This weekend I attended the FSCONS conference in Gothenburg, and very happily accepted the Nordic Free Software Award, for work I did a few years ago for the budding Free Software community in Iceland.
I had a great time this weekend at the conference, learned some new things and met many awesome people. Receiving the award, although it was a low-key, light-hearted affair, was not only inspiring, it was exactly the kind of "peer pressure" that I appreciate.
How could I not spend all my time working on free software and digital freedoms, after receiving an award like that? :-)
Good thing that's what I'm doing!
Yesterday I picked up my new glasses from the shop. I actually picked up two pair, my old ones with new lenses, and a new pair, also with new lenses and a sightly different prescription.
Why two pair? Am I suddenly old enough to qualify for a different prescription for computer-use? Sort of. I haven't started getting far-sighted yet (in fact I am a tad more near-sighted than last time I checked), but since I've been getting headaches the optician recommended I try using slightly weaker lenses tuned for the different angle between my eyes when working close up.
So far I'm not sure it helps. It may actually be a bit worse... But I am giving it a try to see how I adust.
I had never given much thought to the viewing angle and the distance between my eyes in the context of glasses, but it turns out that my old prescription (which I got in Dublin) got that little detail wrong - my old glasses had their focal points a millimeter or two, too far apart. This is in turn a very likely explanation for the added strain and the headaches I have been getting.
When I put on my new glasses (the pair that is not tweaked for computer use), they just felt right.
To be honest, I can't really see a difference. :-)
Of course that is kind of the point, Beanstalks Project websites look just like other websites.
I was amused to find that clicking the "comment" link on Iceland Review's web-site upholds last century's tradition of "letters to the editor" rather than allowing new-fangled direct conversations on their web-site. How quaint!
Anyway, here is the letter I am sending them, in response to this crappy article. I hope it is appropriately quaint, while getting my point across.
I am a recent addition to your readership, looking for some insight into how Iceland is presented to our non-Icelandic speaking immigrants, guests and other interested foreigners. Overall I've been pleased with your coverage, with one notable exception.
I was absolutely appalled by your recent article, "Mayor Gnarr Wearing any Clothes?". I was not bothered by what you wrote about Gnarr, he is after all a comedian and seems to thrive on controversy. You were pretty nice to him.
What bothered me was your blatant attack on the character and personal life of Sóley Tómasdóttir. Digging up the most controversial quote you could find (from an interview taken last May, with no bearing on the Gnarr story) and reprinting it out of context like this, is a remarkably a low blow. The fact that for your attack you chose a quote relating to her private family life, makes it unforgivable.
I am no fan of Sóley or her politics, but her critique of Gnarr was at least on topic and worth discussing - if only to point out how silly she is.
Your coverage however, was neither topical nor justified. It just left me feeling a bit queasy. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Respectfully yours, Bjarni R. Einarsson
This is what Ewelina and I did with Susan. It was a lot of driving, but we had crazy fun.
Last Friday I launched the web-site of my fledgling company, the Beanstalks Project. I expect most of my work-related blogging is probably going to happen over there, not on this page.
Incidentally, for my geekier friends, I aggregate all my different RSS feeds into one at this URL: bre.klaki.net/u/?Bjarni.rss. That feed includes pretty much everything I write on the web (except for my Tweets) as well as links to Stuff I Like.
In other news, this weekend was a major weekend of mid-summer cleaning: Ewelina and I took everything out of the downstairs storage room and into the back-yard. There we sat in the sun and sorted it all into four different piles: trash, charity, keep and friends. The keep pile was the smallest of the three, so now there is lots of room in the store-room for more "stuff".
But more importantly, now we actually know what we have.
And, I got ever so slightly sunburned!
Today I made massive progress on a 6-year-old carpentry project: closets in my bedroom.
The sliding doors are assembled and in place, and the room already looks so much nicer. Later this week I may try to dye the wood a darker color, paint the internal shelves and put them all in place, and if all goes well, next weekend I'll finish the drawers under the window.
It's weird to suddenly make rapid progress on something I've been putting off or ignoring for so many years. Of course, I was distracted by things like a divorce, single life and living abroad for four of those six years... but still. It's strange, but very gratifying, to finally see this stuff getting done.
When Ewelina and I finally get around to having a house warming party, this place is going to look completely different. And awesome! :-)
I spent today evaluating what kind of back-end data storage system to use for my little startup.
(Oh yeah, I am starting a company, did I forget to mention that? It's gonna be awesome. Details later.)
As many of you may know, I detest RDBMS databases, and have since University. Every time I have tried to use one, it has sucked, possibly with the exception of sqlite. Luckily the data I am working with in this project is a terrible fit for an RDBMS, so I was free to go exploring the open-source NoSQL universe with a clear conscience. Whee!
There are some pretty cool projects out there.
I found some nice Bigtable work-alikes (Cassandra, Hypertable), which tempted me a bit after my experience with Bigtable at Google. But I don't need all their features, the complexity and requirements would probably be more of a hindrance than a help to my project. I was tempted a bit more by Voldemort, which is a fair bit simpler, as it is a plain key/value store, not an ordered table. But still, it looked too complicated in some areas, and not mature enough in others.
Finally, I discovered redis: an in-memory, disk-backed hash table which natively supports the most important data types (ints, floats, lists, sets) and allows high-level atomic operations. It also knows how to do replication, a requirement for my project, and the implementation is simple enough that I should be able to promote a slave to master status in an emergency with little difficulty. The 2.0 release (already in beta) adds support for pub/sub and larger-than-RAM data-sets (swapping out unpopular entries).
In short, it looks totally awesome!
It was really weird to read about the features of redis, though - I had this ridiculous feeling of deja-vu.
It does the same things, in the same way: it is a single threaded, in-memory hash server. It has a human-readable client/server protocol, running over TCP. Every now and then it forks out a new process to write a checkpoint of the current DB state to disk. It can track incremental changes using an operation log. The up-coming 2.0 version even has pub/sub features (BottleNeck has "watches").
Freaky. But of course, redis is in almost every way superior to my naive Perl implementation. It is faster. It is properly tested. It has way more high-level operations, natively supports complex data-structures like lists and sets, and it supports replication. Version 2.0 even supports larger-than-RAM data-sets.
It's like I got to design the thing and set requirements, and then a much better programmer went and implemented it all (and more) while I wasn't looking.
I can't wait to start using it!