Older blog entries for RickMuller (starting at number 26)

Greetings from ABQ

Well, here I am in Albuquerque, working at Sandia National Laboratories. I love the labs, and am getting to know Albuquerque a bit. Quite a radical change from Pasadena, but it took me a couple years to get comfortable there, so it's reasonable that I should give the Southwest a bit of time.

Latest interests include typical Lab stuff: Fortran90, MPI, plane-wave electronic structure theory, Green's functions, Hugoniots, etc.

In my last post I complained that RMS and the FSF seem a little bit half-hearted. This article does little to make me feel better. Don't get me wrong, I have deep respect for RMS. But I feel that I detect a little smugness when Stallman suggests that the Linux kernel could be replaced by the Hurd.
18 Jun 2003 (updated 18 Jun 2003 at 15:19 UTC) »
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes Lots of things changing. In two weeks I'm moving from my current position at Caltech to a senior staff position in the Computational Materials and Molecular Biology Group at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque.

Managed to find a nice house there, and managed to sell my townhouse in Pasadena.

FSF and SCO Is it just me, or does it appear that FSF has been strangely quiet in response to SCO's suit against IBM, and threats of suits of Linus? Stallman has been very vocal about his frustration with the credit that Linus received for putting Gnu/Linux together. Could there be a little bit of gratification in seeing a kernel that he doesn't like go through hard times? Maybe he hopes that if SCO is successful at bringing Linux down, The Hurd will be the rebound choice for an open OS?

Bought a neat toy lately. I picked up a ADS Pyro firewire enclosure, originally to try and save a laptop disk that had gone south. But when that didn't work out I picked up a cheap 40 GB drive at NewEgg, popped it in, and I have a cute little 40 GB drive for backups. Very neat, very convenient, since the drive gets its power from the USB port. And makes backups (which I should do more of anyway) a snap.

The future of radio?

Why has FM radio degraded so much? My feeling is that it has always been a function of the large playlist companies that tell radiostations what they should be airing. There was once a time when DJs decided what to play, but now they can only choose from a list. I can't imagine anything more boring than being a DJ today -- these people are passionate about music, generally have impeccable taste, but have to be essentially robots.

For some time, internet radio has been the only candle in the dark. I normally listen to radioparadise or radioio, but these companies's legal status has been something of a gray area, and I've always believed they're just a court order away from going off the "air", since effectively they're just streaming MP3s, which can just as easily be streamed to disk as played through speakers.

Maybe now that Apple has worked out a compromise with big record labels that seems to be mutually profitable, we can have an alternative. Apple appears to be making money hand-over-fist on their venture, and maybe the shared profits will convince the record companies that ventures like this will increase their market rather than stealing their intellectual property.

Large vs. Small, Redux

Once again I'm musing on Large vs. Small Software Solutions, something I wrote about in one of my first posts here, and something that I still haven't found a good solution to.

Again the question comes down to Zope versus CGI for web applications? Or, rather than Zope, any large framework. And it's not just limited to web applications, obviously. In almost every program I write, I have to decide which softare libraries I'm going to link against. Because I write in Python, for the most part, that choice boils down to which libraries I'm going to require the users of my programs to have installed on their computers before they can use what I write. Do I want to require a large library like SciPy, that offers lots of neat functionality, some of which could be useful to me, but that also requires a difficult install process? My own choice, in this case, is not to use SciPy, despite some neat toys that I'd like to have in PyQuante.

The simple (and simplistic, IMO) answer is that you use the smallest software solution that gets the job done. The problem with this answer is that software applications tend to grow over time, and something that may be simple enough at the start of a project may not be adequate at project maturity. One might be able to serve a web application using hand-written HTML and a few CGI scripts at the start, but what happens when the client wants an integrated database? Perhaps starting with something like Zope is a better approach.

I end up doing the worst of all possible worlds: I change my mind on this every few days/months!

7 May 2003 (updated 7 May 2003 at 16:35 UTC) »

Seriously thinking about a move to Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, so I'm going through the hell of trying to sell a townhouse here, and look for a townhouse there.

I realize this is probably just whining on my part, but one of the hardest parts about this move is that it is somewhat unforced. I could continue working at Caltech, a place I love, for another 5-10 years. But eventually I'd have to move, and Sandia has made a great offer. This is also a good time for us to move as a family, since Alex is still young enough that he hasn't put down roots in a day-care or a pre-school. But still, moving is such a hassle that even though I think a move is the right thing, it's hard to willingly put my family through it.

Hey, I realize that I'm lucky to have a job offer at all in a tough economy, and I'm really excited about the work that I could do at Sandia and the people I'd be doing that work with. And I realize that the best way to tackle something like this is to simply chip away at it one bit at a time, and eventually everything will be taken care of. But there is a part of me that is dreading the whole process.

Bought a nice new machine from Computers Lane for only $450. It was a nice compromise for me between building a machine myself (which I don't have the time to do properly) and buying a premium machine from Dell.

Installed Debian on it, partially due to my good experiences with the Debian-ish Fink system on my Mac OS X laptop at work. As a longtime Redhat user, I was amazed just how nice and easy a Linux installation could be.

I have found the Debianhelp website particularly helpful.

25 Apr 2003 (updated 25 Apr 2003 at 16:12 UTC) »

Been a couple of weeks, during which time I got a job offer, and have spent a lot of time porting old Fortran code. Also been working on some nice quantum Monte Carlo routines.

Oh, I've also been learning about Young's Tableaux, which were developed 100 years ago by an English clergyman, and help in keeping track of permutations in many applications, including quantum chemistry.

8 Apr 2003 (updated 8 Apr 2003 at 22:50 UTC) »

Released PyQuante version 1.1 today! The test suite is starting to get more stable, and I added some cool new toys that hopefully will be useful to quantum chemists. I never really know when to increment digits in a version number, but I figured enough was improved since the last version that I'd call it a major release.

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