AFK

In a few hours we're leaving everything behind for a R&R-week in Greece. BBIAB!

Tech week review: Twitter finds a purpose, HTML5 canvas & Wave

I've been neglecting my blog for some time, so this is my attempt to at least give a gist on what had me interested this week in tech-land.

I'll have to finally admit it: it seems as if Twitter actually can be used for more than inane blurbs on what people had for breakfast (and where that breakfast went). While Twitter is anything but revolutionary, it is being put to an interesting task of communicating events from and within the burgeoning revolution in Iran. Of all sites, Fark and 4chan especially have been instrumental in helping Iranians overcome the hurdles of government censorship to get the word out.

Naturally we shouldn't give Twitter and Fark too much credit: in the end it is up to the people in the streets. Even so both have made insightful compilations like Tatsuma's possible.

I've been looking at the HTML5 canvas tag. There are a couple of interesting articles over at Opera (introduction, Wolf 3D using canvas), and Mozilla with Bespin and Thunderhead are also actively investigating (they have an interesting canvas tutorial up here). Google has given us excanvas so the road is open to cross-browser, plugin-less graphics, games and possibly even applications.

Despite all the great JS frameworks, I can't help but think application-style programming in HTML/JS/CSS is a kludge every time I do it. Will canvas be able to give us proper web applications and leave the HTML/JS/CSS-combination to sites? I don't know. It would be pretty awesome to design an interface in a Glade-like UI designer and handle the callbacks in pure JS. Then again HTML/JS/CSS are more easily made accessible and canvas is still a moving target so it is not without difficulties, but a web without the need for Flash or Silverlight would have me smiling.

Speaking about Mozilla, I've been using the Tree-style add-on for firefox for a while now. I decided to switch it off, but I simply can't stand normal firefox tabs anymore. It does take up more screen real-estate than conventional tabs, but it saves time scrolling and/or guessing. Especially when you have 20+ tabs open, which I always seem to have.

I've also been fooling around with Google's Wave designs, seeing how far I can come up with a Django/Python implementation. I often code up small prototypes around things I find interesting, it helps me understand the problems (like why and how OT works) and think about ways to solve them. Most of my prototypes don't go anywhere though. We'll see.

Wakeboarding!

Yesterday, Lisanne surprised me by waking me up at 8am. On a Sunday. Naturally I was grumpy as hell, especially when she kicked me out of bed and told me to get ready as we were going somewhere within the hour without telling me where.

Next thing I know, I was 'boarding behind a motorboat:

The photos really don't do it justice: wakeboarding is frackin' awesome. Thanks hon'!

(We both were actually quite good at it for our first attempt. I even managed to keep my hair dry. Which might also mean I didn't try hard enough...)

Pervidet launched and bday!

After a few weeks of work on-the-side, today Pervidet sees the light! Aperte Pervidet (to survey openly) is a free web survey/questionnaire service that has grown out of a number of different Aperte projects. I'm still tweaking it in various ways and working out the kinks but if you are interested give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Technically I've dived into various technologies to make Pervidet tick. jQuery is something I've dabbled in for quite some time and I've made decent use of it in Pervidet (it makes Javascript nearly useful!). Also I've taken an interest in the design of dashboards, which I'm fleshing out in the survey-building interface of Pervidet. Naturally PostgreSQL and Django purr along happily in the backend.

Pervidet has an about-page for the full story, but it came about mostly due to being annoyed about all the existing web survey platforms. Over the next few months I plan to look into setting up other kinds of web services, hopefully a few where my AI-background comes into play too. Nothing in your portfolio beats a couple of real-world tools that are actually useful.

In other news, I turned 27 today. Getting grayer by the day! :)

Barcelona

We went to Barcelona last week for a long weekend of sun, culture, shopping and tapas.

(view from the top of the Sagrada Familia-tower)

Munin: because (up-to-date) knowledge is power

I've been using munin for a while now to monitor my servers, but only recently have I dived into munin to get the most out of it.

The great thing about munin is that it's so damn flexible (and far more simpler than nagios). By default in Debian a range of plugins are linked to in /etc/munin/plugins, but there are plenty more in /usr/share/munin/plugins to keep tabs on resources and other services you might have installed. Adding these is just a symlink away.

Even better are the wildcard plugins (those ending with an underscore): by giving them a different name you can monitor a different resource. For instance, if you would want to monitor if example.org is up simply add a symlink to /etc/munin/plugins/example.org that points to /usr/share/munin/plugins/ping_

There are many more munin plugins in the muninexchange. Do keep in mind that some plugins require a bit of configuring in /etc/munin/plugin-conf.d/. The Xen-plugins for instance need to be run as root in order to get Xen-statistics, so it's always a good idea to run the plugins as the munin user from the command line to make sure they work.

A few more examples. Because monitoring is mostly about having pretty pictures to show.


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