Of Recent Events

I was going to write a post about looking forward to tonight’s Ottawa WordPress meet-up, but as of today’s events I find that there is a more important topic to blog about.

Today’s attack on Parliament and the shooting of Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial reminded me of 9/11. When 9/11 happened, the event seemed so surreal. Broadcasted over the TV or on the internet, it was hard to understand the scene for someone who has never walked the streets of New York or understood what this meant in a geo-political sense. I was only a month shy of being 8 years old.

Back to October 22nd: Never having lived so close to an attack like this, I originally thought this was just a random shooting. As I followed CBC’s live blog though, I started to put things into perspective. This wasn’t just a shooting, this was an attack on the Government of Canada.

Living in Ottawa and knowing the downtown core area very well has made this event more personal than it would have been if it had occurred in another city. Having walked those streets and visited those landmarks on many occasions, it’s hard to believe something so bad could occur at the same place where I associate safety and good times with.

Standing at my desk, trying to get work done as I constantly check for the latest twitter updates, I eventually break for lunch quite late in the day: sometime past 2 pm. Hitting up my favourite shawarma place, the day seems even eerier when the restaurant is dead empty. Here I begin to write this post while chowing down on a healthy serving of garlic potatoes.


Interesting Articles

Twenty

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

Gone are the years of figuring out what this whole life thing is about, time to finally take that knowledge and have the time of my life shaping my future into whatever I please.

Looking back over the year, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve landed an awesome co-op job working at a small company solving issues in the hospitality industry, a much busier freelance web design job on the side, and started cooking healthier meals. Not to mention, its been at least a year having moved out of my parents house into my current Ottawa residence with all of my roommates 🙂

Here’s a few other miscellaneous achievements:

  • Made and barbecued the perfect homemade burger
  • Read more fiction, non-fiction and computer science books and articles
  • Found my love for Cherry MX blue keyboards
  • Commute to work every day via bike
  • Expanded my music tastes

Some things that I’m looking forward to this year are going back to school after my co-op term to take some advanced third year courses, work on some personal programming projects, and cook more delicious food. But who knows? Much more notable events will definitely occur in the next year. Those unknown events are the ones I’m most looking forward to!


Just like what Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress has been doing, I like the idea of writing a post on your birthday for reflecting on the past and future year. Here is it’s first form on my blog.

A Path To Justice

apathtojustice-clipI would like to announce the completion of one of my latest website jobs: A Path To Justice.

A Path To Justice is an upcoming documentary based on Humberview Secondary School’s law class that brought forth new evidence to the wrongfully convicted Steven Truscott case. The new-found evidence warranted a retrial, ultimately leading to an official pardon by the Canadian government.

Over time this website should grow to serve the purpose of complementing the progress of the documentary: from planning, to production, then finally distribution.

The website may be visited at apathtojustice.ca.

Moving a Jenkins Instance From one Server to Another

During my time converting ZDirect’s SVN repo to Git, we decided to move our code from a server in Florida to a server in Ottawa. The same server also hosts our Jenkins build server. To keep bandwidth bills and build latency down we’re moving the Jenkins server over as well.

Trial and error led me to copying the entire Jenkins directory, which is either at the JENKINS_HOME environment variable or ~/.jenkins as the default. Launching the Jenkins executable while setting the JENKINS_HOME environment variable will bring up an almost perfectly configured instance of Jenkins. I say almost because the Jenkins configuration should be looked over for any settings that are wrong for this new system. Some Jenkins configuration options that I had to change was the JDK home, Ant home and the external url of the server. An example launch script looks as follows:

$ JENKINS_HOME=/path/to/jenkins/home/folder
$ java -jar jenkins.war

The Jenkins Wiki outlines how to move specific jobs as well.

Svn to Git Migration

At my workplace ZDirect, we have a decade old SVN repository hosting about twenty projects and totalling about 13 000 commits. Recently, we’ve decided to switch over to using Git from SVN because of SVN slowly becoming antiquated and its various productivity slowdowns that are not seen in new version control systems.

Some immediate goals
  • Speed up the time it takes to clone a repo
  • Simple branching and conflict handling
  • More code reviews

That last point about pull requests is actually a feature of the web-based software hosting system. We chose GitLab as our solution, but more on that will come in a later post.

Some long-term goals
  • Move towards continuous integration
  • Use advanced Git workflows

Since being the most comfortable with Git, I volunteered myself as the “Migration Lead”, where I coordinated both the technical side and the human side. There is an incredible amount of articles out on the web talking about how company X or average Joe Y moved their SVN codebase to Git. What has really helped me along the way so far is Atlassian’s Git articles and tutorials; outlining a standard workflow for the process really makes it trivial for anyone else to do the same.

Hacking Banshee

Since syncing music to my Samsung Galaxy S3 doesn’t work with Linux (for the most part), I’ve constructed a method of transferring the music over ssh from my laptop to my phone using a cool little program called Unison. The solution is flawless and allows two-way syncing.

One problem, (or challenge depending on how you think about it), is that the playlists that are managed inside of Banshee Media Player on my laptop have to be exported individually and manually to a file when I want to transfer them over to my phone. Having a way to automatically export all of your playlists to some predefined directory would be very helpful for automating my music syncing. After some Googling it seems like no one has solved this problem yet.

I grabbed the Banshee source and started looking over its files associated with playlist exporting. Bingo! Shortly thereafter I found in the file Banshee.ThickClient - Banshee.Gui.SourceActions.cs the method OnExportPlaylist() which has the user interaction for exporting a playlist and the holy grail, the playlist.Save() method call.

The next logical step for me would be to figure out whether this functionality can be encapsulated into an extension, or if that’s not possible, a patch. I’ll definitely be following up on this.

Job Update and a Concurrency Rant

Well, it looks like the early bird catches the worm. After my roommates and I took this inconvenient online course introducing us to Carleton Universities Co-op program and multiple presentations and resume workshops later, I’ve finally done it. I’ve landed myself a prestigious 8-month co-op at ZDirect, a global company that produces hotel marketing automation software. Development is exclusively done in their downtown Ottawa site and sales offices are around the world.

Since Carleton’s Career and Co-op department uses a web-based job portal by Orbis Communications, and the fact that students like to procrastinate and leave everything to the last day that things are due, the résumé and cover letter uploading process has a flaw where if there are many users trying to concurrently upload their documents, this “document converter” would stall and not let you progress through the application process. My roommates and I started panicking and thinking of ways to fix it. One of my suggestions was to call up Carleton’s Computing Services (CCS) and order them a pizza in exchange for having them reboot the server. Unfortunately after giving CCS a call, they said the servers were managed by the Careers and Co-op department. Dead end there since it was already 9:30 pm and no one would be at the office.

I decided to compromise and find emails of hiring managers for my top 10 choices. Long story short, I emailed ZDirect that night, had an interview with them the very next day (that went very well), and got a phone call the day after with a job offer.

Lesson of the day: have a backup plan and design and test your concurrent systems very well!