Sunday, 22 November 2009

Quote of the day

Over-engineering is poison. It's not like doing extra work for extra credit. It's more like telling a lie that you then have to remember so you don't contradict it.
Paul Graham

Terrorists sneak up on Homeland Security

Nice work.

I wonder if they came after him as he walked away? That would be particularly amusing.

Update: apparently the front of the shirt says "Not A", and apparently he survived the attack.

Offset your Bad Code footprint today

Twisting the much-abused concept of "offsetting" carbon dioxide emissions (your "carbon footprint") by buying "carbon credits", now you can "offset" your footprint of badly-written software by buying Bad Code Offsets.

Donations go to the widely-used open source projects jQuery, PostgreSQL, and the Apache Software Foundation.

Nice idea, but that last one is enough to trigger my rant mode:

Perhaps this will help Apache Commons to actually finish and maintain a project for once!

Apache may have, according to their home page, "a desire to create high quality software that leads the way in its field", and be "celebrating a decade of open source leadership", but the part I have experience with - the Commons java libraries - are, despite being very widely used, hardly a shining beacon of what open source can achieve in terms of Good Code!

Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time with several of these, using them in a large java project in my day job. This has proven a very time-consuming and frustrating experience. Without exception, I have found them to be incomplete, buggy and poorly written, and often essentially orphaned, with no releases in several years despite numerous reported critical bugs. I have had to build custom versions of four of them to fix basic failures - typically things that have already been reported with submitted patches, and often things severe enough to break my production installations. Fixes contributed back to the projects generally just sit in the issue tracker, unreleased! Why even bother contributing?

Bad open source code which is free, I can tolerate, if it admits its limitations and its completely unsupported status. After all, I can (and do) fix it myself, given the permissive license.

Bad open source code which makes a lot of noise about community, claims to strive for high quality and to lead its field, provides an issue tracker and release plan, yet doesn't release contributed critical bugfixes even after several years - this I have much less tolerance for.

More than most projects, I blame the Apache Foundation and its process for this. As Paul Graham points out, process (especially ease of releasing, and hence frequency) has a lot to do with software quality and currency. Apache places a big emphasis on their community consensus process, committees, the process of gaining project committer status etc, so they should be blamed when that process fails dismally and still hasn't released known, already-implemented fixes after several years.

via Coding Horror

Friday, 20 November 2009

Unicycling Mount Victoria, visit 3

Ankle still sore after 6 days of resting it, but my ankle braces (SixSixOne Race Brace Pro) arrived today, so I decided to risk riding to work.

That went well enough, so after work I headed up to Mount Vic again. Up the usual route from Pirie Street, then over the top and round this loop on the south part of the hill, which I hadn't tried before.

I found the hill climbing quite tough today - lack of practice? The ankle braces, although they certainly prevent twisting and rolling pretty well, also restrict front-to-back flexing a little; that caused a few falls at first, as my feet kept losing contact with the pedals.

The new track was fun though, if rather hard work - lots of climbing to get back up from the velodrome.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Munisano's muni video

Munisano has a new video showing some fun-looking muni action - and the obligatory fail reel at the end!

I'm jealous because I'm still waiting for my ankle to recover so I can get out there myself. I was able to walk to work on it today, but it's still a bit sore and swollen. Maybe by the weekend...

LHC doomed by hamster-in-tutu manifestations


Hamster in Tutu Shuts Down Large Hadron Collider

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Ouch - Unicycling Makara Peak, visit 3

So it seems I need ankle braces.

My third muni trip to Makara Peak went really well, apart from when I badly twisted my ankle in one of my more spectacular falls about half-way through. (And this even despite wearing high-sided hiking boots which provide reasonable ankle support. Might have broken it otherwise.)

Thanks to a couple of mid-week trips to Mount Victoria, I'd improved my hill-climbing a bit, and managed to do much longer segments of the Koru track without rest or dismounts.

Next, I had a go at Sally Alley, the next track up from the top of Koru - this was a lot of fun; it had some rocky and steep bits I had trouble with, but I managed most of it, albeit with a good few falls including the ankle-wrenching one.

Though I still had plenty of energy, the light was fading, so I started heading back down - first to a new (to me) track, Ridgeline Extension. This was a bit beyond my current skill level - I could manage some parts, but I need to work on my hopping to get over some of the rocky areas, and I had to walk several downhill sections due to the steepness and the loose dry surface, on which my tyre (WTB Exiwolf) felt too slippery to brake confidently.

Finally, down via SWIGG and Starfish, again new to me, and again too steep and tricky for me at the moment. I managed a reasonable amount of SWIGG, but it got worse towards the bottom, with the odd drop-off and steep curves. Next time I will probably go higher up the mountain, but stick to Lazy Fern for the final exit from the park - it's annoying to have to keep dismounting and walking.

So, the ankle. It hurt when I first did it, but after a minute or so, it didn't hurt to walk on or to ride, and I didn't notice it at all for the rest of the trip, except occasionally when I dismounted and landed hard.

By the time I got home though, it was a bit swollen under the outside of the ankle bone, though still not really painful. Once she discovered this, Sally made me sit down and put ice on it for a while, then strapped it up.

By this morning, it was uncomfortable even to stand on, and walking involves a painful and awkward hobbling motion - I can put weight only on the heel. It appears I've sprained it quite nicely. Not going to be riding for a while I guess, or even leaving the apartment much. Dammit.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Quote of the day

...he's so predictable that he probably wouldn't pass a Turing test
-- BK Drinkwater

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Unicycling Mount Victoria

Having recovered from Saturday's entertainment at Makara Peak, today after I finished working I decided to have a go at unicycling some tracks on Mount Victoria.

Starting from the top of Majoribanks St (which was itself a steep climb) I picked some random paths and found my way up to the summit near the lookout, then back down to where I started. Quite by accident it turned out that I'd more-or-less followed this circuit, though I managed to choose a steeper downhill route.

I did better than I expected on the rocky and rooty tracks. Most of my dismounts on the uphill were because I ran out of leg stamina on the steeper climbs and needed to rest, rather than loss of control - which I was very pleased about, since it feels like a further improvement over Saturday's Makara Peak effort. I also managed to ride down a path that was very steep by my previous standards, without plummeting to my doom or faceplanting into a tree or anything.

I amused some people, alarmed a few dogs, and one curious mountain biker stopped to chat for a bit while I recovered on the uphill bit.

This will become a favourite place to ride. The tracks are great, there are so many routes to explore, and it's only a few minutes from work. Pretty steep though!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Unicycling Makara Peak, visit 2

I went up to Makara Peak again today on the 29er unicycle.

Having bashed up my shins pretty well on the pedals last time, this time I was using my new leg armour, and also some new gloves which seemed a good idea after I hurt my wrist in a fall a week ago. Neither of these have been seriously tested yet, but I found they improved my confidence a bit!

I also had my new CamelBak Mule, and drank the entire 3 litres by the time I got home. This is thirsty work.

Today's track route: Koru (to the end instead of turning off at the Skills Area), then down Lazy Fern (where the sloping switchbacks still defeat me on occasion). I would have gone further up but I was running out of daylight. Next time I plan to try out Sally Alley (will be tricky as it has more uneven rocky bits than Koru) then come down Swigg / Starfish.

I did somewhat better than on my first visit. This is probably partly from being less tired due to not having just finished a 30km bike ride this time, and partly from the experience from the first visit, and partly because I've been starting to hop and jump the unicycle in the last couple of weeks, which has improved my balance noticeably.

I still fall off a lot, but am becoming smoother over the bumps, and my better balance lets me take most of the uphills at a slower, more maintainable pace, instead of trying to power through them.

Afterwards I decided to ride back down from Karori to the city, instead of getting the bus back, since I still had some energy left. This was about 8km on pavements, and mostly downhill, but was probably not such a great idea - though it started out easy, my legs were turning to jelly by the end, and I had to walk the last bit down the Terrace because I couldn't control it on the steep bits. Next time I'll make time to go a bit further at the Peak instead, and get the bus home.