24 September 2012

Geek goes to PyCon PL 2012 - day 1

Last week, I went to my first programming conference ever - PyCon PL 2012!

Here's what I wore on the first day:

I fooled a few people that I worked at Google, which wasn't my intention, but this misunderstanding was promptly explained.

Day one was mainly the trip there and being too tired afterwards to party like it's PyCon 2012. Still, the lectures were rich in content and very interesting.

Łukasz Langa talked about Ralph, an asset management system for your data centers. Written in-house to manage the biggest cloud in Poland, it is now open-source. Łukasz talked about how Ralph was born: out of need, when adding new admins wasn't helping to keep the huge and varied infrastructure in order. The beginnings were tough, as there was only one developer and no process like scrum was in place. This one developer wanted to do everything for everyone, which of course couldn't work well. The solutions for this situation were:
  1. more devs
  2. applying scrum by the book (I never knew that in the real scrum, a task from outside the sprint cancels the entire sprint!)
  3. git workflow
  4. one good changelog
  5. one good backlog
  6. thematical sprints.
 The second talk was by PyCon PL's youngest speaker ever, 18-year-old Marek Šuppa. He talked about programming Lego NXT robots with Python and how he taught it to kids. He created his own IDE, nxtIDE, complete with a simulator, for that purpose. The show was the best part:

 The third talk was by lvh, about fractal architectures. Big data is big these days and everyobody is scaling up - but why not scale down first? Why not, for example, shard your data by user and for every user, set up a separate SQLite database? Once you've scaled down this much, scaling up is easy. Well, except when it's not. Some problems arise, like wide queries for statistics, global, non-user-specific data, handling transactions... Depending on your project, these issues might be bigger or smaller and a fractal architecture can be a good solution for you or not. It's not a silver bullet, but definitely an interesting concept.

The last talk on that day was about forms in Python, their challenges and existing solutions. Szymon Pyżalski presented them, along with a framework of his own: Anthrax. (See his page for PyCon materials and more on Anthrax.) Szymon works for STX Next, the daughter company of my previous employer. Having dealt a lot with forms at that job, I knew exactly what Szymon was talking about. :) Since my current job is so different, however, (I basically have one big form!), I wasn't very interested in the details and didn't take many notes.

After the talks, I had a few drinks with STX Next people, then went to sleep.

To be continued...

26 May 2012

On my wish list: a ready-to-use, convertible house

I'm fascinated by little convertible houses, where all space and furniture is designed to be multi-functional. I'd love to live in one.

Why don't I? Well, as with everything in life, there's some trade-offs. Not only that sort of home needs a lot of time to be designed, you also have to build most of the furniture yourself, as the commercial options are limited. (I think that my most functional piece of furniture is my sofa, that doubles as a guest bed and has storage underneath.) And let's face it, you need quite a bit of resources to make your own furniture, starting with lots of space (at least temporarily).

Well, as it turns out, there is another option: Graham Hill recently designed such an apartment for sale.

 The sofa hides a Murphy bed:

The kitchen counter expands to a table where you can sit up to 12 people! (Stackable chairs are stored behind one of the walls.) This is what amazes me the most. One of the biggest trade-offs of minimalism is the one of hospitality. Many people would feel offended if they were invited to stay in uncomfortable conditions.

Even the tableware was carefully chosen to be multi-functional!

For now, there is just one apartment of the kind, but with the rising popularity of minimalism, there will hopefully be more and more options widely available. Hopefully my next house will have lots of well-designed, multi-purpose convertible space for kids, guests, hobbies, everything.

[Picture credit]

21 May 2012

Become awesome in 366 days

It started with Jerry Seinfeld's productivity secret. Well, it's not technically a secret, since quite a few fellas  know that it is:

Don't break the chain.
 I'm not gonna praise it here. On the contrary: it's one of the productivity tricks that work the least well for me. There's always a weird day where a lot happens and keeping chains of my good old habits is really hard for me, let alone some new habit I'm working on. And when things go back to normal, I easily and happily get back on track. (Bah, as you see on this blog, getting back on some track can happen at the weirdest of times for me.)

But, there's me, and there's other people. Like Chris Strom. That guy used the secret above to become awesome in 366 days. That's how his chain goes:
Every night, I ask a question to which I don't know the answer and I try my damnedest to answer it.
Sticking to that chain for 366 days made him learn a lot and write 3 smart books (the details are on LifeHacker).

There's also yet other people. That guy doesn't need 366 days to become awesome:

However, let's leave Barney out of this - none of us can hope to be half as awesome as he is!

Chris' example (and the comments below the article) made me think. We all know it's not easy to start a good new habit. We all have lots of ways to fill our time (otherwise boredom would drive me right into the good habits' arms). We all need to rest too. You can only add so many one-hour-long daily activities (24 - to be exact). But how about 5-15-minute ones? (The number is instantly way bigger!) I know some people are for instance taking care of small children and have a hard time getting even 10 extra minutes from their day (do you know what small children can do in 10 minutes?), but not me. I could squeeze one in the morning and a few ones after work. Is it worth the shot? Will it make me even more tired, or on the contrary, energized and happy about my productivity? How many ways to find out are there? And finally, as a wise commenter on Lifechaker asks:
If I hadn't spent that time doing those small things, what might I have gained, a high score on spider solitaire?
[Picture credit]

20 May 2012


Wow, it's been almost a year... Screw the excuses, I just didn't feel like blogging. And I'm still not totally sure I do.

I thought that being funemployed would give a lot of time for blogging and that the stress of writing my thesis would encourage my to seek comfort in this diary-like therapy. Somehow that didn't happen. The thesis went as usual: it started with a feeling like "I'm writing the best thesis ever!" and ended with "I'm so tired of it! When will it be over?". Of one thing I am absolutely sure (got the Twilight allusion?): school is not my happy place. Happily, school is over: I graduated last December. I now have two masters. It's really cool when it's over.

What do you do when you graduate? You get a full-time job. (Well, depending on your industry, this my be easier said than done, but in mine, staying unemployed is more of a challenge than finding work.) That's what I did. Since it's only one query away, I'll just say it: it's at WebInterpret. (Now my physical location is only another query away - is that the way things should be? Dilemma... Can I openly write about where I am or is that an entry for please-rob-me.com? Dilemma...)

My life is so much more grown-up now. Grown-up in the sense that my party small talk involves tales of recent purchases and maintenance actions performed in my home. I come home from work tired (being tired is a common denominator for all adults) and cook and clean. When I browse the web, it's for cooking recipes. Am I interesting enough? Will I provide entertaining content? Dilemma...

Or maybe I'm just ranting too much? (Forgive me, I'm currently in bed with a cold.) Because on the other hand, I'm feeling like I'm gradually getting so much stronger. In October-December, I was just getting used to full-time work and it drained all my energy. I came home, made dinner, sat at the computer. In January, I added 3 hours of physical activity a week. In March, I was up to 6. (I still am.) Maybe it's time to add some more hobbies and interests to the mix. Maybe it's time to read, do and write more cool stuff. Let's hope it is!

06 August 2011

Blogging my thesis - second edtition

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second edition of "Blogging my thesis".

This time, I'm doing a cloud version of the Sage Notebook. I'm doing the front-end in ASP.NET MVC 3 with C# and Razor, the back-end in Python and an SQL Server database in-between.

Since a screenshot is worth around 1024 words, here's a little preview:

The good news is that it's cool and I'm learning a lot while writing it (like MVC or jQuery).

The bad news is that it's due on September the 30th. I wished to have it finished by the beginning of next month, but I'm afraid it will take too much work.

Well, however it turns out, it's cool.

23 June 2011

Hugging cat

Dear readers,

For your amusement, below is a picture of a cat hugging a little girl.


01 May 2011

Geek goes funemployed

Hi guys, I'm funemployed!

This is good news for two reasons:

  1. I now have more time to do loads of great stuff,
  2. I'm gonna blog more, since I'll be looking for a job and trying look my best out there in the interwebs.
So what exactly are these loads of great stuff?
  1. Meeting lots of friends (I've started already and it's going great.)
  2. Writing my master thesis in CS (I've started already and it's going to be going great.)
  3. Getting another Microsoft certificate, 70-562 this time.
  4. Writing the best Android app ever, the one from the Big Bang Theory that solves differential equations (yeah, I'm 100% serious).
  5. Running and biking in the sunshine.
  6. Surely many more - funemployed doesn't mean idle!
I am told not to show off my material status on the Internet, so I won't get into the details, but let me just say I am now the lucky owner of an Android device - all the app out there are really great and I feel inspired to contribute some of my own. Even cooler, I have a few friends who feel the same way - bring on the SDK!

27 November 2010

Creative gift wrapping

Three years ago (boy, is my blog old!) I blogged about some creative gift wrappings. Well, it's that time of the year soon and people are publishing many more great and innovative ideas.

Country Living
has fun with tape:

How About Orange
explains how to make a gift bow from a magazine page:

Mondo Cherry has fun with aluminum foil:

Real Simple features, among other ideas, a ribbon with holes:

Design Sponge replaced the classical bow with a pom pom:

Even more ideas are featured at Squidoo.com - check it out!

19 November 2010

Lanvin for H&M: a 200$ disaster

It's no secret that I love clothes, the more colorful, the better. I like looking at clothing pictures on the web and when I first saw that Lanvin was doing a collection for H&M, I had a serious "WANT!!!" moment.

Lanvin is a fashion designer famous for making clothing with amazing ruffles:

What H&M is famous for is clothing that anyone can afford. So, beautiful, designer and affordable - what's not to want? I glued my eyes to the screen.

Not for long. Soon after pictures were published, prices got announced. These weren't the usual H&M prices: while these stores are filled with 40$ dresses, the Lanvin ones cost 200$. Quite a lot.

I didn't give up on the dream so soon: ok, it was expensive, but the dresses were so nice and trendy (though that means they will stat screaming "I'm so last season!" soon) and perhaps the quality was worth it.

It turns out it is not. On the promotional shot below, you can see on the collar how the fabric is raveling.

And my, it's a promotional picture! If that looks so much better than in reality, how bad must these dresses look like!

It seems I'm not the only one to disapprove of the quality of those dresses. A few days ago, a polish gossip site published pictures of a star wearing one. They didn't mention the names of Lanvin and H&M, but the lack of hem was heavily criticised. No wonder, it's so visible!

Honestly, I expect way more for 200$ and way more from a world-famous designer. Doesn't he have a reputation to loose?

[Picture source, source, source]

Geek diggs minimalism

Minimalism is recently really growing on me.

I guess it started with reading Lifehacker, which lead me to reading Unclutter, which lead me to wanting less clutter and here I am.

That transformation started at a lucky point: about a year before my wedding, which also was about a year before moving out of my parents' place and starting a new home. It's not everyday that you get to start from scratch - it's a 0-3 times in a lifetime opportunity! So I did my best to take advantage of it and tossed away lots of things that I didn't want to have in my new home. I got down to 4 moving boxes and a few bags of stuff and my moving was almost unnoticeable - my fiance visited me as usual and took my stuff to our new home in his car.

Today, my home is nowhere near like the nice minimalist pictures you can find on the web, nor would our stuff fit into 4 boxes. We keep buying and receiving stuff, however, I try to buy as little as possible and set high expectations for the stuff I decide to pay for, especially clothing: I have the habit of buying a lot if it, which might have been a good idea when I was young and just building my wardrobe, but definitely isn't anymore. I also prefer getting nothing than any gift, I enjoy tossing stuff away (but only if I can prove it's worthless) and I try to have as little e-mails in my Inbox as possible (never went under 7, actually) . So I guess I'm becoming a minimalist.

At this point, all minimalist bloggers feel obliged to point out that they are minimalists, but not in a "have at most 100 prosessions" or "screw all material possessions" kind of way. So, minimalism, extreme minimalism - not the same. There, done.

What I feel the need to point out is the difference between realistic and unrealistic minimalism.

Take the picture below:

That room looks fantastic! There's a lot of light and the amount of stuff is just optimal for a room to relax in. Plus, I don't exactly know how, but you can tell form the picture that it's an actual room in someone's home - perhaps an extra room besides a bigger and less minimalist living room, but still, it's real and it's inspiring.

Next picture:

Nice bathroom, but even if it isn't rendered in 3d, I don't see myself ever owning a bathroom even close to that one. I can't imagine having that much room for a bathroom nor the walls being white and yet so clean on an everyday basis. That's just too unrealistic.

There are a lot of great blogs on minimalism, written by people doing it for various reasons (travelers often become minimalists) and in various degrees - In the spirit of minimalism, I subscribed a dozen today. If you're interested in the subject, here's a great article to start: The Rewards Of Adopting A Minimalist Lifestyle: 13 Bloggers Share Their Views.

[Picture credit, credit]