Blog Posts

Technology, etc.




Building Embedded Linux Images for Internal Tools

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Often when I’m developing software for distributed systems, I run into a situation where I have a small Python script that “just” needs to run on a Linux system. A laptop or RaspberryPi would be fine, but how do you go about setting everything up? You could just flash Raspbian onto an SD card, copy over the application script, and call it a day. But what if you need to make 10 of these? And then, in 3 months, do an update and build 5 more? Is it easy enough to train an intern to reproduce the setup and make more? Beyond a few devices, it makes sense to formalize the process of making the root file system. In this post I’ll detail some methods to do that.

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JSON Configuration - Transforming through Merging and Patching

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JSON is a nearly universal standard for configuration files. From web servers to IoT, JSON is used to store settings and values to configure the behavior of systems. Good practice for complex systems dictates that we separate the concerns of our configuration into multiple files. This post talks about how to merge those files back together into a single representation that an application can use.

The techniques in this post can also be used to create a hierarchy of configuration files. This allows you to replicate (to a point) the inheritance mechanism found in object oriented programming languages. While an inheritance mechanism is overkill for a simple web server, many other applications (such as configuring physical products) could benefit from a hierarchical configuration design.

We’ll cover two main techniques: merging and patching. Merging is simple and very common, but suffers from some flaws that severely limit it’s applicability. Patching allows the programmer to completely and precisely specify the changes needed, but suffers from poor readability.

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My Programming Statistics

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I’ve been contracting for most of the last year. As part of this, I’ve been keeping careful record of my hours and how much code I write. I thought it would be interesting to dig deep through the data and answer an age old question: how fast am I?

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Dockerfile Composition

Dockerfiles are great when you have one image that you need to generate. But what happens if you need to generate several images that are substantially similar, but differ in a few aspects? This post will talk about how to compose your Dockerfiles so that you can reduce complexity and duplication, but still have flexibility to generate multiple final images from a single project.

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Make a Robust Codebase

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Maintaining and managing a project that spans dozens of contributors and years of usage isn’t simple. However, there are a few tips that can help make it easier. In this post, I examine my top four tips to make it easier to work with big projects. By following these tips, you’ll have a codebase that is more robust to external shocks, easier to change, and just more fun to work with.

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Startup Postmortem - The Red9 Story

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Most startups fail. Red9 was one of those, and this is that story.

I want to share a story about three years of my life. Three years trying to create something where there was nothing before, from the ground up, and with a small team of enthusiastic and passionate people. We set out to quantify the athlete and help them perform better. By the end, we realized that our approach was ineffective, and we could not create the company that we wanted.

SCAD mockup on surfboard

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OpenSCAD Thumbnailer for Gnome

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If you’re a heavy user of OpenSCAD then you’ll eventually get to the point where you have folders full of .scad files, with no idea what they are. Here’s how to make a thumbnailer that will automatically generate a preview image that will display .scad files in Nautilus.

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Introducing Pilothouse - A Robotic Sailboat

Over the past 6 months I’ve been working on developing an open source robotic sailboat called Pilothouse.

The goal of Pilothouse is to make an open source robotic sailboat that can autonomously navigate and sail itself long distances, and to prove that this can be done using the latest web technology: Node.js.

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