What's That Noise?! [Ian Kallen's Weblog]

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20040729 Thursday July 29, 2004

Obama Llama, Co Comma Comma, Fee Fi Fo Fama: Obama! The demands of provisioning infrastructure and developing software has been a necessary distraction from the Democratic National Convention. I'd caught Bill Clinton's speech the other night; obviously one of the most thoughtful and dynamic, uh, orators of our times. But everyone's buzzing about Obama-this and Obama-that. Who?

Yep, it's been a pretty busy week for me, but I've tried to at least tap into the sizzle of political posturing that's been going down in Beantown a bit. I took a look at the text of Obama's speech and was impressed with its love of the country, the importance of having high standards for initiating combat, the plight of so many Americans who are suffering under Bushonomics.... good stuff but what's the BFD? . Perhaps it's a you-had-to-be-there kinda thing. I'll have to look around for a video or audio archive of the speech. ( Jul 29 2004, 09:49:53 PM PDT ) Permalink

Tracking the rattle and hum of politics Blog junkies have no doubt taken notice of the Democratic National Convention coverage by bloggers, credentialed or not.

The last few weeks have been a wild and crazy time as I and the rest of the Technorati team erected politics.technorati.com. It's an effort I'm very proud as we've identified a selection of blogs that are liberal or conservative leaning as well as those that are at the convention and we're tracking their postings in a very-close-to-real-time fashion. While there is still much to be done to make the Technorati service as robust as we want it to be, I take a great deal of pride in the political blog gathering and in general our efforts to keep up with the growth rate of the blogosphere's expanding universe. ( Jul 29 2004, 09:50:13 AM PDT ) Permalink

20040720 Tuesday July 20, 2004

Johnson/Schmidt has nice ring to it It wasn't that long ago that the Arizona Diamondbacks were a force to be reckoned with. The pitching duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling was something to fear.

But then there were injuries and other team problems, Arizona shuffled up the team, trading Schilling away and gutting their position players to acquire Richie Sexson (who sustained a season-ending injury early in the year). They've been generously giving away the wins ever since. Now with Johnson ready to move on to pitch with a team that can win some games and Giants in sore need of some more zing on the mound, it's time for the Giant's ownership to pony up and bring Johnson to San Francisco. He won't be far from home; he was born in Walnut Creek and went to school in Livermore. Johnson has said he doesn't want to be far from his Arizona home; he's settled down there with his family. Well, it's about a 1.5 hour flight from SFO to Tucson, IIRC. So here's the rotation:

Perhaps with Hermanson as a reliever, Herges can get an occasional break and Rodriguez should be put out to pasture. Having Johnson in the line up and pitching into late innings, there'd be less milling through the bullpen, their performance would likely improve. Having a five time Cy Young winner aboard will likely give the whole team a lift.

It could happen. It should happen. Perhaps Barry Bonds will wear a world series ring after all. ( Jul 20 2004, 01:29:46 AM PDT ) Permalink
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20040713 Tuesday July 13, 2004

I've made the switch I've been using unix laptops as my main work environment for about 7 years. It started with a Dell Pentium 90 in 1997 that ran FreeBSD. In recent years, it's been Mandrake, SuSe and RedHat Linux. But for a number of years, I've admired from afar Mac OS X.

The last few months using a Dell laptop running Windows XP and the funkiness that comes along with it (unpredictable wireless compatibility, viruses, random crashes, having to run cygwin to get some basic shell and utility functionality) has been madness. Now I'm posting this from my new 15" Powerbook. As I've suspected, this is Apple getting an OS right and "Bravo," I say!

The lore as I recollect is this:
One of the designers of BSD, Kirk McKusick, taught (still teaches?) a course at Berkeley on BSD internals (they were in the Extended Education catalog for years, haven't looked lately). His Spring 1998 term class was filled with Apple engineers -- the word I'd heard is that a whole cadre of FreeBSD and NetBSD enthusiasts left that course to work on the networking, filesystem and other core capabilities of Mac OS X. Some years later, after all of the shenanigans with Walnut Creek CDROM and Wind River, Jordan Hubbard, alpha-geek of the FreeBSD project, was hired away by Apple.

So here I am, having come full circle, running a BSD laptop! Brilliant!

( Jul 13 2004, 10:34:26 AM PDT ) Permalink

20040710 Saturday July 10, 2004

Vote For Somebody Else You don't have to love John Kerry to be happy voting for him but you really have to hate yourself if you vote for George Bush.

Today I saw Fahrenheit 9/11. It didn't change my mind about anything, I've felt for a long time that George Bush is devious and he's devious about grave matters (not dalliances, as the prior president was). Michael Moore's film probably won't change the mind of anybody who's backing Bush -- if you still back him now you must be in serious denial of reality -- but it may sway someone who hasn't otherwise been paying attention to how weak the original case for war was. Even people like Mr. Voice of Reason have come around to fessing up to the errors of their ways as far as following along to beat of the war drums: if The President says that there is sufficient evidence of a threat, he should be given the benefit of the doubt? Well, you gotta give us something, Mr. President and you've come up with zilch. While I shed no tears for Saddam Hussein the bottom line is that there are lots of brutal little dictatorships around the world, is it our business to go around steamrolling them? Apparently, only if it compliments another agenda.

George Bush and his crew have had a long festering antagonism towards Hussein for lots of reasons:

So Michael Moore didn't get into all of these aspects but he layed out pretty clearly that the Bush adminstration has had a pathological fixation on Iraq that has distracted from neutralizing the Al Queda network. Finally, Bush is spending enormous amounts of money that the government doesn't have to support this. We're going to pay the price for this in the form of high interest rates and economic inflation for years to come. Yea, so much for being a fiscally conservative compassionate conservative. George Bush is a devious shill and should be rendered unemployed as soon as possible.

So if you're not mad, get mad. And vote for somebody else. ( Jul 10 2004, 10:24:36 PM PDT ) Permalink

20040709 Friday July 09, 2004

A CMM For Operations The Capability Maturity Model (CMM) provides a framework for evaluating the how well equipped a software development organization is deliver high quality software on-time and on-budget. There are five CMM levels, each with distinctive Key Process Areas (KPA). Is there an equivalent for website or service provider operations? I'd sure like to see it as formally explored as the CMM.

CMM level one is adhoc and chaotic, project success is pretty much built on a lot of good luck and heroics from competent individuals. Level five is a self-improving managed development lifecycle. In between there are a bunch of KPAs. Here's the spectrum:

Key Process Area
1 - Initial
Competent people and heroics
2 - Repeatable
Project management processes
Requirements Management
Software Project Planning
Software Project Tracking & Oversight
Software Subcontract Management
Software Quality Assurance
Software Configuration Management
3 - Defined
Engineering  processes and organizational support
Organization Process Focus
Organization Process Definition
Training Program
Integrated Software Management
Software Product Engineering
Intergroup Coordination
Peer Reviews
4 - Managed
Product and process quality
Quantitative Process Management
Software Quality Management
5 - Optimizing
Continual process improvement
Defect Prevention
Technology Change Management
Process Change Management

One interesting aspect to the CMM is that it's typically not possible leapfrog to new levels. You can't really jump from level one to level three, getting the level two stuff right first is part of getting to level three.

Web site and service provider operations seem to have a similar spectrum. I don't have the KPAs clarified yet and there are some fundamental differences between operations and development: where software development is a collaborative process of invention, operations is predominantly about production and maintenance. Let's give it a try, we'll call this an Operational Maturity Model:

  1. Ad hoc
    Relies on competent people and heroics for success but maintenance is reactive and interupt-driven. Production is manual and loosely planned. Capacity planning? Hah!
  2. Repeatable
    Maintenance is still reactive but production is scripted. Future capacity requirements are reactively assessed.
  3. Defined
    Maintenance is proactive, standard operating procedures (SOP) are codified and production is automated. Capacity planning is based on qualitative projections.
  4. Managed
    Maintenance and production is highly automated and metric driven. Trends are studied and capacity planning is based on quantitative projectons. Provisioning has been made for high availability and failover (HA/FO) requirements.
  5. Optimizing
    Systems are self healing and deployed redundantly with HA/FO provisioned. Production is automated, proactive and metric drivem. SOPs are metric driven so the time to resolution of system faults are measured and refined.
OK, so this might be a stretch. I don't have a big list of KPAs delineated for ops, I'm kinduva software guy. Further, it may be possible to leap frog to different OMM levels (unlike CMM). I don't know, until the KPAs are understood, it's tough to say. Big Managed Service Provider (MSP) endeavors like Loudcloud, SiteSmith and Logictier have come and gone (or at least re-invented into something else) and you'd think that there'd be more of an established science to these things by now. It's 2004.

Anyway, here are some things I've checked out or amused myself with here and there on the matter:

Why is this important to me? If ops is always descending into madness because things aren't functioning on a more mature level, guess who has to jump into the fray? Yea.

Looking for more on this...
( Jul 09 2004, 10:58:30 PM PDT ) Permalink

20040708 Thursday July 08, 2004

Roller: blog-ware implemented with Spring, Hibernate and all of that jazz I noted that Rafe has taken an interest in Spring, Hibernate, etc as the foundation for blog software. I've been using Roller for a while, it's got all of that jazz!

In his post, Rafe even mentions hosting it as a project on Sourceforge. Consider this a tap on the shoulder: if you want to give MT the heave-ho and aren't on a Wordpress trajectory, Roller's architecture ain't bad. ( Jul 08 2004, 06:27:52 PM PDT ) Permalink
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Attack Of The Old-school Uber-Guitar Gods The rumors are persisting and even some dates heard for the US tour by Ulrich Roth and Michael Schenker this fall.

If you're into old UFO and Scorpions, you'll recognize the importance of this event. Amongst guitar geeks, Ulrich Roth is a legend (and to everyone else he's just an old hippie) -- one such friend saw Roth perform in Dusseldorf a earlier this year where he played Scorpions songs from the pre-Lovedrive era ("Sails of Charon", "Hellcat", etc). I love that stuff! And seeing Michael Schenker will be a great blast form the past (like, it was over 20 years ago when I was a youngster and saw MSG in Oakland... 1980? 1981?) but seeing Roth pull those old tunes will just kick ass!

These are some of the tour dates heard of so far

( Jul 08 2004, 08:45:15 AM PDT ) Permalink

20040707 Wednesday July 07, 2004

The Scalability Holy Grail PHP versus J2EE versus mod_perl... I've used 'em all and each will give you plenty of opportunity to tie thirteen knots around your neck. But to say that any of them can't provide a foundation for a scalable web infrastructure is just insipid.

I might be concerned with how easy a particular scaling solution is to integrate with the application language and framework, but they all can be made to scale. I prefer to look at how much the prevailing practices with the technology make change easy. Just 'cause you can prototype it quickly doesn't necessarily mean you can collaborate well with it and evolve it easily. And I've certainly seen my share of funky reinventions of the materialized view, half baked cache management systems and database pounders wind their ways into prototypes that become hacked architecture. So all of the hubbub about troutgirl's Friendster goes PHP post (and Rasmus' feeble attempt to indict J2EE) strikes me as trite (and perhaps I'm not the only one puzzled by it). troutgirl's remark that, "We had not one but TWO guys here who had written bestselling JSP books. Not that this necessarily means they're great Java devs, but I actually think our guys were as good as any team." Begs the question: what does that have to do with it? Were the performance problems really in the presentation tier? Or was the presentation so closely coupled to the backend that they couldn't be distinguished? And I need to know what reading not to recommend, what were the names of those books? Gimme a break.

Poor web application performance is often simply attributable to at least one of a handful of Common Stupid Mistakes:

  1. Development shortcuts that are quick-n-dirty that also happen to introduce slow-n-dirty runtime characteristics (let's just call those "crappy hacks")
  2. Insufficient use of caching or pre-generation of components that are static or have a low change rate (let's just call those "gratuitous dynamicism")
  3. Inappropriate use of caching... does that logic need to be cached or is its invocation infrequent enough that maybe a plain old CGI is exactly how it should be implemented? (that'd be "gratuitous caching")
  4. Excessive round-tripping to the database (well, that's just "excessive round-tripping")
  5. Tight coupling of architectural pieces that have independent scaling and/or stability requirements... (score that: "tight coupling")
  6. Nailing up resources i.e. does each child thread/process require its own database connection? (another potential effect of "tight coupling")
Lay on top of these the absence of foresight on how the architecture will smoothly scale with four or ten or a hundred times the use and sure enough, someone will blame the language or a framework... they may be contributing factors but Common Stupid Mistakes are technology agnostic.

You can make those mistakes in any programming language and framework. The key for me is how easy is to avoid these traps given the practices that are widely used by adherents to a given application environment. How good are the tools? The test frameworks? Is clean object design and architectural layering widely appreciated by the development community around that technology?

There are lots of ways to make mod_perl and PHP or MySQL scale (Slashdot and Wikipedia will be happy to testify), there are lots of huge J2EE applications that have enjoyed terrific scaling, you might employ caching that is native to your technology (i.e. in Java, PHP or Perl) or agnostic caching. But regardless, if the architecture suffers from too many crappy hacks, gratuitous dynamicism, gratuitous caching, excessive round-tripping and tight coupling -- it's gonna suck. Period.

So concern yourself with how easy will it be to employ best practices, to evolve and extend the functionality over time and integrate with other applications. The scalability concerns can be handled with various means. ( Jul 07 2004, 11:04:57 PM PDT ) Permalink
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20040705 Monday July 05, 2004

The Google Labs HR Pitch Hiring the best and the brightest isn't easy. But is it really useful to use pattern recognition riddles that likely have little to do with the work that will be fulfilled?

Does this parking lot puzzle really attract the best candidates? In my experience, having a group of smart people is important but so is having a group of people who are good collaborators, can communicate well, are courageous with ideas, critical thinkers in evaluation of ideas while being non-judgemental of people. Collaborative creation requires a lot more than merely being a smarty pants. Maybe all of that squishy stuff is too much to put in an ad.

BTW, Technorati is hiring... we want smarty pants people who are good collaborators!

( Jul 05 2004, 11:26:09 AM PDT ) Permalink

Fourth of July From the Berkeley Hills The city and bay were covered in a thick blanket of fog. High above the vastness, we watched a unique show.

From high atop Grizzly Peak Blvd (Berkeley, CA) we watched the fog light up with different hues, sparks occasionally breaching the surface as though we were looking upon a wispy sea with incadescent mammals coming up for air.

( Jul 05 2004, 11:22:27 AM PDT ) Permalink

20040704 Sunday July 04, 2004

War, lies, burgers, baseball and the American Way I'll be observing this 4th of July doing a few very American activities: criticizing our government and bar-b-queing.

So let's get the serious stuff out of the way. Why does George Bush enjoy half the popularity he does? He's by far the worst president of modern times. In the build up to the Iraq war I was skeptical of the Weapons of Mass Destruction pretext and puzzled by the lack of Democratic Party outrage at how weak Colin Powell's "not Adlai Stevenson caliber" presentation to the UN was. As the US ultimately occupied Iraq and came up empty, the shallowness of the outrage in the US was further an outrage. Now as it has been widely corroborated that the Bush administration was determined to find pretext for war on Iraq from its inception, I would expect impeachment proceedings. I mean, damn, the American public would impeach the other guy for lying about a blow job but give this one a pass for sending several hundred American boys off to die on predicated on lies? Gimme a laugh about a cum stained dress anyday, thank you. George Bush has pulled a fast one on us, running up deficit spending and saluting the homecoming of body bags. He deserves criminal indictment, not re-election. He has not defended my freedom, he's sullied it with shameful lies. Soldiers and their families should be Mad As Hell and Not Take It Anymore. Impeach Bush.

So I'm spending the day with my loved ones. And since the burner and other components of my old bar-b-que were terribly corroded, I did my patriotic duty and went to Sears to get a new one.
This is pretty high quality device that assembled pretty easily. I think accompanying today's interleague play between the Giants and the A's with some burgers and hotdogs and hanging out with the family will be my way of flag waving.

See ya at the next Anti-War rally!

( Jul 04 2004, 10:45:25 AM PDT ) Permalink
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