Friday, November 16, 2007

Emacs font joy


* The neato Android font is actually a very readable and pleasant coding font.
* Great -- how do I use it for Emacs on my Ubuntu? Oh. AWESOME.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

ApacheCon Day 1

It looked like today was going to be another snorefest, but...

After a very satisfying breakfast (they know how to eat down here, that's for sure), it's off to Matt Raible's now-classic Comparing Java Web Frameworks talk. Aside from knowing his shit, the guy gives good presentation. He understands that powerpoints aren't about cramming half your doctoral thesis on 75 slides. While I've met lots of smart people here and learned a great deal, I wish more of them would try to see their presentations from someone else's point of view.

It was then off to the Georgia Aquarium, which bills itself as The Largest And Most Awesomest Such Place On Earth. Well, it is pretty cool. Beautiful tropical fish, whale sharks, electric eels, and sea otters. The smaller Asian variety of the latter was the best part; they were playfighting, dragging each other into the water and smacking one another upside the head. It wasn't aggressive to my untrained eye, but it was sure as hell cute.

(Do I feel bad about skipping a morning session? No. I've been stuck in the hotel the entire week with nary a peep of the outside world.)

Tasty vegetable soup for lunch. Bjorn had a rather worse time, but he can tell that story.

Lots of talk about community and how to strengthen it in the afternoon. Henri's talk on how to join OS projects was nicely bookended by Ted Leung's talk on open source antipatterns. Theme: how ASF does stuff (the open source community process) is more important that what it produces. Getting people to work together in a respectful and productive environment is a skill that's universally applicable.

We're all done after tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ApacheCon Day 0

My headache *still* won't go away.

Several sessions today; some good, some not. I found Dave Johnson's talk on Roller pretty informative, and Greg Stein's talk on open source licensing was gratifying (although it was pointed out that he knew 3/4 of the people in the room and he was shamelessly preaching to the choir). Talking to him afterward, it seems that he doesn't know of anybody other than me who does both FSF and ASF. I've gone into this stupid schism before, but it still surprises me that I'm mostly alone on talking about how important it is for the two largest free software communities to find more common ground. How is it not obvious to other people, especially the ones smarter than me?

Other random highlights: chatting up someone in French, shocking them; the keysigning party, which attracted way more photographers than I was expecting (i.e., a number greater than 0); several enjoyable and informative chats with Google people; taking a close look at Abdera; Doc Searls' interesting and amusing keynote. I'm glad that some other people try to inject humor and entertainment into powerpoints, which are man's latest and most promising result in the search for something to bore others to death.

In between sessions, Bjorn and I are going to sneak off to the aquarium, which I've heard is something I need to see. Apparently whale sharks are cool.

ApacheCon Day -1 (Hackathon Day 1)

Well, if you have a productivity binge, you're likely to fall off the next day. And I did. Feeling sick doesn't help either.

On the plus side, I did get the chance to research a lot of Apache projects. And the Android SDK is sitting on my hard drive giving me the most seductive come-hither eyes. Why do I see myself spending lots of time in there?

I did meet Glen Daniels of WSO2, who's a nice guy, so I have to mention that.

More later; busy day lined up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Easy hydrogen?

From Wired comes the story about a group of Penn State researchers that have developed a method to encourage bacteria to extract hydrogen gas from ordinary biodegradation.

Aside from being cool, it offers me a chance to say what I've become convinced is the greatest long-term problem for humanity: energy. You may have noticed the price of gas skyrocketing. While part of the reason is the idiocy in the Middle East, many people don't realize that the U.S. imports most of its oil from Canada and Mexico, the latter of which is a member of OPEC. The prices are climbing for us not because our suppliers are running dry but because demand for oil is rising rapidly worldwide. China's economy, which is growing almost 10% per year, is industrializing at a mind-boggling rate; India isn't far behind. With almost 2.5 billion people in those two countries alone, the demand for oil and coal has only started and isn't near peaking.

As most people who aren't deeply and pathologically insane will admit, fossil fuels are limited resources. Oil is the most popular source of energy simply because it is the most profitable for those who control it. Up to this point in human history, the use of oil has a positive energy coefficient; it takes less energy to get it out of the ground than it produces when combusted. As we use more and more oil, it will become harder to find, and we'll have to dig deeper, invent new technology, distill it from shale, etc. The common problem is that all of these approaches require more energy than simply building a derrick on an easy-to-tap oil reservoir a few hundred feet down. At some point -- no one agrees exactly when -- the energy coefficient will degrade to break-even, and it will no longer be useful to extract the remaining oil.

At that point, we are, to put it bluntly, fucked.

Hydrogen is one of the possible solutions. It's extremely powerful stuff; when combusted, it provides much more energy than an equivalent weight of oil, and if we ever figure out how to do fuel cells cheaply, a ready supply of hydrogen would go a long way toward solving small-use energy needs. The discovery of a process that produces hydrogen from simple organic matter without requiring other energy could be, if it pans out large-scale, a long step toward avoiding oil judgment day. Hydrogen as a fuel source has problems, of course; it's unstable, it's hard to transport and store, and the technology to use it in car-sized engines is still in prototype stage. But if we could be assured that we could have all of it we ever wanted, figuring out how to make its use safe and efficient is just an engineering problem. That's a problem we can solve.

At some point, I'll talk about why nuclear power is the best hope for the world's large-scale energy needs. I expect to piss off a lot of people when I do that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

ApacheCon Day -2 (Hackathon Day 0)

First time at ApacheCon, and things are getting off to a quieter start than I'd expected. I had Apache nerds pegged as a tamer, calmer sort than IT or video game nerds (the stories about the E3 Tecmo parties have sent many a frantic fundie running off in terror), and the day in the Peachtree Ballroom was all business.

I don't recognize half of the people here. Most of them seem to know each other, and as the day slipped into night (POETRY, IT IS), the conversations got a little more animated and for some reason turned to economic policy. I kept my mouth shut for most of the time, figuring that I had enough opportunities to look like a dolt this week and that there was no need to burn through all of them on the first day.

I'm happy to say that much productive work was done; I updated several Validator issues and then Henri, Bjorn and I powered through the 2.4 outstanding issues. Benevolent soul that he is, Henri pulled down ten enhancements from 3.0 that he thought made sense for 2.4, and we spent most of the night going through those. It's a pile of work, and I'm proud of it, even though my contributions were mostly limited to formatting patches and giving a +1 rubber stamp to Henri's mad committer antics.

The trip has not agreed with me; I feel bleary and sick in my stomach. I haven't eaten poorly unless you count some disappointing Merlot the fine folks at devzuz were kind enough to provide us. Hopefully I'll get some good sleep tonight, have another awesome Southern breakfast, and then squeeze the sponge for a few more drips of Open Source commitment.

Seriously, I'm glad I'm here. I think the best is coming.