Transitioning to a new Mac has always been a very smooth experience – the first run setup offers to migrate everything for you and generally it gets everything right so your new Mac comes up looking just like your old one.
Recently I’ve acquired a new MacBook Pro with Retina display and decided that after all these years of migrating everything over I’d set up from scratch. Mostly just to make me consciously choose to reinstall things instead of a heap of cruft coming across automatically which I don’t actually use anymore.
So I chose not to use the migration assistant for anything and was dropped into a brand new account. Except that it didn’t feel like a brand new account at all. I’d signed into my iCloud account as part of that first run process so it had pulled in everything iCloud was storing for me. That was just a handful of files, but the settings that came across made things feel at home. All my reminders, calendars and notes were there and Safari had all my bookmarks. Even the applications could be re-installed direct from the App Store “purchased” list, or at least most of them.
I don’t use iCloud for my mail, but I do use GMail so when I logged into my Google account in Safari it offered to add it as a local account. Suddenly all my mail was fully setup as well (as well as some old contacts, calendars and notes which I turned off again).
What made the whole process so amazingly smooth though was the new-in-Mavericks iCloud keychain. Even when I had to set things up manually, or re-login to a website, my new Mac already had the username and password stored.
If I stored my files and email in iCloud, the transition would have been almost entirely iCloud based – just a few preferences to reconfigure the way I want them and the odd application to install for myself.
Just goes to show that the cloud doesn’t have to mean the web – I use desktop applications for nearly everything but because sync is so pervasive these days, we’re often using cloud computing even though we’re using applications the same way we always have.
Like everyone in the technology space, Lyza Danger fights the constant battle of keeping up verses getting stuff done:
The skills that are important these days the meta ones of being able to learn new things and synthesize new approaches in the face of endless complexity and an almost infinite potential solution space.
‘ A persistent key-value store for fast storage environments’, ie. BerkeleyDB/LevelDB competitor, from Facebook.RocksDB builds on LevelDB to be scalable to run on servers with many CPU cores, to efficiently use fast storage, to support IO-bound, in-memory and write-once workloads, and to be flexible to allow for innovation. We benchmarked LevelDB and found that it was unsuitable for our server workloads. Thebenchmark results look awesome at first sight, but we quickly realized that those results were for a database whose size was smaller than the size of RAM on the test machine – where the entire database could fit in the OS page cache. When we performed the same benchmarks on a database that was at least 5 times larger than main memory, the performance results were dismal. By contrast, we’ve published the RocksDB benchmark results for server side workloads on Flash. We also measured the performance of LevelDB on these server-workload benchmarks and found that RocksDB solidly outperforms LevelDB for these IO bound workloads. We found that LevelDB’s single-threaded compaction process was insufficient to drive server workloads. We saw frequent write-stalls with LevelDB that caused 99-percentile latency to be tremendously large. We found that mmap-ing a file into the OS cache introduced performance bottlenecks for reads. We could not make LevelDB consume all the IOs offered by the underlying Flash storage. Lots of good discussion at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6736900 too.
Colm McCarthaigh has open sourced Infima, ‘a library for managing service-level fault isolation using Amazon Route 53′.Infima provides a Lattice container framework that allows you to categorize each endpoint along one or more fault-isolation dimensions such as availability-zone, software implementation, underlying datastore or any other common point of dependency endpoints may share. Infima also introduces a new ShuffleShard sharding type that can exponentially increase the endpoint-level isolation between customer/object access patterns or any other identifier you choose to shard on. Both Infima Lattices and ShuffleShards can also be automatically expressed in Route 53 DNS failover configurations using AnswerSet and RubberTree.
Looks like Nest’s software just got its update to support iOS 7 and the new Nest Protect. My favorite feature:
You can quickly change from heating to cooling, adjust the fan timer, check Energy History or update your schedule, all without being forced to turn your phone to landscape mode.
Requiring a shift to the orientation to gain access to crucial functionality was a huge usability error in the previous versions of the software. I’m happy to see them correct that.
John Gruber on the new iPad:
I can think of numerous good reasons why a person might choose to buy an iPad Air instead of a new iPad Mini, but that minor difference in CPU clock speed is not one of them.
My own decision point on which one to get was finally settled when I went to the Apple Store and handled a new Air next to the older mini. The iPad Air is amazingly light and I couldn’t ding it on anything. But, after considering my use, my travel bags, and my habits, I came to the same conclusion John did:
The Mini, for me personally, is the better-sized device. I like that it’s easier to hold in one hand, and that it’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. (A new test for any new jacket I’ll buy: Does an iPad Mini fit in the pocket?)
When we picked up Katerina’s iPad mini, I carried it for a while in my hoodie’s inside pocket and was jazzed that it was a perfect fit. I can’t wait for the one I preordered to arrive when I get back to Portland. Of course, I already checked and the Apple Store here in Boston does have the model I ordered, but I’m doing my best to exercise restraint and save the sales tax difference.
Roy Scranton served in Iraq in 2003 and saw firsthand the end of an era—and the start of another—for the Iraqis as the government was crushed and the walls came up. He takes that perspective to looking at the end of our own era as we dive full-speed ahead into the Anthropocene:
The biggest problems the Anthropocene poses are precisely those that have always been at the root of humanistic and philosophical questioning: “What does it mean to be human?” and “What does it mean to live?” In the epoch of the Anthropocene, the question of individual mortality—“What does my life mean in the face of death?”—is universalized and framed in scales that boggle the imagination. What does human existence mean against 100,000 years of climate change? What does one life mean in the face of species death or the collapse of global civilization? How do we make meaningful choices in the shadow of our inevitable end?
A sobering read, for sure, but spot on. The most important thing we need to do at this point in history isn’t try to turn the clock back. That’s not going to help. Instead, we need to sort out how to be flexible and move forward into the unknown. The inevitable end of life as we know it is an opportunity for the start of whatever comes next.
The other day, I was reading a perfectly nice article on the Wired website: This Company Believes You Should Never Hack Alone.
The article discusses the hot new startup Pivotal. Pivotal is indeed very trendy, whether it's because of Paul Maritz, or their big-name backers, or their hot, hot market space, or for some other reason.
At any rate, it's a perfectly nice article, with lots of interesting details about how they're trying to establish the company culture and built the team.
But, frankly, I never really made it to the article.
I simply couldn't get past the headline, and the picture.
Stop. Go look at that picture: "Inside Pivotal’s San Francisco offices, where software coders rarely work alone."
All of a sudden, the bullpen is trendy.
I'm not quite sure when this happened, but it really took off when Facebook lost their mind and converted the old Sun Microsystems office space in Menlo Park into the world's worst offices, ever.It will be a large, one room building that somewhat resembles a warehouse. Just like we do now, everyone will sit out in the open with desks that can be quickly shuffled around as teams form and break apart around projects.
Let's belabor that point a little bit. As Zuck saidThe idea is to make the perfect engineering space: one giant room that fits thousands of people, all close enough to collaborate together. It will be the largest open floor plan in the world, ...
I guess the time has come to admit that I Just Don't Fit In.
When I see the picture, the first words that come to my mind are not "the perfect engineering space: one giant room".
I've actually worked, briefly, in bullpen environments. They do have a few advantages:
- They help people who haven't worked together very much get to know each other somewhat better
- They make it possible for the manager to look out over the open space and visually itemize who is present, and where they are located
- They save money on things like walls and doors and windows.
I'm not quite sure where this open floor plan mania arose from. Some say it comes from the famous stock exchange trading floors. As if a scene like this makes you think that people are being productive in that environment.
Others say that the idea came from the famous newspaper "city desk" rooms, most famously the Washington Post newsroom where Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein took down the president, an idea you can see parroted in New York City mayor Bloomberg's horrific city government bullpen, which is gathering followers throughout governmentAt the Wilson Building this week, workers will begin knocking down walls on the third floor to create a permanent bullpen for Fenty, who intends to shun the isolated sixth-floor mayor's suite after he is sworn in Jan. 2. By sitting among his deputies, keeping close tabs on them and engaging them in everyday decisions, Fenty said he will foster increased accountability and a spirit of openness that he believes has been missing from city government.
Maybe it works for city governments.
Maybe it works for stock exchange traders.
But I'll tell you something: it does not work for software development.
The reason why is, I think, best expressed by the great Rands, who wrote about the zone:Let’s talk about the Zone once more. You’re either sitting down with your computer to futz around with something or you’re attempting to get in the Zone. This is that magical place where you’ve managed to fit the entire context of your current project in your head. With all this content in there, you can perform superhuman acts of productivity and creativity because you have the complete problem space at your mental disposal.
If you're more of a visual person, this is a brilliant web comic which makes the same point.
Look, Pivotal may be a quite nice place. I think they have some brilliant people there, and I think they are working hard to do what they think is right for them.
But I could never work there. I need to think. I need to concentrate, to focus, to enter the zone.
I guess it's good that I know this about myself, so that when I read about Pivotal, or read similar articles about companies like Square, whereDorsey and Henderson applied that same sense of vision to their new offices, which take up parts of four floors in a dowdy former Bank of America data center. The theme is one of a miniature city, with conference rooms named for famous streets and a grand "boulevard" the length of two football fields. I can simply say to myself: well, that's another company I'd never want to be part of.
I don't want an office "the length of two football fields".
I think that pair programming is interesting. In fact, I regularly practice it. But I call it "having a second pair of eyes." Here's how it works: my co-worker will stick his head in my cube and say:Bryan, I'm a bit stuck on something. I've been through this code a million times, and I just can't see what's wrong. Can you take a look? And I'll nod, and hit "save" in my editor, and step around the corner to his cube, where I'll pull up a chair and watch over his shoulder as he walks through the code.
After a minute or two, I'll say something like:Oh, I see. You're expecting the variable "resetRequired" to be true, but in this particular case we're arriving here via a different code path, and it's going to be false. He'll nod, and say Of course! Nothing like another pair of eyes! And I'll go back to my desk, and we'll both try to get back into The Zone
I take some hope from reading that maybe it's not just meAbout 70 percent of U.S. employees now work in open offices, according to the International Management Facility Association. But the collaboration-friendly environment with minimal cubicle separations “proved ineffective if the ability to focus was not also considered,” according to a new study by the design firm Gensler. “When focus is compromised in pursuit of collaboration, neither works well.” And I'll hope that some of these findings take hold: People work less well when they move from a personal office to an open-plan layout, according to a longitudinal study carried out by Calgary University. Writing in the Journal of Environment and Behavior, Aoife Brennan, Jasdeep Chugh and Theresa Kline found that such workers reported more stress, less satisfaction with their environment and less productivity. Brennan et al went back to survey the participants six months after the move and found not only that they were still unhappy with their new office, but that their team relations had broken down even further.
Still, it's wicked trendy: More employers choosing 'open' officesExperts say the use of open office design elements is now growing at a double-digit pace, heralding the death of the traditional corner office and the infamous high-walled cubicle
Not so long ago, I was lucky enough to work at a company which gave me a fantastic work environment: I had a (small) private office, which was quiet and calm. People could come by whenever they wanted to talk to me. If I needed to have a conversation, I could close the door to avoid bothering others. The noise of my co-workers was completely invisible to me. I was fantastically productive.
So I know such companies exist, clear-thinking places where they recognize that Programming Is Hard, and you need to have long, undisturbed periods of complete silence and deep thought; you need to get into The Zone.
I'll say a silent prayer that such companies survive, and that we aren't all forced into the bullpen.
I spoke with several Red Hat engineers at the OpenStack Summit last week in Hong Kong, about what they work on with the OpenStack project. Here's Dan Radez, talking about what he does.
See also TryStack.org
I recently acquired a Samson Go Mic. It's awesome. I'm so used to having to shout into my mics that it's actually taken some adjustment to go back to talking at a normal volume, and also reduce the mic volume, to get audio that isn't clipped.
I did a couple of interviews in Hong Kong last week, and realized, when editing the result, that I didn't have the selector switch set correctly. There's a little slidey switch on the side, and the manual has a lot of technical jargon about what settings to use.
Here's the summary: The circle makes the mic dual-sided, which is good for interviews. The one that looks like pacman makes it one-sided, which is good for just recording yourself. I have no idea what the one in the middle does.
I just had it set on the wrong setting, so it didn't pick up the person I was interviewing very well. So ... problem solved.
Last week at the OpenStack summit in Hong Kong I talked with Flavio Percoco about the Marconi project, which is incubating in OpenStack.
It seems like the blues can ruin a whole lot more than your day, week, or year. In addition to being linked with diabetes and other ailments, it may also accelerate the shortening of the telomeres on your DNA.
slides from Ilya Grigorik’s tutorial on the topic at O’Reilly’s Velocity conference. lots of good data and tips for internet protocol optimization
tl;dr: ‘a lot to like’.The grand design and originality thus of ‘Modernising Copyright’ thus is the injection of targeted flexibility into the legal framework – this is no mere echo of the Hargreaves Report in the UK, which backed away from Fair Use out of fear at the uncertainty it would necessarily entail. If the Report’s authors have their way, contested uses in Ireland will first be examined to see if they fit the exceptions spelled out in the EUCD, or checked against the innovation exception if they are derivative works/adaptations. Only if they have fallen at those two fences, will the fair use test be their last chance saloon.
T-Mobile vs Verizon the last few days in and about Portland. A lot of these results were in areas with decent signal—places where I used to see much faster results, underlining reports of Verizon’s back haul issues of late.
The wrist based quantified-self device market gets another choice today with Jawbone’s new UP24 band which brings in the feature the device needed all along: wireless connectivity over Bluetooth.
Despite the fact I had to get it replaced twice, the original UP band taught me that I could actually keep one of these gizmos on me—as opposed to the multiple FitBit trackers I lost. And, it’s software is really nice. But, earlier this year I moved on from the UP to the FitBit Flex and I don’t see going back.
I’ve been asked about producing shapefiles from the geo data on Variable Pitch. This seems like a good idea, but having no experience with such files I thought maybe I should have an app to test them with. I was pointed at QGis but it needed to be added to the sources list for Ubuntu 13.10. This is how I did it.
I created a file /etc/apt/sources.list.d/qgis.list with the contents
deb http://qgis.org/debian saucy main
deb-src http://qgis.org/debian saucy main
Then I imported the PGP key as the sources are signed.
~$ gpg –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com –recv 47765B75
gpg: requesting key 47765B75 from hkp server keyserver.ubuntu.com
gpg: key 47765B75: public key “Quantum GIS Archive Automatic Signing Key (2013) <firstname.lastname@example.org>” imported
gpg: no ultimately trusted keys found
gpg: Total number processed: 1
gpg: imported: 1 (RSA: 1)
~$ gpg –export –armor 47765B75 | sudo apt-key add -
This was all that was needed and so installation was then as simple as
~ sudo apt-get update
~ sudo apt-get install qgis python-qgis
There are a large number of required packages!
Not just big cities either. In ad-hoc testing with my iPhone 5S running on Verizon’s LTE network and Katerina’s iPhone 5 running on T-Mobile’s 4G network using a SIM with a pre-paid plan, T-Mobile is consistently beating the pants off Verizon for download speeds, often by a factor of 2 and sometimes much more.
Game 4 of the Anand-Carlsen match is now complete, and it was a draw.
The score now stands at: 2.0 - 2.0.
But this was no bloodless draw! Anand had white, the game was the Ruy Lopez Berlin, the position was wide open.
On move 18, Carlsen bravely grabbed the a2 pawn. Anand tried to trap the bishop, but could not. However, the time it took for Carlsen to extract the bishop allowed Anand to get his pieces very active, and for a while it was like Carlsen was playing an entire rook down.
If you look at the position around move 27, all of Carlsen's pieces are on the first or second rank, and Anand controls about 80% of the board, all for the price of that a2 pawn.
But Anand couldn't quite break through, and Carlsen was able to activate his pieces, and finally the pieces came off the board and Carlsen's one pawn advantage was not enough for the win.
The first week is now over; one third of the games have been played; all remains dead even.