TurnKey Linux Virtual Appliance Library

Getting started with Python and Lisp

A few weeks ago I talked with a friend studying computer science who I discovered had never experienced the joy of programming with a high level language. Not only that but he didn't have the first clue what he was missing. I feared without my immediate intervention another perfectly good mind would be wasted in programming hell. At his university they were using Java for nearly everything so he had somehow gotten the terribly mistaken idea that it didn't really matter what programming language one used. I carefully explained that:

Why I love programming: a crude theory of mind

I've been programming a bit today and I am enjoying myself and focusing for hours at end, which has lately been next to impossible for me when working on other things (e.g., website design).

It's made me think about why I'm having such a hard to reproducing the focus and satisfaction I feel when I'm programming when I'm doing non-programming stuff.

Why parallel programming is hard

Implementing Cloudtask took more time than I had planned due mainly to the challenges of parallel programming, which I hadn't done that much of before. Also, parallel programming really is inherently far more difficult than serial programming.

In my mind there are three major challenges:

How to get the bone

Sometimes working on big projects can be frustrating. I think that's mainly because it's easy to get so immersed in detail that you lose sight of the big picture. A big project tends to break down recursively into sub-projects, and sub-sub-projects that you only realize are necessary after the "direct approach" turns out to be not a shortcut but an illusion, something that starts out looking like a shortcut and turns out to be a dead-end or actually a very long way around (e.g., fast short term results that are unsustainable in the long run). Then you have to turn back.

Drupal Rules in a nutshell

In a nutshell, Rules is a visual programming tool. Instead of writing code as a block of text, you configure the desired behavior via a GUI that guides you through the setup of "rule sets" which are basically stored procedures that define conditionals and actions to execute, and triggering those rulesets from various canned events.

Rules sets can can call each other immediately (watch out for infinite loops), schedule each other (or themselves) to be called later, etc.

Some spam bots are human

Out of curiosity I've taken a look at what kind of spam is now getting through our automated defenses. I did a little digging and confirmed a long held suspicion.

In a nutshell, I've caught a 100% human spammer and thus verified that indeed there are people in China who's job it is to post comment spam on random websites.

The attack came from 120.43.13.81, a Chinese IP.

On Jan 12th 8:53:02 he first came to our site from Google. He was searching for:

"post new comment Create new account site:.org"

Landing page:

Parallelize - a simple yet powerful high-level interface to multiprocessing

When I was developing Cloudtask, I discovered none of the interfaces in the Python multiprocessing module were powerful enough for my needs so I had to roll my own. The result is the generically useful multiprocessing_utils module in turnkey-pylib which from my totally subjective perspective provides a far superior interface to parallelization than the built-in multiprocessing interfaces.

Basic self-documenting ReStructured Text example

For a few years now I've been using ReStructured Text for nearly all of my documentation needs and I'm loving it.

It was originally invented for Python documentation which is how I originally discovered it. As devoted fans we use it for pretty much everything. Documentation, e-mails, even legal documents!

In fact, most of our blog posts, including this one was originally written as e-mails in ReStructured text which can be automatically converted into HTML.

Negotiating payment as a contractor (issues, tips)

Last week I shared the advice I gave to a friend who was quitting his day job and wanted to do more freelance/contract work. This week I'll share a bit of practical wisdom on negotiating payment that I figured might be useful those of you who are just getting into contracting.

The problem: contracting clients will often ask you to quote fixed bids for contracts.

Potential issues:

Self-experimenting with Nootropics (AKA smart drugs)

A month ago I posted a summary of my Nootropics meta-research. Today I'll share some subjective results from my self-experimentation so far.