August 29, 2008

Even Dinosaurs Can Evolve

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 2:33 am

Recently I looked around for the soundtrack to Braid, and found a blog post by the developer on the very topic. The game has excellent music, and what’s left of a game developer in me is astonished by the sound engine.

What really struck me while looking for the soundtrack once I found that blog entry, was not the music anymore (after all, I’d heard the tracks in the game already), it was the music publisher that owns the rights to license and distribute the music, Magnatune.

Before I lose you, I just want to say: you all know my stance on record companies, and how overall they seem to have no other goal than to rob you and the artists they represent to pad their own bottom line. Magnatune claims to give 50% of your payment to the artist directly. 50%. And you get to (more or less) pick your prices, from $5 – $18 for a download, or you can get the music on digital plastic.

While Trent Reznor and Radiohead are doing well distributing their own work independently (and making payment optional for downloads, something that didn’t appear to affect their profit at all), but that only works if you’re already popular. I think that for talented artists that want to get paid and have happy fans, Magnatune is very attractive. I hope it really takes off.

Adapt or perish. Industry outlook upgraded from unblinking cynicism to cautious optimism.


August 18, 2008

The Rich Get Richer…

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 11:48 pm

From the Washington Post:

SoundExchange, the organization that represents performers and record companies, said it supports the higher royalties for Internet radio because musicians deserve a bigger cut of Internet radio profits.

Aw, it sounds almost like the artists are actually going to get a dime of those increased royalties… how adorable. Too bad internet radio has to pay more in royalties per song than satellite radio by a gag-inducing proportion and most artists are still getting a pittance per song compared to the amount collected.

This industry needs a revolution. The middlemen are the only ones taking home a real profit.

thanks, carmen!.

August 16, 2008

Changing The Way We Do Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 9:32 pm

I’ve been avoiding looking at my grades this summer. Until 10 minutes ago, I didn’t know what, if any, classes I passed.

At the beginning of last quarter, I recognized a pattern in my classes. If I took 3 classes a quarter, I’d do badly. If I took 4, I’d do reasonably well (still not great). If I took 2, I did very badly indeed. Unfortunately, because of my dubious academic standing with the school, I was always encouraged to take fewer classes by my advisors, under the logic that more free time would allow me to excel.

So last quarter I threw caution to the wind, signed up for 6 courses, and became a recluse.

I’m very pleased to report that it worked better than expected. I definitely overshot the point of maximum return (which appears to be around 4.6 classes in a quarter), but I did pass everything: A, B-, C+, C, C, Pass.

My 3rd A in college.

shut up.

I just noticed that I didn’t get credit for tutoring CSE70. So: 7 things.

August 15, 2008

Keeping You Safe From Internet Sodomy

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 5:28 pm

I have a lot of family who send me virus warnings and the like to see if they are valid, and spend enough time on the internet to get into trouble, but not enough time to be able to really be resistant to the kind’s of psychological attacks that script kiddies use these days.

This is intended as a reference for them. A first place to look if you get a message that isn’t obviously a message from a friend.


August 13, 2008

VMware ESX Postmortem Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 8:27 pm

So, yesterday there was a lot of talk about VMware’s ESX bug. Yes, there was a time bomb. Yes, we didn’t mean to ship it. I can’t really provide any information you don’t already know on this topic, and I won’t.

The most surreal part about being part of something like this from the inside though, is seeing the actual effect it has. A lot of people reported this to us, starting in Australia. Big people. With affected systems like… “Payroll”, and some of them with names containing “Government”. Wow. I’m not sure folks have any idea how badly we actually feel about this bug (because, I really do want everyone to get paid on Friday), but a few friends of mine were able to point out a silver lining which is worth mentioning.

This is a business, so this kind of bug is unlikely to happen in free software. That’s been beaten to death. The point is that this bug is a people-forget-bug, and not a there’s-a-bug-in-our-code-bug. ESX sells because it is stable. We have good code practices internally, and bugs have a hard time making it into new code. The result is a fantastically stable product that does what we say it will do, which (for me) is a breath of fresh air from a software company. It’s why I’m here.

VMware has the best code practices of all companies and projects I’ve worked with, including (especially?) my own. A clear engineering guidelines document. Reviews for all commits (made especially better by Review Board, which had its start here). We get the highest score on the Joel test of any place I’ve worked or visited. Our release branches are all super-stable, and you can tell — just try using one of our products. Even the betas go through rigourous testing and release procedures (check your release notes!). There’s always room for improvement, but the things we have written are very reliable.

It really sucks that this has affected so many people, and hopefully people will forgive us the mistake, and judge us based on our reaction as a company. After all, it’s how you solve problems (especially in crisis) that shows your true colours. If you’re affected, patches are already available.

This incident has had two effects for me: first, I am just as confident in our code as I was on Monday; second, we all get to eat some humble pie. It’s not a bad thing to do sometimes.

Delicious, delicious pie.

Now where did I leave that code I was working on?

August 2, 2008

Managing Your Own Mail: Part 1 of Many

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 12:00 am

Fitting that Brad recently posted a useful tip about how to use email properly, since in the last week or two I’ve decided to venture into the weird world of email and see what could be done.

The problem: I have a lot of accounts, I don’t want Google indexing all my mail and it would be nice to have some fine-grained control over it all. The solution where you just point your local mail client at all these accounts works well to a point, but what if you want to be able to access your mail from multiple locations, and the accounts don’t all support IMAP?

This post tries not to bite off more than people can attention-span: setting up mail delivery to your local host. Later posts build on this with things like message filtering and sending mail through your various accounts’ SMTP servers, resulting in a complete mail system you can actually use.


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