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status: Life Support Tech Tip

Mon Aug 18 16:39:38 EDT 2008

 WORD DOMINATION (north shore expansion)
 If you need to speak geek to read this. I've failed.Free beer for
 first non-geek to ask a stupid queston.
 Mike F came to us from Lowell's career center, summer/first jobs
 So far, he's saved us $650.
 After a couple hours futzing. I decided that our fancy printer
 was broken. I set Mike to the job of researching a new one.
 I've got decades of IT experience and gravitas to rival James
 Earl Jones.  Mike still didn't believe me. When he was on the
 clock, he followed orders and found a printer than could use our
 existing supply of expensive printer cartridges.
 After he clocked out, he proved that only the parallel port was
 broken. The USB wborks fine. We don't need to buy a new printer.
 Since Eric M, Josh B, Chris C, I've been coming home to Laura and
 saying "Honey, I found yet another 19 year old kid smarter than
 me." I guess I have to adjust to 15 year olds being smarter than me.
 It's also cool that somebody else now makes the office beer and
 cigarette run.
 At last report, we were using free google's code hosting service
 in violation of google's license. Their license doesn't permit
 our license. (I should have checked this before signing up)
 Our software is Affero GPL:
 ...The regular old GPL preserves the 4 software freedoms
 (use,study,modification,re-distribution), only when you
 "distribute" software for people to install.
 Under the standard GPL, If you snail-mail a  CD or allow people
 to download and install GPL licensed software that you've
 changed, you have to share the source code for your changes with
 The Affero license requires you to share your improvements and
 changes if other people use your software ***Over the Network.***
 So for example if somebody runs mvhub on their web server, they
 have to give us (and the world) their improvements.
 Google wouldn't exist if it wasn't for free software. (a few
 million machines running Linux for example) They use it and
 improve it, but don't share it all.
 The tin-foil hat crowd says that Google doesn't like licenses
 that require them to share their secret software.
 Google says that there are already too many free and open source
 licenses, that too many licenses make it hard for people to share
 code and only a very small number of people are using the Affero
 license anyway.
 For us, the issue is moot, We're hosting on Launchpad now.
 (thanks Evan F) They support our license and they've committed to
 make the code for launchpad open source.
 As many know, recently, most of my attention was with the aging.
 One of my folks just stopped aging.
 There are always lessons. For example, the medical industrial
 complex ignores living wills.The responsible doctor didn't want
 to look at the document.He saw it as optional guidance for the
 person with power of attorney.
 Sometimes ignoring the document makes sense. The living may say
 "no respirator". When quick, full recovery is almost guaranteed
 with assisted breathing, the human should ignore the living will.
 At other times, the disgruntled or cowardly human can ignore your
 wishes and prolong your misery. Pick your loved ones well.
 In my recent experience, everything worked
 out as well as the situation permitted.
 Part of the (CSL) mission is to infect the world with hacker
 culture memes:
 Some of these memes are part of the cluetrain manifesto:
    >You have two choices. You can continue
    >to lock yourself behind facile corporate
    >words and happytalk brochures.
    >Or you can join the conversation...
    > are getting smarter—and
    >getting smarter faster than most
    >These markets are conversations. Their
    >members communicate in language that
    >is natural, open, honest, direct, funny
    >and often shocking. Whether explaining
    >or complaining, joking or serious, the
    >human voice is unmistakably genuine.
    >It can't be faked.
 Evan F is the first volunteer to contribute code, to mvhub. He
 started the summer with me saying:
 	"Here are some books,learn perl"
 He also moved us from gogole code, to
 Now he's a perl guy and has some small familiarity with the code,
   his free time is ending (?) with the summer. (sigh)
 Watch Linus Torvalds being paid by google to tell them that their
 version control software sucks:
 ...Its worth watching for sneaky sweet grin alone. In between
 dising google, Linus explains why he wrote his own version
 control software called "git" and touches on some concepts common
 to all 3rd generation VCS.(version control software)
 This video and email w/ Bob L that followed, got me thinking
 about version control software.
 Version control software is one of the things, we do right here
 at CSL Inc. Version control software is nifty, nifty stuff. To
 over-simplify, it is a mix of infinite undo and MS Word's "show
 changes" feature. Assuming "show changes" can show all changes
 back to when the document was created.
 When somebody makes a change to our code, we all get emailed a
 copy of the change to review. Chris S is the Debian maintainer
 for the software that lets us do this see:
 	# geek link
 When I'm trying to figure out a new bug, I can look at the
 changelog to find the spot where the bug was introduced.
 Right now we use CVS, which is very late 20th century. I've been
 toying with an evolutionary move to Subversion. Because...
 I want to reorganize the mvhub source tree. ("source tree" is a
 fancy way to say "folder with lots of sub folder and files")
 The tree is a wee bit untidy. More important, it isn't in shape
 to move us to a standard installer like from CPAN and/or debian.
 Moving directories and sub directories around in CVS is so
 painful that it is easier to think of switching version control
 Subversion is designed be a better CVS, like the C++ language is
 designed to be a better C language. I could re-arange the source
 tree in Subversion, but we're probably only about 6 weeks away
 from the time when Subversion is just as uncool as CVS.
 Ordinarily, I ignore threats to my coolness. Addressing them
 would distract me every 5 minutes. I can't
 sleep in 5  minute intervals.
 In this case it feels a lot like the time I ignored the 17 year
 old kid in my 1988 computer programming class for artists and
 slackers. ( lineTo(x,y) circle(centerX,centerY,radius), etc,etc )
 He said I should learn what arrays were. There were only 2 weeks
 left in the class, I decided $A, $B,$C,$D,$E,$F...$Z was easier
 than $ray[1..24]. Later riding the grey dog from East Brunswick
 NJ to Chicago IL, I took the 10 hours to learn and was sorry I'd
 not take the time earlier.
 A big claim with all these 3rd generation distributed version
 control softwares ( git, mercurial, bzr, darcs) is that merging
 branches is super easy. --Supposedly, so easy that people can
 create branches instead of having write permissions to the main
 copy of the source code. Merging is so hard in CVS that I know at
 least one (tenured) CS professor who admitted failure at it
 merging in CVS.
 Over-simplifying my already imperfect understanding: A branch is
 somewhat like making a copy of a folder of Microsoft Word
 documents and letting two different people work on the two
 different folders. A merge is when you combine the two folders
 into one again and it all works.
 Since I've never merged a branch or talked at any length to
 anyone who has the whole things seems like voodoo but I want to
 be cool. This guy makes it seem so cool:
 # short page w/ link to more detail
 Even though I don't really grok the whole thing, We're probably
 going to make the switch from cvs to bzr:
 It isn't as cool as git (see video) but...
 It does look like there is nice integration with bzr in which we are now using for bug
 tracking anyway. Their focus is ease of use and architecture,
 rather than speed From the man page for bzr, it doesn't look
 horribly different than cvs
 As you recall from a previous status msg, (Mimi actually) gave
 Eric B a great goodbye party.
 The day before, yesterday we had a medium long phone conversation
 on mvhub improvements. He's signed up on launchpad and a member
 of the mvhub-dev group.
 He reports the past few weeks have past pleasantly on the cape.
 Trying works better than not trying.
 A few months ago, I half finished the application for the Catlog
 for Philanthropy:
 Since it was late, I was a bit depressed and they wanted me to
 jump through some huge hoop like printing out our online
 application and mailing it in, I figured "screw it".
 Eric B, took the time to redo the application (since I'd lost it)
 and submitted it.
 We won. We're in the catalog, which is a bit like winning "best
 in show"
 WORD DOMINATION (north shore expansion)
 Good news, We have a handshake to do on
 the north shore. If we keep the data up to date, we'll make $5.5K
 per year forever.
 Bad news, We need something working by October 01.
 This may be doable but I said yes from my gut not my mind. I
 haven't yet broken the job into sub tasks, added up the time for
 each sub task and multipled by my historical estimating error
 I've not worked on it for 3 weeks. Despite this lack (or perhaps
 because of it), we're still moving forward.
 Thanks to Karen Z and Jim G for keeping the momentum going.
 Jim asked an interesting question.
 	"Do we want a whole plan, or just cash flow"
 I'm pretty sure the cash is a means to an end. (Otherwise we
 could all just work for IBM)
 Mike F does good work. The CSL board decided that we want to keep
 him on.  We have money to pay him for 10 hours per week until the
 end of September. This works well with his school.
 If a few people pledge of $19.20 per week we can do this.
 Yes, paying Mike a wage is more important than paying me a salary.
 His work is good for us. The job is good for him.
 He likes to work. The job has more potential than flipping
 burgers. For one time donations, see:
 To make a weekly or monthly pledge send me email, and I'll set it
 up so paypal sucks the money out of your credit card right after