MonthOctober 2009

Perfect Day #1

So, I wake up at noon.

And my phone doesn’t work.

Then I find out my Internet doesn’t work.

Then I find my TV’s crapped.

Then I find that I’ve to go to college tomorrow.

The last thing is good. The others aren’t. Oh well.

Block cursor vs Post Cursor (gVim vs Emacs)

Here is an approximate timeline of the editors I’ve used so far:

  • Turbo C++ (4th grade to 8th grade)
  • Visual Basic 6 (8th grade to 10th grade)
  • Visual Studio 2005 (10th grade to 11th grade)
  • Visual Studio 2008 (11th grade to 1st year of college)
  • gVim (1st year of college)
  • GNU Emacs (after gVim)

Now, the one thing, maybe even the only thing I miss is the fact that gVim gives me the I-Bar cursor, while Emacs by default gave me the block cursor. I like the I-Bar better than the block, and so far, couldn’t figure out how to change that. It’s not helping that I don’t have access to the internet.

So what does a sane man do?

He stops using the GTK version of Emacs, and switches to the console version :D

Anatomy of an impromptu hackathon (Git vs SVN)

One of the (good) things that came out of the IIT Hackfest was me hanging out on the #hackers-india IRC channel. It is wild, swingy and usually fun. Usually.

So yesterday night, ideamonk casually mentioned that he was working on something called pymos. It was a python script that made mosiacs. Now that was something I was totally interested in – I tried making a similar ‘script’ a long time back (in C#), and totally utterly failed, simply because I was so caught up with the part that downloaded pictures from flickr that I didn’t do the part that generated the actual Mosaic. Since ideamonk’s code already generated the mosaics (and since it was in Python), I forked it, and began to work on the to do items.

Note that ideamonk and I don’t know each other (we were apparently sitting next to each other at PyCon India ’09, but that doesn’t count!). We were on the channel, he’s commented on my blog once, and that’s about it. But still, we worked together all night fixing code. I could bore you with details of the work that was done within the next five or so hours (1 AM – 6 AM), but I will just point you to to this commit graph generated by GitHub. There was a flurry of commits, and there should be a tagged version up for download (and on PyPI) soon.

If not for github…

Let us, for a moment, assume that this code was on, say, Google Code instead of GitHub. How could I have contributed?

  1. Checkout the code via SVN
  2. Fix one thing
  3. Send ideamonk a patch file (I can’t commit anything anywhere!)
  4. Wait for him to:
    4a. Open up his mail client
    4ai. Get lost in proggit (or FaceBook)
    4b. Grab the patch file
    4c. Apply patch
    4d. Test things to make sure I didn’t break things
    4e. Wonder if the code is good enough to be merged in
    4f. Commit code with my patch in it
    4g. Notify me that my patch is in, so i can do an svn up
  5. Go to 2

No code gets committed, simply because step 4 is a huge involvement for ideamonk. Knowing that step 4 is a huge involvement for ideamonk is a huge block for me too. Obviously, he’d rather be coding than dealing with patches. Who wouldn’t? Being a developer > Being a maintainer. One of the reasons I respect maintainers of projects a lot.

Now, how does it work with github?

  1. I fork it (1 click)
  2. Fix one thing
  3. Commit, Push to my repo
  4. If there is something significant in, notify ideamonk to pull from me. Else go to 2.

Much simpler, and note that all four are things I could do myself. Nothing depends on ideamonk. Maintainence works is almost zero. Nobody has keys to the cathedral, since this is not one.

Please put your code on GitHub

It has the least amount of friction for developers looking to contribute, and the least amount of work for you as maintainer. Thanks!

Why I got rid of my fork of Waffle

For those of you who didn’t know, Waffle is a schemaless storage layer that sits on top of SQLAlchemy. Something that I was initially very interested in.

Not anymore.


Because I found MongoDB.

And fell in love.

Yes, I do know they both are different, but MongoDB has the things that attracted me to Waffle (very flexible schema, great querying, indexes) and is just as easy to set up (maybe not as easy as Waffle over SQLite, but only slightly less easier).

I <3 MongoDB. Let’s see how long this lasts!

Attraction or Admiration

If you are a college student, especially my college’s student, please go read this. I wish Divya had written this a year and a half back. :D

What I learnt from the Hackfest at IITM

I was about to just type a list of stuff here, but that doesn’t do the topic justice. So here I am, at 3:30 in the morning, sleep cycle screwed up by the Hackfest, typing out a post on what all I learnt from there. I spent pretty much my entire awake-time at the IIT, so it helped me a lot.

Your college doesn’t matter much

IIT Envy. Every non-IITian has that. I spent a lot of time at IITM during the Hackfest, and while my IITEnvy did go up during the first few hours, it initially came down well below normal as I got to know the people better. What was cool about them was not where they were studying, but what they were doing. I could do what these guys were doing. Anyone can do what these guys were doing – there is nothing special about the IIT except maybe for the fact that it aggregates naturally dedicated people into pools. You don’t need an IIT for that – IRC will do :) I’m from a teeny college that nobody has heard of – that would have been a problem when people judged people by where they studied, rather than by what they did. Should not be a problem for me now :)

Real C isn’t hard

I was utterly clueless about GTK+ when I landed up at the IIT. The first thing I told Arun was that I was clueless about C and maybe would like to hack on something in C# or Python.

I thought I was clueless about C. All I had done was TurboC – which I had not really considered as real C till that point. However, an hour into the hackfest, I realized something – Pointers and Structures are all you need! Read the docs, read some good code, and you are done. I will probably do what I usually do to learn a new language – write a significant amount of useful code in it – in C very soon.

Code talks

I don’t have any patches against my name. The only significant piece of code I think I have written so far is this blogging engine you are reading. That needs to change.

Doesn’t mean I have to churn out code like a copier machine – I just have to have enough things to point to and be able to proudly say ‘I did that’. Great Documentation, proper deployment options and a little evangelism helps too. None of my code has any of that. That has to change too.

Know tools well

I use Emacs. But not to its fullest potential. Same thing for pretty much all of my tools – Bash/Powershell, Build Tools, etc. Heck, I can’t even write a shell script to save my life! That has to change, and change fast. I smell perl.

People on IRC are friendly

I’ve always been a lurker on IRC, just listening and not daring to speak. That changed drastically once I actually met these really nice people in person – so I can see my IRC usage going way up! It has also expanded my horizons quite a bit – meeting new people, getting to know people better, constantly being challenged to actually get off my ass and write some stuff, etc.


  • Read more code. File bugs. Try to fix bugs.
  • Learn Perl. Learn C. Learn C++. Get much better at Python.
  • Go through my code, document all the necessary parts, create home pages for the significant ones.
  • IRC more. I have been – the last two days have seen my IRC usage skyrocket.
  • Stop cribbing about my life and get on with it!

Hackfest ’09 – Expectations

I’m going to participate in Hackfest at IITM’s Shaastra, starting tomorrow. Will hopefully be a lot of fun – and may I be able to contribute my first ever patch during the event ;) Got permission to not get back home – but wondering, where would I stay? Probably pass out in front of the computers :)

I’ll be hackin on GNOME Apps – hopefully Banshee (since that’s one app I love), or write a newish, smallish app with PyGTK. Anything would do but :)

Will be blogging more – Sadly, no camera, so no pictures :(

Anyone else coming along?

Code I’ve written so far

Code I have written so far:

  1. HiSlain: A static blog publishing system (NOT A DJANGO BLOG!). Runs this blog
  2. wtfimb: The code that powers
  3. frailgrey: Markov Chain based page generator (pretty lame, actually)
  4. GoodFather: Collection of utils for web data scraping and storing
  5. reappy: A Twitter Search Application Framework
  6. SadIvy: A pure WSGI URL Shortener

Now, I’ve been doing a shit job of documenting them – none exists. Nor of writing tests – none exists. That should hopefully change soon :)

HiSlain and reappy are where I’m going to concentrate my efforts on for the next month or so.

Task List for HiSlain

  • Refactor code, clean it up so it doesn’t look like proof for the Infinite Monkey Theorem
  • Add support for raw, unmanaged pages
  • Port a decent looking, simple theme to HiSlain
  • Write some tests, and refactor the code to make it more testable

Task List for reappy

  • Write a real application with it, so bugs can be fixed in the process
  • Write some tests and refactor the code to make it more testable
  • Examples.

And ofcourse, new sub-pages over here for both of them (atleast). Stay tuned!

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