Monday, September 29, 2008


I was thinking about some T-shirt designs this weekend, and one train of thought derailed into the following diversion. Enjoy.

Background: A couple of months ago, Greg Stein announced his intent to return to Subversion development, among other things. Since then, Greg's been undertaking a beast of a task: redesigning Subversion's working copy management library. As for the "All your base…" stuff, see Wikipedia's "All Your Base" page for more on what that's all about.

Greg: sorry, buddy, I couldn't help myself. Glad to have you back.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Righteous war: snapshot of a five-year-old's mind

My five-year-old son, Gavin, just came upstairs to my office — a pint-sized bundle of tornadoesque energy and noise. Today "the good guys" and "the bad guys" are flying fighter jets (which look, ironically, exactly like the ASL handshape for "I love you"). Now, I'm still not terribly comfortable with my kids embracing imaginative play involving weapons. On the one hand, I know that boys — especially at my boys' ages, and unlike their female counterparts — need rough and tumble play with strong male role models as part of proper gender identification. On the other hand, I don't want my little guys desensitized to unnecessary or unlawful violence (though I'm fighting an uphill battle against the entirety of mainstream media in this, it seems). So I decided to interrogate Gavin about his play today.

"What makes the Bad Guys bad?" I asked.

"The Bad Guys are the ones doing bad things, Daddy."

"Okay, but sometimes you do bad things, too. So do I. So does Mommy. So do your Good Guys, I'm sure."

"But my Bad Guys are the ones with the guns."

"Your Good Guys have guns, too, though. I dunno, Buddy — I can't see any difference between your Good Guys and your Bad Guys."

At this, Gavin paused. You could almost smell the grease in his mental gears as they warmed into steady rotation. Finally, he asserted, "But the Bad Guys are using their guns to hurt other people, and the Good Guys are trying to help those people."

"Well done, son. Have fun playing."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Version Control With Subversion, 2e

The second edition of Version Control With Subversion went off to the print shop this past Friday, and you can already read the official O'Reilly digital version thereof on their Safari Books Online service. This second edition covers Subversion 1.5.0 and all its new features, including merge tracking, changelists, sparse directories, SASL support, and so on.

Click to Buy

I dunno how my co-authors (Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick) feel about it, but I am really glad to be finished with this edition. Authoring a book — even just filling in the holes of an existing book for a second edition thereof — is a really time-consuming process! Our first edition was published in 2004 and covered Subversion 1.0. So that meant we needed to have the text updated to cover four more years' and four more major releases' worth of Subversion's maturation. Granted, we'd been more-or-less keeping our text up to date with each release of Subversion as it came out. But the text authorship was nothing compared to the copyediting stages and the tight production schedule there at the end.

Lest anyone misunderstand me, I want to state for the record that all the folks we interacted with at O'Reilly are awesome. Not only were we able to write our book in a completely open format (DocBook XML), but O'Reilly now does all the book fancification in the same format. They were cool enough to give us commit access to their production repository so we could more quickly port changes between our book source files and their copies, and vice-versa. O'Reilly rules!

The pain for us was the scheduling — both the overall length of the process, and the final drive to completion. We were originally contracted to put out a book about Subversion 1.4. But it started looking like Subversion 1.5 would be released about the same time as our 1.4-based book. Well, clearly it didn't make sense to do that, so we negotiated with O'Reilly a change of plans — to publish a book that covered Subversion 1.5 instead. Sadly, Subversion 1.5's schedule slipped. And slipped. And slipped some more. Scope creep and eleventh-hour code reworkings there meant more writing and re-writing for us, and, of course, delayed the whole publishing schedule. And it would have been worse were it not for some incredible volunteer technical reviewers that stepped up to help double-check our work.

But enough of my whining. The point of this post is to announce that the hard work and late nights has finally paid off. We have a second edition at the print shop right now, and only three months after Subversion 1.5.0 was released. We've already gotten some great early feedback on the new edition (the book itself is developed in the public under an open license at, so we are optimistic that this new edition will serve as a useful addition to the libraries — physical or digital — of Subversion users of all flavors.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mission accomplished. Well, mostly.

My wife's computer is now running Ubuntu Linux 8.04 (hardy heron). She no longer has any dependency on Microsoft software. I didn't think it was possible, but I might have fallen just a little bit more in love with her.

Actually, the sad truth is that for now I'm the one that still has a couple of Windows dependencies. (Those would be easily remedied by a conversion to Apple products, but that's never struck me as worthwhile maneuver.) I maintain a personal wiki page that tracks the pieces of software I need to be available (and not awful) on Linux before my dependency is broken, and over the years progress has been steadily made in that space. So, if you're a FOSS junky and you work on multi-track audio software, multi-track video editing software, DVD authoring software, or a good Microsoft Money/Quicken clone, you have my undivided attention!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Control at Any Cost, Revisited

In Control At Any Cost: Copyright vs Christian Rock, I told the story of my school-of-hard-knocks introduction to the Internet, copyright, and the often ugly places where the two collide. Judging by the banner I saw today atop — a popular Christian praise and worship music website — I'd say that not much has changed in the decade since those events occurred. is a site similar in some ways to OLGA or the old CCM Guitar Music Archives, but much more technologically advanced. The site maintains a database of common Christian praise songs, and tracks separate bits of metadata about each song (such as its lyrics, chords, stanza information, etc.). You can hide or show each class of metadata independently of the others as you see fit, and — perhaps the handiest feature of all — you can even dynamically transpose those chords into arbitrary keys. has — for as long as I've been aware of it, anyway — been sensitive to copyright matters. Many of the songs don't allow you see the lyrics at all, but instead display floating guitar chord names atop the spots where lyrics would have appeared. If you're familiar with such a song, that tends not to be much of a problem, especially since you can generally find the song's lyrics elsewhere online pretty easily. But I call out this fact about to make a point: the folks running it appear to be genuinely trying behave within the bounds of current copyright law.

And so it was disappointing to me to find the following notice near the top of's pages today:

Here's what that pink notice box says:

Pwarchive has been contacted by the Church Music Publishers Association and have been asked to remove all lyrics from the site due to copyrights. Over the next few days, work is going to be done to comply with this. Please join the mailing list for all future updates. Want to help?

Additional details on this matter can be found on the copyright page which will contain future updates. Sign the petition to as CMPA members to grant licenses to Pwarchive.

I'm well aware of many of the criticisms leveled at the so-called Christian music industry. I'm familiar also with the "Christian artists have to pay bills, too" defense of this type of pre-litigation action. And, as the fine folks over at can attest, notices of this sort are (unfortunately) common indications of "business as usual" in the Digital Age. Few — if any — industries are exempt from the complexities of copyright law and its enforcement.

But I struggle to understand what causes a mostly evangelical subculture to actually go out of its way to prevent the most widespread dissemination of its message possible today via the Internet. Why are Christian musicians giving up their rights to publishers like this? Or at least, why are they doing so in ways that permit those publishers to restrict the viral expansion of music and lyrics penned — if the artists themselves are to be believed — to honor God and reach others with Christ's story of sacrifice? Jesus' made some observations about the ultimate extent of true loyalty, found in Matthew 6:24 (and again in Luke 16:13): "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Which master is being served here?

I signed the petition. If you, too, think the CMPA isn't doing "what Jesus would do", perhaps you'll sign it, too.