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Journal Journal: Keybindings in Discussion2 21

Since this is not yet documented, I figured I would mention this here now... we are experimenting with some very rudimentary keystroke navigation in the discussion2 system. We support both FPS style WASD keybindings, as well as the standard vi layout of HJKL. Down/Up will cycle you through next/previous comment chronologically... left/right will cycle you through next/previous in thread order. Holding SHIFT down while you press the navigation key will collapse the previous comment. And when you get to the end, pressing down or right will attempt to retrieve more comments if you want them.

What this means is that you can now use D2 to simulate most of the most popular viewing modes of the original discussion system. By dragging both the abbreviate & display sliders right next to each other you effectively remove abbreviated comments which simulates nested mode. By toggling comment retrieval order to 'Oldest First' and using up down, you can effectivel read the discussion from oldest to newest. And of course the default settings gives you the best comments first, providing a nice default view of discussions for most anonymous users (who rarely participate and we want to really show only the best comments).

You can also disable D2 in the comment prefs (the word 'prefs' in the floating dialog box) if you are logged in. Right now we're testing D2 for a large percentage of anonymous readers. As soon as we finish IE7 support we'll roll out D2 for the rest of the ACs.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A2 Party, T-Shirts, California 4

The Ann Arbor party seemed to go great- lots of people packed Leopold Bros place, doing battle with barflies and football fans. It was somewhat bizarre watching obvious normal bar people try to figure out what this large crowd of 'different' people were all about. We handed out a ton of t-shirts, drank much alcohol, ate nachos etc. Our party had a great number of Slashdot and SourceForge staffers... all folks who have been with Slashdot for so many years it's hard to remember Slashdot without them. I'm not exactly sure how many people eventually showed up... a lot of our RSVPs didn't show, and a lot more didn't bother sign up at all, so I think the two balanced out.

For me personally these sorts of things are always difficult. I'm not very good at crowds. I can smile for a picture, but I'm perpetually nervous when surrounded by strangers who have certain expectations of me. There's a reason I live life behind a keyboard!

Further compounding matters lately is baby induced chronic sleep deprivation. Me want REM cycles. It's always nice to get out and have a beer. Kathleen & I get only so many hours "out" together now, gotta make each one count. The party attendees were all cool... and understanding that I was pretty tired.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who showed up... I've still got the california party later this week. Hopefully my throat heals up by then. The only real problem with this location was the acoustics... I had to shout to be heard, and stick my ear in front of people to hear them (baby crying has done some amount of hopefully temporary ear damage). My throat is raaaaw from yelling. Sucking on cough drops helps.

As for other parties, boxes have been shipped. Hopefully they have arrived to most places on time, although I think they were shipped on a slowish shipping option so I'm not sure. I know some folks got shirts on friday, but I'm sure the others will arrive monday or so. Also, keep in mind that we only had 700 shirts and 2300 attendees from 136 parties with more than 5 attendees. So obviously not every party is getting a box... when we sent out the bulk mail, we had over 100 replies, and I'm sure there was nowhere near enough to fill even that.

But shirts or not, I hope your parties go well. Remember to submit videos or pictures or whatever to anniversary at slashdot dot org for your chance at the $1k ThinkGeek gift certificate grand prize.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Parties 10

So if you only count anniversary parties with 5 or more attendees, we have 128 venues with a grand total of 2366 attendees. The largest parties include Pudge's in seattle with 129, mine in Ann Arbor with 194 and Hemos's in CA with 197.

I'm sure that there will be many RSVPs that no show, but still, that's still an awful lot of interest. We'll be shipping shirts to a good number of those parties, but we have triple the attendees to shirts available, so we'll see just how far we're able to spread the love. Emails will be going out to party planners in the next couple days to get postal addresses.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A2 Party Venue Change

As we're nearing 100 signed up people for the A2 Slashdot anniversary party, we've changed the venue to Leopold Bros... it's just a block south from the other place and they can handle us. I've also got word that we'll be printing a few hundred extra shirts since there was already like 50 parties with 5+ people in attendance. We certainly won't have enough for everyone, but we'll make a good dent in it.

I will of course put this information into a story next reasonable chance I get for a story, but I figured at least I could get the word out there. The anniversary party entry on the official page has been updated with the new location & address.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Anniversary Parties, Important Notes 6

The A2 party already has like 70 signed up. We're going to have to rethink venue or time I think if we really have that many people. Wait a few more days and see what we can work out. Keep reading in the party forum for info. We have 500 shirts to print and hand out... it'll be fun to see where they go.

more info as I get it. There will be notes on future stories as days get closer.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Another MySQL Interlude 2

A comparison between the "easy to use" MySQL and the "hard to use" PostgreSQL:


CREATE TABLE up_subjects_books (
BOOK_ID int(11),
SUBJECT_ID int(11),
KEY bo_id (BOOK_ID),


CREATE TABLE up_subjects_books (

Of course, many people don't bother with foreign key constraints and they do such things programmatically. Which, to my mind, makes nothing easier. It simply makes the programmer responsible for data integrity, which is a recipe for trouble.

If there's a better way to do this in MySQL I'd love to hear it. I can't find it in the official documentation, but to be fair I stopped looking when I finally found an incantation that fucking worked. "INTEGER REFERENCES up_books(id)" certainly works, but it doesn't establish a constraint, which makes the whole exercise silly in my opinion. Why on Earth would anybody pick MySQL? I certainly wouldn't, but the server where this Web app currently sits is dropping its Oracle license and they've only installed MySQL.

(Oracle has its own set of oddities and quirks which annoy me, but at least I had confidence in the engine. To my mind, PostgreSQL is so far superior to both MySQL and Oracle for small-to-large database projects it's not even funny. Easy, fast and predictable. For certain enterprise setups I can see where Oracle stomps all over the free software options, and if Oracle were more reasonably priced I wouldn't be opposed to using it. But you have to be a sadist to want to do something non-trivial in MySQL.)

Journal Journal: Attention iPhone Users! 20

If any of you are using an iPhone and are willing to help test out some Slashdot handheld crap, shoot me off a note... my email is the same address as always, and if you can't guess it, you probably can't help anyway ;) I've built a stylesheet and Tim put together a few little options that we think will make a few bits of Slashdot look nice on an iPhone (or really most lower resolution displays) but unfortunately none of us actually HAVE one yet... so anyway, let us know. Or if you work at Apple, send us freebies dammit!
User Journal

Journal Journal: EU racing against US, USSR to build GPS 2

Story link

Having launched one of the thirty satellites required, the eight-member commercial consortium tasked with building Galileo, the EU's planned rival to the American NAVSTAR (better known as GPS) and Soviet GLONASS systems, has apparently declined to invest further money in the project. Future funding will consist entirely of another $4bn and change from EU taxpayers, since the consortium is no longer confident of getting a return on their own investment. (Somehow, it sounds almost as if they doubt the commercial prospects of being the third to launch a service which has already been available to everyone free of charge for over a decade...)

Despite this setback, with a further influx of EU funding, the European Commission hopes to have the constellation online by 2011; the American and Russian counterparts were completed in 1995 and 1994 respectively.

Just imagine how far behind the Soviet Union the EU would be without the influx of billions in extra funding to speed things up...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Multiply and conquer 5

Time to follow the herd, I suppose: Multiply. Go there, and find out who it was who sent me an e-mail last week - asking me what my e-mail address is...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Server death, the sequel... 4

*sniff* Alas, poor Server!

My current server, home to some of my websites, some e-mail and half my DNS service, has decided it would make life more fun if it rebooted spontaneously every few minutes. Nothing in the logs, just unsolicited rebooting - possibly a power supply issue of some sort. (All I know is SMART shows the hard drive is OK; I'd expect most memory or CPU problems to give different symptoms, but being eight time zones away makes diagnostics rather limited.)

I was going to have to change all my domain registrations anyway, since the IP address was going to change soon because of new transit arrangements with their transit provider, but now it's rather more urgent: I have a production site which is only sporadically available! :-(

My plan is to get a second virtual server (I had one virtual and one physical, until now) and set everything up to be replicated between them (currently, I only have DNS and MySQL replicated fully, with some web sites rsynced when I change them, others only hosted on one machine or the other). Email will be more of a pain: I have a few mailing lists under ezmlm, which I'll probably convert to use MySQL for replicated list management (so list posts get delivered to and distributed by either of the two) - but my mailboxes themselves can only live on a single host, really.

The one big advantage of having a physical server was the value: for about the same money, I got far more disk space, RAM and bandwidth, with a dedicated CPU instead of sharing a couple of Xeon cores with a dozen or two other users. On the downside, no console access (I did have for a while, but that disappeared at some point), less control (a couple of times I ordered remote power-cycling through the host's web interface, while still logged in to the server; from the fact I was still logged in, the reboot didn't seem as successful as the site claimed!) - and no protection against hardware failure, which suddenly seems much more important now...

Has anyone in the zoo set up things like this before? Or, for that matter, got any ideas why my previously-reliable server suddenly starts rebooting itself? Any hosting recommendations for me?

User Journal

Journal Journal: "Only" being paid $200k is a "constitutional crisis" 10

According to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, paying his colleagues a "mere" $200k, with federal district court judges languishing on just $165k, is "inadequate" and "has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis."

Inadequate compensation directly threatens the viability of life tenure, and if tenure in office is made uncertain, the strength and independence judges need to uphold the rule of law - even when it is unpopular to do so - will be seriously eroded

Frankly, I'm not convinced of his core assumption that "life tenure" is desirable, let alone essential - I'd prefer term limits, the very opposite, or at least having them face regular election to make them accountable to those they profess to serve. Perhaps he does have a point that without the taxpayer making judges rich directly, their greed will drive them into the pockets of lobbyists, but I suspect the opposite is more likely: make them richer and you'll be attracting more people motivated by money, rather than more laudable motives, as in the Simpsons episode where America entrusts the trillion dollar bill to Montgomery Burns: as the richest man, clearly he's the least corrupt.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Christmas Slashdot Functionality

The discussion2 system had 2 notable changes in this weeks code refresh that I'd love to hear feedback on (use email if you can't post here). The first is Scott's very excellent new draggable slider control. Everyone mostly figured out the slider tool before, but it was very unresponsive... but no longer! It has some layout niggles under some browsers, but it functions properly in most of them.

Equally exciting is new dynamic updating... the old code actually transferred the full discussion and displayed/hid content as requested by your settings. Thew new code properly requests comments as needed, and when needed. This cuts page sizes dramatically for people reading with filters turned up very high. It also puts us a few stone throws away from a 'refresh' button which can just add newly posted comments in place. There's some work to be done yet, but it's made a lot of progress. I hope you like it.

We've tested everything under most of our most common browsers... if you're curious they are very roughly FF2 38%, FF1.5 19%, IE7 8%, Safari 7%, Opera 3%. Missing from our compatibility list is IE6 with 13% of our traffic. Fixing IE6 is non-trivial and we'd certainly take patches... but since the IE6 population lost a point or two last month anyway, and fixing the code is pretty substantial, we'll probably be focusing our development time on the larger and growing platforms (FF2 and IE7 obviously being the most important).

Anyway, merry-whatever-you-believe to everyone out there. I'm spending my holidays the same as always- driving from family gathering to family gathering. Roads suck but the person I like being with most is in the car too, so it doesn't matter.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The SJ degree 2

1. State I'd rather live in: TX
2. Stranded on island/desert: I'll take the dessert, please.
3. What "catches your eye" first in the opposite sex? Head - face, hair, expression, eyes.
4. How much do you think a guy should spend on an engagement ring? No idea
5. How old do you want to be when you retire? N/A - the idea of stopping work just because you hit some arbitrary age seems daft.
6. ? Probably.
7. Would you rather be the smartest person in the world or the most attractive person in the world? Smartest: looks fade much more readily.
8. Do you think tattoos are hot? Not really.
9. What was your first pet? A black Labrador.
10. Where did you go on your first Spring Break? Nope.
11. Are you scared of spiders or snakes? Not unless they're dangerous ones.
12. What was your first job? IT, scraping mangled bits off mangled servers.
13. What is in your front, right pocket? Handkerchief, some coins.
14. Do you put up a real Christmas tree each year? Usually - it's in the back of the car ATM...
15. How many blankets are on your bed? Just the one duvet.
16. Do you have a TV in your bedroom? No, just three or four computers.
17. When was the last time you received a card in the mail? This morning.
18. There is no question 18. Wrong: it's just rhetorical.
19. Who was the last person that text-messaged you? Probably my brother.
20. Who was the first person you saw today? Ditto - we're heading out for our weekly lunch together soon.
21. Do you have any awards hanging on your wall? No.
22. Do you own glasses? Yes - tried contacts, didn't like them.
23. When is the last time you shaved something on your body? My face, yesterday.
24. MIA.
25. What was your first vehicle? A Peugeot, with slightly dodgy brakes, which embedded itself in the back of something solid on its first outing. Not a good start.
26. Do you miss high school? Sometimes.
27. Are you more of a neat or messy person? Ask the team searching for the carpet.
28. Do you think that everyone should have a cell phone? Yes. Preferably one which only rings silently.
29. Do you remember your first family vacation? France - when my brother was taken ill and my mother had to explain to the doctor why she didn't want to give a two year old child aspirin.
30. Ever been in a fight with a best friend? Sort of - we argue over technical points all the time.
31. Ever puked in public? Only once - on the ceiling.
32. Would you prefer dinner and a movie or bowling and ice cream? The former.
33. Do you sleep with your door open or closed at night? Slightly open, so my cat can get in and out.
34. How far do you live from work? 20-odd miles, costing about $18/day by public transport. Not good value, even with $7/gallon as the alternative.
35. Do you believe in afterlife? Not particularly.
36. How many credit cards do you own? Five: one AmEx (which I normally use for the loyalty points), one Visa (which I normally use in places which don't take AmEx) and three MasterCard (two disused, one which I use at the moment becase it's interest free until September).
37. Would you move to another country tomorrow, if you were offered a $100,000 job? That depends on the country. The US, Australia, Canada? In a heartbeat. Iraq? Probably not.
38. How many kids do you see yourself having? Probably one or two, depending on circumstances.
39. Were you a trouble child? In some ways; I wasn't a big fan of rules.
40. Do you like butterflies? Yes.
41. Can you shake your booty? Erm... never tried - not really my thing.
42. Do you shower at night or in the morning? Morning.
43. Where is your favorite place to eat? It varies. I'm planning to try this place soon - most of my favorites are similar to that. There's a good Thai place in town where I'll probably have lunch today, though.
44. What did you wear to bed last night? A cat and a duvet.
45. Do you have to sleep with something "ON" every night in order to sleep? I like to have some music, although XP x64's driver "issues" robbed me of that lately :-(
46. On average, how much TV do you watch a day? Two hours, I suppose, while multi-tasking.
47. Do you have any piercings? No.
48. Would you rather go snorkeling in the Caribbean or hiking on the Appalachian Trail? Hiking: I'm too attached to being able to breathe.
49. Have you ever taken karate lessons? No, just judo.
50. Do you think if you got married, you would ever get a divorce? It's possible, but I hope not.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Experimental Threading Test

If you have enabled the Discussion2 beta, you will notice a number of confusingly titled links appearing in comments. These control expansion/contraction of threads in several different ways. They are confusingly titled because we want you to try each of them and let us know which ones you like best without concerning yourself explicitly with how they work.

You can email your feedback to me (try d2 at cmdrtaco dot net) or some of you can actually post here.

I think next week will have a patch with a number of D2 changes (including some results from this experiment hopefully) so your help is really appreciated.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Firefox, Tabs, Gmail and Quicksilver

As web applications grow more and more featureful, I slowly find myself replacing desktop apps with web apps. This really makes a lot of navigation on the desktop a real pain in the ass. Example: Gmail. It's probably open in a tab right now. Not sure which one... occasionally we accidentallly close tabs. But if I use quicksilver to open 'gmail' it will open a NEW tab every time. Same if I use the gmail notifier.

Applications each open individually, and they know that they get focused when activated/launched whatever. But effectively firefox may (or may NOT!) actually encapsulate 2-3 different applications... spreadsheets, email, or say, the bookmarks that I use to maintain Slashdot's submissions bin.

I'm not exactly sure how to deal with this. I imagine this problem will only grow if good web applications continue to replace desktop applications.

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