Consuming Chaos


For what seems hours, you scan the board. The colors are sharp against the simple background. Some movement catches your eye, but it doesn't feel right, so you ignore it. Time stretches on.

There! The perfect move. Leaving the perfect next move. A quick flick. A match. The pieces fall into place. Another match. Another. Another. A special piece. Another special piece. It fires, triggering more. Chaos consumes.

The board is in ruins. Your carefully planned next move is lost in the destruction. You're back to scanning the board to try to find where you belong in this new world.

Is this a game, or is it your development strategy?

Software development is chaos. Either you work to managing chaos, consuming it, or it works on consuming you. There are too many possibilities, too much input, to brute-force your way to completion (how much software do you know of that can be considered complete?).

In the face of these possibilities, a rigid development plan will fail. Vague goals are better. Goals written in terms of a problem are best. Problems don't change, once you find their roots.

I didn't know this post was going to be about Agile, but there it is.

Exact is for computers. We are not computers. We are human. We are chaos.

Announcing Statocles


Static site generators are popular these days. For small sites, the ability to quickly author content using simple tools is key. The ability to use lower-cost (even free) hosting, often without any dynamic capabilities, is good for trying to maintain a budget. For larger sites, the ability to serve content quickly and cheaply is beneficial, and since most pages are read far more often than they are written, generating a full web page to store on the filesystem can improve performance (and lower costs).

For me, I like the convenience of using Github Pages to host project-oriented websites. The project itself is already on Github, so why not keep the website closely tied to it so it doesn't get out-of-date? For an organization like the Chicago Perl Mongers, Github can even host custom domains, allowing easy collaboration on websites.

It's through the Chicago.PM website that I was introduced to Octopress, a blogging engine built on Jekyll. It's through using Octopress that I decided to write my own static site generator, Statocles.

Continue reading Announcing Statocles...

Managing SQL Data with Yertl


Originally posted on -- Managing SQL Data with Yertl

Every week, I work with about a dozen SQL databases. Some are Sybase, some MySQL, some SQLite. Some have different versions in dev, staging, and production. All of them need data extracted, transformed, and loaded.

DBI is the clear choice for dealing with SQL databases in Perl, but there are a dozen lines of Perl code in between me and the operation that I want. Sure, I've got modules and web applications and ad-hoc commands and scripts that perform certain individual tasks on my databases, but sometimes those things don't quite do what I need right now, and I just want something that will let me execute whatever SQL I can come up with.

Yertl (ETL::Yertl) is a shell-based ETL framework. It's under development (as is all software), but included already is a small utility called ysql to make dealing with SQL databases easy.

Continue reading Managing SQL Data with Yertl...

Leaving Crumb Trails -- Talking to Myself


Originally posted as: Leaving Crumb Trails -- Talking to Myself on

The past me is another person. Sometimes antagonist, sometimes friend, past me (postaction?) had ideas, hopes, and dreams and developed some of them into software that I and others use. Unfortunately, that asshole left bugs all through the code for me to fix.

I can't blame him. Nobody's perfect, not even idealized/demonized copies of my past self. But I do have to fix them, and deal with the messes he left.

Lucky for me, while he was writing buggy software, he left extensive notes for me to use...

Continue reading Leaving Crumb Trails -- Talking to Myself...