About This Blog

Nathan's interests include open source, open web protocols, and programming languages.

Nathan co-founded Intrigo, a software development house in Portland that develops web applications that power startup companies.


15 January 2008 - 2:35Robots rebel, take over world and my music collection. News at eleven.

I have a digital music library that is far larger than any reasonable person could hope to manage by themselves. It is ridiculously large, I never expect to listen to it all, and contained in this collection is a not-so-insignificant portion made up of albums that I should be ashamed I acquired at all.

Picking good songs to play from this library quickly devolves into one of two exercises, both with depressingly predictable results: Option 1, The Safe Bet: cherrypick an album from the mental list that I keep that I know I own and like because I’ve already listened to them hundreds of times; and Option 2, Musical Russian Roulette: let the cruel gods of playlist shuffle decide my aural fate, finger located firmly near the skip button in anticipation of the much too prevalent duds.

At what point in my life did I let listening to music become a chore?

iTunes Library of Absurdity!

Determined not to be a slave to my own music collection I set out for something better, and when I say “something better”, I usually mean something automated. I’m a programmer, and by definition lazy, so I when I do things once I expect never to have to do them again, and picking good music to listen to is no exception.

I found my solution in iTunes Smart Playlists. Within iTunes, I could command my Smart Playlists, or, as I prefer to call them, my small army of music-selecting robots, to craft a special sub-collection of my library that has all of the strengths and none of the weaknesses of my two previous music selection methods. From then on, each morning when I plugged my iPod in for it’s daily sync I didn’t get the usual overplayed tracks or mish-mosh of unwanted crap. Instead, thanks to my carefully crafted and meticulously planned assault on music mundanity, my mornings became pleasant, serendipitous trips through the less played corners of my previously unwieldy album collection. And I was happy! For weeks!

And oh was I proud! Obviously my significant skills in automation were paying dividends into new areas of my life. Or so I thought

Robot invasion!
Robot invasion!

It turns out that the iPod Touch (and iPhone) have a “Smart Playlist bug” that had evaded my perception until just tonight. It’s one of those absurd kinds of bugs: the ones that don’t overtly break anything but instead twists the supposedly “smart” functionality into an at-first-imperceptible perversion of it’s former self.

You see, in my smart playlists I have several clauses that say things like “first select the 5000 songs that I’ve played the most” and “next select 3 gigabytes of my most recently added songs”. I then have other clauses that manipulate these lists in various ways to separate the wheat from the chafe. But! As I discovered just tonight, upon syncing, this sinister bug reprograms my smart playlists so that everywhere I told it most it changes it to least and everywhere I told it least it changes it to most!

The playlists that I had so carefully built; the army of automatons that I had enlisted (commanded!) to pick my songs for me according to the very precise measurements that I had layed out for them, were doing the exact opposite of what I had asked them to do! Unbeknownst to me! For weeks!

toothpaste for dinner

Most embarrassingly, though, is that I thought the great music that was being delivered to my iPod every morning was a result of my own clever machinations, when in fact, had the playlists been working as I had designed them, I would have had been subjected to the same crap and cruft that I was trying to avoid in the first place!

Hubris, exposed by my own machines. Touché.

No Comments | Tags: music

4 January 2008 - 19:49Fountain Hills Update: John Summers

When I was in Fountain Hills this last week I ran into John Summers at the Taphouse. John (Sumatyme), along with his musical partner James Calbert (CTX), started a hip hop group that has apparently gained quite the following. The group is called Identity Crisis and they have one album out (that I’m aware of).

I’m not able to say that I knew John very well in high school, though I wish I had since he always seemed like (and still does) an interesting and genuinely nice guy.

John being a nice guy and starting a musical group, however, aren’t reasons enough for me to bother you with this blog post. I’m doing that because the album is really good. And I mean excellent.

Good enough that I put my money where my mouth is and bought it on iTunes. If you’re a fan of hip hop (or just curious to see what a fellow FHHS alumni is up to) you can judge for yourself by:

What other new and interesting things are FH alumni doing? Let us all know :o)

No Comments | Tags: friends

26 December 2007 - 15:37AZ Independents can NOT vote in primary!

I wanted to share what I learned today as I requested my early ballot in Arizona for the presidential primaries. Some things you should know if you are registered in Arizona:

  1. Both the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries will be held on February 5th.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, if you are registered Independent (’NO PARTY’ on your reg card) you will NOT be able to vote or request an early ballot. You MUST be registered for the party who’s primary you intend to vote in. AZCentral has some coverage on this.

    The gist is: while Arizona independents DO get to vote in state primaries, the law that enables this does not apply to ‘presidential preference’ votes. An irritating catch, especially if you’re like me and haven’t decided which primary you’ll be voting in yet.

  3. Moreover, if you want to change your registration (even just temporarily) to vote in one or the other primary, you must do so before midnight on January 7th (two weeks away!). It takes about 2 minutes to register online and you can change it back after the primary.
  4. To request an early ballot, you must do so from the county within which you are registered. You can request that ballot to be mailed anywhere (I’ll be filling out my AZ ballot in Oregon).

    Early Ballot Request for Pima County, AZ
    Early Ballot Request for Maricopa County, AZ

  5. Please vote! Or not, and make my vote count more. I’ll be ok with that. ;o)

1 Comment | Tags: politics, voting

26 October 2007 - 18:14Intrigo is looking for experienced PHP, JavaScript and CSS developers.

Intrigo is looking for experienced PHP, JavaScript and CSS developers in the Tucson area.

If you have a passion for usability and a desire to make software that makes a real difference to the people that use it then we really want to hire you!

Intrigo make web applications nearly exclusively. Our client base is over 50% start up companies, so you’ll be working on some of the most innovative and interesting projects out there. The solutions we build are cutting edge in their respective industries (and on the web in general) and we want to hire people who are ready to try new things with web technology.

Our team is 12 people strong right now, split amongst developers, designers and support staff. We have some of the most talented artists and developers in Tucson who take a real pride in their work. It’s a great environment to work in.

We pay competitively with the industry giants, but instead of being just another face on a campus of thousands you’ll be working with a small team at a young and growing company working on exciting projects. (Intrigo is two years old this coming March with plans to open a second office in Q2 2008). We don’t ever expect anyone to work overtime and we’re able to accommodate for school or flex schedules. Our office is centrally located: near the corner of Broadway and Campbell.

We’re open to hiring college graduates who are planning on staying in Tucson after graduation. Current students are also welcome to apply, but we’re only interested in part time if you’re able to commit 25 hours or more per week and have strong web application skills already.

No Comments | Tags: Intrigo, business, job opening, programming

11 May 2007 - 16:54Wiretapping what?

Not to play the party card (for those who don’t know, I have a strong and fairly equal dislike for both sides of the aisle), but only under the Bush administration does one have to outlaw something that is already illegal.

Synop: Bill outlaws domestic wiretapping (again); passed in the House today.

No Comments | Tags: politics, publish_to_facebook, war

28 April 2007 - 15:33Intrigo scribe needed (Temp Position)

Intrigo has a temp position open for the next few weeks, $10/hr. Michael asked that I spread the word.

I need a note taker to accompany me to client meetings over the next couple weeks. This individual must type fast, listen well, and act professional at all times. Meetings will occur sporadically between 8-5pm. The position starts at $10/hour.

Please contact me (Michael Kelly) via phone 520-225-9504 or email: michael@intrigomedia.com

No Comments | Tags: Intrigo, employment

25 April 2007 - 15:14UK Universities: “Drop Math. Please.”

Good grief. On the same day that the BBC published a story on the seemingly embarrasing difference between Chinese and English math comprehension requirements (which I mentioned earlier here), they report that students are actually being encouraged to drop higher math courses in order to inflate the university’s standing on league tables.

No Comments | Tags: education, policy, publish_to_facebook

25 April 2007 - 13:33World’s most influential computer scientists answer kid’s email.

Update: the link to sztywny’s blog entry has been fixed. Use the link in this summary rather than the one on Slashdot, which is outdated

My summary of a great blog post by “sztywny”, a young Polish computer science blogger, that made it to the frontpage of Slashdot.

Many of the questions that make it to the Ask Slashdot pages come from young and aspiring programmers wanting to know the role math and education play in the profession, or what makes certain programmers so much more productive than others, or what the future of the craft will look like. One young programmer by the name of Jarosaw “sztywny” Rzesz√≥tko decided to ask these types of questions (and more) to the programmers he admired the most who also, it turns out, happen to be some of the most influential computer scientists and programmers of the last several decades. The result? Most of them happily responded. The results include the following: Linus Torvalds (Linux), Bjarne Stroustrup (C++), James Gosling (Java), Tim Bray (XML, Atom), Guido Van Rossum (Python), Dave Thomas (Pragmatic Programmer), David Heinemeier Hansson (Rails Framework), and Googlers Steve Yegge and Peter Norvig.

No Comments | Tags: computer science, education, programming

25 April 2007 - 9:45Falling behind or simply anecdotal?

You can either be glad that you didn’t take math in China, or lament the waning educational systems of the West. This BBC article shows the stunning difference between a Chinese undergraduate entrance exam question and an English university’s exam question for first year students. Ouch.

1 Comment | Tags: education

12 April 2007 - 12:15Servers make me sad. (New Position)

It’s come to my attention recently that I hate server administration. Ok, so maybe that occurred to me not-so-recently. I just know that I would rather spend the rest of the entirety of my life coding than spend the rest of my week configuring Apache. Ok, so that’s a lie, too. But only kind of.

In any case, while I don’t really spend that much time inside of Linux configuration files, it’s enough to annoy me, and if past performance is any indication of future growth (which it’s not, just humor me) then my work time is about to get a lot more configurey. (I’m vying for the worst made up word ever, how’d I do?).

So, I’m entertaining the idea of bringing on a part-time Linux server admin to take over the crap that I hate doing to play an important and appreciated role on the Intrigo team. Our needs are fairly modest: we make web applications, mostly for small businesses. We have just a few servers, some internally to support our staff, development and testing and some outsourced to host our clients’ applications. It’s been a little over a year since we started, however, and the limitations of our setup are… *ehem* starting to show.

So, if you or anyone you know (forward this on to geeky friends looking for work) might have what we’re looking for, let Michael or I know! Also, we’re always looking for highly skilled programmers (especially those already trained in web development).

And oh yeah, here’s as close to a ‘job description’ as I’m going to write tonight:

Position Info

Intrigo is looking to hire someone part time (or as a contractor) to manage our internal Linux installations. We need someone who has experience or can easily pick up:

Subversion. Our developers use it for source control, but we want to add Apache WebDAV support for our non-technical staff and make it integrate seamlessly into Windows/OSX (both OSes seem to support this, sort of).

Apache/PHP - pretty typical installation. Currently we outsource our web hosting (dedicated boxes, but no root). We’re considering putting a couple of our clients on our own boxes (either in house or co-location), mostly because our clients’ applications are outgrowing our dedicated boxes (and even then our host is not what I would call a ‘dedicated box specialist’) but also because we want the extra flexibility that comes with being able to configure our environment. We’re also considering virtualization, but have limited experience with it, so if you have experience there (good or bad!) we’d love to hear about it.

MySQL - just the basics here, though we anticipate needing rudimentary replication and/or clustering within 6 months.

Shell Automation - If you’re really good at shell scripting and process automation that’s a huge plus.

Also, probably some really esoteric and critical piece of software that I’m forgetting.

Commitment would probably be 10 hours a week or intermittently as new things arise. 20-30 hrs/week if we get some really big ideas or if things on our current hardware gets out of hand more quickly than expected.

Send emails to Michael Kelly (michael@intrigomedia.com) or myself (nathan@intrigomedia.com)!

No Comments | Tags: Intrigo, business