Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

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Updated reading list

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson Looking back at the 17 books I planned to read this year, it looks like I haven’t made much progress. I’ve finished four of them (Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!; Crossing the Chasm; The Cathedral and the Bazaar; and most recently The Diamond Age).

The Diamond Age was good, but not as enjoyable as Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon. It looks like Stephenson just came out with a new tome. Maybe I’ll find time to read that in 2004.

I’ve been reading bits and pieces of The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick and Effective C++ by Scott Meyers, but neither of those books is compelling enough to sit down and read straight through.

Ariella just bought me a used copy of Meyer Levin’s Classic Hassidic Tales. I was reading a bit of it over Yom Kippur and it’s great. I like short stories.

This week at LAX I picked an audio CD of Steve Martin reading his new book The Pleasure of My Company. I read Shopgirl right when it came out almost 3 years ago and found it surprisingly good, so I’m hoping for another winner. I ripped all of the tracks to my iPod today so I’ll be able to listen to it on the plane. If I listen every week on the plane, I’ll finish it by mid-November.

Bubba Ho-tep

bubba-ho-tep.jpg Ariella and I saw Bubba Ho-tep at the Nuart last night. Bruce Campbell is incredible. Don Coscarelli is a genius.

Basically, the plot involves Elvis Presley, JFK, and an undead Egyptian mummy. Brilliant.

Campbell appeared in person to introduce the Friday night show. Too bad he didn’t make it last night. I would’ve liked to shake his hand and asked him to autograph my collection of Jack of all Trades episodes on VHS tapes.

The Goal by Eli Goldratt

0884270610.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg I finished reading The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt back at the end of July, but only now (at 30,000 feet on my way back to LAX) have I finally found a free moment to sit down and write about it.

Although the book was originally written almost 20 years ago, it does a great job at making the subject of process improvement engaging. Goldratt very cleverly disguises a “business book” in the form of a fiction novel.

It seems that I always enjoy books more if I can relate to one of the characters. Although I don’t run a factory like Alex Rogo does, I am a pretty busy person who struggles to balance personal and professional demands.

Perhaps the most compelling theme in the book is the concept that the journey is more important than the destination. Every time Alex Rogo thinks he has improved how his factory operates, a whole new crop of issues arises, and Alex needs to re-investigate what’s really going on the factory floor so he can find and eliminate the new bottleneck. Goldratt summarizes Alex’s task as a process of ongoing improvement. Bottlenecks can appear anywhere, even where you least expect them. The real challenge in being a manager, Alex discovers, is being able to work through the improvement process no matter what form it may take.

If you’ll allow me to drash it a little bit (perhaps I’m in the mood because we’re right in the middle of the Yamim Noraim), what Goldratt is really getting at is that the process is more important than the outcome. In other words, the journey is its own reward. The struggle is what makes us stronger. That’s not to say that the end isn’t important; Goldratt entitled the book The Goal for a reason. Businesspeople (Goldratt’s audience) know that they need to be profitable or they’ll go out of business (or get replaced by someone who can make a profit).

The truly rewarding part of work (and by extension life in general) isn’t at the moment that you reach the goal. In fact, once I’ve finished a project and declared success there is often a little hint of disappointment that it’s over. Instead, it’s the process itself that is rewarding. It’s through the process that we grow into better people.

Field Day by Shere

Field Day by Shere I was browsing through my CD collection this morning to find a few more albums to rip to my iPod and I came across Field Day, a funky acoustic pop album I hadn’t listened to in a while.

It’s good. And now that it’s on my iPod, I’ll probably listen to it more. I really like After the Rain and Watching Amy. If there’s interest, I’ll see if I can get permission from the artist to put a full-length sample MP3 up on my site.

Aside from being a talented singer/songwriter, Los Angeles local Daniel Shere is also a screenwriter. His claim to fame is co-writing an amusing short film called George Lucas in Love, a comedy that pays homage to both Star Wars and Shakespeare In Love. You may have seen it floating around the Internet back in ’99 when high-bandwidth content was all the rage.

The sheremusic.com website is a little goofy, but don’t let that prevent you from buying a copy of their album. At a total cost of $13.40 ($10.99 plus shipping & tax) it’s a pretty good price for a great album.

The Cathedral, The Bazaar, and Apache

The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary A couple of weeks ago I read Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and The Bazaar, a collection of essays about Open Source software. Raymond writes quite well for a techie (either that or he has a superb editor), and the book is coherent. I didn’t agree with most of the book, but I think it’s important to keep abreast of what other folks are writing about the space.

Despite my general disappointment in the book, Homesteading the Noosphere was quite good. In an essay describing how “ownership” of Open Source projects works, Raymond accurately states the previously unwritten code of behavior. Projects have owners. Contributions are welcome, especially when they’re written well. Project ownership can be transferred. Forking is strongly discouraged, although sometimes necessary as a last resort when the owner won’t accept changes and refuses to relinquish control of the project.

apache-feather.gif The Homesteading the Noosphere essay has actually prompted me to think a little bit about what’s going to happen with the Apache HTTP Server. The Apache Software Foundation is currently maintaining two separate versions of this product, 1.3.x and 2.0.x (and is also is working on 2.1.x). Although the 2.0 server has been stable and “recommended” for over a year now, there are lots of organizations that are still using the 1.3 platform. The ASF would like folks to move to 2.0, but the fact that they’re still making 1.3.x releases indicates that they recognize that migrating to 2.0 is no small undertaking. When there are security problems (and sometimes features) these changes are always made in 2.0 first, but need to get “backported” to 1.3.

But what if maintaining two separate products became too cumbersome and the ASF decided to stop making 1.3.x releases? I’ve wondered privately if any of the organizations that have a substantial investment in Apache/1.3 would want to take over the codebase (i.e. fork it). What would happen to the Apache community if someone decided to make an Apache/1.4 release? If the development was split across two projects, would both lose momentum (and therefore market share)? Would the vast majority of folks stand by the ASF and swallow the complexity of the 2.x server, while a “rogue” bunch of hackers simply caused social turmoil with 1.4 but never really made it successfully as a project? Or vice-versa?

Regardless of technical or social reasons, something called “Apache/1.4” couldn’t really happen without the ASF’s blessing. Although the code is Open Source so you could re-use it for another project, the Apache License is written in such a way that derivative products aren’t allowed to use the name “Apache”. But maybe there could be a Hopi/1.4 or a Mohican/1.4 HTTP server…

As Raymond writes in Homesteading the Noosphere, the natural motivation is to avoid forking unless absolutely necessary. In the case of Apache HTTP Server, there are decent technical and social alternatives to this last resort. So I’d hazard to guess that we’ll never see Apache/1.4.

Instead, we’ll probably see at most two more Apache/1.3 releases before the code is officially declared deprecated (which will probably happen right around the time that Apache/2.1 is released). Folks who have put off the 1.3-to-2.0 migration effort will take a serious look at a 1.3-to-2.1 jump, and the vast majority of them will make the move over the next two years. Sure, there will always be some laggards who are stuck using Apache/1.3.31, but by the end of 2005 their numbers will be so small that they’re not worth mentioning.


Guster: Keep It Together I was just introduced to Guster, a 3-piece band from Boston. I like their sound.

Ariella’s family came to visit this past weekend. On Sunday after brunch we gathered around my laptop to watch streaming videos from Yahoo! Launch. At 300Kbps, it’s an on-demand (albeit lower-quality) MTV experience.

Avital, an undergrad at BU said, “Hey, that’s a Guster video I’ve never seen before,” so we clicked and watched. Not bad. “Who’s Guster?” I asked. “They’re from Boston,” she replied.

I later logged onto KaZaaLite and grabbed 6 tracks and synced them to my iPod (the Apple Music Store isn’t available for PCs yet). My favorite so far is Two Points for Honesty. That song reminds me a little bit of The Waltons, a Canadian band I saw at the Filmore in 1998.