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Archive for the ‘Foo’ Category

Weapons of choice: ZendCore, etc.

Posted by Avadhut on 1 October 2008

Most of my development happens in Drupal, PHP, jQuery, MySQL, PostGreSQL, and all good things associated. Until recently, I used to swear by separate PHP and Apache installations. But managing updates for everything involved—Apache, PHP, jQuery, Drupal—separately had become a real bitch: the innumerable backups, migrations, and restorations.

So when Drupal 6 was released, I was thrilled with the new Update module. And it was time I found a server-PHP stack that could support production-scale deployments. Enter ZendCore. The installer not only allows you to use Zend’s own PHP (with FastCGI) and Apache Web Server (ZendCoreApache) but also plays nice with your existing installations. Buy a subscription with Zend, and they will take care of updating Apache and PHP for you too. It also allows you to download and install database servers of your choice—MySQL, DB2, etc.

ZendCore also comes bundled with Zend Framework, which provides an extremely good set of PHP functionalities. I have only gotten as far as Lucene search, but things look very promising.

Drupal runs like a peach on this stack, which is most important for me at the moment, and it supports my other custom Web-apps developed using the Zend framework.

I am almost tempted to shell out on ZendPlatform, which is an enormously feature-rich Web-app server. It handles PHP, Java, and HTTP monitoring, supports session clustering (yummy!), and comes with a really cool Download Server that frees up Apache of monotonous tasks involving huge downloads so that it can handle some of the more serious stuff.

However, I still could not get myself to switch to Zend Studio. Or maybe I just refuse to let go of my beloved Komodo IDE. What? What was that? Dreamweaver? Who? The one that pisses memory all over the place? Yeah I dumped it with DotNetNuke. 😛

The worst excuse I have heard anyone give me for still sticking to Dreamweaver is the Code/Design view. Please, it is a joke. Any standards-aware Web designer will tell you that. It still gloats about its Table layout like it were the 90s. Besides, how long does it take to write a line of CSS, alt+tab your way to your browser, and press F5? Also, what’s with the no-Linux-option? Not even a binary? What is taking Adobe so long? Hurry the fuck up. And don’t even get me started with the abyssmal FTP editing. I have actually shut my PC mid-day and gone home coz’ of it. Free FTP programs have no issues handling huge files. Then why does it have to be such a task for a $500 software to do it? If my server supports long sessions, then so should Dreamweaver. To top it all off, it is way overpriced. Did you see the CS3 release—not only is it godforsakenly bloated (it was consuming 20% CPU just idling), it also expects me to pay Adobe almost three times more than what it would charge my American friends.

The thing I like the most about Zend is that none of the components are prone to lock-ins. Use whichever tool you want, it will still behave with the etiquette expected out of good-natured software. Want to use ZendCore’s PHP with your own Apache deployment? It’s OK. ZendCore won’t hold any grudges. Some other people do need to take a lesson from here. Can you hear me Microsoft? Just because I use Exchange does not mean that I would want to use Office Communication Server. Let me connect to other software!

So, the list would proceed as follows:

  • Webserver-PHP stack: ZendCore
  • PHP frameworks: Zend Framework, Drupal (I use it as one :))
  • Javascript: jQuery, Prototype
  • IDE: Komodo
  • Database server: MySQL, MSSQL, PostGreSQL
  • Mail server: Apache James
  • OS: Does it even matter?

Posted in Drupal, Foo, System design, Zend, ZendCore-Drupal | Leave a Comment »

Aspiration or Version 2

Posted by Avadhut on 20 April 2008

This time around, I want to make something that will look better next year than this…

Just like Mr. Bowie

Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet earth is blue
And theres nothing I can do.

Posted in Foo, Office, Visual sick | 4 Comments »

Clangoring imp

Posted by Avadhut on 10 April 2008

Once, long ago, she pinned this on my softboard during halloween:

A gentle breeze rustling the dry cornstalks

A sound is heard, a goblin walks

A harvest moon suffers a black cat’s cry.

Oh’ do witched fly!

The bonfire catches a pumpkin’s gleam.

Rejoice, it’s Halloween!

She used to award me “stars” for good behavior and “commas” for bad.

She always thought that I’d choose spelunking over food.

And she thought that my favorite game was mudpie-mudpie.

Then she was gone.

Now, she’s finally here.


Posted in Foo, Nostalgia, Office | 7 Comments »

Pennywise the clown

Posted by Avadhut on 29 January 2008

Am almost done reading IT by Stephen King.


Pencil on paper

He thrusts his fists into the post, and still insists he sees a ghost.

Posted in Folklore, Foo, Visual sick, Weeping cozened indigo | 3 Comments »

Will this do?

Posted by Avadhut on 26 November 2007

I have lunch with three women. Everyday.

They tell me a lot of stuff. So…


P.S: Thanks R, S, and C, and a few thanks go out to P also. 🙂

Posted in Foo, Office, Sarcasm, Visual sick | 14 Comments »

Folklore—the way things ought to be

Posted by Avadhut on 31 October 2007

It helps. Coming across reads like this, for not long ago we worked on such archaic systems. Reminded me of the time when I downloaded my first version of the Linux Kernel on a dial-up connection—took me a whole of 2 days! Question marks? Yesterday, I came across, which is a sort of journal, dating back to the 1980s, documenting the early days of the development of the first Macintosh—the Apple before Apple, days when 7-inch displays were norm, 256 × 256 bitmapped array buffers were looked upon with envy, and a monochromatic screen producing a whole series of black and white “hello”s elicited a “whoa!” from even Steve Jobs. Literally. Ironically, I came across this series of posts while reading a review on Ars Technica of Apple’s newest offering—the Leopard. And I couldn’t help but think about how far they, we, have come. From the days when a Macintosh producing a sinusoidal waveform on an oscilloscope would be enough to conclude that “the display works brilliantly” to the current norm in Apple OS’es where a reflection is added to just about everything—from the dock icons to the font. And, sometimes, even that is not enough—the poor dock icons are now subjected to both a reflection and a transperency effect. But then that’s an issue for a different post, and if you are looking for the definitive review on the Leopard, I would strongly recommend the above-mentioned Ars Technica review by John Siracusa.

I just wanted to share these excerpts from the stories at folklore (such an aptly named site). If you ever find yourself yearning for some inspiration on one of those hot October afternoons when your head seems to be a basket full of bad wiring and a coffee just won’t do it, go over to and see how things ought to be. Seriously. You will be amazed at what a well-written journal entry about some guys with a solder gun in one hand and a pineapple pizza in the other working to get an image of Uncle Scrooge to display on a monitor with just 192 scan lines will do to you :-):

In May of 1981, Steve complained that our offices didn’t seem lively enough, and gave me permission to buy a portable stereo system for the office at Apple’s expense. Burrell and I ran out and bought a silver, cassette-based boom box right away, before he could change his mind. After that we usually played cassette tapes at night or on the weekends when there was nobody around that it would bother.
—Andey Hertzfeld (January 1981)

When I started on the project in February 1981, I was given Jef’s old desk in the office next to Bud’s. Desk by desk, Texaco Towers began to fill up, as more team members were recruited, like Collette Askeland to lay out the PC boards, or Ed Riddle to work on the keyboard hardware. When George Crow started, there wasn’t an office available for him, so he set up a table in the common foyer and began the analog board design there.
—Andey Hertzfeld (January 1981)

After a while, surviving the first few game levels was pretty easy, unless you had been up all night programming or something. The Defender machine was probably a pretty good objective measure of one’s current mental capacity. “Gee, I can’t even get through level 2! I guess it’s time to get some sleep.” Better to put in a bad performance on the defender game than mess up the current programming task, or start down the wrong path on some hardware design.
—Donn Denman (September 1983)

This one’s a bit longer than the others, but it is absolutely a must read. It’s about this arcade game called “Defender,” where…Just read on

The goal of Defender is to defend your humans from abduction by aliens. The evil green aliens drop down from the top of the screen and randomly pick up your humans, and try to bring them back up to the top of the screen. You control a ship and have to shoot the aliens, either before they grab a human, or during their rise up to the top of the screen. If an alien makes it to the top with a human, they consume him and become a vicious mutant, which attacks very aggressively. You start the game with ten humans, and if the last one dies, all the aliens become mutants, and they swarm in on your ship from all sides.

One day Burrell started doing something radical. Andy came by my cube and said “You’ve got to come see what Burrell’s doing with Defender.” “How can you innovate with a video game?” I wondered. I’d seen Burrell and Andy innovate on all kinds of things, but I couldn’t image how he could somehow step outside the box of a video game—the machine controlled the flow and dictated the goals. How could you gain some control in that environment?

We started up a new competition, and when Burrell’s turn came up, he did something that stunned me. He immediately shot all his humans! This was completely against the goal of the game! He didn’t even go after the aliens, and when he shot the last human, they all turned to mutants and attacked him from all sides. He glanced in my direction with a grin on his face and said “Make a mess, clean it up!” and proceeded to dodge the swarm of angry mutants noisily chasing after him. “Burrell’s not going to win this competition” I said to myself. “He’s not going to last long with a screen full of mutants!”

Often a single mutant is enough to kill you. They move quicker, and with a different pace and pattern than the other aliens, so the normal evasive techniques don’t work very well. Mutants move so quickly over small distances that they seem to just jump on top of you. Your ship is faster over the longer term, so you have to outrun them, establishing a gap, and only then do you have enough room to safely turn and fire at them.

When Burrell’s next turn came up I was surprised by how long his ship survived. He’d already developed a technique for dealing with a whole mass of mutants. He would circle around them again and again, and that would gather them into a densely clumped swarm. Then, while circling, he’d fire a burst pattern across the whole swarm, not needing to aim at individuals. He was doing really well, cutting through the swarm like the Grim Reaper’s scythe. Burrell was no longer attacking individual mutants, instead he was treating the whole swarm as one big target.

Burrell may have lost that game and the next few, but it wasn’t too long before he was really mastering the machine. Instead of avoiding the tough situations, he’d immediately create them, and immediately start learning how to handle the worst situation imaginable. Pretty soon he would routinely handle anything the machine could throw at him.

I was beginning to see how Burrell could be so successful with everything he does.
—Don Denman (September 1983)

You know those language translation widgets on Web sites and PC applications that we all take for granted—something we now refer to as localizations wherein we select the type of language (English US, English UK, Afrikaans, etc.) and our application’s menus, buttons, etc. reflect our language choices? Something that allows a software app developed in the US be marketed and sold with little or no technical modifications in the Netherlands? The following blurb describes how Bruce Horn started it all back in 1981 while writing a search program for the first Macintosh. Beautiful:

Alan Kay always said that any problem in Computer Science could be solved by adding another level of indirection. I thought that if we could refer to the program *data* separately and indirectly—the strings, bitmaps, window and dialog layouts, and other non-code information—we could make it possible for this information to be changed by people who would not have access to the source code. These people—translators, artists, and designers—would be able to change the text strings (to translate menu items from English to Norwegian, for example), modify the application and document icons, and replace graphical elements in the program, if the program were written such that these items were factored out of the application.

The ability to easily localize applications and the operating system would be novel, especially in the early 1980s. None of the systems that I had used, including Smalltalk, had this ability; it was just assumed that everybody using the system would be English-speaking, and that other countries would be building their own systems. If the Mac were able to be released in other countries, with menus, icons, dialogs, dates, and sorting orders translated to different languages, it would make a big improvement in our potential market share. I can’t even remember when I started to recognize that the localization ability was necessary; it was a meme (probably started by Joanna Hoffman) that infected us all in the Mac group.
—Bruce Horn (December 1981)

Posted in Apple, Folklore, Foo, Macintosh, Nostalgia, Rainbow, System design | 3 Comments »

A dream

Posted by Avadhut on 28 October 2007

For my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words with even more distinctness than that with which I conceived it. There is, however, a class of fancies of exquisite delicacy which are not thoughts, and to which as yet I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt to language. These fancies arise in the soul, alas how rarely. Only at epochs of most intense tranquillity, when the bodily and mental health are in perfection. And at those weird points of time, the confines of the waking world blend with the world of dreams. And so I captured this fancy, where all that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream.

-A dream within a dream, Alan Parsons Project.

“You’re eating mud again!” she cried. He shook his head fiercely. But he could not open his mouth to deny the charge, because his teeth were stained brown. She lay hold of his little arm and pulled him roughly to her. There were a lot of complaints, lately, about him the small gypsy village by the river—that he stole, and that he was rude, and the women were always telling her how wicked her boy was. She would always defend him, saying that every little boy in the crescent-shaped settlement was upto similar mischief. But she had misgivings now that she saw him eating mud again.

He could scarcely help being himself, could he? Like an ancient urge, his curse of being different burned inside him. And only the dark mud, the pure brown clods, cooled that terrible fever. So he ate the sweet-smelling stuff. Greedily. As if, if given a chance, he would devour the whole planet.

“Don’t you know it’ll upset your stomach? You could die eating mud,” she trilled, pulling him half angrily, though always lovingly, on to her lap.

She then inveigled a slender finger into his mouthm and then another, to try to to get him to open it. But he clamped his teeth down gently on her fingertips. Soon, with both of them giggling, the whole thing turned into a game, and she tried to use her other hand to unlock him at the cheeks. With a squeal, he cried, “So you must see it, mother? Then look!”

Posted in Foo, Rainbow, Weeping cozened indigo | 12 Comments »


Posted by Avadhut on 21 September 2007

-My dinner last night: Masala Maggi with atleast 75 grams of butter on top, 5 cubes of cheese, and Maggi Hot and Sweet Tomato Chilli Sauce It’s Different®—I call it special effects :).

-Three years ago I was taking calls in a BPO at 4 am. Two years ago I was listening to calls. A year ago I was unemployed. Yesterday, my CEO offered me copious amounts of money to keep me from quitting to join a US-based startup.[1]

[1] Read somewhere that when you pursue things that truly excite you, they would reward in more important ways, like happiness. So true.

Posted in Foo, Office | 15 Comments »

Switchfoot-II or Nonconformance pays

Posted by Avadhut on 14 September 2007

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he loves to do…

Bob Dylan

I think I might be getting there. Soon. 🙂

Posted in Foo, Rainbow | 7 Comments »

My comeuppance

Posted by Avadhut on 24 August 2007

First, a question: How’s this for a pick-up line?

O Watery-eyed woman, please tell me your good name.

Moving on to more important matters now: Past few days of inactivity on the blog have actually been due to work. More precisely, Drupal. No no. Don’t get me wrong. Not the bad kind of work. The good kind of work. The kind that has you scrambling to your desk every morning to finish what you left incomplete the night before, but with a smile on your face. 🙂

Now, I am not going to delve into the inherent goodness of open source and how it is a great big boon to mankind and will one day save us from extinction. But it is, and it will!

You see, everything I have ever wanted to ask about Drupal, everything I ever wanted to make it do—I could and I could. Communities hold a plethora of knowledge, and not just about Drupal but also MySQL and PHP and Apache and Ubuntu.

But it wasn’t always this sweet.

Let me start a few years back. How back? When free open-source OSes were a rarity and Windows won the people’s choice award for facilitating easy downloading of backdoor trojans and spontaneous formatting of hard drives.

One of those evenings, I suddenly got into a fit of career pangs, as one is wont to at that age and time of day. All my usual a-wondering had disappeared. It suddenly occurred to me that I was not exactly what you would call prime recruitment material. The horror of horrors!

This was the time when software had just reversed the poor trends and IT companies were beginning to flock college campuses again. Anyone with serious job hopes was rushing to their “computer classes” after school/college and locking themselves away with the usual “computer” job preparation materials: SimCity, Basic, etc.

(I have been told that things are easier nowadays. Last year someone from NITT told me that some of the top IT names don’t even interview anymore. All you needed to do was just clear the written test. Sigh.)

Till then I had assured myself that software was not my cup of tea and I would save myself (one is cocky at that age and with that level of blood sugar on a daily basis) for one of Mumbai’s glitzier hotels—as a master chef. Hey, I could cut onions faster than Sanjeev Kapoor could say “khana khazana.”

And then one weekend morning I lay in bed and decided to quickly overview my career plans for a few minutes. But not for too long as the bread pakoda ran out after 8:30 or so.

Now, I knew, back then, that I couldn’t program to save my life. The meta syllabus included a moderately difficult course on Basic and Windows 98. I’d passed through with flying colors scoring one mark more than the required threshold. The highlight of the period used to be watching the bugger—a Mr. Camelius, the high strung nervous sort—struggle with an early morning class on BASIC, break into a sweat, and then finally faint into the arms of a vigilant fellow in the front row.

Later, in college, I often wondered why someone would want a C program that printed out a pyramid of prime numbers. What essential human endeavor struggles for the want of good pyramid prime programs?

“Houston we have a problem!”
“We know. Perhaps a particular problem pertaining to the pyramid prime processor?”
“We like the alliteration Houston!”
“Merely making the mundane mirthful mister!”
“Ok! cut it…”

I hated most forms of programming. And particularly, the fancy shmancy prime number, sorting, pyramid type programs.

But then what certainty was there that I could make it into one of those hotels? They seldom came to Modern Colleges, let alone the Ganeshkhind one. Was I being foolhardy I wondered, as I lay in bed with an eye on the clock.

Then later that evening I decided that I must hedge my risk. I had to ensure that I knew the bare minimum to make it into a software firm just in case my core hotelier dreams fell flat.

So I asked myself—what I could do on a war footing. The threat loomed large that I would have to give GRE and then do an MS and PhD because I couldn’t get a job.

“Unix man. Unix is the way to go. That and Networking. Just focus on those two.”

I shared my thoughts with myself during one of the many walks to the gate for chai.

For one whole month I sat hunched over a UNIX manual and a huge textbook on Networking.

Who was that networking by? Ah yes. Tennenbaum. Andrew Tennenbaum I think.

After a month I thought I was ready to try out some of my newly learnt computing skills on my computer—Octagon, that’s what I called it back then (don’t ask me why).

Two hours later I was back in my room pulling out an old Barron’s guide to the GRE from under the bed and already mouthing words like apothecary and apothegm, fighting back the tears.

It was the worst thulping by an open source operating system I have ever received in my life.

Why were there backslashes everywhere? Why was vi editor such a cold-hearted bitch? Why do I have to press seven keys simultaneously to scroll down one page? Why? Why? Why weren’t things like the way its said in the manual:

finger–display information about local and remote users

When in reality it was more like this:

finger–put in eye in one smooth motion to get in the mood for vi editor

It was a futile struggle. Around me Unix maestros were clearly enjoying themselves enormously:

“Hey there is a problem with my port. Can someone just finger me right now!” .

was the sort of thing one Unix maestro would say to the other excitedly

For close to a year I never crossed my path with Unix ever again.

Till one night, after much recommendation from a friend I decided to give this RedHat thing a shot. I followed the manual by the letter. I slipped in the CD, booted from the disc, played around with my partitions a little bit, set up a root user and finally waited with bated breath while the installation happened.

Everything except the sound card and the PPPOE connection for the internet at home seemed to be working fine.

I could try to get them to work too. I checked the user forums and there was a wealth of information such as this response from a RedHat expert:

This is bug 2825 (http:// d=2825) . The work around is to ~# ln -f /etc/pppd/resolv.conf /etc/resolv.conf

To which, someone with a sense of humor replied:

I can confirm this bug. I am using a tap0 bridge to emulate PPPoE on a Globespan chipset-based USB aDSL bridge and the latests stable eciadsl-usermode drivers (which, btw are not in Universe). It would be nice to have an updated pppd perhaps backported from Dapper.
I know that Debian’s choice of using kernel-mode PPPoE makes rp-pppoe unnecessary, but I wonder if it would be possible to update rp-pppoe to 3.7 for those that still in using it.

I laughed heartily back then and decided that, for at least the time being, I was ok without the sound.

Its been more than six years since that day. I breathe open source now. All my development happens on a LAMP setup, and dabbling in Drupal is second nature to me. Forum posts are no longer cryptic, and even I have probably turned into one of those “humorous” responders on the several bug forums that are so ubiquitous today. Reverse engineering was never easier and manuals are a waste of time. Microsoft who? Ahhh … life is sweet indeed.

Posted in Drupal, Foo, Social media | 23 Comments »