Finally, rain

We got a quick, 5 minute shower last night and nothing more. Then, this morning the sky looked very threatening and within minutes on my way to work it started pouring.

It looks like we are getting real, honest-to-goodness rain.


Gutsy Reinstall

Since I had was running a Feisty Fawn that had everything under the sun installed (I get a little apt-get happy at times), including the KDE desktop that installed on top of regular Ubuntu, I felt a full reinstall was in order.

After all my backups were checked, I reinstalled. This wasn't the easiest install I've ever done before, but it had nothing to do with Kubuntu directly. I guess everyone was downloading the ISOs as there was quite a bit of publicity of this release, because I would get to the “Scanning for mirrors…” portion of the install and the installer would just lock and a Ctrl+Alt+Del was my only option.

On my third time trying, I just pulled network cable and opted for the manual network configuration later selection and everything finished smoothly.

Trying to get a few of favorite packages was also a test in patience and it would take a couple of minutes just to begin the download and then I would start getting the packages on a 10-20 Kb/s stream. The Ubuntu repositories were absolutely slammed yesterday.

Edit: It appears that the Hemingway is not the culprit and it is something else. I'll play detective later and figure out what is going on.

Besides the update issues, the reinstall went great. Since I have a fresh start, I'm also trying a few new things. For example, I'm no long user Apache to server this blog, but went with a lighttpd installation. Besides the smaller memory footprint, the syntax in the conf file seems much more intuitive.

Since I had a full backup of my home directory. I still had all my .*rc files (vim, bash, etc) and all my Firefox settings (and extensions!) which was a great surprise, but makes sense.

Two snafus that I did run into:
1) Firefox lost its back-button functionality. The back-button would never become highlighted. I did a quick google and this did not seem to be a problem anyone else was having, so I figured it was an extension conflict. Sure enough the “Web Developer Toolbar” was acting up somehow and uninstalling got Firefox behaving properly again. With Firebug in my arsenal, I hardly use the Toolbar anymore, so I'm not too upset about that.

2) Something with the Hemingway WordPress theme was behaving properly running under FastCGI. I'm not really sure what was going on here, but every time I saved some thing in the admin, I'd get the standard PHP 'can't resend headers' error message. I switched to one of the default themes and it resolved itself. I'm not sure what the theme could have been interfering with in the admin screen, but oh well.

Besides that Gutsy as an OS looks great. Can't complain a bit.

Hello World!

One thing I've always enjoyed about launching websites is looking at the logs and seeing page views from everywhere in the world start to filter in.

In the few days since I've launched, I've had visitors from Germany, Poland, Finland, and Austria.

It really drives the point home that this is a small world we live in now.

Concert and the long trip home…

The Ryan Adams & The Cardinals concert last night was great. I've heard so many different stories of how Ryan Adams is on stage that I wasn't sure what to expect. The reports say that he is either bubbly and friendly or aloof and rude. It seemed that we got him on a good night as he was cracking jokes between songs and doing some friendly bantering with some of the more vocal members of the audience.

The setlist was pretty much what I was expected drawing from the albums put out with the Cardinals. He played the singles from the newest album, Easy Tiger, joking with us that this is what we came to hear. He also hit most of the highlights from Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. He played a nice and loud version of “I See Monsters” from Love Is Hell even dipped into some older, solo stuff with “The Rescue Blues” and “Dear Chicago.” Overall, I really enjoyed the song selection and the band is as tight as the live tapes have shown.

His style of playing has definitely evolved over the years introducing more extended jams and noise exploration. Several pieces of his playing in these jams sounded like he was trying to channel early 70's Jerry Garcia. I'm not quite sure that the extra playing was always necessary and one audience member seemed to agree as he yelled out “Just sing!” after one of these interludes. There was nothing really wrong the jams it just seemed they didn't seem to “fit” at times. The best jams are the one's that grow from the original theme of the song, but with some of the songs that these pieces in them, it felt almost forced at times. One notable exception was “What Sin?” in the encore where the band did an awesome job with and the dynamics and everything seemed focused with a goal in mind.

One negative about the experience was the other concert-goers. I've never been at a show before where people seemed so unmotivated to get or stay in their seats. The show was officially supposed to start at 8:00 but everyone knew it would be close to 8:30-8:45 as shows almost never start on time. He started playing around 8:45 so everyone should have had plenty of time to get in their seats before it started but not a chance. It was only about half full when the show started and it wasn't because people were running late, it was because people were pounding $6 Bud Lights in the lobby. There's nothing wrong with that (besides the fact that people were paying per the bottle what a 6-pack costs of this watery beer) but did these people come to get drunk on cheap-but-expensive beer or watch a show?

During the show, there was constant movement of people going and coming in and out of the auditorium, getting more beer, taking phone calls, or smoking cigarettes. Seriously, just watch the show.

Overall, Meghan and I both really enjoyed the show and it was well worth the trip down. I'm in love with Charleston and both of us had a great weekend. I hope to get some pictures up soon of some of the highlights.

Pictures are up on Meghan's flickr.

Notes from Charleston

Charleston is a GREAT city.

While Meghan and I were walking along the little roads and alleys along Bay Street, I kept muttering to myself that this is one of the best places I've ever been. Every door we passed was either an art gallery, some snug bar, an upscale restaurant, or played some role in the early days of the country itself.

For example, we passed this tiny building that stood out due to its pastel hue, a bright pink. It was an art gallery. I got home and read that this little building is probably the oldest tavern in the country, being built in the 1690s.  You can buy a painting in the same building that the Low Country elite socialized in over 300 years ago. That's history. And conveniently enough it is called the Pink House.

Tonight we at at Slightly North of Broad (or SNOB for short) and I was thoroughly impressed. I had the grilled pork tenderloin over chutney with smoked apples with a glass of sangria and Meghan had the barbeque tuna. It was easily one of the best meals I've had. The service was spot-on and the atmosphere was great. The entire time there was a good experience.

Tomorrow, we are going to sleep in a little and then hit the town and do a little shopping and a lot of wandering around. We're debating about watching the UNC game or not, but we'll just see how that goes. We could probably find a sports bar, but we are firmly in Gamecock country so that could be interesting. Then tomorrow evening is the Ryan Adams concert which I'm fairly pumped about.

For now, time for bed.


Tomorrow, Meghan and I are heading out first thing in the morning to go to Charleston for the weekend. We first starting planning the trip around the Ryan Adams concert on Saturday, but it is more a chance to get away. It's been a pretty busy past few weeks for both of us, so it is going to be nice to get away and reset.

Plus I get to use my new GPS!

Django: My Framework of Choice

I am a web developer by trade, and like any skilled worker, I am always looking for the best tools for the job. With my current job, I write PHP on top of a custom in-house CMS. Off the clock though, I work with Python and Django.

First off, I like the concept of a framework. With web development, 95% of the stuff you do is stuff you've done before and unavoidably will do again. A well-written framework alleviates a lot of this. Most of the tasks can be broken down to 2 steps: 1) Grab objects from database. 2) Show them. The visual design of a website is always the fun part to do after you get all the heavy lifting done. There are also things like form handling, user authentication, writing XML feeds, and caching that gets done over and over that frameworks are nice enough to say, “hey, I'll take care of this boring, repetitive stuff and let you get on with creating something cool.”

As far as specific frameworks go, I've read quite a bit about Ruby on Rails and wrote some simple apps to test it out. One reason I didn't grasp on to this one was that I didn't know Ruby. Another reason is that deploying it seemed tricky and you trade speed of deployment for runtime speed. This is true for any interpreted language, but Ruby on Rails takes it to the extreme in both directions. Also it seems too opinionated at times stepping in the way of what I really wanted to do.

Another one I've gave more than a passing glance to is CakePHP. While there are several good ideas in there, and it does increase coding efficiency, it has one big, glaring black mark against and that is it is writting in PHP. PHP is a good language in the regards that it fairly powerful, runs everywhere, runs relatively fast, and everyone knows it, but it is an unattractive and inconsistent language. This link sums it up quite nicely.

Now onto my favorite: Django. When I first stumbled on this one earlier this year, I amazed by the simplicity of the framework and how it just made sense, from organizational and logical standpoints. There is a very strict model/view/controller demarcation (except Django calls the controller a view, and the view a template) which leaves little debate of what piece of code goes where, which in my opinion is a great thing. It also has lots of super handy things that are built in or are easily added, such as an auto-admin interface, unit and regression testing, modular apps, an easy-to-use templating language, great form handling, and user authentication.

Far and away my favorite features are the generic views. In my opinion, most of web development is grab an item or a list of items from the database and show them on a page, possibly paginating if there are a lot of them or maybe dividing them up by their publication dates. With generic views, Django takes almost all of this repetitiveness and abstracts it out so you can get on with making it look pretty or adding some cool new feature. Django brings back a lot of the joy of web development that sometimes gets lost in the grind or when writing that same hunk of logic for the hundredth time.

Not to be one to follow hype, I didn't fully buy into Django until I built a full site with it. Meghan and I built a soon to be launched site for our upcoming wedding. We built it from the ground up (with Django, of course) in the span of about 3 hours. This time included everything from registering the domain to designing the site. It even has a working blog with a commenting system, and a full-featured admin tailored to my exact needs. Django made the easy things really easy and the hard or repetitive things actually fun to work with.

In Rainbows

Today, I took advantage of Radiohead's anti-man-in-the-middle distribution model by downloading In Rainbows from the band's website. To recap the download process, I went to their website, entered how much I desired to give Radiohead, entered in my credit card info, and then I was emailed a link to a ZIP file full of MP3s, and that was it. Within about a minute, I had 10 DRM-free MP3 tracks at a relatively high bitrate with a publisher none-the-richer.

A few things motivated me to get this album in this manner. One reason, the physical copies were too expensive weighing in around $80. I would much rather have physical CDs and paper liner notes but I am not quite ready to shell out $80 for them no matter how “deluxe”, so MP3s it was. Another reason is that it is a rare occasion to dictate what you think something is worth, and then actually pay that amount, so I couldn't pass that up.

I have a feeling that Radiohead will see significant income from this release, even if only for the novelty of it. People are so used to getting gouged by the recording companies via price or by DRM restrictions, or having to skirt the law by “borrowing” the albums, or completely giving the law the end-around by grabbing it from some P2P network, that this is a model that most people will be able to buy into, literally. I personally paid 4 pounds (I've never bought anything in pounds before!) which works out to about $8. This is great. Instead of paying what the recording industry thinks I should pay, I get to pay exactly what I think the artists deserve.

Onto the album itself, I really enjoyed it at first listen. Right now, the song that jumps out at me is “Faust ARP.” It sounds like it could have been right in the middle of The Beatles' White Album, but definitely still has that Radiohead ambiance.

Now if only the CDs would come down in price…