Retro Bubble, Order’s Up!

I just read this article that says that Angela Merkel wants Europe to have its own network. Now, maybe I’m not understanding the story, and maybe the reporter didn’t understand what the chancellor said, and maybe the chancellor doesn’t understand how the Internet works. But it seems to me that if a laptop in Berlin connects to a German ISP and sends an email to a French ISP and that email goes from the French SMTP server down a link to a laptop in Paris, there shouldn’t be any trans-Atlantic hops to that trip.

I totally understand how everyone in the world who isn’t an employee of the United States security apparatus is cheesed off and paranoid about the NSA’s compulsive spying on every bit that crosses a U.S. territorial border. Yep, that’s uncool. And, sure, if that laptop in Berlin is sending email via Gmail (or Hotmail, or Yahoo! mail) or is conducting commerce with Amazon or FedEx, then eventually those bits will cross into the U.S. and become part of a hard drive that U.S. spooks are peering at. I guess that’s the scenario that Ms. Merkel is trying to avoid.

So, rather than go to the trouble of building a whole new Internet that doesn’t have the United States on it, which would require either severing all contact with the U.S. or running a huge (metric) fuckload of fresh cable, how about the E.U. just do the time warp and have their own version of the dot com bubble? Pretend it’s 1996 all over Europe and instead of using Google and Amazon, maybe they can develop their own ecommerce industry. I know that a few places are trying.

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SmartThings and the Recirculating Pump

A couple of years ago, we got a recirculating pump to run the hot water line from the master bathroom back to the water heater so we could get actual hot showers. The pump came with a built-in timer so that we could schedule times for it to run. That’s swell if you live by the clock. But what if you take a shower at different times of day, or at times that are unpredictable? What you really want is a button or a switch in the bathroom (at one end of the house) that will turn on the pump (at the other end of the house) for long enough to get hot water (say, five minutes or so) and then turn it off. Continue reading

Spam Poetry

Got a weird spam email this morning. It’s a time of year when relatives are sending out random e-cards all the time, with no announcement, so I wasn’t quite sure whether this was legit. Not wanting to click any links or fetch any images in a dodgy-looking email, I went to the source. Lo! It contained a whole bunch of text, I guess to try to get it past the spam filters, and not only was the text nothing to do with the subject (Letter From Santa For Your Child) but it’s a shining dadaist sonnet. Here’s a bit:

Set the pan to two pounds of milk. Sweeten it with boiling fat, and add the fire, by the backbone, and yet been tossed in boiling coffee essence when cold water, pepper, salt, and skin; cover it on the top, leaving the water, with powdered sugar, and you can be followed using the mushrooms and salt and let them fry lightly the vegetable. It should never wrote the yolk of Brussels sprouts. Do the mixture as much, and eat on it over them. Put a pound of the form a puree and turnip, potato with a well-buttered frying-pan, dust of egg.

So, 1) don’t click anything in that email but 2) enjoy some weird food Engrish!

Audio Kryptonite

You know that thing where you start imitating the accents and speech patterns of people around you? Yeah, I’m really susceptible to that. Audio books with compelling readers are the worst. It’s bad enough when I’m reading an actual printed book and really getting into it and find myself using turns of phrase from the work in normal conversation. I feel like a complete buffoon then, believe it, but it’s even worse with an audiobook. The one I’m listening to now has a narrator with a strong Irish accent — which only makes sense, given that the setting is Ireland — and the darned thing is infecting my mind. Typing a bug report to a software vendor two days ago, I characterized a functioning aspect of the program as, “grand.” Who, in America, says that? Nobody, that’s who! Ah, Jayzus, and even as I write this feckin’ confession, I’m hearin’ it narrated by this woman.

I’ve got to get myself some American (preferably, California) audio input. Time to hit Netflix for something ludicrous.

Minor Lesson Today

I know that a lot of people use BWW for writing bagpipe music. But I’m cheap, and I use a Mac, and I tried the demo versions of the music notation software my teacher and bandmates use and I hate them (the programs). Iconoclast that I am, I have chosen to transcribe all my music using ABC notation.

The neat thing about this, for me, is that the files are easily editable with any plain ol’ text editor and there’s an easy command line toolchain for converting the ABC files to PDF. The thing I learned today is that the key matters, not just for the signature at the beginning of a line, but for the way grace notes are rendered.

It’s true that the great highland bagpipe is tuned more-or-less in the key of D, and some modern scores are even written that way. However, when you use that key notation in the ABC file, grace notes are written as being tied to the following melody note, whereas if you note the key as ‘HP’ then the grace notes are unadorned, as pipers are wont to expect. This behavior can be overridden with the format directive:

 %%graceslurs false

License and Registration?

If you read a book about software development or start a repository on github or bitbucket or launchpad, you’ll confront the question of software licensing very early on — likely, before you even get to the question of what development environment you’re going to use. I’ve come to decide that this is not really helpful.

When I worked at startups, the code we wrote in-house was proprietary. We didn’t open source it, although occasionally we would contribute back to some projects. The point of the software team at those companies was to encode the business into bits that customers would pay hard cash in order to execute. We didn’t even think about licensing the software until it was time to think about how we were planning to sell it – a question which depended a great deal on the marketing department and the business in question.

Now, I’m writing software for my own entertainment. If one thinks hard about it, one might come up with ways to make money off of that, but that’s a hell of a lot of work and I’ve got bagpipes to play and tunes to learn and, let’s be real, dishes to wash and goofing off to be doing. My wife is doing amazing things and that’s enough startupness in the house at one time. When I started working on this turn based game server, I thought the way it would go would be to provide the server for cheap (or free) and then the money would get made by developing games that would run on top of the server. Now I’m looking at the software and its possibilities and thinking that the system itself has value to some entities (schools and researchers) and maybe I should think harder about selling it that way.

This decision is kind of important. Right now, I’ve got all the source code sitting in private repositories. It’s copyrighted by me, and it’s not licensed, period. If I were to open source it, that would make selling the server software impractical. The only way to sell open source software is to provide some kind of value-added service on top of it, and that kind of work really cuts into bagpiping. Also, and this may shock some folks, I’m not really very good with people. A service job isn’t one I’m going to succeed in.

If I’d gone with an open source license up at the beginning of this project, there’s not really any way to undo that. So, note to other software developers who like to fool around with code and write stuff just for fun: private repositories are your friend. Write your code, fool around with stuff, refactor and publish to your heart’s content. Then, when you finally get to some point where the license actually matters, then fire up your IDE’s copyright plugin and have it stick whatever boilerplate you decide on at the top of all your files.