Archive for May, 2009

Chicago Code Camp Slides and Source

I’ve uploaded my slides and demo code for Chicago Code Camp: Intro to Google App Engine. Enjoy!

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Using Virtual Box and Ubuntu 9.04

Once you have Virtual Box up and running, you’ll want to install the Virtual Box Guest Additions. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Start your Ubuntu VM and log in.
  2. Press the right CTRL key and select Devices->Install Guest Additions.
  3. Open up a terminal window (Applications->Accessories->Terminal)
  4. type in: cd /media/cdrom
  5. type in: sudo bash ./
  6. A new window will come up and work for a while. When it is done, it will tell you to reboot the VM. Reboot the VM when you see this message.
  7. Log in again when the reboot is complete.
  8. Press [Right Ctrl]+F. You now have full screen mode activated.

I’m posting this because the top rated instructions for Virtual Box and Ubuntu 9.04 that enable Full Screen mode have too many steps.

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VirtualBox runs great on Win 7

Linux seems to be the OS of choice for utility computing providers. EC2 charges 3 cents/hour for Linux instances (when buying $325 or $500 hours in bulk) compared to the 12.5 cents per hour charged for the comparable Windows instance. Given the price savings, that’s incentive enough for me to try building an app on the Linux system. OK, and the fact that knowing Linux will open up a wealth of Open Source tools to me AND I’ll be able to use the Advanced Packaging Tool (aka apt) to get and install applications. If I go the Windows route, I would lose the apt path, and that’s unacceptable since the Windows installations are a bit more difficult than the Linux ones.

I’m also not willing to give up Windows 7 as my main OS, which means I need a VM to run things. My filter process to pick out a VM host is simple: if I can install Ubuntu AND have the wireless card in my Dell XPS 13 work, I’m done with the search. Here’s how the search panned out:

Windows Virtual PC

Installed but wouldn’t run on Windows 7. I couldn’t find any other VM software on my installed image, and I gave up after 20 minutes of digging around the Internet and my PC. FAIL.

Total time spent: 45 minutes.

VMWare Workstation

This seemed to be the next, obvious choice. Everything installed great, but I couldn’t figure out how to share my wireless card with the Ubuntu VM. After 20 minutes, I again called off the search and moved on to something else. Remember, I’m just trying to get Ubuntu to work on my machine and talk to the Internet over my wireless card. If I fail on everything I try, I’ll do more research, but I gave up here too.

Total time spent: 55 minutes.

Virtual Box

Installed quickly, then allowed me to get Ubuntu set up. Wireless worked immediately-no thinking required on my part.

Total time spent: 20 minutes.

So, if you are running a 64-bit Windows 7 instance (or maybe something else?) and need to run Ubuntu 9.04, I can state that downloading an Ubuntu ISO and installing using the defaults onto a Virtual Box VM just works. I’m not going to investigate any other options-I’m happy enough with how things have been working, including speed of execution.

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Chicago is the biggest Tech Hub you Never Knew About

.and that is going to change, because it isn’t good to keep such things a secret!

You out there. Did you know that Chicago is a major technology hub. We just hide the technology in mundane things: finance, insurance, shipping, and other forms of commerce. Amazingly, a lot of this tech is profitable. Very profitable.

Trading firms are coming up with some incredible innovations in automated trading to notice when the market is moving a certain way and then take advantage of the few seconds where noticing is profitable and turn that observation into profit. Parallelization, grid computing, and more is happening in a wealth of areas. Unfortunately, broadcasting these discoveries and strategies is a losing proposition because many of these trading strategies only remain profitable while no one else has figured out the pattern. As soon as the pattern becomes common knowledge, the systems become too optimized to do anything good with the application and the developers have to find the next neat thing before their competition picks up on the fact. Due to the speed with which this cycle executes, the trading firms wind up staying quiet about the cool thing they figured out. That’s right, by the time the new algorithm or technique would be newsworthy, it’s a dead end.

Thankfully, that scene is broadening. Chicago has a lot of stellar talent that figures out all sorts of hard computer science problems. Warehousing systems and delivery companies constantly work on ways to find optimal solutions to the traveling salesman problem in p-algorithms type systems (instead of np) by finding heuristics that get good enough solutions.

Chicago is also home to Motorola’s cell phone division-a company that has brought out a number of innovative phones (though they have experienced a bit of a drought lately). Boeing is here-the company that makes air travel possible over much of the globe.

For you web geeks, talent abounds in the city. 37signals calls Chicago home. So does EveryBlock. By the way, if you use Google App Engine and Python, it’s likely you use Django which was co-authored by EveryBlock’s founder.

Crowd sourcing is at home in Chicago. crowdSPRING and threadless take crowdsourcing to a whole new level. Guess what, they are in Chicago too!

fastroot provides an awesome hosting experience. That job is made easy since the fattest Internet pipes in the US flow through Chicago. A lot of Internet research that happens between University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (top 10 CS schools for the longest time!). Those high speed pipes flow through Chicago. Another reason if financial. Because of the markets in Chicago, data has to flow as fast as possible. Without solid infrastructure, the financial markets couldn’t work. If you are founding an Internet business, you want to host in Chicago to minimize transmission delays to the coasts.

There are plenty more examples, but I think you are getting the idea. If you aren’t moving to Chicago for your startup (lower rent, cost of living, and cost of labor than any other tech hub), you should be asking yourself why you haven’t looked into Chicago. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find.

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Quiet this week

I’m at IIW this week and have had my days jam packed with info, meeting folks, and getting stuff done. As a result, I haven’t posted much this week. As you may know, VS 2010 Beta 1 dropped this week. I’ve been busy chasing down sources to find out if Azure works with .NET 4.0. I would hope it does, but no word. I’m downloading the beta now and will try putting up a .NET 4.0 app later tomorrow. I’ll post if I find success.

Wish me luck!


I got a response back from one of my sources, before VS2010 finished downloading. Here’s what I have:

“Yes – [Azure will allow .NET 4.0] but you have to include ALL the .NET 4.0 assemblies (i.e. it’s a real pain), as Windows Azure only has .NET 3.5SP1 deployed today.  Once .NET 4.0 is officially released, Windows Azure will be updated.”

So, I won’t be running this experiment and will continue on the happy path where I use .NET 2008 SP1 and smile about it:)

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Google App Engine Updates SDK

In case you missed it, GAE updated their Java SDK to version 1.2.1. Responses can now be up to 10 MB in size. A full list of changes can be found here.

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Source for Amazon Web Services Application

You can download the source for my F# AWS application from here. The remaining posts start on April 13, 2009, and run through today (with a few interruptions from me on other topics).

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