– Full Frontal Nerdity

Clint Byrum's Personal Stuff

The bitter part of the Bittersweet news



"Vest over t-shirt pwns half-shirt, Bill!"

That is the word that I would use to describe the work done by my fellow engineers at Canonical over the past 2.5 years. However, it is time to move on.

Bill and Ted say "whu?"

"I think I'm gonna hurl, Bill"

Its not an easy thing to move on from what is truly the best job I’ve ever had. However, it is time. I’ll discuss more here after my last day at Canonical, which will be very soon, December 5th. Suffice to say, I won’t disappear from Ubuntu, so stay tuned!

November 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm Comments (0)

Such a profound question..

Words do not do it justice.. LITERALLY

April 12, 2011 at 4:12 am Comments (0)

FAIL: the new learning.

Danger of Death by Failing

The worst way to go.

I started my breathing, er, reading time today by digesting this post by Matt Zimmerman which analogizes (quite effectively) reading and writing to breathing air. His comment on deep understanding through sharing struck a cord with me.

I believe this is a key component of human interaction and the way our brains work.

When inside our heads, we condense information into shorthand. An Ubuntu developer has a deep understanding of what “maintainer scripts” means, and so we just use that term in our head as an assumption. When we make these assumptions, we must consciously decide to challenge them, and often then we challenge them with other assumptions.

This also leads to “groupthink” as he calls it, where a group of similarly trained/experienced individuals start to share ideas, but they keep the shorthand, and can’t understand why their idea goes in circles.

Divergent thinking, and true understanding, only come when an outsider, a novice in the field, enters the picture. These assumptions must be explained, and in the process, often our own brain is going to re-evaluate the assumptions naturally.

This is why failure leads to understanding. As upon failure, you must explain to those holding you accountable why you failed, which often gets you the “aha!” moment that you missed because you worked so hard in isolation.

I think this is the reason that community driven, open source development produces high quality software. Two years ago my C++ was pretty rusty, and I started modifying code in the Drizzle project based on their documented guides. It turned out that my novice questions exposed a few ambiguities in the guides, in their blueprints, and in the way they were thinking in general, exacting some changes and (hopefully) producing higher quailty software. In a less open minded project, I’d have been cast aside as a distraction or an annoyance, a road block on the way to the end goal.

So, the moral of the story is, meet confusion not with more deliberation and furrowed brows, but with a bull horn and wide open arms. Meet failure not with shame, but proud explanation. Find somebody who doesn’t know anything about what you know, and tell them a story. Listen to their questions. You might just figure it out..

December 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm Comments (0)

Cars are so last century … but, so is Linux, right?

This past weekend, I attended the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. I’m not a huge car buff. I do think that BMW’s are the bomb, and I like Honda’s common sense vehicles, but really, I am NOT a car guy. However, I thought this was an interesting chance to take a look at an industry that, in my opinion, isn’t all that different than the one I’m in.

Now, that may surprise some. Its pretty easy to think that I work for a super advanced company that has started a revolution and sits on the bleeding edge of innovation. I mean, at Canonical, we’re doing all kinds of amazing stuff with “the cloud” and building software that makes peoples’ jaw drop when they see it in action sometimes.

But really, I think we’re more like CODA. CODA has built what looks to be a sustainable, practical electric car. The car itself is not visually stunning, but the idea behind it is. Make an electric car that anyone can buy *and* use. Make it fun, and make sure the business is sustainable. But, in no way is CODA challenging the ideas and revisions that have worked for the 100+ years that the car industry has existed.

CODA is still putting a steering wheel, gas pedals, and gear shift in the cockpit for the driver. There are doors, wipers, lights, and probably floor mats. In much the same way, in Ubuntu, we’re still putting our software out there with the intention that, while its created differently, and affords the user more capabilities, it is basically driven in much the same way as Windows 7 or OS X, mostly as a web, errrr, cloud terminal.

The exciting part is that for $3 of possibly more efficiently produced electricity, you can drive 100 miles. Even more exciting is that the CODA might actually compete with sensibly priced  (but larger) Honda and Toyota sedans, rather than like the Tesla cars that compete with Lexus and BMW’s.

Given this way of thinking, the auto show was extremely interesting. The electric car (open source?) has “arrived”, and the established players are buying the interesting enabling technology like batteries (android’s linux kernel, darwin for mac, etc) from companies like Tesla, and putting them in their established products.

Whether consumers care about either open source or electric cars is another story.. maybe the 2011 LA Auto Show will have an answer for me on at least one of them.

November 22, 2010 at 6:06 pm Comments (0)

Seth’s Blog: Validation is overrated

Seth GodinSeth’s Blog: Validation is overrated.

“If you’re waiting for a boss or an editor or a college to tell you that you do good work, you’re handing over too much power to someone who doesn’t care nearly as much as you do.”

Just a bit of reminder that while feedback is great, getting it done is way better.

June 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm Comments (0)

Canonical, and Ubuntu Developer Summit, here I come!

As of next Monday, I will officially be in the employ of Canonical as a member of the Ubuntu Server Team. Please come say hi if you’re going to the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Belgium, as I’ll be there all week (try the fish!).

May 4, 2010 at 7:27 am Comments (0)

Why hasn’t OpenID, or something else, taken over yet?

I just happened upon a site that mentioned as a way to brainstorm. Cool tool. I played with it and decided I wanted to keep the data I had put in it to play with later, but was annoyed that I had to create yet another user id+email+password combination on yet another site that I probably won’t visit again for a long while. Plus, say I want to add it onto my facebook wall. Facebook might be able to extract the images, but they might now. How lame is that?

My current solution for the login problem is less than ideal. I use the java program Password Safe to save my accounts+passwords, which it generates randomly. The pass phrase for my password safe is pretty complex, and I change it on about an annual basis. The program re-locks the safe after 5 minutes of inactivity, so this is reasonably safe against casual compromise. Of course, keyboard shoulder surfing and a subsequent theft of my machine (or temporary control) could render it useless, but I’m willing to accept those risks and do what I can to maintain control of the laptop. If somebody steals my laptop, unless they can crack the encryption quickly, I feel pretty good that I’ll have enough time to restore from backup, change all the passwords, and set a new combination.

However, this is basically as good as our current “status quo” of online fractured identity can get. And I still don’t have anything to bring all of my online presence together.

I recall with fond memories watching Dick Hardt’s amazing Identity 2.0 presentation from the audience at OSCON 2005. I came away thinking to myself “oh good, somebody is on it.” I put it out of my mind as a systems administrator with a lot of things to think about on the backend, and no real concern for the frontend.

Fast forward 5 years, and I see that we’re not much better off now. Dick Hardt’s company Sxip produced Sxipper, which is pretty cool, but still puts it on the users to safeguard and manage their data. Oh and really, I never heard about it until I went looking for Sxip again, and I don’t know anybody using it, I think its just a cool curiosity, not a solution.

This really is an issue that affects people, but they may not know it. Look at the trouble this guy went through to make google accounts useful for people with multiple email addresses. As we start sharing and sending and moving data, our identities clearly can’t be defined as email addresses anymore. I have 3 that I use a lot, and a couple of others that just refuse to die for whatever reason. Changing them means trying to find every site on which I’ve used them. UGH.

OpenID was, and still is, a promising direction. There are some definite security pitfalls in the way its been done in the past, but I think they’ve solved most of them. It doesn’t really satisfy Dick’s Photo ID requirement where the issuer doesn’t get to know what you’re using it for. Still I love when I sign up for a site and I can use my OpenID login. I use my account for this, mostly because it was the first site that had a very clear “this is your open ID url” link.

FOAF-SSL or “WebID” also seems interesting as a way to promote social credibility and utilize existing technologies rather than try to invent the whole thing. Even twitter seems to have rudimentary support. But its still a long way off from being in control of our identity. Given the meager number of relying parties, I’d say it may not ever get there, which is too bad.

So now I’m just confused. How and when are we going to get this done? When can I say “this is me, here’s some proof that this is me, now lets get something done.”?

Social networks sort of try to do this with the social proof of many friends. But at issue there is how closed off those social relationships are. Facebook wants me *on Facebook*. They don’t want to enable me to also use myspace or my Ning community seamlessly.

Until we as users know why we’d want that, and somebody is able to provide it, I guess I’m just stuck with my password safe.

April 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm Comments (0)

The Trans-doran Complex (How to get hired by me)

Seth Godin’s recent post about responding to discussions about things you don’t understand has got me thinking about hiring people.

When involved with a staffing decision, I look for one trait in particular above all others. If you don’t know how to say “I don’t know”, and ask for an explanation or help, then you’re not really smart. You don’t have a good process for learning. You may have a mountain of knowledge in your head, but it is surrounded by a huge, impenetrable ego shield, and so, cannot ever be added to. Its like you took the sum of what you knew, and stuffed it into a snow globe. When people shake you up.. sure.. its pretty, but thats all there is to it.

I’d rather work with people who are open to having their entire belief system about certain subjects shattered by a better idea. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stick to your guns and assert your own ideas and beliefs. It just means, when challenged, be like the Zen Buddhist Aikido master and flow with the force of the attack, and when possible, use it to your advantage.

(No google will not help you with the “trans-doran complex”. I’m hoping that upon seeing it you were curious, and after googling for it and finding nothing of substance, considered asking what it is.. ;)

June 8, 2009 at 4:39 pm Comments (0)