Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Groovy Best Fit Line

An engineer on my team at work asked if I could help with coding an algorithm for calculating a line that best fits a given set of data points. I thought, "what a great excuse to practice some Groovy", and got started right away.

A few Google searches led me to this 10-yr-old page on Regression Functions by Stefan Waner from Hofstra University. Stefan outlined the exact algorithm I was looking for.

Here is my implementation in Groovy:
// Prints the start/end points of a line that best fits 4 sample data points
pts = [[1, 1.5], [2, 1.6], [3, 2.1], [4, 3.0]]
println bestFit(pts)

* Given a set of points, uses a linear regression algorithm to find the start and end points
* of a line that best fits the set of points.
* Returns the two points as [[x1, y1], [x2, y2]].
* The algorithm is from
def bestFit(pts) {
// Find sums of x, y, xy, x^2
n = pts.size()
xSum = pts.collect() {p -> p[0]}.sum()
ySum = pts.collect() {p -> p[1]}.sum()
xySum = pts.collect() {p -> p[0]*p[1]}.sum()
xSqSum = pts.collect() {p -> p[0]*p[0]}.sum()

// Find m and b such that y = mx + b
// m is the slope of the line and b is the y-intercept
m = (n*xySum - xSum*ySum) / (n*xSqSum - xSum*xSum)
b = (ySum - m*xSum) / n

// Find start and end points based on the left-most and right-most points
x1 = pts.collect() {p -> p[0]}.min()
y1 = m*x1 + b
x2 = pts.collect() {p -> p[0]}.max()
y2 = m*x2 + b

[[x1, y1], [x2, y2]]

Running this script prints the following:
[[1, 1.3], [4, 2.8]]

You gotta love Groovy!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Personal Hosted Confluence Wiki for Free

I had been searching for a way to use Confluence as a personal wiki for me and my wife. I couldn't find a cheap hosted solution where I could just get an account for 2 people on an instance of Confluence maintained by someone else. I also didn't really want to pay a hosting company like Linode or Slicehost $20 a month for my own virtual machine on which I'd have to install and maintain Confluence myself.

Recently I heard about Morph Labs which describes themselves as a Platform as a Service (PaaS). They offer free hosting accounts that give you up to a 1GB database. I immediately got the idea to try running the personal edition of Confluence on this service. Eventually I got it working, but the process to get up and running was not at all easy. In fact, I struggled for serveral nights.

The rest of this post documents the process I went through. I hope it will help someone else avoid the many hours I spent learning how to work within Morph AppSpace with a third-party Java web application. Good luck, and if you have any tips or corrections, please comment and I'll update this post.

Start by signing up for a Morph AppSpace account with Morph Labs. Create a new subscription and setup a new database for that subscription. Be sure to choose Java, not the default Ruby on Rails, when setting up your subscription. Choose PostgreSQL for your database as this seems to work best with Confluence. Once your subscription is setup, download the Properties File,, and Deployment Jar File, morph-deploy.jar, that can be found in the Java Tools for Morph AppSpace Deployment section.

Next, go get your free license for personal Confluence. It allows you to register 2 users. Hold on to that license text. You'll need to activate Confluence once it is installed. Then download the latest version of Confluence which is currently 2.9.2.

Unpack the file you downloaded somewhere on your computer. Inside, you should find an edit-webapp directory. Any files you need to modify should get copied into this directory. The contents of this directory get overlayed on top of the contents of the eventual Confluence WAR file that you're going to build, so make sure to adhere to the standard WAR directory structure. The whole purpose of the edit-webapp directory is to keep your local changes separate from the distribution so when it comes time to upgrade Confluence, you can just replace it and you'll know what you had to modify.

Copy confluence/WEB-INF/classes/ to edit-webapp/WEB-INF/classes/
Edit the copied, specifying the home dir as /var/java/ where APP_NAME is whatever name you chose as your subdomain at Morph. For example, if your domain is, then your home directory path would be /var/java/family-wiki.

Copy confluence/WEB-INF/web.xml into edit-webapp/WEB-INF/web.xml.
Edit web.xml adding the jdbc datasource:

<description>Morphlabs Datasource</description>
<!-- any name will do for the res-ref-name -->

and the JavaMail session:

<description>Morphlabs Mail Session</description>
<!-- any name will do for the res-ref-name -->

I had to disable Confluence's JMX-based monitoring because of problems registering MBeans. This isn't a big deal since, for a personal instance of Confluence, I don't really have any need to monitor performance and gather statistics. This web page explained how to disable JMX. Download jmanageContext.xml from the URL shown on that page. Then, copy jmanageContext.xml into edit-webapp/WEB-INF/classes.

Remove mail.jar and activation.jar from confluence/WEB-INF/lib. Morph AppSpace already includes those in the Jetty server and having an extra copy in your WAR might cause class loader issues that would prevent JavaMail from working properly. This is the only change that you'd have to remember to do again if you were to ever download a new version of Confluence.

Now it is time to build the WAR file. Run ./ which creates dist/confluence-2.9.2.war. If you need to make any changes to any files, be sure to run this build script again.

Download and morph-deploy.jar from your subscription within the Morph Control Panel.


java -Xmx512m -jar morph-deploy.jar --config confluence-2.9.2/dist/confluence-2.9.2.war

Now, sit back, relax, and wait while your WAR is being uploaded and deployed on Morph AppSpace. This could take up to 15 minutes, so be patient.

Hit and if all went well, you should see a Confluence installation web page. Following the Confluence installation wizard, entering your personal license text. Choose Custom Installation, External Database, Connect via a Datasource.
Enter java:comp/env/jdbc/morph-ds as the datasource.

Confluence takes a long time to setup the database, so the page may appear to hang. Each time I tried this (I had to try many times before figuring all this out), the page timed out. I don't know if something went wrong or Morph AppSpace just has a time limit on waiting for a page to render. Even though the page timed out and I saw some kind of "Proxy error" message, the database still seems to have been initialized properly, but the application wasn't able to recover. I had to go into the Morph Control Panel to restart the application. Once I did that, Confluence was up and running!

Coming soon to this post: Setting up a mail server and using Groovy and XML-RPC to perform a daily backup of your confluence data.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

MacBook to HDTV via Mini DVI to DVI to HDMI

Since the MacBook is so good at playing different kinds of media, I plan to make it the media center of my life. I will store all music, videos, and photos there.

This led me to try to connect my MacBook to my Sharp Aquos LC46D64U 46-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV. I did some research and found that there was only one option if I wanted to have digital picture quality. I needed 2 cables because there is no such thing yet as a Mini DVI to HDMI cable:
  1. Mini DVI to DVI Adapter ($19.95)
  2. DVI to HDMI Cable ($19.95)
I picked these up, connected the Mini DVI end of the first cable to my MacBook, connected the DVI end of the second cable to the first cable, and finally the HDMI end of the second cable to an open HDMI slot in my TV. Then I switched the TV's input to the HDMI port I just plugged into, and voila! - it worked immediately! The 1920 by 1080 picture looked great.

The MacBook lets you choose between having 2 monitors and mirroring the same monitor. The settings are all under System Preferences > Displays.

Now, I can show photo slide shows when the family is over, I can watch video podcasts and YouTube videos on the big screen, and I can even enjoy the Twitter election feed from my couch.

Next I will look for the best way to get the sound from my MacBook hooked up to my Denon receiver.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Giving In and Buying a MacBook

I finally caved in to the marketing pressure from Apple and a lot of my Apple-religious friends. I bought a MacBook. Why would I do this after many years of trying to do everything with open source software? The main reasons are iTunes and my wife's need to use MS Office.

I need iTunes to manage my family's 3 iPods (2 of which I got for free at tech conferences and users groups). I also will need iTunes if I decide to buy an iPhone. I have been thinking about it because I am surrounded by friends and co-workers who swear up and down that the iPhone is the answer to all of life's problems. Anyway, Apple won't produce a version of iTunes that runs on Linux and that's a shame, but there's nothing I can do about it.

My wife has been using our Ubuntu linux desktop for the last few years, and has gotten along quite nicely until recently when she needed some advanced spreadsheet functionality like mail merge. I am disappointed to say that Open Office just wasn't cutting it. The feature set was either lacking or buggy. She was longing for MS Excel. MS Office is available for the Mac, so that problem could get solved too.

So far, the best thing about that Mac has been its packaging. It came in a slick box with fancy designer Styrofoam. It has stylish body and the l.e.d. lights have a pleasing glow. Also the screen has a great, kind of glossy, picture.

I do have some gripes:

For one thing, I can't find a way to turn of that annoying sound the computer makes when booting. A few blog posts I read say that you have to download some 3rd party software to disable it.

After 20 minutes of surfing the web when I first booted up, the computer crashed and the wireless card stopped working. I had to take the computer back to the Apple store. Thankfully they exchanged it even though I had purchased the MacBook from the online Apple store.

There doesn't appear to be any way to maximize a window. There is a green plus button on each window that makes the window larger, but it doesn't make it go full screen. Why can't I have this functionality on a Mac?

There is no concept of right-click! To get a context menu, I have to put 2 fingers on the trackpad and click the button. I guess I can get used to this, but come-on, would it be so hard for Apple to make the right side of the button do what Windows and Linux users expect?

You can only resize a window from the lower-right corner. This is unbelieveable. Both Windows and Linux allow you to resize a window from any edge of the window. I find this really annoying.

There are no Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys! The function key + up or down arrows will do the same thing as Page Up and Page Down. Also the Apple key + the left and right arrow will do the same thing as Home and End, but I'm just not used to it yet.

Pressing the red X button on a window closes the window, but doesn't close the application even if it is the last window open in that application. You have to remember to explicitly quit the application with an Apple key + Q. I always forget to do this and am left with many open applications as a result.

Despite all these gripes, I am happy to be getting to know my way around a Mac now. I have always felt completely lost on a Mac and these days, it feels like everyone and their mother has one.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Walking L.A. #20 - Lower Beachwood Canyon

Again, Erin Mahoney, the author of our guide book, took us back to Hollywood. This time we visited Lower Beachwood Canyon which is just a little bit east of the last walk in Whitley Heights. Again there were many steep roads, but I enjoyed this walk a little more than last week's because we went earlier in the morning to avoid the heat, and I saw an area I've never seen before, even though I've lived in LA for over 15 years.

We began at the bottom of Vista del Mar Ave where it meets Franklin Ave. We stopped for coffee at the 101 Coffee Shop which was a 70's-looking diner with some character. I'd return there sometime to try the food, but never again for a cup of coffee which was pretty lousy even for a diner.

Again this week we saw beautiful houses, many with enviable views of Hollywood and Downtown LA. Many parts of the neighborhood were quiet with narrow, curvy streets, which reminded me of hillside towns in Europe. Other parts were extremely noisy from the roaring cars on the adjacent 101 Freeway.

One of the noisiest areas, ironically, was home to the Vedanta Society of Southern California. We stopped in to admire their white temple which looked like a mini Taj Mahal. We also browsed through their bookstore where we almost bought our son a Peaceful Piggy Meditation book.

The next walk is Upper Beachwood Canyon.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Walking L.A. #19 - Whitley Heights and Hollywood Boulevard

This walk was just on the other side of Highland Ave from the last walk. You can tell that Whitley Heights was once a very prestigious neighborhood by the many fancy Mediterranean style homes. Unfortunately the 101 Freeway was built right through it and now the residents have to put up with the noise.

It was really hot today and the many steep roads on this walk contributed to a lot of sweating. After walking through Whitley Heights we descended down Whitley Ave to Hollywood Blvd where we walked west to the Hollywood and Highland complex. The boulevard was full of the usual tourists. We had been here many times before so instead of sightseeing, we headed into a Build-a-Bear store to cool off. Yes, there is actually a store that is like a Subway Restaurant for teddy bears. You start with a naked bear and then pick its name, clothes, and accessories.

After the bear store, we stopped to watch some dancers rehearsing their moves at the Hollywood Pop Academy while we fed our baby. Finally, we grabbed some coffee at Starbucks and then headed back to Whitley Heights to end our walk.

The next walk is Lower Beachwood Canyon.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Walking L.A. #18 - High Tower and the Hollywood Bowl

Before the walk, we stopped for breakfast at the Mar Vista Farmers Market getting omelettes and French toast from Cafe Laurent. Two good friends who were visiting from San Francisco joined us today.

The first part of the walk was interesting. We walked through the Hollywood Heights neighborhood which is just south of the Hollywood Bowl. At the center of this hillside neighborhood stood a tall elevator tower known as High Tower. The tower is closed to everyone except residents with a key, so we had to climb many cement staircases to get to the top. This was a challenge considering we had our baby and stroller with us. Luckily my friends took turns helping me out. One of the things I liked the most about this neighborhood was that many of the homes were accessible only by footpath. This gave it a quiet, neighborly feel similar to places I've seen in Europe.

The next part of the walk took us to the famous Hollywood Bowl. There were no shows going on and the bowl was open for people to just walk in and check it out. We walked to the boxed seat area, took a seat in one of the boxes, and dreamt about how nice it would be to attend a concert or show in one of the boxes eating cheese and sipping wine.

The next walk is Whitley Heights and Hollywood Boulevard.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Monday, June 02, 2008

My Twitter Account Has Disappeared!

I was about to Twitter just now and for some reason Twitter wouldn't let me login. I tried visiting my Twitter feed page at and Twitter responded with the message "That page doesn't exist!". Figuring that Twitter was just down, I tried a friend's page, and that page loaded just fine. In the "Following" section of my friend's page, I noticed that my picture was missing! Next I tried to reset my password, and when I entered my email address, Twitter responded with "Oh, snap! We couldn't find you!".

What is going on? Is my Twitter account really gone and my data lost forever? I know they have had problems scaling recently, but losing someone's account is way worse than having a temporary outage. I submitted a support ticket and also posted a message to Get Satisfaction. Let's see what happens... If this doesn't get resolved, I am just going to give up on Twitter which will probably make my wife happy.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Walking L.A. #17 - Carthay Circle and South Carthay

There wasn't anything that exciting about today's walk which was a little south of last week's walk in the Miracle Mile area. We explored 2 of 3 neighborhoods within a residential district called Carthay: Carthay Circle and South Carthay. Our book says that these neighborhoods are in the Miracle Mile district, but Wikipedia says Carthay is its own district. Both neighborhoods contain HPOZ's for their architectural integrity and cohesiveness. The styles include Spanish Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival. I can't think of much else to say about this walk.

The next walk is High Tower and the Hollywood Bowl.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Walking L.A. #16 - Miracle Mile

Our friend Kevin joined us for this walk which meandered through the Miracle Mile district where he works at E! Networks.

The walk began at Hancock Park (a real park, not the wealthy LA neighborhood of the same name). This park is home to the infamous La Brea Tar Pits and the adjacent LA Country Museum of Art. We paused briefly by the tar pits to see if we could get the smell to trigger our memory of childhood playground asphalt on a hot day, something our book mentioned we might experience. It didn't work at first, but as we walked away from the tar pits, a gentle breeze indeed carried the scent we were waiting for. We skipped the Page Museum which is dedicated the ancient history of the area since we'd all been there at some point in our lives.

Next we passed by a new part of LACMA called BCAM which stands for Broad Contemporary Art Museum. In front of BCAM was a giant red toy firetruck and closer to Wilshire was a display of lamp posts. We paused here to take some pictures.

We stopped for lunch at Farmers Market on 3rd and Fairfax. I had fried catfish and jambalaya at one of my favorite eateries, The Gumbo Pot. My friend Kevin grabbed a savory crepe from the French Crepe Company. After lunch we walked quickly through The Grove, one of those generic, outdoor, fake-urban, Disneylandesque shopping malls that everyone but me seems to love.

We left The Grove to walk through a nice neighborhood called Miracle Mile North, one of the district's several HPOZ's. Very nice homes in a very central location. Wish we could afford to live there. We finished up the walk passing through the Park La Brea high-rises. It was the first time I had walked through Park La Brea, and I wasn't impressed, although it seems that many people like it.

The next walk is Carthay Circle and South Carthay.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cloud Studio Released

Cloud Services just launched Cloud Studio which is a java-based desktop application for managing images and instances in Amazon's EC2. I've yet to try it, but from the screenshots, it looks really nice. I'm not sure, though, if it does anything more than the very capable Elasticfox which runs right in your Firefox browser. Cloud Studio is also available as an Eclipse plugin which is really convenient for Java developers and users of the popular open source IDE.

GUI's like Elasticfox and Cloud Studio make working with Amazon EC2 really easy. Now I wish someone would create similar management tools for Amazon's SQS and SimpleDB. I'd like to be able to list, see stats for, and manage my SQS queues and SimpleDB domains, items, and attributes without having to run command line scripts. Hint, hint, Cloud Services!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

ejabberd on Amazon EC2 Ubuntu AMI

It turned out to be harder that I expected to setup a Jabber (XMPP) server on an Ubuntu virtual machine (ami-ce44a1a7) within Amazon EC2. I chose to setup ejabberd since it was an easy to install via apt-get. I was a little nervous about working with a server built with Erlang since I knew nothing about it, but it was a reputable server and I was counting on not needing to have any Erlang knowledge to work with ejabberd. That was a correct assumption for the most part.

First, I logged into the VM and installed ejabberd:
apt-get install ejabberd
Next I edited the ejabberd config file, /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg, making an admin user and setting the hostname as
%% Admin user
{acl, admin, {user, "kweiner", ""}}.

%% Hostname
{hosts, [""]}.
Next, I restarted the server and registered kweiner as a new user:
/etc/init.d/ejabberd restart
ejabberdctl register kweiner mypasswd
Then I authorized traffic on ports 5222 (Jabber), 5223 (Jabber encrypted for old clients), 5269 (Other Jabber servers), and 5280 (Jabber web admin tool):
ec2-authorize default -p 5222
ec2-authorize default -p 5223
ec2-authorize default -p 5269
ec2-authorize default -p 5280
I could now hit the admin screen on which I logged in as
From here it was possible to add new users and browse server statistics. I experimented with adding users and using various Jabber clients like Gajim to send messages from one user to another.

My first problem came when I tried to communicate with users registered in other Jabber servers like and Google Talk. I struggled for hours trying to figure out why users on my server couldn't communicate with users from these other servers. Thankfully James Murty gave me a bit of help on this Jabber on EC2 message board thread. It turned out that I needed to configure SRV records in my DNS settings.

I logged into GoDaddy where my domain is registered and configured SRV records as follows:

After this, I was able to use nslookup to verify that the SRV records were setup properly:
kweiner~$ nslookup
> set type=srv

Non-authoritative answer: service = 10 10 5269
That did it! My jabber server was finally federating with other jabber servers and my users could talk to their users.

I encountered my next big problem when I tried to use jabber again after terminating and relaunching my AMI. ejabberd failed to start and I found the following error message in the /var/log/ejabberd/ejabberd.log:
application: ejabberd
exited: {bad_return,{{ejabberd_app,start,[normal,[]]},

After some googling, I found that ejabberd associates itself with an Erlang node name, a concept I don't really understand that well. By default the node name was dynamically set based on the hostname for the machine. It looked something like this: ejabberd@domU-12-31-38-00-9D-63. This node name is somehow linked to the Mnesia database stored as files within /var/lib/ejabberd. The problem is that the hostname and therefore the node name changes everytime the AMI is relaunched which confuses ejabberd.

One solution I found is to explicitly set the node name. I did this by modifying /etc/default/ejabberd adding the line:
export ERLANG_NODE=ejabberd@jabber
This requires adding jabber as a host name inside /etc/hosts: localhost.localdomain localhost jabber
I made those changes, removed all the database files from /var/lib/ejabberd, and restarted ejabberd. That did it! The node name was the same regardless of the hostname associated with the particular AMI instance.

This was a lot of effort, but it probably would have been easier if I had been familiar with Erlang applications and SRV DNS settings. I hope this post helps someone else struggling to setup ejabberd on EC2 as I did.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Amazon EC2 - My First Step into the Cloud

Ever since returning from the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last month, I have been excited about learning how to setup a machine in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). My first goal was just to get a Linux machine running in the cloud on which later I will try to install enough software to get a basic web application running.

To learn what to do, I consulted a the Programming Amazon Web Services book which is fortunately available on Safari Online. In parallel I read the Getting Started Guide on Amazon's website. The steps to get a virtual machine running were roughly the following:
  • Register for Amazon EC2.
  • Download a X.509 certificate private key and public key pair and store them in a ~/.ec2 directory on my computer.
  • Take note of my AWS account number.
  • Download the Amazon EC2 Command-Line Tools
  • Set environment variables: EC2_HOME, EC2_PRIVATE_KEY, EC2_CERT
  • Run ec2-describe-images -o self -o amazon to search for images.
  • Generate keypair using ec2-add-keypair gsg-keypair
  • Fired up the Getting Started AMI with ec2-run-instances ami-2bb65342 -k gsg-keypair
  • Open SSH and HTTP ports: ec2-authorize default -p 22, ec2-authorize default -p 80
  • SSH into the instance: ssh -i id_rsa_gsg_keypair
  • Access the instance's web server:
  • Shutdown the instance: ec2-terminate-instances i-db6ea2b2
That's it! Everything worked as advertised and I got through all of that in less than an hour. This whole procedure cost me about 10 cents. I am looking forward to my next goal which is to find an Ubuntu server image, install a database with data, and learn how to preserve the data so that it survives an image restart.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Server-Side Language Detection with Ruby + Google Language API

Have you ever wanted to detect the language of a piece of text? Google's AJAX Language API makes this possible on the client side. This Belgian startup's blog post shows a PHP example of how you can use Google's detection service on the server side. Here is a port of that example in Ruby:

(the 'json' gem must be installed prior to running this program)

require 'rubygems'
require 'net/http'
require 'open-uri'
require 'cgi'
require 'json'

base_url = ''
url = base_url + CGI.escape("See if you can guess what language this is!")
response = Net::HTTP.get_response(URI.parse(url))
result = JSON.parse(response.body)
lang = result['responseData']['language']
puts "Language code: #{lang}"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reverse Tinyurl with Ruby

I was searching for a way to reverse TinyURL's using Ruby. First, I went to to see if there was actually an API to do this. Unfortunately I did not find one. I then searched for Ruby APIs to do it and came upon these two libraries for dealing with TinyURL's:
  1. Tinyurl - This one converts regular URL's to TinyURL's and vice-versa. However, I examined the source code and discovered that to do this, the author's personal web server,, is called. This concerned me because: What if this service goes down? My program would stop working.

  2. ShortURL - This one converts original URL's into many "short URL" formats such as TinyURL, RubyURL, and mooURL. Unfortunately there is no way to reverse any of these URL's. Since I needed the reverse functionality, I had to pass this one by.
With a little more googling, I found the PHP code that the Tinyurl author used to do the TinyURL conversions. I decided to port his screen-scraping approach to Ruby for use in my program:

require 'rubygems'
require 'net/http'

def reverse_tinyurl(url)
url_parts = url.split('.com/')
preview_url = "{url_parts[1]}"
response = Net::HTTP.get_response(URI.parse(preview_url))
original_url = response.body.scan(/redirecturl" href="(.*)">/)[0][0]

puts reverse_tinyurl('')

Running this program would print out the URL to my blog,

By the way, I also found TinyURL Callback API in JavaScript, but I wanted a server-side solution. Additionally, I found the TinyURLReverser from Yahoo Pipes, but I wasn't clear on how this worked. I need to examine this one a little further.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Getting Twitter4R to Work on Ubuntu 7.10

Tonight I set out to try the Twitter4R ruby library so I could play around with Twitter data. I am not a ruby expert by any means, but I thought it would be easy to setup. Unfortunately, I ran into a number of problems:

I first tried to upgrade my ruby gems installation to 1.1.0. I downloaded and unpacked rubygems-1.1.0 and ran 'ruby setup.rb'. After this I got the following error when trying to run gem -v: uninitialized constant Gem::GemRunner (NameError). I googled this and ended up on this blog post which solved my problem. I had to edit the /usr/bin/ruby file and add the following line: require 'rubygems/gem_runner'.

With gem working, I installed Twitter4R: sudo gem install twitter4r. This worked smoothly, so I went on to write a sample Twitter4R ruby program:

gem('twitter4r', '0.3.0')

Twitter::Client.configure do |conf|
conf.source = 'kweiner'

client = => 'kweiner', :password => 'mypass')
timeline = client.timeline_for(:me)
puts timeline

Running this gave me the error No Such File to Load: net/https. Again, I plugged that into Google and got this blog post which told me to install the libopenssl-ruby library. I did this easily with sudo apt-get install libopensll-ruby.

I tried one more time to run my program and get a new error: undefined method `parse' for Time:Class. Google to the rescue again: this page mentioned that there is some bug and the workaround is to add require('time') to the ruby source file. I did this, and, voila!, my program printed the latest tweets from my timeline.

Walking L.A. #15 - West Hollywood

This week's walk was about 2 miles - much longer than some of the previous ones. We were joined by our 2 friends and their 2 kids who rode along in their stylish new double-decker stroller.

We started the walk on King's Rd. just south of Willoughby St. at The Schindler House which is considered to be the first modern house built in the world.

We then walked south to Melrose Ave where we stopped for coffee and pastries at Sweet Lady Jane who, according to my wife, is supposed to provide Nicole Richie a wedding cake. I don't see evidence of that on the web, but I do see that the store is now owned by the Olsen twins and makes cakes for other celebrities. I don't know if I'd ever go back there. The two guys behind the counter weren't that friendly and the coffee was average.

We continued on Melrose on the way to the Pacific Design Center stopping only at Dr. Tea's Tea Garden where we looked around and decided that this might be a nice place to come back to one day, maybe with our parents for a nice afternoon tea break.

At the Pacific Design Center, we stopped to admire the giant metal sculpture of a chair and let the kids wander around the waves of grass.

Next we turned the corner onto Santa Monica Blvd. in the heart of gay West Hollywood. The street was pleasant to stroll on with its wide sidewalks and shady trees. We finshed at Barney's Beanery for lunch. I felt a little strange there with 2 strollers, 2 infants, and a toddler. Luckily there was a spot for us in the back corner where we could make a little extra noise and breastfeed babies without really disturbing anyone.

The next walk is Miracle Mile.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Scrum from the Trenches

Vaibhav, a friend and colleague at work, decided to start blogging about Scrum. I suggested the title Scrum from the Trenches, and he went with it:

He and I advocated the use of Scrum a year ago as my team was tasked with an aggressive project in which we had the opportunity to work closely with the product manager. We implemented the main pieces of Scrum like daily meetings, planning sessions, and sprint-end demos, but also left out a few things like story estimation and the plotting of burn-down charts. We knew we had a ways to go if we were going to claim we were doing Scrum, but it was a good start and the project management group began to buy into it as a viable practice for future development.

This year, the team was tasked with a similar project. To prepare for it, 2 project managers, the QA manager, and Vaibhav attended Scrum training up in the Silicon Valley. Through lecture and hands-on exercises, they learned the ins and outs of textbook Scrum and returned to work eager to try it out. The team is now sub-dividing stories into tasks and even playing Planning Poker. How is is going? That's the subject of Vaibhav's new blog. Read it and find out.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Jungle Disk on Linux

I first heard about Jungle Disk on the Linux Action Show. It is a client that manages files on Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3). The client is cross-platform (Linux, Windows, Mac OS) and costs only a one-time fee of $20 plus $1 a month if you want the optional "extra" services including a web interface to your files.

With Jungle Disk, you pay as you go for file storage: 15 cents/gig/month for storage and a similar low fee for data transfer. You can use S3 as a virtual drive or "briefcase" with unlimited capacity, or you can use it as a backup location for automated or manual backups from various computers. I use it for both.

So far I've setup my Ubuntu desktop and Windows laptop from work as well as my Ubuntu desktop at home. I have backups configured for important files from each of those. From my eee PC, I passed on installing Jungle Disk and instead relied on the web interface that came with the Jungle Disk extras. I don't store any files on my eee, so I don't need a client to back anything up.

So far I'm very pleased with Jungle Disk. It will get pricey as I start to backup everything including the 50+ gigs of photos, videos, and music files I have. 50 gigs would be $90 a year. However, this is well worth it if I ever need to recover my precious files in the event of a fire or multi-hard drive crash. Photos and videos especially are irreplaceable.

I took some notes on setting up Jungle Disk on Ubuntu:

* Sign up for Amazon S3.

* Download and unzip Jungle Disk (jungledisk.tar.gz) in /opt.

* Run Jungle Disk Monitor:

* Install FUSE and davfs:
apt-get install fuse-utils
apt-get install davfs2

* Add your user to the fuse group:
sudo adduser kweiner fuse

Create and mount a directory to access Jungle Disk on the file system:
sudo mkdir /mnt/jungledisk sudo chgrp fuse /mnt/jungledisk sudo chmod g+w /mnt/jungledisk sudo mount.davfs http://localhost:2667 /mnt/jungledisk -o nolocks

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Walking L.A. #14 - Sunset Strip

My in-laws joined us for this 1 mile walk along Sunset Blvd and the adjacent residential neighborhood in West Hollywood. I have been to this part of the strip between Havenhurst Dr. and Olive Dr. many times. I've had drinks at Bar Marmont and a company holiday party at Sunset Beach. I've seen friends play jazz at the Argyle Hotel lounge and been to various concerts at the House of Blues (Buckshot LeFonque, Maceo Parker, etc.). Therefore, the first half of the walk wasn't that interesting.

The second half which circled back on De Longpre Ave and Harper Ave introduced us to the quiet residential life just south of the strip which included apartment buildings built in the 50s and 60s and a nice neighborhood dog park.

Instead of lingering in the area for lunch, we got back in the car and headed over to the Hollywood Farmers Market. I had been wanting to check out the presence of Theodore Payne at this market, and today I had the chance. It turned out to be a very nice farmers market with a lot of vendors and shoppers.

The next walk is West Hollywood.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Twitter Is Killing My Blogging

I started twittering about 3 weeks ago just to see what all the hype was about. I have known about Twitter for over a year, but before now, I just didn't get what the appeal would be. I thought: Do I really want to tell the world what I'm doing every minute of the day?

In these last 3 weeks, I have twittered 72 updates, or "tweets" as they're also known. It turns out I am finding it fun and fulfilling to use Twitter and to follow a few friends and co-workers that are doing the same. It satisfies the urge I have to let people know about things I am doing or find interesting. Since each update is limited to just 140 characters, I don't have to spend much time writing as much as I normally do in a blog post. The amount of blog entries I've written has dwindled to just 2 or 3 in the last 3 weeks.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find me at

You might also like to check out the many websites that do interesting things with Twitter data. This blog covers them all:

If you still don't get Twitter, check out this video from Common Craft:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Walking L.A. #13 - Laurel Canyon

This was one of the shortest walks in the book which was too bad because it was such a nice day in such a nice location nestled in the canyon.

The walk began and ended right in front of Jim Morrison's former residence at 8021 Rothdell Tr. This was apparently the "Love Street" in the song "Love Street" and the "store where the creatures meet" was the Canyon Country Store across the street.

The walk started up the Prospect Trail steps. At the top was a nice view of LA. It then continued through the brush behind the houses until a landmark Century Plant at which point it descended down more steps known as the Tavern Trail back to the starting point. It was challenging to carry a baby on this walk as the steps were steep and the trail was often passing through thick brush and sometimes cactus.

After a quick bagel at the "store where the creatures meet", we took the opportunity to drive up to one of my favorite lookout points in LA which sits at the end of a private road near the top of Wonderland Ave. It was a breathtaking view on a sunny day with clear skies. We could see downtown LA, the Santa Monica bay, Catalina Island, and even Long Beach all at the same time.

The next walk is Sunset Strip.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Walking L.A. #12 - Studio City's Woodbridge Park

This walk was a nice, casual 1.5 miles. The walk began on Tujunga Ave just south of Mookpark St where a lot of nice neighborhood restaurants, cafes, and shops are located. This place had a nice energy to it. Many young people were pouring into places like the Aroma Cafe for breakfast. We stopped there too for some coffee before getting started.

This is the 2nd time I've been to this neighborhood. The first time was when my wife was overdue with our son, and we attempted to hasten the process by eating at the Caioti Pizza Cafe which is famous for its labor-inducing Maternity Salad. It didn't work, by the way, but it was a nice lunch.

Back to the walk... we headed off Tujunga Ave into the nice, quiet neighborhood called Woodbridge Park famous for its house at 11222 Dilling St. which was the house from the Brady Bunch TV show. It looks a little different now with new paint and a low wall around the front yard. Across the street, we met a nice lady who had lived in the neighborhood for many years. She reminisced about how annoying it was having all that Brady Bunch filming going on.

After the walk, we returned to the Aroma Cafe for lunch. I like the vibe of that place a lot. I think I could enjoy living in Studio City.

The next walk is Laurel Canyon.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Walking L.A. #11 - NoHo Arts District

It is a shame that we had to drive all the way to North Hollywood for such a short walk - only 3/4 of a mile. The one positive thing about it being short was that we were able to finish quickly just before it started to rain. No one joined us again, most likely because of the long drive and gloomy weather.

Most of the walk was on Lankershim Blvd which contained a few restaurants, coffee shops, and small theaters. We stopped for a late breakfast after the walk at the Eclectic Cafe, a neighborhood eatery that showcases the work of local artists.

The NoHo Arts District seems a little over-hyped to me. I think it is nice to see that there have been a lot of improvements in the neighborhood such as LANI's treatment of the northwest corner of Lankershim Blvd and Magnolia Blvd. But from a visitor's perspective, there isn't a whole lot to see or do.

North on Lankershim from where the walk starts is the Metro station that connects the Orange Line and the Red Line. I wish this was part of the walk so that people could see the metro art/design that is typical of LA's Metro stations. There was also significant development surrounding the station which shows the Transit Oriented Development trend going on here.

The next walk is Studio City's Woodbridge Park.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Walking L.A. #10 - Leimert Park Village

These walks were supposed to be weekly, but we had to skip a few weeks due to rain and a Linux conference I attended. This short walk in Leimert Park was attended only by me, my wife, and my son despite our attempt to appeal to more of our friends by moving the start time from 9AM to 11AM.

We drove to the start point which was right at 43rd St. and Degnan Blvd, the intersection used as an album title by Black Note in the 90's.

I used my TomTom GPS to guide me to the start point, and I was pleasantly surprised that there was a much faster route than the one I was used to. Instead of taking the 10 East to Crenshaw Blvd, I simply could take Slauson Blvd east to Angeles Vista Blvd which cuts right through Windsor Hills to Leimert Park. It is only 6.6 miles from my house.

This walk was incredibly short - less that 1/2 mile. Unlike other walks in the book so far, I did not really discover anything new this time. I have been to Leimert Park many times. I used to go to 5th Street Dick's and the World Stage a lot when I was in college to see jazz groups and to attend a few jam sessions.

We ended our walk with a nice jazz brunch at Papa West. I had catfish, eggs, and potatoes with Louisiana hot sauce - yum! After the walk, we went to 3 or 4 open houses in the View Park neighborhood. Most of these homes were big and had panoramic views of downtown LA to the Westside. It was a really nice neighborhood that I had never explored before.

The next walk is NoHo Arts District.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Monday, February 11, 2008

SCaLE 6x 2008 - Linux in LA

I attended the 6th annual Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE 6x) this weekend at the Westin hotel on Century Blvd near LAX. It was my second year in a row. This year again, I used a promo code mentioned in a podcast ad which brought the registration fee down to only 30-something bucks, a really great price.

The first thing I noticed this year was that the attendance seemed a lot higher, maybe even double what it was last year. The Jono Bacon keynote on Saturday morning was packed and since I got there a little late, I was told to go to the overflow room. Unfortunately there were some technical problems in the overflow room and the video shut off before the presentation was over so I missed the end of it.

The exhibit floor was again full of vendors related to Linux, Linux distros, networking and monitoring tools, and open source software in general. This year I enjoyed visiting the booths of Foresight Linux, Splunk, and LinuxFund. I got some decent swag like a red hat (baseball cap) from RedHat, a water bottle from Sun Microsystems, and a purple stuffed octopus from Plain Black. The latter I gave to my 4-month-old son.

I attended the following sessions this year:
  • PostgreSQL 8.3: Latest Features of the Most Advanced Database - Josh Berkus
  • GNOME: Ten Years of Freedom - Ken VanDine
  • GIMP Demystified - Akkana Peck
  • Linux Entertain Me! - Cecil Watson
  • The Ubuntu Desktop: Bling for Usability - Ted Gould
The conference had a "try it" room where various tutorials were offered every hour. I wish I could have attended one of the sessions on Inkscape, but I found out about it too late.

Overall, I had a great time and will definitely attend again next year if I can. I love the fact that the conference is low-cost, close by, and on the weekend so I don't have to get permission at work to attend.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Influence LA Bike Planning

Attention all bike-riding Angelinos! Now is your chance to influence the future of biking in Los Angeles by participating in an upcoming workshop or simply by mapping your bike commute or any other bike route online at

I just mapped my commute to work from Del Rey to Santa Monica. I gave it a title containing "LA BMP" so that it gets included in the LA Bike Plan study. I urge you to take just a few minutes to map your bike route.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mutt Mitts for the Neighborhood

Have you ever used a dog bag from one of those publicly available dog bag dispensers often found in parks and high-end private communities?

I have and have always thought that it is such a great service provided to the dog community. Even people without dogs benefit from this because it decreases the chances of doggie doo showing up on their yards.

I thought: wouldn't it be great if every neighborhood had dog bag dispensers hanging from sign posts and telephone poles? Inspired by my recent read of The Great Neighborhood Book, I decided to do something about it. I purchased a dispenser of dog bags called Mutt Mitts from Intelligent Products Inc. and hung it on the telephone pole right in front of my house (pictured above).

Isn't that awesome? Free dog bags for everyone in my neighborhood (Del Rey)! Many people pause and look at it as they pass by. One person has been seen taking a bag so far, and another went out of her way to stop my wife to say "Hey, did you put that up? That's really cool!".

I hope the dispenser does its part to keep our neighborhood poop-free and more dog friendly. As long as it doesn't get stolen or vandalized, I plan to keep replenishing the bags. Maybe it'll inspire other neighbors and neighborhoods to add dispensers too.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Walking L.A. #9 - Downtown Culver City

We continued the walks today with a tour of Downtown Culver City. There were 6 of us including a new couple (and their baby girl) my wife met through the popular online Westside family group Peachhead.

We all met at the starting point on Washington Blvd and Ince Blvd near Culver Studios. The first sight on the walk was the facade of the studio itself which was a colonial mansion that was part of the famous movie Gone With the Wind.

Next, we walked by the Culver Hotel, the triangular brick building in the heart of the newly revitalized downtown area. Our book pointed out that in 1924, many actors from the Wizard of Oz stayed there including the many wild and crazy munchkins.

We continued with a stroll down the very short Main St. and stopped for coffee and empanadas at the Argentinian bakery Grand Casino. Leaving downtown, we walked through a quiet residential neighborhood to Carlson Park which served as a good place for a bio-break.

From there we continued through the residential neighborhood to Overland and then to the bike path running along the north side of Ballona Creek. Along the creek, I spotted a few California native plants like a Lemonadeberry and a Mexican Elderberry tree.

We exited the bike path at Duquesne Ave. and walked across Jefferson Blvd. to Culver City Park. I had been here a few times to visit the Culver City Dog Park, but this is the first time I went on the Interpretive Nature Trail which is an elevated wooden footpath that climbs up the hillside up to a park with amazing views of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. On the way up were many plants and trees some of which were California natives. Again, I saw Lemonadeberry shrubs and Mexican Elderberry trees. The path also passed by a ropes course which a group of kids were using.

The rest of the walk was basically to return to downtown Culver City where our lunch at Honey's Kettle really hit the spot.

The next walk is Leimert Park Village.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed

Friday, January 18, 2008

Presedential Candidates on Public Transit

Have you wondered:
To what extent does transportation factor into the political discourse of the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates?
This blog post from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign looks into the answer to that question:

Presidential Views (or not) on Public Transportation

Not surprisingly, the top 3 for public transit as mentioned in the blog post are all Democrats. There is probably more support from the Green Party candidates, but unfortunately the article doesn't mention them. I decided to compile a list of Green party candidate views on transit myself. Listed here are the current Green candidates for 2008.
I just read through their campaign pages (except for Jesse Johnson who doesn't appear to have one), and I must say...they are pathetic! I have never seen such crappy web pages before. I spent a few minutes on each site and I couldn't even find a single mention of public transit. Maybe that's why the article above doesn't mention any Greens. Very sad.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Walking L.A. #8 - North Culver City

It has been almost a full year since our last walk, Walk#7 at UCLA. We are happy to resume the walks now that our son is 3+ months old and can join us in a stroller or Baby Bjorn.

We drove to the start point of the walk at Washington Blvd and Higuera St. Only one friend joined us this time. She was waiting for us as we arrived 5 minutes after 9:00 AM - probably upset since she had to wake up so early on a Sunday morning and she was the first one there.

The walk began on Higuera St. heading southwest through the Rancho Higuera neighborhood. The street had circular rotaries at intersections to help calm traffic since many people used this rode to cut from Washington to Jefferson Blvd.

The walk continued north on Hayden Ave through a warehouse area where we were surprised to come upon the Debbie Allen (of Fame fame) Dance Academy. Further down the street were some very architecturally interesting buildings that are part of Conjunctive Points. The Conjunctive Points project will rebuild this under-used industrial area so as to unite the arts, science, and entertainment industries in a visionary mixed-use community of innovative work-space, theaters, exhibit spaces, restaurants, and parks. I had no idea about this initiative until now. We walked inside the Stealth Building (which felt like a Darth Vader spaceship) and admired the modern architecture and views of Culver City.

Next we crossed National Blvd and the train tracks that are eventually going to become the the Expo Line. This led to a pedestrian-only entrance into a quiet residential neighborhood which we walked through to get to art deco Helms Bakery complex which has some restaurants (Beacon, La Dijonaise) and the Jazz Bakery all of which I've visited many times.

Finally, we turned onto Venice Blvd and passed the furniture stores as we headed back to our starting point. Our book pointed out that you can detect an aroma of candles coming from some candle outlet on National Blvd. We didn't see the outlet, but we did enjoy the pleasant aroma.

The next walk is Downtown Culver City.

Walking L.A.: 36 Walking Tours Exploring Stairways, Streets and Buildings You Never Knew Existed