On Sunday, October 14, 2012, my family watched Felix Baumgartner plummet from more than 120,000 feet into history. If you missed this fascinating event, here is the video. Interestingly it comes in at just about the same time that we tuned in, so you get to see the same thing that I saw. At 12:16 or so in the video there was a sudden cut away with silence that was very alarming. I thought something had gone wrong.
What an event. The touchdown was so smooth and perfect! My daughter and I talked about the precision of the checklist and all of the planning that had gone into this.
While this is amazing, what also interests me is how we came to watch it. A number of things fell into place that would have not been available even a few years ago. It's an interesting example of how my life has changed due to social media.
First, I had not heard about this jump. I guess I don't follow the correct news. A friend on Facebook pointed out that it was going to happen, expressing her dismay that this was not being covered seriously by the news. I noted it with interest, but apparently not enough interest to mark the time. I got distracted.
Later, my family was sitting down to watch the special features on the Avengers Blue-ray disk, and I happened to check Facebook on my phone. My friend had posted again that the jump was happening now and being broadcast live on the Discovery Channel. Excitedly, we adjusted our plans and decided the special features could happen at any time. We went to switch over, only to find that part of our cutting back our TV subscription (we watch little "normal" TV) removed the Discover Channel. How inconvenient!
Fortunately, it was easy enough for me to find a Live YouTube broadcast of the event. (This is a fairly new addition to YouTube.) I was struggling to get it to come up through our TV player, but it was no problem to bring it up full screen on my laptop. The three of us sat and watched fascinated as Felix dropped himself from that weather balloon in yet another example of space becoming accessible to the rest of us.
I often become frustrated at the ways my work technologies and personal technologies can clash and how things don't always work the way I'd like. Yet this is an example of how it all came together. That's really amazing!
POSIX Semaphore APIs using System V Semaphores APIs
As I noted above, the world is changing. My experience with the Freefall event was an interesting combination of interfaces with mysterious technological services. Yes, I have some idea of how they are likely implemented, but I don't really care about the details. My TV, my phone and my laptop all have the potential to interact with these things through Android and Linux and who knows what. I have no idea where the actual bits and bytes are processed and I don't really care. It's magic. It's Star Trek. It's just there!
This is increasingly the way that our world works today. What used to be a specific application on a specific server becomes a series of whatevers running wherever. A side-effect that you may not expect from this is that functions that used to be dispersed on multiple servers with their own raison d'être may get consolidated onto mainframe systems. I know developers who never imagined that they would be working on mainframes. Of course, System z has done a lot to incorporate various environments so one may be working on a System z and never know it.
However, there are times when moving an app into that environment, specifically from Intel to POWER, may require some rethinking of things. Today, on developerWorks, is an article that helps with such transitions, showing how you can implement POSIX Semaphore APIs using System V Semaphore APIs. The technique could save some trouble for people trying to port applications and make it easier for your whatever to run wherever.
Bash tricks and tips
It may be because I'm an "old guy" but I find that I can read things faster than I can watch them on video and that I can type things faster than I can point around with a mouse. So, I relish the way that even a Linux desktop makes it easy for me to jump to someplace that I can type. Of course, that also gives me access to some nifty automation and other things. Typing really isn't that bad or scary. I wish more people would dive into it.
For those who are discovering the joys of the command line, there is a nice introduction to some BASH (that's the typical Linux shell) tips and tricks. There's a lot of good stuff in the Real World Linux community by our contributing moderator, Himanshu, and others. Check it out... or better yet... join and contribute.
Himanshu has also been busy in the Real World Open Source community. This week, he's looking at VLC, a media player (and server, and converter) that I like. I've used VLC for doing all kinds of strange things, including streaming video. It's muli-platform and pretty capable.