Grey Morning in a New Reality

Outside the window, grey clouds fill the sky and raindrops stream through the air.  A warm morning for an early December day, the weather being more likely for mid-November.  The rain does not bother me as I am sitting in a GO train headed to downtown Toronto, and getting ready for the start of a new day.

Since I started working at Indusblue as an Android developer, my mornings involve a morning train commute to Toronto.  While taking the train and streetcar to work extends my commuting time, I can not complain.  I get about two hours each day of time for myself, to get work done.  Amongst other things, I use this time to write or catch up on past work.  Today I decided that instead of sleeping on may to work, I would update this blog.

After a summer of travelling to and from San Francisco and spending a good portion of my Fall travelling in central Europe: Poland, Germany, Austria and Italy; I finally am settling down at the end of the year.  While I love travelling and visiting new places, I am glad that I have returned to Toronto.  I am glad to be close to most of my friends, family and familiar settings.

Since my return, I have concentrated on catching up on overdue work.  So many tasks and delayed projects have piled up, that I feel the need to make progress on them or even finish them before the end of the year.  Amongst other things I started writing two pieces: a science fiction novel and an auto-biography of sorts.  Also I started working on justcheckers again, which I plan to complete as part of my portfolio work.  And I am working on a few other missing or lacking parts of life, that I can not comment on right now.  However I am overjoyed with the progress I have made, and the opportunities that linger on the horizon.

So while the mornings are grey and rainy and sometimes quite cold, I am grateful for the new reality of life I am in now.  It might rain outside, but I feel as if it were sunny.

Developers, Developers, Developers @ justCheckers

Looks like my recent cry for help with the justCheckers project, was heeded.  I got about 12 responses, and now I’m in the process of picking the core development team.  The developer mailing list is up and functional.   And thanks to Dmitry Platonoff, who I used to work with, gave me a helpful hint to maintaining my sanity.  While I’d like to get as many developers working on the project as possible, I want to be able to coordinate things in a manageable manner.  Also I’m really picky when it comes to code quality.  So I think I will let people submit patches for now, before I start handing out commit access.  Still I’m impressed with the progress.

Taking a Repose

You may have noticed that my blogs seem to get shorter and shorter.  As you can imagine I’m busy wrapping up things for this year.  In addition to all that, I want to spend more time writing my novels and articles.  Plus I need to catch up on my coding projects as well.  You should still expect to get your daily dose of Dorian, but in shorter form for the time being.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress with my various projects.

Updates – justCheckers Open for Business

An update from the justCheckers website:

Cleaned Up and Open for Business

2009, November 17 – 18:02 — Dorian Pula

It took a while. A much needed upgrade, some changes to bring this site back into the larger multi-site effort I’m involved and some re-integration work back into SourceForge… and justCheckers is back! Finally there are no more blockers to getting back into coding, and hopefully moving this project forward. The plan is to finally get around to implementing the work I’ve meant to implement for so long.

So justCheckers is open for business… and is seeking new developers.

And some other updates:

I’ve restarted work on my stealth project as part of the “larger multi-site effort”.  In addition, I’m almost caught up on responding to everyone’s e-mails and messages.  I should be free enough to restart my writing and work on other long-term projects.  I’m really excited with the progress I’ve made, and I hope it continues this way.

Writing Progress Update for Monday

Last week I realized the reason why I kept on losing my writing work.  I’m a big fan of running libre software on my desktop.  While I can’t do so comfortably at work, but at home I run Linux desktop exclusively.  (Except to play the occasional Windows-only video game.)  So I use OpenOffice for my word processing and hence writing.  And I’m a big fan of using Open Document Formats.  However working on ODTs (essentially ZIP archives with ODF XML files inside) from a USB flash drive is not the way to go.  I guess the amount of saving and writing to disk, doesn’t help with prolonging the life of the flash memory.  So I had to change my workflow to use Dropbox instead.  I don’t want to wrangle with corrupt ODT files.  To make a long story short, I had to do some lengthy rewrites which didn’t help with moving forward in my novel.  However that has all been resolved, and I can say that I’m making good progress on the first chapter.

We Are Away

And so it begins.  Yesterday I finished writing the notes for my novel, A Collection of Shards.  I mapped out the basic plot, main characters and setting in those notes.  I am impressed with how the idea for the novel is coming together.  The novel will have a tight plot with lots of action.  I plan on putting a lot of attention to details.  The story will feel visceral at times, dreamy at others.  I based my characters on real people, should they should feel alive.  On top of that I plan on narrating the story in a weaving manner, to make it feel layered.  And thanks to the real locations and technology, I can attempt to write a story based on an “altered reality”, similar to that of Strugatsky’s The Roadside Picnic.

With the novel already well planned, I’ve started writing the first chapter.  I changed the beginning to a totally new scene that I’ve not worked with before.  Still I’m excited about writing this novel.  It make turn out as the next science fiction epic.

Kicking Tires

This week, I’ve started working on my delayed projects again.  I feel exhausted from the week.  But I also can not wait to play around with my projects.

Learning Qt

I’ve always admired the KDE and Qt developers.  They make some of the most innovative and interesting technology in the consumer-desktop-mobile land.  I’ve decided to pick up learning Qt and C++.  So far I’ve read the beginning of C++ GUI Programming with Qt 4 (1st ed).  I need to play around with C++, which I plan on doing it while using Qt Creator.  One of my first major Qt experiments might be getting the TEA text editor working on my Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.  I know that Nokia just released the tech preview  of Qt 4 for S60 devices.  But I’ll give it a shot.  Hopefully the GUI will port over nicely.

Completing justCheckers

Yes, the project that I left for dead still lives.  I want to work on it, as portfolio material.  I first plan on building a website in PHP (or maybe JSP?) that renders beautiful CSS and XHTML.  And then I need to give the project much love.  But I owe it to myself to finish this application.  I won’t build any crazy game servers.  But I want to make something totally configurable and fun.  And in the process I want to create something that proves that I am a strong Java developer.

Writing A Collection of Shards

I am going back to writing.  Unfortunately I need to start almost from scratch, since many of my written sections simply will not work.  The ideas are there.  I just need to get them down on paper.

Driving License

This one is the ultimate in the tire kicking sense.  I plan on getting my driver’s license really soon.  Aside from parking, I feel comfortable driving.  Once I figure out all this parking stuff, then I’ll be ready.  I’m exciting since this will give me a lot more mobility and flexiblity.  I’ll be able to solve a lot of problems and have even more time to do things in the day.  And I’ll be able to sleep and live in normal time periods.

Measuring Progress

I apologize for the lack of an earlier update.  A writer with a mindnumbing case of writer’s block, is  a terrible thing to behold.  Hence I put off writing until I regained my bearings and inspiration.  Thinking before writing should apply to all who write.

I want to touch upon something I write about often: time management.  The question that often comes to my mind, is how effective are my techniques.  Do I gain anything from them?  Or do they simply hinder me from achieving what I planned to achieve?  How can I judge if a technique that I apply to my life hinders or helps?  I claim there is a manner in which one can measure if a technique works or not.

But how should measure effectiveness?  I rather not use the metric of amount of free time.  The simplest way to attain free time, is to get rid of work.  Rather we need a metric of work achieved.

Measuring work in general is a tricky business.  If it were a simple task, we could then attempt to measure the value of work.  And then we could base a sane economic model on work performed based various criteria.  Regrettibly the Austrian school of business shows that this is a difficult if not impossible task.  Also work for the sake of work is foolish.  And one of the root causes of the present economic crisis, is the fallacy of Keynes, that so long as people and capital work and are consumed, all will be well.  Hence, we indirectly valuate work by pricing the services rendered and good produced by said work, against other goods and services.  I propose we approach our original problem in a similar, indirect fashion.

Lets measure effectiveness not only by the number of tasks completed.  We could weight the task by their complexity, size and difficult in realization.  But even such a weighing is not the true cost of a task.  I noticed an improvement to simply measuring tasks.   We include measurements how quickly one can work on those important but oft-put off projects and goals.  If a technique lets one approach more such long-term projects and goal than before, then the technique is effective.

I am happy to report, that I put effective time and spatial organizational techniques into practice.  The ones that I could maintain or could help me, I stopped using.  And I know they are effective, since I can finally get to work on all those important projects and goals.  And all those projects I put off for months and years, I can now approach.  So I can comfortably say that progress is being made.  And these techniques do pay off.

justCheckers on Hold – Again – Kinda

justCheckers logo

justCheckers logo

I’m putting my involvement with the justCheckers project on hold for a while.  Progress ground to a halt when I started to dig into the code.  In its current state most of the application’s core functionality needs reworking.  Meaning to go forward someone would need to reimplement slides and jumps that allows for multiple jumps and so-called “flying kings”.  And the GUI needs refactoring to run in a multithreaded manner and with a main game event loop.  I already devised the algorithms for the core game engine.  But I need to translate that into real code.  I plan on implement those eventually.  But the amount of effort to reward doesn’t add up at the moment for me.  So justCheckers will not be on my high priority list for the next little while.

Just to be clear, I am not abandoning the project.  I still want to work on it.  But there are higher priorities on my list.  If anyone wants to step up to the plate and massage the code, I’ll gladly help.  And when once I get my other higher priority tasks done, I will return to hacking on justCheckers.