Archive for the ‘boulder’ Category


People were dancing in the streets in Boulder on Tuesday night.  The police shut down Broadway where it goes across the Pearl Street Mall.

We went down around midnight or one.  The crowd was young, for the most part; college students and Obama volunteers.

Still, I have never seen anything like that here since the Mall Crawl was shut down ten years ago.  Boulder is usually pretty staid.  I think it shows the depth of feeling about this election.

Postgres at BLUG

Despite my lackluster performance at a talk last month (about Emacs, what else?) the Boulder LUG let me attend another meeting.  Thanks!

This past Thursday’s topic was PostgreSQL, presented by Kevin Kempter.  I’d say about 40 people attended, which for BLUG translates to standing room only.  Databases are a hot topic.

I was fascinated by this talk — I know little about databases and enjoy hearing about them.  Although it ranged strangely between the very generic (high-level comparison of MySQL and PostgreSQL) and the incredibly specific (rundown of command line options to psql), Kevin’s depth of knowledge and cool stories made this well worth attending.

Postgres is a good product.  My impression, overall, is that while it is missing some gloss that Oracle has, it is basically “enterprise-ready”.  Kevin has a project now that gets one terabyte of new data per day, and Postgres handles that fine.  Refreshingly, Kevin did not spend much time defending the choice of an open source product over a proprietary one.  I guess at a LUG that would seem unnecessary — I thought so, too, until somebody asked why bother.

A database is a big programming environment in its own right.  One take away for me was: learn something before starting.  Kevin said he’s run across projects that did not vacuum regularly and were running with a lot of bloat — basic stuff.  Based on his talk and the questions, some of which I did not understand at all, I would say that if I were running a company I would just hire a DBA and move on.

Kevin is a fan of Slony-I for replication.  This came up over and over through the talk, as did table partitioning (which I had never heard of before).

Would you do it again for free?

Thursday night I finally made it to a BLUG meeting. Stormy Peters from OpenLogic gave a talk titled “Would you do it again for free?”

Her talk covered some familiar ground — intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, a list of motivations that free software developers claim (or that are claimed by others), the various methods of payment. Her slides were beautiful; she seemed a bit nervous though not overly so.

She also talked a bit about inequality in projects. She claimed that 40% of developers on free software projects are paid to do so; a show-of-hands at the meeting showed similar results.

OpenLogic is running the Open Source Census — kind of a cross-platform popcon. If you read her blog a bit you’ll see that she uses this information when talking to VCs and the like. That’s a smart idea and I’m generally in favor of hard data over speculation anyhow.

She was using an Asus, kinda cool. And Neil, sitting next to me, was using an XO. Weird times we live in.

Motivation, of course, is a psychological phenomenon, one with which we all have direct experience. That is, everybody has an opinion… so one commenter from the audience rejected most of her list of motivations in favor of — you guessed it — his. I suppose this is the bikeshed effect in a different form.

I didn’t agree with everything in Stormy’s talk. At one point she gave a sort of economic history of mankind which, I think, was badly mistaken on the facts, though perhaps not our experience of them.

After the talk I asked her about the pretty photos and consistent palette in her presentation. She said they were CC-licensed works from flickr and from some stock photo site… nice. (Also I noticed her slowly backing away while we talked. Whoa! Like, I’ve always been afraid of being that person. And now … hard data. Crap.)

She also talked a bit about the relationship developers have with open source. One idea was that a hacker might leave a project (suppose the project dies) — but will just switch projects and keep working. Also, supposedly nowadays open source developers make more money than proprietary developers; but, conversely, often claim that they would take a pay cut to work on open source (the intrinsic motivation thing). Let’s hope our bosses stop midway through that sentence.

I’m fascinated by the social dimension of programming. Partly this is defensive; over the years I’ve developed some heuristics that I use to evaluate developers (sorry. But it is true. And of course I like you.) and projects, mostly to try to keep away from painful experiences. But, I’m also interested in a more general taxonomy of projects — my suspicion is that many of the things we think we know about running projects either aren’t so, or are “don’t care” boxes in the Karnaugh map of administration. What is cool is that the free software movement is so big, now, that we have an excellent laboratory in which to study.

Elyn’s Practice

Elyn’s new web site for her therapy practice is up and running. We’ve read (mostly in Psychotherapy Networker) that a web site is the second most important advertising resource for therapists, after word-of-mouth. The days of people looking for therapists in the phone book are over… another little detail of how the internet has changed things.

I thought I’d do my part and link to her. If you’re near Boulder, and want a therapist, and don’t know either of us personally, give her a call :-). She’s also started a therapy-related blog, the link is in my blogroll.

Mount Ida

Last weekend we stayed in Estes Park and were finally able to get to the Mount Ida trailhead early enough to summit. We’ve been trying to do this for a few years but usually arrive too late, and get scared off by the weather. Here’s a photo of Elyn on the summit; you can see the gathering storm. We got down below treeline just as the lightning started.

Elyn on Mount Ida


Last week was the Conference on World Affairs. I generally try to make it to a few sessions, but this year it overlapped with other plans. I even missed the movie (Chinatown), though Ebert was out sick, so it probably wasn’t as entertaining as usual.

Still, I did manage to make it to a few of the bigger sessions on Friday.

First I saw Tim Wirth (former senator from Colorado) talk about global warming. Usually this topic depresses me and makes me want to gaze carefully at the several colors of angst. Wirth did a reasonable job of reframing the topic from depression and powerlessness to opportunity. One practical thing he mentioned was getting state legislatures to let local utility companies get the same RoI for efficiency efforts that they do for building new power plants; he said Idaho has the model program here.

After leaving the senate, Wirth stayed involved in politics, pursuing various things, like global warming, that seemed important to him. I wonder what that sort of career must be like.

Next was Joe Biden. He gave what I would describe as a stump speech. I thought he did a pretty good job (he had the best speaking skills of the people I saw), and was even inspiring toward the end. He also answered a bunch of questions; that was pretty interesting. Also, he quotes Seamus Heaney.

Finally came Paul Krugman, giving the Molly Ivins memorial lecture (she was a regular at CWA). He was interesting and entertaining, though I think he didn’t really say much that you couldn’t read in his columns.

In all it was a great way to spend an afternoon; the content was ok, but also just getting out into a non-electronic community for a while was nice. Also I’ve been needing a change of scenery as a way to stretch a bit and reinvigorate my creativity. This helped.

Whither Movies?

Benjamin has been asking me about my mini movie reviews, and I’ve been basically ignoring him.

The sad truth is, the movie situation in Boulder sucks right now. They’re building a new movie theater at 29th Street (which is what replaced the old mall), but it won’t be done for months and months. However, anticipating this, one of the two remaining theaters shut its doors. The theater that is left only plays “art house” movies, which ordinarily aren’t what I’m interested in — I mean, I enjoy them, but in times of flux like this one, I am going to the theater to escape, not to plumb the depths of my ongoing existential crisis. Call me shallow.

IFS is still open but for some reason I never quite manage to read their schedule on time. I’m still hoping to get them to publish an ical feed (I seem to have gotten KGNU to do this… yay!).

When I was sick and couch-ridden a couple weeks ago I tried to watch old Stephen Chow movies. I forced myself through both volumes of Royal Tramp, but couldn’t watch Chinese Odyssey… both of these movies really sucked, I’m sorry to say.

Next week is the Conference on World Affairs, and even though Ebert called in sick, I will probably drop by to watch the movie straight through. They’re showing Chinatown this year — not exactly escapism, but I haven’t seen it on the big screen.

BarCampBoulder Saturday

Saturday I spent at BarCampBoulder.

Going to this event “isn’t really like me”… I generally don’t do that well with groups of people where I don’t know anybody. I did recognize a face or two from the local LUG, but no one I’d actually talked to before. I always feel a bit pulled out of myself in these situations and then, later, spend a lot of time picking apart various discussions and interactions and generally thinking that I’ve been an ass. Bleah.

But, nevertheless, I had fun at BarCamp and I learned a lot as well. It was in an awesome location on West Pearl, sponsored by Excellent coffee was provided by Veloce Coffee.

Most of the folks in attendance did web development, with a fairly large subset running their own companies. I think there was one Java programmer, the rest working mostly in Ruby, it seemed, plus Javascript for the client side. There were also some Python folks and various people who knew PHP, though nobody who claimed to like it.

A long time ago I wrote here about wanting to calendar-ify various places in Boulder, like the public library, KGNU, etc. One of the attendees, Neal McBurnett, is a volunteer at KGNU and so I pestered him about this. Also Dan Moore was interested enough in this, at one point, to have registered a web site for it; so maybe together we can solve this problem. (The KGNU bit looks easy since they seem to use a Python CGI script to register events, and there is a Python library for the Google Calendar API out there.)

I also met Ashish Jain from PingIdentity. He gave a nice rundown on OpenID and CardSpace, and the strengths and weaknesses of both. He also said that Novell recently announced an open source CardSpace client. This talk got me thinking, that it would be nice to have an identity registrar for the open source world, so that I could, for example, make a single account and not have to log in to any bugzilla anywhere. This, I think, could be done with today’s technology. Ashish was extremely knowledgeable. He also pointed us to The Laws of Identity.

There was a session on CMS which was pretty interesting. Folks in attendance have tried most existing major CMS systems. Current favorites are WordPress (for simple sites), Typo3, TextPattern, and Radiant. I also found out about CMS Matrix, another site for letting you compare CMS systems.

Also I found out about Colour Lovers, for all you palette freaks out there. I had some fun browsing here.

We also played a fun game of “half baked”, and I met tons of other people… overall it was great, and I’ll definitely be going to the next one. And, after that, hopefully not feeling like an ass for a change.


Tonight I went to the starting session of BarCampBoulder. It is pretty cool so far — I met a bunch of interesting people, the schedule for tomorrow looks fun, etc. Most of the folks attending seem to be doing web development of one kind or another; lots of RoR hackers around. So, considering that my one attempt at using a CMS was a disaster, and I wrote my first javascript program a week ago, I think I’ll be learning a lot…

BarCamp, for those who don’t know (like me, a couple weeks ago), is an “unconference”. People get together in a room and decide what the conference topics will be. Everybody participates.

So, it is sort of like FOSDEM, only even more free-form, and, at least here in Boulder, quite a bit smaller.

For me it seems ideal. One problem I’ve had working at home is that I rarely talk to people who generally share my interests. The local LUG is mostly sysadmins — not really my thing. the Denver JUG is pretty good, but somehow I never quite remember to look at the dates and drive to Denver. So, just meeting developers who even vaguely share my interests is pretty great.

Feeding the beast

The other day at the library I realized that, once again, I’ve been missing a lot of good free movies because I never remember to look at the calendar.

So, I decided to feed the beast a little: I sent email to a few organizations I like, asking them to consider publishing their (currently lame) calendars in Google Calendar. Then I could subscribe to them, either in Google Calendar or using ical.

Ideally every place in Boulder — the theaters, art galleries, city council, swimming pools, radio stations, libraries, etc — would publish their calendars this way. It isn’t too much to ask; send email to groups in your city today.