Happy New Year and Merry Christmas

Here we are again.  The end of the year is here, all presents bought and wrapped, waiting for the midnight, kitchen full of smells and sounds, occasional looks at the clock, phone calls, chats, and messages with friends and family.

So, how was this year?  How does it compare to the previous few?  Looking at my archives for the last year and the year before that, I have to say that this year wasn’t as fast flying through or as hectic as before.

I spent the first quarter of the year mostly working at our ImpreStyle startup and consulting Easy Forex.  That was the time of learning a lot of new things, both technical and business.   Such an arrangement also provided plenty of opportunities to meet new people, especially, in the case of Easy Forex, people of different cultures, the ones that I don’t know much about.

Roughly by May, it so happened that we had to take a break from ImpreStyle.  So I joined Easy Forex as a full time employee, filling the shoes of both a web developer and a team lead.  A new team, a new department, and a very challenging project all occupied my attention for the rest of the year.  Again, learning new things and re-thinking old ways.

The result of all that work is being launched over these days – Easy Forex’s website rebuilt on a WordPress platform.   It wasn’t as easy as it might sound.  The team had a lot of constraints, shooting at a moving target.  The site itself is a monster, with multiple cultures, multiple languages, static and dynamic content, consuming and providing a variety of APIs, deployed over a very complex architecture with Akamai CDN, load balancers, clusters, and so on.  On top of that, the specification of the project required an identical implementation to the previous CMS, which meant that a lot WordPress native concepts had to be worked around.  The end result, even though still a bit messy, is a rather elegant solution based on WordPress with both public and custom plugins, advanced multi-branch git setup, over 20 KB phing build script, and more.  And even if it doesn’t look the part (yet), I am quite proud of what has been achieved by the team.

Looking back at my previous end of the year posts, travelling seems to be an important part of my life, with not too much of it happening in the last few years.  Well, at least this year I had an opportunity to travel to Israel.   The next is also looking bright with a few possibilities marked down in the calendar, but not yet fully confirmed.

But enough about technology and work.  What about friends and family?  Well, it was a rich year in family affairs.  The highlight of the year is my brother’s marriage, with a few relatives flying over from Russia and spending a few days with us here, in Limassol.  That also gave an a chance to spend some time with my dad, who I haven’t seen in six years or so.

In summer, my wife and son flew to Siberia to catch up with some family affairs over there, and, in September, we were entertaining one of my sister-in-law’s family in Cyprus again.  It was nice.

As mentioned before, with my work changes back and forth, I had plenty of opportunities to meet new people.  I am glad to say that a few of my new work acquaintances became personal friends.  Also, sadly, it seemed that I’ve parted ways with a couple of people.  Maybe it will change, maybe it will not.  That’s not entirely in my hands at this stage.

Judging by the sounds and smells from the kitchen, I should be wrapping up.  Overall, I think it was a good year.  It was, as always, different from what I was expecting, but it still brought me more joy, happiness, and new experiences that sadness and sorrow.  Hopefully, the next one will be as good or better.

With that, I wish you all a very Happy New 2013, and a Merry Christmas.  I hope your wishes will continue to come through, that you’ll be full of health, joy, will, and strength to explore life and to find new things.  All the best to you and your loved ones!  Have a good one.

Instagram Digest : round two

It’s been a couple of month since I mentioned Instagram Digest plugin for WordPress.  Unfortunately, making it work wasn’t as easy as it seemed at first.  The thing is that Instagram’s Developer corner shows you four pieces of information, once you register a new Instagram API application. These four pieces are: client ID, client secret token, website URL, and redirect URL.  Just populating them with sensible values doesn’t necessarily work.

The trick here is to get a little bit of understanding of how OAuth works.  When a new API application is created, there is an authentication stage, where you, as a logged in Instagram user need to confirm access of the newly created application to your data.  For that, a redirect URL must handle the request from the Instagram, and, in case of Instagram Digest plugin, you need to save the authentication token.

Too bad the documentation for the plugin is not too clear on that.  Luckily though, after playing around with an deleting and re-creating the application a few times I managed to make it work …

… just in time for the upgrade of the site to WordPress 3.5.  What’s so special about WordPress 3.5 then? Well, if you look closer at the announcement of this version, you’ll see that the media manager has been changed heavily.  It looks very nice now when you are adding the images the old way, but it also doesn’t work too well with the Instagram Digest plugin.  The gallery is created, but it seems to have all the wrong things in it.  Manually fixing it takes just a few clicks, but is annoying enough, since the whole point of this plugin is automation.

With that, you do have my first Instagram digest post, and a possibility of a bumpy ride for the next few days until I figure it all out.  If you have any ideas on how to fix it, please let me know.  Otherwise, please be patient.  Maybe spend more time with your family during the Christmas holidays instead of browsing through silly blogs like this one.

The tour of International Space Station

This is so cool!  We’ve all seen bits and pieces of space stuff in TV reports.  But this is something else – a complete and through tour of the whole thing.  Well, maybe not complete, as there might be a few places that a webcam is not allowed.  While watching this, I kept thinking of two things.

The first is that there is way more space up there on ISS than I ever thought there was.  There is a possibility that my perception was mostly shaped by videos from the Russian modules, which do seem to be a bit less spacious.

The second is that it’s amazing how the whole secrecy has changed with ISS.  The top of the top technologists and scientists from different countries work together, experiment together, and discover together.  Again, I’m pretty sure there are still plenty of secrets, but there has been a huge progress, I think.

And now that you are done with the video, just pause for the second and think of all the things, all the people, all the technology that had to come through for this even to happen.  Given that space stations don’t grow on trees naturally, but are a product of human genius, I can’t be anything but absolutely amazed by it.

Linux kernel drops 386 support

Slashdot reports that Linux kernel won’t support 386 machines no more.  This is more of a sentimental announcement for nostalgic reasons.  The commentary is hilarious and insightful, as often with Slashdot.

Unfortunately there’s a nostalgic cost: your old original 386 DX33 system from early 1991 won’t be able to boot modern Linux kernels anymore. Sniff.

It’s been a long while sine I saw even a 486 machine.  The last 386 I can remember is probably circa 1998 or so.

Configuring the Apache MPM on Fedora

Configuring the Apache MPM on Fedora

If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be that you should tailor your MPM’s MaxClients setting so that your web server won’t try to allocate more resources than you have available. Better that a visitor wait a moment for a connection than that the server should dip into swap for more memory and bring the entire virtual machine to a crawl.