Seedcamp Tel-Aviv 2012

February 16, 2012

It’s that time of the year and Seedcamp Tel-Aviv is back (for the forth year!). This time lool Ventures is part of the event!

In one of my hats I’m the CTO of lool Ventures and I’ll be there as a mentor to give advice and share from my experience in building a startup.

So if you have a great idea and started to work on it be sure to apply now.

 

 

Requiem for a modem

November 20, 2011

Two days ago I’ve shut down the longest running electronics device I ever owned.

Alcatel SpeedTouch Home - Image from isphelp.info

The device was my an Alcatel Speedtouch Home ADSL modem which I got circa 2001 when I was lucky enough to get an ADSL line at home.

It was only turned off when there was a power failure or when I moved an apartment.

It survived 6 PC, 5 Laptops, 4 routers, 6 apartments spanning 4 cities and about 10 different cell phones.

It was hacked to use PPPoE instead of its default PPTP. Was hacked again to function as a router, and back to being just a modem.

When I started using it I had a 1.5Mbit ADSL line. It grew to 2.5Mbit and finally 5Mbps – its maximum supported speed (taking into account the infrastructure state, my distance from the switchboard, etc).

When the New Generation Network (NGN) of my landline provider Bezeq was deployed, the modem couldn’t  keep up with its 5Mbit speed because the uplink speed changed and it couldn’t sync. I downgraded to 2.5Mbps until I could get a replacement modem.

Once I got the newer modem, I shutdown the old one for good. It was now obsolete, old and unable to support faster speeds. No one would want it. No one would need it. No one would use it.

I will always remember it as the device that saved me from my happy dial-up days and brought me into the broadband age. It never failed, never stopped working and handled whatever bits were thrown at it.

It is now time for you to rest in modems heaven, where the line is always synced and the bits flow freely.

May all my current and future modems will serve me as well as you did.

Goodbye old friend. We had good times.

Scott Berkun’s Mindfire: Big Ideas For Curious Minds – Book Review

November 15, 2011

I had the pleasure of reading Scott Berkun‘s newest book – Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds. I was also forunate to get it for free in the short period of time where Scott gave it for free on his site, but this is not a guilty book review of getting the book for free.

Mindfire is a collection of 30 essays which Scott wrote in various places, mostly on his blog. The essays got cleaned up and preped for the book which made the reading very clean and flowing. Scott’s writing style is very flowing and funny and while it may seem at times as a self emporment / self help book it really isn’t.

I look at it more as a collection of percise and clear set of obersvations on the human condition and behavior alone and in a group. Some of the essays specifically talk about work related situtations, but in most cases  you can apply some of the tips and wisdom of this book to almost any interaction with other people.

I really enjoyed reading it and in some situations fully sympathize with the eassy’s topic and resolution.

UIImage in iOS 5, Orientation and Resize

November 7, 2011

One of the things I found very strange is the fact that most operations that came with iOS prior iOS 5 which revolved around UIImage didn’t take into account the orientation of the image. This meant that if you want to read a picture from the camera roll and resize it, you’d have to roll your own code to correctly flip and/or rotate the image according to its orientation value.

Being my lazy self I used the fine code of Trevor Harmon in UIImage+Resize. Trevor added some categories to make handling UIImage a bit nicer. The code takes create of everything including orientation.

My app worked great on iOS 4 and early betas of iOS 5, however in the late beta of iOS 5 and in the release it wrongfully rotated the images.

After further investigation it seems iOS 5 already rotates the image correctly. UIImage+Resize rotated it again, causing the images to get skewed.
A quick fix would simply avoid the transposition code in UIImage+Resize.

Since the code ran perfectly fine in iOS 4, for backwards compatibility I added a check for OS version and for anything below 5.0 the old code would work.
Check out this gist:

For better performance I would store a boolean flag somewhere in the app saying you are running in iOS 5 and check that instead of keep on checking the OS version every run, but this is just to get you started.

Clone S3 Bucket Script

October 10, 2011

I had to backup an S3 bucket so I whiped out a small script to clone a bucket.

It’s written in Python and depends on the excellent Boto library. If you are running Python < 2.7 you’ll also need the argparse library (both available also via pip).

View the gist here: https://gist.github.com/1275085

Or here below:

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

August 24, 2011

I know the title is a bit alarming, but that was my first thought after reading @bryce‘s latest post “The Rising Generation“.

Briefly, he mentioned a 25 y/o asking a question on Quora about how was life before everyone had a cell phone and no one talked a lot or texted in public areas. Bryce also say that the new entrepreneurs, like the ones in yesterday’s Y Combinator Demo Day have different expectation, understanding and perceived value of technology than any other that has come before them.

I’m 30. Not too far from the 25 y/o who asked the question (although I was about 15 when cell phone started to penetrate Israel quickly and spread like wild fire). In most companies I worked at I was usually the youngest (or second youngest) in the company for quite some time. Most of my co-workers used to be (or are) between 9-15 years older than me and are still surprised of my knowledge of things from the past.

I’m a bit of a history buff when it comes to computers, science and technology (but also to general history). That’s why I do know what a ZX Spectrum is (and I don’t know how it reached my house when I was about 7 but I had the chance to play with it). I know how VMS systems work (long story form the Army :-) ). When I was six I did play with an Apple IIc my brother got for his Bar Mitzvah and really liked Captain Goodnight and Karateka. I do know how a modem sounds (and can even detect by sound what is the connection speed. Tiiii Taaa TiiTaTa TiiiTa – Yay 28KBPS! ). Heck, I even ran a BBS and was a node on FidoNet when I was 14.

That might be a bit unusual for most people my age that are into computers (and maybe even for older ones) but that’s not too different from people that hear Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bach and Mozart. While these composers and bands did not exist when I was born or when I was a child the music kept on going. I and a lot of other people both older and younger do know it, hear it and enjoy it. It even inspires some to go on and create new things.

Knowing a bit of the past and how it related to an idea or thought you have can give you a much better appreciation to the things others have done or to the things others advice you to do. After all, specifically in the computers and internet industry, we are all “standing on the shoulders of giants”. It can also give entrepreneurs some much needed perspective on how things were, how things are and how it should be.

So, in addition to Bryce’s hope that “they can rise high enough to meet the emerging opportunities generations before them have made possible”, my 2 cents are to also learn a bit from the past. Take a minute for some history and try to figure out how things were before you push on forward. If they won’t they are destined to repeat it.

Python Implementation of Twitter’s Snowflake Service

August 5, 2011

A while back Twitter announced the Snowflake service. Snowflake is a unique ID generator that is fast and generate 64bit integer unique ids that are “roughly sortable”. That is, newer ids are bigger than older ones, up to a certain point.
The service was originally written in Scala (which runs on the JVM) and has a Thrift interface, which means you can talk to it from almost any thinkable programming language.

The project was shared on GitHub.

Personally, I don’t really like the JVM. It’s rather bloated in memory terms and can make quite a mess when you need to fine tune it to low memory environments. Also, the Snowflake service code is rather simple and rarely allocate a lot of new objects, which means allocation wise, its rather fixed.

I’ve re-implemented the service in Python using the same Thrift interfaces for both testing as well as being able to run it on low memory environments without the need to fine tune the JVM.

This implementation is rather naive and doesn’t work too much around CPython’s Global Interpeter Lock (GIL) so it yields much less IDs per second than the Scala implementation, however you can compensate for it by running multiple processes.

You can grab the service code from here: https://github.com/erans/pysnowflake

I’ve also written a very simple Python client (it should support connecting to multiple Snowflake services, but the current version disregards this) which I only tested with PySnowflake (the Python server I created). I didn’t test it against the original Scala service.

You can grab the Python client code here: https://github.com/erans/pysnowflakeclient

While I do use some of this code in production, it is far from being fully tested and checked and I would use it as a reference or study it well and load test it before deploying it.

 

Determine if an Email address is Gmail or Hosted Gmail (Google Apps for Your Domain)

July 17, 2011

For my latest venture, MyFamilio, I needed to know if a user’s Email address is a Gmail one so that I could show the user his/her contacts from Gmail.

Figuring out if the user is on Gmail is usually easy – the Email ends with @gmail.com. But what happens for all of those Google Apps for Your domain (like my own, which uses the @sandler.co.il domain) ?

Well, you can easily detect that by running a DNS query on the MX record.

I wrote a small function in Python which uses dnspyhon to do just that, determine if an Email address is hosted on Gmail or not.

Check the gist here.

Check the gist here.

Forecast: Cloudy – My New Cloud Related Technical Blog

July 12, 2011

I’ve started a new technical blog which talks about the cloud. It’s called Forecast: Cloudy and it will feature thoughts, ideas and some code driven mostly from my experience running services on cloud infrastructure.

The first post (after the traditional “Hello World“) already has some code :-)

Check it out and don’t forget to tell me what you think about it.

Extract GPS Latitude and Longitude Data from EXIF using Python Imaging Library (PIL)

May 20, 2011

I was searching an example of using Python Imaging Library (PIL) to extract the GPS data from EXIF data in images.

There were various half baked examples that didn’t handle things well, so I baked something of my own combining multiple examples.

You can get it here: https://gist.github.com/983821

Or see it embedded below:

 
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