Saying goodbye to the cloud

My friend Michael Wheeler has written an excellent article on the whys and hows of removing your data from the cloud. This post is basically just to point you all towards it.

Over the last few years I’ve been in a similar process, getting rid of my Google account and hosting my own email. I’ve attempted to get rid of Facebook, and learned a lot about myself, my friends, and Facebook in the process. I now no longer have twitter (again) and I’m just generally being a lot more careful with my data.

I think everybody will benefit from thinking just a little more about where their information goes, so I highly recommend you read this article. 2011 – Day 1

Today was the first proper day of, which is being held this year in Brisbane. This morning we were treated to a welcoming speech by conference organiser Dr Shaun Nykvist, and a presentation on the Google Summer of Code happening this year. In the welcoming speech, Shaun detailed how the organisers and volunteers had to work against water and time to get the conference ready despite Brisbane’s horrific flooding:

“I’ve got some lovely photos of our old venue with sandbags against the flood zones. It’s a shame the sandbags were about three metres lower than the water.”

After morning tea (some very lovely cakes and biscuits were provided) it was time for the Miniconfs. During the morning session I attended the Open Programming Miniconf, organised by my friend Chris Neugebauer. The first talk was about perl5i, which is a package of library modules for perl that makes it an almost usable language (almost, I don’t think that there is anything can truly save it). It was very interesting stuff, seeing how the syntax and semantics of a language can change. The speaker (Michael Schwern) was brilliant as well, which is always nice.

The next talk was about the F# programming language, designed by Microsoft. Brian McKenna’s speaking wasn’t great (but it was his first big talk, so that can be forgiven). Although I dislike the idea of languages that run on top of runtimes (such as JVM and .NET), F# looks like a good invention. Indeed, it’s basically where Microsoft develops and tests features that might be useful to put into C#.

After that was a talk by Brianna Laugher on generating English-language text using software tools, from a set of data. She was using it as part of her job at the Bureau of Meteorology to automate the generation of weather reports from their models. The idea was hugely interesting, and something that I want to implement. However, I didn’t really understand how the generation itself worked… quite a few arcane symbols seemed to be in use. I think I got the general gist though.

The final talk before lunch was about Go, the programming language developed at Google. I originally thought Go was a programming language for children, but I’ve now been set straight. It looks like something to test out… which is being added to my very long list of stuff to try now.

After lunch I went to see two talks from the Haecksen Miniconf. The first was about how open source software can help save the world, mostly by developing open source software to fix natural disaster problems, and doing it really really quickly and cheaply. The second was about setting up an overly-complicated home network, an area with which I am well acquainted.

Then it was back to the Open Programming Miniconf, where I learned about the demise of Java (basically, the Java community is dead, but Java itself will probably survive, and the JVM will definitely survive). The final talk before afternoon tea was about how to create compilers for the JVM using a parser written in Scala. Unfortunately due to the use of Scala I lost most of the detail of the talk, it went straight over my head. Which is a pity, because I was really looking forward to that talk. Ah well, guess you can’t win them all. After all this though, I was really interested in designing programming languages and compilers. I might have to give it a go.

During the final session of the day I was treated to a brilliant talk by Adam Harvey, who is a PHP developer (i.e. actually develops the PHP interpreter) telling us about the state of the PHP language. It seems Debian Stable is hugely out of date… but this is nothing new. He’s a great speaker, and I look forward to hearing his talk tomorrow, even though I don’t know what it’s about.

Last up was Jethro Carr, a hacker from NZ I know from attempting to complete his 30 Days of Geek challenge. He talked about the software revision control management tool thing he wrote, and talked about the benefits of using such software. Personally I quite enjoy using Redmine, but it’s requirement for Ruby means that I might be looking for an alternative when I get around to setting up my own installation. Currently I use the Quokforge service, run by one of my friends on

So that was day 1. Or rather, the official day 1. Since then I’ve bought a printer and been to an Irish pub. More LCA news coming tomorrow, I hope. – Day 0

Me at LCA

Yesterday was day 0 of my adventure to in Brisbane. I woke up extremely early (5:15am AEDT, which is 4:15am AEST) and caught a flight to Sydney and then on to Brisbane. I caught the AirTrain into the city (which is awesome, so much better than any other capital city’s offering) and met my friend Michael to drop off my bag at the hotel. After catching up with my sister for lunch (she lives in Brisbane) I headed off to the venue for the conference, QUT in Kelvin Grove.

I sat around with a few of my friends from the ##australia IRC channel on Freenode, while discussing the conference’s preperation on on Freenode. After a while, I went and registered for the conference, and got some awesome swag. The item of note is a Yubico Yubikey, which seems to be a really awesome solution to the password problem.

The LCA Venue

After the registration, I went with a few of the other ##australia geeks to get pizza from a local place in Kelvin Grove. It was a lot of impromptu fun, especially when a few more geeks from showed up and also had a bite to eat.

After the pizza, it was back to the conference venue for the “noobie’s talk” which introduced us to what happens this week. In short, it sounds like a lot of fun. The presenter of the talk, Rusty Russell, has a great sense of humour. We then went off to the pub with the other first-time attendees, but we didn’t stay long because it was loud and we went off to something better.

Most of the attendees are staying at a place called Urbanest, which looks like an interesting place, mostly because of the density of geeks. Last night I went up to Urbanest for an hour or so, and watched the cricket and talked to a few other geeks. I met Jethro Carr, a geek from NZ whose blog I read. I then retired for the night, because you can only be awake for so long without a drip of caffeine.

The Ultimate House

Recently I was talking with a few friends, and mentioned a few of the things that my ultimate house was going to have, when I was rich and famous and got around to building it. They suggested a few more ideas, and we came up with the following list:

  • It’s a castle, with two moats. The outer one has a crocodile (to feed Hollywood A-list celebrities to) and the inner one has a wave machine for surfing.
  • Instead of a front-door key, you get a remote control. The remote control has a button on it for launching a fireworks display whenever you want.
  • There’s an entire game park out the back. Animals in the park included cassowaries, lions, tigers, and bears. All of whom are capable of eating various A-list celebrities.
  • The castle is on a cliff, and going down from the castle to the seas requires the use of a network of secret caves.
  • There’s a maze and a labyrinth.
  • A medieval banquet hall in the middle of the castle, complete with 3 or 4 long tables. I imagine this room will look a lot like the great hall in the Harry Potter films.
  • There’s a leaking dungeon with lots of chains and prison cells, for keeping A-list celebrities in.
  • A full recording studio.
  • A full restaurant kitchen, with three pantries. One for tea, one for chilli, and one for everything else.
  • There’s a room specifically for listening to Pink Floyd music, buried deep in the castle. It’s completely black with no windows. The only furniture is a La-Z-Boy recliner and two speakers, with everything set up for perfect reproduction of sound.
  • A yacht is moored off the coast.
  • So is a submarine, which is used to travel between the coast and the lighthouse on an island offshore.
  • There’s a runway long enough to be capable of landing a Space Shuttle.
  • Stored at the end of the runway is my private Boeing 747 and home-built RV-4 land capable float plane.
  • There’s a 3-storey library. It’s got the wooden rails around the side with the ladders that zoom around the walls. At the top level there are two doors at either end, and connecting the doors is a suspension bridge covered in vines.
  • A super-fast Internet connection, of course. We’re talking multiple gigabits per second fibre backbone straight to the AARNET and PIPE networks.
  • A cinema complex with 4 theatres. One is constantly playing Star Wars movies, one is constantly playing Star Trek, and one is constantly playing French films. The two playing Star Trek and Star Wars are defended against humans entering them by a team of skutters (from the Red Dwarf TV series).

Hacking Work – or how to write a book about nothing at all

"Hacking Work" CoverI recently travelled on an aeroplane to the Boxing Day cricket match in Melbourne. Before the flight home I was killing some time in the Borders in the terminal, when a book caught my eye. It’s name? Hacking Work, by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein.

After reading the back cover, I bought the book immediately. Who wouldn’t want to work smarter and get more done with less effort? It’s me in a nutshell. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed.

For most non-fiction books, the back cover is a very rough summation of the goal of the book, along with a few of the more interesting little titbits. For this book however, the blurb is the entire contents of the book. The other 200 odd pages are just fluff.

Section 1 of the book tells the reader that they are special, are born to “hack” work, and that managers will get in the way of everything.

Section 2 of the book tells the reader that they are special, are born to “hack” work, and that managers will get in the way of everything.

Section 3 of the book tells the reader that they are special, are born to “hack” work, and that managers will get in the way of everything.

Section 4 of the book tells the reader that they are special, are born to “hack” work, and that their employees will try to hack work too.

Unfortunately, nowhere in this book are there actual instructions for any methods of actually getting more done in less time. There are occasional snippets detailing what people have done before, usually followed by “we don’t recommend actually doing this”.

I personally consider myself somewhat of a life hacker, and this is a travesty of a book about “hacking”. The severe degradation of the meaning of the word “hack” is beyond annoying, it’s almost insulting.

Zero stars. I wouldn’t read it if it was free.