• Fri
    04
    Apr 14

    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

    The events surrounding Brendan Eich have caused me to think long and hard about the values I believe in over the last week. I support the equal rights of the LGBT community (and many more of course) and condemn public discrimination against them.

    However, to be up front and clear, Eich has not overtly shared what his exact beliefs are and I support and respect his right not to. In fact, I will strongly and vigorously defend the RIGHT for anyone in this country to both hold and express (or not) whatever their beliefs are. I can even appreciate the company and discourse of others who disagree with me because it makes me re-evaluate when I am wrong, but also makes me more convicted in what I believe as well.

    But, I've concluded that the true events of the past week aren't really about one or any other position on rights of any kind or whether the public should or shouldn’t band together with those oppressed. The online media has turned a lack of communication into the story that they WANTED rather than what it could have been.
    Could Mozilla and Eich have managed the situation better? Yes, of course. Did I WANT Eich to step down? No, I actually don’t feel anyone should be forced to sacrifice their job for what they believe in. I also think that while we ALL have the right to hold whatever beliefs we like and should be constitutionally protected by government prosecution for those beliefs (with clear and obvious exceptions I won’t cover here), that does not mean that expressing one’s opinion does not free them from consequence.

    For instance, I also believe that if enough of the employees at Mozilla decide they do not support him, then I can respect their right to work wherever they like as well. If Mozilla was at risk of losing a significant portion of their employees because Eich could not lead them, then I can understand his decision without judgment.

    The role of CEO is not technical. A technical CEO is a bonus if and only if the candidate is also an competent leader and business executive. I can respect Eich's contribution to the industry and his technical acumen without agreeing with what he may or may not personally believe (which again, he's not outspoken about, so this can only be presumed). Thus, the calls or actions to boycott Firefox (or crazily even JavaScript) are a bit hyperbolic and silly. I personally don't use Firefox since I find it slow and bloated, so I feel I make my decisions on the technical merit of the product. (Note, I used to use Firefox for personal use exclusively about 5 years ago, but felt the performance of the product suffered since then.)

    I can't help but think that the real issue at heart here is that some Mozilla employees have made a call that they cannot support the new selection for CEO. The online technology media have latched on to these calls and have inserted stories in the void created by lack of communication on the part of Eich and Mozilla (which sadly is in their nature to do). I wish I knew the true numbers; I trust Eich did when making his decision. But, the real failure here is the selection committee in making the appointment they did and causing such a rift in the first place. My understanding is that they might have known that this was a possible outcome with their selection and I read text from an interview implying that Eich might not have initially wanted the role either (which might affect his reactions and communication in this crisis).

    In conclusion, I have seen many trusted friends and colleagues online over the last week or so flinging stones and arrows back and forth. I have seen many tweets regarding whom supports whom and over whether anyone has the right to call for action when they disagree with the personal beliefs of a public figure head. Well, my friends and colleagues. You are both right. Neither side will “win” in this debate. We can and absolutely should protect and respect the rights we have as citizens to hold any belief we like. BUT, we also can and should call out those who are in positions of power who PUBLICLY support the oppression of others. Like it or not, selection to positions of power (either socially or technically) require a greater scrutiny on the political and social beliefs that candidate holds. This has and will continue to be true in our society. I would have ALSO supported a public dialog on his beliefs as well such that we could then evaluate and compare our own beliefs with his on merit. That is how our social fabric is changed and molded. As mentioned, that is his right to control  and by choosing to remain silent, his story will simply fade over time and most likely be forgotten.

    J.P.

    (P.S. On an editorial note, I post here MUCH less often now that my twitter feed is public: https://twitter.com/jpsays.)

  • Sat
    29
    Sep 12

    10 Years!!

    Ten years ago TODAY (well at the time I am writing this at least), I posted my first weblog entry. At the time, I was against the establishment. It was very important to me that the code powering the side was all written by me. (Note: if you clicked on the previous link and it worked, I would again note that the same code I wrote 10 years ago is still reliably serving up content today.) It was the opposite of user friendly. I came up with my own mark-up language in the beginning. I wrote a language parser using regular expressions that I would use to add links, come up with summaries, and even create html markup on the fly. At the time, I was obsessed with Perl. I still respect a lot of what Perl can do. It was all about string manipulation. Everything was a string. It was all about how you manipulated those strings. This was just on the cusp of complex, “you design it”, type object oriented online programming. Today, my blog is powered by Graffiti CMS. It’s compatible with Windows Live Writer and highly configurable. However, at the time, the technology of the day was to either go with something like Radio (P.S. For the record, I once helped Dave with his wifi at a blogger meetup in Seattle) or to go with a hosted service like Live Journal.

    I was leery of putting my words, my content, on someone else's servers. This is WAY before the days where it was common that sites had EULAs that allowed you to retain ownership of your own content. I was (*cough* am) running my own custom-built server and NOT interested in putting my words on other servers. I trusted my backup techniques and especially trusted my own sql design as well (properly indexed sql tables/databases still interest me today) over anyone else’s. This means that I poured hours and hours (weeks really) into the custom perl code base. Later on came the concept of RSS. I spent a lot of effort matching and implementing not only the full RSS 2.0 spec, but also the RSS 1.0 spec as well as a lot of the quirks of RSS readers of the day. Including completely implemented and compliant change headers such that I could returned not-changed results and not use much bandwidth.

    Well, the last ten years have both gone by fast, yet offer a wide variety of memories and experiences. Blogging in 2002 was so much more free, so much more open, and more of a release than today. In this day in age, the letters TL and DR mean doom for the long form communication that is stream of consciousness blogging.
    Back then, there was NO facebook, there was NO twitter. My blog was THE way that I communicated regularly with others outside of email. I REALLY miss that time. I had the time to be able to elaborately explain the depths of all thought, no matter how complex or intricate. These days are gone today unfortunately. I envy the hours… and hours… of free time I had back then to be able to spend time waxing philosophically over whatever I liked.

    I did also have a specific purpose to this blog entry as well. Back in July of 2006, almost 4 years after starting my own custom blog, I was tired of constantly maintaining custom code every time that technology changed. The web was getting more visual and markup was getting more complicated and I was looking to utilize other tools to actually write the blog entries. For instance, I am writing this text using Windows Live Writer. At the time, through work, I had access to free hosting. At first, I used Sharepoint Blog services, then Graffiti.

    However, at the end of August, this service was canceled and I am again on my own.

    For now, I am pretty happy with Graffiti. I just wanted to find another host to move the database and asp.net hosting to. So, I tried Azure! My msdn membership gets me some Azure hosting, so I figured I would try it out.


    Sadly, so far, I have hit nothing by road-blocks. THIS site is still not hosted on Azure. The first problem I found was that users which use a live custom domain (if you use your own hotmail address) can’t sign up for azure. Not only that, you can’t even sign in to the sign-up page at all. It took me emailing someone internally to get my own account to work. This means as far as I know, if you have your own custom hotmail account, you can’t sign up for Azure today at all (internally they fixed it for me, but after understanding the problem, regular users may not have any luck).

    I also have an Amazon S3 account. It serves many of the photos on this site and also powers sites like jpmovies.org and blacknugget.info (other sites I play with web programming on). It’s not only dead-simple, but ALSO cheap. My average monthly bill to amazon is under 50c per month. That’s amazing for the speed and service that I get from it. I would gladly pay double that (12$ a year) to get asp.net hosting that works. (I haven’t found anything like this so far.) When I signed up for Azure, I was hopefully that it would be even easier to use. Microsoft has a pattern of being much easier to use all-around. However, this was not the case. It seemed that the focus of Azure is entirely on writing your own code from scratch and hosting it. To get started, they make you download an SDK and install Visual Studio. Without these two, there is nothing you can do. (To give some credit, someone from Azure actually called me today and helped a bit. You see, there is a hidden “beta” option to sign up for hosted vms (which is buried). Unfortunately, I can’t use them yet.)

    So, I tried to get a new account setup. I am quite knowledgeable about online hosting and development, so I figured that it should be easy. I spent 8 hours just trying to get a web server deployed and a database setup. By the end of the experience, Azure had deleted all my progress (I had remoted to the machines and made custom edits, which Azure deleted) and actually shut off my account. (I actually appreciate this feature. You can choose to have them just stop serving before you leave the free level.) So for now, I have no online source for hosting. Today’s call gave me an idea I am following up on, but I have to wait 30 days for my account to be re-enabled. I’ll let you know how that goes.

    Follow along both here and also on twitter for updates. (I updated my twitter account recently to be open.)

    In the mean-time though, I am back to working on my S3 sites, since S3 is still working perfectly. It just can’t host something like ASP or PHP. (I wish it could.)

    I also just returned from a trip to the Bay area as well, so watch here for pictures once I have them stitched together.

    In the mean-time, here is to the next 10 years!! Smile

    J.P.

  • Wed
    29
    Jun 11

    Battle with an Iron Goat

    This past weekend, myself and some friends went on a hike on the Iron Goat Trail. I had seen amazing pictures of the hike in the past, so I was looking forward to being able to see it for myself. Not to mention that I have this fascination with trains (always have) as well, so to learn the history of this line and walk along and in a few of the snow sheds and tunnels first built in the early 1900s is just amazing to me.

    For those who are familiar with the trail, we walked from the Martin Creek trailhead to the Wellington trailhead and then back again. On the way out, we used the lower grade of the trail and on the way back we used the upper grade. There were some cool sites on the upper grade, but personally, I enjoyed the views on the lower grade more. For those that want to see the details of our hike can check the runkeeper logs here.

    If I had to do this over again though, I think I would cheat somewhat. My favorite parts of the trail were in the first few miles of either side. I didn’t need to see as much of the places in the LONG middle of the hike. Speaking of sites, my photo collection of the hike is online here. Some very notable places along the trail were a nice spot on the lower grade where there was an avalanche / land slide. I have an interactive panoramic picture from that spot here. Additionally, standing at Windy Point and looking out over the valley and looking at Steven’s Pass and looking down on the NEW cascade tunnel still in operation as well. We were even able to watch a train cross into the tunnel. One interesting trick it looked like the train used was to have engine’s at both end of the train. I am wondering if it needed both, or whether they could just use one while the other one was in the tunnel. They used to use electric cars to PUSH fully loaded trains through the tunnel when the tunnel was first built which is why I wondered about the two engines.

    One thing I never expected to enjoy on the hike was the history of the trail and the town of Wellington. I knew before hand that there were some tunnels/snow sheds and I knew that there were some great photo opportunities as well. However, the whole reason for many of the snow sheds and tunnels being built was specifically because of the avalanche which happened. This remains the worst (by deaths) avalanche disaster in the US even today. I am VERY tempted to pick up this book on the event as well. I will be checking to see if it’s in the library here for sure.

    I would definitely recommend this hike to others. There are even different lengths depending on your interest. If you just want a few miles, start at the Wellington end and hike through the shed as far as you would like and back. Alternatively, there is an interpretive center in the center of the trail (scenic trailhead) as well which even has a separate .5mi loop too. If you want to hike as much as 6 mi, I would recommend starting at the wellington trail head and hiking to windy point and back. If you want to see the WHOLE trail, then bring two cars and ferry one car to the Martin Creek trail head or the Wellington trail head. Hiking west to east is both uphill (only railroad grade) AND incurs the tax of hiking up one of the switch backs to get to the upper grade which at the worst spot in the center is about a 400ft elevation gain. If you want to hike a smoother / easier hike but want to see the whole trail, then you can do the same dual car trick and hike from east (Wellington) to west. That hike is 100% downhill. Either way you choose, my personal recommendation is to use the lower grade on the west 3 miles of the hike. Both upper and lower go to and from the same locations though. If you are as crazy as we were, then you can just park at either end and walk all the way through and back also.

    I am looking forward to going back and learning even more as well. I was quite fascinated by the history I learned and did not expect at all. For those who missed it in the deluge of links above, here are some highlight links:

    - Pictures

    - GPS map of the trail including elevations

    - A few Photosynths along the trail

     

    Sorry to all (are there any anymore?) who actually follow this RSS feed. It’s been a busy year. This post took about 2 hours working on pictures, an hour of researching the history and gathering links, and then an hour to write it all up as well. I would love to have that amount of free time to write about everything going on. There is a LOT of detail that I miss. But alas, I just have not had the time. The SHORT version is going to be following what I post on Flickr and what I tweet about.

    Till Next Time

    J.P.

  • Thu
    30
    Dec 10

    More wins using unsigned drivers...

    As you may have seen before, I have spent much effort in the past on learning how to sign my own drivers and get these installed in windows.

    Recently, I had to do the same again. I was building a computer for downstairs using "spare parts" (this is in quotes since this is actually a VERY long story spanning 2007 to 2010 and sort of sad too). Well the motherboard I ended up using has sound on it, but not digital audio.

    I had an extra soundblaster live sitting around that I was hoping to use so that I could get a nice digital signal from the machine to my stereo.

    Well, apparently I am WAY behind the times since these are now only in the ARCHIVE section on creative's download site. My new machine is of course 64 bit, which means I needed 64 bit drivers and this device was old enough that windows did not support it natively.

    To my surprise, Creative actually does provide a software installer for 64 bit drivers if I select windows 7 as the OS. I thought this was going to be easy. I was wrong.

    It turns out that their installer has all the drivers hidden away inside and that additionally they are not signed. Right away, this is an error on Creative's part. If I select win7 64 bit, either A. They need to NOT provide me with an installer that has unsigned drivers, or B. Provide me with actually signed drivers. They claim that they pass the windows driver bench, so they should get a cert for that, but Creative just did not want to include the right version I guess. Not too much I can do to correct their error though.

    Well, that means my only solution is to break out the article I wrote before. The first hard part was just getting the drivers out. I had to use the program called 7Zip to open the self-extracting EXE file and find the driver package. Then as I wrote, create the CAT file, and then sign both it and all the drivers in the folder too.

    Sure enough, that worked and I have sound on that machine. I am only writing an additional note here to keep the idea fresh in the search engines in case others stumble on this. (The previous article is the most read blog post I have ever posted according to my Graffiti Blogging Engine, so it must be reaching some people.)

    Creative, would it hurt you to just sign the darn drivers you release? Really?

    J.P.

  • Fri
    24
    Dec 10

    Slideshow 2010 is here…

    It’s not the end of the year quite yet, but I already have more than enough pictures to make a decent slideshow, so I am cutting off the entries.

    I learned a lot over the last 7 years of making these. Technically speaking with the music and the software and the encoding, etc; this is probably one of the better ones. However, I had quite the challenge trying to narrow down the music selection to only 6 songs that made the final cut. I hope everyone likes it.

    I am posting this in a larger format than normal. In fact, its covering up some of the normal content on the right at the moment. However, the pictures are well worth it. In fact. I almost thought against posting this “web” version at all. The colors in this are all washed out and its somewhat blurry compared to the 1080p reference version I started with. However, I can’t quite let everyone stream a 1GB file from my site. So such are the tradeoffs of the web I suppose. Not all the pictures are uploaded to flickr yet, but most are. Also, I have not updated the slideshow site yet. This entry is your exclusive access. I will have download links closer to new years.

    Enjoy! (Note: Depending on your internet connection speed, it make take some time after hitting play for the file to download.)

    P.S. If you are reading this on Facebook, you will need to click “View Original Post” below to get the video.