Monday, July 19, 2010

And it shall be called openstack!

Almost a year ago I went back to work at Rackspace to help develop Rackspace's cloudfiles product. I haven't had the time to blog all that much since, but today's news is too exciting to not blog about!

Today, we are releasing the code behind cloudfiles as open source software under the newly created openstack cloud initiative. The project is called swift, and the code is currently available at Launchpad.

Swift is a highly available, distributed, object store. It is written with Python and uses the Eventlet library to handle the network IO. Swift is available as open source software under the Apache 2.0 license. The code that we are releasing is the same code that powers Rackspace's cloudfiles (minus a few boring bits that are very specific to Rackspace.)

If you are interested, come check out the openstack initiative, or check out the code on Launchpad, or just come hang out in IRC #openstack on freenode. If you are at OSCON this week, be sure to check out some of the talks being given on the subject.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

2009 Pycon Highlights

I didn't get a chance to go to Pycon last year, and was very excited when I had the opportunity to come this year.

It turns out that you can indeed teach an old(ish) dog new tricks. It all began with a talk about Python Namespaces (and Code Objects) by Jeff Rush. I thought that the "Easy AI with Python" talk would be a bit over my head, but Raymond Hettinger showed how to teach simple AI concepts using python.

The ever humble Guido Van Rossum gave a keynote that was quite different from his past talks. It was part reflection and part introspection into python and the community as a whole. He revealed that he is getting older, and more tired, and sees himself backing away from the spotlight a bit over the next several years. He seemed very pleased with where the community is, and ready to release his child out on its own. Thank you, Guido, for creating such a great language that makes my job a lot more enjoyable every day.

Ian Bicking brought down the house with his talk about various Topics of Interest. Video is available, but I doubt it will do it complete justice. He displayed comments from IRC on the projector while giving his talk. If you were not there, you really missed a hoot.

The open spaces were quite a hit and provided a great opportunity for people to further interact with each other. It was cool to hear how others were using AppEngine. Angie and I also had a great time playing Catan at the board game social.

Concurrency was a hot topic this year. Jesse Noller gave great talks on Multiprocessing and on Concurrency and Distributed Computing with Python. Coroutine based concurrency is also quite the rage this year, and I enjoyed getting together with some others who are using my favorite, Eventlet. If you are interested in such things, I highly recommend giving it a look (a new version should be coming out very soon).

The guys from reddit gave an interesting, if a bit light, keynote. Evidently they had planned to release (yet another) web framework, but weren't quite ready yet. Sounds like they are still having fun, and have a lot of interesting problems to solve.

Someone gave a quick demo of GeoDjano which looks quite slick. They even give you a nice interface to edit the country geo data from the admin interface. Another guy is working on a lightweight version of python that runs on micro controllers (like the arduino) -- looks very promising.

The lunch setup was very nice. The tables were already set, and so you were more or less forced to sit down with random people that you didn't know. I had an opportunity to talk to people from all over the python community that I would've never approached on my own. At past conferences, I would grab my food from the buffet table, and then be content to find a quiet place to sit by myself.

Overall, it was a great experience and I would like to thank all of the organizers, volunteers, and speakers for making the Pycon possible.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thinking About Storage

It is funny how quickly the ugly storage monster will creep up on you. You have a few kids, buy your wife a nice DSLR camera, and before you know it you have 250GB of precious memories filling up your hard drive. I have manually been backing these up periodically to an external hard drive, but it is a bit of a pain (not to mention that I probably don't do this as often as I should). To top it all off, we have outgrown the available space on that external hard drive, which has lead me to thinking about alternatives.

I first thought about backing it up online. The major problem is the amount of data. For example, if I were to back up to Amazon's S3, it would cost about $40 a month (and increase as more is added), and a one time fee of $25. My upload bandwidth is capped at <300KBs, which means if I were to start uploading the data now, it would take almost two weeks straight of uploading time (not to mention the time lost on interrupted connections, or the fact that I would have to throttle it so that the internet would still be usable). It would be nice to have the data off site, but it is just too inconvenient.

What I would really like is a home NAS. There are a myriad of options available, though the ones that have all the features that I would like get are pricey. This got me to thinking about building my own NAS. The major advantage to this, is that I could setup a system using Open Solaris with ZFS.

During this journey, I came across the MSI Wind barebones system which has an Intel Atom, with GigE, 2 SATA connections, and a CF memory card slot in a nice tiny package (and most recently they have also introduced a newer version that includes the dual core Atom). I've also come across a couple of posts recently that seem to indicate that Open Solaris will run fine on it, and that it looks to be a decent platform to build a small NAS out of. For about $400 you can get the Wind PC, 2 1TB drives, and 2GB of memory.

The price is pretty comparable to most of the low to mid range home NAS units that are available, and it would be a lot more flexible. Oh how tempting...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ready for Pycon 2009!

PyCon 2009: Chicago I'm all set and booked for the 2009 PyCon in Chicago next month. I was unable to attend last year's event, and am looking forward to what looks like a wealth of interesting talks. If anyone is interested in meeting up, send me an email to chuck at

If you haven't decided if you are going to attend or not, I highly recommend it. It is a great place to listen to different ideas, meet great people, and learn new stuff. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Restish on App Engine

I've been experimenting with the Restish web framework lately. Overall the code is very minimal and stays out of your way, and I have been quite impressed with it so far. The docs are alright for such a new project, and the guys working on it have been pretty responsive to bugs and suggestions.

The next step in my experiment is to get Restish working with Google App Engine. It turns out to be quite simple. The basic hello world app looks like the following:

#!/usr/bin/env python

import wsgiref.handlers
from restish import app, http, resource

class Root(resource.Resource):
def index(self, request):
return http.ok([], 'Hello World!')

def main():
application = app.RestishApp(Root())

if __name__ == '__main__':

You will also have to include the Restish source tree in your project (or use the zip importer to import it from a zip file). This example is about the simplest way possible to do it, and I bet it wouldn't be difficult to get a paste created project working on App Engine.

So far, so good. I'll report later if I run into any issues.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Remembering Grandma "Charlie"

My grandmother, Rose Thier, passed away quietly Saturday morning. I wish now that I would have gone to see her on Thursday with my sisters. But I am thankful that they had the chance. In a scene described by one sister as her last moment of heaven on earth, Melanie and Meesh sang to her some of her favorite songs.

For as long as I can remember, we always called her Grandma Charlie. The story goes that I came running around her house in Ohio one day yelling, "Grandma Charlie! Grandma Charlie!" and the name stuck ever since. Some of my earliest memories are from visiting their house. The tall row of trees behind the house led to a very simple playground with some swings and a merry go around. Just around the corner and across a road was a little shop where we would go to get ice cream. I also remember sitting in her kitchen, listening to Grandpa Charlie tell stories about dad when he was a little kid and watching grandma cook.

It is because of Grandma that I put beans in my chili. To most Texans, that would be considered a sin, but I just can't get away from it. There is something about the taste and texture that it adds to complete the dish. We always looked forward to grandma coming down, because that would mean that she would make her famous bean soup. Nothing fancy, but it would really hit the spot, and made lots of great music later. :) Melanie has mastered it now, but I still have a way to go to get it right. At least I have finally learned the secrets of her cucumber salad. I would have to fight my dad and my uncle for those leftovers whenever she made them.

When we were little, Grandma and Grandpa would come to visit once a year during Christmas. We would all press up against the glass window waiting with excitement to see the plane land and pull up. They would arrive with what would be the most cherished gifts for Christmas. Every year they would give us an ornament for the tree. A small token at the time, but today they are some of my greatest treasures.

Most people will remember the stories. My wife, Angie loved fact that Grandma Charlie loved to tell the most embarrassing stories of me as a kid. She would tell them just as if it were yesterday, each time with a special twinkle in her eye.

And of course there were her sayings. For better or worse, she always had a way with words. It always cracked me up when she talked about getting the whole famdamily together. There were several Czech sayings that I would only butcher trying to type out here that she would say to us. She also had a way of looking at you when she said them so that you knew that she meant business.

Some time after Grandpa Charlie passed away, she gave me her wedding ring, to be given to my wife when the time came. Years later, I married Angie, and she now proudly wears that beautiful ring. It would bring a tear to Grandma's eye every time she saw it. Angie now looks forward to one day giving it to Charlie so that his bride may wear it.

And that is also where Charlie gets his namesake. There is a tradition in my family that the first son is named after the two grandfathers. Thus his name is Charles David after my dad (Charles) and Angie's dad (David). We also chose to give him the nickname of Charlie in honor of my grandfather who went by the nickname of Charlie.

Grandma Charlie lived a long life, and I'm happy that she lived long enough to see all of this.

Grandma Charlie, you will be missed.

Love Chucky

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Weekend at the Air Show

Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by planes, and even more so military planes. My dad introduced me early to making plastic models. Most of my art projects in school involved drawing F-16s and F-15s dogfighting Mig-29s. There was also a time when I wanted to become an Air Force pilot as a kid, but that was soon crushed when I found out that it would be pretty much impossible due to my eyesight.

This past weekend I got to be a kid again by going to the Lackland Airfest. Not only did I get to see my childhood favorites, but also a more recent favorite, the F-22 Raptor!

I highly recommend going to one if you ever get a chance. I was able to get some good pics, but you really have to be there to get the full experience.

F-15 Strike Eagle Demonstration
My all time favorite as a kid was the F-15. The pilot put on quite an impressive show (as can be seen here as he makes a high speed pass).

F-16 Fighting Falcon
My second favorite was the F-16. Quite an agile aircraft for its age.

F-22 Raptor
My new favorite is the F-22 Raptor. Some of the maneuvers that the pilot made seemed to defy the laws of physics!

U.S. Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet

Blue Angles Fat Albert C-130 Herculese JATO Takeoff

The blue angels put on quite a show. Watching the JATO takeoff of Fat Albert was simply amazing.

I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I did. If you would like to see more, you can see the whole set here.