Posts for January 2011

2011-01-01: 2010 reading in review

For the year of 2010, I finished and reviewed 56 books. That's exactly the same number of books I finished and reviewed in 2009, which I consider a significant milestone; this is the first year since I've been keeping track that the number of books I read year over year did not decline. That was despite another fairly stressful and chaotic year. (A goal for 2011: manage committments and stress better so that, next year, I can say that the year was not chaotic and stressful.)

Once again, I rated three books 10 out of 10 this year, two non-fiction and one fiction. The novel was Guy Gavriel Kay's magnificent Under Heaven, which may be the best book he's written yet. I expect to see it appear in at least award shortlists next year, if not win the World Fantasy award. Kay is high on my list of authors I want to re-read. His novels are almost uniformly exceptional, and I'd like to have reviews up of all of them.

The two non-fiction books receiving 10 out of 10 this year both received that rating by being inspiring. Coders at Work by Peter Seibel is an exceptional collection of interviews with programmers that fired me up to learn more about the craft and was the direct inspiration for learning Java this past year. Do It Tomorrow is another time management book, this one by Mark Forster, and has now surpassed Getting Things Done as my favorite time management book (although I think I needed to read Getting Things Done first to get the most out of it). There was no other non-fiction this year that particularly stood out, although if you're interested in the Supreme Court and the intersection of law and politics, The Nine is worth a look.

Fiction highlights were thick on the ground this year. China MiƩville's The City & The City deservedly won four major awards and was probably the best book published in 2009. Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall deserves its genre classic status (if often below readers' radar) and is possibly the best cyberpunk novel I've read. Jacqueline Carey's Namaah's Curse continues her current series and maintains the level of quality, and is a must-read for any Jacqueline Carey fan. Silence in Solitude is the second and best of Melissa Scott's inventive and thoroughly enjoyable alchemical space opera trilogy Roads of Heaven. And, finally, Bone and Jewel Creatures is a hard-cover novella by Elizabeth Bear in a new universe, a book with a small print run by a small press that's likely to escape the notice of a lot of readers, but which is some of the best solo work that Bear has done. I'm now eagerly awaiting the full-length novel set in that same universe.

I think it's unlikely that I'm going to increase my reading much beyond the level it's been at the last two years, so I'm lowering my (missed) goal from 60 books a year to 52, or a book a week. That said, I would have read 60 books last year if it weren't for coming down with a nasty cold towards the end of the year that ate about a week and a half. One thing I noticed this year was that the main obstacle wasn't the reading but the review writing: review publication dates were clustering around the ends of the month when I tried to finish up reviews. Spacing that out better would make it easier to keep up with reading and reviewing.

There is also a version of this post with additional statistics that are probably only of interest to me.

2011-01-01: New year, new start

Grape hyacinth in snow

Welcome to 2011!

Last year, while having some good points, was overall a mess. But one of the lovely things about Stanford's mandatory Christmas shutdown is that it provides a nice breathing period and an opportunity to relax before planning and getting ready for a new year. (And, this year, a chance to recover from the cold that knocked out a bunch of December for me.) So I've been unsubscribing from mailing lists, organizing to-do lists, and getting myself into the right mindset for the next year.

I'm a strong believer in starting as one means to go on. The best way for this to be a lower-stress, lower-obligation, more enjoyable year is to make it a lower-stress, lower-obligation, more enjoyable January. No resolutions: that's too much of an obligation. But I will say that one thing 2011 is going to have a lot more of is video games.

I don't think I've mentioned here, but if you enjoy the Xbox 360 at all, TrueAchievements is the best gaming site on the web. Its claim to fame is that it adjusts the gamer score of achievements based on how many people who have the game have acquired that achievement, resulting in an adjusted gamer score that takes the difficulty of achievements into account. But as fun as that is, it also has a comprehensive database of games, tracks all one's game progress and that of one's friends and provides a feed summary of that, collects reviews and solution guides for achievements, and quite a bit more. I've been an off-and-on gamer for years, but TrueAchievements is what really got me into gaming again. Now I have a rather substantial backlog of games and I'm itching to spend a fair bit of 2011 playing them.

Just one day of vacation left, and then it's back to work. There's another month of coding left in our major Java project that's been consuming me since October, and then another couple of months of integration, so I'm still going to be slow on Debian work and other software releases. After that, my opportunities to get back to open source development look much stronger. But I'm going to see if I can weave a bit more Policy and Lintian work into my schedule than I have been.

Here's to a smooth, balanced, and more comfortable and enjoyable 2011.

2011-01-02: control-archive 1.5.0

Well, I thought I'd tested the new chkscope support for checkgroups processing before I released and deployed 1.4.0, but apparently I didn't. So I deployed untested code that broke checkgroups processing entirely, through a combination of multiple bugs, resulting in removing the first group listed in any checkgroups message. Sigh.

This release fixes multiple different problems with checkgroups processing and should now work properly. I also reprocessed all the checkgroups that had come in and been processed with the broken version, so the groups that were erroneously removed should now all be added again. Many apologies to anyone who was tracking the ISC newsgroup list.

You can get the latest version from the control-archive distribution page.

2011-01-02: Back to work

Distant sun

It's back to work tomorrow. (Well, actually, it was partly back to work this weekend; I've already put in five hours for the week so far, which will make up for a travel day on Tuesday.) I'm basically ready. We'll see if that holds when I try to do some more serious development tomorrow, but I'm doing the lighter stuff fairly well already.

Must remember to make a list for tomorrow before I go to sleep so that I can start the year off right in terms of task management.

I unfortunately never got to Debian Policy or Lintian during this vacation, which means that's my current top priority (apart from video games) when I get some free time away from work again. I know that I'll pick up a lot of momentum on both as soon as I start. I'm currently stuck in that awkward place where the amount of work feels overwhelming, so I never do anything. The only solution to that is to just start on something small.

It was an excellent vacation, even if I was sick for the beginning of it and didn't get done everything I wanted to (I never do). I'm feeling as relaxed and refreshed as I have been since the middle of October.

2011-01-03: Good start

Hair of grass

Returning to posting pictures deserves a texture picture to celebrate.

Today was the first day back to work, and so far, so good. I didn't (despite planning on doing so) make a list the night before, but I did make one in the morning after properly using my initiative slot, and then I finished everything that was on it. I'm very pleased about that.

Tomorrow will be a travelling day, but I've already built up a bit of a cushion to make up for the lost hours. If I manage to get work done in the morning and evening tomorrow, I may even be able to take off a bit early Thursday to play more video games. (That continues to be a high priority!)

There won't be much time for Debian or other free software work, other than things I'm doing as part of regular work, for the rest of this week, since with travel I'll be a bit short on hours. A more normal schedule will resume next week.

2011-01-04: Home again

Rusty links

Here, have a chain picture.

I'm back home, for the first time since mid-December. It was a good travel day. I started reading Prince of the Marshes last night and read about half of it today, and so far it's the best book about the Iraq war I've ever seen. I suspect I'll be able to recommend it highly.

And, despite travelling for most of the day, I got two significant things done for work, including finishing the coding project that I was going to do the week before vacation when I got sick. That means I still got it done in the iteration for which it was originally planned, which makes me quite happy.

Tomorrow, it's back to work normally. But I've already saved up enough time that I should be able to head home early Thursday to play a few bonus mid-week video games.

2011-01-05: Back in the office

Ripples to water

It's fun occasionally taking pictures of the beach that don't include the ocean. (My favorite picture subject, as you might have guessed, although partly that's because I've not finished sorting through most of my non-beach pictures for things I want to post.)

Today was the first day back in the office. On the productivity front, I give myself a B. All the important things got done today, but I spent a bit too much time poking at mail. However, one of the things I poked at was getting caught up on the most urgent Lintian mail, which makes me happy.

The rest of the week is going to be heavy on meetings, so productivity is going to be hard to find, particularly since I'm going to take part of tomorrow afternoon to play video games. Taking mid-week breaks is something I'm going to try to do more of this year; I usually have worked up a surplus of an hour or two by the middle of the week, and rather than just always working extra hours, I think I'll be happier and just as productive by going home early and playing video games.

Other indulgences for today: changing my Xbox Live gamertag to something more creative, even if it does cost $10. I should think about usernames before I pick them.

I got to play some Defense Grid last night, and more tonight, and I'm about to play a bit more when I get done posting this. It's lovely to be back home with my game system again.

2011-01-06: Game playing progresses

Dirt meets sand

I still haven't gone through more pictures, so you get more beach photographs from 2008. This one is of runoff from a dirt bank into loose sand, which makes an interesting texture and color contrast.

I decided during vacation that my first priority for this year was to play more video games, since I'd developed quite a craving. That's working great so far. I went home a bit early today and started the epilogue of Prince of Persia, which is fiddly in places but still fun. And then did some more work on AFS in the evening.

So far, I feel like I'm being more productive when I'm working and better balancing the various things I want to do, but I know a lot of that is coming off a vacation and feeling fully refreshed and recharged. (I really don't know how people manage jobs where they get almost no vacation. I can tell the changes in my productivity levels, and they're vast.) I'm hopeful that some of it is improvements in attitude and life balancing that will persist even after it's been a while since a vacation, but making sure I get regular vacations will be important too.

As expected, meetings plus heading home early took a large chunk out of today, and I blew off my initiative slot this morning and didn't work from a to-do list. Ah well, tomorrow is another day, and I still wasn't entirely unproductive.

2011-01-07: Made it

Frozen ripples

I love fast shutter speed pictures of ripples in water.

Since before vacation (when I was sick with a cold and too bleh to do anything about it), what I've mostly wanted to do is play video games. I spent most of vacation thinking about it, but came back on a Tuesday so I've just been catching moments here and there from work. Finally, it's the weekend, so if I keep feeling like it I can spend two solid days doing nothing else.

I'm really looking forward to it.

Normal service of book reviews, free software work, Debian work, and so forth will resume at some point, since I know this surge of gaming won't last, but I'm going to enjoy it while I'm in the mood and not feeling overwhelmed by anything else.

2011-01-12: Surfacing

Rock and sand stairs

There, I've now broken my streak of posting a photo a day, so I can go back to doing it. Streaks create obligation, and obligation is bad.

Last weekend went exactly as planned: I spent basically the entire weekend playing video games. And since that was so much fun, I've been playing games in the evening the last couple of days as well. I polished off Prince of Persia, cleaned up a few achievements in some other games, and the last few evenings have been getting the achievements out of Crystal Defenders (which is not a very good game and which wasn't worth the $5 I paid for it, but at least I can get the achievements out of it).

This is all warmup for next weekend, which is a three-day weekend and during which I'm going to start some brand new games. Well, at least one, depending on how much that one sucks me in.

All this has made it rather hard to focus on anything else, and for the moment I'm not trying too hard and just running with this. When I'm in the middle of one of these obsessions, I always feel like I'm dropping everything else and won't get back to it, but past experience indicates that I'll eventually get tired of whatever I'm focusing on and will feel like doing other things. This time, I'm not stressing about it and just rolling with what I feel like doing. If I really don't come out of this game-playing trend, I can intentionally refocus later.

So postings here, and other things like free software work, will be slow for a while, and I'll be over here obsessing over games.

2011-01-23: rra-c-util 3.1

This release is mostly in support of pam-afs-session 2.1, which I'll be announcing next. It contains fixes for the embedded kafs layer for Mac OS X, a replacement for strndup if missing (which inexplicably Mac OS X doesn't have in its C library), and new capabilities in the pam-util library for vectors and list configuration parameters.

This release also has a few fixes to the Kerberos Autoconf probes and the beginnings of a license cleanup. Many more files are now in the public domain (or as close as one can legally get), using new language that originally came from IETF lawyers, and the Autoconf macros are under a more permissive license used by the FSF for many Autoconf macros. All files meant to be copied into another package now include explicit license statements.

You can get the latest version from the rra-c-util distribution page.

2011-01-23: pam-afs-session 2.1

The primary purpose of this release is to fix various compilation and functionality problems on platforms other than Debian Linux. Missing configuration for the pam_syslog and pam_vsyslog functions is now included, which should fix compilation problems on all platforms other than recent Linux PAM. There are also fixes to the embedded kafs layer for Mac OS X, including a replacement for strndup, and fixes for GCC attribute markers.

This release also allows the program PAM configuration option to include arguments, which are passed to the program run. Previously, one had to write a shell script that wrapped the actual program. These options are separated from the command by space, tab, or comma in the configuration. Comma will be the most useful in PAM configuration files.

Because of this change, program paths containing spaces, tabs, and commas are no longer supported. Hopefully this won't cause problems.

You can get the latest version from the pam-afs-session distribution page.

Last modified and spun 2017-03-25