elliot's blog

Google stuff

Interesting article about how Google runs their infrastructure: 1000s of cheap PCs which they expect to break, running Linux. Not much detail, but gives some idea of the scale they are working on.

Google also this week announced it has open sourced some of its code. Can't see as I'll have much use for it, but some of my functional programming friends might enjoy Goopy/Functional.


Today I was in contact with the first person I've come across who has a .coop email address (i.e. name@somewhere.coop). I found this utterly bizarre, so had a look round and discovered that .coop is now a top level domain name you can buy yourself. Might be of interest to my colleague Paul Cooper, who sometimes goes by the pseudonym "coop". Though I think he'd have to convince them he's a cooperative to get one.


Congratulations to my good friends Alex and Nancy, whose baby boy Cory was born yesterday at 9.30pm.

Bug report

Got the first bona fide bug report for my BookmarksToDelicious software. Unable to reproduce it, though. Hopefully the submitter will let me have his bookmark file and tell me what command line he used. Still intending (eventually) to update the software to handle bookmarks in xbel format (Konqueror).


Drupal patches

Last night I spent some time pulling out the changes I've made to my Drupal install (i.e. this website) and turning them into patches. So far, I've submitted four patches to the Drupal issue tracker. One was rejected on the grounds that something similar was already in CVS, and a second because it was too picky (I can't abide error messages if they are avoidable, and all my patch did was fix a trivial error which didn't affect how Drupal runs). The other two are still in the queue, so they might make it in yet.

Aside from anything else, I've learned two important lessons about attempting to contribute to Drupal (which are possibly true of trying to contribute to any open source project):

  1. Developers are extremely particular about coding standards. In two of my four patches, I slightly diverged from the coding standard for brevity's sake, and the patch reviewers were critical of this in both cases.
  2. To develop on a project, you really need to be using the bleeding edge source code from CVS. One of my patches was rejected because similar functionality had made it into the source tree since I downloaded it.

My motivation for submitting patches is so I don't have to maintain my patched versions. I always encourage people who modify open source software to try to get their changes incorporated into the main source tree, rather than maintain a fork themselves. But, on this occasion, because I am quite picky, I may find myself in the position of maintaining my own fork of Drupal so I can keep the features I've added which I find useful.

Christian Web Hosting - eh?

Now I've seen everything: Webs4Christ provides web hosting specifically for Christian sites. They offer "Fast, Reliable Christian Web Hosting and Affordable Christian Website Design" with more features and better reliability than "secular web hosting". To quote from their site:

To us this means that Christian web hosting providers MUST take a personal interest in their clients and provide a level of customer service that we would be proud to offer up to God Himself.

Presumably customers are also protected from downtime by the mighty right hand of God.

Lenya CMS

I looked at Lenya (Java content management system) a few weeks ago. While I was impressed (I've always been a fan of Cocoon, on which Lenya is based), I didn't think I could recommend it as an out-of-the-box CMS. But they've recently made a new maintenance release, and now might be the time to revisit it. As it's an Apache project, it will definitely be worth watching long term.

The mighty XAMPP

I came across XAMPP a few weeks ago, through Slashdot probably. At the time I was doing LAMP development using Fedora. My Fedora setup involved installing the latest and greatest MySQL (Fedora 2 shipped with MySQL 3.23, but I wanted version 4). Of course, this didn't work with the PHP shipped in Fedora 2, so I rebuilt PHP from a source RPM, blah blah blah. This really got on my nerves.

What I really wanted was a simple, packaged development environment with all the latest and greatest versions of Apache, MySQL, and PHP, but without having to build from source. XAMPP is exactly that. It comes as a single tarball which you unpack into /opt as root (I should also mention there are version for Windows, Solaris and Mac OS X as well). There's also a script that starts, stops and reloads everything. Once you run the script, you have a full AMP environment up and running. All the configuration files, database files, binaries, libraries, example scripts are in one directory. Everything is turned on by default, so it's not a production environment out of the box; but it is fantastic for development work.

Another bonus: I am due to give a LAMP training course with Jono next week, and have been working on demo code and databases. Jono started work on his parts of the course this week. I was able to tar my XAMPP installation and send it to him; he just unpacked it onto his machine to get a full duplicate development area, complete with all of the databases and PHP files I had created. The next step would be to put whole "sites" into Subversion, then write some scripts to synch them with a XAMPP installation when we run future training courses :)

One other thing that's invaluable for the training course: the script supplied lets you switch between PHP4 and PHP5 like this:

/opt/lampp/lampp php5

and back again. This means you can test applications in both versions of PHP painlessly. Useful to demonstrate the differences in how classes are implemented in the two versions.

First steps

Madeleine (my daughter, 15 months old) has just started walking today! She's been threatening to do it for a while, and took a few steps at the weekend. But today she went for it, and was tottering around, laughing with joy and falling into my lap and Nicola's. It's incredible how she's gone from 3 steps two days ago to 15 or so today, though she has been walking around the furniture for a few months now.

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