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January 3, 2003

Good things from 2002

In the spirit of the New Year, here are a few of my favorite things from 2002 in no particular order.

  1. Time to look at technical things

    Five months of not working gave me plenty of time to look at technologies issues and to get more hands on than I had in a number of years. A number of the things on my list are fallout from that time.

  2. Weblogs (personal)

    I credit Radio Userland with showing me that weblogs could be more than teenage diaries. I'd come across that form of weblog in LiveJournal. (LiveJournal's "show me a random LiveJournal" feature was addictive.) I wasn't interested in keeping an online diary, but looking at blogs from other Radio users showed me that a blog could be more technical focused; that resonated with me as something I could do.

    Radio's aggregator feature also introduced me to the community aspect of blogging.

  3. Weblogs (professional)

    I got a job at Georgia Tech at the end of May '02, and started working on on Tech's project to roll out a campus portal. Partly so I could digest what I'd found, and partly to leave something for those who followed me, I started a weblog and a Wiki. The weblog took on a following when we found that the software we were using for the project - Campus Pipeline's Luminis product - could directly read RSS files and make them available as portal "channels". I used the weblog to document our early efforts with our portal software installation and technical explorations. It also gave me an excuse to try MovableType, which I liked it so much, I'm considering it for my personal blog.

  4. HTML and Emacs

    This was the year when I finally got comfortable rolling my own HTML. We're not talking fancy HTML, not building wonderful sites out of frames (bad) or CSS (good), but just being able to build web pages using simple tools. My preferred method of composing posts for blogs is now Emacs 21.1 on Windows, the Emacs HTML Helper mode, and ispell. It ain't fancy, but the tools fit my hands. (Back in June I wrote a little piece about my tools of choice: Emacs, Screen, and Pine.)

  5. VMware

    VMware has allowed me to indulge my love of playing with systems without having to have lots of computers. If you've got a P4 with 512MB of memory, gigs of free disk space, and VMware, you can go to town. On my Dell P4 at work, I have a Debian install which I use for my primary work server, Redhat 7.3 and 8.0 installs, three small Debian installs I used for testing firewalls (set up a firewall install, and put two more instances of Debian running 'behind' that firewall - with all three running on the same P4 at the same time), a copy of Win XP, a FreeBSD 4.6 install, and just this last week, a FreeBSD 4.7 that I've been using to learn lots about FreeBSD. Nothing gives you confidence that you can tear down and build back up a system like VMware. (Before I did a 2.4 kernel upgrade on my home system, I tried it out in VMware.)

  6. Libraries

    I made good use of our public library and the Georgia Tech library this year. Each has advantages: as a staff member, I can check out books from Tech's library for up to a year(!). And DeKalb County Public Library's excellent web interface has allowed me to search for books I've heard about, put them on hold, and then get email when they come in. DeKalb County also lets me review my holds, books checked out, and lets me renew books, all via the web. Wonderful!

  7. Getting my hands dirty

    At CNN from '96 to '01, I managed other technical people: I never got to put my hands on boxes system. At Georgia Tech, I've been playing the role of web architect, managing no one, and doing much more hands-on technical work. Fun stuff. I'd still like to get back to managing, but it's fun to see that my technical skills are still good.