I was out shopping at Staples last night, and came across what might be the most beautiful thing I've seen in a while - the newest model of the Sharp Zaurus (SL-5500). For those of you who haven't heard of it (like I hadn't - I must have been living in a cave), this Zaurus is freaking awesome. It's a standard Palm-ish-sized 240x320 65,536 color reflective LCD (very well backlit), which runs on a Linux 2.4 (embedix) kernel with a Java-based GUI front-end. It's incredibly slick. I fell in love at first sight, and just had to have one. My wallet's not too happy, but damn if I am!
I've already got the 802.11b CompactFlash module ordered, too. Built-in driver support with GUI configuration, just plug it in, and boom, it works. Nice.
So I spent the last week implementing the Game of Life (Milton Bradley, not Conway) in Perl. That was pretty fun. See Life@WPI, for the end result of my efforts, and those of the others who worked on it getting the graphics and design together. The rules are a bit different, and you have to actually play for the "computer" players, but it's pretty impressive for being mostly written in about 48 hours of solid coding this weekend!
The sidebar CGI that does most of the work came out to a shade over 800 lines of code, for 28.5k of filesize. It's horribly non-modular, linear, and hack-ish. But it works, and it hasn't quite brought the web server to it's knees yet!
You know your friends are major geeks when they give you a going-away party, and the cake has it's message screen-printed on, in obfuscated perl, ala the ThinkGeek perl shirt. And then they made me parse it before we could eat the cake!
It was all good fun, of course. They got me a stack of Despair demotivator posters to adorn my new office, too. Those'll be much fun. Thanks guys!
So I got an e-mail from PayPal's "Director of Geek Marketing" the other day after a post on Slashdot defending PayPal from some ravenous people who seem to hate it, many on principle rather than because they were actually screwed themselves. He said they might be interested in doing a case study on us... do I take the free publicity, or do I tell him that, frankly, we're in the process of getting away from PayPal as soon as I have the time to research the alternatives? I mean, I'm happy to say good things about my experience with PayPal, but that doesn't mean that some of the stories going around, and problems with regulatory agencies, don't have me scared. I suppose the truth is best, and we'll see if they still want to do a case study on our past use!
Well, for those of you who may have been interesting in the job that's opening up due to my departure from WPI (see one of my prior journal entries if you ahve no clue what I'm talking about
And on the "what will I do once I'm gone" front, office space is going to be secured Real Soon Now (tm), as soon as my realtor calls me back and puts a lease in my hands to sign. Then it's time to order the phone lines and T1, and get furniture, and all that fun stuff! Woohoo!
Well, things are looking up for office space for dyn to live in. I'm heading over to take a look at a space this afternoon, and if it looks good we should be able to move in Real Soon Now (tm). Hopefully I'll have something more firm than that later. Then it's just the 30 days of waiting for Verizon to drop in our T1 and phone lines, thanks to G4 Communications. It always helps to have a friend who's the network engineer for a local ISP. I can't wait to get our 3Com NBX 100 VoIP system and start playing with it, too. Woohoo. Dyn will finally have an actual office somewhere!
Well, now it's official - I've resigned my position here at WPI with, of all days, the Ides of March as my last day of employment. Things with DynDNS.org have just been getting to the point where we really need at least one full-time staff member to handle business stuff, and work on more small-biz-focused services, and I guess I'm it.
My job here was getting to be pretty repetitive anyway, I guess. Time for a change. I wish I didn't have to leave the cool people I work with here, but that's just life I suppose. This will let me get back to some real coding for Dyn, too, which I haven't actually really been involved with for quite some time.
So, if any of you Boston.pm'ers are looking for a somewhat menial but decently paying and pretty secure web programming job in academia out here in Worcester, watch the WPI job postings over the next few weeks. I'm not sure that they're going to post exactly my job, or something else, but it might be worth looking. And wish me luck in getting everything sorted out for Dyn!
For those curious about what I do, I'll remind you that I don't know for certain that my job will be posted as it currently stands. I do a mix of stuff, pretty much all writing Perl CGIs, lots of MySQL databases interfaced to the web for various different stuff, other random things that departments in the university need. Not a lot of really technically challenging stuff, on a day-to-day basis, but there are always the fun little hacks that need to be done, which is the part of the job I really enjoyed the most. There's not a lot of HTML/graphics involved in what I did here, we have two other full-timers who deal with that stuff. It involved a little apache conf/administration for me, but that was because I wanted it to - the Computer Center actually handles the physical administration of the web servers.
If you want more info, I'm sure you can find ways to contact me, so feel free to drop me a line
So I cut the run time of this CGI which generates org charts out of a database from 30 seconds to 1 second by changing the database it feeds out of from Oracle to MySQL. Lesson of the day today: MySQL's simple SELECT performance really IS much better than Oracle's. Time to install the cronjob to dump the data out of Oracle into MySQL weekly!
And now for my Perl success story of the day... found out today that our NetApp/Samba server had been conspiring to cause piles of directories in our web docs tree to be created with 0777 file modes. Ouch! Find tells me that there are, in fact, over 14,000 of these directories. All with twisty little exceptions to the simple thought of "oh, I'll just chmod them". Argh.
Luckily, File::Find and File::spec came to the rescue! With this combination, I was able to come up with a nice little function that does what I need it to do with the files - and it'll be really handy for some other things I've been putting off, too. One of those times that I really love Perl. No nasty manually chmod'ing 14,000 directories any more!
And I don't think I'm ever going to use "real" find again, either - File::Find just gives me soooo much more flexibility, and means I don't have to read the stupid find manpage to figure out what I want. Just plug in the right conditions in a function, give File::Find::find() a reference to it, and wham!
It's at times like these that I remember why it is I never read Slashdot anymore. I can't believe how horribly the story about the Perl Foundation funding Larry is getting slammed by the ol' Slashdot trolls. And the worst thing is, I think some of the slamming is coming from people who really believe what they're saying, and aren't really trolling - they just don't understand.
I have to say (and no offense, guys), it feels kind of like TPF could have done a bit better job with the way they spun this. It seems typical of the open source community that we don't pay much attention to marketing, and spin, and hype. But this is the kind of thing that really needs it. The right spin can make all the difference. When thinking about dyndns.org's press release regarding our donation to the Perl Foundation, and thinking about what I had anticipated in the announcement of hiring Larry, I had really factored in the importance of "look guys, Larry is currently unemployed, let's pull together to help him." It was learning that during his Q&A that really inspired me to make the contribution that we made, after all. So few people realize that. Yes, I know we shouldn't slam ORA, and I do think it can be said without doing so - Damian did it very well in his comment on the use.perl story about the grant. Why wasn't something like that included in the press release?
I don't know - I'm not really a marketing expert, either. But I did know enough to have a good friend of mine who happens to have a Masters' in marketing (with a technical focus) and a BS in technical writing give us significant advice (and practically write) our press release about our donation to TPF. And I think it made all the difference to how we came across.
So, if any of you Perl Foundation guys are reading little of my journal, you might want to think about finding someone to give a word of advice on the spin and marketing. Just a thought. And congratulations on pulling this together.