9th Annual Robb Family Bonfire

Pyrotherapy — Is It For You?

(aka: 9th Annual Robb Family Bonfire)

“Oh, yeah. These guys know how to start a fire.”
— Red Adair

“As a long dead historical personage with a great personal interest in the field, I give them two thumbs up!”
— Nero

“Heh. Burny.”
— Mell W. Kelly

“That Accounts for a Good Deal. It Explains Everything. No Wonder.”
— Eeyore

“Eight years ago, I was in a dead-end, do nothing career that had left me cold. Pyrotherapy inspired me to change my life. As a result, I’m in a new dead-end, do nothing career - but at least now I’m warm!”
— A. Gore

Sam and Shari Robb have been practicing pyrotherapists for nine years [1]. Their proven techniques for stress relief through pyrotherapy [2] has helped countless people find pleasure [3] in the warmth and light that a big ol' honking pile of flaming wood can bring. By engaging all of the senses [4], Sam and Shari work to warm all those under their care. The sight of the fire, the crackling wood, the warmth of the flames [5], the smell of the smoke and cooking hot dogs, the taste of hot, fresh apple cider...all work together to help you forget the stresses of the day and simply enjoy the pleasure of the moment. [6]

And, let's face it. With the current round of political mudslinging, the mortgage bailout fiasco, and the Red Sox loosing their shot at the world series (again), there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of knowing that whatever your cares happen to be, you can always set them on fire.

So come help us celebrate our consistent record of autumn arson by joining us for the 9th Annual Robb Family Bonfire! If you're reading this, and saying, "Whoa... I gotta get me some of that!", but you haven't yet received an invitation, don't despair! Just get in touch with Shari or I, and we'll fill you in on the details (or send you a real, genuine, certified actual email containing the information, which is the same thing, really...)

[1] Not really. I mean, we’re just joking. The lawyers are making us say this, by the way. Not our lawyers, mind you. It was a roving horde of freelance lawyers that stopped by our house one day. We gave them some donuts and promised we’d mention them.
[2] i.e., burning stuff.
[3] Pleasure provided by pyrotherapy (see note [2], above), while nice, is transient. If you are interested in attaining persistent joy, regardless of circumstances (bonfires, roving bands of lawyers, annoying pontificating by political analysts, etc.), please consult with your local Bible-believing pastor or grab a copy of the Bible and look up Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, and Romans 10:9-10 and 13.
[4] Some sense may not be engaged. Please check your owner's manual for more information. Not responsible for failures to engage senses caused by people who close their eyes or put their fingers in their ears and sing “La-la-la-la-la!”. Those people annoy us.
[5] Caution: fire may be hot. Seriously, dude. We’re lighting, like, a whole tree on fire. We don’t do anything by half measures. Unless you literally want to be “part of the bonfire”, watch out. (Those lawyers made us say this, too, by the way.)
[6] Not responsible for stresses induced by worries that you don’t have enough stress in your life. If that’s all you’ve got, man, then we probably can’t help you - in fact, we envy you.

Leadership 101: Followship, Part 2

What does it mean to be a follower? In modern English, we sometimes use the term to mean "interested". We speak of someone following a political campaign, or the career of an athlete or television personality, or a musical performer. In the coming weeks, you might encounter someone - or you might be someone - who is following the Olympics.

In talking about leadership, we're not interested in interested. Someone can be interested in Christianity, for example, without being a follower of Christ. Someone can be interested in a political campaign without being a follower of the ideals espoused by a particular politician. You can be confident that both Obama and McCain have individuals on their staffs whose sole job is to be completely interested in the campaigns of their opponent. These folks may be following, but they are not followers.

Let's consider what it means to follow - to be a follower.

Rule 1: Followship is Personal

To follow - to be a follower - implies that there must be someone providing you with directions. It all comes back to a person. Even if someone claims to be a follower of a political ideal, or a religious or social movement, that ideal or movement has its roots in some person. A person who says they are a follower of Marxism is, in fact, a follower of Karl Marx. A person who says they are a Christian is, in fact, a follower of Christ.

The personal aspect of followship has important implications. The primary consideration is that you simply cannot follow more than one leader. You may think that you can manage it, but in reality, it's impossible. Head out to the mall, pick two people at random, and try to follow both of them. They may travel in the same direction for a while, but sooner or later, they'll split... and you'll have to decide which one of them you will continue to follow.

Jesus made this point when he told his disciples, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Mt 6:24). If you try to follow two leaders, sooner or later, you will need to decide which one of them you are really going to follow, because followship is personal.

Rule 2: Followship is Intelligent

Have you ever heard the term "sheeple"? It's a derogatory term used to describe people who don't give any thought to who they're following. It's an interesting slur, because it gets to the heart of a truth about followship: to be an effective follower requires being an intelligent follower.

My wife and I have spent some time with our girls teaching them what it means to be an intelligent follower - though not quite in those terms. We have tried to teach them to be discerning in choosing who they will follow. If you're a parent yourself, you've probably done the same thing, with the goal of teaching your children about "stranger danger". I want my children to be aware of the fact that not everybody is a nice person, and that they need to be careful and above all think about who it is they are going to follow. This is a good lesson for children to learn, and for adults to reconsider - to be an effective follower means that you need to be a thinking follower.

Deciding who you will start to follow is an important choice, and one that requires thought and consideration. Effective followship demands more than that initial consideration, though; it requires constant re-evaluation of the position of the leader, the position of the follower, and the direction in which both leader and follower are headed. An effective follower knows where they want to go, and chooses to follow a leader because doing so will get them to their final destination. An intelligent follower will realize when they've gotten off course because they're focused on getting to their destination, and not just on following someone blindly.

As a practical example, let's say that I find someone who says they are heading somewhere I've never been before - maybe Chicago. I've got a vague idea where Chicago is, relative to Pittsburgh, but I've never been there, so the idea of following someone makes sense to me. We hop in our cars, set out, and a few hours later, I see a sign that says, "Welcome to New York".

What do I do at that point? Well, if I'm an unthinking follower - one of the sheeple - then I continue following them, wherever they may be headed. However, most people at that point would probably either turn around, or stop and ask the person they're following, "Do you really know where you're going?" An effective follower is one who is is thinking not just about who they're following, but where they're going and how they're getting to the final destination.

In the book of Acts, Luke commends the Berean believers for being thoughtful, intelligent, and discerning followers of Christ. They earned this reputation because they were careful to check and make sure that what Paul was teaching them lined up with what they already knew about God and the Messiah (Acts 17:11). They knew where they wanted to go, spiritually, and were careful to make sure that the leaders they followed were taking them there.

Rule 3: Followship is Active

So - let's say you have some idea of what your final destination is. You also know that you can't get there on your own, so you've be careful and discerning and looked for someone to lead you to where you want to be. You find what looks like just the right person, and say, "Yes - this is the person I'm going to follow."

And then, you sit there, and wait. And wait. And wait some more, because the person you've decided to follow is just sitting there, going nowhere - and now, you're going nowhere with him.

To be a follower implies motion and activity. If a leader isn't moving, he can't be leading; and if a follower isn't moving, he can't be following. There's something very wrong in the relationship between a follower and a leader if one or the other isn't doing their particular job. Imagine a major league baseball pitcher who was unwilling to throw the ball, or a catcher who was unwilling to catch the ball once it was thrown! A leader who is unwilling to or unable to lead isn't a leader, no matter what they might call themselves; and a follower who is unwilling or unable to follow isn't a follower, no matter what they might want to think.

Whether you are walking along behind someone or following them spiritually, there must be some form of activity on both your parts before you can actually claim to be leader and follower. Unfortunately, while we desire excitement and interesting activities in our lives, the day-to-day activity of leadership and followship is often mundane. In crossing the continental United States, Lewis and Clark overcame hostile Indians, endured harsh weather, and made their way through seemingly impassible wilderness. While doing all this, they and each one of the men with them each took about 9 million steps. If they had ever lost their will to take that next, boring, mundane, stupid step, then they never would have completed their journey. An effective follower needs to recognize that while activity is neccesary, it is often routine - and that it is the dedication to the routine activities that is critical in followship.

The book of Nehemiah tells the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. One of the key verses in the book is Nehemiah 4:6, where Nehemiah simply notes, "So built we the wall... for the people had a mind to work." Nehemiah was the leader of the effort, but their achievment - the building of the wall - was the result of the fact that both the leaders and the people had a mind to work, and were willing to take all the mundane steps that were required in order to reach their destination.

In the next few posts, I'll be expanding on these three rules of effective followship, and we'll look at what the Bible has to say about Christians and followship in particular.

Leadership 101: Followship

"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
— 1 Corinthians 11:1

The world is focused on leadership. You can find training classes for leaders, books on leadership, entire web sites devoted to essays on and analysis of leadership teachniques. A quick search on Google for "leadership" turns up around 187 million results.

A similar search on Google for "followship" turns up less than 30,000 pages.

In everyday life, it is far to easy for the concerns of the world to leak into the life of the believer. If everyone around us says that leadership is important, and if our own experience is that leadership is important... well, then, studying leadership must be an important subject, right? When we fall into this way of thinking, we forget that God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9), and that man often sees things very differently from the way God sees things (1 Samuel 16:7, Matthew 20:16).

God has made it very clear that followship, not leadership, is vitally important in the life of every believer. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to His heavely Father and said, "...nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." We call ourselves followers of Christ (1 Peter 2:21), and yet, as a group, we spend more time and effort trying to find or create leaders than we do trying to teach people how to be followers.

"Sure," you might be thinking. "We spend that time worrying about leadership, because leadership is hard! Anybody can be a follower." The reverse is certainly true as well, though. Anybody can be a leader. The focus on leadership is not to teach someone how to lead, but to teach them how to lead effectively.

Similarly, if we want people to be effective followers, we need to take the time and effort to teach them about what that means. Even more importantly, since all Christian leaders, by definition, must be followers of Christ, you can see that a believer must be an effective follower before they can be made into an effective leader.

I'm going to spend the next few blog posts examining what it means to be a follower of Christ. Before I get into that, though, let's look at what it means to be a good follower in general. Later on, we'll take these principles, and see what the Bible has to say specifically about those aspects of following Christ.

Online Biblical Language Resources

Since I posted a bunch of embedded Linux links earlier today, I feel like the "theologian" part of the blog is feeling a little anemic. With that in mind, here's some links for online Biblical langauge resources.

  • Mechon Mamre includes parallel Hebrew and English texts, grouped according to Torah, Prophets, and Writings. It also includes links to audio files of the passages being read in Hebrew. I've not had the chance to use this very much, but I want to. Hebrew is a wonderful and interesting language, and I don't want what little skill I have with it to atrophy.

  • A parallel Hebrew OT is avaialble via the HTML Bible. There is also a parallel Greek NT as well. Oddly enough, the Hebrew includes both Hebrew and transliterated texts, while the Greek only includes transliterated text. Odd.

  • There's also online versions of the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew OT into Koine Greek, available from the Bible Database.

  • Biblos.com includes a lot of different langage translations online, including four Chinese translations. It also includes a parallel Greek, Hebrew, and Latin translation for both the OT and NT.

  • All of which are nice, but my workhorse of online Bibles is the Blue Letter Bible. It's a bit on the slower side, but the amount of data it provides - verse-by-verse links to translations, original text, lexical definitions, commentaries, cross references, and the like - are all presented very nicely.

Embedded Linux Activity

There's a lot going on in the embedded Linux community these days. Just some points of interest:

  • There's a new official linux-embedded mailing list, linux-embedded, that's seeing quite a bit of activity. Very encouraging. Lots of participation from the likes of Tim Bird, Mike Frysinger, Matt Mackall, Rob Landley, Wolfgang Denk, Robert Schwebel, Sam Ravnborg, Bill Gatliff, Paul Mundt... if you recognize any of those names, you know this is a list you want to keep track of. To quote Matt Mackall, "Linux-embedded is the place to be, folks. It's intended to be the catch-all list for embedded kernel work."

  • Rob Landley's Firmware Linux project is plugging along. Firmware Linux uses qemu to build systems natively under emulation, though version 0.4.0 includes support for using distcc to accelerate a native build by calling out to the cross compiler. Supported platforms include arm, mips, ppc, x86, and x86-64, and Rob's stated goal is to support all the emulation targets that qemu supports. Neat stuff.

  • Once again showing that mere mortals can't hope to keep up with his pace, Rob is also working on toybox, a set of standards-compliant command line utilities in a single binary. Rob was involved with busybox , and was the maintainer of that project for a while, so toybox is definitely interesting in light of the "let's start from scratch and do it better" approach he's taking.

  • Fedora has several architecture-specific projects going on, including Fedora for ARM, SPARC, and PPC. My former boss-man at TimeSys, Manas Saksena, now works for Marvell, and is apparently involved with the Fedora on ARM project.

  • If you've ever built a toolchain using crosstool, you may want to look into crosstool-ng, an attempt to take the ideas behind crosstool and re-implement them in a more user-friendly way.

Aaaaand that's it for today. Enjoy!

From the "What were they thinking?" Files

When I shut down my laptop, there are - inevitably - one or two programs running in the background that do not shut down properly. I haven't investigated what they are, but I suspect they're tray notification applets or something similar. In any case, I get a nice little Windows dialog telling me that the system is trying to shut down those programs, but gosh darn it, they just won't listen! A progress bar slowly fills, and when it reaches 100%, Windows (probably with much regret, and maybe just a little glee) kills off those unruly processes so it can finish shutting down my computer.

This is a momentary annoyance. If I'm waiting for the laptop to shut down, I can just click on the button that says "Go ahead and kill these processes now", and everything is OK. If I'm not waiting, then the timer runs out, and Windows does my dirty work for me.

What got to me as I did this - for the Nth time this morning, when I shut down my laptop to pack it away and head to work - was that this is absolutely insane.

Not the way Windows handles things. That's (shockingly) pragmatic. There's a recognition that not everything will work perfectly, and sometimes, you might need to apply a little brute force to smooth out the rough edges. What annoys me is that somewhere, there are apparently software developers - corporate software developers, folks making and selling software for a living - that have apparently managed to design, implement, build, debug, and test their stuff without ever shutting down their computers.

Because, you know, if they had ever shut down their systems, they would see that their software doesn't work.

What were they thinking?

This is like having a car where, when you turn off the engine, you need to pop the hood and disconnect the battery to finish turning off the radio. I mean, sure, it works, sort of. The car manufacturer has dealt with idiot radio designers long enough that they include a specialized bit of machinery that will even automatically disconnect and reconnect the battery for you so you don't accidentally leave your radio playing all night. So it all works, kind of.

The sloppiness and sloth involved in not even bothering to make sure that your software reacts properly when the computer shuts down is staggering to me. There are guidelines for this kind of stuff. Windows messages to handle. SDK examples galore about how to do it properly. And yet, professional software developers still manage to get it wrong.

I'd like to blame it all on management - the idea that someone, somewhere, decided to ship this software, even though there were some "non-critical" bugs, like, oh, not shutting down properly. Unfortunately, I think it's probably more likely that someone got sloppy, spent a few minutes poking at the problem, and said, "Oh, that's just the way Windows is. It's good enough."

So my annoyance doesn't really come from some software that doesn't shut down properly. It comes from the fact that there's someone, somewhere, in my chosen profession who just doesn't care enough about good software to bother fixing a glaringly obvious problem in their code, even though that's what they're paid to do.

That's just plain disheartening.

File system geekery

I find file systems work interesting. This is partly because that's what my current job is, and partly because I am, very honestly, a raging geek.

With that in mind, here's some interesting links for those who care about such things as well:

  • BTRFS - a copy on write filesystem for Linux focusing on fault tolerance, repair and easy administration.

  • HAMMER - a highly available clustered filesystem being developed for DragonFlyBSD

  • LFS - a log structured file system for Linux that supports snapshots.

  • POHMELFS - the Parallel Optimized Host Message Exchange Layered File System.

And last but not least, a link to the list of file systems currently available in the Linux kernel.

Being a single-issue voter

In the past, I've seen people make comments about "single-issue voters". Usually something dismissive, along the lines of "You can't just be a single-issue voter, you know."

The problem is... everybody is a single-issue voter, whether they want to admit that or not.

How does the saying go? "Everything is always in the last place you look, because once you find it, you stop looking." I think the negative view of a "single-issue" voter stems from a problem of perception. We like to think of voting as a matter of selecting a candidate, when it is better modeled as a matter of eliminating competing candidates until we're left with a single option.

Face it - the chances that a political candidate will exactly match your views on all significant topics of political discourse is virtually nil. What you are left with, in that case, is an attempt to find the candidate that best matches your values. The logical and almost instinctive way to do this is to decide what issues matter most to you, and then eliminate candidates who don't match your views on that subject. If you have more than one candidate left, then you go on to the next most important issue. Lather, rinse, repeat until you are left with one person, the one who most closely represents your views.

This is where the "single-issue" voter comes from, and it's why we are all "single-issue" voters. When you follow this very natural selection process, you will always have a definite reason for rejecting a candidate. You'll find what you were looking for - a reason to reject - and after you find what you're looking for, you'll stop looking.

"He's pro-abortion."
"She's opposed to gay marriage."
"He supported the war in Iraq."
"She supports legalizing drugs."

So if we're all single-issue voters, what does it mean then when someone explicitly hauls out that title as an accusation? Remember that the process of elimination is personal. You are taking the issues that are important to you, and deciding which candidates to eliminate based on your personal values regarding those issues. That should be enough to provide an accurate translation of the single-issue voter accusation, as follows:

"You're a single-issue voter"


"You don't share my values, therefore, you're wrong."

In other words, it's an accusation that clocks in with all the weight of a third-grader's taunt - if that. Yep, I'm a single-issue voter. So are you. So let's stop arguing like a couple of kids on a playground and at least try to act like adults, m'kay?

Power to become the sons of God

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." - John 1:12-13

These verses caught my eye last week. As I read through the Bible, I am consistently amazed at just how much information is contained in just a few short sentences, particularly in the New Testament. Take Jude, for example - there are 25 verses in the entire book, and I know that I could preach a four part series on the first three verses alone. That's how much gets packed into those first three verses.

The first chapter of the gospel of John is the same way. There is a ton of theology, doctrine, and amazing revelation poured into that chapter. Let's take a look at just these two verses, and you'll see what I mean.

I. "But as many as received him..."

Consider the phrase "as many as". What follows is contingent upon accepting Christ. It isn't someone else's decision, not even God's - it's yours. Anyone who cared to receive Christ, experienced the consequences of that reception. That reception is a matter of faith, receiving him for who he was, the promised Messiah. Most of all, Jesus Christ was definitely a him, not an it. He is described as the living Word earlier in the chapter, and here is described as an individual person. Jesus was God made flesh, and we need to relate to Him and receive Him as a living person, not as a spirit, a thing, or an unknowable entity.

II. "... to them gave he the power to become the sons of God..."

This living Word, this person, this Jesus - he had both the right and the ability to make a specific grant grant of power: the power to become a son of God. The term "power" is a Greek work that can be used to mean privilege, liberty, or right. Those who received Jesus did not gain the potential to become the sons of God; instead, they gained the privilege and right to become the children (sons) of God (Romans 8:15).

III. "...even to them that believe on his name"

This phrase tells us that there is a very specific way to receive Jesus Christ - you have to believe on His name. Jesus' name - His reputation, His authority, His character - are the only way by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12).

Believing means having faith in something, or trusting in the truth of something. You have faith in Jesus' name (reputation, authority, character). You can have all the faith that you want, but unless you put that faith in something, it's useless; and unless you put that faith in Jesus, it's unprofitable. The purpose of that faith is to accept Jesus so we can be reconciled with God. We are sinners, at enmity with God. (Romans 8:7), and the only way we can become sons of God is if we are first reconciled with the Father (Ephesians 2:16). This reconciliation is only possible through Jesus; He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)

IV. "Which were born..."

Here, John gets to the gist of the matter: how salvation works, and how it doesn't work. He starts off with three negative examples, telling us what salvation isn't. His introduction in the previous sentence - receiving Jesus based on his name - lays the foundation, and this verse tells us what we should avoid adding to that foundation, no matter how much we're tempted.

First off, he tells us that salvation is not a matter of who you are ("not of blood"). Your family, your nationality, your race - none of that matters to God, and it is not enough to save you.

Secondly, salvation is not a matter of what you do ("nor of the will of the flesh"). No matter what we do, we can't measure up to God's standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23). If we try, we will always fall short.

Thirdly, salvation is not a matter of what others do ("nor of the will of man"). No other man, organization, or other earthly entity can declare you to be saved or unsaved. No other human being in all the world knows the state of your relationship with Jesus Christ except you; and no other human being can establish or disestablish that relationship for you.

Finally, John tells us what salvation is - it is a matter of god ("but of God.") It is God alone who can save (Jonah 2:9). But it is the receiving of Jesus that grants the privilege of salvation by becoming a member of God's family. The conclusion has to be, then, that if God alone can save, and salvation is only accomplished through Jesus... then, obviously, Jesus must be God.

All in all, some pretty amazing stuff. The simplicity of salvation, the certainty of receiving Christ, the adoption of sons, the denial of person, works and organized religion as a means of salvation, and finally, three words that make it obvious that our Savior isn't just a man of God, but is God himself. Wow.

Frayed Knights

For the past year or so, I've been following, commenting, and (for the last month) helping to test Frayed Knights. Developed by Jay Barnson over at Rampant Games, Frayed Knights is roughly an attempt to do the same thing for computer RPGS that Monty Python's The Holy Grail did for serious Arthurian scholarship.

It's funny, it's polished, it's fun, and it's free for the download. Check it out (and look for my name in the credits. Woo-hoo! Mama, I'm famous! :-)

A dainty elvin warrior with an inferiority complex and a hot temper.
A thrill-junky rogue who considers defying death the best alternative to boredom.
A cute but scatterbrained sorceress with destructive tendencies.
A tree-hugging nature-priest who wonders why everyone can't just get along.

Together, they are going to save a kingdom from destruction...

...if they don't kill each other first.

FRAYED KNIGHTS PILOT: The Temple of Pokmor Xang

Now Available!

Quote of the day

Courtesy of Shamus Young at Twenty Sided, as part of a review of Deus Ex: Invisible War:

Bringing about peace by killing everyone who disagrees with you is a solution which scales poorly.

Building the Real Iron Man

Via Technocrat, a pointer to an article at PopSci.com that talks about Raytheon's research in powered exoskeletons.

I've just skimmed over the article, but as far as I can tell, they've missed one of the real pioneers in the "I am the Lord of the Geeks" field of modern personal armor: Troy Hurbutise, the man behind Project Grizzly, an effort to develop advanced individual protection suit technology.

Robo Business 2008 - say what?

Well, now. The Robo Business 2008 conference and exposition is going on now, at the David Lawrence Convention Center here in Pittsburgh. Fortunately, there are people in California who care about this sort of thing, otherwise I probably never would have found out about it. As it is, I've found out too late to take advantage of the opportunity. It's a shame - I would have loved to take my oldest daughter down to see the robots.

In my mind, this is a typical problem of technology in Pittsburgh. Nobody takes us seriously. Why should they? We don't even take ourselves seriously. If it wasn't for CrunchGear, I wouldn't have known about this expo at all. In the local media, only the Tribute review bothered to cover the event, and even then, only in a mention in an article yesterday that focused primarily on CMU's Robot Hall of Fame. The Pittsburgh Technology Council doesn't even list Robo Business 2008 on their events calendar.

I mean, come on, people! We have a world-class technical university at CMU, complete with it's own Robotics Institute and the National Robotics Engineering Center. There's a Pittsburgh Area Robotics Society, and the Pittsburgh Robotics Initiative has 23 members with the goal of making Pittsburgh "the center of the world's robotics and automation industry." There are companies like McKesson, Redzone Robotics, HyperActive Technologies, and Applied Perception that are building a basis for a robotics industry in the area. A Google search for Pittsburgh robotics turns up over 800,000 results.

If you think about what's needed for robotics: hardware expertise, embedded systems expertise, networking and communications expertise - we've got that in spades. If there's any place where robotics should be cool, it's here. If there's any place where a conference like this should be a big thing, it's Pittsburgh.

So... where's the news coverage? Where's the attention? Take a look at the list of participating companies, and you'll see that there's literally hundreds of businesses represented. Hundreds of companies descend on Pittsburgh to discuss a growing high-tech industry, and the media coverage is indistinguishable from noise.


Maybe they should have had a robot throw out the first pitch of the season at PNC park yesterday.

Making an API Hard to Misuse

Rusty Russell (of Linux kernel hacking fame) has been spending some time recently thinking about what makes for a good API. His first article on the subject was APIs: "Easy to Use" vs "Hard to Misuse", where he pointed out that the subtlest requirement for a good API is that it be hard to misuse.

He's continued this theme in his latest post, How Do I Make This Hard to Misuse?, he discusses one aspect of the matter: not how to write a good API, but how to create one that's hard to misuse. Anyone who develops software for a living can tell you that "easy to use" does not necessarily mean "hard to misuse"!

Rusty puts together a "hard to misuse" scale that starts at "It's impossible to get wrong". It's interesting that, as you go down the scale, there's a transition from "hard to get wrong" to "hard to get right". The worst possible state you can be in, at least by this scale, is "Read the correct mailing list thread and you'll get it right" - in other words, an API that is so difficult to use that you can't make it work without some form of expert guidance.

As with a lot of articles of this type, the value isn't really in any one particular suggestion. If you're a software developer, you'll read through this and think, "Well... yah. Sure. I do that." You might find one or two items at the top of the list that are new to you; but that's not what caught my attention. Instead, the real value of the this article is in getting you to think about an old problem (API design) from a different point of view - something that's almost always worthwhile.

A Guide to Proper Behavior for Children of All Ages

My friend Ben Cox came up with a flowchart for children. In his own words:

"I've come up with a flowchart you might enjoy. It's a comprehensive flowchart for children to follow, outlining proper behavior in all cases. It can be used in all situations and I've think I've covered all the bases, enough to handle any scenario that they should be expected to encounter. Unfortunately I think it may be too complex for most children under the age of 8 to navigate successfully."

And, of course, the flowchart itself. While I agree with Ben's assessment - it is rather complex - I think that, overall, it presents children of all ages with a completely satisfactory methodology for determining proper behavior in all circumstances.

... and there is no new thing under the sun.

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

Geekalerts reports on a company that - in a fit of creativity - has managed to come up with a new-computer form factor: a keyboard with a built-in computer!

Well, OK - maybe not all that new, given that this is essentially what the Commodore 64, the TRS-80 Color Computer, the Amiga, the Atari looked like... in fact, just about every personal computer from the dawn of the PC age used this form factor, and a connection to an existing "monitor" (your TV set) for the display. So while this is a neat little machine that packs a lot of power into a small form factor, the company's claims that "the new ZPC-GX31™ is a true innovation" seems just a bit over the top.

In The Beginning was the Command Line

I read In The Beginning was the Command Line years ago, and came across a reference to it again today. I'm posting about it because if your profession is software development, this article-slash-paper-slash-book by Neal Stephenson is one of those things that's worth going back and re-rereading from time to time.

An ext3 deleted files recovery HOWTO

Found this writeup about deleted file recovery from an ext3 file system via Linux file system guru Val Henson's blog.

If you're a file systems junkie, the article is Good Stuff, as is Val's blog. There's a lot of interesting file systems work being done with Linux these days. Thanks to my current employer (NetApp), I've got a professional interest in this sort of thing now... but I'll admit that, even if I were employed elsewhere, I'd still find the writeup of the ext3 structure fascinating. That kind of stuff is like crack cocaine for computer geeks.

More Schmooze, Less Snooze

You learn something new every day, or at least you should. In my browsing today, I came across an interesting little article from David Spark over at Spark Media Solutions - More Schmooze, Less Snooze: How to Deliver "The Most Talked About" Conference Session. While the web version of the article is broken up into one or two paragraph sections you can page through like almost like a presentation, you can also grab a pdf and read it in one go.

I've attended my share of conferences and panels, over the past decade or so - both technical and non-technical. I've even helped put together a couple of panel discussions, and I am hoping to do so again sometime soon as part of my church's new adoption ministry. So when I came across the link, I honestly thought, "Heh. Bet it's a bunch of generic advice and a sales pitch for his consulting company."


This is a genuinely interesting, informative, and quick (10-minute) introduction to panel discussions from three significant points of view: that of the panelist, the moderator, and the audience member. I can't recall a single sales pitch in the text other than the expected reference to the author's company. After finishing it, my impression is that this was written, not to showcase Mr. Spark's abilities or companies, but because he honestly wanted to help people learn to do something better.

As I read his advice on how to make a great panel presentation, I found myself thinking back to those experiences. Now, I'm not the mot observant person in the world - I'm downright clueless sometimes - but even I could see the points he was making, and line them up against the panels I've attended. The clueless moderator? Check. Panelists who want to talk about themselves or their company to the exclusion of all else? Check. Panelists who just go on and on and on and... oh, yeah, check.

He gives examples of these and a host of other panel pitfalls, and goes on to give advice on how to deal with the problems if they arise. If you're like me, and you've seen panels done but never understood the how & why of what makes a good panel discussion, then this is definitely interesting reading. If you're an experienced panelist or moderator, then these probably are rules you've either discovered on your own, or come across before; but they're presented in a memorable and easily readable (and remembered) format. Whether the principles presented are new or review, this is a worthwhile way to spend a few minutes if you happen to have a panel discussion somewhere in your future.

Asking the wrong question

Shamus Young over at Twenty Sided has posted a couple of articles on the subject of PC gaming and DRM. Part 1 of "The Publishers vs. The Pirates" is interesting, but Part 2 is what really caught my attention.

(By the way, I'm under no illusions that I'm in any way, shape, or form going to contribute anything to Mr. Young's readership. This is the guy that did DM of the Rings, for crying out loud. Unlike poor schmoes like me, he thinks in terms of 64-bit hit counters. So if you happen to wander by this blog, and you've never visited Twenty Sided, you really should go check it out. He's way smarter than I am, and a much better writer as well. Go.)

Shamus' argument - which I agree with entirely - is that piracy is a social problem, not a technological problem. Because it's not a technological problem, throwing technological solutions (increasingly strict DRM) at the problem really isn't solving anything.

It really comes down to a problem of perception. The PC game publishers decide that they can increase sales if they can keep people from pirating their game, so they look for ways to stop piracy. New license key schemes, requiring a CD in the drive to play, online activation, increasingly intrusive DRM schemes... They're engaged in a technological arms race, and like anything else in the tech market, innovations come rapidly, from both sides.

The problem is, they're really asking the wrong question. They're asking how they can keep people from pirating their games; but that's not what they really want. What they really want is to increase their sales. As I've mentioned in a recent post about eBooks, giving away something can be a way to increase sales. Here, the PC games publishers don't even need to give away anything (except maybe demos). All they have to do it stop throwing money, time, and man0hours into developing, shipping, and supporting code that nobody likes and which is really doing them no good. If dropping DRM causes a 100% increase in piracy, do you really care if it also results in a 30% increase in sales?

Sooner or later - hopefully, before the PC game industry damages itself too badly with delusions of DRM - they'll come to their senses, and start asking the right question.

Increase your income - give your work away

If you could increase your income by around 20% for doing absolutely nothing... would you do it?

That's more or less what happened to John Scalzi when Tor books released Old Man's War as part of their new free eBook series. In a blog post yesterday, Scalzi reported that sales of his books increased between 9% and 33% - with the highest increase in sales going to the book that was given away for free. He essentially did nothing, and reaped benefits from it.

Well... OK. To be entirely accurate, he did nothing more than he had already done, which was to write an entertaining, engaging, and award-winning science fiction novel. So yeah, that first step was a doozie, and probably has a lot to do with the amount of interest being shown in his free eBook release. Still... a 10%-30% increase just for making an electronic download available? Wow. (For the record, Scalzi's not new to the idea of eBooks - one of his novels, Agent to Stars, has been available as an online book for nine years.)

Now, there's apparently a not insignificant amount of debate in the publishing world as to whether or not unencumbered eBooks are a blessing or a curse. Baen has been operating their Free Library online for a while now, and from various comments I've hard, it seems that it's been profitable for them, primarily in attracting readers to try new authors or new series books. Enough so that it has been a an ongoing project now for almost seven years, despite the fact that author participation int he Baen Free Library is entirely voluntary. In other words, the authors are giving away some of their books online, for free, because it benefits them.

That's apparently why Neil Gaiman is now giving away his bestselling book, American Gods, although for a limited time only. In his own words, "I like giving stuff away. I think it's sensible." When you entice a hundred people who otherwise wouldn't spend time on your works with the offer of a free book, you gain a potential fan.

I would argue that in the past, libraries formed the basis of a involuntary "free giveaway" for books. With the increasing ubiquity of and convenience of the the internet, though, it seems like the local public library is facing some competition from electronic formats. Sure, I could take time and gas to pop down to my local branch to browse through whatever they happen to have on their shelves... or I could peek at Google's books, Amazon's previews, Baen's library and other online sources to see if I can ferret out a new and interesting author or series. Unlike browsing at the library, I can browse the internet any time, any place I have a net connection and a few spare minutes. Is it any wonder that eBooks generate good returns for those who make use of them?

Imagine if you were an author, and you could take a year and spend 8 hours a day, every day, traveling around the world to promote your book to millions of people. You speak to 10,000 people a day, and out of those you speak to, maybe 1% - 100 - decide that they like what they hear, and that they'll plunk down the $7.50 (or whatever) to buy a copy.

Now, imagine you could do that without spending any money for travel expenses, publicists, advertising media, or other expenses. In fact, imagine you could do it not just without spending any money, but without spending any time, either. No time, no money, and in return, you'll pick up around 36,500 sales this year, some percentage of which will become part of your permanent fan base.

If you could increase your income by around 20% for doing absolutely nothing... why in the world wouldn't you do it?

Open Source Developer == Better Pay

CNET reports on a study by Bluewolf consulting that indicates open source developers can command a 30-40% salary premium.

Finding Yehudi

Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today
Oh how I wish he'd go away.

-- William Hughes Mearns

This bit of doggerel - or a variation of it - was the basis for "The Yehudi Principle", a short story by Fredrick Brown. It's a cautionary tale, a sort of warning that tells you: You may think you know what's going on, and you may even think you can use that knowledge to shape the world. But the real world is stranger than you realize, and sooner or later, you're going to have to face the fact that Yehudi exists. He's the man who wasn't there... and he's not going away anytime soon.

Back when I was in high school, I had a job working at a local library. It was a dream job for a bibliophile, even if it didn't pay nearly as well as flipping burgers at McDonald's. I came out of those years with a love for odd books. While I was working there, though, there were a couple of books that really caught my attention. A Yiddish dictionary. The Foxfire series of books, documenting the ways and means of live in the back woods. Books on calculus, science, languages, religion, philosophy...

... and The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.

The Dictionary was a collection of things that weren't there, and which weren't going to go away any time soon. It details a thousand fanciful places from imagination and mythology: the land of Oz, Middle Earth, Prospero's island, Utopia, and more. As extensive as it is, the Dictionary was a finite resource, and left out some of those places that caught the imaginations of others. Many of those abandoned imaginings can now be found on the internet, as part of Wikipedia or a user-generated series of articles in an online Dictionary.

The Dictionary isn't the be-all and end-all of if you're interested in the imaginary, though. You can browse through Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy if you're interested in a more personal view of the critters that make up the fantasy realm. There, you can find details about Peter S. Beagle's unicorns or Stephen R. Donaldson's cavewights. If SF is more to your liking, you can spend time leafing through Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials to discover information about Niven's Puppeteers or Herbert's Guild Steersman; or you can spend time at Jeff Russel's Starship Dimensions web site to get an idea of just how big a Star Wars mythos Rancor is when compared to, oh, your average wet-behind-the-ears Jedi knight.

A less detailed, but more expansive book in the same category as the Dictionary is the Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were. As the title suggests, this volume covers a greater breadth of imagination. While the Dictionary restricts itself to imaginary, in the Encyclopedia, anything that never existed is fair game: people, places, weapons, ships, monsters, and more.

There we go. Six - no, seven - collections of things that were not there, never were there, and will probably never be there. Things that never were, and yet, like Yehudi, things that aren't going away anytime soon.

The Echo Park Time Travel Mart

Looking for genuine Mammoth Chunks (TM)? Some genuine Anti-RobotFluid, or 100% Non-Organic Robot Milk? Maybe some Barbarian Repellent for a weekend trip back to whenever?

Then you need the Echo Park Time Travel Mart (motto: "Wherever You Are, We're Already Then.")

If you can't make the time to visit them... well, then you're really not one of their customers, I guess. But you can still browse through a photo journal of their inventory, or watch the video walkthrough of the store.

Keep in mind, though, that the Hyper Slushie machine is out of order - come back yesterday.

What makes this even cooler, at least to me, is that this is apparently the work of 826LA, a non-profit tutoring center. The Time Travel Mart is a front for the new writing lab they are building in Echo Park, CA. They're an educational institution with a sense of humor. That's only slightly less amazing than a real time traveler.

An Embedded Systems Timeline

In the latest edition of Jack Ganssle's Embedded Muse newsletter, he mentions an the embedded systems timeline on Embedded.com. While the title of the article is "Milestones in embedded system design", this is really more of a general timeline of the history of computing, touching on the hardware and software innovations that have produced modern computing systems.

There's the obligatory picture of the first bug, plus a couple of gems - including a picture of one of the first Apple computers, complete with hand-made wooden keyboard case. It's not nearly as attractive as the steampunk keyboard (or anything else, for that matter) out of the Steampunk Workshop, but it represents a bit of history that I'd previously not encountered.

All in all, an interesting distraction for a few minutes, and one that makes me want to re-read something like Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine.

Family, Friends, and Neighbors

From a Time article in 2003, Jessica Reaves reminisces about what it was like to really be Mister Rogers' neighbor:

I lived in Mister Rogers' neighborhood.

No, I mean I really did. When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, the Rogers family lived just around the corner, in a big brick house with a sloping lawn.

When I was a student at CMU back in the late 80's, the story was that you could see Mister Rogers over in Schenly Park occasionally. Apparently, he lived close by the CMU campus, and would either go for walks or go jogging in the park. I never ran into him, but knew several people who mentioned having seen him. Always with an excited, "Guess who I saw?" sort of catch to their voice.

From everything I have heard about Fred Rogers, he was one of the all-around nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. Even more than that, he was the canonical example of what we native Pittsburghers really consider a celebrity. Oh, we have our typical collection of football stars, hockey players and the like. Ask people about who the real Pittsburgh celebs are, though, and natives will mention people like jazz guitarist Joe Negri, county coroner Cyril Wecht, horror show host Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille, weatherman Joe DiNardo ("Joe said it would!"), the Shop and Save Lady, news anchor Edie Tarbox... the lsit goes on and on.

Of course, we can't forget former mayor Sophie Masloff, who's main claim to fame, these days, is that she's a DNC superdelegate. I was just discussing Sophie yesterday with a coworker, and we both had the same attitude: love her or hate her, she's ours. There's a sort of fierce pride in our "little Jewish grandmother". While she was at home, we may have squabbled a bit, but hey - that happens in families. When you folks who don't know dahntahn from the sou'side start giving her a hard time, though, yinz guys had better realize that in Pittsburgh, things like "family" and "neighbor" still mean something special to us.

That's something I think Fred Rogers understood, and communicated. In a lot of ways, he was the embodiment of what many Pittsburghers wanted to be: just a plain nice guys, through and through; a guy who could look around himself, and whoever he saw, say "Hey - he's my neighbor."

Space Optimization

Just a few weeks ago, my wife and I went through the house, clearing out bookshelves. This is kind of a yearly ritual for us. We tend to pick up a couple of books a week, and over the course of a year, that eventually results in towers of books piled on top of any flat surface not in daily use. We eventually get to the point where the only way we can expect to fit more books into the house is to purge what we have and make room for the next year's bounty.

Which is why this book-lined staircase tickles my fancy. Instead of clearing out old books to make way for new, why not clear out old architecture to make more storage space?

I know that tonight, I'm going to be walking around the house, going "Mmmm... ooooh, we could knock a hole here, and put a shelf there, and..." while my wife makes noncommittal noises of agreement and quietly hides the hammers and drywall saws.

Use The Fource, Paula!

You just can't make this kind of stuff up: Microsoft Source Fource Limited-Edition Developer Action Figures.

Because, y'know, we geek-types always base our technology decisions on what toys are available.


"And he hath put in his heart that he may teach..."

Exodus 35:30-35:
30 And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;
31 And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;
32 And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
33 And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work.
34 And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.
35 Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.
This is one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament.

As I sit here, my wife is working on a Sunday School lesson on stewardship. The Christian idea of stewardship revolves around the idea that all that we have - our lives, our finances, our abilities - are gifts from God, and that He has given them to so that we might accomplish His purposes. It's a sobering thought.

Here, we see that this idea of stewardship isn't something that comes solely from the New Testament. It's a concept that permeates the Old Testament, as well. Bezaleel and Aholiab were two men that God gave special abilities to. They were craftsmen without peer, skilled in all manners of work. These two men were smiths, stonemasons, carpenters, chemists, jewelers, weavers, and so much more, all wrapped up in one.

These two extraordinary men actually had two commissions from God. We see the first of these in Exodus 31:6, where God tells us that these men were given to the people of Israel so ".. that they may make all that I have commanded thee..." They were given their skills and abilities by God, and God expected them to do His work and direct the construction of the tabernacle. So we see that a good steward has a responsibility to use his or her abilities to their fullest in the service of God.

There is a second commission that is revealed in Exodus 35:34, though. In addition to their skills and abilities, God gave both Bezallel and Aholiab a desire to teach. For these two men, being a good steward did not involve just using their abilities to serve God. It also involved passing on their knowledge, experience, and skills to others, so that those men might serve God as well.

We see an this repeated in the New Testament, where the emphasis on teaching is continued and expanded. Jesus apparently considered teaching an essential part of his ministry, because He "...went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom..." (Matthew 4:23) Paul told his spiritual son Timothy that he was not only to teach others, but that he was to teach them to teach as well (2 Timothy 2:2) . All Christians are commanded to teach and admonish one another "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Colossians 3:16) Teaching is the first part of the Great Commission, by which believers are commanded to evangelize the world - "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..." (Matthew 28:19-20)

Using my skills and abilities to serve God is only the first step in being a good steward. If I am not taking the time to teach others - my children, my Sunday school students, my fellow believers, my friends and family - I am falling short of the responsibilities that God has entrusted me with.

Happy Half-Price Chocolate Day!

While February 14th is for those sappy romantic couples who want nothing more than to sit in a dimly lit restaurant , staring into each other's puppy-dog eyes, today is the day for those of us who really love someone else. Because, after all, the only thing that says "I love you" more than a 1-lb chocolate heart is... two 1-lb chocolate hearts for the price of one!

There are lots of folks who recognize and celebrate this unique holiday. (Of course, it's more important to some people than others.) With this many people, they may think it's an organization... and if we can get 50 people, why, they may think it's a movement!

Demonstrate your intelligence, your compassion, and your love today, and give your local economy a boost at the same time. Celebrate half-price chocolate day with someone you love (or your cat... let's face it, it's not a picky sort of holiday that's all hung up on tradition, you know). Then, tomorrow, you can start looking forward in eager anticipation to that next delicious holiday - Half-Price Candy Day, traditionally celebrated on November 1st, of course.


I finish a nice little venting about the whole "SCO Lives!" debacle, and just after I put the post up, the code I've been wrestling with for two days finally boots and runs.

Coincidence? I think not :-)

Like a Phoenix From The Ashes

Well, OK, no. SCO isn't quite like a phoenix.

It's more like some sort of B-movie psychotic serial killer in a teen slasher flick. You know the one - they deranged goon that gets stabbed, shot, run over with a car, and finaly engulfed in flame before they fall down and die. Only after a few seconds, they jump up, still on fire, and somehow manage to start shambling after the plucky heroine once again.

Somehow, SCO has managed to find some new partners - specifically, the Stephen Norris Capital Partners. For reasons only known to them, SNCP is investing $100 million in a company that's been pretty much humiliated legally and technically over the course of the last three years. A company with a share price of $0.09 and a market capitalization of $1,930,000.

You read that right - the share price for SCO is currently nine cents a share, and their market capitalization is 1.93 million US dollars. Please also note that those figures are as of close on February 14th, 2008 - after news of the investment drove the stock price up by 50%. At the start of the day, SCO was trading at under $0.06 per share, with a market cap of around $1.28 million.

I know people who could have bought the company at that price. In Silicon Valley alone, there must be a thousand people in the tech industry who could have written a personal check and bought out SCO, lock, stock, and barrel.

And yet... nobody even considered doing that until Stephen Norris Capital Partners came along with the mind-bogglingly brilliant idea to not just buy SCO, but to spend 50x more than they had to to acquire this hot little property. There are habitual gamblers out there who have managed to take brain-damaged betting and raise it to the level of performance art who still realize, at a very fundamental level, that investing in SCO isn't a good bet.

What in the world do SNCP think they're going to get out of this deal that could possibly be worth their investment?

What's in a name?

The name of the blog is "The Embedded Theologian". I'm an embedded systems developer, and a pastoral theology student, so I thought it would be interesting to combine the two when I named my blog. I also liked the wordplay inherent in the name. While it describes who I am (an embedded developer and a theology student), it also carries the connotations associated with "embedded journalist" - the idea of someone who is not part of a group, who is still attached to that group. As Christians are called to live in the world, and yet not be part of the world (John 17:14-15), "embedded theologian" seems to be an accurate description of the Christian life.

Later on, it occurred to me that I should see if there were any existing references to embedded theology. A quick Google search turned up a couple of references, including the following definition in an Amazon review of How to Think Theologically (by Howard W. Stone and James O. Duke):

Embedded theology is that kind of theological content that is in us without our necessarily being aware of it.

I haven't read How to Think Theologically - this is the first time I've even encountered the book. The idea of embedded theology, though, is an interesting one to me. Part of what attracts me strongly to the Christian faith as described in the Bible is it's empirical nature. Particularly in the New Testament, there is a strong emphasis on faith as an intellectual exercise. The idea is that you have faith, not because someone tells you to believe, but because you have examined the evidence presented and accepted the Bible's testimony about the nature of God and Jesus Christ. This exercise of intellect is what leads to faith. Given the context of the times in which most of the NT was written, the encouragement to revisit assumptions about the nature of God and the Messiah seems pretty obvious.

So, now I have three different aspects reflected in the title of this blog. First, a statement of who I am. Second, a reminder of what I am in relation to the world around me. Third, a warning that my preconceived notions about the way the world works (theologically or physically!) are something not to be accepted, but examined. I'll strive to keep all three aspects in mind as I consider topics for examination.

It's an embedded kind of day

There's always a lot going on in the world of embedded systems development. Today we saw a spike in news about the embedded world. On Slashdot alone, there were three articles on embedded development - one about this announcement about the Android platform from Google, another article asking "Where are tomorrow's embedded developers?", and a third about the new release of the LLVM compiler infrastructure project.

Huh? Compilers? How is that a story about embedded development?

It's pretty safe to say that embedded developers are closer to their tools than just about any other brand of developer. Oh, sure - we use compilers, linkers, debuggers, just like anyone else. Chances are, though, that if you poll a group of embedded developers, you'll find a disproportionate number of folks who have had to hack on their compiler in some way. They've either had to patch their tools to deal with a new architecture variant, or work around a compiler bug, or something. For an embedded developer, a toolchain isn't just a static collection of programs that you feed source through to get a final product. For better or for worse, building, tweaking, and fine-tuning your tools is as much a part of embedded development as writing a device driver, compiling a kernel, or getting some user-space apps up and running on a new system.

As a result, things like LLVM and TinyCC are more than mildly interesting for embedded developers. They aren't just toy projects - instead, they represent exciting possibilities for a whole new set of tools. A whole new degree of freedom in tweakage that exists beyond choosing a standard C library or a set of user-space utilities. Remember, we're talking about developers here who get excited at the idea of writing their own memory managers. Giving them a whole new way of building something is like waving a steak in front of a starving dog.

They might decide they don't like the taste of it, for whatever reason... but they will at least try it, just to see if there might be an advantage to using a different toolchain. In that trying, they will shake out a lot of bugs and help those projects mature to the point where less bleeding-edge projects will be willing to give them a try.