April 11, 2008

Mailing lists

Benjamin discovers that yes, pretty much no one except hardcore hackers use mailing lists (my thoughts on them here). I don’t see the disconnect between normal users and developers as “scaling” – it’s not a good thing. I’ll try to look at Fedora Forum more…must train self to ignore the flashing “NEW” icon.

New journal

I spent a little bit of free time a few days ago to make the Firefox Journal extension work again. As mentioned before, you’ll need to create an AMO account to install because it’s still in the “sandbox”.

Now it needs some CSS love for sure. But, it works and I find it pretty useful for a few tasks, such as “go back to that new bug I was looking at 10 minutes ago”.

Speaking of extensions…Password Maker is awesome. I’ve now redone most of my web passwords using it.

Account system

I’ve been thinking lately about how to improve the account system. If you’re curious, my proposal is linked from here


  • Clojure definitely shows that there is a lot of room left for innovation in programming languages. I’d only briefly heard of transactional memory before; this is something to learn.
  • ECMAScript 4 looks like a massive improvement over the old JavaScript. I, for one, will not miss the old bizarre prototype system.

A good post by one of the PHP authors on dynamic vs static languages (though he phrases it as Ruby/Python/PHP vs Java). I think my feelings on this lately are that if I were going to work on a website frontend process, it makes total sense to use Ruby or Python. But there’s a lot more to the world than website frontends. For example, I don’t think I would choose a dynamic language to write Hadoop or HDFS. The dynamic vs static debate is of course a very old one, but what is new is the dramatic progress of dynamic languages on VMs designed for static languages, which I was playing with before.

What I think people in these debates greatly underestimate though is the importance and power of the Free Software ecosystem, which could also be called the “default factor”. /usr/bin/ruby has always been a simple yum/apt-get install away on Free operating systems if it wasn’t already there; no license clickthrough web pages. That matters.

It’s the community, stupid

Speaking of technology though, a lot of us sysadmins, programmers and free software hackers can get easily get caught up in the implementation details of our systems. Now for sure, some things are just technically better than others; for example, the JVM is years ahead of CRuby’s green threads and basic bytecode interpreter. But what ultimately matters is the people behind the technology. It’s easy to get confused because the technology names are staring us in the face; when you want to run your program, you type /usr/bin/ruby, and not /usr/bin/a-language-from-matz-and-and-now-a-global-community.

A key example where I see this happen often is in “packaging systems”; many people confuse the program apt-get, which is just an overgrown wget, with all the hard work that goes into packaging and maintaining software. In the beginning, people had to go through and make sure it worked. For certain types of software, it is actually hard and there’s no getting around it; an example is JNA which deals with some lower-level JVM access. In that case, a lot of the work was done by two Fedora community members. And we even sent the patch for our work upstream, so that all Free operating systems can benefit.

Anyways, that’s enough for a Friday pre-lunch update…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: