September 27, 2003

Tramp: Remote File Editing in Emacs

I just realized that one my favorite tools is something I've never written about here. If you're an Emacs user, there's a chance you're familiar with ange-ftp. It's an Emacs Lisp module that lets your browse remote FTP directories as if they were local filesystems. You can open, edit, save, and so on--never caring that the files are half way around the world.

In a world where I use secure methods (ssh, scp, and rsync over ssh) for remotely manipulating my files, ange-ftp isn't terribly useful anymore.

Tramp is the modern version of ange-ftp. It groks the tools I use. To quote the web site:

TRAMP stands for `Transparent Remote (file) Access, Multiple Protocol'. This package provides remote file editing, similar to Ange-FTP. The difference is that Ange-FTP uses FTP to transfer files between the local and the remote host, whereas TRAMP uses a combination of rsh and rcp or other work-alike programs, such as ssh/scp.

It's slick, seamless integration. In my ~/.emacs file I have:

(require 'tramp)
(setq tramp-default-method "scp")

And then if I want to open a file remotely, I simple ask emacs to open:


Or, to fully qualify things and illustrate the syntax a bit more, I can use:


And emacs does what I expect in either case. Tramp handles all the details behind the scenes. It's really quite handy.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:43 PM

All Praise Tivo!

My Tivo knows me too well. It recorded War Games, apparently earlier today.

Despite the facts that I have it on DVD and VHS, I've seen it over 50 times, there are commercials in this version and the language has been slightly altered, I'm watching it anyway. How could I resist such a classic hacker film?

I mean... really?

Posted by jzawodn at 04:39 PM

Mailman infinite loop problem

For some reason, my Mailman install has developed a bug that causes it to enter an infinite loop, consuming all available CPU time. Forever.

It seems that others have seen this too and their solution works for me until it's fixed:

  sudo /etc/init.d/mailman stop
  sudo rm /var/lib/mailman/qfiles/*/*
  sudo /etc/init.d/mailman start

Oh, well. Free software does that sometimes.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:45 PM

September 26, 2003

Why Can't Dell Innovate?

Steven says:

Dell today issued a press release announcing their intention to rip off every single good idea Apple has had over the last year or so. This annoys me so much. It sucks to innovate the way Apple does because a hundred other companies are always waiting in the wings to see how well you do, and then flood the market with cheap knock-off crap if it looks like you had a good idea.

Yup. It's really quite lame. These companies must be run by some of the dumb jocks from high school that never seemed to have an original idea.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:53 AM

September 25, 2003

Time or Attention?

I was driving to a meeting today when I came to an odd realization. Often times we (or at least *I*) think about things in terms of "do I have time to do this, or do I have time to do that?" But it's really not about time--at least not for me. It's about attention. Or maybe focus?

I used to think that people who said "I don't have time to do that" were just trying to sound technical in saying they had no time. But the more I think about it, I think that at least some of them suffer from a lack of attention bandwidth, not time.

At least that's how I feel much of the time. It seems that the amount of stuff I can assimilate, accomplish, and otherwise occupy myself with in a productive way is limited by my ability to deal with it all, not hours in the day/week/month. For example, I often end up screwing around doing useless stuff when I have more pressing things to attend to.

And I've always had too many things that I wanted to get into. Lots of stuff interests me. It's been like this since college. But even if I had time, I just don't think I could do it all.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:02 PM

September 24, 2003

Tivo Upgrade/Hacker Recommendation Needed

I have an original Phillips HDR112 Tivo that I'd like to have the following done to:

  • Add a second hard disk: 120GB or so
  • Double the RAM
  • Add a network (Ethernet or WiFi) card
  • Install hacks so I can telnet/ssh in, use a web interface, etc

And I don't want to do to it myself. Actually, that's not true. I'd love to do it, but I don't have the time. Can anyone recommend a place I can ship it to get all this stuff done, or someone in The Bay Area who does this sorta stuff as a side gig?

I'd obviously prefer someone local and will even buy all the parts in advance for that person if I'm told what I need to buy.

I've found a few places on-line that do some of this, but so far none do it all. And I'd rather not spend forever looking either.

Leads, anyone?

Posted by jzawodn at 11:00 AM

September 22, 2003

The Power of a Weblog

One thing has become quite clear to me in the last week, but I hadn't been sufficiently motivated to write anything about it until now. It's a revelation I had recently. One that should have come about 14 months ago when Jon Udell first suggested I "get involved" in the weblog community. Jon's always had the ability to see these things before most of us, so I don't feel so bad.

Anyway, it had absolutely nothing to do with the technology. It was this simple realization:

Weblogs are powerful.

Yup, that's it.

The Bad

By "powerful" I don't necessarily mean "good." There are times when weblogs have negative consequences in addition to the positive ones we normally associate with blogging. Take for example, the fact that Chi-Chu Tschang was fired from Bloomberg for his blog (thanks to Dan Gillmor, another journalist blogger, for the pointer).

And even though I've not discussed it before and will not go into any detail, suffice it to say that people at work have noticed my blog on more than one occasion. While there weren't happy about it, they had the integrity to bring it up with me.

It's no coincidence that roughly 6 months ago, In a post titled "Would you change your blogging habits if..." I wrote:

Would you blog differently? Shy away from criticizing your employer? Purposely avoid work-related topics?

The most interesting responses that post generated were those that arrived via private e-mail, never to be posted in a public forum. There were some compelling, surprising, and even scary stories.

What's that old saying?

With power comes responsibility.

Yup, that's it.

The Good

Despite the occasional work vs. blog conflicts that may arise, weblogs are generally quite positive. The good outweighs the bad 95% of the time. They open up so many doors.

I can no longer keep track of the number of great people I've "met" as the result of having a weblog. I can no longer count the number of times someone I've met at work, a conference, or even the gliderport who said "Hey, I read your blog!" I have no idea how many times a post on someone's blog has taught me something important or saved me countless hours of time.

Over the last year, I've seen many of my friends and co-workers start weblogs of their own. A surprisingly high percentage of them have stuck with it and appear to also be reaping benefits.

It's really quite amazing, now that I think about it. And looking ahead to the next 12-18 months, I only see it getting better and better. Services like TypePad are coming on-line to bring a whole new class of users (the non-geeks) into the fold. It's just going to get easier and easier to mine the riches of the social networks we're building.

Of course, the fact that you're even reading this probably means I'm preaching to the choir.

Life's funny that way.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:28 PM

September 21, 2003

The Million Dollar Keyboard

Wow, this is truly amazing. According to the comments on this keyboard, it not only has a key that will summon Jesus himself, but it also cures cancer!

Apparently, there's good news for those of us without the extra million dollars laying around. They're available used starting from $14.78.

Note: The page may be fixed by the time you look. Amazon is aware of the "problem." Just in case, here's a full screenshot and here's one with the first few comments.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:01 PM

Today's Random Blog Quotes

Philip Greenspun says:

A project done in Java will cost 5 times as much, take twice as long, and be harder to maintain than a project done in a scripting language such as PHP or Perl.

Jon Udell (in Infoworld) says:

In software development as in science, breakthroughs often occur when insights flow across disciplinary boundaries. The conductors of these flows are typically generalists who belong to several (or many) communities and who form bridges among them.

There were a few others, but I've managed to lose them. Doh!

Posted by jzawodn at 10:22 AM