Category Archives: computers

LCA2012: “Android is Not vi – User Experience for Geeks”

Paris Buttfield-Addison and I co-presented a talk at in Ballarat recently. The topic was on designing mobile apps that don’t suck on Android. The talk was pretty well received, the audience attentive and engaged (as evidenced by the fact that they heckled), and it was probably one of the better talks that Paris and I have co-presented.

The video of the talk is available as an ogv movie file, alternatively, the YouTube version is embedded below.

Google Reader obit.

Google Reader’s just announced that they’re turning off reader sharing progressively from today. I wrote the following in my share stream a few moments ago, and realised that this was massively counterproductive — it will probably disappear in a few hours anyway.

So on the off chance that you subscribe to my feed and haven’t read this:

Hey all,

Reader sharing starts dying today. I’m pretty sad about that, I’ve loved reading the things all of you have shared over the past few years — I’ve discovered new things, built up new interests, learnt a lot and have had a lot of fun doing it. I’m going to miss reading what you have.

So what am I going to do? Well, I’ll be seeing if the ‘plus’ features actually replicate reader sharing in any useful form. Who knows, it might actually be a useful feature.

If not, we’ll see what manner of useful *external* sharing appears (share by e-mail looks particularly useful) — shared feeds don’t seem too hard to re-implement, and we could theoretically have something useful up and running over a weekend. I’m seriously considering doing this. Let me know if you’re interested!

So yeah, if you’re not already following me on twitter, that’s probably the most useful place to find me: I’m @chrisjrn. My blog is at Keep in touch! I still want to read your stuff!

Thank you, and goodbye!


RIP Dennis Ritchie

Although I did not know the man, the contributions of Dennis Ritchie have have a profound effect upon my life and the community with which I associate. I interact with systems inspired by the first versions of UNIX, and write code in languages that owe their design principles to C, almost on an daily basis.

Dennis Ritchie was a giant on whose shoulders many of those in technology, including myself, can feel proud to stand on. 2012 Open Programming Miniconf — Call for proposals now open

TL;DR — submit a proposal at
before the first round closes on Friday 7 October.

I’m pleased to announce that The Open Programming Miniconf, a fixture for application developers attending since 2010 is returning as part of 2012, to be held in January at the University of Ballarat. The miniconf has been an opportunity for presenters of all experience levels to share their experiences in in application development using free and open source development tools.

The Open Programming Miniconf for 2012 invites 25-minute presentations on topics relating to the development of excellent Free and Open Source Software applications. In particular, the Miniconf invites presentations that focus on sharing techniques, best practices and values which are applicable to developers of all Open Source programming languages.

In the past, topics have included:

  • Recent developments in Open Source programming languages (“State of the language”-type talks)
  • Tools which support application development
  • Coding applications with cool new libraries, languages and frameworks
  • Demonstrating the use of novel programming techniques

Past programmes can be found at and

To submit a proposal, visit and fill out the form as required. The CFP will remain open indefinitely, but the first round of acceptances will not be sent until Friday 7 October 2011.

OPM2012 is part of 2012, being held at the University of Ballarat on Monday, 16 January 2012. Further enquiries can be directed to Christopher Neugebauer via e-mail ( ) or via twitter (@chrisjrn).

LCA2011 Starts Here!

Oh hey, I appear to be in Brisbane! 2011 starts tomorrow, which means that today is the fun day of hanging around at the conference accommodation and watching the comings and goings of LCA people, and registering for the conference. Registration opens from 16:00 at the QUT Kelvin Grove Campus*, I personally intend to get to the venue sometime around 17:00.

As I understand, Rusty Russell’s usual newbies’ session is being held today, and that’s on at 18:30, also at QUT Kelvin Grove. If you’ve not been to LCA, this session comes highly recommended — I should know, I’ve been to all of them! (wait, what?) The session helps explain what LCA is all about to people who haven’t been, contains important advice about what sessions to show up to, and how to read the schedule.

Well, that’s it for me. Maybe another update later today?


*Kelvin Grove being the QUT campus where the conference was originally scheduled NOT to be at. The conference organisers have done an awesome job at making sure that the event is going ahead at a new venue, especially given the conditions in Brisbane of late. Kudos etc!

30 Days of Geek: 15 – A geek experience that changed your life.

So the original topic for this was “Earliest geek experience”. I really couldn’t identify with that one, so I’m going to do something completely different. I’m sorry if this one’s a bit heavy, but it needs to be written.

I’d like to tell you about one of the worst times in my life. The year was 2006 — it was early January (early enough that I was still coming to terms with the fact that it was 2006…). The last term of school in 2005 was fantastic — I’d had one of my most successful periods academically, was successful in programming competitions, and I had a number of excellent friends who I shared many interests and experiences with. In the new year, that changed. I had a massive falling out with a very good friend, which caused me to question every aspect of the identity that I had built up over the past few years. I became unsure of personality traits, which I though were an important part of who I was, and which I thought were endearing to those around me. I questioned my interests in life. I questioned the validity of every relationship I had come to value over those late years of my schooling.

It is one of two times in my life that I had seriously felt suicidal. I guess this is one of the inevitable results of constantly questioning one’s identity. With each aspect of my personality that I felt needed to be changed to be worthwhile to people, I questioned the effort that would be needed to make that change. Thought after thought permeated my brain, and the weight of it all brought me to the conclusion that faced with the mounting “evidence” (in that state of mind, burden of proof is extremely low) that it probably wasn’t worthwhile to make such changes. At the end of it all, and after all of the changes that I would have to make, the person that I would have had to have been would have been unrecognisable to the person that I was then.

I still have no idea why I survived that week.

I made it through to the Sunday of that week, and was welcomed with open arms onto a flight to Sydney to attend that year’s National Computer Science School. It was during that week I properly discovered Python for the first time — it’s since become my favourite programming language. More so than that, it was a week of hanging around with geeks from all around Australia (and one from New Zealand), each of whom had different areas of interest and inclinations, and each had different skill sets. The tutors were smart uni students apparently studying interesting thing. The week gave me an insight in what it meant to be involved with IT and Computer Science. By the end of the week, I’d made heaps of friends (some of whom I still keep in contact with) who I shared interests and abilities with, and it was a fantastic revelation that there could be so many people around the country who I could just talk geek with. By the end of the week, things had resolved themselves back home — I’d forgiven and forgotten whatever it was that caused my friend and I to fall out, and I had a renewed drive to be awesome with my life.

I have no doubt, however, that I was saved by that week at NCSS. I’ve never had severe depression since, and I’ve been proud of my identity as a computer science-loving geek ever since.

Two years later I returned, this time as a tutor of the group that I had taken part in two years earlier — partly because I wanted to pay back a debt, and partly because I really really wanted to. Returning in 2008 led to me forming even more lasting friendships with people, not only tutors but students as well. I communicate with many of them every day, in one way or another. It’s where I first saw a Google office and decided that I really really wanted to become an intern there. Just afterwards I attended my first LCA in Melbourne, and have found, both there and in other geeky circles around the country, that my ties with NCSS are shared with geeks around the country — the line “I saw the girl on the hill with the telescope” is a wonderful calling card (if you ever hear James Curran lecture you’ll know what I mean by that).

So thanks to James, Tara and Michael (and everyone else from that week in 2006, you are too numerous to mention) — you have made something to be truly proud of… You may even have saved a life 😉

30 Days of Geek: 14 – Favourite Computer Conference

Oh. You probably won’t be surprised to hear this one, but the answer is the Australasian Free and Open Source Software Conference. I’ve been attending since Melbourne 2008, and have since “been” to Hobart in 2009 and travelled to Wellington to attend in 2010.

LCA is a great conference because it gives people in the broader FOSS-using community in Australia (people like me) the opportunity to meet the people who put together the software that we used on a day-to-day basis. It turns out that they’re an entirely friendly bunch of people, who are all too willing to share their experience: in 2008, Andrew Tridgell spent 20 minutes one-on-one with me explaining how a particularly awesome piece of code he’d written worked.

In 2010 I ran one of the short single-day conference streams (known as “miniconfs”), on the topic of Open Programming Languages. This was a fantastic opportunity to give back to the LCA community, and help bring more of the topics that I was interested in to LCA — we had a fantastic lineup of presenters, and the day went awesomely. I’m glad to have the opportunity to do this again: I’m running the Open Programming miniconf at LCA2011 in Brisbane, and along with my friend Peter Lyle, will be running the Research and Student Innovation Miniconf. Both of them are shaping up to be excellent miniconfs.

So yes, LCA is in Brisbane this January, and I thoroughly recommend you get along if you can!

DSCF1923.JPG 2009 -- Day 5
LCA2010 Speakers Dinner
LCA2010 Open Day

30 Days of Geek: Days 10 & 11

So yesterday I was in the air, and unable to do day 10’s post. Luckily they make enough sense combined to combine into a single post.

Picture, screenshot and specifications of your primary computer.

Apologies for the blurry photo. I’ve shown this one because it contains both of my primary computers.

The desktop is a generic Athlon 64×2 of some specification, with some RAM and some hard discs in them, it also has an nVidia (HRRRRRNGH) graphics card of some description to drive my two monitors — I honestly don’t care much beyond that, as it serves its purpose. It runs Debian “testing”. The keyboard is a Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 — I first used one of those during my internship at Google. I liked them so much that I bought one the moment I got home, and I haven’t looked back 🙂

The laptop is my general purpose on-the-road device. It’s a black MacBook from 2008, with an Intel Core Duo 2.4GHz in it. It also has RAM.

Favourite hacking environment – music, light, seating, etc

Turns out you’ve got all of the clues you need in there as well — the corner of my bedroom where my desk is serves as my primary hacking area. It’s softly-lit, and has plenty of working space when I can be bothered cleaning it up 😀

As for music, well, it really depends on my mood whilst hacking on something — sometimes it’s nothing at all, but other times it’s something from my extremely esoteric and varietous music collection.

Oh, and if I get bored/stuck on a problem, I can always look out the window!

A Through-The-Windows Vista

30 Days of Geek: 09 – What OS/distribution do you run?

I’m a user of UNIX-like operating systems of different persuasions. On my laptop I run Max OS X 10.6. I’m not hugely attached to the Mac platform, for example the vast majority of applications I run are Open Source, or sufficiently generic that I can find Linux-based alternatives at the drop of a hat.

At home, I run Debian GNU/Linux’s “Testing” distribution. I like Debian, firstly because of APT/Aptitude, which makes delivering updates reasonably easy. However, these tools are available in a great many distributions now. The reason I use Debian over, say, Ubuntu is that Debian’s quality control protocols ensure that updates work correctly enough of the time that updating packages on a daily basis is not usually a dangerous process.

The “Testing” distribution’s policy with respect to release-blocking bugs means that the distribution is stable enough for everyday non-critical use, and that updates are reasonably timely.

Bring on the Red Hat/Gentoo trolls!