OK - so I've just been reading the Gaurdian Article on Terry Deary saying that Libraries are outdated and should be got rid of. I entirely disagree with him, I spent a fair amount of my youth borrowing books from my local library, when I had no income, and so the only alternative to borrowing from the library would have been saving up for second hand books... which he wouldn't have seen a penny from. These days I buy Quite A Few books (OK - so, mostly on the kindle these days, but still), if it hadn't have been for libraries when I was younger and couldn't afford to purchase books, I may never have properly picked up the reading habit.
His claim that they're killing bookshops is also, in my opinion, entirely wrong. Bookshops are closing more because of the ease of ordering books online and getting them delivered to your door, with a huge collection of books available from large warehouses rather than the stock that a book store can sell easily. We've got a vast collection of literature available to us now, and it's only ever going upwards, no book shop or single library is going to be able to cater for the entirely different needs of their customers. Libraries do inter library lending, which means that the collection of rarer, less popular books are still available (potentially with a bit of a wait), and every time the book is lent the author gets some funds. If he seriously thinks that if libraries closed the number of people reading his material would stay the same I think he's mistaken. He also doesn't seem to take in to account at all the second hand book market.
All I have to say is NYARGH.
Pub meets have been a rarity over the past year so, following on from last month, we're going to start having them more regularly.
This month will be in Guildford again, due to its location and public transport but that doesn't have to be the case every month ;)
It will be at The White House, which is at the bottom end of town (8 High Street, Guildford, GU2 4AJ) and a short walk from the main station, on Thursday 21st starting from around 6.30 - 7.00pm. Their website: http://whitehouseguildford.co.uk/
BTW You don't 'bring a box' to these meets (though I suppose tablet computers are fine) as it's more of a social gathering over beer and food.
Bring a 'box', bring a notebook/netbook, bring anything that might run Linux, or just bring yourself and enjoy socialising, learning, teaching or simply chilling out!
New members are very welcome. We're not a cliquey bunch, so you won't feel out of place! Usually between 15 and 30 people come along.
Tomorrow I'll be celebrating a nice round-numbered birthday. I'll be 25 :) I grew up at just the right time that powers of two have been important my whole life.
I'll be celebrating the milestone but having my brother round for the afternoon and playing on my first 32-bit computer - my A1200.Git Aux
For a while now, I've been wanting to keep various parts of my home directory in sync.
At first, I created a git repository for storing my dotfiles but I found it a pain to keep the repository up-to-date.
Fairly recently, someone pointed out git-annex to me. After a good read of the documentation, it sounded like it could be useful but probably more than I needed and perhaps not quite what I really wanted. Besides, I couldn't get the bloody thing to install.
So I did what any geek would do, I wrote my own :D
Basically, I wanted an easy to way to keep a git repository in sync with an directory external to it. With git aux installed, I get pretty much exactly what I wanted with a few simple commands.
After creating a new git repository, I do git aux init ~/ to tell git-aux that I want it to sync this repo with my home directory.
I then do git aux add ~/.vimrc ~/.ssh/config ~/.bashrc and any other files I want from my home directory. This copies those files into the repository and I can then commit them in the usual way.
If I make changes in my home directory, I use git aux sync to update the copies in the repository.
If I've made changes on another machine and want to apply those changes from the repo to the home dir on this machine, I do git aux apply.
And that's it :)
It's unfinished and probably broken in places but mostly does what I was looking for.
Oh, and it's written with node of course ;)
Last month I wrote about the BFI’s screening of “An Unearthly Child”, the first ever Doctor Who story. This month it was the turn of the second Doctor and the story chosen to represent that era of the show was “Tomb of the Cybermen”. Lost from the BBC archives for twenty years and believed wiped, the story has always had a mystique within fandom as a lost classic. When it was rediscovered in 1992 some people were underwhelmed but not me.
James at the Doctor Who Podcast had bagged great seats in the third row, which gave us a great view of Frank Skinner and Steven Moffat as they introduced the screening. Frank revealed his true fan colours and even remembered the first episode being broadcast fifty years ago. Moffat’s words, “everything we do [in modern Doctor Who] today is to try and recapture the feeling you get from watching this story” were perfect. The man should be a writer or something. It was good to see the current production team continuing to support the screenings. As well as SteMo, sitting right behind us were Caroline Skinner, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Edward Russell.
I’m starting to think Doctor Who should always be watched on a massive screen with a few hundred other people. Impractical, yes, but jolly exciting. Whilst the shortcomings of some of the effects, most notably the cybermats, were made very clear, the atmosphere was great. Patrick Troughton’s performance was superb, as were the other regulars and supporting cast.
During a hiatus caused by a failed tape machine, Michael Troughton talked briefly about his father Patrick. After the last episode, there was a discussion panel. Pictured above, L-R, are Michael Ferguson (60′s and 70′s Who director), Anneke Wills (Polly), Bernard Holley (Haydon), Deborah Watling (Victoria), Shirley Cooklin (Kaftan), Michael Kilgarrif (Cybercontroller). Although this panel didn’t have the energy of last month’s, it still threw up a few interesting pieces of information.
Afterwards James, Ian (also from the DWP), Chris (from the Oodcast) and I recorded another special review of the screening, huddled against the cold in one of the more welcoming stairwells on the south bank. And then there was pizza, in the warm. I’ve been lucky enough to secure a ticket for the third screening next month too, thanks to James. So next stop, “The Mind of Evil.”
The conference is in Washington DC at the Hyatt Regency, but talks should be available online afterwards (also good because it’s sold out!)
The quality of the talks seemed quite high and considering the number of newer users present the content level was well pitched. A couple of deeper talks for the more experienced members would have been nice but we mostly made our own in the open sessions. Facter, writing MCollective plugins, off-line and bulk catalogue compilation and the murky corners of our production puppets all came under discussion - in some cases quite fruitfully.
The wireless was a point of annoyance and amusement (depending on the person and the time of day). We had 20 users for an audience of ten times that - the attitudes covered the gamut from "I only need to check my mail once a day" to "I have my own tethering" and all the way to "This is my brute force script I run in a loop". You can tell when most of us lost our access based on the twitter hash tag.
I was a little surprised at the number of Puppet Camps there will be this year - 27 was the number mentioned. I think a lot of the more experienced members of the community value the camps and confs as a chance to catch up with each other and the PuppetLabs people and I'd hate to see us sticking to our own local camps and losing the cross pollination of ideas, plans and pains.
You can also view the Puppet Camp slides for a number of the sessions.
So did someone discover @Pontifex contains horse meat?
Hi anyone not going to the Drupal Event is welcome to bring a box to Reigate. Same location as the Nov 2012 Reigate meeting.
Any questions pls email jay at lincore.
Doors will be open from 10am. No special protocol.
The next meeting will be on Monday 11th of February from 7:30 at Veritas for a social
Feel free to bring your Linux problems and issues down for the experts to take
a look at (laptops only, of course).
If you’re new to Linux and want a little hand-holding, do come along, or if
you just fancy a bit of geeky chat there’s always lively debate on a range of
geek and non-geek subjects.
The work of William Morris, my GCSE history teacher said, was a bit of a moral dilemma. Morris was a British designer born during the Industrial Revolution. British (and then world) industry was moving rapidly towards mass production by replacing traditional, cottage-industry production processes with the more efficient, and therefore profitable, machines. One thing that suffered under this move to mass production was the focus on function and quantity over decoration and quality. Morris reacted against this by designing and producing decorations like wallpaper and textiles using the traditional craft techniques of skilled craftspeople. My history teacher’s point was that although Morris, a passionate socialist, was able to create high quality goods by using smaller-scale production methods, only wealthy people could afford to buy his designs; which was hardly equality in action. On the other hand, the skills of craftspeople were being retained, quality goods were being produced, and the craftspeople were getting paid for that quality of their work.
Monkigras 2013, in London last week, took on this theme of ‘scaling craft’ in the context of beer, coffee, and software. All parts of this trinity of software development can benefit hugely from a focus on quality over quantity. Before I went to Monkigras, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a tech event advertised as having a lot of beer. It did have a lot of beer (and coffee) available but if you didn’t want it you could avoid it (several people I talked to said they didn’t usually drink beer). And no one seemed to get ridiculously drunk. And there were a lot of very cool talks.
The beer was also a fun analogy to apply to software development. Despite pubs in the UK closing hand over fist at the moment, microbreweries are on the rise. Microbrewing is about producing beer in small quantities on a commercial basis so that quality can be maintained whilst still viable as a business. One of the things we learnt from a brewer at Monkigras is that the taste of water varies according to where it comes from. Water is a major component of beer so if the taste of your water supply changes, the taste of your beer changes. To maintain the quality of the beer you brew, you must work within the natural resources available to you and not over-expand. Similarly, quality comes from skilled and knowledgeable people who need to be paid for their skill. If you take on cheaper staff and train them less so that you can make more profit, you will end up with a poorer quality product. You get the idea.
This principle applies to all areas of craft, whether it’s producing quality coffee, a quality wooden spoon, quality conference food, or organising a quality conference, you have to focus on quality and ensure that if you scale what you do so that it’s more readily available to more people, you don’t sacrifice quality at the same time. And, importantly, that you know when to stop. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Software is misleadingly easy to produce. Unlike making physical objects, there is very little initial cost to producing software; you can make copies and then distribute them to customers over the Internet at very little cost. Initially, at least, it’s all in the skill of the craftspeople and their ability to identify their target users and market. If they can’t make what people will buy, they will go out of business very quickly. As software development companies get larger, the people who make the software inside the company become further removed from the selling of their software to their customers. So they become more focused on what they are close to, the technology but not who will use it.
Phil Gilbert, IBM’s new General Manager of Design, comes from a 30-year career in startups, most recently Lombardi, where design was core to their culture. IBM has a portfolio of 3000 software products so, when Lombardi was acquired by IBM, Phil set about simplifying the IBM Business Process Management portfolio of products, reducing 21 different products to just four and kicking off a cultural change to bring design and thinking about users to the centre of product development. Whilst praising IBM’s history of design and a recent server product design award, he also acknowledged at Monkigras: “We are rethinking everything at IBM. Our portfolio is a mess today and we need to get better”. Changing a culture like IBM’s isn’t easy but I’ve seen and experienced a big difference already. Phil’s challenge is to scale the high-quality user-focused design values of a startup to a century-old global corporation.
One of the things that struck me most at Monkigras, and appealed to me most as a social scientist, was the focus on the human side. Despite it being a developer conference, I remember seeing only one slide that contained code. The overriding theme was about people and culture, not technology; how to maintain quality by maintaining a culture that respects its craftspeople and how to retain both even if the organisation gets bigger, even if that naturally limits how much the organisation can grow. Personal analogy was also a big thing…
Cyndi Mitchell from Logspace talked about her family’s hog farm and working within the available resources. Shanley Kane from Basho used Dante’s spheres to describe best product management practices. Steve Citron-Pousty from RedHat use his background as an ecologist to manage communities and ‘developer ecosystems’ (don’t just call it an ecosystem; treat it like one). Diane Mueller from ActiveState talked about her 20%-time project to build a crowdsourced database of totem poles and the challenges of understanding what gets people to want to contribute to such projects. Elco Jacobs talked about his BrewPi project: automatically managing the temperature of his homebrewing fridge using a RaspberryPi based controller, and how he has open-sourced to build a community to kick start it as a potential small business. Rafe Colburn from Etsy more directly makes the link between craft and software engineering in his slides.
I don’t know much about William Morris so I don’t know which presentations he would have enjoyed or disagreed with. Morris was a preservationist and started the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to ensure that old buildings get repaired and not restored to an arbitrary point in the past. So maybe he would have found laser-scanning and 3D printing interesting. Chris Thorpe is a model train geek and likes to hand-make his own models of real-life objects. He too is interested in alternatives to mass manufacturing and has started to look at how to make model kits. He uses a laser to scan the objects and a 3D printer to prototype the models. He can then send the model to a commercial company who can make it into kits for him to sell. He has recently used his laser-scanning technique to scan a rediscovered old Welsh railway engine to preserve it, virtually at least, in the state in which it was found.
I had a great time with lots of cool and fun people. Well done to @monkchips for scaling a conference to just the right level of intimacy and buzz. The last thing I saw before I left was the craftsman making a wooden spoon pitted in competition against the 3D printer making a plastic spoon.
You can find many of the slide presentations and more about the conference Lanyrd.
What not to do: upgrade WordPress with Twitter/Facebook integration, and assume it’s all working. Plugin fight ensued, much spam, sorry
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