About time to break the silence

2008/11/16

Several people asked what is going on with me: no blog posts for almost a month, litlle presence on Gtalk / MSN. It is simpler to answer this way that write same email over and over.

Unfortunately the reason for being quiet is not that I am taking time off and enjoying myself somewhere in Caribbean on a secluded island without internet connection. Those who know me well also know that I would never go somewhere without access to Web for longer period of time than week – and even that would cause serious withdrawal issues. I am in Ottawa or Montreal or somewhere in between – physically or virtually.

Also – I am OK and am doing great as well. Main reason why the blog was quite neglected for last 6 weeks is actually rather lame: work.

We have landed pretty large project with quite ambitious deadline. It is very exciting opportunity in eCommerce space, based on latest and greatest ATG Commerce 2007.1. This project was great opportunity to explore new features and update my ATG skills. If you know the framework, enough said. If you do not know ATG, it is in eCommerce space something like Ferrari or Lamborghini in cars – very powerful with many unique features, rather exclusive and consequently quite expensive. Enterprise Java in its very serious incarnation :-). I have spent lot of time on this project and have gained a lot of interesting insight not only in areas related to coding, but also in deployment, release management, clustering and so on. It absorbed me so completely that I stopped blogging, limited Web surfing, put my Ruby/Cocoa experiments on hold. I am way behind in my podcast listening (all in total, accumulated over 15 episodes only in TWIT network podcasts itself).

So what has changed that I am back ? Did the project end ?

Nope, quite the oposite, we are hitting QA phase which will be followed by Phase 2 enhancements and busiest time is still ahead of us, as we will be live and selling for this Christmas season. And also few more projects are on the horizon.

I simply realized that with the strong upward trend of our business (we had record month in October, November looks also very strong) and very exciting things in our immediate corporate future, I cannot simply put life outside of work and my other “pet projects” on pause and hope I woud get back to it later. Because there will always be much bigger demand on time and deadlines and challenges and delaying can very well be cancelling them.

Rather than postponing the “rest of it”, I am actively searching for better ways how to intertwine these two worlds. I will keep you posted about the progress 🙂

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Easy access to log files

2008/08/25

Here is the scoop: I need to provide access to multiple log files spread across multiple directories of multiple machines. For example – the JBoss log files and nohup.out, ATG log files, and so on – so that the testers can see what happened on server side when something looks fishy on front end.

One option would be to write a document that contails IP’s of the machines, create user accounts, make sure that they have just enough access rights to see the files but not disturb anything else …

Other option is to leverage the already installed Python across all the servers. I wish it was Ruby, but one cannot have everything.

On each machine, I created directory – e.g. ~/webaccess and made symbolic links to all log files or log directories required. Then I placed this python script into the directory:


#!/usr/bin/python

import SimpleHTTPServer
import SocketServer

# minimal web server.  serves files relative to the
# current directory.

PORT = 9999

Handler = SimpleHTTPServer.SimpleHTTPRequestHandler

Handler.extensions_map.update({
'': 'application/octet-stream', # Default
'.out': 'text/plain',
'.log': 'text/plain'
})
httpd = SocketServer.TCPServer(("", PORT), Handler)

print "serving at port", PORT
httpd.serve_forever()

and started it as

nohup ./simpleserver.py &

From this moment on, all files linked (actually all files in subtree of server directory) are accessible by going to http://SERVERNAME:9999/ – which shows directory listing for linked files.

On one of the machine, I have placed additional file – index.html that contained links to all other server names.

Thanks to this page for inspiration.


Easy way how to transfer really big files

2008/04/29

What does really big mean ? In my case few hundred megabytes, up to 1 GB. Clearly, too much for email attachments – most providers caps them at around 5-15 MB.

Since we started doing screencasts, I need quite often to transfer  work in progress – screen recordings, rendered MOV files between me and my co-host of the screencasts. I tried to upload the file to the company servers using VPN, but the speed of the secure uploads is nowhere close to being practical.

What works much better is free service called TransferBigFiles.com. There is no registration required, you just enter the recipient email and start upload. After uploading, the system sends you an email with link and the files stays up for few days, then is deleted. More than enough for the other party to download. With self-destruction, it is also less worries for you to  remember clean-up.

The site also offers client for Windows, which I did not try (for obvious reasons) and shows ads selling software. These ads made me (strangely enough) more comfortable, as the intention of the creators is clear: attract traffic by free service and monetize on software sales / ads.

The other possible explanation is of course collecting of email adresses for not-so-noble purposes. I have no knowledge of this being the fact – since about a week and half of using the service, there was no spike in amount of spam. No spike meaning nothing beyond usual 300+ offers of 10 dollar Rolex, body enlargements, natural weight loss programs and help requests to transfer money from Nigeria and similars …

All my emails are consolidated on Gmail, which does terrific job of weeding out 99.99% of these – so I do not really care so much if one more spammer gets my email. But if you are really worried, you can always get the 10 minute email, use it for receiving notifications and then email the link manually. The down side is that you must keep the 10 minute email alive until upload finishes – this may take few refreshes.


A false “hang” of Finder

2008/04/24

Yesterday, I have noticed interesting thing related to Finder and “beach ball of the death”. Suddenly, for no obvious reason, the top menu became unavailable and cursor changed to beachball every time I moved it there. The Bluetooth mouse stopped responding. Finder stopped responding. All symptoms as if Finder would hanging …

The cause of the issue was crash of unrelated application (iShowU, if you are curious), which brought up the crash report window. For some reason – maybe because it happened while changing spaces – the window was not visible. After closing the window, everything came back to life and even mouse reconnected (after disabling and re-enabling Bluetooth).

So next time it looks like an application did hang, make first sure that no windows expecting input are not open and hidden. Do not rely upon jumping dock icon – with bad luck and Spaces enabled, it is easy to switch the notification off.