a glob of nerdishness

October 15, 2011


written by natevw @ 8:46 pm

I didn’t get a chance to meet Steve Jobs, and I’m not sure I ever will.

I hadn’t thought to be an audience for Dennis Ritchie until now, and — that chance is gone too.

But I have been privileged in recent years to meet many others: through Seattle Xcoders, at DjangoCon, NodeConf, at CouchConf, in the Tri-Cities and during this week’s visit to Portland.

It would feel like name-dropping to compile the “have met” list here, and honestly, these people have been unanimously surprised to hear that I’d been wanting to meet them in the first place.

It’s an honor to meet so many human heroes and be honored as a human back. To learn to listen better and learn better from them. To hope that I might have something someday to share back, technically or socially or spiritually?

I’m becoming less and less of an independent developer and finding more and more that “indie” should never mean “lonely”. No matter how fast or far the trail, there are many to share it with.

That’s a part of our vision at &yet, and a part of the reason we’re hosting a conference next month. A good conference isn’t to parade heroes or meet new contacts, but to be community.

I have to admit I’m excited to meet more amazing people and to talk again personally with online contacts next month. But I’m also glad that the theme of the conference, Keeping It Realtime, is not about one technology that’s pulling ahead. It’s about a tactic that many technologies in the lead share.

Seems like a heroic strategy to me, as far as those go.

September 10, 2011

You are never alone

written by natevw @ 7:00 am

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.


Should you google that to help decide, you’ll find that:

  • I’ve copied two paragraphs verbatim from a Catechism
  • nerd version: Instructional FAQ
  • cynical nerd version: Instrument of Sheeple Opium

Some healthy cynicism is warranted: I’m quoting from the translation of the Westminster Larger Catechism accepted by the “Orthodox Presbyterian Church”. Read that like a DNS entry: “Orthodox” names a split among Presbyterians, who have denominated themselves apart from the Church, which in this case refers to Protestants who left the once-Καθολικός religion, that as far as those go was an (eventually three)-way split between Abraham’s sons.

If you think that’s cause for concern, just imagine the mayhem when half the “Orthodox Christian Reformed [protestant] Church” members fall into heresy.


Like all our goals,


Jesus Christ — who BTW can raise sons for Abraham out of rocks — promised that he would never leave what he’s created alone.

That’s why I’m struggling and remain dogmatic about this The Goal: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Goals are hard, and staying sure of Them is harder, especially when our minds let Goals lead us into jaols lest They fade into ghosts.

Practically imposible. Severe budget constraints.

But if God is not dead, whether we killed him or not.

Then that is a comfort.

Which you may call a crutch.

You may be right but I’m a perfectionist, and while time has proven very competent at making humanity and its Goals, bigger.

It seems They never get, better.

Or closer; on their own.


Here’s to the crazy one.


September 9, 2011

Goals 2: Lost in Zen York

written by natevw @ 5:00 pm

So the question is why?

Obviously, our goals are the why we have other goals.

but what’s The Goal?

I mean, why have the goals in the first place?

To recap: we have goals, and goals whose goal is to make those goals possible, but What’s. The. Goal. ??

To back up a bit: do we have big goals that we attain by setting little goals? Or do we have little goals that we achieve by big goals?

Or both?

I’ve now written “goal” so often, it’s feeling like ghoul and reading like gaol. Which is either a typo, or a British correctional facility.

goal goal goal goal
goal goal
goal goal goal

Or only one?


Zen and the art of zen writing…maintenance.)

We may disagree on The Goal. Even though neither of us probably’s actually really figured out — learned? — what it is yet, even.

(Do they really still spell jeeaol that way, in the English translation of English?)

At least I haven’t, which is probably why I’m a bit dogmatic.

(fully figured out the goal)

To be continued.

p.s. — it’s not Learning.

September 8, 2011

Goals, or: You are not alone

written by natevw @ 12:02 pm

I am a perfectionist, which is difficult but probably more difficult for my family and friends. I am also sloppy, which is difficult for a perfectionist.

When I started working at &yet, the team then were all throwing themselves into one exciting project. Those days are gone, and these days I find myself stuck with “the mess”, while “those responsible” have scattered.

I also find myself having to just build more mess, because that’s the best I can do. And wanting to scatter.

We can do better, and must.

The perfectionists need to learn patience with people. People change, even are made anew, and sometimes suddenly but never from the outside in.

The slopsters need to learn patience with products. Products change, are in need of constant refactoring, and to build them suddenly rarely leaves anything salvageable behind.

We can’t do better alone.

That’s the thing. If I were fired from &yet tomorrow (HI ADAM!) this, what I have learned, would be my severance package (JUST KIDDING ADAM!):

You can’t do better alone.

We have really lofty goals — we do don’t we? — they are Ridiculous Goals. If we think we can accomplish them more ideally or more quickly alone.

So my goal is to teach, a team to teach.


August 24, 2011

In the fast lane

written by natevw @ 9:12 am

My bike rode dense this morning. When I yielded the sidewalk to a pedestrian the grass weighed like gravity.

It’s a war, shipping software on time. Rolling a rock uphill, shipping something I’m content with.

In the fast lane life and purpose still rush on ahead, you just taste their draft less.

I’m glad I biked.

July 2, 2011

Parting questions for PalmHP

written by natevw @ 2:51 pm

To be clear, I LIKE webOS and want it to succeed. :/
Steven Frank, 2011 July 1

One of my first memories of Palm’s new “New Palm” thing was when they were in the papers every month for making their first webOS device pretend to be an iPod. For USB syncing purposes. Clever way to get some free advertising from MacRumors, but you know what? I hate what iTunes has become and loved being able to just drag and drop MP3 files onto my Palm Pre 2.

Anyone wanna buy a Palm Pre 2?

I tried to love it, just like how for years I’d been trying to love the heavy, bulky reel mower I also bought online. It’s good for the ecosystem, it’s got some very very nice qualities designed into it…

I’ve decided I don’t like either the lawnmower or the smartphone. And while I don’t need perfect landscaping in an efficient amount of time or energy, with greater responsibility at work comes greater need to join the same technological century as the rest of the world. Even though I’ve owned a Palm Pre 2 since last December, it’s never felt okay nor have I had room for it on my person. Thus it was not until this week that I became a cellphone person.

More honestly: I am now an iPhone people. It seems like such a silly insignificant change to go from having an iPod touch always in my pocket to an iPhone always in my pocket, but for me it is a defeat.

When something fails I wanna know why. So here are some poignant, probing questions that will magically make Palm/HP awesome again:Good questions are hard please read the following rants instead:

  • what’s with the HP logo when my phone reboots? The original palm wordmark was a reserved, artistic logo. The new .(h|p)*…thing is a glowing gradient of a corporate wart that only calls all the nice things the Palm people have said about their acquisition into question.
  • for example. why is “http://h41112.www4.hp.com/promo/webos/us/en/smartphones/pre3.html” the URL for the Palm Pre 3 (and why is it down while I’m trying to gather info for this post?)
  • why is the Palm Pre 3 still only [no worky web page, no getty authoritative tech specs...] X millimeters “thin”-ner than the mainframe computer I am typing this on?
  • why does it still have a stupid slidey keyboard thing that I could never shake the feeling would remain in my pocket when I accidentally pulled out only the other half?
  • why, after I really really really wanted to love my Palm Pre 2 but couldn’t, am I now completely uninterested in any incremental non-improvement you’ve not really made at all since then? Since the very first Pre?!
  • I know HP used to be a great company and all, but can you please just license the poor operating system that still somehow shows the most spectacular promise of being potentially both usable and open, try taking it and licensing it to a company that might actually be capable of combining it with some decent hardware before it’s too late?
  • and also: I said “potentially spectacular” operating system, not “actually spectacular”. Pls to put a hard-driving perfectionist in charge of software. No more Mr. Nice People, otherwise only Mr. Nice People will be able to say Mr. Nice Things about the promising prototype-grade rubbish you keep. shipping.
  • Buying an iPhone was a defeat because now i’mStuck with iCloud instead of a Synergy plugin that could talk to data on a server I control. Now i’mStuck with iStore monopolies instead of your fun official instructions for owning the device I bought. Now i’mStuck with the same iPhone that everyone else and their soccer mothers all sport like a luxury item because a truly useful phone still is — and it’s cheaper than yours!

    But the saddest thing about it all is that this sticks me with an even better web browser — w00t! — than I got on a platform called webOS. So even while Apple keeps shoving native adults into a sandbox, they’ve also been pushing web technologies up towards where I suspect native vs. web will meet: the same amount of power, but on the latter: the freedom to innovate that only a real platform can provide.

    The web is the only tool developers have left. I feel defeated because it’s not thriving as or even on anyone else’s operating system and I don’t know what that means.

    June 26, 2011

    The Continued Adventures of ShutterStem

    written by natevw @ 12:33 am

    The working motto is that ShutterStem is “trying to make taking photos fun again”.

    And it’s this nebulous dream, and that’s okay for now.

    Some moonbeams for holdy paws:

    • so iCloud is a relief. I doubt they even sync metadata, but at least Apple finally woke up and realized that they needed to do something about the iMac sitting at home not being useful most of the time.
    • sync was gonna be the killer feature that made the world beat a path to ShutterStem’s door, but giving everyone a private server without needing everyone to be a devops ninjas and/or having to make hardware etc. etc. is a Hard Problem even with a CouchDBs at ones’ disposal.
    • so it’s nice that iApple have tackled the low-hanging fruit and the 90% may soon have something practical, useful, and just works, while still meanwhile I “trying”
    • what is an ShutterStem? then?
    • the medium-term goal is just a collection of tools that shows off why I heart CouchDB and how it can help a small niche of photographers who insist on doing some things the hard way (=my dad and me and you if you want) get things done a little more easily and better…ly
    • so you’re rewriting stuff again and this will never be finished?
    • probably? look. this is not just an audacious dream of a platform for photos, but it is also a platform for a bunch of audacious ideas about how the web should just connect people to extensions of their own selves and to extensions of each other, rather than be the warrantlessly searchable home of all our eggs in one basket. this kinda stuff takes time, filing out all the paperwork through the proper channels and whatnot if you aren’t impressed with ill-fated shortcuts

    French Revolution?! Where were we. Oh yeah…

    • photos fun again?

    So I’ve had this vague notion that my photography hit some something and then wasn’t fun anymore. That’s really all this little ShutterStem hobby is about…playing with the slightly more “revolutionary” side of some neat technologies to somehow somewhere get back to the days where I were outside taking pictures that were fun to look at again and again. It doesn’t matter that App Stores are evil or any other stupid politics… I just wanna help make some photo app that kinda surprises and delights even in its nichey nerdishness.

    So what’s the wall, where maybe should I push for revolution?

    I wonder if it’s…if it is related to my capacity for mental inventory? I have a bunch of gadgets…but I know where each one is, and all its accessories. I have piles of books…but I can picture each one on the shelf in my head. I have tons of deadtree and digital documents…but I can generally track down the one I’m looking for. I even know where, within our two-year old’s scattered arsenal of real and supposed toys, the better part of half our kitchen utensils likely lie….

    But I might as well be backing up a bazillion blurry photos, because that’s the haystack that one day my brain stopped looking for needles in. And I wonder if that’s when photos stopped being fun?

    So besides being OpenDoc, besides being Unhosted, besides being W3C or RFC-worthy or maybe instead of any of all of that, ShutterStem just needs to help me [help anyone] INTERNALIZE THE INVENTORY. Helping as only computers can help. ing.

    • Q. Does that mean I’m starting over with yet another prototype(s) instead of shipping some sort of v1.1?
    • A. Meh.
    • If you’re sticking along for the ride I’d hate to bore you.

    June 11, 2011

    The only thing I’ve learned recently that’s not probably under some social or contractual NDA

    written by natevw @ 12:03 am

    I don’t know why I’ve kept it (or maybe I do) but I still have this box of ribbons, tassels, plaques and pins in our closet.

    They’re bittersweet memories — of acclaim from teachers, judges, scoring systems – of jealousy and exclusion from classmates, peers and even friends.

    My matches would all try so hard while I, along for the ride, always “won”. What was I supposed to do, drop out? Hardly trying, always winning. I hate winning.

    High school was the first time I got along with almost everyone instead of almost no one. I owe a lot of that to one classmate, who my freshman year gave me blunt reminders to be a little more socially acceptable. After this friend discovered, our senior year, that I had earned top scholastic honors despite his top scholastic efforts…we didn’t talk much since.

    College was dark. I would have actually written a screed raging against some machine, but what the note next to my recurring fantasy really said was simply “Sick of being smart, doing the stupidest thing in the world.”

    And somehow, along for the ride, God took me through it and more and beyond and here I sit, awake, the most beautiful girl in the world sleeping beside me, typing on a flattering laptop that I “won” for just doing my job.

    I hate winning.

    Is that why I so eagerly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Is that why I’m so uncomfortable leading? Maybe that’s why I act socially unacceptable: to make others uncomfortable with my leadership? So I’ll lose?

    I’m going to learn to enjoy being smart. Maybe some will choose to exclude me because of it, but I’m done excluding myself on account of a capacity someone else chose for me.

    March 4, 2011

    Not embarrassed

    written by natevw @ 11:14 pm

    When you’ve been taught that shipping an embarrassing “version one” means you shipped early enough, then it’s hard to be embarrassed by such a release.

    On the self-imposed deadline of February’s end, I called the progress I’ve made on ShutterStem so far and named it “version one”. By the time I got around to actually tagging the “1.0″ release in version control, the source code had already gained an additional contributor with support for an additional version of OS X. And a bit of documentation.

    Two months ago I had whittled down the insurmountable task of going from version 0.1 to version The World Is O’ertaken, into a outline of requirements in an otherwise empty repository branch called “take_two”. These requirements focused on a primary metabolism of the amateur photography workflow: breathe in, pick images to share, breathe out.

    It’s interesting to see how version 1.0 differs from its original requirements; projects always do and are often better for it. It’s less fun to see what suffered for the deadline. Hence the “early enough”: it sets up like a <artistic analogy regarding difficulty>, it looks like a <deprecating humor regarding homeliness>, and certain parts got shipped in a <one hundred percent half-assed state>.

    But it works.

    I was sitting around the house one evening, pouting about how pitiful my project was as I used it on an iPad. My wife was nearby with her laptop, helping me collect images into baskets. Organizing the same photo library, via completely different devices, over only the local network. The mainframe across the room was no longer just a big hard drive behind a big screen, but also a server — and not even the server! — as we relaxed over on the couch and enjoyed paging through photos together.

    I think it’s got a shot.

    November 27, 2010

    Building CouchDB for PowerPC on Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

    written by natevw @ 8:52 pm

    My first Mac was a G4 mini which now mostly just serves an external drive to our home network as a Time Machine backup destination. Since it’s powered up 24/7, I’ve been wanting to make a bit more use of it as a server, which means Couch of course.

    Unfortunately, the process wasn’t terribly “relaxing” — I couldn’t find a PPC build of CouchDB for Mac OS X on the ENTIRE INTERNETS. Yet fortunately, after who knows how many hours of blood, sweat and swearing under my breath, I was able to coax out a working build. For the 3 other CouchDB fans out there who still have a PowerPC machine plugged in and enjoy sysadmin pain, here are my build notes:

    1. First, install git if necessary and follow the instructions for the build-couchdb helper scripts until the “rake” part.
    2. To avoid a mktmpdir issue in rake, you’ll need to get a Ruby 1.8.7 version of Rake working. I don’t recommend this route, but when it was all said and done I moved aside /usr/bin/ruby, /usr/bin/rake and /usr/bin/gem (each to /usr/bin/X-orig) and then followed the first few steps of these instructions to get newer versions working out of /usr/local/bin instead.
    3. To avoid an unsupported architecture crash-and-burn, you’ll need to go into build-couchdb/tasks/erlang.rake and comment out a 64-bit option line: #configure.push '--enable-darwin-64bit' if DISTRO[0] == :osx
    4. The CouchDB build doesn’t like the Leopard version of libcurl, so build and install the latest from source. Temporarily move /usr/bin/curl-config to /usr/bin/curl-config-orig so the build process will use the right curl libraries. (Again, there’s maybe a better way to do this, but I wasn’t feeling picky at this point…)

    If any of that made any sense, and I didn’t forget anything, you may even be able to reproduce this on your own PowerPC Mac at your own risk. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know if there’s a better way to get build-couchdb using the right versions of Ruby and libcurl without desperately mucking around in /usr/bin like I did.

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