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My office (see: local coffee shop) is standing room only today. Must find another facilitator of productivity.

@mikeboers on . Visit on Twitter.


After a day long refactor, everything is back to working the same. Time for those previously impossible features!

@mikeboers on . Visit on Twitter.


Yet Another Reason I Hate Time

While the Y2K bug turned out to be a bust, the concept behind it is pretty solid.

I have always had a lingering concern for 3:14:07 am on January 19th, 2038 UTC, as that is the last second representable in signed Unix time, and time in systems that still use that representation will wrap around to January 1, 1970. (See the year 2038 problem.)

At the time, 70 years in the future seemed infinitely far away.

There is no chance this will still be running in 70 years.
— Likely said by someone on the POSIX committee.

Unfortunately, that type of thinking just cost a very expensive space probe. 8 years into the Deep Impact mission that was designed for a single event, its clock rolled over, the probe couldn't figure out where the sun was and so couldn't point its solar panels at it, and lost power.

"Basically, it was a Y2K problem, where some software didn't roll over the calendar date correctly," said A'Hearn. The spacecraft's fault-protection software (ironically enough) would have misread any date after August 11, 2013, he said, triggering an endless series of computer reboots aboard Deep Impact.
"NASA Declares End to Deep Impact Comet Mission", National Geographic

As always, anthropomorphized space probes pull at the heart strings:

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Git Metadata In-Band

Moving configuration and hooks into the tree.

When writing tools for git, or while working on more complex projects, I often need to work with the git configuration or hooks.

Unfortunately (or so I sometimes feel), the configuration and hooks are not stored in the tree (the version controlled part of repo), and must be installed out of band. This easily leads to a non-uniform configuration across clones.

Let's get that information in band!

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Deduplicating Social Notifications

A quick filter for dealing with social network notifications from different channels.

While I appreciate the emails from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, etc., they have really started becoming more of a nuisance than anything as they are essentially duplicates of the push notifications sent to my phone.

I do want to keep the emails as they serve an archival purpose (and I do like to archive far too much information), however the push notifications on my phone are more immediate and actionable to me.

Ergo, I just quickly setup a Gmail filter that selects the following and stuffs it into a notifications label:

to:mikeboers.com AND from:(twitter.com OR facebook.com OR facebookmail.com OR linkedin.com)

Now I get to keep them all, but the lock screen on my phone doesn't fill up with duplicates of the same messages via different channels.

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Render Heatmaps

Are pictures worth 1000 statistics?

Debugging rendering issues can be particularly problematic. Many times, the efficiency of standard debugging procedures (e.g. printing intermediate values, or using a debugger) fall apart at the sheer volume of data they will produce when you are calling them millions of time per frame.

Often, intermediate values can be dumped out via an AOV (i.e. to another image), and inspected as an image. For example, if you were interested in how long various parts of the image are taking to render vs. the others, you could create a heatmap such as:

In this particular example, however, there are a few drawbacks:

  1. RSL does not have any timing functions;
  2. every shader would need to be modified in order to collect these stats; and
  3. you generally only receive information from the front-most surface.

I set out to resolve those issues.

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The UX of Coupon Codes

How to (try to) avoid confusion and apprehension.

Lately, I have been entering a number of coupon codes on the web, and have found them to be infuriatingly lacking in one respect: the character set used for the codes is not easy to type.

I'm sure we have all questioned at one point if a character in the code was supposed to be a 0 (zero) or O (upper-case letter O), or a 1 (one), I (upper-case letter I), or l (lower-case letter L). Usually you just pick one, and usually you get it wrong the first time.

I find it particularly strange, that Starbucks would go so far as to recognize this problem, but not actually fix it:

Starbucks Error Dialog

As a developer, there are a few increasingly dramatic ways to deal with this.

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Nginx May Cut You Off Early

How the default configuration bit me.

I very recently launched shadowsinthegrass.com, a crowd-funding website for a short film I am working on. As a donator, you are able to upload an avatar to be presented with your credit. I had limited the file size to 2MB... or so I had thought.

Underneath, the site is built with Flask, served with Gunicorn, and behind an Nginx reverse proxy.

Unfortunately, I received reports that some uploads were failing and reported as "Error: undefined" to the user. Strangely, it didn't seem to be an error in the Python app, as I was not receiving any tracebacks when this error occurred.

It turns out that Nginx has some default configuration that I wasn't expecting.

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My Report Card

The second GitHub Data Challenge recently finished, and GitHub just announced the winners.

The first place went to The Open Source Report Card, which generates an English prose summary of your GitHub activity (from January to March 2013), and provides some charts to back it up.

My report card for that period is somewhat eerie (to me):

Mike is a serious Pythonista (one of the top 13% most active Python users) who loves pushing code. Mike is a nine-to-fiver who seems to work best in the mid-afternoon.

[...]

It seems—from their activity streams—that Mike and westernx are probably friends or at least virtual friends. With this in mind, it's worth noting that westernx is less foul mouthed

I would love to see a chart about my tendency to swear in commit messages.

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RenderMan Textures from Python

In order to better understand the guts of Python and RenderMan, in the past I have implemented a number of proof of concept projects extending or embedding each. Previously, I combined my efforts by embedding Python into RenderMan as an RSL shadeop so that shaders could be written in Python!

Unfortunately, that code is lost to the ages, so I decided to revisit my efforts and produce something that could actually have applications: using Python as a source of texture data for RenderMan.

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