February 29, 2004

Calendar Confusion

All day I've been thinking it's March already. My watch (the $13 one that has outlasted all other watches combined) tells me it is "3-1" today. I believed it until a few minutes ago.

I was catching up weblog reading and came across Brad Fitzpatrick's leap year entry. Then I realized that, while reliable, my cheap-ass watch doesn't have a clue what year it is. Doh! <homer>stupid watch!</homer>

On the other hand, this completely rocks. I just got back an entire day! It's like daylight savings time, only 24 times better. (And don't get me started on how ridiculous daylight savings time is.)

Maybe this is some sort of cosmic debt system. All those times in the last few years when I've left a meeting and said, "well there's an hour of my life I'll never get back" may have just been erased.

All hail the cheap watch!

Of course, if this had happened during the week I probably wouldn't have been duped as easily. Such is life.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:48 PM

February 27, 2004

Pam Blackman, Realtor

[This is part of a series of posts on the home buying process I'm going thru. To see the full set, visit the house category archives.]

Now that I officially own the house (well, the bank owns it, but they're gonna let me live there), I wanted to put out a recommendation for the realtor that helped me through the home buying experience. She always had good advice and was patient with me. And she was always one step ahead of me in making sure the right paperwork got to all the right people.

If you're in the South Bay and looking for a house, give Pam a call. Or visit her web site: PamBlackman.com. While she mainly deals with the Los Altos, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino area, she had no trouble with me running all over Campbell and San Jose too.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:38 PM

Associated Press on RSS and Syndication

In Enthusiasts Call Web Feed Next Big Thing, Frank Bajak (an AP Technology Editor) does a good job of briefly explaining what RSS, who's using it, and why it's important.

The technology behind them is called RSS and I rely on it daily to consult The New York Times, the BBC, CNET News, Slashdot and a few dozen other Web sites that employ RSS to make the very latest news stories or bits of commentary available for the plucking.

Of course I'm biased. In addition to Robert Scoble, Dave Winer, and Anil Dash, I got a quote. He pulled it from my 2004 Predictions post in which I talked about RSS really taking off this year. I guess he thought it was a good way to summarize his piece.


Posted by jzawodn at 12:38 PM

February 26, 2004

I'm a home owner again...

[This is part of a series of posts on the home buying process I'm going thru. To see the full set, visit the house category archives.]

I just got the call from my realtor. The keys, garage door openers, home, and the debt are all mine!


Next up: Refrigerator delivery, carpet install, testing the phone/DSL service, and moving day.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:56 PM

ThinkPad Battery Blues

I love my ThinkPads. I've owned several. I started with a 380D, then got a 600E a bit over 4 years ago, and now I currently have a T21 (Linux) and T23 (Windows). They're the greatest non-Mac notebooks money can buy.

But I seem to have a particular skill when it comes to decimating ThinkPad batteries. One of the reasons I own two T-series notebooks right now is that they can share batteries. And between them have three, numbered 1, 2, and (you guessed it) 3. The numbers correspond to how much life they provide--or at least they used to. The first one is the oldest. When I marked it last year it would deliver 45-60 minutes. The second one lasted maybe 90 minutes. The third, however, could go about 2.25 hours (140 minutes or so).

Not anymore. The best battery is down to about 45 minutes now.

The Windows box stays at home, plugged in with no battery 99% of the time. The Linux box travels with me a lot and I'm always exercising the battery--usually 5 times a week if not more. I always run it down all the way before a recharge. I'm tempted to buy yet another replacement battery but don't know if it's worth the $120 or so that'd cost. At this rate, it seems I'd be buying a new battery every 10-12 months!

When I sold my 600E last year, I send along at least one spare battery with it--for the same reason. I may have done the same with my 380D too, but I no longer remember.

Where are those fuel cells we've been waiting for, anyway? And will someone please make a model that slips into a T-series ThinkPad?


Posted by jzawodn at 03:52 PM

First American Title Incompetence

[This is part of a series of posts on the home buying process I'm going thru. To see the full set, visit the house category archives.]

On Tuesday we finished up nearly all the paperwork necessary for be to become the owner of the new place. That involved, among other things, going to an office of First American Title to sign about a billion documents, most of which contained redundant information.

When I got there, I began looking over the paperwork. The first thing I noticed is that their one page estimate of how much money I'd owe for closing did not match the estimate I had previously seen. This one was about $4,000 more. That's a problem because I already had a cashier's check (got it that morning) made out for what I believed to be the proper amount.

After hunting thru the other paperwork I figured out the bug. It was a stupid typo. Someone had transposed a few numbers when copying them off a Washington Mutual document. They seemed to think I had paid over $4,500 for a home appraisal (it was really $250). I brought this to the attention of the First American person who was there to work with me. She was surprised by this and set about calling to figure out what to do. Shortly after, my realtor arrived and I told her what happened. She explained that the copy I had seen earlier via e-mail was the corrected one. She had spotted this error and got it corrected earlier in the day before I ever knew. But the brain-trust at First American didn't bother to up the updated version in my packet.

With that solved, I signed the necessary documents. For each one, the rocket scientist from First American would tell me the name of each document and point to where I had to sign (it was usually obvious). After about 5 of these I realized that all the documents were titled. She was simply reading to me.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I got a phone call from Washington Mutual at roughly 3:00pm. The geniuses at First American had managed to screw up some of the paperwork. They even forgot to ask me for a required document. I had the document with me (lots of documents, in fact) but didn't realize they'd need it. So I had to drop everything, drive home, fetch it, come back to work, and fax it to WaMu before 5:00pm. Why? Because someone at First American didn't do their job.

I scanned thru the documents last night and saw it quite plainly. One of the bank documents had a list of required supporting documentation. I guess the folks at First American didn't bother to actually read the docs completely.

Now, you might argue that I should have seen it. And you'd be right. However, this is their job. They do this every day. They should know where to look and should be double-checking the guy who does this sort of thing every 7-8 years (me).

Next time I buy a house, I'll be sure to use a different title company. They certainly didn't earn all those "nickel and dime the shit out of customers" fees that I had to pay. $40 to take my damned finger print? Come on...

Posted by jzawodn at 10:26 AM

February 25, 2004

Multi-page TIFF Files in The Gimp 2.0

I've received numerous multi-page TIFF files in the last few weeks. They're typically eFax documents from my realtor. And it's amazed me that The Gimp couldn't handle them properly. Today I decided to figure out why.

After a bit of searching, I found that The Gimp 2.0 has multi-page TIFF handling. I downloaded the source, built in on my laptop, and bingo! It handles the faxed documents just fine.


Posted by jzawodn at 08:19 PM

February 22, 2004

Mud Lessons

Not that this has ever happened to me, but in the event you ever manage to get a DG-1000 stuck in the mud at the edge of a runway at an uncontrolled airport, I have some advice for you. First, realize that you have not one but three problems. Let's deal with them in chronological order. Solving them out of order is not recommended.

Not Getting Hit

Remember, your DG-1000 has a 20 meter wing span. To minimize the chances of getting hit by landing aircraft, be sure to rotate the glider so that the tail is just over the runway and the wing's exposure is minimized.

It should be painfully obvious to even the most unaware pilot that there's an obstruction just off the runway. But just in case, be sure to have a handheld radio handy and consider standing at the exposed wing tip to make it more visible.

Make sure the exposed wing is the low wing. You never know when someone may mis-judge their approach height and end up turning off into the mud. Err, I mean "and end up hitting your wing." Yeah, that's it.

Getting it Out

This is tricky. Do not attempt to rock the glider back and forth to "get a running start" or "build up some momentum" to get it out of the mud. Doing so simply makes the hole larger, allowing the glider's landing gear to sink deeper and deeper.

After unsuccessfully rocking it back and forth, do not attempt to pull it out with one of the local towplanes. The towplane will huff and puff, but will ultimately be unable to solve the problem.

Instead of all that, get about seven male adults to grab the leading edge of the wing, as close to the wing root as possible, and lift up while pushing backward. Their combined strength will be sufficient to get the glider out of the hole without doing any damage.

Then use a truck to tow the glider back to the tie down area and think about what an ordeal that was.

Cleaning the Landing Gear

With the glider out of its hole and safely back in the parking area, you have a new problem. The landing gear and gear doors, as well as the nose and tail wheels, are covered in mud. What to do?

You can try to get down on the muddy ground with a bunch of rags and towels to clean it up. However, you'll likely find that rags work great for cleaning off the gear doors and knocking the really big chunks off the gear. But beyond that they're pretty useless.

My advice is to call it quits early, drive home, seek reinforcements, and then head back to the gliderport the next morning. Not only does it give you time to consider the problem (and ways to avoid it in the future), it means you can fly again the next day!

What seems to work quite well is one of those 2-3 gallon hand pumped sprayers. They're often use to spray plants, water-proof decks, and so on. The nozzle must be adjustable. You want a nice fast stream rather than a wimpy mist.

Expect to spend between 1.5 and 2.0 hours under the glider. You'll use around 5-7 gallons of water (bring extra), lots of paper towels, and a few rags. The hardest part to clean will be the far side of the disc that's part of the big disc brake. You'll spend 40% of your effort there.

After you're all done, take a few test flights.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:59 PM

February 20, 2004

The Roomba Robotic Floor Vacuum

Last year my Hoover vacuum cleaner broke. It didn't stop working, but the height adjustment snapped. I've been able to use it anyway, but it's less than optimal. Being lazy, I've not made the effort to replace or repair it.

Being the gadget freak I can be at times, I'm intrigued by the idea of a robotic floor cleaner. The older generation was too big and noisy, but with the advent of Roomba, I've begun to wonder if they're worth it.

Anyone played with one of these?

I was hoping that Fry's would have a demo model on the floor the other day, but I had no such luck. I'd really like to see one in action to help me decide if it'd be up to the task of keeping the new carpet looking new (and freaking out the cats).

Upon further looking, it seems that Best Buy might be my Best Bet. Or maybe Target, which is closer anyway. There's a list of places that sell the Roomba. Of course, Amazon carries it too.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:20 PM

Will the Refrigerator Fit?

[This is part of a series of posts on the home buying process I'm going thru. To see the full set, visit the house category archives.]

As noted yesterday, I've been shopping a bit for something to keep my food cold. I took my lunch break today and headed over to Sears to look around. They have a way, way, way better selection than Fry's. I've narrowed down the choices a bit but am not sure about dimensions. Is the open space in my kitchen wide enough for a 32.5 inch wide unit? Or maybe only a 29.5 inch wide unit?

I don't know. I forgot to measure last time I was there. I can either guess or do it for real on Tuesday when the carpet people come to measure.

But I'm impatient. So I went looking thru the pictures I took on inspection day and found a useful one on page four.

However, I didn't know how big that space is. If I knew how large the floor pattern was, I could use that. But I don't. Then it dawned on me: the power outlet. Those are the same size nearly everywhere. So I loaded the picture up in The Gimp and began playing. Before long, I had a cropped version with outlets side-by-side so that I could count them up.

My measuring here tells me that they are 2.75 inches wide. Since I can fit 13 of them across the back wall with a bit of room to spare, it's at least 36 inches wide. However, there's a bit of curving where the floor meets the wall, so I'll subtract 1.5 inches on each side for that. I'm then left with 33 inches. That means a 32.5 inch unit may fit, but a 29.5 inch unit certainly will.

Excellent. I don't have my heart set on anything that wide, so there's probably no need to go measuring in person. I can probably order up something soon and then double-check the measurements on Tuesday just in case I'm way off.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:58 PM

February 19, 2004

Carpet and Refrigerator Shopping

[This is part of a series of posts on the home buying process I'm going thru. To see the full set, visit the house category archives.]

Well things are progressing on the house. Closing will be sometime next week. In the meantime, I've been slowly getting my stuff together for the upcoming move.


First off, I took advantage of the day off on Monday to go carpet shopping. I had no idea what carpeting a house might cost and what the options are, so that was bit of an eye-opener. The carpet I'm looking at (with installation) is just over $4 per square foot. Plus there's this flat $75 delivery charge. And they need to come to the house to measure and figure out how much of a challenge the stairs will be. That puts the ballpark cost around $5,000 - $6,000 if my math is right.

The hardest part, of course, is picking out the color I want. It's hard to decide, partly because it's difficult to imagine the whole floor covered in it.

After sufficient time, I managed to narrow down the options and bring home several samples so I could stare at them in a futile attempt to decide. Since I got nowhere on that front, I asked a few friends and then enlisted the help of my cats to choose. After all, they're gonna spend way more time on it than I am.

The good news is that they like the carpet! The bad news is that they seem to have absolutely no color preference at all.


On the way home today I stopped off at Fry's (it really is on the way) to check out their selection of refrigerators. Walking in, the only thing I knew is that I didn't want a side-by-side unit. It turns out that that limited my choices quite a bit. They seem to be rather popular.

After opening every non-side-by-side unit in the store, I found that I had narrowed it down to three models. Why? They all have the freezer in the bottom (which is fine), but some have a drawer there while others have a door. It seems that I hate the drawer models and really want a door.

I only spent about 7 minutes looking. I'll need to measure the space in the kitchen to figure out what sort of dimensions I'm working with. Then I'll check out a couple other stores. I'm sure there are places with a better selection than Fry's.

Anyone got a local appliance store recommendation, where "local" is Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, or San Jose?

That's all for now. Next up is more paperwork, including me getting a big ass check form the bank to make the down payment on the place. Oh, I also need to call movers and utility companies tomorrow. Know if any local movers I should avoid?

Posted by jzawodn at 10:05 PM

Please Complete the MySQL License Survey

There's been a lot of bitching in the community about MySQL's licensing terms and changes from one version to the next. If you have an opinion in the matter, please take 30 seconds to fill out their Licensing Survey.

The survey is very short but very important.

It is strange, however, that they never provide a link from the survey page to their Licensing Policy (they have both a Commercial License and an Open Source License) or their Licensing Prices. That is, after all, what the survey is about. Read those first if you've not seen them before. It'll take longer than 30 seconds, but what's the point of participating if you don't know the terms you're commenting on?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:42 PM

Blogs, the Media, and Corporate Communications

Weblogs aren't just weblogs anymore. I've noticed some very real changes in the last few months--all as a direct result of publishing a weblog:

  • I've been finding myself on more and more PR related mailing lists.
  • I've received numerous solicitations for advertisement on my weblog. In fact, I got a phone call about another scheme an hour ago. So far I've been experimenting with Google AdSense but have rejected all others because they're a horrible fit, don't target my readers, or are simply bad deals. I don't mean to imply I'm happy with AdSense either. Their contextual targeting seems quite poor on a lot of my content, so I need to dig into that a bit more. Ads that are not relevant are a waste. It's a shame there are no real AdSense competitors. DoubleClick and Overture, where are you?!
  • I get product and service announcements sent specifically to me, asking for coverage on my weblog, and many of them have begun to carry terms like those that Om Malik has been seeing. At first I thought this was the result of being on editors@linux-mag.com but upon more careful inspection I've found that it's not related. So far, I've posted a few of them to my linkblog. Most are simply not appropriate for my weblog.
  • Folks in the media have begun quoting weblogs in a way that suggests they're almost substitutes for interviews. The problem, of course, is that weblogs are different than interviews--especially in a journalistic context.
  • It seems that some of the things I wrote about last March have come back to haunt me in surprising ways. It's really too bad, but that's life I guess.

Companies large and small are realizing that weblogs are a very important communications medium. The interesting thing in all this is that some companies and journalists seem to really get weblogs while others are either [blissfully?] ignorant or are fighting them in one way or another. Seeing the differences first hand sure is interesting.

My question to the companies that are fighting them is simple: Do you think we're going away?

(Also: which do you thinks sounds more authentic to the average person, a press release (or e-mail spam) full of marketing speak or a weblog written by a normal person? Think hard about why Amazon's user reviews are so important to their web site.)

My question to the companies that are blissfully ignorant: What's wrong with your PR, sales, and corporate communications people?

See Also: Scoble on Corporate Blogging.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:59 PM

9 Days of Stupidity

About 9 days ago my main server was rebooted as part of a UPS test where it is hosted. What I didn't notice until today is that the fetchmail process that normally runs on that box to grab my jzawodn@linux-mag.com and editors@linux-mag.com mail had not been started.

I should have noticed this on day #1 or maybe day #2 if I was a bit distracted. But nooooo. It took NINE F@%*ING DAYS for me to realize "hmm, I haven't seen much Linux Magazine mail in a while." In fact, when I went to check, I realized that I hadn't seen ANY of it for quite a while.

After a few seconds of head-scratching, I realized what was going on. I switched sessions, started up fetchmail, and started a tail -f .fetchmail.log process. Here's what I saw:

1548 messages for jzawodn at mail1.via.net (10910467 octets).


Luckily, 95% of it was spam and SpamAssassin handled it just fine. But that still left a surprising amount of mail to plow thru, including several notes from the Editor in Chief. It's no wonder he picked up the phone and called me last week to find our where my columns were. Not only was I not responding to his e-mail, I wasn't even reading it.

Ah, well. This shouldn't happen again.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:21 PM

February 18, 2004

People and Things that Really Bug Me Recently

For whatever reason, a bunch of things have happened very recently that either bug me or are just the latest in a series of things that have been bugging me. Since this is a blog, I waste your time by pointing them out.

That is all for now.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:10 PM

February 17, 2004

Deciphering Emic Speak

I recently found that there's now a lot more information on-line about the Emic Application Cluster from Emic Networks. Specifically, they have several PDFs available (overview, architecture, etc) on their Products page.

So I've begun reading them.

It's interesting to see how their technology works and how they position it against other options. In their Overview White Paper, for example, I found this line about MySQL's native replication:

MySQL's native replication approach manages only one copy of the database.

Now I know a fair amount about MySQL's native replication, and I can't figure out what that is supposed to mean--even without taking it out of context. Don't get me wrong. They do a good job of summarizing the other, less vague, downfalls of MySQL's native replication system. I'm just puzzled by what that's supposed to mean. The are numerous ways I can think to interpret it, but they're all pretty misleading.

Anyway, I'll probably write more about Emic, NDB, and Native replication later.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:20 PM

Homebrew Financial Planning

I've been meaning to do it for a long, long time. But there are always more interesting things on my radar. After updating my copy of Open Office yesterday I started working on a few simple spreadsheets that will greatly improve my understanding of my financial situation. For far too long now I've been making educated (often overly optimistic) guesses based on back of the envelope calculations without the benefit of an envelope.

I suspect that a lot of people operate this way.

When I first moved to California 4+ years ago, I sat down and created a monthly budget spreadsheet. The sticker shock of living here pretty much forced me to do it. But after a few months of feeling my way around I never looked at it again. I don't even know where it is.

This time around, I haven't done the monthly budget yet. Instead I'm getting a handle on assets, income sources (work, book, magazine, stock, other investments), longer term expenses (house payment, wanting to buy a glider). Once I have properly aggregated all of them, I'll then create a monthly budget. That'll probably wait until I'm in the new place, since I don't know what my utilities and insurance will be quite yet.

As with most things in life, this was easier than I thought it'd be. I should have done it ages ago. It took maybe an hour of gathering info and another 20 minutes of data entry and brain-dead simple modeling. The only thing I want to do next is verify a few assumptions with my tax guy.

One of the sheets I've assembled will be really helpful in tracking the major one-time expenses associated with the new place: down payment, moving, carpet, buying a fridge, etc.

It's really surprising how much insight you can get from a bit of quality time with a spreadsheet and some ballpark financial figures. Really. It is. Try it for yourself.

If I'm sufficiently pleased with my workbook of data in a month or two, I may post it here in case anyone else finds it useful. There's bound to be stuff that's specific to my situation, but someone might find it helpful.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:04 AM

February 16, 2004

Web Search, Context, and Discussion Boards

I was just about to write a weblog post about an excellent product that I can't seem to shut up about. In preparing to do so, I thought about the fact that I heard about the product on another weblog but not one I've actually subscribed to. I wanted to give that person credit for this wonderful discovery but couldn't remember who it was.

I thought about this for a minute and realized that I knew the answer all along: Feedster. Since Feedster indexes a lot of weblogs, odds are good that I'd find it there. And I did.

This got me thinking. Why aren't web search engines smart enough to let me provide additional context, such as "I saw this on a web discussion board"?

Feedster clearly fills the void when it comes to weblogs, but think about it. Much like weblogs, I'd bet that 90% of the on-line discussion boards (at least the active ones) are powered by one of a very small set of software tools--maybe a dozen or so. Why hasn't someone spent the trivial effort to (1) detect and recognize them as discussion boards, and (2) index them with that knowledge?

This really isn't rocket surgery. Is it?

I can't be the only one who has wanted this on several occasions...

Posted by jzawodn at 07:13 PM

February 14, 2004

How not to sell your car on craigslist

As noted before I've been hunting for a vehicle on craigslist for a while now. In the course of doing so, I've read a lot of car ads on craigslist.

I must say, the quality of these ads is all over the map. It's clear to me that some folks actually want to sell their vehicle while others, for reasons that escape me, seem intent on not ever selling a thing.

In order to help that second group, I've assembled a list of things you can do to help ensure that your auto classified does not result in any interest, much less a sale.

  1. Never ever post a photo or a link to photos of your vehicle.
  2. When contacted via e-mail asking for photos, say that there are none and don't bother offering to take any.
  3. Leave out essential information, such as the mileage, model year, and color.
  4. Post your ad on Friday so that the folks who plan to go looking at vehicles on the weekend are likely to see it. But make sure you're out of town.
  5. Repost the same ad every 2-3 days for several weeks and never realize that you're probably asking too much for your piece of shit.
  6. List "towing package" in the ad, but provide pictures that show the tow hitch (or anything related to one) notably absent.

That's all I've got. Feel free to add others in the comments.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:04 PM

February 13, 2004

Topix.net and the "Add to My Yahoo" button

The guys over at topix.net recently put the "Add to My Yahoo" button on all of the 30,000+ RSS feeds they provide. For example, if you'd like to track news related to the 2004 presidential race, simply visit the topix.net 2004 Presidential Election page and hit the button on the right.

Of course, this isn't rocket surgery. Anyone can add the button to a web site with an RSS (or Atom) feed.

Check it out. They're doing some cool stuff. Before topix.net, several of them worked on My Netscape and dmoz.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:55 PM

February 12, 2004

House Inspections Update

[This is part of a series of posts on the home buying process I'm going thru. To see the full set, visit the house category archives.]

I've been lazy (well, busy) when it comes to updating the house stuff. A few days ago the sellers came back and said they weren't thrilled with some of the Section One findings in the termite inspection report.

The way our contract works, Section One items are things that the seller must correct before I buy the house. If they don't, I can walk away and take my deposit with me. They're basically things like ensuring that all systems are working, there are no plumbing leaks, and so on. This happens to include termites, termite damage, and water/fungus damage.

So they brought in their own inspector today. My realtor and I met them at the house and their inspector double-checked everything listed on the report that our inspector had provided. The good news is that they pretty much agree (it seems--we'll get the formal report tomorrow) on all the Section One items.

As a side effect of this, we've pushed the closing date back a bit to give them time to get the required work done. I've also been in touch with my insurance agency to setup coverage for all the stuff that the Home Owner's Association (HOA) doesn't cover.

It was good to meet the sellers face to face today. It game me a chance to ask some questions and for them to point out stuff that I might not know otherwise.

That's all for now. Soon I'll need to find movers, pick new carpet, and transfer all the utilities. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Posted by jzawodn at 09:55 PM

My Yahoo and Atom

Since everyone's jumping up and down about the Atom vs. RSS (or "Google vs. RSS" if that's your paranoia) debate, it's probably worth pointing out that My Yahoo's RSS module also groks Atom. It was added last night. It took about a half hour.

I'm not going to get into this stupid debate (again), so don't try to suck me in. The RSS world is full of political bullshit and personal grudges. I refuse to waste my time getting into the fray. If users want the content and the content is available in Atom, then so be it. Tools need to aggregate Atom.

[Remember, I don't speak for my employer on my weblog or much of anywhere else either.]

Posted by jzawodn at 11:49 AM

February 11, 2004

AdSense Experiments

I'm experimenting with Google AdSense on my weblog. My plan is to be selective about where it's used, but first I need to figure out how smart their targeting really is. So don't be surprised if you see ads pop up now and then.

No, I don't need the money. Heck, I don't expect to make enough to matter, but I have some ideas that I can probably use to greatly reduce the annoyance factor for my regular visitors/readers. It'll take a bit of tinkering to test them out and gather some data, but I think it'll be quite interesting. I have no intention of simply spraying them all over my site, so let's hold off on calling me a "sell out" for a bit, okay?

This is largely inspired by tests on a few other sites (some blogs, some not). I will, of course, report my findings if anyone is interested. If this works, I think others may be interested too.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:46 PM

Question Marks

I know I bitched about this in ru stupid, but it seems to have become far more common in the last 6 months or so.

Some people appear to have decided that it's no longer cool to end an interrogative sentence (that is, a question) with what we commonly refer to as a "question mark."

Just to refresh your memory, they look like this: ?

Sure, I know what you're thinking. "Why does it matter. Isn't readily obvious that someone is asking a question when they begin a sentence with a word such as who, why, what, where, how, when, and so on."

Well, you're wrong on multiple counts. First, you forgot your damned questions marks, you moron! Second, I bet that if you try, you'll find that's it's not difficult to construct a sentence beginning with one of those "question words" that is, in fact, not a question.

How to do that is left as an exercise to the reader. (I used to hate it when pretentious textbooks said that.)

Finally, this becomes a real problem when reading the voluminous amount of test text I read on a daily basis--often e-mail and on-line discussions. Why? Because it completely destroys the scanability of the text. It's common for me to scan messages quickly to see if there are any questions that I must address. If not, I may decide to give it my attention when I'm less busy.

More than a few times I've had someone ask my me why I've been ignoring their questions, only to go back and find not a single question mark in their original message.

Where's the electronic cluestick when you need to beat someone?

Posted by jzawodn at 11:15 AM

February 10, 2004

Is ETech Elitist?

I've not had a chance to keep up with the happenings at this year's Emerging Technology Conference, but I've heard two things that bother me so far:

Russell says:

Interesting conference - too bad I wasn't there to get a longer impression, but boy it seemed like there were some serious pecking orders there.

And someone else I know there said this via IM last night:

You are missing some good conferences this week here, although I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the bloggers are pretty pompous.

I'm not sure what to make of that. Pecking orders? Pompous? It bothers me, I guess. Partly because I've been telling a few folks that next year I'd consider going to ETech instead of OSCON. I've been to OSCON, what, 5 times now? It's starting to seem routine. That's probably a sign that I need to mix things up a bit and, based on reports I'd heard from last year, ETech seemed like The Place To Be.


Anyone reading this at ETech? Are these isolated opinions, as I hope they are? Or is three something of an attitude problem?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:08 AM

February 09, 2004

MySQL Talk Ideas Needed

Well, the deadline for talk submissions at the annual O'Reilly Open Source Convention just passed (I hadn't noticed--I blame being busy). It's in Portland again this year, in late July. The folks at O'Reilly have asked me for talk ideas, so I figured I'd pose the question to anyone reading this who might have an opinion on the matter. If you were going to be at OSCON this year, what MySQL talks would you most like to see? What topics are most interesting or in need of more coverage?

  • Replication, Load-Balancing, Clustering, and High-Availability
  • Benchmarking and Stress Testing
  • Backup and Recovery
  • Security
  • Application Design
  • Scalability
  • Performance Tuning
  • New Features
  • Examples of What Not To Do (real world horror stories)
  • Why Comparing PostgreSQL and MySQL is Pointless
  • ???

The talk lengths are 45 or 90 minutes, while tutorials are either 3 or 6 hours. Feel free to spew any ideas you might have here or mail me.

See you in Orlando?

On a related note, I am speaking at the 2nd annual MySQL User Conference in April. It's in Orlando this year. I already have the rough idea for my talk figured out. The working topic is n Years of MySQL at Yahoo!, where "n" is a value close to 3. I'll post more details later. In the meantime, get yourself registered!

Posted by jzawodn at 05:42 PM

February 08, 2004

Book: Your Money or Your Life

A few weeks ago, I attempted to read the book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. It had 4.5 out of 5 stars in 118 reviews on Amazon.com. The descriptions made it sound both useful and interesting.

I never finished it. And, as a result, I will not link to it or endorse it in any way. If you'd like my copy, it's yours for free.

Don't get me wrong. The book is well intended and has a good message. But it delivers it in a way that bugs the hell out of me. If the authors had removed the all-too-frequent "real people" passages that the book is full of and simply stuck to the basics, it would have been excellent. And about 38 pages long.

After an hour of trying to read the first few chapters, I finished by skimming the book, greping out the interesting ideas, and putting in the "done, won't read again" pile.

This is sad, really, because the book has some very valuable and important things to say about the often inflated value of "work life" and personal income in our society. Far to many people don't stop to think about living a life rather than living a job. Perhaps one day I'll write about my longer-term plan for not working full-time until I retire or die. The bits of this book that I did read helped me to solidify that.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:09 PM

February 06, 2004

Diego on Social Software

I've been catching up on some blog reading and noticed a good series of posts by Diego Doval:

If you've thought much about the whole social networking craze, have a look.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:55 PM

February 05, 2004

RSS Mania?

A few days ago, in a message on the rss-user list, I made a comment about the attitudes of some folks at work when it comes to RSS:

We've got some folks at Yahoo who are excited about the potential of RSS.


Rather than having to explain what it is and why we should be doing something with it, they're asking the engineers "how soon can we have this ready?" That helps make it a fun place to work.

Well, it's funny. I can't even go to heat up my lunch without bumping into someone who wants to talk about RSS. In the course of about 10 minutes today two completely unrelated folks stopped me to talk about RSS related stuff.

These are interesting times.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:22 PM

February 03, 2004

eBay to use MySQL?

As reported by The Industry Standard, eBay is buying mobile.de, a large German on-line auto classifieds site. In case you didn't already know, mobile.de has been a long-time user of MySQL on their site.

Not only do they run MySQL, but from what I've heard they've managed to push it very, very hard. Good stuff.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:48 PM

Emacs key bindings for Gaim?

Switching between Yahoo Messenger and Gaim is causing me no end of pain. Yahoo Messenger had Emacs key bindings by default, so I can just type and edit without thinking. However, all of the normal editing keystrokes have vastly different effects.

My attempts at Googling an add-on or patch have been rather fruitless. I can't believe I'm the only one who is bothered by this. If it matters, I'm using Gaim 0.75.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:17 PM

February 02, 2004

Home Inspection Day

[This is part of a series of posts on the home buying process I'm going thru. To see the full set, visit the house category archives.]

Today was the big day: Inspections. The day when I get to find out about all the stuff that's broken, the termite damage, and random other stuff to knock me back to the reality of buying a unit that's as old as I am.

Being as it was my first time in the house with a lot of time on my hands, I took the opportunity to snap about 90 pictures. Some are to show folks who ask "what's it look like?" while others are there to remind me of the trouble spots the inspectors pointed out.

So now that you're back from viewing all the pictures and wondering what the heck everything is (since I've been too busy to add captions -- give me a day or two), you're probably wondering how everything went. Well, at least one or two of you are.

Termite Inspection

To make a long story short (I hope), Silicon Valley (or the Santa Clara Valley) has a major termite problem. This whole area used to be orchards, and there's an abundance of little wood-eating critters in the ground. The termite inspection is a big deal for any home buyer. And, in this case, it's also a big deal for the seller.


Because the contract stipulates the any termite problems have to be handled by the seller--unless they're covered by the HOA. In Sunnyvale and Mountain View, the sellers typically have inspections done when putting the property on the market. Potential bidders can then obtain a "disclosure packet" that contains all the necessary inspection reports and such.

In San Jose, however, it's common to wait until a winning big has been chosen and let the buyer pay for the inspections (yippie).

Anyway, Jeff from Able Exterminators found a fair amount of termite damage that will need to be handled. A bit in the front exterior, but most of the problems are in the back (south-facing side) and the detached garage. The wood and lattice overhang above the back patio (see this page) is actually connected to the exterior of the house (see this page), and that's made for some interesting problems it seems. If I get an electronic copy of the report, I'll post a link to it.

At $50 (there was a special running), the inspection was a steal. But I suspect they're gonna make up for it in follow-up work. I should have the full report in 48 hours. We'll see how the sellers respond.

House Inspection

The house inspectors were way high-tech. Cori and Richard from Gillespie Home Inspections arrived, sporting fancy tablet PCs running Windows XP and with some sort of wireless network that I didn't get a chance to check out. The divided up the work and went about the business of poking, prodding, and crawling all over.

As I was writing this, my realtor send me a copy of their report (in PDF no less, but for some reason, I have to read it on Windows--my Linux Acrobat claims it is encrypted). Cool. The bottom line is that they did find some problems, but nothing earth-shattering or deal-breaking. Just like Jeff, when they were done, they walked me thru their findings to make sure I knew what they had found. They seemed to be quite thorough and worth the $350 paid.

Next step(s): Reviewing inspection reports, awaiting Home Owners' Association documents, and contacting my insurance company.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:15 PM