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On Not YET Contributing to an Open Source Project

Not the module in question. 

I had an idea, and the shortest path between here and a working implementation is through CPAN, so I found a module and tried to install it.

No go. Failed tests.

So I find the GitHub repo and make an issue.

That doesn't get me any closer to a working implementation of my idea, nor does it involve me coding or running code. We can't have that, so I took the next step, which was forking, cloning and branching the code, then playing with it to find out what's going on and why.

I won't tell you which repo; that's really besides the point. I've dealt with Perl enough to know that, when the module was last updated, everything was tested and everything worked. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in CPAN.

Simply speaking, at some point, the API the module is interacting with changed how it works, returning an image instead of JSON that would contain the URL of said image. Not an unreasonable thing to do, I think. That saves you a step, and for my purposes, I'd never have need to get either the image or the location of the image. I feel free to believe that force installing the module would get me
an acceptable outcome.

But if I know a thing is broken and I know how to fix it, and I don't fix it, I'm simply leaving the world in a broken state. That's hardly a responsible response.

The question becomes "Just how do I fix this?", and I see three choices:
  • FOLLOW THE TEST! The test wants an object which is converted from the JSON the API returns. I could easily skip the API call and just return{whatever}/image/. This will even be a valid URL, but when the API changes again, which it will, the URL will be inaccurate. This seems brittle to me.
  • CHANGE THE TEST! The API wants to pass back an image. I can pass that on through and rewrite the test. But the module isn't brand new, which means that someone out there is using the failing function to get the URL of the image and this change will brake that existing code. It's probably already broken; this module won't install, as established, but this is a significant change in the API, which shouldn't be made without consideration. 
  • DROP IT ALL! Remove the function that causes the problem. Remove the tests. Leave only a stub saying "This functionality has been removed". In some ways, this is the coward's way out, but it would be the simplest thing. Easier to remove functionality than to add it.
After I thought about it, I was leaning toward an All-Three approach: Making three branches, implementing each idea, then submitting three parallel pull requests, leaving it to the maintainer to decide the proper choice.

Yeah, that's not a smart plan. 2/3 of that work is going to be not used, by definition. After consultation with my advisors (read, anyone who would listen on Twitter, IRC or Hangouts), I decided that asking before coding anything, so I added details to my (admittedly short and incomplete, submitted before understanding) issue to say "I see three alternatives; what do you want me to do?"

But that is the proper way to do it. It isn't like I went "I want a feature, and here it is." I just want a working module to do the thing I'm thinking of (which might not be as cool as I thought it was), and the things I could do to make it work again could bug the people actually using it. The community of users.

every change breaks someone's workflow
As always, this is a point where xkcd understands and explains all.
So, I have been thinking about this, asking about this and writing about this, rather than implementing the initial idea, or even fixing the problem.

Which frustrates me to no end.


A Little Fun with OpenCV

I have a webcam that I have set to take pictures at work. Is this a long-term art project? Is it a classic Twitter over-share? An example of Quantified Self gone horribly, horribly wrong? I honestly don't know.

I do know that it's brought me into interesting places before. Getting my camera to work with V4L. Tweeting images. Determining if the screen is locked, both on Unity and Gnome. I've come to the point where I can set @hourly ~/bin/ I don't, rather 0 9-18 * * 1-5 ~/bin/, because if it's before 9am or on a weekend, I won't be here, so don't even try.

But if I'm pulled away, there are photos like the above. Who needs to see my space without me?

Yeah, who needs to see my space with me? We'll pass on that.

One of the members of Purdue Perl Mongers formerly worked with OpenCV, and I asked him to present on that topic this month. He even created a GitHub repo with his example code. It's Python, not Perl, which will be a digression for this blog, but not an unprecedented one. This gave me enough confidence in OpenCV and how it worked to create a program that uses it to tell if anyone's in the frame.

(The demo code suggested installing python-opencv for Ubuntu, to which I must add that the crucial opencv-data does not come with it. Just a warning.)


# usage:
# 1

# when runs, returns the number of upper bodies, and thus people, it currently sees

import cv2
# pass either device id (0 usually for webcam) or path to a video file
cam = cv2.VideoCapture(0)

# face cascade bundled with OpenCV
# classifier = cv2.CascadeClassifier('/usr/share/opencv/haarcascades/haarcascade_frontalface_default.xml')
classifier = cv2.CascadeClassifier('/usr/share/opencv/haarcascades/haarcascade_upperbody.xml')
# I found that haarcascade_upperbody did the best for identifying me.

# read in frame
retval, frame =

# convert to grayscale
frame_gray = cv2.cvtColor(frame, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)

# run classifier
results = classifier.detectMultiScale(
 # let's assume face will be close/big if in front of webcam

# number of found upper bodies in webcam
print len(results)

And here it is in context.
use 5.010 ;
use strict ;
use warnings ;
use IO::Interactive qw{ interactive } ;
use Net::Twitter ;
use YAML::XS qw{ DumpFile LoadFile } ;
use Getopt::Long ;

use lib '/home/jacoby/lib' ;
use Locked qw{ is_locked there };

my $override = 0 ;

    'override' => \$override ,
    ) ;

my $config_file = $ENV{ HOME } . '/.twitter.cnf' ;
my $config      = LoadFile( $config_file ) ;

my $user = 'screen_name' ;
my $status = 'Just took a picture' ;

if ( is_locked() == 0 && there() == 1 || $override ) {
    say { interactive } 'unlocked' ;
    # highest supported resolution of my old-school webcam 
    # Twitter DOES have a 5MB limit on file size
    my $cam = q{/usr/bin/fswebcam -q -r 640x480 --jpeg 85 -D 1 --no-banner} ;
    my $time = time ;
    my $image = "/home/jacoby/Pictures/Self/shot-${time}.jpeg" ;
    qx{$cam $image} ;
    tweet_pic( $status , $image ) ;
    say { interactive } $time ;

sub tweet_pic {
    my ( $status , $pic ) = @_ ;
    my ( $access_token, $access_token_secret ) ;
    ( $access_token, $access_token_secret ) = restore_tokens( $user ) ;
    my $twit = Net::Twitter->new(
        traits              => [qw/API::RESTv1_1/],
        consumer_key    => $config->{ consumer_key },
        consumer_secret => $config->{ consumer_secret },
        ssl => 1 ,
        ) ;

    if ( $access_token && $access_token_secret ) {
        $twit->access_token( $access_token ) ;
        $twit->access_token_secret( $access_token_secret ) ;
    unless ( $twit->authorized ) {
        say qq{UNAUTHTORIZED} ; exit ;
        # I really handle this better

    my $img_ref ;
    my $file = $pic ;
    my ( $filename ) = reverse split m{/} , $pic ;
    push @$img_ref , $file ;
    push @$img_ref , $filename ;

    if ( $twit->update_with_media( $status , $img_ref  ) ) {
        no warnings ;
        say { interactive } $status ;
    else {
        say { interactive } 'FAIL' ;

# is in, but placed here for simplicity
# there are issues with recognizing my webcam, which 
# we quash by sending STDERR to /dev/null
sub there {
    my $checker = '/home/jacoby/bin/' ;
    return -1 if ! -f $checker ;
    my $o = qx{$checker 2> /dev/null} ;
    chomp $o ;
    return $o ;

sub restore_tokens {
    my ( $user ) = @_ ;
    my ( $access_token, $access_token_secret ) ;
    if ( $config->{ tokens }{ $user } ) {
        $access_token = $config->{ tokens }{ $user }{ access_token } ;
        $access_token_secret =
            $config->{ tokens }{ $user }{ access_token_secret } ;
    return $access_token, $access_token_secret ;

sub save_tokens {
    my ( $user, $access_token, $access_token_secret ) = @_ ;
    $config->{ tokens }{ $user }{ access_token }        = $access_token ;
    $config->{ tokens }{ $user }{ access_token_secret } = $access_token_secret ;
    DumpFile( $config_file, $config ) ;
    return 1 ;

Clearly, this is the start, it's currently very cargo-cult code, and it has several uses. A coming use is to go through my archive of pictures and identifying the ones where I'm gone. That'll either require me getting up to speed with Image::ObjectDetect or Python, but it's a thing I'm willing to do.

An interesting side-issue: I've found that the existing Haar cascades (the XML files that define a thing OpenCV can identify) do not like my glasses, and thus cannot identify my eyes or face with them on, thus, me using the upperbody cascade. I think I should train my own Haar classifier; I know I have enough pics of me for it.


Net::Twitter Cookbook: Images and Profiles

I've covered how you handle keys and authenticating with Twitter previously, so look into those for more information as we go ahead with sending tweets!

There was a time when Twitter was just text, so you could just send a link to an image. There were sites like TwitPix that hosted images for you, but eventually Twitter developed the ability to host media.

    my $media ;
    push @$media, $config->{ file } ;
    push @$media, 'icon.' . $suffix ;
    if ( $twit->update_with_media( $status , $media ) ) {
        say 'OK' ;

There are four ways you could define the media:

    $media = [ 'path to media' ] ;
    $media = [ 'path to media', 'replacment filename' ] ;
    $media = [ 'path to media', 'replacment filename', 
            Content-Type => mime/type' ] ;
    $media = [  undef , 'replacment filename', 
            Content-Type => mime/type', 'raw media data'] ;

I use the second in order to specify the file name that isn't whatever long and random filename it has. The module has ways to guess the correct mime type, but you can specify to avoid that. The last one, starting with undef, allows you to create or modify an image with Image::Magick or whatever you choose and tweet it without having to involve the filesystem at all.

A few words about what we mean by media. We mean images or video; no audio file option. By images, we mean PNG, JPG, GIF or WEBP. No SVG, and less that 5MB as of this writing. (Check for more info later.)

Video has other constraints, but I don't tweet just video often, if ever. I generally put it to YouTube and post the link.

There's a couple ways you can have more fun with images on Twitter. Those would be with your profile image, the square image that sits next to your tweet, and the profile banner, the landscape image that shows up at the top of your page.

They work like the above, handling media the same way.

    my $image ;
    push @$image, $config->{ file } ;
    push @$image, 'icon.' . $suffix ;
    if ( $twit->update_profile_image( $image ) ) {
        say 'OK' ;

    my $banner ;
    push @$banner, $config->{ file } ;
    push @$banner, 'icon.' . $suffix ;
    if ( $twit->update_profile_banner( $banner ) ) {
        say 'OK' ;

Profile images are square, and are converted to square if your initial image is not square. For both, JPG, GIF or PNG are allowed and are converted upon upload. If you try to upload an animated GIF, they will use the first frame. This can make your profile image less fun, but if you have a feed full of pictures that throb and spin, that can make you feel seasick.

And, since we're hitting profile-related issues, perhaps I should handle your profiles and we can get this behind us.

Changing your username, going from @jacobydave to something else, is doable but not via the API. It isn't a thing you can or should be doing with an API. You can change other details, however. You can change your name ("Dave Jacoby"), description ("Guy blogging about Perl's Net::Twitter library. Thought Leader. Foodie."), website ("") and location ("Dark Side of the Moon").

    use Getopt::Long ;

    my $config ;
        'description=s' => \$config->{ description },
        'location=s'    => \$config->{ location },
        'name=s'        => \$config->{ name },
        'web=s'         => \$config->{ url },
        ) ;

    my $params ; for my $p ( qw{ name url location description } ) {
    $params->{ $p } = $config->{ $p } if $config->{ $p } ; }
    $params->{ include_entities } = 0 ;  $params->{ skip_status } = 1

    if ( $twit->update_profile( $params ) ) {
        say 'OK' ;

I *DO* have fun fun with location, setting it with a number of strings; "My Happy Place" on Saturday, "Never got the hang..." for Thursdays. You can set this to any string, and Twitter does nearly nothing with it. I'd suggest you ignore it or set it to something general or clever, and forget it.

Now that we've covered how you tweet and handle your identity a little, next time we'll start to get into relationships, which are the things that make a social network social.


Net::Twitter Cookbook: How I tweet, plus

Previously, I wrote a post showing the basics on how to send a tweet using Perl and Net::Twitter. I showed the easiest you can do it.

Below is the code that I use most often. It is a command-line tool, where it's used something along the lines of jacobydave text of my tweet. Except, that's not how I type it, thanks to my .alias file. I have twitter aliased to '~/bin/named_twitter jacobydave ' and normally tweet like twitter this is how I tweet.

This isn't to say I never automate tweets; I certainly do. But it is a rare part of what I do with the Twitter API and Net::Twitter. I will dive deeper into issues with tweeting and direct messages, both in a technical and social matter, in a later post.

But I said that you have the consumer key and secret, which identify you as a service, and the access token and secret, which identify you as a user of the service. In the above code sample, I use YAML to store this data, but you could use JSON, Sqlite or anything else to store it. Among other benefits, you can put your code into GitHub, as I did above, without exposing anything.

As I proceed, I will assume that tokens are handled somehow and proceed directly to the cool part.

Again, you get the consumer key by going to and creating a new app.

You log into with your Twitter account, click "Create New App" and fill in the details. When I created my three, you had to specifically choose "can send DMs" specifically, so if you're creating apps to follow along, I do suggest you allow yourself that option.


Log your machines and Check your logs

"Logs" by Aapo Haapanen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Our VMs were having problems last fall. Their connections to the file system would falter, causing a large number of processes sitting around waiting to write. The symptom we found was that the load averages would then rise incredibly high.

Like four-digits high.

So, I wrote something that would log load average once an hour. It was a convergence of lab need and an excuse to learn Log::Log4Perl. I also used Pushover to tell me when load average was greater than 20, as if I could do anything about it.

Below, Mail is a wrapper around Email::Sender::Simple and Pushover around LWP::UserAgent that handle the formatting and authentication. Neither are necessary for the logging.

#!/usr/bin/env perl

# checks for high load average on a host using uptime and
# reports using Pushover
# logs uptime, high or low, via Log4perl

# Also sends result of ps to email to start to indicate what's
# actually doing something


use feature qw{ say } ;
use strict ;
use warnings ;
use utf8 ;

use Data::Dumper ;
use DateTime ;
use IO::Interactive qw{ interactive } ;
use Log::Log4perl ;

use lib '/home/djacoby/lib' ;
use Mail ;
use Pushover ;

# my $host = $ENV{HOSTNAME} ;
my $host = `/bin/hostname -s ` ;
chomp $host ;

Log::Log4perl::init( '/home/djacoby/.log4perl.conf') ;
my $logger = Log::Log4perl::get_logger( 'varlogrant.uptime' );
my @uptime = check_uptime() ;
$logger->trace( qq{$host : $uptime[0] $uptime[1] $uptime[2]});

if ( $uptime[0] > 20 ) {
    my $ps = process_table() ;
    my $message ;
    $message->{ message } = "High Load Average on $host: " . join ' ' , @uptime ;
    my $out = pushover( $message ) ;
    #send_table( join "\n\n" , ( join ' ' , @uptime ) , $ps ) ;

exit ;

sub check_uptime {
    my $program = '/usr/bin/uptime' ;
    my $uptime = qx{$program} ;
    my @num = map {s/,//;$_ } ( split /\s+/ , $uptime )[-3,-2,-1] ;
    return @num ;

sub process_table {
    my $out = qx{/bin/ps -U gcore -u gcore u } ;
    return $out ;

sub send_table {
    my $body = shift ;
    my $date = DateTime->now()->iso8601() ;
    my $msg;
    $msg->{ identity } = 'example' ;
    $msg->{ subject } = qq{High Load on $host: $date} ;
    $msg->{ to } = '' ;
    $msg->{ body } = $body ;
    $msg->{ attachments } = [] ;
    send_mail($msg) ;

Eventually, those issues worked out. The evidence of file system hinkiness is that, on occasion, we try to save or open a file, it takes a few minutes — I have learned from experience that mkdir does not display atomicity — but we never see the high load averages and catastrophically long file access times of a few months ago.

But the logging never left my crontab.

I started looking at and playing with new things, and I wrote an API that allowed me to curl from several machines once an hour, and I would get Pushover notifications when machines were down.

(You can really thank Phil Sturgeon and his excellent book, Build APIs You Won't Hate, for that. I'm not quite there with my API, though. It'd probably make an interesting blog post, but it's built on pre-MVC technology.)

(And yes, I really like Pushover. In general, I turn off notifications for most apps and only pay attention to what I have Pushover tell me.)

Anyway, I'd get notifications telling me my web server is down, then pull out my phone and find the web server up and responsive. I'm putting that into MySQL, so a query told me that, on some hours, I'd get five heartbeats, some four, and some 3, so I was sure that the issue wasn't with the API.

I log and get Pushover notifications set at the @reboot section of my crontab, and that hadn't warned me recently, so I knew the machines were up, but not responding.

Then I remembered that I never stopped monitoring load averages, and started looking at those logs.

#!/usr/bin/env perl

# reads and parses the uptime log

use feature qw{ say } ;
use strict ; use warnings ; use utf8 ; use DateTime ; my $file = q{/home/jacoby/mnt/rcac/.uptime.log} ; if ( -f $file && open my $fh, '<', $file ) { my $data ; my $last ; my $obj ; while (<$fh>) { chomp ; my ( $date, $time, $server ) = split m{\s+} ; next unless $server ; # say $server ; my ( $year, $month, $day ) = split m{/}, $date ; my ( $hour, $minute, $second ) = split m{:}, $time ; my $latest = DateTime->new( year => $year, month => $month, day => $day, hour => $hour, minute => $minute, second => 0, time_zone => 'UTC', ) ; my $diff = 0 ; # next if $year != 2016 ; # next if $month < 7 ; my $ymd = $latest->ymd ; my $hms = $latest->hms ; next if $ymd !~ /^2016-07/ ; push @{ $obj->{$ymd}{$hms} }, $server ; } my @hosts = sort qw{ genomics genomics-test genomics-apps genomics-db } ; for my $y ( sort keys %$obj ) { my $day = $obj->{$y} ; for my $h ( sort keys %$day ) { my @list = @{ $obj->{$y}{$h} } ; my %list = map { $_ => 1 } @list ; my @down = grep { !$list{$_} } @hosts ; next if !scalar @down ; say join ' ', $y, $h, @down ; } } } __DATA__ two days results: 2016-07-23 01:00:00 genomics-test 2016-07-23 02:00:00 genomics-test 2016-07-23 08:00:00 genomics genomics-db 2016-07-23 13:00:00 genomics-apps 2016-07-23 16:00:00 genomics-apps 2016-07-23 18:00:00 genomics-db 2016-07-23 19:00:00 genomics-test 2016-07-23 21:00:00 genomics-apps 2016-07-24 05:00:00 genomics genomics-apps 2016-07-24 07:00:00 genomics 2016-07-24 10:00:00 genomics-apps 2016-07-24 10:01:00 genomics genomics-db genomics-test 2016-07-24 11:00:00 genomics-db 2016-07-24 13:00:00 genomics-apps 2016-07-24 18:00:00 genomics genomics-apps 2016-07-24 23:00:00 genomics genomics-apps genomics-db

We see above that of the four VMs I monitor, all four fail to log multiple times, and many times, three of four VMs fail to run their crontabs. Since I had something more solid than "Hey, that's funny", I went to my admins about this. Looks like VMs are failing to authenticate with the LDAP server. My admins are taking it up the chain.

So, beyond how I make and parse logs, which might not be the best examples you can find, the message here is that it's hard to identify a problem unless you're tracking it, and even tracking something else might help you identify a problem.


Net::Twitter Cookbook: How to Tweet

The first line between Twitter Use and Twitter Obsession is TweetDeck. That's when the update-on-demand single-thread of the web page gives way to multiple constantly-updated streams of the stream-of-consciousness ramblings of the Internet.

That's the first line.

The second line between Twitter use and Twitter obsession is when you want to automate the work. If you're an R person, that's twitteR. If you work in Python, that's tweepy.

And, if you're like me, and you normally use Perl, we're talking Net::Twitter.

What follows is the simplest possible Net::Twitter program.

#!/usr/bin/env perl
use feature qw{ say } ;
use strict ;
use warnings ;
use Net::Twitter ;

# the consumer key and secret identify you as a service. 
# you register your service at
# and receive the key and secret

# you really don't want to have these written into your script

my $consumer_key    = 'ckckckckckckckckckckck' ;
my $consumer_secret = 'cscscscscscscscscscscscscscscscscscscscs' ;

my $twit = Net::Twitter->new(
    traits          => [qw/API::RESTv1_1/],
    consumer_key    => $consumer_key,
    consumer_secret => $consumer_secret,
    ssl             => 1,
    ) ;

# the access token and secret identify you as a user.
# the registration process takes place below.
# the first time you run this program, you will not be authorized,
# and the program will give you a URL to open in a browser where
# you are already logged into twitter.

# you really don't want to have these written into your script

my $access_token = '1111111111-xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx' ;
my $access_token_secret = 'zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz' ;

$twit->access_token($access_token) ;
$twit->access_token_secret($access_token_secret) ;

# everything interesting will occur inside this if statement
if ( $twit->authorized ) {
    if ( $twit->update('Hello World!') ) {
        say 'It worked!' ;
    else {
        say 'Fail' ;
else {
    # You have no auth token
    # go to the auth website.
    # they'll ask you if you wanna do this, then give you a PIN
    # input it here and it'll register you.
    # then save your token vals.

    say "Authorize this app at ", $twit->get_authorization_url,
        ' and enter the PIN#' ;
    my $pin = <stdin> ;    # wait for input
    chomp $pin ;
    my ( $access_token, $access_token_secret, $user_id, $screen_name ) =
        $twit->request_access_token( verifier => $pin ) ;

    say 'The following lines need to be copied and pasted above' ;
    say $access_token ;
    say $access_token_secret ;

Again, this is as simple as we can reasonably do, without pulling the keys into a separate file, which I, again, strongly recommend you do. (I personally use YAML as the way I store and restore data such as access tokens and consumer keys. I will demonstrate that in a later post.)


Personal Programming Plans: Instagram2Background

I have this code which uses WebService::Instagram to grab my most recent picture from Instagram and set it as background image on my Ubuntu machines. I put it in my crontab and it just works.

#!/usr/bin/env perl

use feature qw'say' ;
use strict ;
use warnings ;

use Cwd 'abs_path' ;
use Data::Dumper ;
use IO::Interactive qw{ interactive } ;
use Try::Tiny ;
use YAML::XS qw{ LoadFile DumpFile } ;

use lib '/home/jacoby/lib' ;
use Instagram ;

my $config_file = join '/', $ENV{HOME}, '.i2b.yml' ;
my $config = LoadFile($config_file) ;

my $token    = $config->{user}{access_token} ;
my $id       = $config->{user}{id} ;
my $template = '' ;
my $ig       = connect($config) ;

$ig->set_access_token($token) ;
my $url = $template ;
$url =~ s/XX/$id/ ;
my $feed        = $ig->request($url) ;
my $data        = $feed->{data} ;
my @data        = grep { $_->{type} eq 'image' } @$data ;
my $most_recent = $data[0] ;
my $file        = '/home/jacoby/.i2b/i2b.jpg' ;

my $image_id    = $most_recent->{id} ;
my $image_url   = $most_recent->{images}->{standard_resolution}->{url} ;
my $image_text  = $most_recent->{caption}->{text} ;

if ( $config->{done} ne $image_id ) {
    my $image = imagegrab($image_url) ;
    imagewrite( $file, $image ) ;
    say {interactive} $image_id ;
    say {interactive} $image_text ;
    $config->{done} = $image_id ;
imageset($file) ;

DumpFile( $config_file, $config ) ;

exit ;

# takes a URL, returns the raw content
sub imagegrab {
    my $url      = shift ;
    my $agent    = new LWP::UserAgent ;
    my $request  = new HTTP::Request( 'GET', $url ) ;
    my $response = $agent->request($request) ;
    if ( $response->is_success ) {
        return $response->content ;
    return undef ;

# takes an filename and an image, and writes image to filename
sub imagewrite {
    my $file  = shift ;
    my $image = shift ;
    if ( open my $fh, '>', $file ) {
        print $fh $image ;
        close $fh ;
        return 1 ;
    return 0 ;

# takes a filename, sets it as backgroundimages
sub imageset {
    my $img = shift ;

    return unless $img ;
    my $command = join ' ', qw{
        gsettings set
        } ;
    my $command2 = join ' ', qw{
        gsettings set
        } ;

    my $bg = '"file://' . abs_path $img . '"' ;
    qx{$command $bg} ;
    qx{$command2 'zoom'} ;

With IFTTT, it's even easier on Android.

But I don't spend all my time with just Android and Ubuntu. I spend a fair amount of time in Windows. I have a start with that: I can use C# to set an image to the background. This is the first step. I know, at least a little, about scheduling tasks in Windows, which is the last step.

So, the coming steps:

  • Using C# to get the Instagram JSON
  • Using C# to parse the Instagram JSON and pull URL of newest image
  • Using C# to download said image. Certainly related to getting the JSON.
  • Using C# to write image file to Windows equivalent to /tmp (because this will be released to others).
  • Knowing what Windows for /tmp is.
  • Knowing where to hold my Instagram OAuth token data.
Seems like a small number of things to get done, once I sit down to do them. I just need to sit down, do them, and build the tool again.


Quantified Self: For What?

This is my daily step count since I first got a FitBit in 2012, in handy heatmap form.

It shows that 2014 was a pretty active year.

It shows that this year, I've really fallen off the game.

It shows that the main purpose of this process for me, of learning how to grab the data and plot it in different and hopefully useful ways, has succeeded.

It shows, really, that I'm much more about collecting the data than using it to change my life.

And I can only see that as a failure.

I've built other things on top of this. My daily steps pop up in my Twitter feed and bash prompt. If I my battery gets low, I get notified on my tablet. If I go several days without a connection (if the battery dies without me noticing, or if I lose it, as I have done recently), I also get notified. I've made it very convenient to me.

But I failed to make greater amounts of movement an important part of my life. I failed to develop an appreciation for running or walking, at least in comparison to everything else I do.

So, I need to start thinking about how I can change my behavior.

And I probably shouldn't get a replacement FitBit until I have a plan for that.


My Reason to hate Python might be GONE!

Let me show you some code.

#!/usr/bin/env python

mylist = [0,1,2,3]

for n in mylist:
 for  m in mylist:
  print m,n
    print m,n
 print n

Looks pretty normal, right? Just a loop, right? Just a loop within a loop.

Yes it is, but if you look closer, you'll notice two spaces in front of the second print statement.

This is exactly what happened to me the first time I tried Python, about 15 years ago. It was code that showed open machines in ENAD 302, and I ran it on an NT machine I had installed ActiveState Python on. I no longer have that job, thus no longer have that machine and that version of Python. I no longer can find the code, and the computer lab in ENAD 302 is gone.

As is ENAD.

All I have is the memory of having pages of error reports that didn't tell me that the problem was that, halfway into a 200-or-so line Python program. This has lead me to set expandtab or the equivalent for every editor I've used since. Burn me once, shame on you, but burn me twice...

I admit that disliked Python before that, but then it was more "Perl does this already, so why do I have to learn how to do the exact same thing in another dynamic language? What do I gain?" rather than "This language takes as a core feature a means to create undetectable errors."

But no. My hatred of Python stopped coming from a logical place. "Creates undetectable errors" is a logical argument, one that is no longer true, but I got taken to a place of negative emotion, like someone who was bitten by a dog as a child and now is overcome with fear or hate when one comes up now.

(I tried it a few times since, and each time, my experience said "this is an objectively stupid way of doing things", until I bumped into things like Sikuli or my FitBit code where there was either no other way or this was the easiest way to get to "working".)

Then I find someone online who says "tabs are better than spaces". For outputting formatted text, I do agree, but in code, that leads to invisible bugs. So, when someone is wrong online, you correct them.

But then, I wrote the above code, expecting the same errors and received none.

(In this process, I learned some interesting things about Sublime Text, like the way you can set color_scheme and draw_white_space and translate_tabs_to_spaces at a language-specific level, which I did to allow me to see the white space when writing the above code. Sublime Text is neat.)

I've been saying this for a while, but I think this is the last thing I needed to find out before I lived it: the Python that's here today is not the Python that bit me 15 years ago, and I should get over my hangups and "pet the dog". 


Let Them Fight: My Thoughts on #Googacle

It's wonderful to have the Oracle vs Google trial in San Francisco, so I can have the mental image of Google's Bugdroid and Java's Duke laying waste to the city like Godzilla and the MUTOs. Because, ultimately, that's what this is; two kaiju companies fighting it out at tremendous cost, and a man in a black robe taking the Ken Watanabe role saying "Let Them Fight".

Please, someone who can draw, put this up on DeviantArt. I need to see this.

I've said "I'm biased; I like every Google product I've worked with, and hate every Oracle product I've worked with." But this isn't true, because, on the one hand, VirtualBox and MySQL, and on the other, Google Wave.


But I admit my biases, and I do question them. Sun had the philosophy of "Software is free, hardware pays the bills", and licensed in accordance with that. This is why, after Oracle bought Sun, the Sun team in charge of MySQL could fork the GPLd code, leave to form MariaDB after (as I understand it) little more than a name change, and leave Oracle barely maintaining a direct competitor to their core product.

Sun open-sourced Java. Soon after I started CS, it became the language with which programming is taught at the college level. I think this is stupid, because the main benefit of Java is "write once, run anywhere", which is a direct response to the Unix Wars, where companies would make small weird incompatible changes to differentiate their kit from their competitors. Linux won the Unix wars, and now, you make one ELF-formatted executable and package it in DEB or RPM and you basically have 97.3% of server rooms, or more, once you factor in virtual machines.

"Write once, run anywhere" is a dead concept.

Java is still a core language, though, and Google, moving into a new, untested environment with a new, untested operating system, wanted something that programmers would feel comfortable with, so they went with Java.

But Java runtimes, as they existed at that time, were not up to the task, and they chose to re-implement Java, or at least a small subset of Java, so it behaved like Java to the Java devs they wanted to be Android devs.

This is where the question is. Oracle says "You didn't license it". Google says "We did license it; it's called the GPL". Or, at least, that's my understanding of the arguments; a big lesson of this trial is that developers shouldn't talk like lawyers and lawyers shouldn't talk like developers; that way lies to legal troubles.

The GPL is what makes Linux free, and so much else. There's a LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP*) that allowed so much of the changes in the last 20 years. Without LAMP, without GPL, there's no Amazon, no Google, no Facebook.

(Let's pretend, for the purposes of this rant, that this is all good, okay?)

This is a battle between kaiju. Google cares about me as little as Godzilla cares about Elizabeth Olsen. But we still want Godzilla to defeat the MUTOs and Mecha-Godzilla and whatever comes up, and, because it uses as tools the things I associate with freedom, I still want Godzilla ... I mean Google, to win.