burblings of a serial continent-hopper

PyCon 2012!
merton, linux, tux
necaris

The main conference part of PyCon, held this year from the 9th to 11th of March at the Santa Clara Convention Center, finished about three weeks ago with the raffling off of an Aldebaran Robotics robot. Sadly, I didn't win it, although I did get a picture of the conference chair carrying it around like a baby.

I'm a little unsure how to sum up the conference -- no surprise, then, that I'm finally writing about this so long after it happened. Three weeks' worth is a lot of ambivalence. But, conveniently, three weeks brings it up to around the time for my annual introspective post, so I can focus on the conference here and all the tl;dr Life things -- which make me ambivalent -- there.

In some ways, the conference was unambiguously awesome. The theoretical conference cap was 1500 people -- we hit that mere days after early registration closed, and with miscommunications and new sponsor sign-ups and so on, ended up with over 2200 people at the conference! It was the biggest PyCon yet -- the most talks, the most posters, the most sponsors, and the most dancing robots!

OK, so there were some things that could have been done better -- and the unexpected sheer size of the conference did cause some issues. Some talks, for instance, were uncomfortably crowded, and the hallways (especially with the confusing labeling of the talk rooms) were less than fun to navigate. But the basic logistics were handled pretty well, I thought, and the focus could stay on content (the talks and posters were recorded) and community. Which were generally great.

Personally, it was a pretty good PyCon. I've helped to run bits of the conference before (as a session runner / session chair), but this year I helped coordinate the post-conference sprints (several days of open-source hackathon), which was pretty cool -- I really felt like I was helping out, and giving back to a pretty awesome community. Plus I got to stroll around wearing an epic hat.

So, all in all, a pretty great conference. Now let's see how we can beat it with PyCon 2013!



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tool time
merton, linux, tux
necaris

Many people have commented on this phenomenon, and it remains an oddity that despite the advanced operating system(s) I run on my fairly advanced new computer (which I will post about when I've got it set up exactly how I want it), I spend most of my time with a text editor and a terminal emulator.

Many people have also commented that one should use the best tools available, and when those tools are themselves quite powerful and configurable, they should be set up optimally. I don't claim to have a perfect setup by any means, but I have got it to a point that is pretty productive for me, and I thought I'd share, in case it helps anyone else.

Now, I'm mostly a Python developer, so my Python development setup matters the most to me. On the shell side, this consists of virtualenv (augmented with virtualenvwrapper) and IPython. To make IPython and virtualenv play together, I'm using a bit of custom configuration code, adapted from another recipe I had to spent far too much time hunting down.

On the editor side, I use Emacs and Flymake (with some more custom code to glue it all together). I'm still very new to Emacs, and although I have made some customizations I have a lot to learn and a lot to add.

That's it for me. What environment(s) do you use? What kind of customizations have you got in place?



Posted originally at http://necaris.dreamwidth.org/125771.html (comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there using OpenID (your LJ will work as identity URL).

names on the Internet
penguin, problems
necaris
(First of all, and mostly unrelatedly: Happy 2012 everyone!)

I imagine I'm not alone in having mixed feelings about Twitter, but over the last year and a half I've got from disdainfully abstaining to occasionally using the service. Now that a new calendar year is here, and the startup is looking like it's in good shape, I'm increasingly convinced by my co-founders' arguments that I need to build more of an online personality, and Twitter's a good place to do it.

There's one small stumbling block right now. On Twitter, I'm currently necaris_ -- some random person seems to be cybersquatting on necaris (which rather annoys me because I'm necaris in most places on the Internet). The trailing underscore is awkward, but I'm not sure what I'd replace it with.

I want to keep necaris in there somewhere, but the only thing I can think of so far is necaristhegeek, which may seem self-deprecating. Any ideas?

Posted originally at http://necaris.dreamwidth.org/124880.html (comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there using OpenID (your LJ will work as identity URL).

gaahhhhh
merton, linux, tux
necaris
It's been a busy (busy, busy) few weeks. I've mostly been keeping my working hours sane, but it's still a bit of a struggle to make sure I sleep enough. Let alone do anything interesting enough to post about.

But I've been managing to depress myself by looking up the stringent restrictions on my hanging about here. It's made worse right now because I've been following the dangerous ignorance of legislators back in the States who seem determined to ensure that there'll be no viable industry for me to go back to.

On the bright side, it's looking like the startup will be able to keep going for a few more months. The additional funding should be enough for us to pay ourselves a bit, too. Since this is the season of pithy one-liners about life, the universe, and everything, I wonder what the moral I'm supposed to take from all of this is. "If you can't find a job, create some, and then be forced to leave the country" doesn't quite have the right ring to it.

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Android Cloud-to-Device Messaging: A Story
coulton, monkey, code
necaris

(I have appropriated pozorvlak's beware the geek tag for a reason. I hope this is as accessible as his writing on technical subjects)

Why are you doing this complicated-sounding thing?

A little background: at an exciting startup project, we're developing two main components -- a mobile client (a smartphone app) and a server. Currently, we've got an iOS (iPhone / iPad) client out, in a very early preview stage (more of an alpha than a beta) and we're building the Android side to match.

One of the big things we use -- and mention lots when talking to people we want to impress -- is push notifications: that is, our server doesn't wait for the user to check for updates, but rather proactively lets them know when there's something for their attention.

That sounds cool. So how does it work?

At a high level, your system has to talk to Apple's (for iPhones / iPads) or Google's (for Android devices) system, and Apple/Google then forwards a message to the specific device you had in mind. So you need to:

  1. have the address of a particular device you want a message to go to,
  2. speak enough of the same protocol as Apple/Google to get your message across,
  3. have a way, on the device, of receiving a message and doing something with it

Thanks to a very experienced iPhone developer doing our iOS work, and an excellent post from a(nother) startup, it wasn't too much of a trial to set things up with Apple. The application on the device, when it starts up, asks the device for its address, and then sends that over to the server. The server can then send Apple a message using a slightly esoteric raw socket binary protocol, using that address, and Apple will forward it on. Finally, the application can tell the device it wants to receive those types of messages, and the device will wake it up and give it the message when one comes in.

The way Android does things is a bit more involved. The application, when it starts up, has to ask the device to ask Google for an address, and be willing to receive a message back from Google with that address. Once it's received the address, it can send that over to the server. The server, meanwhile, has to ask Google to validate its account details, and get a token that allows it to talk to Google. Once it's done that and has a device's address, the server can use the token and the address to send a message to Google. Finally, the application can tell the device it wants to receive those types of messages, and specifically how it wants to receive them, and the device will wake it up and give it the message.

OK, that seems logical enough. What went wrong?

To be fair to Google, it's only a few more steps, there's no esoteric raw socket binary protocol you have to speak, and the messages they allow are more flexible and powerful than Apple's. But combine a slightly inexperienced Android developer with sparse documentation and misleading examples and you have a bit of a problem. In my case, you have me diving into the operating system code to figure out why nothing works.

Ooh, interesting! Give me all the geeky details!

OK then...Collapse )

All right then. What's next?

If anyone's read this far, thank you -- I needed to get that rant off my chest. Since Google do a huge amount to promote their developer-friendliness as a company, and their products do typically have very good documentation (the Android dev site is full of reference material), I was expecting more from them.

But I (and the startup project) will be pushing ahead! Funding is on the horizon, and we'd like to ramp up development. We are looking for smartphone and server developers -- so if you or anyone you know is interested in fast-moving, exciting, and possibly even paid work building iOS / Android apps and / or Python servers, please let me know!

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I thought I understood the erosion of privacy, but clearly I was wrong
merton, linux, tux
necaris
People are putting more and more private information online -- deeply personal thoughts come out on public Twitter feeds all the time, for instance. And I thought I understood that. I don't like it, and don't like how easily and frequently I fall into doing it, but I thought I had a handle on how common it was and how personal those details were.

But this evening I was sent an invitation to a Facebook event that shattered all my expectations. The organizers have posted their bank account number and sort code to the event page. Good grief.

Posted originally at http://necaris.dreamwidth.org/121059.html (comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there using OpenID (your LJ will work as identity URL).

dear google
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Dear Google,

Methinks you need to respond to this, mmkay? Perhaps with a relaunch of a previous platform, incorporating your existing mail, chat, and video infrastructure?

Thanks,
[personal profile] necaris

I must be showing my age.

Posted originally at http://necaris.dreamwidth.org/117382.html (comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there using OpenID (your LJ will work as identity URL).

what the f**k, geeks?
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Seriously, WHAT THE F**ING F**KING F**K? Now, I've made a few small contributions to open-source software, and somewhat presumptively claim membership of the extended libre software community. I've been to (and played a very small part in organizing and running) a libre software conference, and I had a great time.

I used to be proud of all that. This - having my eyes opened to the prevalence of this kind of crap in the community - is making me wonder if it's something I can take pride in -- if it's possible to support the idealism and the philosophy without inadvertently supporting the horrid aspects of the culture. Gah!

Right, off to try and define my identity again. "Free software geek who tries not to be too much of an a-hole" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Posted originally at http://necaris.dreamwidth.org/117228.html (comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there using OpenID (your LJ will work as identity URL).

*sigh* america
merton, linux, tux
necaris
What makes me even more frustrated with the mid-term election results is that I'm not especially surprised by them. Curse you, America, for living down to my expectations!

Posted originally at http://necaris.dreamwidth.org/116849.html (comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there using OpenID (your LJ will work as identity URL).

comedians :-(
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Got back from a fantastic evening (with thanks to palm_of_my_hand for inviting me to it) and, to wind down a bit, decided to watch some TV on iPlayer. Mock the Week popped up on the homepage, and I can always use a laugh, so I clicked on it.

Within five minutes they were making fun of a politician for being fat. Come on, guys, there's so much going on in UK politics right now that could be mocked, and you go for LOL FATTY? WTF?

It is, however, hard to work up appropriate anger -- everything else in my life is going wonderfully at the moment. I am in an awesome place, surrounded by awesome people, spending my days doing awesome stuff :-)!

Posted originally at http://necaris.dreamwidth.org/116148.html (comment count unavailable comments). Please comment there using OpenID (your LJ will work as identity URL).

so what do you think of ...
merton, linux, tux
necaris
...the prospect of having your power shut off for the lulz?

I'm not a fan, personally.

please tell me they're not serious
merton, linux, tux
necaris
I have a feeling they are :-(

also...
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Damn straight, Mr President!

everyone should read this
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Privacy and Control, from Bruce Schneier. Says a lot of things quite well.

i'm at pycon!
merton, linux, tux
necaris
(for those who don't know, PyCon) -- it is, so far, made of win.

in case no one's seen this already
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Dammit...

tech reporting: not so grate aktually
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Er, what? SQL injection is a complicated technique these days?

Come on, it's in XKCD, for heaven's sake, it's not that bloody complicated...

(In other news, remind me never to use my credit card in the US again; if that many payment providers don't sanitize their database inputs, there is little hope for the web development world...)

*sigh*
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Mental note: make tinfoil holder for passport.

thank god for (very) small favors
merton, linux, tux
necaris
So the actual algorithm for generating Social Security Numbers has been reverse-engineered. For those who don't know, a Social Security Number was originally used to identify government benefit accounts, but the US government has recently been using it more and more as a personal ID number (e.g. on tax returns) and many institutions have followed suit.

So, in other words, ID theft in the US just became a whole lot easier. According to the article, because of changes in government policy in the late 80s and early 90s, the algorithm becomes a lot more reliable for people born after 1988 -- so I'm not instantly screwed, but pretty close.

Thank you, America. Thank you very much.

town of the 	s
merton, linux, tux
necaris
I'd never been to Cambridge before today. I know it's a pretty major failing for a long-distance foreigner like myself to have spent so much time in the UK and never been to such a famously pretty university town, but I've never quite gotten around to it. Until today.

I've been taking a couple of days off work to spend with my parents, who are in the UK visiting, because I haven't seen them in months and what with being off to CA soon I'm not likely to see them again for quite some time. This morning, my mum more or less arbitrarily decided she wanted to see Cambridge, because she'd never been, and what with a car being conveniently to hand... we went.

Cambridge is... different from what I expected. And quite different from Oxford. Arguably prettier. I'm not sure how I feel about it, because I love Oxford and I loved my time at the Uni and I have a (slightly absurd, really) loyalty to the Dark Blue. But I think Cambridge might win at Pretty University Town. And, in some ways, win at Town in general. (Even if they do punt backwards).

Now, the part of my brain that is persistently pointing out that the Tabs officially Cannot Win is coming up with all kinds of reasons why they haven't, but I've spent all of an afternoon in Cambridge and about five years in Oxford altogether. Anyone else have any thoughts?

a silliness
merton, linux, tux
necaris
I went down to Santa Cruz this evening to see a friend from school who's at uni there. (Pro tip: Highway 17 + rain + night-time + automatic transmission = seriously unpleasant drive. Don't do it). While perusing the dessert menu I came across a cake that came doused with a shot of port. I checked with the waitress and yes, you do have to show ID to be able to order that dessert. Silly America and its Puritanical alcohol laws.

day-before-yesterday's technology... today!
merton, linux, tux
necaris
geek warning: not very interestingCollapse )

belatedly
merton, linux, tux
necaris

Happy Thanksgiving!

I especially like Thanksgiving because it has no religious trappings around it, and because its entire point is stuffing your face. NOM.


god bless america
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Occasionally, my American patriotism and sense of national pride comes out from under its rock. This is one of those days. Yes we can!

erm...
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Why is this news to anyone, as it appears to be?

tired
merton, linux, tux
necaris
I've been tired this week -- I guess fasting is really getting to me. However, I did find this on Planet Perl. I quite want to try it -- anyone interested?

small worlds
merton, linux, tux
necaris
I thought part of the point of London was that it's not small and cozy like Oxford... so how is it that on the way back from palm_of_my_hand's housecooling I encountered realdoll *and* theothermartin, completely randomly, in the Tube station / street? Not that I'm complaining, it was wonderful to see them, but it does make me wonder if someone is using an improbability drive nearby...

shameless plug
merton, linux, tux
necaris
There is an Oxford-based band called InLight, who are vaguely indie/alternative and really quite good, and they're putting on a show this weekend here in Oxford. This has been publicized in many places and it's entirely possible some of you had already planned to go. If you hadn't -- have another think about it, it could be a nice (brief) break from exam-panic or revision or just the stresses of daily life.

(Why, you might ask, am I advertising for this random band? The guitarist is a friend of mine and, as I probably can't go, I'm feeling a bit unsupportive -- so if I can send a couple of people in my place I'll feel much better ;-))

further incursions into people's privacy
merton, linux, tux
necaris
As if Facebook's News Feed wasn't quite creepy enough yet...

multilingual neologisms
merton, linux, tux
necaris
I don't know if this is actually standard French, but today I came across the word relooké (here), and from context it seems to mean "given a new look". Which means that it's made of an English noun, but adjectified in a French way... as if this language weren't confusing enough!

controversy
merton, linux, tux
necaris
Normally, when the organization you're working for gets in the news, it's a good thing. That's not always true, though.

mmm... sugar
merton, linux, tux
necaris
After taking a large sip of a (stereotypically American, and therefore ludicrously rich and sugary) milkshake a couple of days ago, I was prompted somehow to point out that "the world is a shiny and wonderful place!". This titillated my cousin so much, it's now on his Facebook profile. It's true though... the world is shiny, and wonderful.

(Can you tell I'm in a good mood?)

?

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