Deadsquid Update

No one will really care about this but me, but that’s ok, I need to get in the habit of using this thing again.

The dedicated server that’s continued on something like 14 years of hosting for friends and family is entering it’s final days. I’ve been moving sites over, and am hoping coop is paying attention to his email. I ended up going with a Canadian firm for a VPS provider, and the experience so far has been pretty painless.

The biggest issue I’ve run into was slow MySQL response time, and I spent most of yesterday reading up on tuning and tweaking my.cnf. I wish I had read all this stuff about 5 years ago, as a lot of lights were turned on with regards to perf on cthulhu; I could have saved myself a lot of pain by changing about 10 lines. Thankfully I’m never too old to learn.

All mail services on cthulhu have been migrated, and everything else gets shut down at the end of August. I think everyone’s ready. It’s been fun, but I won’t miss it, and the VPS will be about 20% of the cost of a dedicated box with performance that appears to be at least comparable.

If you’re using deadsquid for anything and haven’t heard from me regarding migration, you should drop me a line sooner rather than later. Two more weeks and everything’s gone.

Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release

Just a quick note that the Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) is now available. The ESR is based on Mozilla Firefox 10, and is intended to be used by organizations that deploy Firefox in a managed desktop environment. You can read more about the Windows, Mac, and Linux installers from the Mozilla website, and additional information can be found in the Firefox ESR FAQ. Organizations who use the Firefox ESR are also strongly encouraged to join the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group; a discussion group focused on sharing information related to Firefox deployments.

a note to myself

andrea posted a link to a note she leaves to herself to remember something important. I have something similar on my work computer to ensure I remember something important, too.

I work with a great group of people at Mozilla, and a large part of how we function is through peer reviews of ideas, code, and the execution on them. those reviews tend to focus on the negative, which can be incredibly demotivating. I’ve found that I’ve fallen into the trap of giving criticism but not praise on more than one occasion, and I want to nip making that a habit in the bud. having this little note front and centre reminds me to start with what I like and why, and then move on to what I find that could use improvement, and some of the options I see that can help get there.

as a good friend of mine says, “two yes, one no” takes you a long way. criticism alone is draining. letting people know what you think they’re doing well is just as important as what you think they aren’t, and combining the two makes for an overwhelmingly positive experience that people can act on.

white chicken chili

…because the other day got up to 36-ish, it seemed like the best way to celebrate was to make chili at 11pm. it’s a staple recipe I got from lee when I was living in NYC, and it’s worth sharing. probably not in 36-degree weather, but I’ll leave that up to you.

NOTE: if your herbs/spices aren’t fresh, you are missing out.

you’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp butter. yes, butter.
  • 2 tsp diced garlic
  • 1 large white onion, sliced thin (or sweet vidalia)
  • 2 celery stalks, ends trimmed, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes (can also mix 50/50 with thighs for a richer flavour)
  • 3 cups chicken stock – bonus points for using fresh, but they’re a pain in the ass if you don’t plan in advance
  • 1 can white kidney beans
  • 2-3 fresh jalapeño peppers
  • 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

Chicken seasoning

  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp (good) chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground thyme
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper

Garnish

  • 1/2 lb old cheddar cheese (aged 2yrs or more)
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips (we prefer the blue corn chips)
  • sliced baguette, to wipe up the leftover goodness

In a large (4qt) casserole pot (you can use a sautée pan, too, it just means more clean up), melt butter over medium-high heat. Sautée diced garlic for 2-3 minutes; reduce heat to medium, add celery and onion, and sautée until tender (abt 5 min). Reduce heat to low, add white kidney beans (pro-tip, turn can upside-down and shake vigorously for 10s or so before opening to loosen the settled and sticking to the bottom beans) and chicken stock. Stir occasionally, ensuring mixture doesn’t boil strongly (slow boil/simmer is what you’re aiming for). The mixture will look watery. Don’t worry.

In a large mixing bowl (I prefer a large ziploc bag, as it simplifies things), combine chicken seasoning ingredients and mix well. Add cubed chicken to mixture and mix, ensuring chicken is well-coated.

Heat skillet/large fry pan on medium-high (about 300F). Add olive oil to skillet, and allow to heat (but not to smoking). Add coated chicken mixture to skillet and cook until done, turning often and breaking up clumped pieces often. Add cooked chicken to simmering stock mix.

Bring stock and chicken mixture to a slow boil (don’t go above medium heat, you’ve got time), and cook for approximately one hour, stirring often to help reduce the liquid. While the stock is cooking, broil or grill the jalapeño peppers until the skin is well-charred. Remove the charred skin, cut the peppers lengthwise, remove the seeds, and dice (note that you may want to use gloves for this, and you do not want to rub your eyes.) Set aside.

After the hour is up, reduce chili to a simmer, and add diced jalapeños to mixture (this is an optional step). Add the diced chilis to taste in small increments; you can increase the heat pretty quickly, and don’t want to add it all in one shot and potentially ruin things.

Simmer for an additional half-hour, and add diced cilantro to mixture. Simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes, and the mixture should thicken up nicely.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and grated white cheddar. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Crunchy baguettes on the side are also recommended.

Done. Serves four-six.

2010 economics explained

No idea where this comes from, or who the author is, but it’s one of the first forwards from my dad I’ve enjoyed in a very long time… until it depressed me, of course. The core story’s been around for more than a year, but I suspect the last paragraph (and a couple of other places) were modified to reflect what’s going on in Ireland. It’s well done, and it’s too bad Mary didn’t IPO at the height of her sales and cash out, which would have been the finishing move.

Mary is the proprietor of a bar in Dublin. She realises that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronise her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with a new business model that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

A successful marketing plan that pushes Mary’s “drink now, pay later” model hits the tipping point and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Mary’s bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Dublin.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands, Mary gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Mary’s gross sales volume increases massively. A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognises that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Mary’s borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don’t really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation’s leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Mary’s bar. So, he informs Mary. Mary then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons but, being unemployed alcoholics, they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since Mary cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the banks liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Mary’s bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms’ pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion euro no-strings attached cash infusion from their cronies in Government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who have never been in Mary’s bar.

Now, do you understand economics in 2010?

using canadian credit cards at US gas pumps

If you’re a Canadian and have traveled through the US by car, RV, whatever, you’ve probably noticed pretty much all the gas pumps require a ZIP code. You’ve probably also noticed that a postal code ain’t the same thing. Finally, you’ve probably been frustrated with having to deal with the surly station attendant who doesn’t seem to understand why you can’t use your card at the pump.

Entering 99999 or 00000 doesn’t work, depsite what you may have heard in the ways of sekrit c0d3z, and it’s a bit of a pain to have to make the walk, especially if you’re running short on time to make your flight and don’t want to spend $7/gallon for the rental company to fill it for you. There is, however, a way to enter a zip code that will authorize your Canadian card, and I’ma share it with you now.

Take your postal code (e.g. K2L 2K4), and strip away the letters (e.g. 224), then add two zeroes (e.g. 22400). Voila. You have a ZIP that will authorize properly at the pump, saving a little time and attitude from said surly attendant.

This has worked for me at Shell and 76 stations, and since they all use the same auth back-end, should work anywhere else. As always, ymmv, but it’s a little tip to remember next time you’re in the US.

on using Firefox at work

We’ve had some good press in the last month or two, notably IBM’s announcement of Firefox as its default browser, and a Forrester Research report stating that Firefox has a 20% share in the companies they surveyed. I think it’s important that we have a good story for getting Firefox into the hands of people in the work environment, but the story needs to be put together. This is where you come in.

At the Mozilla Summit a week and a half ago, I gave a 30-minute talk on some of the challenges the IT groups that support us face with deploying Firefox. It’s not a new discussion by any means, but it’s something I’d like to raise awareness on within the community and actively contribute to addressing. I wanted to get people thinking about all the bits outside the product at a high level, and called out what I think are the important parts along with what we’ll need to do. It’s not exhaustive, but I think it got the point across, and there were some great follow-on conversations that are on-going.

Our mission is to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the web. Making it easier for organizations to use our products in their workplace is a great opportunity to take that message to them. There’s a lot of people who use us at home, but who’d also love to use us at work. I want to help make that happen and, thankfully, I’m not alone.

The end game is to improve support for groups that are looking to get Firefox into the hands of their organization’s users, and to get the working group that addresses these problems spun back up to share how they do it with everyone else. There’s interest from organizations that want to use Firefox in their workplace, and a need for information on how to do it repeatably. The latter part is the tricksy bit, and I’m hoping to work on this with some like-minded individuals in the short and long term.

A few people have asked for the slides, so I figured I’d post them here. My presentation slides can be viewed using Google Docs, and if you want them in an editable format all you have to do is ask. I’d love to hear what you think, and would also love for you to get involved. If you’re interested in participating, add your name to the Working Group’s Participants section; I hope to reboot the group at the end of the summer, and will be in touch.

xbox 360 video stuttering on the panasonic pt-ae3000

I have a new PT-AE3000 projector from Panasonic, and to date I have loved everything about it except for a few games (most notably rock band 2) using the Xbox 360 with a progressive signal. The video (but not the audio) would stutter/jump at times, which could throw my timing off. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was annoying.

I had disabled the usual culprits, namely noise reduction and Panasonic’s “Frame Creation” (used to make moving images less after-imagy), but was still getting stutter. Searching various forums didn’t really help, so I went back to the manual, and eventually found the culprit.

The projector has a setting in the “Options” menu for “Frame Response”, which is described in the manual as “You can minimise the time delay of image displayed for the progressive signals.” This feature has two settings:

  • NORMAL Prioritise the image quality
  • FAST Prioritise the frame response

Setting it to “FAST” cleared up the problem, and I didn’t notice any discernible difference to image quality in-game.

PowerLinc 2412U PLM and Indigo/OSX

Just a really quick hit, because it took me a little while to find this post, which pointed me in the right direction.

If you’re trying to use the PowerLinc 2412U on OSX 10.5 with the latest beta (4.1) of the Indigo home-automation and control server, you’ll need to install USB serial drivers first. It would have been nice if this was a little more apparent with either the Indigo software or the PLM’s documentation, but it’s not (or, if it is, it’s buried).

Get the USB serial drivers from here, install them, and now you should be able to see the interface and the proper port in the preferences panel. Hopefully this will save you a bit of the aggravation I went through trying to figure out why the hell I couldn’t initialize the interface between Indigo and the PLM.

dj riko’s merry mixmas 2007

DJ Riko produces a Christmas Mix every year, and it’s a tradition of his that he shares. I’m happy he does, because his mixes are a nice twist on what’s played in store and on the radio. If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional music (which, as a bonus, includes a backbeat), try some of his Merry Mixmases. I think my fave is still 2005′s, but there’s good stuff there, along with some stand-alones of people’s favourite bits (like the 12 Days of Mixmas).

Submitted for your entertainment. :)