A Neal Stephenson fan’s dream

I was replaying one of my favorite Flash animations the other day and came across a weblog entry by the animation’s creator. A Neal Stephenson fan, the ubergeek ended up being invited to a party for Stephenson’s Quicksilver release tour. It’s a pretty cool read, if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if you ended up somewhere in a small setting with a celebrity whose work you greatly admire. I haven’t read any Stephenson, but the more I hear about his stuff the more I think I would like it. I am very fond of William Gibson‘s work, as some may know.

Oh yeah, ubergeek’s Mac switch parody is about as good as the Linux switch animation I mentioned earlier. IntelliToast is good, too, if you’re a computer geek.

Man, I have to stop letting drafts in this blog pile up on me. Perfectionism is not always your friend. In fact, I often find it to be my delusion-inducing side kick. The idea that any of these latest posts are complete, much less perfect, is insane. Maybe it’s just medium-grade procrastination and not that high-brow perfectionist stuff.

Vegetarianism and Desktop Linux

After another foray into desktop Linux, I am back to OS X. I have burned 18 hours this week just getting my email to work at a mediocre level without junk mail filtering and failing to get Bluetooth GPRS working on a Linux 2.6.7 kernel that seems to be all set to go for Bluetooth. I was searching for some resource links for a guy when I came upon an entry in Jeremy Zawodny’s weblog entry titled “I’m sick of doing things the hard way”.

Yeah, me too. I am sick of it after only a couple of weeks.

You know, alpha geek tendencies toward doing hard things even when they are unpractical reminds of some of my vegetarian friends. When I first moved into the city, I found that lots of the new people I met were vegetarians. At first I thought this must be something with a really great health benefit. So I asked them, but most of them said that they have to eat things to supplement the protein they do not get by eating meat. Some also informed me that their diet starves their bodies of other key things that it needs like amino acids, etc. So, they have all these quite convoluted ways to supplement the very thing they are abstaining from, with no direct benefit.

Desktop Linux is alot like that, especially when you are running on a hardware platform other than x86. If you don’t believe me, browse on over to the Debian PowerPC port mailing list archives. Mac OS X does everything I need in open source development, and most of what I need for Java development except WebSphere. And, like Zawodny says, it “just works”. Do not underestimate the value of an operating system that is powerful, highly open source friendly, and does what it is supposed to do.

WebSphere Studio Application Developer, initial impressions

So, I have been in an official IBM training course for WSAD this week. Course WF311 – Servlet & JSP Development using WebSphere Studio Application Developer V5.x For those who don’t know, WSAD is the less-than-savvy acronym for IBM’s WebSphere Studio Application Developer. That’s the integrated development environment (IDE, translated tool) for software development that’s offered by IBM.

My experience so far has been close to what I expected. It has lots of bells and whistles, with the ability to do all kinds of things in a single wizard if you are willing to careen into vendor lock-in at the speed of light.

I experienced an especially disturbing thing with WSAD today.
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“It’s neat that you get to travel”

If you travel for work, and you have friends, family, or associates that do not travel for work, then I know you have heard that phrase before. If not, then you have heard a derivative of the same idea. It’s almost always posited by someone who has never traveled for work, or at least has not done it recently enough to remember what it is like. This entry is for you, my bretheren.

In the interest of enlightening my non-traveling friends and relatives, I thought I would compose this little photo essay of sorts. I have been threatening to do it for some time, and something today convinced me to go ahead and pack the camera in my laptop bag. I can now say that the timing could not have been better, because this trip has thoroughly sucked.
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Linux 2.6.7 kernel, sweet

Well, I finally admitted my trouble with Bluetooth on my PowerBook to the Debian PowerPC list. Per the usual, I had sound advice within the hour. However, it sounded to good to be true: take a stock download of the Linux kernel from kernel.org, compile it, and away you go. Could it be?

I was able to start the effort late last night, attempting to match the current config for my 2.6.5-rc3-ben0 kernel. Comparing a new 2.6.7 config to my current configuration file took hours, since several compiles were necessary for testing certain things. I awoke to the sound of my own snoring while sitting with my head slung over the back of a wooden chair at the kitchen table at 4:15 a.m. well after my last compile had completed. Upon booting up, bingo, Bluetooth worked just fine. I ended up with only 3 hours sleep, but it was worth it. It felt so rewarding to have a working kernel of the current version released by Linus just this week.

If I am able to get my GPRS connectivity and email set up properly on my Debian instance, I will be very close to declaring my official move as complete. I am at about the same point now with Debian GNU/Linux as I was with Mac OS 9 in April 2001; functional, but with a ways to go. That comparison actually gives me hope and a relative sense of progress.

This bit of Flash animation makes me laugh

Moving past the scars in Linux migration

There have been several points where I tried to move to Linux as my primary operating system. Once was in the Spring of 2001 when I bought my first PowerBook and Mac OS X was not out yet. Those were some of the early days for PowerPC Linux; nightmares with the XFree86 installation finally led me to give up. During a season of great frustration with my Mac hardware and agreeing to try and get on the .Net bandwagon and be happy about it, I had purchased a PC laptop in January 2002. By Spring I had begun to try dual-booting and running RedHat Linux. Things started well; I had actually moved to Ximian evolution as my primary email client, etc. One day my Red Carpet package manager really messed up some library dependencies and I spent several days trying to back out of the problem. It got to where Mozilla and Evolution would either crash or not come up at all, then my menus started getting all wacko. I bailed.

By that time, OS X had made great strides. MySQL and PHP could be compiled from source without any special gymnastics, and each revision of OS X became more Unix-savvy, right down to the choice of default shell (bash instead of tcsh; it felt good to finally have a shell that agreed with most code samples found on the Internet) with the advent of Panther. And that was great for a while, but the call of Linux still tugged at me.

And now here I am, once again at the point where I have turned back in the past. Overall my Debian experience has been vastly superior to the distributions I used in the past. However, some library dependency has got my current Mozilla and Evolution installs freaked out. I am also unable to get my Bluetooth adapter working with my current kernel. I have also been having so XFree86 wierdness that is tenuous but livable. These types of issues have always been the point where there was enough pain to make me turn back. Yet, I always return to try again.

What will this time bring? Will I persevere and pass these obstacles, or will I once again flee for the safe cover of a proprietary operating system? Time will tell.

For the record, I don’t really like that phrase. It’s unnecessary. Doesn’t time always tell? It’s not like there is an alternative.

Moving to Debian Linux

I have been toying with the idea of switching to Linux as my primary operating system for some time now. Mac OS X has many of the features of a Unix-like system that I want, but there are still a number of things where it greatly differs from Unix, FreeBSD, or Linux.

In the past few weeks I have found myself booting into Linux on my PowerBook more and more lately. While I prefer FreeBSD from a principal standpoint, I have to admit that its PowerPC port is nowhere near close enough. It’s also impossible to ignore the momentum behind Linux. My distribution of choice is Debian, primarily because its PowerPC port and several open source leaders I look up to also use it.

I know that some folks reading this are thinking something like “why bother with all of that; why not just use Mac OS X or even Windows?” Well, I suppose I can say it’s like asking a skydiver “why jump out of a perfectly good plane?”, or asking a rock climber “why not walk up around the side of the rock face?” There are some things people do because they have a passion for them, and expediency or simplicity play a less-important role in their evaluation. There is a reward that comes from the struggle that cannot always be easily explained. The gain is power and flexibility that Linux and/or an open source system offers to me is worth far more to me than it would be for a number of people.

Contemplating Kung-Fu

Man. looking back over the last few entries I haven’t said much in the way of technical stuff. Probably because I am fried on technology by the time I have a moment for this. The New York trip was a success, bringing with it plenty of action items. One highlight was finding out that the platform for the project is definitely J2EE, deploying to IBM WebSphere Application Server 5. Looks like setting that up in PowerPC Linux is going to pay off after all.

I have been missing my kung-fu training. I think I am going to resume classes.

Back in Manhattan for work

Hello from the lovely Affinia Dumont Hotel, where I have just returned from a very overpriced dinner. When one person’s hamburger and a beer (not draft – this restaurant that fronts as a local pub/bar only has bottles) goes over $20, you know things are messed up, even here. Manhattan is one place where I can almost always find good food without going broke.

I am here for the week, and it will probably wipe me out. I am the technical lead on this new project. As such, I am also pioneering the idea of using some of the Agile methodologies in projects of this nature. Trailblazing can really take it out of me. So, if things get sparse here, you will have an idea as to why.