As is now traditional :-) I post today to wish everyone a very merry christmas.
Today is trivia’s birthday – indeed it is trivia’s 10th birthday so I have been writing here for a decade. Good grief. If I had known then what I know now trivia might have been still born. As it is we are both still here – more importantly so is everyone else I really care about.
Here’s to the next 10 years. And I might actually write some more next year.
Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my first contribution to Debian GNU/Linux.
I will not recount the full history here but my first experience with Debian was a happy accident. I had sent off for a 5-CD set of Red Hat from The Linux Emporium only to discover I lacked the required 12MB of RAM. Annoyed, I reached for the Debian "potato" CD that was included gratis in my order due to it being outdated at the time…
Fast-forwarding a few years, whilst my first contribution was trivial, it was Thomas Bushnell's infectious enthusiasm that led me to contribute more, eventually becoming a Google Summer of Code student under Daniel Baumann, and finally becoming an official Debian Developer in September 2008 with Thomas Viehmann as my Application Manager. (Some things may never change, however I still struggle with the bug tracker's control@ interface.)
The response I got to my patch always reminds me of the irrational power of providing attibution. I've always liked to tell myself I'm above such vanities but perhaps the truly mature approach would be to accept that ego is part of the human condition and—as a community—take steps to avoid handicapping ourselves by underestimating the value of "trivialities" such as having one's name listed.
I've since been fascinated by the number of maintainers who do not attribute patches in changelogs, especially from newcomers or when the changes are non-trivial — a handful in particular have stung me fairly deeply.
I would certainly concede that it adds nothing technical and can even be distracting, but it seems a reasonable concession that dramatically increases the chance of future efforts or, frankly, is simply a kindly gesture of thanks and good will. Given our level of technical expertise, I fear we regularly suffer from not having sufficient empathy for newcomers or first-time users who lack the context or orientation that we possess.
Anyway, here's to another ten…
So, it turns out when you move to static blog generation and do the generation on your laptop, which is usually in the timezone you’re currently physically located, it can cause URLs to change. Especially if you’re prone to blogging late at night, which can result in even just a shift to DST changing things. I’ve forced jekyll to UTC by adding timezone: 'UTC' to the config, and ensuring all the posts now have timezones for when they were written (a lot of the imported ones didn’t), so hopefully things should be stable from here on.
(image courtesy of XKCD)
Last week I graduated with a Masters in Legal Science (now taught as an MLaw) from Queen’s University Belfast. I’m pleased to have achieved a Distinction, as well an award for Outstanding Achievement in the Dissertation (which was on the infringement of privacy by private organisations due to state mandated surveillance and retention laws - pretty topical given the unfortunate introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016). However, as previously stated, I had made the decision that I was happier building things, and wanted to return to the world of technology. I talked to a bunch of interesting options, got to various stages in the hiring process with each of them, and happily accepted a role with Titan IC Systems which started at the beginning of September.
Titan have produced a hardware accelerated regular expression processor (hence the XKCD reference); the RXP in its FPGA variant (what I get to play with) can handle pattern matching against 40Gb/s of traffic. Which is kinda interesting, as it lends itself to a whole range of applications from network scanning to data mining to, well, anything where you want to sift through a large amount of data checking against a large number of rules. However it’s brand new technology for me to get up to speed with (plus getting back into a regular working pattern rather than academentia), and the combination of that and spending most of the summer post DebConf wrapping up the dissertation has meant I haven’t had as much time to devote other things as I’d have liked. However I’ve a few side projects at various stages of completion and will try to manage more regular updates.