Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Halloween, Architecture Pumpkins

Yup, my blog is a big stale. No matter. I won't bore you with some weak excuse. Rather, I'll jump right into a question that's been needling at me for a couple weeks.

So I occasionally check the site analytics for the blog. Recently, something caught my attention. One of the primary sources of traffic to my blog in the past couple weeks has been hits from Google searches for "architecture pumpkin" (or several obvious variations).

Architecture pumpkins? Pardon me?

Several Google searches later, and I still don't get it. What the heck is an architecture pumpkin?

Are you here as a result of a search hit on architecture pumpkins? Happen to know why I might be getting a notable number of visitors from this search term? Feel free to comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Who knows, the conversation might just get me back in the habit of blogging on a regular basis.

For you Enterprise/IT Architecture types - perhaps we've been completely wrong in our framing of PaaS. Perhaps I should do some analysis, and publish the results in a pie chart. Perhaps we've found some new ammunition for the trebuchet we have aimed at the Ivory Tower.

p.s. Happy Halloween

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sliding into first base

For grins, I created a slide-deck that provides an overview of Aloofix.

Beyond self entertainment, I had couple other motivations:
  • I peruse SlideShare quite a bit, but had never uploaded anything.
  • I wanted to test the latest version of OpenOffice (2.3.1).
I was horribly lazy and chose one of the canned themes provided by OpenOffice. I like the colors. They might resurface in future slides. I don't care much for the line-spacing, but was too lazy to dig into changing it.

OpenOffice continues to get better. It's still not up to par with PowerPoint. It most definitely doesn't pass the "have Kate use it" test, but it's quite workable for my purposes.

At any rate, there you go - a slide-deck for Aloofix. I knew you were dieing to get one.

On the development front, I've intentionally slowed the pace a bit. As the 1.0 TODO list gets whittled down, the focus has shifted to documentation. The current manual is a texinfo file that generates a 40 page document, but approximately 10 of those pages consist of TODO items.

Speaking of texinfo - it does seem a bit old-school, doesn't it? I've contemplated converting it to an online format. On the other hand, my workflow makes it easy to keep the documentation somewhat in sync with the code. I'd love to hear comments on this topic.

Beyond documentation, it would be nice to get a few more bug reports before moving too far forward.

Ooh - here's an interesting piece of development news: one of the mailing list members wants to help improve the toolchain. The current build recipes use a bit of a dodge, so it would be nice to improve this part of the build.

Until next time, cheers!

You would think I do enough PowerPoint at work. *sigh* Old habits die hard.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Aloofix Cinema Debut

Watch out Spielberg, there's a new genre in town!

Hmmm... maybe not.

For grins, I've created a screencast of a running instance of Aloofix.

The screencast shows an Aloofix installation consisting of the following steps:

  1. boot an Aloofix ISO in VirtualBox
  2. installation to the virtual hard drive
  3. rebooting to the hard drive
  4. running a couple of commands
  5. powering down the instance
Total elapsed time: 1 minute 30 seconds.

On the development front, I released version 0.6 last weekend. I was going to blog about, but life got ahead of me. As always, the new version is available on the SourceForge project page.

I'm now working on two primary things:
  • add-on packages
  • documentation
Version 0.6 added some important add-on packages: gnumake, gcc, and binutils. The svn trunk also contains ncurses, bash, patch, and strace. With a little luck, I hope to be able to build Aloofix in Aloofix in the not too distant future.

I'll gladly admit, it was pleasant to watch ncurses successfully compile inside a running instance of Aloofix.

Feel free to give the latest version a spin - I'm getting very close to a 1.0 release.

And no, I will not be creating a screencast of a full build.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mildly House-Trained

That's my wife's way of saying Aloofix is now in beta release.1

Early today I release Aloofix version 0.5 (the Mildly House-Trained Pup release). There's nothing earth shattering in the release - just lots of bug fixes, feature enhancements, and steady progress toward a 1.0.

But that's the boring part, and nothing worthy of a blog article.

I regularly update the TODO list while working on the code. Sometimes it seems to border on an obsession, but I find the act of scrutinizing upcoming tasks to be a form of therapy.

I add items, remove them, move things around, even use the list as a way to gather my thoughts on how to proceed with the next set of changes. I'm sure anyone reviewing the svn logs for the TODO file will chuckle at the fluid nature of the contents. I know a few project managers that would run screaming from the room.

While noodling, I noticed myself making some very notable changes to the TODO list. Suddenly, I was pushing items from the 1.0 section to the 2.0 section. Don't get me wrong - I've done this countless times as a major release approaches. It's a classic technique, where what is wanted is vetted against what is needed.

In the case of Aloofix, I had succumbed to the classic problem of having eyes bigger than my stomach. Shuffling items from the 1.0 section to the 2.0 section is my way of making sure Aloofix adheres to a 'Release Early, Release Often' principle.

Or put another way,

If you had to choose, which would you select:

  • a dog that does tricks
  • a dog that is house-trained.
Fun stuff...

Feel free to grab a copy of Aloofix 0.5 and kick the tires -it's mildly house-trained.

1. Put another way - reports of success, with no reports of catastrophe...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Build it and they will come

I know you've been waiting... Well, here you go - it's time for my weekly update on Aloofix.

In the previous update I mentioned that I had posted it to SourceForge. From initial posting through yesterday afternoon, the tarball was downloaded nine times. There's even been a couple postings to the mailing list.

Then I registered Aloofix on Freshmeat. Within the next 24 hours, I had 13 more downloads. While some might consider these modest numbers, I find the traffic utterly amazing.

I haven't decided whether to registered Aloofix on other sites. Registering it on DistroWatch seems like a good idea, but they seem uninterested in minimalist distros. Leave a comment if you any good recommendations for other sites.

I also noticed that Black Duck has added it to their list of open source packages.

As for version 0.5, I don't have a specific date in mind. Most of the work done since version 0.4 has been cleanup. I did, however, bump to linux 2.6.24 in the svn trunk. I'll probably post a new tarball if busybox releases a stable 1.9.x anytime soon. Otherwise, I'll post a new one over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The new BUGbases are here! The new BUGbases are here!

I've been tracking Bug Labs this for awhile.

Well, Bug Labs posted the following announcement on their news feed today

Bug Labs Store is open

More precisely, they are taking pre-orders. Order fulfillment is supposed to start before March 17th.

They're making of point of reminding folks that the Bug environment requires Java skills, so I'm going to reiterate this admonition.

With early-adopter pricing at $549 for the bundle, this is phenomenal.

The bundle includes:
  • BUGbase 'Hiro P' Edition
  • BUGview - 2.46" 320x240 touch sensitive LCD screen
  • BUGmotion - motion detector and accelerometer
  • BUGlocate - GPS receiver (SiRF)
  • BUGcam2MP - 2 megapixel camera with built-in flash and 2x optical zoom
802.11b/g is still in the pipeline.

Given a choice between an iPhone and one of these?


/me trundles off to discuss it with the better half...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Aloofix - Good Enough for a Tarball

Hey, it's time for my Sunday weekly progress report on Aloofix, and it's even Sunday.

Aloofix 0.4 (The Barking Pup release) is now available for download on SourceForge.

It should be usable on VirtualBox, VMWare Player, and Qemu.

This is still an alpha release, but going from private alpha to public alpha definitely constitutes forward movement.

I'll spare you the list of changes made since it was originally imported into svn - you have other blog articles to read. There are also several important items to finish before I'm going to consider it ready for beta release.

Here are some vital statistics for the current release:

  • Source tarball size: 68KB
  • Time to build from scratch: 45-60 minutes (on Athlon XP 2200+ (1.8Ghz) w/ 128MB RAM and cheapo 40GB 7200rpm disk)
  • ISO image size: 10.8MB
  • Time to install: <10>
  • Time to boot from grub: approx 10 seconds (in Virtualbox on 3.4Ghz P4)
  • Time to reboot: 15 seconds (no apps other than dropbear)
  • Disk space used: 45.6MB
  • RAM used: 9MB
  • Qty of regular files installed: 127
  • Qty of symlinks installed: 285 (primarily busybox)
  • Qty of directories installed: 34
  • Amount of fun I'm having: oh, you have no idea...

Friday, January 18, 2008


I posted an item to Twitter today regarding my architecture theme of the month:

face immense resistance to simple ideas, then watch people clamor for them once a clue sets in
This prompted a conversation with fellow architects Brandon Satrom and Mark Masterson. At first they remarked that this is not so much a theme for the month as much as a recurring phenomena. I commented that I randomly select from a pool of themes each month. This started the small flurry of conversation from TheSatch and mastermark.

Without further ado, here is a draft version of the 'Dodecarchedron'.

Feel free to embrace and extend at your whim. The themes could stand some iterative refinement.

I having a working prototype I now use for my monthly theme selection. I am hoping to report on results of its use later this year.

Based on a suggestion from Mark, I'm contemplating a version based on an icosahedron. Twelve themes does indeed seem like an insufficient buffer size for candidate themes. As Mark mentions, perhaps we will see a wave of IT organizations playing Dungeons and Architecture. :-)

But wait! There's more!

Perhaps even twenty is insufficient. Perhaps we should be considering a pentakis dodecahedron.

Enumeration of the 60 sides is left as an exercise for the reader.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Not affected

Apparently the blogger outage didn't bite me, or at least not that I noticed.

I'm sure you were on the edge of your waiting to find out this critical piece of information.

Now get back to work!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Forgive me, for I have SVNed

Sorry, couldn't resist. :-/

At any rate...

Pretend this is Sunday, and this is my regularly scheduled weekly installment on Aloofix. :-)

Aloofix is now on SourceForge. I've also imported the source code into SVN. I'm dribbling in improvements on a semi-regular basis. Expect a version 0.4 or 0.5 tarball in the next couple of weeks.

I've also registered a vendor ID on, so the default NTP configuration will be a good Internet citizen. The kind folks at provide an invaluable service to the Internet. If you have static IP addresses and some cycles to spare, I heartily recommend considering joining the pool of NTP servers.

Once step closer to world domination!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

ECC, MCG, MCD, Four-Phase, etc... -> Emerson is reporting a piece of news that touches my personal history.

Emerson completes acquisition of Mot embedded unit

The embedded unit they are referencing is Embedded Communications Computing (ECC).

I worked at that business unit for many years. How long? Long enough to be called an 'institution' by people as I said my good-byes a couple years ago.

Those not familiar with ECC might recognize it from some of its earlier incarnations: MCG, MCD, Four-Phase.

Wow, even writing these words brings back memories.

This business unit has an interesting past. On a purely technical level, it was responsible for the following:
  • VME
  • reference implementation for SystemV on the 68000 CPU family
  • reference implementation for SystemV on the 88000 CPU family
  • an RS6000 clone running AIX on PPC CPUs
  • the PPC-NT implementation - NT 3.51 and 4.0 on a non-x86 chip
  • StarMax - a Mac clone done before Steve came back to Apple
  • their most recent creations include an interesting line of ATCA and MTCA
I'm sure I've missed an important item or two.

I was fortunate enough to work on all of these items to one degree or another. I feel truly blessed. Having come up through the ranks of System Administration, this place provided a dream environment. Sure, it had it share of typical corporation insanities and dramas. On the other hand, how many System Administrators have direct access to board designers, ASIC designers, kernel geeks, RTOS wierdos, and whatnot while learning their craft? It still boggles my mind.

I was originally tempted to list some of the opportunities I was provided while working their, but the list is simply too long. Suffice it to say that I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for AZ43.

I sincerely wish ECC the best future in the next leg of their history. Emerson has purchased a business unit with a rich history of contributions in the history of computing. Perhaps we will see more amazing contributions in the not too distant future. One can only hope.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Secure? Sure! ... and it will cure your asthma too!

Linux Today picked up a story from CNET that just took my breath away.

11 Open-Source Projects Certified as Secure

Here's the short version:

Coverity announced that they're certifying Amanda, NTP, OpenPAM, OpenVPN, Overdose, Perl, PHP, Postfix, Python, Samba, and TCL as satisfying their Rung 2 scan process.


You bet!



Hmmm... ok, back to reality...

First off,

Ever used static analysis programs?


While I applaud any efforts to squeeze security defects out of programs, let's not forget a simple rule of security:
'secure' program + bone-head configuration error == insecure program
This point alone is enough to invalidate any discussions regarding whether a program is secure.

I don't mean to cast aspersions on the effort or on the quality code in these programs, but let's be real here. For all sakes and purposes, there is no such thing as secure code.

To be fair, Coverity does not appear to be the one claiming these programs are secure. CNET, shameshameshame.

Maybe I'm just being grumpy... Maybe my grumpiness is immaterial.

Monday, January 07, 2008

BUGbase Imminent

I normally post my gadget posting later in the week, but I noticed this one during my post-holidays feed catchup exercise.

Bug Labs announced Pricing and Availability.

Retail pricing for bundles hasn't been announced yet, but tallying up the non-discounted prices for the BUGbase, LCD, GPS, camera, and accelerometer amounts to around $700. Not too bad all things considered.

They're also tossing in a 13% early-adopter discount for the first 60 days. The online store is scheduled to be open Jan 21.

I'm already preparing the pitch to my wife. ;-)

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Yow - a vacation from blogging has disrupted my routine. Let's not even discuss how many unread messages sit in my feed reader.

At any rate, Sunday is the day for my weekly installment on progress made on Aloofix.

First off, here are some some potentially interesting vital statistics related to the current version (0.3.1ish) of Aloofix:

  • 13MB - size of ISO Image
  • 8MB - RAM used in instance
  • 40MB - disk space used inside instance
The installation is based on the following packages:
  • linux 2.6.23
  • glibc 2.7
  • grub 0.97
  • busybox 1.8.2
  • e2fsprogs 1.40.2
  • ipkg 0.99.163
  • zlib 1.2.3
  • dropbear 0.50
Early alpha testing has uncovered a few bugs. All but one was easy to fix. I'm still working on an issue related to 64-bit build environments. Until then, the build must be done on a 32-bit x86 platform.

In addition to early bug reports, work continues on Aloofix - lots of fun!

The most notable addition since version 0.3 is support for VMWare Player and Qemu. I've also scanned through the kernel configuration, making changes appropriate for a virtualized environment.

Version 0.4 will probably remain a private alpha release. Leave a comment if you're interested in participating in the testing.

Barring any notable issues, I'm hoping to release version 0.5 to the public.

Until then, cheers!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Aloof Predictions for 2008

OK, many bloggers have posted predictions for 2008.

I decided it might interesting to chime in on the meme. I'm a tad tardy in publishing them, but I'm hoping you'll forgive my desire to gather my thoughts on the subject.

Without further ado, here are my Aloof Predictions for 2008:

  1. 2009 will arrive

    You can debate it all you want - I'm sticking to my guns on this one.

  2. Predictions for 2008 will subside shortly after I publish this article.

    For sufficiently loose definitions of the word 'shortly'...

  3. MOA will become a recognized term.

    I get bonus points if this ends up being true for EOA as well.

  4. Google will go on another buying spree, for hard drive manufacturers.

    I don't think this one requires an explanation.

  5. Massively parallel 6502 processors!

    It's the wave of the future!

  6. Aloofix will make me rich and famous.

    This could be the obligatory goat in the sheep herd.

  7. SOA will become a design pattern

    insert your witty remark here

  8. I'll be out from under my Arizona house.


  9. Predictions one through eight will be wrong.

    Read: I predict I'll have at least one correct prediction.

  10. The ninth prediction will be wrong.

    Read: I predict I'll have at least two correct predictions.

Assuming the first prediction holds, check in next year to see how many of my predictions come true.

Happy 2008!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Twelve Days of Unchristmas

On the Nth day of Unchristmas my true love gave to me: a day of blissful hacking.

I'll spare you the fully expanded version. ;-)

It was most definitely a pleasant treat for this Architect.

The result?

Aloofix 0.3 is currently in closed alpha testing.

I'm hoping 0.4 will be viable for public consumption, albeit as a slightly used alpha. :-)

Fun stuff...