Archive | December, 2012

mod_rewrite is my friend

28 Dec

Picture the scenario: your  website, cultivated over a decade, with deep links from the dawn of internet time, has just moved to something like… wordpress.

All those deep links, from people you can’t find anymore, to your site just broke.

This is the time to reach for the magic that is mod_rewrite.

You may already have some of these lines. Add the other ones in context.

To the .htaccess file at the top of the website, add:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteBase /
RedirectMatch 301 ^/ancient_url.html http://your_website_address/new_relevant_page/

“Move fast and make things” – up?

28 Dec

There’s a great picture on Fast Company of Facebook’s “Minister of Propaganda”:

Note the poster in the background. And the one on the floor to —-> that side.

One of the challenges about being in the “building complicated things” business is that nothing happens quickly. Making a brand new complicated thing takes months. Or years. (Even if you’re putting a man on the moon for the first time.) And it needs a whole host of people all pointed in the same direction for all of that time. Which means someone’s got to feed and clothe them, and that normally implies someone somewhere is going to be paying people. Before you know it, you’ve got a burn rate like a cliff and you’re headed straight into the ground. (Which is why some of the best hard SF has a project manager as the lead)

Software, in some sense, gets it easy. Entire schools of endeavour are devoted to ways to make people believe they experienced software. Then they just buy apps or OS X and eternal upgrades promising what they thought they bought. Damn their slick marketing promises and the joy their customers feel for that.

Persuading engineers that they can buy something that they have never seen before, and your own engineers don’t know they can make – that’s a sales role. J.R.Bob Dobbs is my key text on this – he is apparently responsible for a large part of the US and USSR space programmes after being off-loaded with ten billion tons of  fuming nitric from a dodgy mil-surp deal from Peenemunde.

I’m looking forward to the future promise of 3d printing as changing engineering. CNC machining had the same sales pitch, and if we’re lucky we’ll see the next generation of engineering promise in another 50 years.

Now, back to trying to make atoms and bits cooperate en masse.

[Unless this was all the difference between generating something new, real, complicated that acted in the world – and just making pixels dance on peoples screens …]

Ah, the magic of bulbs

26 Dec

This morning I decided to clear out the plant space on the front balcony. I have an ex-fermenting bin, a long trough and something weird and quasi-Grecian for plants. Needless to say, they haven’t produced anything interesting in the last 8 or 9 months.

I had bulbs (anemone, crocus) ready to go in. Not all of them – some of them are going in the back garden – but cheap bulbs from Wilko’s or similar can go a long way. The scrubby random plants on top started coming out, when I discover something lovely.

There were already bulbs in there. And they were about to have their next year’s fun.

Bulbs, I think, are the lazy gardener’s best friend. They go in once, and if nothing goes wrong every year they pop up before anything else in the garden. Tiny little plants emerging from the snow. Flowers months before the summer. Happy smiley faces in the garden. Ah, my little bulby friends.

Plus, you always forget what grew last year. I have no idea what’s going to come up around the lawn…

So, after doing my little happy dance, I carefully weeded around all the bulb shoots, and  planted fresh new ones along  the trough and all over the Grecian whatsit.

Then I discovered that the ex-fermenter had done the UV-plastic-brittle thing, and had to turn a Wickes 10L paint pot into another plantpot, but that’s another story currently swinging on the clothes line…

Plans and goals, #1

25 Dec

On average, about half of your to-do list gets achieved.

I always see this as an opportunity in waiting. Add “Cure cancer”, “achieve world peace”, and “transmute lead to gold in an energy-efficient way” to a 3-item list, and either you’ll change the world or you’ll get the rest of the list done.

Currently, I keep a long list of GTD-style “next actions” from a long project list, which might get done opportunistically, and a short list of things to focus on in the next few days.

The long list lives in an Emacs ORG-MODE file, and the short lists are always on nearby pieces of paper. Sometimes they get archived to track what happened when,  and sometimes they just recycle naturally…

Premature New Years resolution.

24 Dec

Every year I do that thing of thinking about some kind of New Years Resolution. And most times my hangover precludes it.

Occasionally I try and avoid the hangover so I can try and start the resolution. Very occasionally that works, too.

So this year I thought I’d try something different – start the resolution a week early. Hence this site. 🙂