free as in freedom

Keywords for Radicals: Technical details of the production of visual Constellations images

This post describes the technical process I developed for a side project I've been working on the last few months, in collaboration with my comrade Andrew Thompson. Andrew came to me last year with absolute certainty that I was the right person to take on this challenge, and I'm very grateful that he did, even though I didn't always feel so certain. The project Andrew has been working on with a group of other folks, is a book called Keywords for Radicals. I encourage you to check it out.

Drush Body Mangler

This past week I launched a new site, and of course, it's built on Drupal. Yay!

Coming out of that project, I wanted to publish one particular story about a problem I solved along the way, to offer an explanation (and perhaps an apology) for the new d.o git sandbox project I ended up creating, currently titled "Drush Body Mangler".

No, it won't mangle any physical bodies (I hope), but it can most certainly mangle some content node body fields! Indeed, if you find yourself needing to wrangle, mangle, tangle or untangle the simple title/body fields of a Drupal 6 "node" object, and you have a hankering to do so in a scripted way, and with the help of Drush, then my hope is that this post and the code will prove a useful example for some other developers. Beyond that (as I'll get to), I hope it can be refined and improved to be even more useful to the community :)

DrupalCon Chicago 2011

I got back from Chicago a week away this past Monday, and am still reeling a bit. Both from the wealth of ideas and information I took in during my travels, as well as all that I missed while I was gone. Before I get too deep into the flood of everyday life, I thought I'd write something up to answer the main questions I've been answering and share some of the highlights of the trip.

How was Chicago?

I spent almost an entire week in Chicago, having built in an extra day to spend exploring the city before the conference(s) began. Chicago is a really interesting city, and I would love to go back and spend more time checking out all the galleries, museums and other cultural institutions it has to offer. I had heard the Chicago architecture was quite remarkable, but being unschooled in American history or the evolution of architectural schools, I didn't realize what an impact the Great Chicago fire had had on the city. It was amazing to see the great variety of different styles of buildings, and judging from the images on the wikipedia page linked above, I didn't even see the half of it. Slideshow of my photos from the trip after the break.

DrupalCamp Toronto 2010: Platypodes FTW!

DrupalCamp Toronto 2010 was all kinds of awesome, and I thought I'd write a quick wrap-up post to reflect on some highlights and "take-away" messages and learnings. Overall, the 2-day event was well-organized, well-run, and had lots of great presenters and discussions.

When it's difficult to choose which session to attend for most of the time slots at a conference, I think that's a good sign. DrupalCamp Toronto was certainly a great example of this! Fortunately, I understand there will be video of at least some of the sessions available, and most presenters are posting their slides or will in the coming days. I look forward to catching up on some of the sessions I missed.

I paused on my way home to make some notes on the ideas or issues that stood out for me over the last couple of days, and quickly ended up with a somewhat crowded page of inter-connected keywords surrounding a handful of themes. I'll try to tease out some of these themes in this post.

Re-releasing net-silc code: double the fun?

In 2004 (6 years ago, or 2 eons of the internet age), I released some code that was almost useful to me a number of times, in hopes that someone else might pick it up and (if I got lucky) make it actually useful to both of us (or more!) at some point in the future. The code? Just a small perl utility, modeled after the excellent and well used Net::IRC, the basis for one of the most interesting, clean and modular IRC bots out there, mozbot. Except mozbot doesn't work in SILC, my preferred real-time chat protocol for many years.

At some point I realized that it would be feasible (and cool!) to replace the underlying API on which mozbot relied with a functional equivalent that spoke to a SILC server. I got very excited by the prospect of having a programmable utility automaton in my "virtual office" environment, without having to give up the secure and autonomous network community in which that office resided. This dream inspires me even today.

Alas, the "real world" of everyday life/work expectations and responsibilities crept in, and my office has become very much real and present. I spend very little time in any kind of chatroom these days, although I often feel it could still help a lot, even in a shared physical space. At any rate, the code languished here, on my tiny little corner of the web, until someone picked it up.

Book Report: Don't Make Me Think!

Today I finished devouring (honestly, somebody told me my copy looks like it's been through the wars!) Steve Krug's excellent second edition of Don't Make Me Think!.
As an initiate to the world of usability, I have to say that Krug has done an excellent job making the book a fun, easy read, true to its mandate of being quick, digestible, and yes, even usable.

Three striking things about this book occur to me:

Releasing code is fun!

Today I realized that after an incredibly hectic week of work, I needed to permit myself an hour or so to do something "fun". What did I come up with? Hunt around on my various data archive media, looking for a small set of Perl modules that I stopped working actively on way way back in 2004. Clean that code up a bit, install a new module on this site, and publish it!