Anthony Taylor's articles

Project Management: Apollo, Fengoffice, Projectpier, Basecamp... and the world changed

We are all accustomed to the concept of TODO lists. You might have a shopping list in your pocket right now, or a piece of paper in the shed with a list of things that need to be done around the garden. Or when you go to work in the morning, you might have a morning meeting where your team decides who does what. Or, like some, you might consider every email you receive as a TODO item.

Life -- personal life and working life -- seems to be an immense, endless TODO list. Or, worse, two or three or four TODO lists, probably racing into your head.

The Internet gave us Facebook, the biggest time waster since the invention of the television. Can the Internet also provide us with tricks to manage time properly, rather than wasting it?

Welcome to the world of project management software, a world started by the guys at Basecamp (proprietary) and then continued by free software projects like Fengoffice and then revolutionised by Apollo.

An open letter to Barack Obama and the DNC (or, change video formats)

Senator Barack Obama and the Democractic National Convention Committee,

In his campaign speeches, Senator Obama often evokes images of citizen participation in the governmental process. He proclaims that his message of hope is built on the foundation of mutual respect, and the prospect of working together to return the government to the hands of the people.

Is Senator Obama earnest in these rhetorical statements? Or is this simply campaign slogans flung about with feigned sincerity, to be discarded once the US Presidential election is over?

UPnP, Mediatomb, PS3, and me

My brother lent me his PS3. I’m not sure why. But I do know I’ve already wasted several hours on it, first playing my old Ratchet and Clank games, then Resistance: Fall of Man, and Flow, and so on.

After I bored of the games (about an hour after turning it on), I decided to explore the home media functions of the PS3. The first thing I noticed was the menu item at the top of the media areas: “Search for Media Servers”.

Three hours later, and a lot of experimenting, I have discovered the wonders of serving up media.

Book review: Linux Administration Handbook Second Edition by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder, Trent R. Hein, et al

In my geek career, I have been many things: DBA, programmer, help-desk, engineer, systems administrator. I have worked with VMS, MS-DOS, various flavors of UNIX, MS-Windows of all sorts, OS/2, and MPE/iX. I have had a wide and various and satisfying career.

I can tell you without reservation, systems administration was the hardest and most demanding of all those jobs.

Free software out of passion - or, the curse of capitalism

My neighbor Jim is obsessed with vintage gasoline pumps. He collects them. He restores them. He named his dog Petro. He stores them in his garage, and under his carport. They are beautiful things, I must admit, all shiny and strangely elegant. And though he suffers from severe fibromyalgia, he spends much of his free time restoring rusted and neglected pumps to their original beauty.

I don’t know why he does it. Nobody claims he does it out of boredom, or that he’ll stop doing it because he isn’t getting paid. But I don’t know why he does it.

Neither do I know why I write free software. But I know it’s not from boredom.

Windows by necessity: making MS-Windows more like GNU/Linux

MS-Windows can be a good operating system.

Okay, that’s probably overstating it. There is a nugget of good code in there, somewhere, the bit that Dave Cutler originally designed back around 1989. There’s been so much cruft added on, MS-Windows seems more like a large tank designed by committee; powered by a very fast, very solid, very small sports car engine; and painted a very soothing shade of blue. It’s not really pretty, and it’s not really fun, but it does move, mostly.

But, if you must use MS-Windows, there is a way to make it a tolerable operating system. Just make it more like GNU/Linux.

Windows by necessity: TheOpenCD

As much as I despise MS-Windows, I live in a world that requires at least a working knowledge of the Worst OS In The Universe (tm). From my earliest experiences with MS-Windows 3.0, I looked for ways to make my life bearable: from the Workplace Shell demonstrations to the registry hacks of today, I try to make MS-Windows very unlike MS-Windows.

We make many sacrifices in the name of employment. Giving up our soul to MS-Windows should not be among them. It should bow to our will, not the other way ’round.

Picante shell: pipes

Spicy food should cause chemical burns, or spontaneous human combustion. Your mouth should feel as if it’s tangled with an angry badger. Capillaries in your nose should burst. Your gut should sue for punitive damages. If not, your food just isn’t spicy enough.

At least, that’s how I feel. So, when I say things like, “Here, try some of these mild command-line recipes; they’re really quite tasty”, you might keep that in mind. One man’s “mild” is another man’s, “I think you’ve poisoned me”.

If you are ready, settle in, dish up, and keep a nice lager handy. You’ll probably need it before we’re done.

Learn some command line: using du, df, file, find to make your life easier

I love the command line. If the command line were a dog, it would be a hard-headed labrador: big and somewhat intimidating, but really kind of even-tempered and friendly once she gets to know you.

I just compared the command line to my dog Roscoe. I love them both, and they both frustrate me.

I can't do much with Roscoe, but I can help out a bit with the command line. And so allow me to introduce four of my favorite utilities: df, du, file, and find.

Instant GNU/Linux time machine

You never forget your first.

Whether it's your first car, or your first significant other, or your first day of college, they say you never forget your first. That's not always true, of course, but I do remember my first: Softlanding Linux Systems, one of the earliest GNU/Linux distributions, and progenitor of the Slackware distribution. It came on a few dozen floppy images, and took forever to install.

Jump into the Astonishing GNU/Linux Time Machine, and via the magic of qemu and iBiblio, you too can experience the earliest days of GNU/Linux. It'll only take an hour. I'll have you back by supper.

Why Johnny can code

I recently re-read David Brin’s essay, “Why Johnny Can’t Code”. He posits an interesting idea, one I’ve had for a while—we are raising a generation of techno-illiterates through our focus on high-level languages, rather than on the simple languages like BASIC, on which many of us cut our geekteeth.

What I observed had nothing to do with programming, and everything to do with Mr. Brin’s approach to computers. His point may be valid, but his sight is limited by his own understandable ignorance.

He forgot there are other options.

iPhone vs. OpenMoko: free software on your cell phone

Apple's big announcement yesterday was the long-anticipated iPhone, an Apple-designed PDA with GSM capabilities. Granted, many modern phones these days are PDAs with GSM, and Apple's entry is very, very beautiful. It sports a large touchscreen, a lot of memory (with both 4G and 8G models), and that patented (literally) Apple touch.

While following the announcement, though, I had a feeling of deja vu all over again. Something about the description of the iPhone was strangely familiar.

A new year (or: second verse, same as the first!)

Welcome, 2007!

The fresh scent of hope and useless prognostication is in theair. Journalists and bloggers all over the world are cranking outtop-ten lists of the best of 2006, and the most likely or mostoutlandish predictions for 2007. Will this be the year of the flyingcar? Secure MS-Windows? Duke Nuke'em Forever? One can hope!

Two views of the 3D desktop

Since my first exposure to an Apple ][ in sixth grade, I haveinteracted with computers primarily through a text-basedinterface. From my first `PR#6' command to this little journal entry(I tend to use Emacs for writing), I eschew fancy heavy-weightprograms in favor of the simplest program possible. (I know, I said Iuse Emacs. Within that contradiction is the essence of simplecomplexity. Substitute vi if you wish.)

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