Speaking at Central PA Open Source Conference

The full agenda for the Central PA Open Source Conference is now out there, and I’m on the agenda:

Sean Dague: Solar System in your Pocket – Developing Android Applications

It started with a simple discussion after a local astronomy meeting trying to figure out which moons of Saturn we were looking at. This seemed like the perfect first Android application, building an astronomy simulator that would let me answer that question wherever I was. Little did I know that trying to do this would take me on a Journey through most of the major subsystems and interfaces in the Android SDK.

This talk will take you along on that journey of writing your first Android application. It will touch most of the major concepts involved in mobile development for Android, and many of the interfaces you’ll need to write you first application. Most importantly it will give you a list of things *not* to do when developing for the mobile space.

Sean Dague has been an open source software engineer in the IBM Linux Technology Center for the last 10 years. His spare time is split between the outdoors, amateur astronomy, and random bits of open source hacking.

I’ve been looking through all the talks listed, and I’m quite impressed.  I want to attend at least 2/3 of them, which is going to be a problem unless I can clone myself, as it’s a 3 track conference.  From an interest density level this looks like it’s going to be a really great conference, so I’m very excited to be going down for it.

This will also add some impetus to getting the 2.0 of Where is Io out there, which I’ve been hung up on building a custom view.  Once I get that one custom view finished, I should be back cranking out more regular releases.

Definition of SyFy

Definition:

  • Sci-fi Channel: Short for ‘science fiction’, it was a channel where old sci-fi shows were displayed for fans of science fiction, including classic movies, B and otherwise.
  • Syfy Channel: Short for ‘syphilis for you’, it is a channel where new sci-fi shows are created based on old sci-fi shows, retreaded and reassembled like crusty multi-colored play doh that is drying out. Also includes new movies where giant CGI animals are sent on a rampage after actors with no will to live (or act).

and a continued amusing rant with pictures at cracked.com.

Triceratops may not have existed

… they were just immature torosaurus:

DINOSAURS were shape-shifters. Their skulls underwent extreme changes throughout their lives, growing larger, sprouting horns then reabsorbing them, and changing shape so radically that different stages look to us like different species.

This discovery comes from a study of the iconic dinosaur triceratops and its close relative torosaurus. Their skulls are markedly different but are actually from the very same species, argue John Scannella and Jack Horner at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.

It turns out that there are a number of interesting morphs that have been proposed, and this is just the latest one.  It’s still early research, but pretty interesting to think about.

The challenge of upstream in Drupal

I’ve been using Drupal for a number of community websites for the past year.  Overall I quite like the system and how customizable it is.

What I’m not really thrilled by is the way the module structure exists on drupal.org.  The problem is that drupal core is a very small number of modules.  The bulk of useful functionality comes from user contributed modules.  So far so good, many projects run the same way.

The real issue is that the drupal project maintains a centralized CVS infrastructure for module developers.  There is a pretty formal process to get accepted as a module author, and no real way to get CVS access to just fix bugs.  The net result is that after finding 3 bugs in the date and callendaring modules, creating patches for each on my own environment, and submitting them upstream, only 1 has gotten looked at.  The fixes were submitted about 8 months ago, and I’ve pinged a few times.  I also wrote the author directly on one of the modules.

The root cause of this issue is that drupal has centralized infrastructure, but decentralized decision making.  It is a classic community wherein github would be a good solution.

I’ve been an absentee maintainer before, I know that sometimes interests change, and you move on to other things.  But at least with something like github, other folks can very easily extend what you’ve got and make the fixes themselves.  Hunting out RCS style patches in drupal discussion forums is just really problematic.  At this point I’ve got quite a number of local fixes, so module upgrade and maintenance is tricky.  The only saving grace is that most of those fixes are on modules that are effectively abandoned so I shouldn’t have to worry about an update coming down the pipe.

The Drupal community is soldiering on even with bad developer infrastructure.  I just wonder how much further along they’d be with better developer infrastructure.