Today I received a great present, even before my actual birthday.
After a few months doing some stuff I really hated I will finally get back to systems development.
Doing the technical interfacing with the “business-side” and managing the technical side of software development projects may be very interesting to a lot of people (and I know quite a few who actually like it very much) but for me it was just plain bad.
I did learn quite a lot from the experience, though, and got a new-found respect for people who do it or have done it for a long time. Even if they actually like it and consider it “a lot of fun”. I just happen to think you are crazy, that’s all. You know who you are! ;-)
But seriously this a very worthy job and a very important function. Vital, even. But it must be performed by the right people.
So today it was officially announced, among a larger batch of changes, that I will leave the technical counseling and project management jobs and will get back to being a systems architect.
I know I have my work cut out for me. I know there is an awful lot to do. I know I will have to deal with some things I have no knowledge in. I know I will be deep in it. And I can’t wait to get to it!
This won’t happen tomorrow, of course, there will be a transitional period when I have to continue doing what I am doing now but this doesn’t seem so gruesome now that I know that in a few months I will be back to being full-time systems architect (or computer screen rat, whatever you prefer to call it).
At some point it was all I could do to stop me from dancing around the table. But then you don’t do that when you’re a hard-core techie. After all we all have a reputation of nerdiness and bad temper to maintain, right?
(Professional) life is in balance once more.
Well, I’m done with “desingning with web standards”.
Like I though, a great book all around. It could be a bit less “preachy” though…
Very nice reading indeed. Now I feel more apt to dive into the more advanced chapters of “the Zen of CSS design”.
… and, as usual, it was a good one. They (almost) always are, weekends.
I managed to finish tagging, rotating and generally cleaning up my photo collection. In the end, and after deleting duplicates and so on, I ended up with a bit less than 10.000 photos, none of them in Canon RAW format. This allows me to use iPhoto to manage the entire collection without any problems which is a good thing TM.
I decided to stop importing Canon RAW images directly to iPhoto because 1- They where just too big and iPhoto would choke on them (even with 1GB of RAM); 2- iPhoto processed the information on the pictures wrong and always assumed they were taken one month earlier than they had actually been taken on; 3- I had no real benefit in using Canon RAW on iPhoto.
So now I have the original files (I call them my “digital negatives”) on the server’s disk and on the CD and DVD backups and if I ever need them it’s quite easy to locate them, but for picture browsing, selecting and desktop- or web-viewing the JPEG versions I have on iPhoto are more than adequate, so that’s that.
I found out about a neat feature of iPhoto which allows the switching or libraries at startup if you press and hold the option key when you launch the application. This is extremely good because if (or rather, when) my collection outgrows iPhoto’s ability to deal with it I can just move some pictures to another library and leave the latest months or years in the “current” one. Very cool feature!
I’m also making good headway into the two design books I’m currently going through.
“designing with web standards” is indeed a great resource. Even if I already knew (or had guessed by now, through trial and error) most of what it teaches, it does consolidate what I knew in a very precise way and, of course, I’m learning a lot from it.
“the Zen of CSS design” on the other hand is not so much a “text book” as it is a “learn by example” one and it is just so inspiring! I absolutely love to read it. I’ve always liked the CSS Zen Garden a lot, but actually seeing an explanation of all the nitty gritty that’s behind it is beyond cool, not to mention educational.
Saturday, being father’s day, there was lunch with my father at his home (always a good excuse to get the family together around the latest newcomer) ;-) and dinner with Tuxa’s father and her brothers here at home (always a good excuse for her to experiment and explore alternative cooking. This has become a much harder task since she became a vegetarian as none of her brothers are particularly adept at anything of the “vegetal” persuasion. Still, she manages to do well every-time and this instance was yet another success!)
There was also some advance on the home-renovation department. We have chosen the colors we needed to choose and we have gotten the paint. This was a difficult process and from here on there are really no more tough choices to be made, so it was a good development.
Vasco and Sofia came back from their first-ever snow trip, so this evening there was the usual display of pictures and small movies. Man, I miss the snow already! I know I say this every single year, but I do wish I could ski more often. I really love it and I really miss it. One week a year is not nearly enough, but any means.
But then I’m not crazy enough to drive to Sierra Nevada on the weekends. Not only do I absolutely hate skying on the weekend with all the crowd, but I also have severe problems with making all those long car trips (8 hours each way). Much as I love road trips, I don’t like having to make this kind of a trip in order to ski for a day and a half and come back again. My back would kill me.
And after seeing what Serra da Estrela has to offer I also pass up on that. You don’t mitigate your craving for riding a motorcycle with a weekly ride on a kiddy tricycle.
Oh, almost forgot, today, finally, I got to watch “High Fidelity”. I know it is far from a new release. I know everyone and his mother has seen it. I know most people I know think it is a great movie and can’t believe I’ve never seen it, the fact is that I hadn’t seen it.
And they where right. What a great movie! I loved it, absolutely loved it.
I already loved it’s soundtrack, which I’ve had for a rather long time and I thought I would probably enjoy the movie. I was right about that.
But now it’s late (of sorts) and I won’t go into much detail about the movie or why I like it so much because I’m going to try and go to the gym tomorrow before going to work and so I have to get up early… ish…
I’m not (any more) in the habit of making posts that basically only link to other pages, as I’ve started using del.icio.us for my link management quite some time ago, but this one deserves to be considered an exception.
As an old-school D&D fan I’ve tried many of the video-games that derived from it. Much as I do like some of them Neverwinter Nights being the supreme ruler of these), they never came close to the feeling you got when you took an afternoon off to sit in a crowded room with your friends playing with pen and paper and real dice.
The pen and paper were mostly used to draw out the maps of the places we were traveling in (OK, not “we”, our characters; but this blending was the real fun part of the game so bear with me here) and the DM would draw them out as we progressed.
Now, invariably there would be times when we would disagree over something like proportions, positioning, who can see what from where and in the end of any good gaming session the maps would be all but unreadable and totally scratched out.
This was something we had to live with because there was nothing better available and in the next session we would have to re-draw out the map as we knew it at the time and take it from there.
But now there is something much, much better. Something I wish I did have back then…
Via boingboing I’ve come to know about the [computer-controlled digital map projector](http://www.d20srd.org/extras/mapProjection.htm.
The idea is pretty simple, even if there are a couple of issues left to be ironed out as pointed out in the page linked above: you create your map in your computer (a laptop suits this function rather nicely), in photoshop or some-such, and then you hook up a projector to it.
You then put the projector over the gaming table and with a clever use of photoshop layering and real-time editing you can reveal the parts of the map you wish to reveal, while leaving the other parts hidden.
This is brilliant! You get the absolute correctness of a digitized map (which cannot shrink or expand just because you wish it to, you can make annotations on a piece of paper stuck to the table and later re-use the original map because it was not ruined from your annotations and battles (both imagined and real ones —over the rules and so on) and the drudgery of drawing things in real-time disappears as the DM only needs to erase bits of the masking layer to reveal whatever it is he wishes to reveal.
Kinda makes me wish to have another go at those games again…
Now that I’ve finally decided on a way to deal with my photo collection (I’d call it huge at a little over 10.000 photos, but I’m sure there are much bigger collections out there, so I won’t) I’ve been taking some time going over the existing ones and tagging them and whipping them into some sort of shape that resembles order.
It’s a huge effort and even after two evenings of minimal tagging, rotating the ones that need it and leaving much to be done for some other day (read: never) I’ve only gotten as far as December of 2002!
I sure have my work cut out for me. But tomorrow I have an obscenely early meeting and so it is time to call it a night.
Good night, then.
This morning I arrived in the office to my newly arrived copy of “the Zen of CSS design”.
A good omen indeed.
So then, inspired by this sign from above, I decided to finally take the plunge and I’ve ordered myself a Mac mini.
The only thing that’s really bothering me is that between the iMac and now the Mac mini and their memory upgrade needs, I’ll end up with three spare 256MB DIMMs in my hands.
Another interesting weekend.
Went to the gym saturday and caught up with all the IT Conversation podcasts I was falling behind on. Not bad that.
While I was there I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in an obscene number of years and the conversation that ensued was… well, I can’t think of the right adjective now but it was something along the lines of (him to me): “So, we seem to be growing along the same general lines here: we’ve both grown beards, both come to the the gym in the weekend, both with visible spots of grey hair, both with an extra 10Kg!”.
The rest of the saturday went well enough, we bought some nice things for our home (you may notice I’m actually trying the flickr thing for good, even became a paying member), made all the arrangements for our wedding anniversary getaway (what a great excuse for yet another trip! If only we had some better choice about the dates… But we have a dancing exam the day before our anniversary so we must fly out on the exact day. Still we will be able to dine in Venice which is not too shabby at all) and we finally made a list of re-decorating to-dos.
We thought about moving a while ago but decided against it because, quite frankly, we haven’t spent enough time in our current home and we haven’t made all we can make out of it and it would be hard to leave so soon.
So instead we decided to go ahead and actually go through with some of the projects we’ve had since we moved in. We have made a list, checked it twice and made a (rather sketchy) plan to go about every item in there.
I’ve taken some pictures of the areas we are going to change more dramatically so that we can post some “before and after” pictures after the deed is done. It will be some time though, so if anyone is actually curious, please don’t hold your breath over this one…
Also on the topic of changes, I’ve decided once and for all that I no longer wish to maintain my huge (and noisy) home server (especially now that I’m about to move a major part of nunonunes.org —including Nowhereland— out of it), and so I’m going to buy me a Mac mini to host the sites I want to maintain at home and do the old file/streaming/whatever-server around here.
Back to the weekend, sunday was also a good day, we did everything we had planed for today in the list, I’ve done some work on dvdlx.com and I finally took the time to learn a bit more about photoshop’s actions and, especially, made my first photoshop droplet: a Canon RAW to JPEG converter.
Now this is something that is rather heavy on a machine, so it is exceedingly cool to see it churn away at a huge number of pictures while I edit this and listen to my MP3s and not feel a hint of a slowdown.
The iMac G5 rocks.
Just made all the reservation for our next trip. Did I mention I love traveling? :-)
So this time we will enjoy a week in April in Venice, Italy.
I’ve never been to Italy and I expect it to be great.
We booked a hotel on the beach, near the Lido instead of in the city centre, as this is supposed to be a relaxing vacation and not a full fledged city raid as we usually do. So we will be staying in Villa Beatrice and we hope to enjoy the beach a little.
Our initial plan was to do a 5-day trip but we’ve extended it to a 7-day one so there should be plenty of time to get to know the city, catch some sun (if there is any that time of the year) and do some heavy-duty relaxing.
Oh and the trip has a theme. The dates were chosen so that we will be able to dine in Venice on our wedding anniversary.
Can’t wait to go!
As I’ve mentioned before, my iMac G5 came with a hardware problem. The screen is way darker than it should and sometimes has fits and starts flickering.
Considerations about this kind of problem being there for far longer than is reasonable in the iMac line apart, Apple does know this happens and is well aware that lots of people suffer from this problem.
So anyway, I talked to the retailer where I got my iMac from and reported the problem. They acknowledged it promptly and told me they would order the required part (I’m guessing it is the video inverter, as this is what usually breaks). They have to get it from Apple Europe and they gave me an ETA of 10 working days.
This was a month and a half ago.
Anoying? Damn right! The screen is getting darker as time goes by and there was even one occasion when it refused to wake up from the sleep state.
Frustrating? Of course. I have this new dandy machine which is supposed to be all great and cool and stuff, and I can’t even edit my pictures in it properly, not because it isn’t up to the job but because the huge 20’ display looks like it was covered with a black stocking.
Typical? Hell yes, I’m not in the least bit surprised.
Sad? Well… not anymore, I’m starting to become more or less apathetic to this kind of thing from Apple. At this point I just wished there was a real alternative. And that is sad.
Yesterday evening was spent doing some changes at home.
I changed the layout of the office to make it more comfortable to work there and doing so entailed moving all the computing and networking equipment I have in the house.
It went rather well and I ended up taking out a number of devices that where just sitting there, accumulating dust, disconnected and out of service.
Just a note to self, though, if your dual homed box says it doesn’t have network access don’t bother fighting it. Even if you are absolutely sure that you connected the network cable to the right NIC. Don’t spend that half-hour fiddling with network configurations and whatnot. Just change the cable (which you know is right) and it will work. Because it was on the wrong NIC all along. The hardware is always right, stupid!
Anyhow, I ended up taking down quite a few services that were runing on the former-gateway-current-webserver in the process, so it was all for the best…
Oh and another interesting note, UPnP rocks! I was able, for the first time, to take full advantage of it using Azureus (now that I have a wireless router which supports it, even if not totally well) and it sure is sweet!
The Aolynk WDR814g is a ADSL2+ capable wireless router.
It has a number of interesting features built-in such as a DHCP server, support for UPnP, firewall capabilities, DynamicDNS client capabilities and more.
[Update (June 23rd, 2009)]: This script has been removed during a site clean-up.
So today I spent almost two hours waiting in the lounge at the doctor’s office. Quite usual, as a matter of fact but this time I decided to get the lemons life gave me and make some lemonade (as it where…)
And as I happened to have some podcasts just waiting to be recorded on a CDRW to take to my car I decided to try and finish up a little script I’ve been trying to put together for a while.
As it turns out I nailed it today before I got my allergies checked up and while I can’t say I’m terribly proud of the job I’ve made (so far) it does do the job, so you can find my MP3Slicer script here (at least for the time being).
As I state in the scripts page I just had to cut up the podcasts into manageable chunks to make it practical to listen to them while on the car or at the gym and this is my first stab at it.
I can’t remember how long I’ve been trying to get this done so the long wait turned out to be a good productivity enhancer. Who’d have thunk it, heh? ;-)
CPAN is a place where most of the freely available (as in Free Beer) Perl modules are to be found, along with many other resources such as scripts and the like.
I actually have a developer ID at CPAN and hope to one day be proud of the work I may have posted there… My ID is NFMNUNES.
The most useful interface to CPAN is the http://search.cpan.org/ site.
Yet another trip down memory lane this morning on the way to work.
It started out with:
“I’m going to the darklands
to talk in rhyme
with my chaotic soul
Quickly followed by:
“Deep one perfect morning
as the sun is heading up
into the sky
And on to the mythic:
“Step back and watch the sweet thing
breaking everything she sees
she can take my darkest feeling
tear it up till i’m on me knees
Ah, the angst, the gloom, the despair… Those where truly the days!
Can’t wait to get back home and listen to the rest of it.
This was a christmas present which I’ve only come around to appreciate now.
“you were my sunny day rain
you were the clouds in the sky
you were the darkest sky
but your lips spoke gold and honey
that’s why i’m happy when it rains
i’m happy when it pours
This weekend I finally found the time to replace my Alcatel Eazy Touch ADSL modem, my Linksys Ethernet switch and my US Robotics AP with Huawei’s Aolynk WDR814g, the super duper ADSL2+ Wireless Router/LAN Switch combo which treats my ultra fast 256K/128K ADSL line as it should!
OK, so at least I got read of three boxes and replaced them with a single one, so there!
Up until now it seems to be generally OK, I had to let the former gateway know that the traffic would now be coming from the other interface and it was indeed legitimate, thank you very much; the dns cache had to be told to behave too; the DHCP server was shut down; the gateway also had to stop trying to establish the PPPoE connection, thank you for all your effort, you are now obsolete and, of course, all the IPTables rules on that particular box had to be revised, but other than that everything is A-OK.
What I lost was the fine control I had over the ACLs as I now have generic rules on the router (using the self-assigned term with the due grain of salt) instead of the reliable IPTables and the router doesn’t seem to really know how to talk to dyndns.org to update my domain’s address, even though it says it should (and there is a place to configure it).
I expect these and some other small annoyances to be fixed with future firmware upgrades, though, and the fact that my PPPoE, DHCP and routing (in short: my connectivity) is handled on a dedicated “dumb” box instead of a PC is most reassuring.
On the near (I hope) future my site will also be out of here and on a dedicated server on a place with good connectivity and better conditions for the hardware to live. The geek-nest is getting ready and after some initial hick-ups I now have no fear about any of it (what a dreadful pun… even if only a couple of people will get it).
On a related note, Zeldman’s “Designing with Web Standards” has been my most intense reading material of late and even though I already knew or had a gut instinct about most of what the book explains and proposes it is really excellent material and it helps clarify and cement the ideas on one’s brain. Expect a (not so major as I already have most of it nailed down today) change in the site’s structure soon. Hopefully at about the same time I port it to it’s new “physical” home.
The only beef I have with that book is that the bulk of the first 4 or 5 chapters is spent trying to convince people of the value and correctness of the ideas it conveys. Now while I’m all for branding the clue-stick about whenever it is needed, I do think that to spend so much time hammering over how this is really a good idea and how it will help you live in a better tomorrow is just plain wasteful.
By all means, do tell people that this is a better way. Show them why this is a better way. Teach them to write web sites in a better way. But don’t spend such a big part of your book preaching to them. If they are reading it they already have some idea of how important or good it is. If (like me and so many other people, I’m sure) they already know how good and important this is you just annoy them. If they are skeptical about it give them examples, show them how it works and why it works. Don’t lecture them in a book, lecture them on live lectures, but show them how in the book.
Anyway, as I said, this is my only beef with the book, the rest of it is just great, as I fully expected it to be.
On the gaming front, I’ve tried the “Second Life” and even though it seemed like a fun thing to do I’ve dropped out of it after the trial period. I simply wouldn’t have the time for it.
It reminded me so much of my MUD and MUSH days! It is not actually a game, but more of a virtual environment where the best time I think I would have would be in building things and exploring things built by other people. On the MUD/MUSH days you did it with a text interface and your imagination, in “Second Life” you do it with a full-fledged 3D graphics interface and a powerful building system, but the end result is the same: I already have too little time in the first life, I really can’t handle a second one right now.
“Vendetta Online” now, that’s a different story…
It is in fact a game, even if a MMORPG one, and I have decided to stay with it for the time being. Until now it doesn’t require that much time from me and it does feel good to just jump on the ship and relax while I cruise the galaxy for a while in the evening.
And if I can’t play it every single evening no harm comes to anyone, I just come back whenever I have some time and play whatever I feel like. I can blow some steam on some dog fights or just chill and do some trading or exploring missions. All the time I’m building up my character’s (a single one for now) ranks until I have enough of a standing to get some more interesting options on the game.
Then I’ll have to see what comes about and decide if the little time I have available for it is enough or if I should just quit it. But until that time it does help me relax and I can always just create new characters and remain on the “easy” part of the game…
And on yet another huge subject change: I’ve finally decided to try out flickr on a more serious way. So I am now a paying member and I’m putting some pictures in there, little by little, and I’ll start delving into it’s API to see how far I can go with it in terms of a possible fotolog or even a basic photo-album app.
Let’s see how it goes…
And that’s about it for now, there are many more things I’d like to write about, to help clarify them in my own head, but alas the hour is late for one who has slept as little as I did yesterday and who will (hopefully) be up bright and early tomorrow to go to the gym.
Which reminds me: music is OK while you I am working out, but to really get my mind off the mind-boggling stupidity it is to waste so many hours running in place or lifting heavy things just for the sake of one’s (lack of a) belly, nothing comes even close to sticking some interesting shows on your MP3 player and listening to them.
I mean things like the “IT Conversations” podcasts for example (especially “The Gillmor Gang” regular series and other temporary ones like the “Web 2.0” or the “Accelerating Change 2004” ones).
It engages your mind in a way that no music ever can and so, not only do you end up making your time really count for something worthwhile, but you also don’t notice it slipping by, so when it’s time to hit the Sauna or the Turkish Bath in the end, you actually feel a little sorry that the session is about to end because you will have to wait until next time to get to have so much time to just listen to those shows again.
That (or something quite similar) is (or used to be) Crucial’s moto.
And they’re right, of course, when you buy memory for your computer you really want things to go right and not have the dreaded compatibility issues.
And you also want the memory like, yesterday! After you make the decision of shelling out for it you want it immediately.
Enter Crucial. It’s always been a very good shopping experience buying at Crucial and again I ordered 1GB of RAM for my iMac Friday at about 16h00 and got it delivered Monday before 10h00. It came from the UK to Portugal in less than a business day. You usually can’t get a delivery that fast inside Portugal itself, let alone from abroad.