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09 February 2016

Is Technical Diversity a Good Thing?

Not everything is equal
Not all gummibears are equal

Speaking to someone who is interested to work for our team, he was surprised that we don't have a standard virtual machine image with all the tools and setup ready. Well... we don't have that. We have a couple of README.txt files, and a setup that each time it's attempted causes a few scratched heads and curses.

But what it also does is ferret out a bunch of problems and bugs each time it happens. "Oh, this library was updated." Usually this is not nice stuff. Stuff that should have been taken care of. Stuff that should have been documented, or even automated. Probably with a bigger team, you'd assign someone to look after this stuff, but we're not a big team. So yes, the procedure to install a new environment can be tedious and time consuming.

But the other reason I like our diversity is that it's basically following the philosophy of what OpenBSD does in developing for a bunch of obscure, strange, and old platforms. It brings out to the light the kind of thing that "works on this platform", but in reality it's just an ugly hack or an -ism of that platform. Making your environment work on a couple of platforms will make things more robust.

(At one point we even tried to go as far as having someone being able to develop on Windows. That simply didn't work out, that "platform" is simply too complicated and needs too many special fixes.)


Posted by betabug at 10:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 February 2016

Am I Lazy?

Let me lay under a tree for a couple of hours and ponder the question
Lying under a tree

In a discussion with a friend over lunch, he told me: "The way you describe your work, one could get the idea that you are lazy!" Indeed I am. Being lazy is a key ingredient to a good programmer. It's what makes us automate tedious, repetitive tasks.

On a further scale, I like things like riding my bike and then sitting somewhere under a tree, pondering all and nothing... and then churr churr my subconscious starts working on those work problems that keep holding the work up.

Being lazy makes me write automated tests for my program code, because a couple of hours writing those tests will save me many, many hours of searching when a problem in that program code appears in a few months. There are many more practical things like that.


Posted by betabug at 22:30 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
07 February 2016

Mandelblüten

Weiss wie Schnee
Mandelblüten

Seit ein paar Tagen sind die Mandelbäume hier am blühen. Zuerst war noch nichts, dann hatten wir ein paar wärmere Tage, plötzlich sieht man die Mandelbäume überall. Ich kann Mandelbäume sonst schwer erkennen, aber gerade sieht man wo es überall welche gibt, als ob sie sich melden.

Soweit ich mich erinnern kann, ist es das erste Mal, dass ich die Mandelbäume auf Naxos blühen sehe. Früher waren wir erst ab dem Frühjahr hier, da haben wir sie immer verpasst. Dann wäre ich letztes Jahr wohl hier gewesen, aber mit dem Beinbruch habe ich den Februar zuhause in Athen im Bett verbracht.

Als es gestern so stürmte, wurden viele der Mandelblüten schon wieder ausgerissen. Wer seinen Mandelbaum mit etwas Windschutz gepflanzt hatte, ist klar im Vorteil. Zum Teil sind an den Bäumen nur noch auf der einen Seite Blüten dran. Aber bis jetzt gibt es noch genug Blüten zu sehen, und der Wind ist auch schon von Tag zu Tag am abflauen.


Posted by betabug at 21:20 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 February 2016

Windstärke 9

Es rattert und es knattert

Heute gibt's auf Naxos Windstärke 9 bis 10. Schiffe gehen natürlich keine, es herrscht das sogenannte "απαγορευτικό" (apagorevtiko, das "Verbotene"), d.h. das Hafenamt verbietet, dass Schiffe auslaufen dürfen. Für viele Inselbewohner ist das apagorevtiko ein tiefes, psychisches Trauma, bei jedem kleinen Anstieg der Windprognose wittern sie einen Stopp der Schiffahrt, vor allem, wenn Verwandte, Bekannte, oder eben der Gesprächspartner eine Schiffsreise geplant haben. So häufig kommt es dann aber doch nicht vor.

Im Dorf rattert und knattert es überall. Türen und Fenster knallen, diverse, unbekannte Gegenstände werden umhergeworfen und verursachen scheppernde und knallende Geräusche. Alles was nicht festgezurrt, schwer, oder gut verschlossen ist, fliegt. Als ich vorhin bei der kleinen Kirche am Dorfende vorbeikam, war ein Fenster offen und schlug im Wind. Also bin ich in die Kirche, um das Fenster zu schliessen. Die Nachbarin war aber schon dabei. Gerade als sie hinter mir die Kirche wieder verlassen wollte, riss sich das Fenster wieder los. "Was ist das für ein Wind!", sagt sie noch zu mir.

Unserem Kater passt der Wind überhaupt nicht. Wo er normalerweise den ganzen Tag draussen unterwegs ist, liegt er heute die meiste Zeit im Haus rum, schläft, und langweilt sich. Mach ich die Tür auf, geht er erst ein paar Schritte darauf zu, merkt dann aber was draussen los ist und entschliesst sich dann doch drin zu bleiben. Regen oder sogar Schnee machen ihm weniger aus als der Wind. Mir geht's nicht viel besser, das Velofahren pausiert für heute. Es ist mir schlicht zu riskant. An einem ähnlichen Tag vor 2 Jahren flog mir in Filoti eine Sperrholzkiste um die Ohren und verfehlte mich nur knapp. Aber auch mal zu hause bleiben ist in Ordnung, die nächsten Tage soll der Wind schon wieder abflauen.


Posted by betabug at 17:22 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
03 February 2016

So cute

Bambini
Cute company on the road

One thing to be careful when cycling on Naxos is too look out for flocks of sheep and/or goats on the road. They can be in the middle of the road, blocking your way. Or they can be on the side of the road, and as you pass them, they get scared and try to run away... often straight across your way to the other side of the road. But right now, it's often so funny, because in this season there are a lot of very young animals out there. As seen in the picture, they are torn between being scared, and curious about this strange cyclist guy here. And they are really cute.

Staying with the group

Most of the time they just try to stay with the group, going wherever theyr mommy is going. Yesterday one little goat had to do multiple tries to follow its mother up the side of the road.

Mommy, look how fast I can run

Other times the young ones are even trying to run faster than their mother. Still they are even more planless than the older animals, so watch out!


Posted by betabug at 21:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
31 January 2016

I tried to be social once

Usually I just try to be funny, with equally lame results
 

Yesterday as I was shopping in town, the supermarket didn't have any milk (Naxian, real milk, not plastified white water). Luckily we have a "περίπτερο" (periptero, a kiosk) in the next village, which is usually well stocked with said milk. So on my way back I stopped there. Now, since a while there is (apart from Michalis, the owner) a young lady who works some of the shifts there, and as I've heard through a third party, she had gone on a trip for some university exams. As I arrived, I noticed a young lady in the kiosk.

So I picked up my milk from the fridge, and went to pay. As I gave her the money, I nonchalantly said: "So, how was the trip, everything went well?" She gave me a blank look, "You mean Michalis trip? He's been back for some time?" "No, I thought you had gone to university for those exams." Turns out, I had the wrong young lady. Ah, la honte, as the frenchman says! Now there is a young lady who either thinks that I'm pretty ignorant or blind, or both. Well, for once I try to be social, and that's the result. I should probably get back to making cheap jokes instead.


Posted by betabug at 19:33 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
29 January 2016

Ταχύτητα στους δρόμους

Μερικές σκέψεις

Οδηγώντας αυτοκίνητο (το τελευταίο καιρό πιο πολύ απ' όσο θέλω) στην Νάξο μου έδωσε μερικές σκέψεις.

Αγροτικά δύο ταχύτητων

Τα αγροτικά αυτοκίνητα εδώ κινούνται σε δύο ταχύτητες: Ή πάνε υπερβολικά γρήγορα, ή πάνε εντελώς αργά. Συνήθως όταν είναι Datsun του προτελευταίου αιώνα, το οδηγεί ο μπάρμπας, και το πάει με 30-40 χλμ/ώρα. Όταν είναι καινούριο (τα οποία είναι και περίπου διπλάσια από μέγεθος) πιθανώς το πάει γαμ...όντας με 80 χλμ/ώρα και είναι κάνας νέος μέσα. Aλλά συμβαίνει και ο μπάρμπας να έχει πάρει καινούριο, οπότε πάλι σαν το σαλιγκάρι πάει.

Το πιο αργό σαφώς είναι πιο ασφαλές. Μόνο που το αργό βάζει όλους τους άλλους στον πειρασμό να τον προσπερνάνε, και εδώ δεν ενδιαφέρονται να βλέπουν μπροστά όταν προσπερνάνε, η όλη ιδέα του να μπορείς να προσπεράσεις με ασφαλή τρόπο (βλέποντας αν έρχεται κανείς, όχι μπροστά από στροφή κτλ) είναι εντελώς άγνωστο εδώ.

Λογική ταχύτητα

Στους δρόμους εδώ θεωρώ μια λογική ταχύτητα να κυκλοφορώ περίπου 50 - 60 χλμ/ώρα, σε σημεία με χαμηλή ορατότητα και 40. Δεν είμαι και μόνος, πολλές φορές συναντώ αυτοκίνητα με παρόμοιες ταχύτητες. Δεν είναι το οδόστρωμα που με περιορίζει, απλά με όλες τις στροφές, μικρούς δρόμους, διασταυρώσεις, ζώα στους δρόμους (τετράποδα) κτλ, χρειάζεσαι χρόνο για να μπορείς να αντιδράς στο απρόοπτο.

Δεν αξίζει να τρέχεις

Μια από αυτές τις μέρες όταν ήμουνα σε βόλτα με το ποδήλατο, με πέρασε ένα αυτοκίνητο γνωστού μου με επικίνδυνο τρόπο, στον Άγ. Προκόπη. Αφού ήταν φορτηγάκι, δεν ήμουνα και εντελώς σίγουρος αν ήταν ο ίδιος στο τιμόνι. Όταν έφτασα στην χώρα, τον πέρασα πάλι. Μόλις κατάφερε να παρκάρει και ετοιμαζόταν να βγει από το αμάξι. Υπενθυμίζω ότι ήμουν στο ποδήλατο, οπότε είχαμε μεγάλη διαφορά ταχύτητας. Παρόλο αυτό ο άνθρωπος δεν κέρδισε και πολύ χρόνο. Αν υπολογίουμε πόσο κερδίζει κανείς να πάει με 60 αντί για 50 στις σχετικά μικρές αποστάσεις του νησιού, ο χρόνος που μπορεί να κερδίζει κανείς είναι γελοίος. Πέραν από αυτό, οι οδηγοί συνήθως ξεγελάνε τον εαυτό τους με τι μέσο όρο ταχύτητας όντως κυκλοφορούν.


Posted by betabug at 13:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 January 2016

Reading Conflict Markers in Darcs

Doctor, it's an urgent case of RTFM!

Here I had to merge a substancial feature branch in our main development tree, with some complicated conflicts coming up. Since even with a small team of developers it's still rare to get conflicts working with darcs, when it's finally happening, enough time has passed for me to forgot details, and I usually have to look up what to do again.

I found the FAQ page on conflicts in darcs to be a good starting point, but quite often in the past I have gotten stuck on the darn conflict markers themselves. I mean, it's clear enough that here there be conflicts, but which point of the marker is which state?

It's not mentioned in the FAQ page. But that's ok for the FAQ page, since the answer is clearly a case of RTFM. Typing darcs help mark-conflicts into a friendly shell near you gets you:

v v v v v v v
Initial state.
=============
First choice.
*************
Second choice.
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

... which is nice and clear. With multiple conflicts in the same file, the "First choice" and "Second choice" are not always referring to the same patch, but usually things are clear enough for me once I figure out things this far. The hint to run darcs help on mark-conflicts came from the output darcs gives me when I try to apply a patch with conflicts.


Posted by betabug at 10:00 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
27 January 2016

Vehicles and Berets... and French Restaurants

When I was still driving a 2CV
 
Me, with my former 2CV, on some road on mainland Greece

Since I'm wearing a beret lately, I've taken to reading the Beret Project blog (and especially looking at the wonderful pictures that Daan finds all over the place). Today's post is about Best Vehicles to Accompany a Beret, with some nice pics of Citroën cars. This instantly reminded me of a story back when I was driving a red 2CV in Switzerland...

One day I had arranged to meet with a friend in a French restaurant in Zurich. The restaurant was not exactly in the center, but nearby, close to the Limmat. I arrived with the 2CV, but there I had a hard time to find a place to park the car. After going in circles for a while, I noticed that the only spot was right outsided the door of the restaurant, marked "reserved for restaurant ..." (I forgot the name of the restaurant). Well, what could I do?

I was already late, so I just parked my car on that spot. As I entered the restaurant, I went to a waitress and said: "I'm sorry, I put my car on your parking place." As I told her that, she started to pump herself up, probably to tell me to take my car somewhere else, that they needed the space, that the space is not just for anybody etc. etc. But just as she was getting ready to blast me with her speech, she looked over my shoulder and noticed my car. A red 2CV outside a french restaurant in Zurich. It was like an advertising piece. She visibly deflated and told me it's ok, so I went on to have some nice crêpes. Too bad I wasn't in the habit of wearing a beret back then.


Posted by betabug at 10:29 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
26 January 2016

Carfree Rain Sounds

No swooosh
 

When you think of it, rain doesn't make a lot of noise, unless it's strong rain. There might be some dripping and splashing, and when it gets to strong rain, a thin drumming on the earth and on your window. One sound that tells us that it's raining outside, when we can't see it from the window, is the swooshing that car tires make on rainy streets. We got used to that from living alongside cars all the time.

Now that I live in a car free village, that sound simply isn't there. It's rare to hear any car sounds at all, sometimes at quiet times we can faintly hear a very loud car exhaust over on the road. As for the rain sounds, since things are overall more quiet, it's easier for me to hear the rain itself.

But then there are surprises too. A few days ago when it was cloudy and very windy, I heard something like the whooshing of car tires on wet roads, and concluded that it started raining without thinking about the impossibility of it. Even if a car would make it onto the donkey-sized village "street", it couldn't produce that rhythmic sound of cars passing up and down again and again. Intrigued I stepped outside to have a look. The little enigma was solved quickly enough: My neighbors have a palm tree with those thing-fingered palm leaves. The wind threw them around, and they managed to put on a good car tire sound imitation.


Posted by betabug at 21:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

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