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Justin Mason: Links for 2014-09-08

Mon, 2014-09-08 18:58
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

James Duncan: First thoughts on the Apple watch event

Mon, 2014-09-08 17:00

I can’t help to join everyone who says this: The new WATCH is about time about as much as the iPhone is about making phone calls. Sure, it does so nicely and in a way that’s in truly in the spirit of the first watches which miniaturized technology to put it as close to you as possible, not just be a vehicle for being something pretty you wear. But, as a really natural progression in wearable computing, it’s so much more than that. Sure, Apple’s not first. They rarely are for any particular point technology. Google, Samsung, LG, and Motorola really worked hard to get their entries out there before now. But, if it truly lives up to its promise, Apple’s new watch brings a level of competence to the wearable space that’s unprecedented and very welcome.

The UI is really impressive. In particular, I was not expecting the use of the crown as a UI navigation element. I also love the way you can move around the universe of your apps. I want Springboard on iOS to be more like that.

Like Brent, I want one. I want Katerina to have one. I can’t wait to tap out little haptic messages to people close to me. I want to build software for it. I want to explore this space. I’m currently working on a Android project and having a lot of fun with it, but… Maybe soon.

As to the new iPhone, big or medium. I could go either way. The big might be too big. Then again, might not. I really want to hold ’em in hand to know. My gut feel is that if I were to buy a new iPhone right now, it’d be the regular iPhone 6.

And finally, on the topic of the presentation itself: I love that Apple put a lot of effort into their website for streaming the presentation and information around it in real time. It sucks that the live streaming was so messed up. It also sucks that the Apple website itself seemed to fall over a few times. Some number of people had a really bad day at work today. On the other hand, the new flatter website look and feel is really nice. So there’s that.

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Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

James Duncan: Prelude to the big Apple event

Mon, 2014-09-08 17:00

Is it a watch because it’s pretty and displays the time? Is it a watch because it’s on your wrist? Or does it have as much to do with a watch as the iPhone has with being a phone? It’s almost time to find out, and John Gruber weighs in with his thoughts.

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Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Ben Laurie: Smoked Duck Breasts

Mon, 2014-09-08 13:55

I’ve recently started experimenting with smoking. First experiment was lamb bacon, but that’s going to take some refining – it was good, but I’m sure it could be better. Recipe once refined.

Todays’ was smoked duck breasts.

Marinade the duck breasts for 2 days in red wine, sugar, salt, pepper and chinese five spice. Smoke (I use a ProQ Frontier) with apple wood (half a smoking box full) and lapsang souchong tea (contents of four teabags) at 125C for 3-4 hours.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Ben Laurie: Smoked Duck Breasts

Mon, 2014-09-08 13:55

I’ve recently started experimenting with smoking. First experiment was lamb bacon, but that’s going to take some refining – it was good, but I’m sure it could be better. Recipe once refined.

Todays’ was smoked duck breasts.

Marinade the duck breasts for 2 days in red wine, sugar, salt, pepper and chinese five spice. Smoke (I use a ProQ Frontier) with apple wood (half a smoking box full) and lapsang souchong tea (contents of four teabags) at 125C for 3-4 hours.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Matt Raible: Getting Started with JHipster on OS X

Mon, 2014-09-08 12:36

Last week I was tasked with developing a quick prototype that used AngularJS for its client and Spring MVC for its server. A colleague developed the same application using Backbone.js and Spring MVC. At first, I considered using my boot-ionic project as a starting point. Then I realized I didn't need to develop a native mobile app, but rather a responsive web app.

My colleague mentioned he was going to use RESThub as his starting point, so I figured I'd use JHipster as mine. We allocated a day to get our environments setup with the tools we needed, then timeboxed our first feature spike to four hours.

My first experience with JHipster failed the 10-minute test. I spent a lot of time flailing about with various "npm" and "yo" commands, getting permissions issues along the way. After getting thinks to work with some sudo action, I figured I'd try its Docker development environment. This experience was no better.

JHipster seems like a nice project, so I figured I'd try to find the causes of my issues. This article is designed to save you the pain I had. If you'd rather just see the steps to get up and running quickly, skip to the summary.

The "npm" and "yo" issues I had seemed to be caused by a bad node/npm installation. To fix this, I removed node and installed nvm. Here's the commands I needed to remove node and npm:

sudo rm -rf /usr/local/lib/node_modules sudo rm -rf /usr/local/include/node sudo rm /usr/local/bin/node sudo rm -rf /usr/local/bin/npm sudo rm /usr/local/share/man/man1/node.1 sudo rm -rf /usr/local/lib/dtrace/node.d sudo rm -rf ~/.npm

Next, I ran "brew doctor" to make sure Homebrew was still happy. It told me some things were broken:

$ brew doctor Warning: Broken symlinks were found. Remove them with `brew prune`: /usr/local/bin/yo /usr/local/bin/ionic /usr/local/bin/grunt /usr/local/bin/bower

I ran brew update && brew prune, followed by brew install nvm. Next, I added the following to my ~/.profile:

source $(brew --prefix nvm)/

To install the latest version of node, I ran the commands below and set the latest version as the default:

nvm ls-remote nvm install v0.11.13 nvm alias default v0.11.13

Once I had a fresh version of Node.js, I was able to run JHipster's local installation instructions.

npm install -g yo npm install -g generator-jhipster

Then I created my project:

yo jhipster

I was disappointed to find this created all the project files in my current directory, rather than in a subdirectory. I'd recommend you do the following instead:

mkdir ~/projectname && cd ~/projectname && yo jhipster

Before creating your project, JHipster asks you a number of questions. To see what they are, see its documentation on creating an application. Two things to be aware of:

In other words, I'd recommend using Java 7 + (cookie-based authentication with websockets) or (oauth2 authentication w/o websockets).

After creating my project, I was able to run it using "mvn spring-boot:run" and view it at http://localhost:8080. To get hot-reloading for the client, I ran "grunt server" and opened my browser to http://localhost:9000.

JHipster + Docker on OS X

I had no luck getting the Docker instructions to work initially. I spent a couple hours on it, then gave up. A couple of days ago, I decided to give it another good ol' college-try. To make sure I figured out everything from scratch, I started by removing Docker.

I re-installed Docker and pulled the JHipster image using the following:

sudo docker pull jdubois/jhipster-docker

The error I got from this was the following:

2014/09/05 19:43:38 Post http:///var/run/docker.sock/images/create?fromImage=jdubois%2Fjhipster-docker&tag=: dial unix /var/run/docker.sock: no such file or directory

After doing some research, I learned I needed to run boot2docker init first. Next I ran boot2docker up to start the Docker daemon. Then I copied/pasted "export DOCKER_HOST=tcp://" into my console and tried to run docker pull again.

It failed with the same error. The solution was simpler than you might think: don't use sudo.

$ docker pull jdubois/jhipster-docker Pulling repository jdubois/jhipster-docker 01bdc74025db: Pulling dependent layers 511136ea3c5a: Download complete ...

The next command that JHipster's documentation recommends is to run the Docker image, forward ports and share folders. When you run it, the terminal seems to hang and trying to ssh into it doesn't work. Others have recently reported a similar issue. I discovered the hanging is caused by a missing "-d" parameter and ssh doesn't work because you need to add a portmap to the VM to expose the port to your host. You can fix this by running the following:

boot2docker down VBoxManage modifyvm "boot2docker-vm" --natpf1 "containerssh,tcp,,4022,,4022" VBoxManage modifyvm "boot2docker-vm" --natpf1 "containertomcat,tcp,,8080,,8080" VBoxManage modifyvm "boot2docker-vm" --natpf1 "containergruntserver,tcp,,9000,,9000" VBoxManage modifyvm "boot2docker-vm" --natpf1 "containergruntreload,tcp,,35729,,35729" boot2docker start

After making these changes, I was able to start the image and ssh into it.

docker run -d -v ~/jhipster:/jhipster -p 8080:8080 -p 9000:9000 -p 35729:35729 -p 4022:22 -t jdubois/jhipster-docker ssh -p 4022 jhipster@localhost

I tried creating a new project within the VM (cd /jhipster && yo jhipster), but it failed with the following error:

/usr/lib/node_modules/generator-jhipster/node_modules/yeoman-generator/node_modules/mkdirp/index.js:89 throw err0; ^ Error: EACCES, permission denied '/jhipster/src'

The fix was giving the "jhipster" user ownership of the directory.

sudo chown jhipster /jhipster

After doing this, I was able to generate an app and run it using "mvn spring-boot:run" and access it from my Mac at http://localhost:8080. I was also able to run "grunt server" and see it at http://localhost:9000

However, I was puzzled to see that there was nothing in my ~/jhipster directory. After doing some searching, I found that the docker run -v /host/path:/container/path doesn't work on OS X.

David Gageot's A Better Boot2Docker on OSX led me to svendowideit/samba, which solved this problem. The specifics are documented in boot2docker's folder sharing section.

I shutdown my docker container by running "docker ps", grabbing the first two characters of the id and then running:

docker stop [2chars]

I started the JHipster container without the -v parameter, used "docker ps" to find its name (backstabbing_galileo in this case), then used that to add samba support.

docker run -d -p 8080:8080 -p 9000:9000 -p 35729:35729 -p 4022:22 -t jdubois/jhipster-docker docker run --rm -v /usr/local/bin/docker:/docker -v /var/run/docker.sock:/docker.sock svendowideit/samba backstabbing_galileo

Then I was able to connect using Finder > Go > Connect to Server, using the following for the server address:


To make this volume appear in my regular development area, I created a symlink:

ln -s /Volumes/jhipster ~/dev/jhipster

After doing this, all the files were marked as read-only. To fix, I ran "chmod -R 777 ." in the directory on the server. I noticed that this also worked if I ran it from my Mac's terminal, but it took quite a while to traverse all the files. I noticed a similar delay when loading the project into IntelliJ.


Phew! That's a lot of information that can be condensed down into four JHipster + Docker on OS X tips.

  1. Make sure your npm installation doesn't require sudo rights. If it does, reinstall using nvm.
  2. Add portmaps to your VM to expose ports 4022, 8080, 9000 and 35729 to your host.
  3. Change ownership on the /jhipster in the Docker image: sudo chown jhipster /jhipster.
  4. Use svendowideit/samba to share your VM's directories with OS X.
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Matthias Wessendorf: Apache Mesos and Marathon for UnifiedPush Server and WildFly

Mon, 2014-09-08 11:55

After reading a bit about Apache Mesos I wanted to play a bit with it. If you don’t know what Mesos is, it’s a cluster manager that provides efficient resource isolation and sharing across distributed applications, or frameworks.

During reading up on Apache Mesos I ran into the Marathon framework, developed by the folks atMesosphere. Marathon is a nice tool to manage tasks on Apache Mesos. The Github repo says:

Marathon is an Apache Mesos framework for long-running applications. Given that you have Mesos running as the kernel for your datacenter, Marathon is the init or upstart daemon.

Installation of Apache Mesos

The folks at Mesosphere did a great job writing up different installation guides. As a Mac user, I did follow this installation. The guide helps on installing the required components of the setup:

  • Apache Zookeeper
  • Apache Mesos
  • Mesosphere’s Marathon
Running WildFly and the AeroGear UnifiedPush Server on Apache Mesos

Once the above setup is done and your Apache Mesos system is running, it’s pretty simple to launch a WildFly server and deploy the UnifiedPush Server to it.

Download the following bundles and place them somewhere into your hosted infrastructure:

Now you need to save this JSON:

to a file and submit it to the Marathon server, using curl:

curl -i -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d @unifiedpush-server.json localhost:8080/v2/apps

After Apache Mesos is done with downloading the artifacts from the uris section, it performs the steps chained in the cmd section. This is basically a set of shell commands that copy the UnfiedPush Server and its database file to a WildFly, which uses a PORT provided by the custer manager, instead of the default 8080 http port.

You are done – that’s all you need. On the Marathon UI you now see the URL and the PORT of the WildFly, containing the UnifiedPush Server:


Have fun with WildFly and the UnifiedPushServer on Apache Mesos!

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Bryan Pendleton: Fabiano Caruana at Sinquefield 2014

Sun, 2014-09-07 12:04

The chess world is abuzz with the extraordinary performance of Fabiano Caruana at this year's Sinquefield Cup:

  • On Chess: St. Louis Witnessing Chess History-As-It-Happens At Sinquefield CupThe 2014 Sinquefield Cup, the global super-tournament now in progress in the Central West End, had already been prepared to leave its mark in time. Headlined by reigning World Chess Champion GM Magnus Carlsen, along with five other of the world’s top-10 International Grandmasters, the event was set to become a part of chess lore even before its first move: The six-player field is the strongest-rated ever, averaging a 2802 strength never seen in the game’s 1,500-year history.
  • Caruana Demolishes Topalov, Increases Lead AgainCaruana began his second time around the field, but so far it's looking the same as the first. A mere 31 moves and barely three hours was all it took to take out GM Veselin Topalov in round six.
  • Grande! Mostruoso! Fabiano Caruana is at 7,0/7 at Sinquefield CupDay after day the Italian-American superstar Fabiano Caruana is making history. Fabulos Fabiano aka Fabi is now at 7,0/7 in the strongest ever chess tournament, the Sinquefield Cup, breaking every expectation, shattering even the bravest predictions.

    With his victory in round 6 he surpassed the 5,0/5 start of Ivanchuk at Mtel Masters 08, with the victory today another achievement remains behind – the 6,0/6 of Karpov in Linares 1994. The modern times of chess have a new king, king Fabiano Caruana. One has to look back to 1968 where in Wijk Aan Zee the legendary Korchnoi started with 8,0/8. The times now are so different and the competition so fierce that already Fabiano’s success can be proclaimed as the most memorable streak in the history of chess.

  • Sinquefield Cup Round 8: The Streak Ends, But Caruana Clinches Tournament Victory With Two Rounds To SpareIn today's game he was close to a win against Carlsen, but 26. 0-0 let the foot off the gas and Carlsen scraped his way to a drawish ending, one which Caruana didn't seem too intent to try to win. From the perspective of tournament victory, a draw was sufficient, and for all his strength and ambition even Carlsen cannot hope to make up a three point deficit in the two remaining rounds.
  • Undefeated Caruana Wins Sinquefield Cup by Three PointsFabiano Caruana finished the 2014 Sinquefield Cup with a solid draw against Levon Aronian to end the highest-rated tournament in history with a magnificent 8.5/10 -- three points ahead of his nearest follower, the World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen.
  • Fabiano Caruana wins Sinquefield Cup with stunning performanceThere are only two historic precedents for such a runaway start in an elite event. Long ago at Avro 1938 Reuben Fine began with 5.5/6 against a sextet who included four world champions – José Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe and Mikhail Botvinnik. And at Linares 1994 Anatoly Karpov began 6-0 before drawing in round seven with Garry Kasparov. Karpov finished with 11/13 in what was widely considered the best tournament performance of all time.
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Justin Mason: Links for 2014-09-06

Sat, 2014-09-06 18:58
  • ‘The very first release of Gmail simply used spamassassin on the backend’

    Excellent. Confirming what I’d heard from a few other sources, too ;) This is a well-written history of the anti-spam war so far, from Mike Hearn, writing with the Google/Gmail point of view:

    Brief note about my background, to establish credentials: I worked at Google for about 7.5 years. For about 4.5 of those I worked on the Gmail abuse team, which is very tightly linked with the spam team (they use the same software, share the same on-call rotations etc). Reading this kind of stuff is awesome for me, since it’s a nice picture of a fun problem to work on — the Gmail team took the right ideas about how to fight spam, and scaled them up to the 10s-of-millions DAU mark. Nicely done. The second half is some interesting musings on end-to-end encrypted communications and how it would deal with spam. Worth a read…

    (tags: gmail google spam anti-spam filtering spamassassin history)

  • The FBI Finally Says How It ‘Legally’ Pinpointed Silk Road’s Server

    The answer, according to a new filing by the case’s prosecution, is far more mundane: The FBI claims to have found the server’s location without the NSA’s help, simply by fiddling with the Silk Road’s login page until it leaked its true location.

    (tags: fbi nsa silk-road tor opsec dread-pirate-roberts wired)

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Bryan Pendleton: Ireland day 10: wrapping up

Fri, 2014-09-05 19:20

Our last day in Ireland was chaotic, but fun. If I told you that we managed to have breakfast in Adare, Ireland, and dinner just a few blocks from Buckingham Palace, would you believe me?

Well, here's how it all went:

After a nice breakfast in Adare, I enjoyed the Adare Heritage Museum while Donna enjoyed the Adare craft stores (where we bought a beautiful set of ceramic cups from a County Clare craftsman), we packed up and headed out.

We were at Shannon Airport in no time at all (I guess we masted this whole "driving in Ireland" thing after all!), and in just a jiffy the car was returned and the bags were checked and we were through security (Shannon is a very small airport and easy to navigate). To kill a few minutes, I enjoyed a pint at the airport lounge while Donna enjoyed the airport gift stores (where they had a lovely scarf).

We arrived at Heathrow, checked in to our hotel, dumped our luggage, and took the Heathrow Express into central London. The train is clean, smooth, comfortable, and fairly fast, but unbelievably expensive: if you buy your tickets at face value, two round-trip tickets will run you 72 pounds (about $130 US dollars), which is an astonishing price for two train tickets from the airport into town. If you buy your tickets online, there is a special deal where two round trip tickets cost only 50 pounds, which is quite a bit better, but it's still almost $90 US dollars. By comparison, the express train from Incheon Airport to downtown Seoul, which travels 3 times the distance but in other ways is very similar, was only $32 dollars for two round trip tickets.

Well, you know: London is expensive, after all. And I really wanted to take the train, because I like to do different things and try different things.

And, as a sort of bonus, the Heathrow Express train takes you to Paddington Station, which I wanted to visit because I so much loved the book when I was a child.

After all of that, we ended up arriving in Paddington Station at 5:00 PM on a Monday evening. Which, if you want to see what Paddington Station is like, is a fun time to get there.

But it's not a quiet time to get there.

Oh, and did I mention that the rain was still coming down steadily?

But then we had a great idea (well, inspired by a suggestion in Rick Steves's book about London): let's take the bus!

Riding the buses in Central London is surprisingly easy.

To start with, you can just use your Oystercard, like you do on the tube. And the bus fare is not bad (typically 1-2 pounds).

Each bus route has a number.

And, in each particular area, each bus stop has a letter, and a map.

The map tells you where bus number 23, say, goes, and how often it stops, and so forth. And, importantly, the map also tells you that, say, bus 23 stops at station K, which is one block to your left.

I'm probably making it sound a bit complicated, but it was really a snap.

And riding the bus at 5:00 PM on a Monday in the pouring rain was actually surprisingly enjoyable. We climbed up to the second floor (in Central London, the buses are double-deckers; you did watch your Harry Potter movies, right?) and watched through the window as everyone was out and about on their business.

From Paddington Station, we rode down Edgware Road, through a large middle eastern neighborhood filled with Lebanese restaurants and markets and lots of cafes with people sitting at tables on the sidewalk smoking the hookah and discussing the events of the day.

We rode down along Oxford Street and watched all the shoppers rushing to and fro.

We came across Oxford Circus and it was a sea of umbrellas.

At Picadilly Circus we decided to get off this bus.

We wanted to do some touristy shopping but nothing in Picadilly Circus was quite right so we took the 19 bus down to Knightsbridge and exited at Harrods.

There is truly nothing like Harrods.

But Harrods at 6:00 PM on a Monday evening, in the rain, in August; well, it was really hopping! Have you ever been shopping in San Francisco, in Union Square, on the Friday after Thanksgiving? Well, bottle all that up, and put it in a single building (a 10-story building that fills an entire city block in Central London), and that's what visiting Harrod's is like.

We actually got some real shopping done in Harrod's. And we also wandered around for an hour or so, to see the toy section, and the fancy restaurants on the top floor, and the famous bronze escalators with the statue of Dody and Diana, and all those other parts of Harrod's that you Just Have To See For Yourself.

Then we walked about two blocks, off the main street and down what seemed like an alley, to a restaurant I'd managed to find on the Internet: Haandi, an Indian restaurant in the North Indian style. The food was superb; the people were friendly; the price wasn't unreasonable: it was the ideal London dinner.

On our long, meandering way back to our hotel, we happened to find ourselves riding a bus with a man from Ireland; it turned out he has a summer home in Dingle and ws there the same day that we visited! It was great fun to tell him about our travels.

Oh, and: I don't exactly know why I feel the need to include this, but we saw the bottle of Dalmore Constellation Cask 1 1972 that is for sale at the Duty Free Store in Terminal 2, Heathrow.

Yes, that price is correct: 13,000 pounds for that single bottle of whiskey.

So, there you go.

After all is said and done, it's hard to think of anything I would want to change about our trip.

Driving in Ireland was, at times, fatiguing, but there's no way we could have seen anywhere close to all the places we visited without having a car. Staying at modern hotels was comfortable, but we didn't spend much time doing the "stay at a traditional B&B, visit a traditional pub, listen to traditional music, meet locals and talk" experience.

Overall, it was a wonderful vacation, and one I think we'll remember for many years.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Justin Mason: Links for 2014-09-05

Fri, 2014-09-05 18:58
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Bryan Pendleton: Ireland day nine: A bunch of Blarney

Thu, 2014-09-04 21:56

The day dawns grey and cool, with a steady rain falling. Even the gorgeous pair of Red and White Setters at the Castlemartyr reception desk are looking rather mopey (perhaps they don't get their regular walk in weather like this?).

But it will not get us down: today is our last full day in Ireland and we have a lot planned!

I pack in the Full Irish Breakfast once again, and we pack up the car once again, and we are on the road once again.

Just down the road from Castlemartyr is Barryscourt Castle, recently (2002) renovated and restored by heritage experts from the Irish OPW.

Sadly, an enormous storm in February damaged the electric equipment in the castle and so they cannot admit visitors to the tower house, which is a shame because from all accounts the restoration was particularly well done.

But Robin, the OPW docent on duty this morning, cheerfully puts on his all-weather poncho and gives us a great tour of the gardens and grounds in the rain. His enthusiasm is infectious and even though we don't get to see the inside of the restored castle, I am glad we stopped.

Donna reports that the Pippin apples in the castle garden are yummy; they have carefully planted traditional varieties of Irish fruit trees in the restored orchard, paying as much attention to the authenticity of the garden restoration as they did to the tower restoration.

Our next stop is legendary. Many Americans may not have heard of the Rock of Cashel, but nearly all Americans have heard of the Blarney Stone.

Though I know a lot about it ahead of time, Blarney Castle, it turns out, surprises me. I am taken by three unexpected things:

  1. The height of the main castle. The keep itself is more than 90 feet high, and it is built on a large rock bluff overlooking the river, which adds another 30 feet or so to the river-facing face, which makes the overall impact quite dramatic
  2. The extent and beauty of the surrounding gardens and grounds. Visiting Blarney Castle involves much more than just kissing the stupid stone: there is a manor house, a number of outbuildings, and hundreds of acres of beautifully-maintained gardens to wander through
  3. The particularly clever "Poison Garden," full of medicinal, yet toxic, plants, many of which are quite uncommon and so are fascinating to see growing just 2 feet away from you.

But of course, you're there to see the stupid stone.

So, uncertainly, but with excitement, we enter the castle and begin climbing the stairs. Several times, we have to stop in side rooms and rest, for 10 flights of stone spiral staircase are surprisingly fatiguing.

Finally, we are at the top, and it is overwhelming. You emerge from the tight quarters of the windowless spriral staircase and find yourself standing in the open air, atop the Blarney Castle parapet, 100 feet up in the clear Irish air!

And you barely have time to catch your breath (that is, if your fear of heights allows you to breathe) before you find yourself at the Blarney Stone itself.

Donna eagerly hands me the camera, drops her backpack, purse, and coat at her feet, backs up, lies down, leans back over the side of the wall into thin air and KISSES THE STONE!

I snap 3 pictures, the Castle employees snap 2 more, and down we go.

The Castle is arranged such that you can take your time on the descent, viewing some of the other parts of the tower, but we're so breathless from visiting the top that we pretty much race down.

Still, we linger on the castle grounds for at least another hour, visiting the Poison Garden and the Rock Close and several other sights before we are ready to move on. We linger, knowing that these are mostly manufactured sites, not authentic ones, because they are attractive and enjoyable, but I am drawn on, to find more and truer destinations.

Thus we drive up the roadway through Mallow to Charleville, where we find the turn for Kilmallock.

Kilmallock is a fascinating medieval town, with sections of the city wall still standing, incorporated into the modern houses and shops quite seamlessly, and with several city gates still present as monuments of their own. There is an old friary and a collegiate church here which we explore, accompanied by three young ragamuffins, bored by the inactivity of summer, kicking the dirt and playing throw-a-stone to pass the time.

Now we are on the road again, up through Bruff and Holycross until, after being lost (yes, again), I find the Grange Stone Circle, the largest (114 stone) stone circle in all of Ireland.

Although the circle is large, the stones are smaller and the location less dramatic than at Dromberg, so the overall effect is much milder. Still, we enjoy wandering around, keeping a certain distance from the grazing cows.

Then, just as we are about to leave, I wave a salute to the farmer across the road. He waves back, and slowly walks across the road to meet us.

It turns out that he is the owner of the land on which the circle sits, and he is pleased to talk with us. His name is Timothy Casey, and he spends 20 minutes with us, explaining the stone circle, showing us other sites nearby, and sharing pictures of his children, one of whom has moved away to America. We promise to send him a postcard from the U.S.A.

Time is short, so we bid farewell to Timothy Casey and drive around to the other end of Lough Gur to the visitor center.

There, an extremely enthusiastic docent offers to give us the "5 minute overview"; 20 minutes later she winds down after realizing that we had had about all we could take. But there is a lot to talk about, as this beautiful lake has been the site of human settlement for at least the last 6,000 years, and there are archaelogical and historical sites spanning that entire time (of which the Grange Stone Circle is just a small part).

In addition to the stone circle, we visit archaelogical digs, stone forts, a medieval church ruin, a medieval castle, and, at the end, a "wedge tomb" called the Giant's Grave, carbon dated to 4,000 B.C., far and away the oldest human-created site we've visited in Ireland.

But it is late, and we are tired; we make our way to the Dunraven Arms in Adare, coming full circle. It is just as charming as it was a week ago, though there is no wedding tonight. We have a nice meal in the town pub, relax, unwind, and get ready to travel tomorrow.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Justin Mason: Links for 2014-09-04

Thu, 2014-09-04 18:58
  • Visualizing Garbage Collection Algorithms

    Great dataviz with animated GIFs

    (tags: algorithms gc memory visualization garbage-collection dataviz refcounting mark-and-sweep)

  • Standard Markdown

    John Gruber’s canonical description of Markdown’s syntax does not specify the syntax unambiguously. In the absence of a spec, early implementers consulted the original code to resolve these ambiguities. But was quite buggy, and gave manifestly bad results in many cases, so it was not a satisfactory replacement for a spec. Because there is no unambiguous spec, implementations have diverged considerably. As a result, users are often surprised to find that a document that renders one way on one system (say, a GitHub wiki) renders differently on another (say, converting to docbook using Pandoc). To make matters worse, because nothing in Markdown counts as a “syntax error,” the divergence often isn’t discovered right away. There’s no standard test suite for Markdown; the unofficial MDTest is the closest thing we have. The only way to resolve Markdown ambiguities and inconsistencies is Babelmark, which compares the output of 20+ implementations of Markdown against each other to see if a consensus emerges. We propose a standard, unambiguous syntax specification for Markdown, along with a suite of comprehensive tests to validate Markdown implementations against this specification. We believe this is necessary, even essential, for the future of Markdown.

    (tags: writing markdown specs standards text formats html)

  • Postcodes at last but random numbers don’t address efficiency

    Karlin Lillington assembles a fine collection of quotes from various sources panning the new Eircode system:

    Critics say the opportunity has been missed to use Ireland’s clean-slate status to produce a technologically innovative postcode system that would be at the cutting edge globally; similar to the competitive leap that was provided when the State switched to a digital phone network in the 1980s, well ahead of most of the world. Instead, say organisations such as the Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTAI), the proposed seven-digit format of scrambled letters and numbers is almost useless for a business sector that should most benefit from a proper postcode system: transport and delivery companies, from international giants like FedEx and UPS down to local courier, delivery and service supplier firms. Because each postcode will reveal the exact address of a home or business, privacy advocates are concerned that online use of postcodes could link many types of internet activity, including potentially sensitive online searches, to a specific household or business.

    (tags: eircode government fail ireland postcodes location ftai random)

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Michael McCandless: Scoring tennis using finite-state automata

Thu, 2014-09-04 12:17
For some reason having to do with the medieval French, the scoring system for tennis is very strange.

In actuality, the game is easy to explain: to win, you must score at least 4 points and win by at least 2. Yet in practice, you are supposed to use strange labels like "love" (0 points), "15" (1 point), "30" (2 points), "40" (3 points), "deuce" (3 or more points each, and the players are tied), "all" (players are tied) instead of simply tracking points as numbers, as other sports do.

This is of course wildly confusing to newcomers. Fortunately, the convoluted logic is easy to express as a finite-state automaton (FSA):

The game begins in the left-most (unlabeled) state, and then each time either player 1 (red) or player 2 (blue) scores, you advance to the corresponding state to know how to say the score properly in tennis-speak. In each state, player 1's score is first followed by player 2's; for example "40 30" means player 1 has scored 3 points and player 2 has scored 2 and "15 all" means both players have scored once. "adv 2" means player 2 is ahead by 1 point and will win if s/he scores again.

There are only 20 states, and there are cycles which means a tennis game can in fact go on indefinitely, if the players pass back and forth through the "deuce" (translation: game is tied) state.

This FSA is correct, and if you watch a Wimbledon match, for example, you'll see the game advance through precisely these states.


Yet for an FSA, merely being correct is not good enough!

It should also strive to be minimal, and surprisingly this FSA is not: if you build this Automaton in Luceneand minimize it, you'll discover that there are some wasted states! This means 20 states is overkill when deciding who won the game.

Specifically, there is no difference between the "30 all" and "deuce" states, nor between the "30 40" and "adv 2" states, nor between the "40 30" and "adv 1" states. From either state in each of these pairs, there is no sequence of player 1 / player 2 scoring that will result in a different final outcome (this is in principle how the minimization process identifies indistinguishable states).

Therefore, there's no point in keeping those states, and you can safely use this smaller 17-state FSA (10% smaller!) to score your tennis games instead:

For example, from "15 30", if player 1 scores, you go straight to "deuce" and don't bother with the redundant "30 30" state.

Another (simpler?) way to understand why these states are wasted is to recognize that the finite state machine is tracking two different pieces of information: first, how many points ahead player 1 is (since a player must win by 2 points) and second, how many points have been scored (since a player must score at least 4 points to win).

Once enough points (4 or more) have been scored by either player, their absolute scores no longer matter. All that matters is the relative score: whether player 1 is ahead by 1, equal, or behind by 1. For example, we don't care if the score is 197 to 196 or 6 to 5: they are the same thing.

Yet, early on, the FSA must also track the absolute scores, to ensure at least 4 points were scored by the winner. With the original 20-state FSA, the crossover between these two phases was what would have been "40 40" (each player scored 3 points). But in the minimal machine, the crossover became "30 30" (each player scored 2 points), which is safe since each player must still "win by 2" so if player 1 scores 2 points from "30 30", that means player 1 scored 4 points overall.

FSA minimization saved only 3 states for the game of tennis, resulting in a 10% smaller automaton, and maybe this simplifies keeping track of scores in your games by a bit, but in other FSA applications in Lucene, such as the analyzing suggester, MemoryPostingsFormatand the terms index, minimization is vital since it saves substantial disk and RAM for Lucene applications!
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Bryan Pendleton: Ireland day eight: the Rock of Cashel

Wed, 2014-09-03 21:46

Thanks to the M8 super speedway, we make it from Castlemartyr to Cashel in surprising time, and we are at Cashel by 10:00; this will be our only time in County Tipperary.

Then I get lost.

But Donna gets us found again: "patience," she says, as we spot that the sign is actually pointing us down a tiny road that I had taken for a pedestrian walkway the first time through town, so narrow was it.

But just 100 feet down that little lane is the car park, and we are settled, just as three massive tour buses arrive. Well, this is the most-well-known tourist site in all of Ireland, so it is surely no surprise to see them. Let us just say that, when the circumstances require, the good people of Ireland can find room at the loo for all.

We have a nice tour guide, if a little harried (Cashel is simply mobbed, even though we are reasonable early), and he does his best to show us about.

Appealingly, he ends our tour in Cormac's Chapel, perhaps the most spectacular medieval site in Ireland, still holding up quite well even after all the events of the previous 1,000 years.

We pause on the way out to view the pictures from Queen Elizabeth II's visit in 2011, the first visit to Cashel by an English Monarch since King Henry II presided over the Synod of Cashel in 1172.

We walk down into Cashel town center, which is very nice itself, and Donna finds a small cafe which packs us a picnic lunch. We walk about 1 km down the hill with our lunch to Hore Abbey, the last Cistercian Abbey to be founded in Ireland, in 1266.

We are happy: we have finally managed to have our picnic lunch in Ireland (for some reason, this had been eluding us up to this point), and at a place of indescribable history and beauty.

We pop back onto the super speedway and in just minutes we are in Cahir, at the superb Cahir Castle.

Cahir Castle is your perfect dream of a medieval castle; it is hard to imagine any castle that could be better.

It is remarkably well preserved (the portcullis still works, and can be lowered to bar the entrance into the inner keep!), and we get to go everywhere: climb stairs, explore keeps, climb ramparts, descend into dungeons, etc.

A nifty room-size model shows the famous Siege of 1599; cannonballs from that siege are still embedded in the castle walls!.

A seemingly hidden staircase starts by descending toward the river, then ascends sharply and emerges at an outer tower with a commanding view.

It is, bar none, the best castle we have visited in Ireland, and I am happy beyond describing that we managed to include it on our visit.

The super speedway delivers us back to East Cork. We drive down to the oceanside, to Garryvoe Beach, where we walk along a beautiful beach and Donna plays in the waves. If we hadn't stayed at all those other wonderful places on our trip, I would have loved to stay here.

A few kilometers down the road is Shannagarry, home of the world-famous Ballymaloe Cooking School. We tour the school's shop, then walk through the beautiful gardens for 40 minutes or so, seeing barely a quarter of the gardens, focusing on the sections where the students gather fresh herbs and vegetables each day for their classes.

Her recipes are a bit intimidating, though: stinging nettle soup?

The Shannagarry Design Centre has a very nice William Penn museum in its basement; it turns out there is actually quite a bit about William Penn I hadn't known.

We drive down to the end of the road: Ballycotton, with its postcard-perfect lighthouse on an island just offshore. Dozens of people are fishing from the pier: Ballycotton is famous for its seafood. We walk along the cliffs and Donna gathers shells and we watch the fish swim about in the shallow tidal waters.

Then back to Castlemartyr, to rest and unwind.

Each day seems better than the one before, which seems hardly possible.

Perhaps we are getting the hang of this whole traveling thing?

Or perhaps Ireland is simply as magical as everyone has always said.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Bryan Pendleton: Ireland day seven: East County Cork

Wed, 2014-09-03 20:03

I must not be very practiced at sleeping in hotel beds, even extremely nice ones, because again I am up with the sun. We have a nice breakfast and take our time packing up and checking out, but even so we have left the hotel quite early.

By 9:00, we are at Charles Fort, the largest fort in Ireland and perhaps in all of Europe.

Unfortunately, the fort isn't open for visitors until 10:00.

However, the grounds around the fort are open, and well-cared for, and there are trails along the waterfront, and so we walk here and there, taking pictures, enjoying the views, and soon enough it is 10:00.

Inside, there are several small museums and exhibitions, and more areas to explore, but actually the fort is in many ways better from the outside than from the inside.

In particular, the fort is most interesting when viewed from the Harbor Cruise that we took yesterday: the fort was designed for naval purposes and so its main focus is on the harbor.

Apparently, though, it wasn't really a very good fort, because it kept getting sacked (though thankfully, it wasn't completely destroyed any of those times, or there wouldn't be anything left to see).

Actually, the most entertaining aspect of Charles Fort is the durable legend of the White Lady.

Anyway, no matter how you look at it, our time at Charles Fort was two hours well spent.

Then we drove up to Cork, and, for the second time on our vacation, I made a rather serious mistake about route finding and destination selection. For whatever reason, I took a path which lead us right through Cork City, rather than driving around it on the motorway. I found myself in the inner city, in a section of twisting, one-way, un-marked roads, and promptly got myself badly lost. And that part of town, unfortunately, is the poorest and most unhappy part of Ireland that we visited, so it really wasn't a place where I wanted to stay lost. Happily, it didn't take me all that long to find my way through the neighborhood, and back to a road that I recognized, and get us on our way again.

Still, I'm afraid I don't have any happy words to share about Cork City itself. I wish the residents all the best, and may things improve for Cork City as they have for other parts of Ireland.

We left Cork, and almost immediately took the turn to Cobh. Cobh is certainly not as scenic as Kinsale, but it has at least as much history, and plenty of interesting sights.

Cobh is probably one of the most important cities in Ireland from a maritime history point of view. It was the last stop of the Titanic, but more importantly it was the primary point of departure for many of the emigrants who left Ireland and came to America, Australia, or other overseas destination, a fact memorialized by the poignant Annie Moore sculpture as well as several local museums, including the quite nice Cobh Heritage Centre where we spent about 45 minutes.

Interestingly, Cobh also has an old prison on Spike Island in the harbor, which reminded me of the famous Alcatraz Island here at home.

The Cobh waterfront is quite pleasant to stroll along; St Colman's Cathedral on the bluff above the waterfront is just magnificent.

Our next stop is Midleton, a bustling modern Irish town.

But more importantly, for tourists like us, Midleton is the home of the Jameson distillery, and its very enjoyable distillery tour. The tour is fun, if rather pricey and touristy. The tour winds through the old distillery, which began operations in 1825 and was in regular use until 1975 when the new distillery was built on adjacent grounds. The new distillery is all tall steel-and-glass buildings with piping and fans, but the old distillery buildings are lovely and have been nicely preserved by the company.

Each of the 6 buildings that we visit is a museum of its own, including: the old mill wheel; the enormous kilns for drying the malt (using coal fires, not peat fires: one of the signature differences between Irish whiskey and Scotch); the incredible 3-story tall copper still, the largest pot still ever built; the triple distillation system; and the aging warehouse.

The Jameson Distillery tour was certainly the most touristy thing we did on our holiday, but I'm still glad I did it. It was a nice tour, and it broke us out of a bit of a funky mood and put us in good "spirits" (heh).

We trundle on down the road a few more kilometers east, to Castlemartyr, home of Castlemartyr Resort, our home for the next two nights. It is set on land once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh; the hotel reception, dining and banquet rooms, and other common areas are in the manor house built by the Earl of Shannon (who was the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons at the time); and (of course), just a few meters from the main hotel are the scenic ruins of Imokilly Castle.

The resort is quite modern, and is designed as a golf destination, with a super-luxurious spa as well, but for us the main attractions, beyond the buildings and the comfortable room, are the simply spectacular gardens behind the manor house, and the beautiful pastures and forests that adjoin the main buildings.

If we had not spent 3 days at Parknasilla I'd be raving on about Castlemartyr, but suffice it to say for now that we relaxed, had a drink, walked through the garden, admired the swallows as they raced about, and watched the children playing croquet and racing about on the grass.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Justin Mason: Links for 2014-09-03

Wed, 2014-09-03 18:58
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

James Duncan: Wunderlist for Windows 8.1

Wed, 2014-09-03 17:00

Some of my comrades at 6Wunderkinder have been working on a version of Wunderlist that takes full advantage of the new Windows UI (previously known as Metro) and runs on both desktop and phones. I have to say that the minimal design is my favorite Wunderlist client user interface to date and am super curious to see how it’s received.

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Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

James Duncan: The Sand Storm

Wed, 2014-09-03 17:00

Communications lines dissolve and a water smuggler—played by Ai Weiwei—navigates a tumultuous, dystopian city on the brink of calamity in this lyrical “low-fi sci-fi” short by Jason Wishnow, an implied introduction to an even bigger story. The movie itself had a tumultuous story involving international cease-and-desist orders and over-the-top theatric apologies, much ado about nothing.

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Categories: FLOSS Project Planets