I've been using a lot of the time that's been set aside for writing
this diary for other things. For example, I just spent an hour or so
talking on the phone with David McCusker. Also, over the last two
evenings I read a great book. It's all good, but as usual a challenge
to keep everything in good balance. I'm not sure whether writing a
diary every day is the right frequency or not.
"Raising Blaze", by Debra
Ginsberg, is a compelling tale of a child with a high impedance
mismatch with the (public) school system, and how his family copes
with it. If you have a child that doesn't fit in to any of the neatly
defined categories that schools are designed to handle, you should
read this book.
Our Alan is a challenging kid, for sure. We've been incredibly
fortunate to have good teachers, guidance, and support, and his
academic performance has been excellent (by contrast, the Blaze of the
book, is labelled a "problem" very early on and struggles with
The book is beautifully written, with gripping narrative at times, and
fully human, real characters. Heather is reading it now, and I am sure
we will discuss it deeply.
A couple of people recommended gnome-meeting. I did try it
before, but with no success. It was probably a low-level audio driver
issue. I'm particularly prone to these kinds of problems because I
compile my own kernels. I'll give it another shot.
I also bought a reasonably priced Plantronics headset with microphone,
instead of the clunky old Apple microphone I had been using. The
ergonomics should be a lot better, anyway.
Both Alan and Max are getting into computer games on the iMac in a
pretty big way. Everybody (myself included) likes Pop Pop, a new game
from Ambrosia in the Breakout family. Alan is able to get through the
demo levels by himself, so I've bought him a registration key. Alan is
also really enjoying Snood. He's just recently been able to win games
at the first difficulty level.
I've actually been hacking a bit on my prototype for a build system,
but if tromey's is a good design, I'd rather help on that. Perhaps
a good way to do that, though, is to make the Rebar prototype good
enough to build interesting projects, and offer it as grist for the
about an important question in build tool design: do you make it
depend on an existing, but not yet ubiquitous tool or language (such
as Python), or do you try to make it bootstrap from more primitive
parts? Auto* does an impressive job working on older Unix systems, but
is deeply dependent on the Unix shell. I really need a build system
that works on other platforms too.
A dependence on Python is pretty reasonable and is one way to solve
this, but I have a different idea for Rebar. This question also brings
up another: what language underlies the build scripts? If you know
that your tool will have a (say) Python dependency, then it's very
tempting to just export the languages "eval" capability. In fact, all
build tools have some underlying language.
In the case of Rebar, my choice is to roll a new language, tiny and
simple of course. What makes it interesting is that it's purely
functional, so it can be evaluated in parallel (make -jn), and so that
results from one run can be cached for others (like ccache and friends). However, in
all cases, the tool must give the same results as if executing
the script serially from beginning to end. I feel that this design is
potentially a lot more robust than those in which the parallelism and
caching is specified explicitly, and that build scripts can be
As for bootstrapping, I will expect most developers to have the full
tool. However, the plan is to have a "light" version written in
portable C and released under a very liberal free license (MIT), so
that it can be included in source distributions. This version can be
much simpler in terms of caching and dependency analysis, so I think
it's possible to do in a small number of lines of code. It will also
come with scripts to automatically build it on a number of popular
systems. If these scripts fail for any reason, then getting the full
tool is always an option.
I like this idea, and feel it would be quite a bit harder to pull off
if a large, rich language such as Python were embedded. Even so, I'm
doing the prototype in Python and am happy with the choice.