice. But it takes some getting used to. I've made quite a mess with it.
Uh oh. I seem to have damaged one of my teeth. My dentist planned on replacing the ancient filling in it soon anyway, but a piece of the tooth has vanished. Chipped or cracked, I'm not sure. But I do expect to be getting an injection and some drilling in about two hours.
The curse of my life--my damned teeth.
In related news, my electric toothbrush arrived yesterday. It seems to work quite well. I certainly feel like my teeth are cleaner (than normal) after using it.
Back in High School (1990 and 1991, to be specific), I was a student pilot in the Adrian Soaring Club, flying out of Lenawee County Airport in southern Michigan. I trained with various instructors in their Schleicher ASK-13 wood and cloth glider.
According to my log book, I flew 23 times totalling roughly 6 hours and 41 minutes of time in the air. Yes, some of the flights were short--like the unplanned rope break exercise at 180 feet. It was challenging and fun. But I ran out of money before I could solo. I was close. Quite close if I recall.
By the time that ended, I was flying on my own. I'd fly takeoff, tow, landing, and everything in between. The instructors were along for the ride to make sure I didn't screw up and to help me practice more advanced maneuvers (I had a few left to learn).
Fast-forward 11 years. I recently discovered that a friend of mine at work had just started taking flying lessons--in gliders! I had always planned to get back into the cockpit someday so I jumped at the chance to start flying again.
We fly as part of the Hollister Gliding Club in Hollister, California. It's roughly a 1 hour drive south on highway 101 from where I live in the Santa Clara / Sunnyvale area.
I've started a separate flying blog to record my aviation adventures and related stuff. I may occasionally post any really interesting or important stuff in my main blog, but if you're curious about my progress, I suggest to read my flying blog.
Oh, there may be a couple bugs while I get the flying blog working. Lemme know if you see problems.
Russell, over at Infoworld reports:
According to published reports, Office 11 (due next year) won't support Windows 95, 98, or ME. The earliest supported version, per the reports, will be Windows 2000. This means that a substantial number of organizations with pre-W2K systems will have to undergo a serious upgrade path or risk becoming incompatible with new versions of Office.
And later in the article...
By switching to OpenOffice.org, you regain control over your hardware and software upgrade cycle. You also regain control over your IT budget. If you want corporate support, check out OpenOffice.org's elder brother, Sun's StarOffice.
Food for thought.
In my first full-time computer job, I was a sysadmin on a 7 month contract at the University where I was a student. I took a semester off from school and worked full-time. They paid me well. I had an office to myself (with a door), a Sparc 5 and a Mac on my desk.
In my current job, I live in a grey and yellow cubicle and get paid even more. It's relatively quiet and dark. The engineers around me all like it that way. It's nicer than our older building and older cubicles. There are a ton of distractions. Phone calls, IM, people stopping by, noise in the hallways, etc.
But in my new job, I'll apparently be in a cubicle bullpen or sweatshop as I like to call them. There goes productivity. Apparently the folks at work haven't read and understood the standard literature. I work from home once in a while as it is just to get away from the distractions of the office. Being in closer proximity, with fewer walls, more noise, and brighter lights will certainly make it worse.
I would have thought that as I advance through my career these things would get better, not worse.
I woke up early this morning. There were lots of sirens and fast moving, large vehicles outside. I heard a couple helicopters circling overheard. Had there been any gunfire, I would have suspected an invasion. However, living as close to Lawrence Expressway as I do, I knew it was a traffic accident of some sort.
After turning on the radio to hear the traffic report, I discovered that it was a 5-car accident at the intersection of Homestead and Lawrence Expressway. That's about 10 seconds from my apartment by car. Needless to say, I was in no rush to get to work.
A few folks are talking about the Plaxo story in Wired. Specifically, this part:
When asked exactly how the company intends to generate revenue, the decidedly secretive founder would confirm only that Plaxo is not meant to be spyware or adware.
"We think one of the most clever aspects of what we're doing is the business model, but right now we're talking exclusively about the product launch, not about the business model," Parker said.
Heh. I visited Plaxo to do some consulting. We just focused on the technical stuff I was there to talk about. But over lunch, I asked the "how will you make money" question. I got similarly evasive answers.
I remember telling some folks about that. My thinking at the time was that these people are:
Well, there was this /. story too.
Jon Udell says:
The Google toolbar is an example of a microcontent client. So is Huevos. So, arguably, are the speakable Web services I wrote about in this month's O'Reilly Network column.
So what about weblogs? Granted, I write some long entries now and then, but most of the time they're short. Are they microcontent? Or maybe minicontent?
I would have never really thought about this, but I saw the "Microcontent" headline and figured Jon had written something about how weblogs are type of microcontent. When I read what he wrote, I was a little surprised and disappointed. I thought I knew what he was going to say.
That made me wonder if it makes sense to talk about weblogs as microcontent, minicontent, or something else entirely? They're certainly not the traditional model of "Gee, maybe I should write a web page about foo." I don't think about writing a web page when I blog. But I also don't apply the same thinking and editing that I do when sending e-mail, even though e-mail and weblog entries are both conversational and often the same size. I also don't think about weblog entries the same way that I think about writing magazine articles. There's usually a lot less structure to weblog entries--because they're short, single topic items.
I haven't seen any yet, but there are too many blogs keep track of. I toyed with the idea of going to OracleWorld, but... well, no.
Look carefully at the picture to the right. Click to get a larger version. I search Google for jeremy to check that I'm still in the number one slot (as noted earlier). I am. And how does Google summarize my blog?
Jeremy Zawodny's blog. ... Ah, what a difference a few weeks make. I'm once again at the top of the list if you search google for "jeremy". ...
How terribly amusing. Perhaps Google ranks you higher if you talk about it. :-)
I can't help but to think that there's an engineer at Google who reads by blog and decided to have some fun with me. That's the sort of thing I'd do if I worked there.
It occurs to me that some (many?) of my co-workers may have recently read my previous entry about URL standards. I know this because a lot of people at work have told me, in one way or another, that they read my blog. And it often amuses me that other Yahoo employees learn about what's going on at Yahoo (often trivial things, but still) by reading my blog.
(Well, there aren't that many people have who have done that. But a lot more than I ever expected, which was zero.)
So why not just setup an internal Yahoo-only blog for myself? On the surface, that makes good sense. A couple well-meaning Yahoos (yes, we sometimes refer to each other as Yahoos) have even suggested it recently. But I don't think it'd be effective.
I don't blog because I have to. I blog because I want to. I've been doing it for a long time, as is evidenced by my old journal. Back then I didn't know my journal was a weblog and that people made a habit of reading and syndicating each others'. I had heard of RSS but didn't really think it applied to "personal" content like that. The only reason I started that (I think) is because I always read Alan Cox's diary and thought it was a good idea.
I didn't start a "real" blog until Jon Udell suggested it earlier this year. It was quite amusing. I don't remember the exact series of events, but it went something like this. Adam Goodman (publisher of Linux Magazine) called me up (as he often does) and said, "Hey, home come you don't have a weblog?" I responded, "Huh? What's a weblog?" and he decided to conference Jon in to explain what I've been missing.
Well, anyway, I've probably got the story all wrong. But that's not the point.
The only real change is that I now know I have an audience and can interact them in the ways that bloggers do. I've "met" a lot of interesting people this way. We've all learned from each other and make each other laugh. I doubt I'll ever meet more than a handful of them in person.
My blogging isn't required. It isn't work sanctioned. I say what I want to say when I want to say it. I enjoy it.
What would be the motivation for me to blog at work? The audience is quite limited. That means the "network effect" of blogging would be almost non-existent. We already have a ton of internal mailing lists. I'm on many of them an contribute frequently. The lists are all archived and easily searched. Most folks at work (the engineers at least) know who I am already or at least know my name. Why? Either from my e-mail or the MySQL talks I give.
So what would the internal-only weblog buy me? I'm always impressed by the discussion and insight that comes out of my weblog today. None of it comes from Yahoo employees. I'd be throwing all that away and gaining what?.
As near as I can figure, the only advantage is that I'd be able to write about our "trade secrets" and other stuff that is best not exposed to the public. That's it.
Are there decent alternatives to the Terminal that Apple ships with OS X? Maybe something like PuTTY on Windows?
Because Apple did something very, very, very stupid in the upgrade to Jaguar (OS 10.2). Old versions of Terminal would pop up an "are you sure?" dialog if you ever hit cmd-Q in Terminal. But as of 10.2, it just quits the active terminal and you lose whatever you were working on!
Why, you ask, would I have a habit of hitting cmd-Q? I'm an Emacs user. I often use my TiBook to SSH to remote machines an run Emacs. The cmd key on the TiBook keyboard serves as my "alt" or "meta" key in Emacs.
Don't tell me to remap my keys in Emacs. And don't tell me that my hands will eventually learn not to do that. It's been weeks. The only thing that has kept me from losing tons of important work is that I'm often using screen and emacs.
I'm sick of it. If I can't find a decent alternative (and running XonX is not a decent alternative--it's quite heavy), the TiBook is going to become a fancy MP3 player and not much more.
Apple, what the hell were you thinking? Can I get Terminal 10.1 back somehow? Please? For a company that's fanatical about UI issues, I can't believe this.
I wasn't going to say anything more, but apparently the story is on news.com now. So I guess the cat's out of the bag. Yahoo's [former] Chief Scientist, Udi Manber, is going to be a VP at some big bookstore. He's one of the smartest people I'll probably every meet.
Good luck, Udi. I'm sure it'll be a fun job.
(Did I ever mention that I was supposed to interview at Amazon.com the day after my interview at Yahoo? It never happened because Yahoo was too cool. Ah, the boom years...)
Just when you think all the good Halloween costumes have been thought of... What a great modification to the traditional preist costume. Thanks to Kasia for the pointer on this one.
Click the image for a larger version. You'll either be very amused or offended. Consider this your warning.
Jon's recent piece, "Web namespace design: de facto standards" really resonated with me, and I can almost completely blame it on work. Two separate and very different events transpired recently and both proved his point quite nicely. They're both related to a couple of Yahoo's most popular properties (that's the lingo we use to refer to something.yahoo.com, where "something" is a property like news, sports, mail, finance, and so on.)
Like many tech companies before us, we have an internal mailing list that most of our engineers use for marginally work-related discussion. Most of the traffic, however, is generated by rants.
That's healthy. We all have complaints we like to get of our collective chests once in a while. Recently, in a discussion on the quality of the HTML we generate at Yahoo, someone brought up a related issue: our URLs. Why are some of them so long and ugly? Sure, some of them are short and sweet, but others are long and ugly. Very few of them are guessable URLs.
As most of our debates do, it raged for a bit and then degraded. But during the course of discussion, a few important points came up in favor of short, simple, guessable URLs:
Sure, there are arguments against simple URLs, too. URLs are clicked, not typed. Most users don't care. It's not worth the extra engineering effort to make them short (whatever that means). And so on. But I personally find them all rather weak. They sound like justifications for being lazy.
In a recent meeting, we got to talking about how some of our URLs will be impacted by these changes. Obviously, we don't want to break URLs, but we may want to phase them out in favor of new ones--kind of like what we've been doing for quote.yahoo.com (much to my chagrin).
We eventually realized that we were contemplating a change to the single most important URLs in the entire world of on-line Finance! Seriously. Everyone in the world (who cares) knows that if you need a sock quote for a ticker, like YHOO, you just need to visit http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=YHOO and you're there.
But changing it is still a very big deal. Many, many other web sites link to their own financial information on Yahoo! Finance. Search engines like Google will take you there if you search for a ticker. Desktop applications do it too.
As you'd expect, we're not changing it. Ever. It'd be stupid. There's no reason at all to do it. It's too easy to have our servers honor that URL for eternity.
But the larger discussion around this change dealt with an attempt to better structure the less popular URLs on our site. Many of us were arguing to make the URLs just a bit longer (one character, in most cases) to introduce a bit of a namespace where there isn't an obvious one today. (There is one, but it's not at all obvious unless you know way too much about the folks who run Yahoo Finance.)
The bulk of the argument boiled down to roughly something like this:
That's right. We spent a long, long time arguing about the difference between a slash ('/'), or question mark ('?'). And we argued passionately for our favorites.
#1 is "traditional" Yahoo Finance. Notice many of our links look like that. #2 is "traditional" with an added slash to make it look like there's some semblance of a namespace at work. And #3 is a carry-over from the pages hosted on biz.yahoo.com, like this one.
I'm not going to say. Yet. It'll become obvious in the not-too-distant future. But what I'd like to know to satisfy my own curiosity is this: Which one do you prefer? And why?
Later I'll explain my bias and rationale. :-)
I'm trying to buy a ticket to Peter Gabriel's "Growing Up" concert at the Comapq Center in San Jose on Dec 15th. But the Ticketmaster.com site is sending me in loops. It keeps making me put in my e-mail address and password. (See the login box at the bottom of the screenshot?) It's quite frustrating. I'd hate to have to like pick up the phone and talk to a human.
I guess I'll try again in the morning. Well, later in the morning.
I went to his Secret World Live concert back in 1993 and really enjoyed it. I'm glad to read that he'll be playing some of his classic stuff as well as tunes from the new album, because I like his old stuff quite a bit more.
Update: Strangely, it worked fine in Mozilla 1.2. Oh, well. At least I've got a ticket to the show now.
That's right, it's finally fall in the Bay Area. Looks like the first rain in about 8 months should be here soon.
I guess that means I need to find my umbrella and jacket. And maybe get my wipers fixed (finally).
I attended the Silicon Valley Perl Mongers (sv.pm) meeting tonight. The speaker was David Wheeler, one of the main developers of the Bricolage content management / publishing system. Bricolage was recently reviewed by eWeek and they loved it.
I'd heard a lot of good things about it, but never spent the time to look at it. After the presentation, I'm very impressed. It makes good use of existing technologies (mod_perl, HTML::Mason, PostgreSQL, etc) to build something very impressive.
The sick part is that I found myself wondering if it could be contorted into a sort of MovableType on steroids. I've convinced myself that it could be done with maybe a couple week's of hacking. So I'll put that on the list of "stuff to mess around with after the book is done".
Ah, what a difference a few weeks make. I'm once again at the top of the list if you search google for "jeremy". I'm not sure how long it will last this time, so I'll try to enjoy it while I can.
One of the coolest people I know at Yahoo! is leaving soon. This bums me out a lot.
Keith blogged a few notable items. First, w.bloggar 3.0 is out now. Improved MT support and other goodies. There's also 101 Things Mozilla can do that IE doesn't--a nice look at some useful (and obscure) browser features.
Derek is having a bad week.