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February 22, 2005

Lunch with Jason Gillmore at LinuxWorld Boston

Last week LinuxWorld was in Boston, so I shot over Tuesday afternoon and met up with Jason Gillmore, author of Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL: From Novice to Professional and open source editor for apress.

Jason is the first of the half-dozen people I've worked with on the MySQL book that I've actually met face-to-face. He'd arranged for a LinuxWorld pass so we spent an hour in a leisure stroll around the expo floor, stopping in at interesting booths from time to time. We went across the street to VinnyT's for some pretty good italian food.

LinuxWorld is a pretty flashy show, lots of big lights and slick displays. Was interesting to see how many booths had small "theaters" with sales folks wearing wireless and hands-free microphones delivering presentations. Even MySQL had a cool cylindrical banner hanging over their area, which contained a dozen modern small tables with computer screens and banners touting their different partnerships.

Was also nice to hang out with Jason, who's got a ton of enthusiasm and ideas about open source publishing and software. One theme I heard in our conversation was just how valuable book reviews are, especially reader reviews on amazon. Jason encourages all readers to put their thoughts on amazon because it can have a dramatic effect on sales of a book (hopefully in a good way). The other thing I thought was helpful was Jason's advice to be prepared, as an author, to support your book after it is published. This includes taking time to respond to email questions and collecting ideas for future printings. Jason suggested that the life of a book can be dramatically improved if it is maintained after publishing.

Before I left, Jason let me grab a few apress books, including Randal Schwartz's Perls of Wisdom. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but am excited to get into it.

Posted by mike at 10:29 PM

They Might Be Giants at Border's Books

We braved some snowy weather last night and took the kids (2 and 4 years) and Heidi's mom to see They Might Be Giants at Borders Books in Braintree, MA.

The show was excellent. It was small, just the two Johns and a drummer on a small stage. They played mostly stuff from their two recent kids CDs, No and Here Come the ABCs, but also did a few classics like James K. Polk and Particle Man.

I've never seen so many folks in a Border's bookstore. I'd guess more than 200, but I never got to really see everyone. A few minutes before the show started, John Flansburg got up and told all the people who didn't have kids to move to the back and let people with kids come to the front. There were a few dozen teenage and college-age TMBG fans that had staked a large area right by the stage that didn't want to budge. John got back up a few minutes later and made a more firm statement (because people weren't moving) and said that backing up 3 feet isn't going to change what you adults can see but it will make a world of difference to the little kids.

They are stopping in a dozen places on this tour.

Posted by mike at 9:31 AM

February 14, 2005

I Have a Mug Shot

For the past two years, when I've put proposals in for OSCON, I've left the "please include a URL to a photo of you" blank. Not sure why, but this year I actually dug into my photo library and dug out a photo to include. I wonder what this photo says about who I am.

I put two proposals in for OSCON 2005. One to talk about the major shift for us at TUSK when we went from developing an appliction for Tufts to a system that could be easily ported to another institution. The second is about using views and stored functions in MySQL to create virtual representations of a database. Who knows, every year I put in a presentation with no clue if the conference organizers will think the proposals will be of any interest to attendees. I thought about submitting a proposal to repeat last year's presentation on Using MySQL for Binary Data, with an update. Just didn't seem right. Other than the database growing to over a million images, I haven't done anything major on that subject lately.

The photo was taken by Heidi while we were walking along the Thames River in London back in June, 2004.

Posted by mike at 12:31 AM

February 7, 2005

What makes a conference compelling?

Having just registered for MySQL 2005, I started to write about some of the reasons I push to go to a conference, thought that thread belongs in a separate post.

To me, the main motivator in pushing for permission to attend a conference is how much of the program interests me and directly impacts what we're doing now or what we might be doing in the future. I've looked at umpteen different conference announcements and usually it comes down to OSCON as the top priority and then MySQL. I've looked at O'Reilly's Web 2.0 and Emerging Technology conferences, but neither of them have enough directly-related presentations for what I'm doing right now (although the web-services tracks are compelling).

I also have to keep my eyes on higher-ed conferences from groups like internet2, educause and sakai. The higher-ed conferences are about technology, but also have a heavy element of social networking. I'm not so good at networking, but I realize it's importance. The motivating factor in attending higher-ed meetings and conferences is still about learning technology, but I'm starting to see the importance of the networking and have been weighing that in as well.

Posted by mike at 6:46 PM

Going to MySQL 2005

Last year it was a wish that came true. Today I put my registration through for the 2005 MySQL user's conference. I think I might actually be more excited for this than I am about OSCON this year. Perhaps it's just that I don't have to speak and can really enjoy soaking up the persentations without the nagging nevousness of an impending public speaking performance in the back of my head.

I'm looking forward to a number of different presentations, both because we've got some need to look at how we're using MySQL as well as it will help me clarify some chapters in the book.

By far, the most pages that are requested from my weblog are my notes on the conference last year. I'll try to provide the same kind of coverage this year.

Posted by mike at 4:17 PM

February 3, 2005

The Book (ProMySQL) is Announced

I've been working on a book since December. I wasn't sure about making details available, because there's a point where the book isn't really official (while I'm proving I can write sentences), and the press doesn't want to jump the gun on announcing what's coming.

The book is ProMySQL, it covers advanced topics in using MySQL. The press is apress, and the authors are Michael Kruckenberg and Jay Pipes. I've also put a working TOC up on my site for the book.

It's been an interesting experience. I thought I knew MySQL pretty well, but I have significantly increased that knowledge and experience. I'm pretty lax about saying things based on assumtions or vague memory, but when I write something down I tend to be very complete in wanting to check every detail. Has made some of the chapters that I thought would be straightforward based on my experience turn into a lot of research and digging around code, documentation and using my research server to test and benchmark functionality.

I couldn't be happier about the co-author, Jay Pipes. Jay's been around databases for many years, much of his career using databases other than MySQL. I think that brings a wealth of information we tend to ignore in the MySQL world. There is no way on earth I could write chapters like he's putting out.

Working with apress has been good, the schedule is more aggressive than I thought was possible. The first schedule I saw was in late December, early January and it had the writing finishing on March 15th. That shocked me. After some back and forth we got the "all 1st drafts submitted" date pushed back to March 31st. It works out to turning in a chapter every 10 or 11 days. Writing a chapter is no small undertaking, so I'm finding that I pretty much have to work 4-5 hours every evening and a good chunk of every Saturday.

Posted by mike at 8:53 AM

February 2, 2005

It's Official . . . I have a Woodpile

Somewhere over the last two months my wife, Heidi, and a friend of mine, Dan, got me excited about using our fireplace. Dan has two fireplaces in his house and used some of their winter-heating budget to buy wood for their fireplaces.

At first, I was more interested for asthetics. I wanted to have a cold, dark, snowy night and be gathered around a warm fire having good conversation, reading etc. However, as I looked at the price of our monthly oil bill and got some quotes on wood it became clear that every hour we keep the furnace off and use the fire we're saving money.

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning Dan brought his chimney-sweep equipment over and we spent an hour running the brushes up the chimney (a dirty job). Dan brought a few dozen nice pieces of wood to get us started.

The fire we lit that night was a much-anticipated spectacle. The whole family pulled chairs up around the fireplace for a few evening hours and read stories. Funny thing, that night it started snowing which ended up being Boston's blizzard of 2005 where everything shut down for a few days. Couldn't have been happier about the circumstances, being stuck inside by the warm fire.

We used all of the wood from Dan over the long weekend and then went two weeks without any wood. I was trying to find free, or cheap wood using craigslist, but it was never quite right (asking too much or wanting to sell in larger quantities). When we reached the second weekend without firewood I just couldn't wait any longer so I found a local garden shop (turned out to have pretty pricing), that did firewood in the winter. I ordered 1/4 cord and had it delivered.

The dude came and dumped the wood in our driveway yesterday afternoon. Last night I spent a few hours moving it onto our enclosed porch, stacking it just like my dad did when we were kids. I actually called my dad when I was done and apologized for being such a thorn when he needed me to stack wood as a kid. It was hard to believe that I hated it so much 15 years ago, and now it's something made it hard for me to concentrate at work, thinking about getting home to stack the wood and light a fire.

Anyhow, last night's fire was OK - I kept neglecting it spent more time doing maintenance than I wanted. Tonight I've got an awesome one going. The coals are so hot you can feel them halfway across the room and the pieces of wood almost instantly ignite when put into the fire.

Alright, now back to less natural things, like configuring servers.

Posted by mike at 9:40 PM