Computers, Events, Family, Personal, Thoughts

Further Observations on these Northerners

Each day that goes by is getting a little bit easier – thats a good sign that I am going to live to see 2011 after all!

The highlights first. I turned 26 this year! I’ve left the Spring of my life and moved into it’s Summer. For my birthday we went to Moe’s Southwestern Grill in Hanover. After gorging ourselves on queso, we went to see Get Him to the Greek in theaters. The movie was a riot and had me laughing so hard I was crying. Afterwards, we finished the evening off at the Cheesecake Factory at the South Shore Plaza mall (location of Mall Cop). After writing it off because of the name Kristin is now pumped to go back. Good news for me since I love this place (how can you not?)

I got a new netbook computer for my birthday present. The computer is an ASUS eee, model 1005HAB. I love it for what it does. I can sit outside on our nice patio set and listen to nature while surfing the Internet. I miss my old laptop, but I don’t miss its bulk, its pitiful battery or its weight. Ubuntu Linux has also made it wickedly easy to just install and go. We picked it up in Boston’s North Shore after a Craigslist tip, and what a cool area! We will be scheduling a trip back minus the car. This place is the “gold coast” of Boston, and it is so packed with shops it reminded me of Paris, France.

I also picked up God of War: III, which I can’t play yet, because I haven’t beaten God of War: II. I’ll get to them soon I hope. I heard its fantastic, and I will probably bring it in to work for all the 360 folks to check out (then cry over).

Our heatwave has finally broken, with pleasant afternoon temperatures hanging around 70 the last few days. You don’t really need air conditioning up here, save for a few days like we have had lately. When I walk down the street to get my morning coffee from Dunkin Donuts (more on that in a second), I see one house in four with an AC unit. One of my coworkers just moved into a new apartment, and he said that he has lived in a place without AC his whole life. Amazing!

We have added to our lists of places to go for food. We are both pretty tired of pizza and sub shops, which seems to dot the restaurant landscape as abundantly as weeds. In addition to Vinny Ts, and JJ Mulligans (a local pub), the Cheesecake Factory, and Redbones (BBQ place in Somerville) have made the list. Dunkin Donuts has taken a stranglehold on the coffee and donut market here. They probably outnumber Starbucks 10 to 1. Makes since being that this is where they started. I prefer them anyways – and they are winning Kristin over with their frozen coffee.

The wife and I are still adjusting to our jobs. Its all part of the experience of moving I suppose. We miss our old employers. One of my coworkers brought in a CO2 “rig” for carbonating our drinks. I have had so much carbonated water lately that I think my bladder and kidneys are shutting down. I carbonated some lemonade yesterday, and I am looking for other things to try next. I wonder what sweet tea would taste like? Drinking a freshly carbonated drink means swallowing a lot of CO2, which can make you feel giddy for a second or two. I think that is part of the appeal.

I am getting adjusted to my train ride into work. It has certainty solidified my nerves, since I now have to deal with “strange” people steadily. Instead of fearing the worst, I now just accept they are there, and try to ignore them. Its an improvement for me. I am so comfortable that some days I have drifted off to sleep on the train when I am not engaged in a good book. Doing this has made me end up heading to Ashmont because I missed the transfer at JFK U. Mass. I have gotten a lot of time to read lately. I just finished Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, Zig Ziggler’s See You at the Top (thanks Joyce!), and I am working on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban now.

Kristin and I are continuing our gardening experiment. Our peas are pushing four feet tall, and our tomatoes and cucumber have started to aggressively grow, but they are still tiny – just a few inches tall. The herbs have been a failure, and the green onion has been met with limited success so far. Its something fun to do though. It is satisfying to see something so tall that you started from a tiny seed. Probably the simple version of having a kid I suppose. We have been exploring local parks with the canines which we all enjoy. It really is beautiful up here, and the weather invites you to come outside rather than hitting you with an invisible wave of heat when you open the door.

And now the best news for last, you loyal readers. I will be flying back to Atlanta the morning of July 2nd to see all of you wonderful people. I can’t wait to see my family, my ex-co-workers, friends, babies, and critters! It has really picked my mood since I booked the flight. Hopefully there are some folks staying in town for the holiday weekend. If you are, lets catch up! Give me a ring, or shoot an email to me! See you all soon!

Computers, Open-source, Software, Thoughts

The Times They are a Changing

Open Source LogoI have become increasingly aware of a very sharp contrast in the computing industry. For the first time in a long time, I have felt like open source is losing the battle.

In reading the Mythical Man Month I have come across a section that I Fredrick Brooks nailed when describing a programmer’s drive. To paraphrase:

“Why is programming fun? What delights may its practitioner expect as his reward?… First is the sheer joy in making things… Second is the pleasure of making things that are useful to other people… Third is the fasination of fashioning complex puzzle-like objects… and watching them work”

Anyone who has ever enjoyed programming can probably relate to one of these categories. Programming is as much an art as any of the traditional arts.  When business is removed from the equation, it is expressive, and an element of beauty and facination.

However, with business intervention, the art is smothered for profits. Business don’t care about the beauty or form of a well structured solution – it cares about the bottom line. Instead of being an art of expression, programming becomes a tool for profit.  Fredrick Brooks captures the woes of programming just as well. To paraphrase:

“First, one must perform perfectly… Next, other people set ones objectives… The next woe is that designing grand concepts is fun; finding nitty little bugs is just work.”

I imagine that in the early days (before the “Gold Rush”), programming used to be a labor of passion. Geeks were proud of their knowledge, and crafted solutions with the intent to give it away – their gift to the world.

Lately, I feel like that is a dying resource. Anyone who is worth a damn has probably signed on with a company, to produce code for a project that will result in revenue for the business. As these individuals are swallowed by corporations, open source initiatives slow development, and come to a stand still.

At some point, we traded passion for money, and ditched our sharing ways in favor of enterprise solutions. These solutions are a product of our free markets, but they excel in the market at the expense of open source counterparts. Everytime I see an enterprise solution roll out and eclipse what used to be an open solution, I feel like we are closer to the brink of seeing open source fail.

I am shaking my head as I write this post because I don’t understand any alternatives. Companies have money, and can push much harder than a team of non-profit programmers. I suppose the outcome of open source and enterprise should be determined by the free market, but it just feels wrong to watch it happen.

Computers, Games, Linux, Personal, Software

Closure

Cryptonomicon:

Just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. The book follows the story of a group of friends that went to Princeton together in the late 30’s, and later split up as the world became at war. The United States invested in technology, and turned Bletchley Field into a cryptographic powerhouse, resulting in the invention of the world’s first digital computer. This computer aided in the cracking of Enigma, Azure/Pufferfish, and Arethusa codes from World War II.

The book also parallels this main story with the more current events of a team developing a new cryptographic system in Manila. The stumble upon some of the same problems that existed in World War II, and end up uncovering a huge secret hidden by Japan towards the end of the war.

Unfortunately, the World War II story is infinitely more exciting than the present day story. The only interest in the modern day story was the author’s detailed and accurate descriptions of Randy’s UNIX and Finnux machine commands. All of the classic utilities get a shoutout, including, “grep”, “cat”, “ssh”, “telnet”, etc. The author interpolated these chapters resulting in mixed the emotions of adrenaline and boredom.

I finally finished though, and I do recommend the book to anyone intersted in computing, cryptography, or WWII.

Grand Theft Auto IV:

In other news, I think that my love for Grand Theft Auto IV is coming to an end. Its not that I beat the game, as much as I am done with the game. I got my fill in other words – the plot isn’t compelling at all (I am not sure if there is a plot), and failing missions is too punitive. I don’t want to have to drive for twenty minutes to get back to the spot to replay the mission…

I am also postponing my GameFly account at the end of the month, so that I can get a chance to play Resistance 2, and Dead Space without feeling like I am burning money buy not playing my rented game.

Movies:

And finally, we have decided to setup a secondary queue in Netflix so that my movie selections don’t wait two years for their turn to be shipped. Within a few months, hopefully I will be caught up with the most significant releases of late, and I will be able to actively participate in conversations about movies!