The personal site of Grahame Murray

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OSCON: Day 3 [Computing,Java,Journal]
Today is the last day, and the keynotes were quite a bit more interesting than previous ones. First off was the CEO of Linden Labs, the creators of the amazing alternative world/economy/lives Second Life. It was cool to see the new tech coming to SL but I thought his points were rather vague and basically obvious. The founder of Wikimedia was next, talking mostly about how important it is that Wikia, an open source search technology, is to the world and how important it is that search and its data is “open.” Simon Wardley was originally slated to give a speech about the open sourcing of Zimki, but as the owning company decided against OS, he gave a very witty and duck-oriented speech on why commoditization of infrastructure and IT is so important. I thought this was brilliant and not often said enough: every company spends way too many resources on solving the exact same issues (what he referred to as yak shaving), from networking and server processing power to email and file sharing. We should be pooling our resources into what is basically a grid. Nat Torkington, the conference chair, gave a cute set of keynotes on the psychologies of various open source conferences. And then James Larsson demonstrated some very novel and dangerous uses for older hardware, from an electrocuting monitor-based mousetrap to a leather fetishist’s version of Pong. read more »
OSCON: Day 2 [Computing,Java,Journal]
The keynotes today weren’t quite as crunchy. A open source guy from Microsoft did give me hope that MS has some people with a clue there. Steve Yegge from Google gave an interesting talk about the importance of branding, especially how it relates to open source projects and software. There was also a crazy Swedish guy who create the Pirate Party: a political party who’s main mission is massive copyright reform, in the sense of basically removing copyright. Another interesting talk was by an academic who was pointing out how biased we can be in our interactions with others. This was especially poignant with the open source crowd, which often tends to be opinionated, vocal, and active yet often assume that their neigh sayers are idiots, corporate stooges, or just plain evil. read more »
OSCON: Day 1 [Computing,Journal]
Well I’m out here in Portland for the first day of OSCon. {Kimsal} and I arrived yesterday, arriving so early that we couldn’t check in for about an hour. Due to a goof up, we had to stay at an airport hotel the first night. Once we got situated we headed over to the convention center to pick up our registration materials and explored the facilities and surrounding areas. We also went to a Zend/MySQL party at the DoubleTree and ran into the president of Zend (who is good friends with our COO) and Cal Evans. Plus I ran into {Andrew} and his co-worker Dan who I had met at the last TriJUG. The keynotes were pretty good. Tim got up on stage and gave his usual prognostications. Some guys from Intel put on a little show to announce the open sourcing of their new Threading Building Blocks abstraction layer. It actually sounds quite neat, but as it’s for C++ it might a while before we see the concepts they’re introducing in things like the JDK. An interesting Microsoft researcher gave a presentation on new conceptual ways to deal with parallelism (beyond the 30-year old concept of locks and condition variables) which I thought was very cool. His implementation is only implemented in Haskell, but again I could see the concepts eventually in the JDK. synchronized and waitFor are lame. read more »
A Better Place to Work [Computing,Random]
So I just saw a testimonial video for this thing called WorkSpace and I’m impressed. The idea is to create a monthly-membership place for individuals to do their work. One of the banes of working from home, especially as an independent, is the lack of community. There is something nice about being surrounded by peers, or even just other smart professionals. The traditional solution is to sign a fairly lengthy and expensive lease and all the normal operating costs are yours to absorb. At WorkSpace they provide a cafe, internet, VOIP phones, meeting rooms, projectors, privacy booths, etc and it’s all available with just month-to-month commitments. It just makes so much sense to me. Were I currently an independent contractor (and living in Vancouver), I would be all over this place. I bet we’ll start to see spaces like these in other cities, if they don’t already exist. Especially in the large and tech/trendy urban areas like SF, NY, & LA. I can really see this becoming much more of the norm for all but the largest of companies (who might have enough people in an area to warrant paying for a dedicated space). But for everyone else, go to the nearest location of whatever national “work club” you’re company’s a member of. Improvements in multi-node teleconferencing could really make this feasible and nearly transparent.
Armadillo Run [Computing,Games]
I just bought Armadillo Run last night and am really enjoying it. It is a physics simulation game and, while that might not sound like much fun, it really ends up being a very cool puzzle game. Your aim is to guide a ball-shaped “armadillo” through a pathway you build from various materials such as metal tubing, rope, cloth, elastic bands, etc. Once you’ve completed building your structures you turn on the simulation to see the physics go into action. Seriously, it’s better than I’m making it sound. There is a free demo that has tutorials and introductory levels included. For the time being it’s Windows only. Armadillo Run Screenshot