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Quentin Stafford-Fraser's blog
Updated: 3 days 4 hours ago

A Project Observed

Sun, 27/07/2014 - 13:02

Robin McKie has written a nice piece about our Pico project in the Observer.

The article is here.

And here’s our introductory video, if you’re interested and didn’t see it a few months back.

All-you-can-eat books

Sat, 26/07/2014 - 11:07

John Naughton’s Observer column this week discusses the leaked plans for Amazon’s ‘Kindle Unlimited’ service.

Amazon’s move will be as discombobulating for the book publishing industry as the advent of Spotify was for the music industry.

The analogy is a good one. Creative content is being commoditised: as a rough approximation, you can’t make money from selling music any more, only from going on tours. You can’t make a living from selling photos, only from running photography workshops. And for some time it’s been pretty rare for anyone to be the family bread-winner by writing books — you also need to teach creative writing at the local Further-Ed college — but I think it’s going to become much rarer. Expect authors to start charging a lot more for their appearances at literary festivals.

And, lest you think, “Oh, this isjust a wild idea from somebody in marketing that was leaked by accident”, it has now been launched in the US. Six quid a month for all the books you can read, available instantly.

Just think what those monks in the scriptoria would have said.

Shiny

Wed, 23/07/2014 - 09:17

We visited a fine Berkshire hotel at the weekend, and I did like this natty little Lagonda in the car park…

Don’t look a gift job in the mouth

Mon, 14/07/2014 - 09:31

There’s a wonderful-sounding position offered on one of the University mailing lists:

Equine Ambulatory Veterinarian (Maternity Cover)

I expect they’re looking for someone who specialises in a horse’s gait. Or someone who rides around in a horse ambulance?

But perhaps not. It’s much more satisfying to think that the University of Cambridge has always traditionally employed a walking midwife for horses, perhaps one of a small team of pedestrian veterinary specialists, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to apply for one of these exclusive posts.

Visualising your Paperless Workflow

Sat, 12/07/2014 - 16:37

On episode 191 of Mac Power Users, I described how I found it useful to be able to visualise the various steps of my automated ‘paperless workflow’. (Something I also wrote about here on Status-Q last year.)

A few people asked for more details, so here’s a 9-minute screencast going into some of the details.

Also available on Vimeo for the media cognoscenti!

Deep thought for the day

Sun, 06/07/2014 - 11:14

All the world’s a toolbox
And all the men and women merely pliers

Docker

Sun, 29/06/2014 - 15:07

A geeky post. You have been warned.

I wanted to make a brief reference to my favourite new technology: Docker. It’s brief because this is far too big a topic to cover in a single post, but if you’re involved in any kind of Linux development activity, then trust me, you want to know about this.

What is Docker?

Docker is a new and friendly packaging of a collection of existing technologies in the Linux kernel. As a crude first approximation, a Docker ‘container’ is like a very lightweight virtual machine. Something between virtualenv and VirtualBox. Or, as somebody very aptly put it, “chroot on steroids”. It makes use of LXC (Linux Containers), cgroups, kernel namespaces and AUFS to give you most of the benefit of running several separate machines, but they are all in fact using the same kernel, and some of the operating system facilities, of the host. The separation is good enough that you can, for example, run a basic Ubuntu 12.04, and Ubuntu 14.04, and a Suse environment, all on a Centos server.

“Fine”, you may well say, “but I can do all this with VirtualBox, or VMWare, or Xen – why would I need Docker?”

Well, the difference is that Docker containers typically start up in milliseconds instead of seconds, and more importantly, they are so lightweight that you can run hundreds of them on a typical machine, where using full VMs you would probably grind to a halt after about half a dozen. (This is mostly because the separate worlds are, in fact, groups of processes within the same kernel: you don’t need to set aside a gigabyte of memory for each container, for example.)

Docker has been around for about a year and a half, but it’s getting a lot of attention at present partly because it has just hit version 1.0 and been declared ready for production use, and partly because, at the first DockerCon conference, held just a couple of weeks ago, several large players like Rackspace and Spotify revealed how they were already using and supporting the technology.

Add to this the boot2docker project which makes this all rather nice and efficient to use even if you’re on a Mac or Windows, and you can see why I’m taking time out of my Sunday afternoon to tell you about it!

I’ll write more about this in future, but I think this is going to be rather big. For more information, look at the Docker site, search YouTube for Docker-related videos, and take a look at the Docker blog.