Tuesday, April 29, 2008

rackspace ipo

Apparently the S-1 got filed yesterday, and it's an illuminating read:

  • you get a short history lesson on Henry Ford ;)

  • it costs $28,761/month to rent out the 6th floor

  • the remaining founders' names only appear once in the entire document

  • operational costs are trending around 1/3 of revenues (except in 2006 when they were about 1/4)

  • due to incentives from Windcrest, Bexar County, and the State of Texas, RS needs to create about 2,500 more jobs than it currently has (probably more, since it's committed to 4,500 employees at the Windcrest location by 2012), and median salary has to be at $56K

  • executives and officers control around 45% of the stock, about 24% (counted as part of the 45) belonging to Graham Weston

To the folks who are still there, congrats and I hope the IPO goes well. :)

hardware upgrade

For the first time since 2005, I've finally got a new system. Actually, due to hardware prices being low, I got 2 (and for less than what I paid for my old workstation. I snagged a couple of Intel Core2 Quad Q6600's from Ascend Tech with 4GB of mem, Nvidia 8400GS vid cards, Audigy sound cards, DVD-ROMs, and 160GB SATA drives. I opted to go with prebuilt systems because it was actually cheaper than getting all the parts seperately.

This was the first time I'd purchased anything from AscendTech. It took a little while to get the systems (about 9 days.. UPS ground delivery, 2 days for build, 2 days for burnin), but everything arrived well packed and ready to roll.

The big feature I was interested was that these CPUs support VT, and I wanted to play around with how that works in Xen. I'm currently installing XP Pro 64 on one, and have decided to try out Ubuntu's Hardy Heron release.

I ended up setting up a PXE installer on my old workstation to handle the Ubuntu install. Other than me pooching the DHCP configuration and an installer package dependency error, the install went fairly easily. I ended up going with a base X system and plan on adding packages as I need them. Haven't had time to setup the Xen kernel yet, and it'll be interesting to see how their apt system handles the Nvidia driver package.

For the Winders side, the install was just like every other: Put in cd, wait, wait, press a few buttons, wait, wait, press a few more buttons, reboot, wait, wait, reboot, etc. XP64 can luckily run 32bit programs, so I was able to get the staples installed: Firefox, pidgin, msys, python, perl. I left the machine in the process of downloading WoW (5GB of stuff to download!!) and MS VS 2008, planning on slapping XNA on it later. I also got blender on there. Gonna be interesting to see how well everything runs.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

nerd warning sign #12,572

When you watch Cloverfield, you catch yourself getting pissed off at Hud for not holding the camera steady and getting a better shot of Big Monster(tm) so you could study it better, but then that gives way to you wondering what kind of metabolism it has to let it knock down freaking skyscrapers and spawn thousands of those terrifying little bug soldier things when its only food source appears to be the random human fleeing from it that it occasionally snags and by the way, didn't the grumpy prof you had in bio 101 say that there's was a limit to how big any cell (and consequently any organism) can get due to the constraints of physics?

Sorry, but I found the creature 100x more fascinating than 20-somethings running around yelling, "Ohmigawdohmigawdohmigawd". Amirite?

Friday, April 25, 2008

but on stage call me dynamutt

Today's Friday video comes from A Tribe Called Quest, with some help from De La Soul.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

absolutely nothing

This post is about absolutely nothing.

Except testing out the python feedparser library.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

this can't be a good sign

Over the past couple of years, every time Stephen Hawking's name has come in up in a news article it has mentioned his advice that we become a starfaring civilization. While he holds exploration up as a good reason for this, his main point is that if we don't get off the planet we're more likely to be wiped out as a species by a planetary disaster.

It makes me nervous when a guy who's smarter than me and makes his living as a cosmologist starts showing signs of obsessing about space travel for the purpose of surviving epic Newtonian diasters...

Monday, April 21, 2008

sorry, I don't see the lock-in

One of the big complaints about google's App Engine was that they were trying to induce some sort of vendor lock-in by requiring the use of their python libs. After having stumbled through the getting started guide, I don't see what the foundation for that complaint is.

The way this works is that python has something called the WSCGI (google around for the spec for more info). This basically allows you to route web server requests to different portions of your python code. It's kind of like having "dispatch.cgi" embedded into Apache for a Rails application. From a programming standpoint, you simply route URls to functions, and since WSCGI is a python community standard it's the same thing that stuff like Django uses. Other than support for BigTable (which I suspect can be ORM'd out of the way) and gmail account authorization (which you can sidestep if you want to do something like run your own LDAP service on a remote server), there's not a whole lot in there that's trying to pin you down to google.

The only thing I see that's going to trip up the rails and php folks is the lack of anything similar to WSCGI in those communities.

the black temple is now tainted

On of the huge injusticies...nay, travesties of the World of Warcraft 2.4 patch was that it removed the attunement process for entering some of the higher end raid instances. The 7% of the player population who had worked hard to go through the attunement process were ticked that any scrub off the street could just waltz into the Mount Hyjal or Black Temple zones and start killing stuff.

Tonight, I was that scrub. I also got the position of off-tank by default, since our other experienced warrior stayed spec'd for mortal strike and we were missing our prot paladins.

No boss kills yet, but I think we have Naj figured out. Also, the trash hits hellah hard. A lot of folks in my guild are in dire need of equipment upgrades before we can stroll through BT content, but it was fun to join the exclusive club of folks who've run out of pots and stamina food trying to get the rhythm of the Naj fight.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

my numbers, my lucky numbers

Tonight's Friday Video on a Sunday Morning(tm) entry is the incredibly difficult-to-describe "Pure Genius" by Tweaker with David Sylvian on vocals. If drifting off to sleep at 3am after a full night of mad scientisting had a soundtrack, this song would be it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

in like flynn

There goes my free time. :)

Only drawback seems to be that appengine is tied to my gmail account, so I can't share access with other folks. I think. Haven't read any docs yet, but will be checking it out later on tonight.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

and some pics

actually, I lied

Surface is on display today (at least in San Antonio).

Some key things to keep in mind is that it's not really a touch screen. It uses IR cameras to figure out where you're touching the screen, so the one-handed pinch move that works on the iPhone is kind of flakey on Surface... it works better if you use the index fingers from each hand. Also, the system isn't fully functional. It's currently reading information about phones off this huge pack on the back of the phone instead of over bluetooth. This means that the cool stuff about being to pull up your photo album from your phone and sort through it on the desktop doesn't work today (but I was told they're Working On It(tm)). Lastly, the input can get kind of laggy if you're moving fast (tossing windows around, have 2 people resizing multiple windows) and MS's version of Maps isn't too very snappy.

Overall, it's pretty cool to play with multi-touch on a non-portable device. AT&T is using it a promotional tool to help customers get more information about their different phones. Basically, there's no need to ask a sales rep, "Does this have 3G?" anymore... just toss the phone on the desk and check out the feature list yourself. The interface is pretty intuitive, and this is a perfect application for the technology.

We managed to get a quick video of me monkeying around with the display, but right now it's only playing in VideoLAN's VLC player... quicktime and WMP don't seem to like it. Here's a link, and I'll try to get a transcoded AVI up later on tonight.

update: Here's a version encoded in h.264 that should be good for QT and WMP. Or, on youtube:

MS surface to be on display in SA tommorrow

Microsoft's Surface computer will be on display in San Antonio tommorrow according to Boy Genius.

Gonna try and find out when they open up and slide in there.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

creative rick rolling

Genius. :)

sims franchise hits 100 million

Cnet's got a story about how the Sims franchise has shipped 100 million units. If you assume sales at around $30 per box as an average (to account for folks purchasing from the bargain bin), that's... $3 billion.

For a franchise whose core concept is basically playing dolls.

Something else to keep in mind here is that for a "triple A" title, selling 500,000 units is considered Pretty Darned Good(tm).

Maybe there's more money to be made in letting players dress up their avatars and "socialize" with others than there is in machine guns, misanthropic aliens, and grumpy dragons. Or maybe the Sims just did an excellent job of appealing to a wide range of casual players by not really having any objectives in the first place. What will be interesting to see is if this is repeated with Spore (which should be released later on this year).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

oh hai!!

Can has my networkz?

At least this cable modem isn't as crappy as the last one I had from Motorola.

Also... a special thank you to Linksys*cough*Cisco for hiding the default IP address for your 802.11n router. Most other people put that sort of stuff in an insert in the box or up at the top of the PDF. :)

Despite your best efforts, however, my shelf'o'compute is online now. \o/

Friday, April 11, 2008

more progamming crazy ivans

A while back, an old friend I hadn't talked to in a while asked me what I was up to in a phone conversation. He knew me back in the day when I was all about Linux and generally tried to steer away from anything Windows (except for playing a few video games). Thus, he was
truly shocked when I informed him that I was messing around with ASP.net and thinking about using it as a platform for a project.

There was about 10 seconds of dead air on the phone. I imagine he spent the time checking the calendar to make sure it wasn't April Fools, then checking his cell phone to ensure he'd called the right number. He then asked if I was kidding, to which I replied "Negative, Ghostrider."

Now. As big of a shock as that was, here's an even bigger one. I've recently been forced to pickup Python and, with the help of 10 minutes of expert tutoring, achieved some minimal amount of zen on the language. It's still not my first choice, I still hate whitespace-is-important, the documentation is still missing something, and I'm still peeved that int's aren't really objects...

But I have to grudgingly admit that it's not plague on humanity I once painted it as.

So. My bad for burning all those pythonistas at the stake over the years. I feel just awful about it now.


Stolen shamelessly from a voice over in Confidence:

Jack Kerouac said that if you own a rug, you own too much. I don't necessarily like Kerouac and driving cross country isn't exactly my idea of a good time, but the guy's got a point...

i first produced my pistol

Continuing on with the tradition of Sporadic Friday Morning Music Video Posts(tm), here's Metallica's take on Whiskey in the Jar

Yeah, yeah... the Thin Lizzy version is better, blah, blah. It's one of the few decent Metallica songs since they got haircuts, sought therapy, and started suing their fans, though.

Plus I think the song sounds better with the faster tempo.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

google app engine

Google announced their App Engine service earlier this week. I didn't make it into the first 10,000 who gets to monkey with it, but I don't really have any firm plans for a project that would be useful for it right now, either.

The announcement has been met with a lot of negativity, though. Aside from python winning the bragging rights to being the first language supported by app engine, a lot of other folks are worried about the whole "google took muh data!" problem, "vendor lock-in" from the Rails and MS crowd, and the occasional "but it doesn't do backend processing like EC2 so you couldn't build twitter with it" point (which has some merit).

As far as the trust thing goes... unless you have a DS3 running into the closet where you're storing your 40 servers, chances are you're already trusting your content to someone else anyway. I don't see vendor lock-in as too much of an issue, either, since the only truly google-only feature is BigTable support (which you can only get to through the python API), and I think we can expect that to be abstracted into an ORM pretty quickly. Backend processing and access to the filesystem? Well, then, make REST requests back to a server not running on App Engine (like, say, an EC2 instance?).

The fact is that App Engine is poised to take away the single biggest nightmare for small developers who have big ideas and limited cash: infrastructure. Over the past couple of years, I've talked with a number of folks who are looking at whipping up the next social networking site and have even looked at doing a couple of my own. The big stumbling block from an architectural standpoint always seemed to be the catch 22 of infrastructure at the tipping point where you go from being a cool, underground, niche site into something that's getting hammered on by thousands of people.

Scylla is that you ignore the scaling issues until you actually have to deal with them, which means you're going to be stuck rewriting your site right as it's hitting the tipping point and the massive amounts of new users that you'll need to be successful are forming their first impressions: not a good time for "request timed outs". Charibis is spending the time to architect the site to scale before you launch so when (if) you get the traffic, it'll be as simple as just calling up the hosting provider and adding more boxes. Most web Oddyseuses opt for the devil over the deep blue sea, and a lot of them end up folding when they find they don't have the resources (or money to hire the resources) to survive the onslaught of new users Not many make it to MySpace/Facebook/Digg land.

If you're a one-man shop (or even three-man) who's doing this more as a hobby than a lynchpin for a Web 2.0 business plan, success is almost something to be avoided and you end up praying that if digg or /. ever does take note of your humble project that your code will cause the server to fail before too many of the new visitors see enough of the site to want to come back on a regular basis.

App Engine, assuming it lives up to the promises made in the presentation, basically takes that worry off the table. Don't sweat the infrastructure, and just focus on the code and the stylesheet. And on top of that, the pricepoint is "free"? Yeah, that's worth studying up on python for. It'll make experimenting with ideas a hell of lot less risky by punishing success less.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

or maybe not outsourcing

Got an email yesterday from blogger.com informing that their advanced spam detection AI had flagged this as a potential spamblog. I'm guessing that my nasty habit of putting href's in to sites for software and services I'm talking about was what did me in.

Any rate, the process appears to be thus:

1) you are accused by the bot
2) the account is locked out
3) you are sent an email giving you a link to click on to request that your blog be reviewed
4) wait until someone gets around to it (possibly up to 4 days)

I don't really blame blogger as spam is a huge, huge problem and spammers have proven to be resourceful enough to adapt to whatever antispam measures we come up with. I'm happy to not have to deal with the maintenance aspect of leaving a piece of PHP code flapping out in the wind (with a database behind it, even).

What's new is suddenly being at someone else's mercy.

It got me to noticing stuff like there's no (obvious) way to insert jump breaks into posts. Or wondering just exactly you go about backing up posts. Or categories to organize content.

Maybe this is getting back to the old idea of "I should probably be using a wiki". Either way, the concept of distributed/outsourced services isn't looking quite as hot to the control freak in me as it was on Saturday night.