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Everything here is my opinion. I do not speak for your employer.
January 2007
March 2007

2007-02-01 »


Oh look, even the world of databases has its religious fruitcakes. Thank goodness not everything is different when you switch sub-specialties.

I love this quote especially:

    The mistakes in original SQL that are relevant here:

    1. Invention of NULL, violating the principle of "no ad hoc-ery".

Uh, yeah. I guess I don't really hold to that principle either :)

2007-02-02 »

Expense Cheque Turnaround

Delay in remembering to file my expenses: 3 months.

Time to fill in expense form with 3 months of expenses: 5 minutes.

Delay from filing to receiving expense cheque: 2.5 hours.

For a few things in life, it's pretty obvious that I'm the root cause of the problem :)

2007-02-03 »

Perfect high-level company metrics

Via Paul Kedrosky, a list of the stuff you should be able to present to your board of directors about the state of your company.

Board of Directors or not, this is exactly the stuff I would love to see about how any company is being run. I love his comments about "metrics around product development." (I happen to spend a lot of time on those myself, but he's totally right at a higher level.) Note to self, demand to keep track of all these metrics when the time comes, and never let anyone tell me it's not important.

2007-02-05 »

WvStreams is still alive

wlach created a new Google Groups discussion list for WvStreams. We've had a few false starts for WvStreams discussion lists in the past, but this time it has a much greater chance of success because there's no longer a private, internal, corporate mailing list for it to compete with. Also, Google Groups is vastly more awesome than our previous mailing list hosting software.

2007-02-08 »

Exciting Montreal Technology Stuff

Austin Hill has posted an interesting collection of cool technology stuff going on in Montreal (and to a lesser extent, Canada), including an all-purpose "let me help you find a cool startup job somewhere" offer.

From there, a link to La Presse (French) about Google's new Montreal office.

Miss you lots, wish I were there! Oh well, soon enough.

2007-02-11 »

Negative latency in the banker's kitchen

I wrote before about how bankers are similar to programmers. But little did I know that they had discovered negative latency!

This technique was explained to me when I went to visit the Saskatoon office of my current employer. Here's how it works. When you make tea, you need to boil water, then let it cool down a bit. But if you're lucky, there was hot water ("response") already in the kettle, so you can use that. If not, you make your own, then use that. Afterward - and here's the magic - you refill the kettle and turn it on (submit a "prequest") for the next person, thus greatly increasing the chance that the next person ("request") to arrive will already have hot water.

This only works in a situation with sufficiently high tea throughput and sufficiently little clustering of requests, and you sometimes end up requesting extra data (boiling extra water) at the end of the day, but the bandwidth cost of some boiled water is much less than the latency cost of waiting for water to boil.

2007-02-24 »

Modern web, email, and project hosting

Since I've gone and started a new company, we need some infrastructure. Our parent company is a bank, which is fine, but it means that for regulatory reasons we can't really "borrow" their pleasantly mature and already-functional infrastructure. So I had to start looking elsewhere. And to my surprise, I found that the web has changed a lot since last time I checked. Here are some of the bits we'll probably end up using for our new company, at least to get us started.

Gmail for Domains is partnered with some domain registrar or another. You can follow the wizard and register your favourite .com name for $10 USD (if you don't already have one), then automatically host DNS, a basic web site, and 200 domain email addresses (each with 2GB of space) on Google for free. Paid for by ad sidebars in your email, of course... but they're funny and your customers don't see them, so who cares?

Speaking of our web site, we're going to have some big files for people to download. That's okay, because Amazon S3, a distributed filesystem courtesy of Alumnit jdcormie et al, will host as much data as you want, with whatever authorization restrictions you want, and as many bytes transferred as you want, all at per-gigabyte prices comparable to (but more finely grained than) the otherwise excellent (In other famous-people news, you might remember jdcormie as the guy who first brought you WvStreams for Windows.)

For added awesomeness, S3 automatically also makes its data available via BitTorrent, cutting your bandwidth costs. BitTorrent has its stupidities, but at least it's popular and sort of works.

And what are these big files we need to distribute? Well, a lot of it will be free software, which hopefully means collaboration, which means hosting the whole development process online somewhere. I never liked SourceForge's gross user interface, and now that's okay, because Google Project Hosting no longer sucks. It even includes a Subversion-backed wiki system, a very clever bug tracking system, and of course, integrated Google searchability.

So now you've got your project hosted for free in Subversion, but how will people know that your project isn't dead? Enter CIA, which turns your public subversion repository into a handy RSS feed plus an IRC bot (?!) automatically.

Finally, you can hardly have an open source project without mailing lists, and it seems that Google Groups has evolved into what I've wanted for years: a mailing list manager with really good thread management, web posting/viewing capability, email subscription support, perfect archive navigation, spam suppression, and of course, excellent search features.

Wow, that's a whole lot of not sucking. I guess I'm going to have to go offline if I want to get depressed tonight.

2007-02-25 »

Women genetically incapable of Harvard presidency

Look, you can't argue with science. Okay, you can, but why? You'll just lose anyway.

    Men are also more adept than women at mentally rotating three-dimensional shapes on aptitude tests, Kinbote added. "You'd be surprised how often a university president needs to do this, and at Harvard the pressure is especially intense." Kinbote estimated that the president of Harvard spends roughly one-quarter of the working day mentally rotating complex, hypothetical three-dimensional shapes, "and that's not even counting all the time he needs to try to figure out why women aren't as skilled at abstract mathematical thought." -- Michael Berube
January 2007
March 2007

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