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

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20050127 Thursday January 27, 2005

Speed Isn't Everything and It's Crap Without Automated Testing The software project management triangle has these three things at the corner:
  1. scope
  2. speed
  3. cost

The third item refers to allocating more resources (typically, people) to projects. The idea is that if you're resource starved (short handed) you need to reduce scope and/or the schedule (sacrifice speed) to compensate. If you increase scope, either the schedule slips or costs increase (or both). Of course, throwing more resources at the problem is often counter-productive.

There's another triangle associated with software development:

  1. rigor
  2. automated testing
  3. quality
Most software projects involving technology innovation can ill-afford to lean to close to the rigor corner; problems that haven't been identifiably solved before are intrinsically riskier. Rigorous development practices such as old-school waterfall processes are usually a bad fit where the emphasis has to be on speed of execution and technical creativity. Culturally, automated testing can't just be a function for quality assurance staff; unit testing, integration testing and functional testing have to built into the DNA of a software project's build system or else the engineering costs for writing and running tests grows too high to sustain. So the third option is winging it in an ad-hoc fashion and live with the associated reduction in quality. Obviously for things like flight control and medical monitoring where lives are at stake, you want rigor and automated testing otherwise bad things happen. Space crafts blowing up and/or becoming astro-debris, missile guidance systems failing or heart transplant patients dying due to software defects are tragic. But most software projects don't have those kinds of consequences attached. Thus the incentive is high for making test driven development part of the software engineering culture wherever speed of execution and breadth of innovation are among the primary motivations.

So if low quality is crap, perhaps there's a mathematic expression here

...and perhaps it's even transitive: high quality + automated testing = speed.

Speaking of which, it must be time for more coffee.

( Jan 27 2005, 10:11:18 AM PST ) Permalink

20050123 Sunday January 23, 2005

Technorati + Firefox Search tools in browsers are usually pre-populated with all of the usual suspects: Google, Yahoo, Amazon and so on. That's all well and good but what about when you want to know about what's being said on the real-time web?

There's now a Firefox plugin that adds a "Technorati Engine" to the pulldown list. Sweet!

( Jan 23 2005, 09:45:08 AM PST ) Permalink

20050122 Saturday January 22, 2005

Start Up Pains I've posted here about Technorati's misadventures in recent months: power outages, disk upgrades, data center moves and so on. In the life of a startup, these kinds of foibles seem to be just a part of growing up.

So I've empathized and enjoyed recent readings of other's mishaps. Not in celebration perhaps in feeling the bonds of shared trauma.

FlickrBlog's Growing Pains
  • unbalanced load/capacity distributions
  • bottlenecked queues
  • non-specific system instabilities
Word to your mutha, I know that.
LiveJournal's Power-loss post-mortem
  • hardware configuration/system problems that exhibited themselves as hosts that didn't came back up correctly
  • MySQL databases getting hosed
  • Databases tuned for speed over safety
Been there, done that.
So is it the destiny of all web service start-ups to have fabulous disasters? Probably. A lot of times, these kinds of things are predicated on having Innovative architectures, on doing some things that aren't widely known to have been done that particular way. Can you really guard against finding yourself with arrows in your back when you're out on the frontier? I don't think so. Count on the topsy turvy. It's not always fun when you're in the thick of it but if you adapt, you'll be better for it.

Of course, you could just laugh about it. Or post to your blog about it. Or both. So far, from what I've stumbled across, this is the funniest of the bunch.

10:11 pm: So far so good. Things are checking out, but we're wearing tinfoil hats. A few annoying LJ users, but nothing that's not fixable. We're going to be buying a bunch of weed on Monday so that, if this happens again, we'll just be too baked to care.
This weekend's disastrophe for me is relatively mild: sore throat and congestion. So I'm drinking tea. And laughing about it. And posting to my blog.

( Jan 22 2005, 08:42:19 PM PST ) Permalink

20050115 Saturday January 15, 2005

Booting linux in single user mode Today, we had to bring up a Debian host in single-user mode and it didn't want to cooperate. Note to self:
Next time LILO doesn't want to stop for a boot prompt, hold down the shift key to force to stop for a prompt.

I don't know if that's a Debian default or something, but it's really annoying that something special is required to get a boot prompt.

( Jan 15 2005, 11:03:22 PM PST ) Permalink

20050112 Wednesday January 12, 2005

Jack of All Trades I thought I was pretty broadly skilled with my work spanning software engineering, network and systems operations, some DBA-duties and variety of other do-it-cause-it-needs-to-be-done endeavors.

Well here's a something funny: Chef and Missile Treaty Compliance Inspector. Yea, this is an actual job that is posted right now:

Job Description: Responsible (sharing duties with one other chef) for the preparation of three daily meals (brunch & dinner only on Sundays) for approximately 20-25 personnel at remote, self-contained site in Russia. Duties include menu planning, food ordering & resupply, inventory management, kitchen maintenance and sanitation and catering support to infrequent special functions on and offsite. As treaty monitor, may occasionally operate the On-Site Continuous Monitoring System in accordance with official START treaty missile inspections at Votkinsk.
Where can you sign up? HotJobs (what do you mean by "hot"?). I took the liberty of mirroring the job ad, since I'm not really familiar with the lifecycle of job ads posted there. I thought it was good enough to keep!

If that's not your cup-of-tea, Technorati has some great jobs open right now. Most of them don't even require you to

walk, cross-country ski, or walk with snowshoes, a distance of 2.5 - 3 miles without rest in all seasons, including winter temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit
shoveling sidewalks and building entrances and digging out snow around satellite dish area and other equipment
Not that there's anything wrong with that.

( Jan 12 2005, 12:58:23 AM PST ) Permalink

20050110 Monday January 10, 2005

Eclipse and iTunes Something's really goofy with my Powerbook!

If I'm listening to iTunes and then starting working in Eclipse, I get static popping and scratching in my ears. It hurts! It sucks! It just isn't right! Is this Apple's way of telling me they don't want me to develop code with Eclipse?

I'm marching over to MacWorld to protest!

( Jan 10 2005, 02:29:46 PM PST ) Permalink

20050108 Saturday January 08, 2005

Developer Contests Over the last few weeks I've been paying more attention to the API's that blog and taggregator services offer. I've also starting looking more into the API's that blog tools offer.

The Technorati Developer's Contest results are in. I was especially impressed with the visualization effort by Michael Dale'sTechnorati Touchgraph application. While it is a little rough around the edges in places (some of the implementation's PITA'ness is just AWT and crapplets being what they are), these kinds of graphical renderings of the Technorati cosmography are really great. Wondering now if anybody has tried something like this with Macromedia Flash, hmm....

If anybody is entering the Blojsom Developer Contest and wants help with the Technorati API, there's a Java client in the SDK and I'd be happy to lend assistance with it.

( Jan 08 2005, 12:04:12 PM PST ) Permalink

Managing Multi-Timezone Conference Calls I'm ringmastering a project that requires coordination with parties near and far. Most of the coordination for these kinds of things functions well with email, IM, wiki and CVS. But sometimes a plain-old conference call is in order.

Getting all of the parties lined with

It turns out that FreeConference.com offers tools for all of this for, well as the name implies, free. They make money up-selling premium services but I've got my first conference call with parties in three timezones setup through them and haven't paid a dime for it (which BTW, is their cost-per-minute-per-connection to have the dial-in number be an 800 number); I'll find out how it goes next week!

( Jan 08 2005, 10:26:54 AM PST ) Permalink

20050103 Monday January 03, 2005

PHP and mod_perl w/mysql breakage on Mac OS X I'm working with code in PHP, Perl and Java that all have to access MySQL. I haven't had any problem using PHP configured "--with-mysql" and mod_perl with DBD::mysql on Linux but on Mac OS X, it just doesn't work.

My setup is: Mac OS X (Panther) with Perl 5.8.1, MySQL (v4.0.17) installed with Fink. Apache (v1.3.31) was compiled with both mod_perl and PHP. When I deployed a mod_perl module that connected to MySQL, the connections always failed with this error:

DBI connect('bjorkdb;port=3306','hamster',...) failed: Protocol mismatch. Server Version = 0 Client Version = 10 at ...
which was really confounding because the connections in other runtime contexts were fine. I double checked to make sure I didn't have multiple libmysqlclient's around or additional Perl installations. All of that checked out.

I recompiled Apache without PHP and everything works great. So my conclusion is that something funky happens on Mac OS X when linking libmysqlclient. Looks like I'll have to keep another set of Apache binaries around should the need to run PHP locally recur, otherwise I'll just stick to the compile that has mod_perl but not PHP.

( Jan 03 2005, 12:01:11 AM PST ) Permalink

20050102 Sunday January 02, 2005

In Every Season: Turn, Turn, Turn I still feel a small sense of propriety for things I've worked on in the past. Even way in the past. Even when not an inkling of anything I'd worked on back then is likely to have survived any of the incarnations since then. On the other hand, I'm probably doing better than my friends whose efforts over the years completely dot-bombed-in-flames. I guess this is the time of year when I mark the time by life's events (including gigs) and reflect.

Hearing talk of Gamespot's decline (for me, Gamespot.com was a gig that started nine years ago and ended three later), like "Gamespot going down hill" is kinduva bummer. I was concerned when I read of Scott Rosenberg's book break but a lot of the fine folks I have fond memories of at Salon (four years ago) are still there and doing a great job! And like myself, a lot of folks that I worked with over the years have moved on to work on and accomplish great and interesting things, so it's all good.

OK, reflection time is over now.

Thankfully, I really dig what I'm doing now! Happy 2005 to all of my friends and colleagues past and present!

( Jan 02 2005, 11:02:38 AM PST ) Permalink

20050101 Saturday January 01, 2005

The Top Tsunami Sites I did a little digging around and found some of the top sites for relief information, reactions, pictures and videos of Sunday's Tsunami.

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
On going coverage of relief news, publications and other linkable resources
Tsunami Relief
Google's thumnail list of relief organizations
QuickBird Images of Tsunami Sites
Stunning satellite photos with before and after shots of Sri Lanka and Indonesia
Cheese and Crackers: Tsunami Video
Tons of links to amateur video's from the region that capture the power and immensity of the tsunami
I can't read Japanese but people that do are reading this a lot
Raw Print | Westboro Baptist Tsunami Statement
Those Kansas right-wing nutjobs (ya know, the "god hates fags" zealots) are at it again with their Sodom and Gomorrah crap. "Thank God for Tsunami. Thank God for 3,000 dead Americans!" Wow, you'd think the pastor at Westboro Baptist Church is really Osama Bin Laden. More and more, I think that seceding from the union sounds like a good idea.
Support UNICEF's Tsunami Relief Efforts
Ya know, it's for the kids. $50, $100, $250, $500 or any amount you can give will make a difference.
Network for Good :: Help Support Disaster Relief in Southeast Asia
A good collection of emergency response and on-going relief organizations. Certainly there must be one for you.
CNN.com - Aid groups accepting donations for victims
Who says that big media has no soul? They care too!
MoveOn.org: Tsunami Relief
The Bush administration stepped forward first with $15M, then $35M and today brought it up to $350M. MoveOn's petition says
President Bush and Congress must offer whatever assistance is necessary to prevent further human suffering in the wake of the tsunami disaster.
I arrived at this list with some simple pokes at the data coming through at Technorati, I might try to spiff this up a little bit and turn it into a feature.

( Jan 01 2005, 03:51:00 AM PST ) Permalink