Monthly Donations: Nginx and the WWF Poland Lynx Campaign

March 31st, 2014

Update from last month’s post: things haven’t slowed down yet like I hoped they would, and I still haven’t had the time to return to my precious projects. But the day will come, and it will come soon. Now, let’s do this month’s donations.

The open source project that I’m supporting this month is Nginx, the web/proxy server that’s famous for its performance. It’s currently the second or third (depending on how you count) most widely used web server on the planet. Over the past few years, I’ve personally witnessed how its popularity increased based on the web projects that I’ve been participating in — more and more often, Nginx was being chosen as the web server to run the project on. To Nginx project team — congratulations and keep up the great work!

By the way, the fine FLOSS Weekly podcast covered Nginx in one of the recent episodes — I recommend it if you want to learn a bit more about this project and where it’s headed.

The second donation that I’m making this month is to a cause that I already supported a year ago, and that is the WWF Poland Lynx Campaign. It’s an initiative of the Polish office of WWF to restore the population of lynx in the Mazury region in Poland. Since March last year, they have introduced three new lynxes to the Mazurian woods. I’m glad to know they are moving forward with their efforts and I wish them best of luck.

Monthly Donations: The OpenBSD Foundation and the “Little Claw” Foundation

February 28th, 2014

My blog is temporarily in sleep mode with just the donation announcements coming up every month — I’m sorry about that, but I’m swamped with work and have zero time for writing posts or for my personal projects. Hopefully, in March things will slow down a bit and I’ll have some time to get back to that.

Anyway, it is the time for this month’s donations. The first organization that I’m donating to is the OpenBSD Foundation, and it’s yet another long-deserved donation, as I’m an everyday user of the two main products that are supported by the Foundation — OpenBSD and OpenSSH. An OpenBSD machine acts as a gateway in my home network, and pretty much every machine that I use is running OpenSSH. So, guys, thanks for being with me all the time and keeping my network activities secure!

I’m also sending a donation to the “Little Claw” Foundation (not to be confused with “Cat’s Claw” that I supported last month), which helps stray cats by neutering them and finding them new homes. Some time ago I had the pleasure of speaking with the Foundation’s director, and I know the people behind it are truly dedicated to their cause. I wish them all the best in their efforts.

Monthly Donations: Transmission and the “Cat’s Claw” Foundation

January 31st, 2014

Once again I’m doing the monthly donations on the very last day of the month. I wonder if there’s a badge for a master procrastinator… Alright, let’s get down to business.

The open source project that I’m donating to this month is Transmission, the popular BitTorrent client, initially released back in 2005. Highly renowned for its stability and low resource usage, it’s currently the default BitTorrent client on a number of Linux distributions. I happily use it both on a Linux desktop and on a MacBook.

The second of this month’s donations is to the “Cat’s Claw” Foundation in Poznan, formed in 2006, which is committed to providing help to stray animals — mostly cats, as the name suggests. It’s the second time that I’m supporting the Foundation, the first time was a year ago.

All the best to the “Cat’s Claw” crew of volunteers, and to the cats under their care!

Behold, the Emperor

January 27th, 2014

Remember the elegant dog with the magnificent name of Emperor that I virtually adopted last month? The good people at the “Last Chance” Foundation who are taking care of Emperor sent me a couple photos of him, which I’m now happy to share.

Hang in there, Emperor!

Monthly Donations: Free Software Foundation and the “Last Chance” Foundation

December 31st, 2013

Festivities done, the end of December is nigh, so it’s high time for the last round of donations this fine year.

This month I’m yet again making a donation that’s long-deserved, to an organization which had a great influence in shaping the free software/open source movement into what it is today — the Free Software Foundation, established by Richard Stallman back in 1985.

Currently, the Foundation is collecting donations to build up their budget for 2014. Chip in if you can!

As usual, I’m also sending a donation to a charity organization that is not related to technology, and this time I’m supporting the “Last Chance” Foundation, which runs an animal shelter near my home town of Rawa Mazowiecka. It’s the second time that I’m donating to them, the first one was in June last year when I virtually adopted a dog named Michał (yes, we shared the same name). Now I’m also virtually adopting a dog that goes by the glorious name of Emperor.

I wish all the best and a Happy New Year to the people of the Foundation and all the animals under their care.

Showstopper – Book Review

December 23rd, 2013

I first heard about this book on a programming-related podcast, where the host recommended it enthusiastically and sparked my interest. The book recounts the course of the Windows NT project from the very beginning in the late 80s to the glorious day of release in July 1993. It was (and probably still is) one of the largest and most ambitious software projects undertaken at Microsoft.

The focus of the narrative is on the people working on the project, with technology and business matters in the background. The making of NT is presented as an extremely challenging and demanding endeavor, requiring great commitment from those involved in it, especially the people who shaped the product and the development process.

Some of the heroes of the story are placed in the spotlight and the reader gets to know more about them than just what their job on the project was. Dave Cutler, the lead developer, gets the most attention, which is justified by his role and the effect that he had on other programmers (at one point they built him an altar). A lot is told about how new people joined the project, how teams were formed, how conflicts arose and got resolved, and how being immersed in the stressful work environment affected the personal lives of the participants and their families.

While the book does touch on many technical topics, it presents them on a rather high level and rarely dives into the nitty-gritty details (a code fragment is only shown once or twice throughout the text). A basic understanding of how computers and operating systems work should be sufficient to follow the story.

At all times, it’s apparent that the author took great care to present the story comprehensively and accurately. Many excerpts from messages and memos exchanged between project members are included, and an impressive number of people have been interviewed for the book – their names are collected in a list after the epilogue. The author did his research, no doubt about it.

I found “Showstopper” a very good, amusing read and I recommend it to anyone interested in software projects (especially large-scale ones), or technology in general.

Monthly Donations: The Mozilla Foundation and Fred the Cat

November 30th, 2013

Here I come with another round of donations to open source projects and charity organizations.

The first of this month’s donations goes to the Mozilla Foundation, which I also supported last year — back then I endorsed them for Thunderbird, the excellent e-mail client. This time I’d like to thank them for their efforts in building the Mozilla Developer Network, a documentation and community website for web developers. It was founded back in 2005 with the goal of creating a high quality documentation center, and over the years has pretty much accomplished this objective. For me, when it comes to HTML, CSS, or JavaScript documentation, MDN is usually the first place to go. Thanks guys, keep up the great work!

My second donation is to the “Friends to the Animals” Foundation, also a “regular” — I donated to them back in April and in August last year. This time I’m supporting a cat by the name of Fred, who was found by a friend of the Foundation after being badly hit by a car. The cat had to have a serious surgery procedure, and is now slowly recovering.

Best wishes to the caring people of the Foundation, and to Fred — get well soon, buddy!

Dancer::Plugin::Preprocess::Markdown

November 25th, 2013

Last month, while working on the POD Web View site, I developed a small Dancer plugin that lets you easily convert Markdown files into HTML content in your web application — Dancer::Plugin::Preprocess::Markdown.

The generated HTML content can be saved in a file, so that the Markdown source is only processed when it gets changed. Thus, the plugin can be used to build a poor man’s substitute for a static site generator (like Jekyll).

You’ll find the code at the usual places: CPAN and GitHub. As always, I’m looking forward to feedback/patches/forks.

Monthly Donations: VLC and the Pegasus Foundation

October 31st, 2013

Ah, what a fine day… for science! I mean, for my monthly donations.

Today I’m supporting VLC, the fantastic open source media player (actually, it’s much more than just a player) that I use both on my Linux desktop and on a MacBook. VLC has been around since early 2001 and through the years has gained well-deserved reputation as the player that can play any media file (which is thanks to the numerous decoding/encoding libraries included with the program). It’s developed by the VideoLAN project team — thanks guys, great job!

The second donation that I’m making this month is to the Pegasus Foundation, devoted to rescuing horses bound for slaughterhouses, and generally helping animals in need. I supported them in December last year, and this time I’m making a donation for a little 5-year-old dog named Jinx, who was severely hit by a car, had undergone surgery and now needs to go through long and extensive rehabilitation to recover. Stay strong, Jinx!

POD Web View

October 23rd, 2013

When developing a Perl module, I often want to get a quick preview of the documentation that I’m writing, just to see if everything is in order and how it turns out. I used to do this the old fashioned way, by generating an HTML file with pod2html or pod2cpanhtml and opening it in a browser, but I was hoping in this day and age there is an easier and better solution, preferably a web application.

Looking around, however, the only thing I could find was the pod2html page at the CPAN Search site, which allows you to upload a POD file, have it processed by pod2html, and displayed with CPAN style. I thought it might be a good idea to try building something more user-friendly, with features like editing POD in the browser, drag and drop file uploads, etc.

And what better time for a little project like this than a weekend when you’re ill and not supposed to leave your apartment? Well, that’s what my last weekend was like — two days of coughing and coding, and here’s the result: POD Web View.

The application allows you to upload a POD file, get it from a URL, or paste its contents and edit it on the fly. The generated HTML can be displayed in the style of your choice, mimicking how it would look on CPAN, MetaCPAN, or GitHub.

To give credit where it’s due, the backend is built on Dancer and uses Pod::Simple::HTML to generate the HTML preview. The user interface is made with Twitter Bootstrap, a lot of JavaScript/jQuery code, and the amazing Ace editor.

I hope this will be useful for at least a few fellow Perl developers, like it already is for me. Please note that at this point this is still work in progress — the backend code needs some more work (e.g. basic sanity checks), and there are a couple UI issues that I’m aware of (and likely a dozen more that I’m not). Anyway, be my guest and give it a try, and if you’d like to report an issue, or maybe help me with the development (more than welcome), I’ve put the project up on GitHub.