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Journal Journal: You Can Chat in Hell

Back in late November of 2015, I was tasked with coming up with an instant messenger solution that our partners could use to communicate with our operators. That sounds pretty simple. Everyone uses IM and has for over 20 years. And Slack and HipChat are massively popular.

Here's where they start throwing wrenches into my plan. Any third party server is not allowed. Law does not want our conversations stored on third party servers, and security doesn't either. So that scratched off my obvious answer. We use Sametime as a company, and there is an external option for that, but security also denied that stating that then an external user would have visibility to the entire company and could potentially IM, say, our CEO. Ok, so there goes that too.

You know where I'm going next with this, right? Roll our own XMPP server, of course!

Ahh, XMPP. I have had a fondness for it since Google Talk came out. An open protocol that seems to work pretty well and has a lot of users. Ok, so we have a starting point. Now what.

Well, the next step was to figure out how easy it would be to host a server. We basically have 3 options. There's ejabberd, an Erlang-based server that's been around the longest. I like it, but we don't have a lot of Erlang developers (which is sad, because I also like Erlang. So it goes). There's Prosody, which is kind of a KISS model written in Lua. I liked it too, but it wasn't very Enterprisey. Then there's Openfire. Java-based? Check. Plugin architecture? Check. Mature? Very!

Openfire looked very intriguing when I started looking at it. Of course, being enterprisey, it's a lot heavier than something like Prosody. Which means it has a steeper learning curve. But you take the good with the bad.

So I pitched my idea to Legal. They said we have to archive messages for a certain time period, which I can do with this server. It can archive to Oracle. Perfect. Then I talked with security. My initial solution was to use Strophe.js to connect directly to Openfire. They put the kabosh on that when they saw that users would be unauthenticated in our DMZ. I walked away from that meeting a little perplexed. After educating myself on our architecture a little more, I dug around for a SiteMinder module. There was none. But, there is a webchat interface called Fastpath. It allows you to run helpdesk operations. That's my ticket. Because then they would be operating within our standing operating procedures, just like any other app.

This thing is ugly, and hasn't been given a good enhancement in about 10 years. So now I take that challenge on. More to come on that.

Once I overcame the architectural hurdles, then I had to start working with our infrastructure teams. This required an ungodly amount of requests. Oracle, server planning, application IDs, Linux guys, Apache rules, change management... I think I worked with just about every team in the company to get this done.

I've made a lot of progress though over the last month and I'm ready to go to production next week. I AM STOKED. I've been saving a cigar for just such an occasion. But next comes the hard part. I will need to start developing on this decade-old code. I have a user-request to add group chat, which is not at all what this thing is meant for. But even before that, I need to fix security issues and add SiteMinder integration. I don't think any of this is going to be a walk in the park. On the other hand though, it does sound fun! And I'm giving back to open source, which I love doing.

I'm omitting a lot of the trials and tribulations I went through when setting this all up, but I'll probably just put that in some internal documentation.

I'm just ready for a cigar.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Muse 1

If this is mangled, go here.
        I received a strange note, made of cut up magazines pasted to paper and slipped under my door. It read âoeYour muse has been kidnapped. If you want her back, meet under the Facebook Street Bridge after dark. Bring your wallet, passport, and an umbrella.â
        Crap, my muse was gone? I looked, and sure enough it was missing. It's really important to me, so I got my passport, made sure my wallet was in my pocket, and took an umbrella, even though the weatherman said there was no chance of rain. I went to the bridge around sunset and waited.
        The weatherman was wrong. As I waited under the bridge it started pouring. A little after dark a black limousine pulled up, and the rear door opened. âoeGet in,â a woman's voice said. I did.
        A mean looking short haired blonde in the front passenger seat was pointing a very large black handgun at me. âoeYou're not Neo,â the skinny dark haired girl in the back said accusingly.
        âoeMe?â I replied, scared to death. Or scared of death, maybe. âoeNo, I'm mcgrew, I don't know any Neo. I'm missing some property and someone said to wait under this bridge and I could get it back.â
        âoeOh,â said the blonde, putting the gun away. âoeMorpheus said to give you this,â and handed my muse to me!
        I put my muse in my jacket and started to open the door. The blonde had her gun out again. âoeFifty bucks, asshole!â
        I gave her two twenties and a ten. âoeWhy was I told to bring a passport?â I asked. The dark haired skinny girl laughed. âoeMorpheous was just fucking with you. Now get out!â
        I still can't figure out what that was all about...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Wierd Planet

I doubt the magazines will want this and I haven't given you guys any new stories for months. Since slashdot won't fix its text mangler I've posted it here.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Can't Log In from My Laptop 11

I can't log in to slashdot from my laptop. Every browser - and even from a browser running on a vm - it always fails. Not sure why but as long as it persists my posting will be less frequent.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fifteen: The Final Chapter 4

It's that time of year again. The time of year when everyone and their dog waxes nostalgic about all the shit nobody cares about from the year past, and stupidly predicts the next year in the grim knowledge that when the next New Year comes along nobody will remember that the dumbass predicted a bunch of foolish shit that turned out to be complete and utter balderdash. I might as well, too. Just like I did last year (yes, a lot of this was pasted from last year's final chapter).

I've lost the URL to my slashdot "messages", damn it!

Some of these links go to S/N since they don't have slashdot's patented text mangler. Stories and articles meant to ultimately be published in a printed book have smart quotes, and slashdot isn't smart enough for smart quotes.

As usual, first: the yearly index. Articles and stories slashdot has mangled the text in are at S/N without the mangling. Slashdot should be ashamed!

the Paxil Diaries

2015 articles:
Where's my damned tablet?
Are printed books' days numbered?
A suggestion to mobile browser makers and the W3C
"My God! It's full of fail!" -David Bowman
Where's my fridge??
1950s TV
What a mess!

Mars, Ho!
Yesterday's Tomorrows
Stupid Tourist!
Voyage to Earth
Plutus' Revenge

There are six more stories finished and one started, but I'm giving the magazines first crack at them. They are:

Dewey's War
The Exhibit
The Naked Truth
Weird Planet
Trouble on Ceres
The Prisoner

All except The Prisoner are finished or in final edit except The Prisoner. That one has me stuck, and it may never be finished.

Last years' stupid predictions:
I got one wrong; Random Scribblings didn't come out. I could have published it this year, but since the subtitle is "Junk I've Littered the Internet With for Two Decades" I decided to add this years scribblings and a little of next year's to it.

This year's predictions: same as last year's, with one addition. I'm not going to predict publication of Voyage to Earth and Other Stories because chances are it won't be done. As I write this the stories finished so far make up 36,000 words, which is halfway there at least. But I will predict:

Someone will die. Not necessarily anybody I know...
SETI will find no sign of intelligent life. Not even on Earth.
The Pirate Party won't make inroads in the US. I hope I'm wrong about that one.
US politicians will continue to be wholly owned by the corporations.
I'll still be a nerd.
You'll still be a nerd.
technophobic fashionista jocks will troll slashdot.
Slashdot will be rife with dupes.
Many FPs will be poorly edited.
Slashdot still won't have fixed its patented text mangler.
Microsoft will still suck

Happy New Year! Ready for another trip around the sun?

User Journal

Journal Journal: WALDO- a way to merge software methodologies 27

I've been thinking a lot about the software methodology religious wars lately. It seems to me that all methodologies have their strength and weaknesses. 15 years in, Agile has given us faster coding, but worse quality. Waterfall was flawed due to its overemphasis on architecture and underemphesis on business. Lean cuts out inefficiency- at the cost of elegance and maintainability. Devops sacrifices quality and cheapness for speed of continuous Outcomes. And while it's true that the "User Interface is everything" because that's the only thing the user sees, Outcomes sacrifices the future for one-off unmaintainable code.

So here's my solution- WALDO. The ultimate 3-6 person team- no more than 6, no less than three if a couple of guys wear multiple hats.

W- Waterfall

A- Agile

L- Lean

D- Devops

O- Outcomes

But these aren't just methodologies- they imply roles on the team. The ideal six person team consists of:

W- The customer's view of the project should always be waterfall with iterations. They tell us what they think they want, we build it- they're involved in every iteration. Of course, they don't really know what they want- it takes several iterations before we discover what they want- but the W role is the customer herself.

WA- The Waterfall Architect, or perhaps the Waterfall Analyst. This is the guy who is the face of the team to the customer- the single point of contact. On smaller teams, may also be the scrum master- but ideally should be a master of the models. This person should also be the principle advocate in scrum meetings for the customer.

AL- the real scrum master should be a master of both Agile and Lean. This guy lives in the world of Gantt charts and excel spreadsheets- keeping both schedule and budget, keeping the team on schedule, communicating that schedule to the team and to the WA and W. Daily scrums should keep people on task.

LD- the Lean Developer is a Model First Full Stack Programmer, but is the king of Object Orientation, maintainability, and reuse. It is this role that you want somebody who excels in data- but can work in the higher tiers of programming right up to the User Interface Tier.

DO- the ultimate Devops guy should be as much artist as programmer- a whiz of the User Interface. This is what the customer will see, so the DO and the WA are a natural Quality Assurance feedback loop for each other. Since the DO consumes data and objects coded by the LD, there's a natural QA feedback loop there as well.

O- the Outcomes guy. QA and Build Engineer rolled into one- this is your build manager, working with WA and W to make sure every release happens quickly and accurately, and that beta testing actually occurs to provide data back to WA.

This is my ideal team- one that insures you get the best of all methodologies, not the short sightedness of focusing on one or two.

User Journal

Journal Journal: What a mess! 2

I was watching the morning news the other day, and opened the computer to record KSHE's "Lone Klassic"... and it was in Linux. What the hell? Apparently I should have shut it off the night before, because Microsoft had apparently installed an update and then rudely and maliciously rebooted the computer. It was in Linux because kubuntu is the default OS in GRUB. So I rebooted again, selected Windows, and the little thing came up and... just sat there. Ten minutes later I still had a black screen.

I pulled the battery and tried again. Ten minutes later and I still had a black screen. So when I'd yanked the battery again and restarted it, I selected "Windows Recovery" from GRUB. An Acer screen came up with selections for reinstalling Windows. The first wiped the hard drive, the second kept your files. I picked that one; there was data on the hard drive I hadn't backed up in a few days, including a new story I'd started the night before and was on a roll with.

Twenty minutes later the first progress bar said "1%".

I'd decided a long time ago to get a DVD burner for the old Dell, until about three weeks ago when I'd taken it apart to install the video card and hard drive from the old HP that had computed its last. There were no slots that would fit the card (older computer than I thought, I guess) and the drive ribbon was a single drive ribbon. I probably have a spare double drive ribbon in the basement, but since the card wouldn't work in the Dell, there really wasn't any point. I'd decided then to get an old laptop that already had a DVD burner. So this was the time, because I had writing to do and the install was going to take all day and half the night.

I drove to the pawn shop and bought an HP laptop with Windows 7 and a DVD burner. It's a lot bigger than I like a laptop to be, but the smaller, cheaper one with a DVD burner ran Window 8, and I didn't want to deal with that garbage. Windows 7 is still the least annoying and least problematic of all of MS's OSes.

Of course I had to download Windows Defender and Firefox with IE, install Firefox, uninstall Norton and McAfee and Bing Bar and all the other effluent that comes with a new computer, reconfigure everything, and download and install Open Office and all the other programs I need.

Meanwhile, the Windows reinstall on the Acer had hung. Damn, I was going to lose everything I'd written the day before, since Windows had surely overwritten GRUB. I got lucky; it hadn't. So I went into Linux to copy everything to thumb drives, since I still can't get it on my network (time to try a new distro). I even found some movies I thought I'd permanently deleted by mistake months ago!

After I saved the data on thumb drives I rebooted again, went back into Windows restore and let it wipe the drive. That was the next morning, and it took all day. By then I had the new laptop running pretty smoothly and was writing again. The next day was mostly spent getting the old Acer back to normal. I was amazed and pleased that it had destroyed neither Grub nor Linux.

I'd lost a few passwords and haven't yet reset them all, and lost all my bookmarks.

That new computer is too big, but it's a lot faster than the Acer.

So I turn the TV on this morning and it wouldn't pick up channel 49. Flipped through the stations, and all of them had really screwy colors. I have my fingers crossed that it's the converter and not the TV, since the converter had fallen off the shelf last night. I hope it is, because they're not expensive and TVs are. I'll find out when I play a DVD.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Streaming Data of My Consciousness

First of all, why is the "Write in Journal" button at the goddamn nether reaches of Slashdot? Are you trying to get me to not write my thoughts here? Too fucking bad. I've been doing it for over a decade, so deal with it.

This post will be largely drunken and angry and in a stream of consciousness style because I am drinking, angry, and don't care. I mean, most of my posts are stream-o-consciousness posts, but I am not always drunk. I'm actually not drunk... yet. I'm working on it. Drinking a LeatherheadRed which is quite delicious, and I took a shot of Evan Williams right when I got home because, well, that's where I'm at.

The Lady asked for more money to buy school books today. I don't think it would bother me as much if she just said, "heyyyy, I might need $500 for books. Can you swing that?" Rather than, "So I might need money for books." Me: "How much." Her: "I just hate how they do this. I hate not contributing. blah blah blah." None of that helps. In fact, it just makes me angrier. Just tell me what you need so I can figure it out. Right now, I'm still living on 401(k) loan money. The stupidest loan I've taken out, but what choice did I have. It is keeping me off of credit cards, but is in effect, decreasing my retirement significantly, and tying me to the company that I would like to have the option to leave.

This goddamn company, man. Stock is dropping. They're predicting another shitty year in 2016. For FUCKS SAKE. THIS IS NOT THE TIME. Everything else seems like it's falling apart. And what bothers me probably most right now is that I'm having trouble on my last homework in Probability Models. We're doing Renewal Theory, and shit got hard. All out of nowhere, everything was like, "Hey! We heard you've been doing well! We're here to fuck that up for you!" I have to turn it in tomorrow. I could turn it in and take a hit on it, which would keep me at a low A, high B, but for one thing, I want the A. And another, at least one of the problems on this homework is on our final, which is worth a shitton, so I HAVE to understand it regardless. So that, on top of realizing I spent over $600 on chameleons that we had to take to the Humane Society because the cats kept fucking with them.

Just came back from a break. I checked Facebook. That was a mistake. Read some bullshit about Nassim Taleb hating on GMOs. Goddamnit, nobody is good. Everyone has a part of them I will hate. Maybe that's just life. I'm sure there's things you'd hate about me (least of all my writing). I guess that just gives me more of a stance to take while reading Antifragile. The book overall is quite good and inspiring, but some of it must be taken with a grain of salt, or from a certain context. Like when he says that nothing good comes from universities, but rather from tinkering and hobbyists. Well, that's true for the big things (think the automobile, Microsoft, Facebook, etc), it's not true in general. But that's not what Taleb deals in. He deals in Black Swans - unforeseen groundbreaking events - good and bad, in which case, scientists being wrong about GMOs (lots and lots of scientists... lots) would be a Black Swan. Still, he puts the burden of proof on the scientists to prove that he is wrong. And that is not good skepticism or science. If you're bringing the skepticism, you better have science on your side. Unfortunately for Taleb, it is not. Can't get behind him on that one. Also, he resorts to name calling. That's pretty sad for a well-respected best selling author and academic. :/

Well anyway. My sister is badgering me to do her statistics homework. I partially want to to see if I can do it without remembering much from Prob & Stats I, but I also know I have a lot of shit to do and she's not learning anything if I do it for her. So I told her I'd give her an hour for questions. I have my own final to do! I'm genuinely stressed about this now. I want to do well. I want an A. For the first time in my academic career, an A matters to me. Demonstrable understanding of a topic matters to me. I want to be able to say, Yes, I took Probability Models. I can show you how to do Renewal Theory.

Alright, I'm gonna watch some 'flix and hit the sack. Peace. Hope you enjoyed the stream.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Punitive Between-Comment delay? 4

I have Excellent karma, as usual, but I have a five minute delay between my posts. It seems to have appeared on my account again after the last time I said something mean about a Slashdot "editor". Is this something that Slashdot has done to everyone recently, or is it a punitive action against me specifically by one of the "editors"?

User Journal

Journal Journal: As the Path is Revealed, the Map Gets Bigger

I've been on the Data Science road for about 5 months. I initially became intrigued by the idea of Data Science on January 5th, 2015. This came about when I inquired about starting my master's degree in mathematics and was informed about a concentration in Data Science. "What is Data Science?" I wondered. So I started looking into it.

Here's my initial thought progression over time:

"I have no idea what that is"

"Sure looks trendy!"

"I bet this is one of those things everybody and their dog will want to do but without having the math chops to really be good... just like developers."

"Ooohhhhhh, look at all these tools! Hey! I've heard of a lot of these! Hadoop! CouchDB! MongoDB! Ummm, Spark? Dremmel? Spanner? Voldemort?! Where does this list end?!?!?! This must be Data Science!"

"Oh, so Data Science is an umbrella term. Underneath that is Predictive Analytics, Machine Learning, Data Engineering, Data Architecture, Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing [list goes on]. Ok, so we're back to Computer Science."

Me now: "Why don't they just call it Data-centric Computer Science?" "Because it's not catchy enough and it wouldn't pay as well." Oh yeah.

So we've come full circle. It's always been Computer Science. Some of us just took more math classes. All of those tools I mentioned in my post Dear Gournal have as much to do with data science as Matlab has to do with Mathematics. You wouldn't say Matlab is Mathematics. You would say Matlab is a Mathematical tool. In the same way, all of those technologies are Data Science tools, but they are not Data Science. I'm glad I'm realizing that now.

I'm almost through with my Probability Models class. I am somehow riding on a low A, and hope to finish strong, but the latest lessons on Poisson Processes and Renewal Theory are clouding my head. Still, it's been a very good class. Now I know what actuaries do! And I know I do not want to be one. Still, probability will never not be useful. It is at the core of what I want to do. AI, for example, is heavily based on prob. DS which is heavily stats based, is inherently prob based as well. Predictive Analytics, for example, would be impossible without probability theory. I hope to bring some of that to the table. Next semester, I'm taking Prob & Stat II. I think this class prepared me pretty well for it.

But while I now realize what Data Science is more or less, it only makes me realize how much I don't know. It's not as simple as learning a few tools and technologies. It's about learning the fundamentals of statistical analysis and probability, and then the things that build on that, like machine learning and predictive analytics. I'm excited and scared at the same time. It's terrifying if you try to eat the elephant in one bite. So I'm trying to take it a byte at a time, starting with the toe.

In my spare time, I'm working on a sports database, and a statistical analysis of a fantasy prognosticator. I've finally got the database together, and now I'm working toward the guru analysis. It's taken a little over a month, and I'm guessing will take another month to finish up, but I'm proud of it nonetheless. It's stupid but has been a fun exercise in Data Science.

Not much has changed at work except that I now have a project, finally. I am tasked with bringing Instant Messaging to the company. I mean, we already have IM, but it's internal only. This has to be internal AND external. So I'm rolling with XMPP. At least I hope. I have a meeting with our security team tomorrow to discuss the feasibility (security-wise, not technical). I think it's going to be a fun project. I'm planning on rolling with OpenFire. Should be pretty straightforward.

Anyway, that's it for now. Gonna go read more Anti-Fragile.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 1950s TV 5

If this won't render properly just go here

        A year or so ago, an executive from an electronics company (Apple, if I remember correctly) spoke of the lack of innovation in television sets since the 1950s, and my reaction was âoeHeâ(TM)s either stupid or thinks I am.â
        In the 1950s televisions had knobs on the set for changing channels. Remote controls were brand new, expensive, limited in capability, and used ultrasound rather than infra-red.
        The screens were vacuum tubes, and most were monochrome. Color television was brand new, and it was nearly 1960 before any stations started broadcasting in color. Rather than being rectangular, color sets were almost round; even black and white sets werenâ(TM)t true rectangles.
        They had no transistors, let alone integrated circuits; the IC had yet to be invented, and transistors were only used by the military. They were a brand-new invention. TVs didnâ(TM)t have the âoeno user-servicable partsâ warning on the back. When the TV wouldnâ(TM)t come on, as happened every year or three, the problem was almost always a burned out vacuum tube. One would open the back of the set and turn it on. Any tubes that werenâ(TM)t lit were pulled, taken to the drug store or dime store for replacement. If that didnâ(TM)t fix the problem you called an expert TV repairman.
        The signal was analog, and often or usually suffered from static in the sound, and ghosts and snow in the picture.
        There was no cable, and of course no satellite television since nothing built by humans had ever gone into space.
        However, there is one thing about television that hasnâ(TM)t changed a single iota: daytime TV programming.
        In the 1950s most folks were well paid, and a single paycheck could easily pay for a familyâ(TM)s expenses. Most women, especially mothers, stayed home. As a result, daytime TV was filled with female-centric programming like soap operas, game shows, and the like. Usually there were cartoons in the late afternoon for the kids.
        Today the rich have managed to get wages down so low that everyone has to have a job. The demographics of daytime television have radically changed as a result. Now, rather than housewives (of which few are left, and we now have house husbands), who can watch daytime TV? Folks home from work sick, both men and women, folks in the hospital, the unemployed, and retired people.
        Yet daytime TV is still as female centered as it was when I was five. Soap operas, talk shows with female hosts and female guests discussing topics that would only appeal to women, and game shows.
        Whatâ(TM)s wrong with the idiots running our corporations these days?

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress while listening to Time by ELO 1

Don't know why - but I really like that combination.

I've gotten off my schedule of reading Starship Troopers and TMiaHM every year - but I did just reread The Moon is a Harsh Mistress last week-end. My wife was in Ukraine and I was kind of bored but not motivated enough to do something that took effort.

I've outgrown RAH's politics but I still love the story.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Magnet Links from Chrome in Plasma 5 3

For some reason magnet links that I clicked in Chrome were opening the Transmission client instead of Ktorrent. I remember doing something in the past related to this - though I think the issue then was that chrome didn't know how to handle them at all.

So I started digging and founds all kinds of people who had the issue, different solutions and most of it was pretty old. The lowdown - as far as I can tell is that chrome uses xdg-open and I'm pretty sure that is what I set.

I looked in /usr/share/applications for ktorrent.desktop and it wasn't there. I did a bunch more digging, followed some rabbit trails and then finally got smart. ktorrent.desktop was in /usr/share/applications/kde4 and I copied it a directory up. Then all acted as expected.

I think in the upgrade this got borked.

Plasma 5 is mostly pretty much working for me now. I'd have rather stayed on 4 longer but I guess it is o.k. I really just need a new machine. They keep making stuff take more resources and my little Acer just can't keep up.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ask Slashdot: What SF Magazines do you read? 2

I'm actually looking for two things: good magazines I haven't found, and good magazines to submit science fiction stories to. I also want to know where I can find your favorite magazines; I've been getting them at the Barnes&Noble in town, but they sell out quickly. Once all they had was three copies of F&SF, and I found it to be excellent. Another time I found five titles, but I haven't seen Asimov's there, and I always liked that one.

Analog was excellent as well, as they've always been. The British Interzone was very well designed, with excellent layout and large amounts of excellent artwork, but I didn't like any of the writing. It just didn't suit my taste.

I have yet to find any decent online mags, I'm sure you guys can supply me with that.

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The University of California Statistics Department; where mean is normal, and deviation standard.