welcome to x a o t e c

This is the personal home page of me, Brian Huff. Some people just call me Bex. I do not update this page often, so you may be more interested in my professional technology blog.

Feel free to peruse the photo album, to see the wedding photos of Michelle and I. Our honeymoon in Tahiti was amazing!

You can also see the photos from our trip to Thailand, or our sailing adventure around the Virgin Islands. You can also take a look at some of the articles Ive thrown together about politics and technology. Beware, I'm considered somewhat opinionated...

Thu, 21 Apr 2005

In Memory of Syd, My First Pet

Im sad to have to write that one of my pets passed away today. His name was Syd, and he was the first pet that I had as an adult. He was a textbook cockatiel - grey body, yellow head, and bright orange cheeks. He also loved sitting on Michelle's head, as you can see in the photo below. Click on it to see others pictures and video of him:

I found him at the Humane Society. He was, believe it or not, a stray bird... which is fairly rare, although one of my other 2 birds is also a stray. They didn't know for certain, but they think he was five years old when I got him. That would make him 15 this year. I know that's average for his breed, but it was still such a shock. He was happy and singing last night, not one sign of illness or age. It looks like he passed away peacefully in his sleep.

I have 2 other cockatiels, but Syd was everybody's favorite. Not because he was the nicest of birds, but because he had the best personality. Despite being completely tone deaf and the worst composer ever, he was frequently singing. He was also quite sneaky, sticking his head out of the cage so you could pet him, then pulling it back at the last second. Then putting it back out again too see if you'd fall for it again. And when he was out of the cage, he refused to go back in unless I bribed him with his favorite treats.

He would whistle, and chatter, and chuckle, and bob his head up and down like a woodpecker listening to heavy metal music.

He was definately a character, and a wonderful pet, and Im going to miss him a lot.

[17:43] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Tue, 18 Jan 2005

Fun links for my fun new PDA

As a christmas gift to myself, I decided to purchase a Dell Axim 30. Why? Well, Ive always wanted something like a PDA to help me get my contacts and todo lists organized... and this thing can also play MP3s, OggVorbis, photo slide shows, take voice memos, it comes with WiFi, infared, and Bluetooth, its smaller than a Palm, faster than an iPaq, and only $250. That's less than an iPod, and I might be able to hack it to even play music through Michelle's Bluetooth enabled Mini. It has just about everything I need in a pocket computer.

It should be arriving next Friday, so in anticipation Ive been searching the internet for links to applications, and developer tools. I'll probably hack away with Python on it, but if I develop any 'serious' apps, I'd probably use C#.


C, C#, and .NET:


[17:08] | [/pocketpc] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Sun, 12 Dec 2004

Christmas Is Neigh!

Christmas time is here again, and as usual nobody knows what to get the really picky guy... So I decided to throw together a small list which I hope to update a few more times as I think of things I'd enjoy.

  • DVDs
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4
    • Arrested Development, Season 1
    • Lord of the Rings, Return of the King (Widescreen)
    • American Beauty
    • Donnie Darko
    • Fight Club
  • Books
  • Long Sleeved Shirts (in the general style of Bananna Republic)
  • Cold-weather biking gear (windbreaker, pants, etc.)
  • Sweaters
  • An IOGear USB2 card for my Macintosh
  • New watch - black/silver wristwatch, or silver pocketwatch
  • Swiss army knife (mine was confiscated in Tahiti!)
  • COMPACT set of headphones
  • New face razor
  • Saddlebags for my bike (I already have a rack)
[16:55] | [/xmas] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Wed, 22 Sep 2004


I must say, that our wedding in Seattle was just about the best wedding I have ever been to, or heard of. I cannot imagine how it could have been more perfect...

The cake, the food, the church, the staff, the music, the ceremony, the flowers, the photographer, and especially the guests... everything was perfect. We got so many compliments about everything... so many people saying it was the best wedding they ever went to (including their own).

Everybody was having a great time... even those who knew almost nobody there fit right in and enjoyed themselves. Perhaps the fact that we were giggling through most of the ceremony helped set the relaxed, whimsical mood... or perhaps it was just the open bar. Either way, it was great!

We have a handful of photos online already, but they are extremely limited. I was too busy socializing to take very many, and Shelia (my new sister in law) took ones mostly of Michelle's side of the family... so my family will have to wait until our photographer sends us the negatives before they'll see themselves in much. Sorry guys! After the honeymoon, I promise!

Next up is the party in St Paul. It probably wont be as amazing as the reception in Seattle... but since a lot of the same folks will be attending, it will still be a great time! See you there...

[09:16] | [/wedding] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Tue, 31 Aug 2004

Some Fun Python links

If only I had the time to check out all of these projects...

  • Python Cookbook - a living list of recipies that will go into the next Python cookbook
  • Python BuildBot - for distributed building and unit testing
  • Twisted Matrix - event driven Python framework for building servers (HTTP, NNTP, SSH, IRC, etc!)
  • OPeNDAP/DDOS - an app using Rendezvous inside Python, interesting!
  • pyDev - yet another Python IDE, but this one has a debugger and runs inside Eclipse
  • py3d.org - a good list of all the 3D graphics engines available for Python, including POVRAY, and OpenGL
  • Cheetah - a Python templating engine, as opposed to JSP/ASP/PHP/PSP, similar to Velocity
  • PAMIE - Python Automation for IE, for writing web app test drivers
  • mechanize - Python version of WWW::Mechanize for building web page test drivers
[18:11] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Wed, 18 Aug 2004

Our Honeymoon

For our honeymoon, Michelle and I will be speding two and a half weeks in Tahiti! Everbody has heard of Tahiti, but Ive gotten several questions about where it actually is on the map. I think I found the perfect map to illustrate its locale:

It reminds me of a great clip from the Daily Show. They were talking about the Lord Of The Rings, and how its a great boost to tourism in New Zealand... and John Stewart responded, "you know what else would help New Zealand? Being closer to the REST OF THE WORLD."

Trust me... more photos will be forthcoming...

[23:52] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

More Personality Tests

Well, I goaded the Cragmore Crew into all taking personality tests... its the closest we guys can get to actually talking about out feelings without risking a punch in the mouth. Here are the results, in order of who is coolest:

By 'who is coolest' I naturally mean who took the test first...

[22:46] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Cleaning out my inbox...

While cleaning out my email, I came across several links to pretty cool sites that I wanted to share with my readers... both of them.

[22:37] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Wed, 11 Aug 2004

My Personality Test

I saw a diary article on kuro5hin today, and it inspired me to take an online Myers Briggs personality test. The results were that Im an ENFP:

  • moderately expressed extrovert (33%)
  • very expressed intuitive personality (78%)
  • moderately expressed feeling personality (33%)
  • moderately expressed perceiving personality (56%)

That was a surprise... I read a few of the descriptions of this personality, and they were quite funny, and sometimes exactly correct:


I share this type with Haydn, Mark Twain, and Dr. Seuss. Quite an odd mix... and not a scientist or computer geek among them. I apparently have more in common with MLK and Ghandi than any US President. I guess I could live with that... Some quotes:

"Close enough is satisfactory to the ENFP, which may unnerve more precise thinking types, especially with such things as piano practice. Amazingly, some ENFPs are adept at exacting disciplines such as mathematics."

"ENFPs hate bureaucracy, both in principle and in practice; they will always make a point of launching one of their crusades against some aspect of it."

"ENFPs have what some call a 'silly switch.' They can be intellectual, serious, all business for a while, but whenever they get the chance, they flip that switch and become CAPTAIN WILDCHILD"

"They have a strong need to be independent, and resist being controlled or labelled."

Sounds about right to me... the only thing I disagreed with was the listing of which professions I should choose. Of the 10 least compatible professions to have, I have already done 6 of them... and enjoyed them fairly well... hmmm... maybe if I were 'right' for them, I'd still be doing them?

I took another online test, and it had the same results, except this one said I was slightly more introverted. Im not sure I agree with that...

Either way, I suppose the lesson is that personality tests can be useful tools, but they can never really tell you who you are. Or maybe that's just my ENFP hatred of control and labeling shining through...

[23:44] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Mon, 09 Aug 2004

I repeat - you do not talk about Bike Club!

Michelle was out of town again this Saturday, so naturally I joined the guys again for the Saturday night bike ride.

This one was a bit less adventurous... we rode from the Minneapolis U of MN campus, to the St Paul campus. Yay. We pokes around the State Fair grounds, and from that moment onward everybody had a yen for fried cheese curds...

We then hooked up with a few other people, and kept heading East. We eventually hit a trail that could either take us to downtown St Paul, or all the way to dang Wisconsin. We seriously debated the Wisconsin route... while we waited, one of the bikers caused a smal ruckus. He didn't bring any food or water, but for some reason he remembered to bring fireworks. The night sky was lit up... Tim admired his randomness.

Eventually we decided to head to St Paul, and we swung by the Capitol building. Another fair was there, also closed, and also advertising cheese curds. Well, that fixed it... we blasted down Univeristy Ave back to the Minneapolis campus, to the only place in the city that sells cheese curds at 2 AM. And there was much rejoicing.

I hope I can ride with these guys again soon, but given my busy pre-wedding schedule, I dont think it will happen for a while yet. Oh well...

[12:00] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Tue, 03 Aug 2004

Final Thoughts on OSCON 2004

As usual, some of the best talks were on Friday, to get everybody to stay at the conference as long as possible. The keynote about the David Rumsey map archive was unbelieveably cool. It recieved a well deserved standing ovation. The security talk was excellent as well, and the Subversion best practices help solidify my resolve to evangelize their product in our company...

Overall, the whole worthless 'Emerging Technology' jive that was so prevalent at ETCON 2003 wasn't as prominent. This conference was about real technology, and the presenters were not just some slick sounding snake-oil salesmen looking for venture capital. They were actual programmers with actual code. How novel.

Another thing that is becoming more and more obvious is that the 'Alpha Geeks' dont really seem to care about Java anymore. The panel with Eric Raymond, and Tim OReilly was not well attended. There wasn't a single Java talk on Thursday, and the rest of them were only partially about Java. The more Sun tries to clutch onto control, the more people will move away from it. That's why Im becoming a Python hacker.

What stuck Pete as funny was how political this place can be... any time somebody is presenting new technology, they need to explain why its needed. The answer is either because nothing like it ever existed, or because what does exist is crappy and wrong. Well... the problem with the latter is that the guy who wrote the 'crappy and wrong' software is most likely in the audience. There are two kinds of presenters - those who walk on eggshells, and those who suffer from angry glares. Even Microsoft bashing is a little tough, because they are a huge sponser of the event! On Open Source. Double plus wierd.

In closing, here are a handful of links to the tech goodies that I learned about at the conference:

  • OSCON 2004 - the home page for the conference. The presentations should be online someday...
  • David Rumsey Map Archive - a 100% mind blowing view of what's next for online libraries
  • Planet Planet - a Python based RSS feed aggregator for web sites
  • Python On Nokia - for real, Python running on the Nokia 6600 cell phone
  • Iron Python - a superfast version of Python for .NET by the guy who wrote Jython
  • Jabber - an XML based instant message protocol. IM is probably the next big thing since email and the web, and this toolkit is incredibly flexible
  • Free Geek - charity that recycles old computers, and rebuilds them for schools
  • Subversion - a source code repository that actually works!
  • Pear SOAP - a PHP implementation of SOAP that is super easy and full featured
  • CPAN - code repository for Perl... I wish Python had something like this
  • ALPH - a bridge between Flash and Ruby. Is it any better than Ming?
  • XQuery - love it or hate it, XML is here top stay. Hopefully Jason Hunter will make sure XQuery sucks less than XSL.
  • j0hnny - he hacks stuff
  • Nessus and Metasploit - excellent net security analysis tools
[20:49] | [/oscon2004] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Thu, 29 Jul 2004

Thursday Sessions

Todays talks were quite good. I heard some cool stuff about the state of Python 2.4, and how great a language it is for teaching.

The talk about Tsearch2 and POSGRESQL was interesting... although I dont think its quite ready for us to suggest to customers. The talk on PHP performance was a good high-level talk, and I picked up a few new Apache performance tricks.

I picked up a few things about whats currently available in the Python lightning talks, and about what's next at the state of the Python union talk. Its a big Python love-fest. Making something like CPAN for Python would be a good idea to help the community.

I also had the opportunity to meet Jeremy White, my boss's brother. He's one of the lead developers on the Wine project, which allows people to run Windows apps on Linux. Quite an important and incredibly difficult project indeed.

[18:00] | [/oscon2004] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Thursday Keynotes

The Dyson trio keynote was interesting. Its cool to see a great thinker like Freeman Dyson talk about topics like the future of technology. Although he's a bit of a science worshipper for my taste. If the purpose of science is to serve mankind, then humility should be considered a virtue on par with innovation. Just because we know our way around a research lab, doesnt mean we always know what's best for the world. Nevertheless, I was able to get a photo of the two of us.

The second talk was pretty good as well. Bdale Garbee reinforced the idea that its hackers and inventors that push the envelope of science the best. People like Tesla, Goddard, or the Wright Brothers did things that everybody else said was crazy... Bdale tooted his own horn a bit about the amature satelites that he helped launch. Dang. Just like the X-Prize, the hackers are now after the final frontier!

[12:00] | [/oscon2004] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Wed, 28 Jul 2004

Wednesday Sessions

The best sessions today were Mono-centric. The Mono 1.0 release talk was interesting, hostorically speaking... and the talk about IronPython was well attended. Everybody hissed a bit when the author told us that he was just hired by Microsoft to fix the .NET engine... Im sure they'd rather he work on Mono, but we can't all work for Novell!

The future of Java in the open source community is looking somewhat grim. There was a panel with Eric Raymond and OReilly and a few guys from Apache and Sun... developers are miffed that Sun hasn't made Java more open... but at Java One the developers were miffed that Sun hasn't put the kaibash on forked versions of J2EE. Rock and a hard place, it seems.

The XML talks I attended were fairly good - PHP has some really nice SOAP hooks in PEAR::SOAP, Python hooks are not as good, and Jabber looks like its trying to replace the verbose SOAP altogether. It is a lot more powerful, and easier to secure and use... but people love their SOAP because it goes over HTTP, dont they?

[18:00] | [/oscon2004] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Wednesday Keynotes

The first keynote by OReilly was pretty good. He's still pushing the internet-as-an-operating-system jive. His latest theory is that the quality of the large databases (such as user reviews of movies or books) is what seperates the 'ok' websites from the 'great' websites. Obvious, sure, but frequently overlooked. His theory is that they might be able to brand themselves, and become the next 'Intel Inside' for web applications. If you dont have one of the name brands, your web services will suffer greatly.

I agree to a point... but there's a big difference between Intel and a data warehouse. Intel made a ton of money because they had the manufacturing infastructure and research and talent to keep the PC manufacturers supplies with chips. Its really hard to enter that market... just look at how long AMD took to get off the ground.

Compare that to a database. Their power hinges greatly on who legally owns the data. If I make a book review on Amazon, do they own the data? Or do I own it? Should these reviews be totally open, and usable by Barnes and Noble? Its a legal fine line, which makes it subject to copyright laws and the whims of Washington. Their power could collapse like a house of cards if they are not careful...

The second keynote was very funny, but he rambled quite a bit. Robert Lefkowitz had a good point that 'Open Source' means different things to different people, which causes a great deal of confusion in the business world. However, he offered no real resolution. He did have 150 slides, however... so it may have been buried in there somewhere, and I just missed it...

[12:00] | [/oscon2004] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Tue, 27 Jul 2004

Tuesday Tutorials

Like Monday, the Tuesday tutorials were a mixed bag...

The first tutorial was about wxPython widgets, and it was very good. The widgets looked very professional, and the wx libraries have been around for almost a decade... so its stable and performs quite well. The only thing that concerns me is deployment. Getting all the right libraries on a vanilla system to get the UI to look good would be hard.

The second talk was disappointing. I had wanted to go to the talk on advanced wxPython, but that was sold out. So I had to go to the one one getting DBAs and programmers to play nicely. I have no idea who the target audience was for that talk, but it sure wasn't me. I saw very little practical advice for either DBAs or programmers. This was very surprising, because the presenter worked on the human genome project. He obviously knew his stuff... I just dont think he's a good presenter.

[18:00] | [/oscon2004] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Mon, 26 Jul 2004

Monday Tutorials

The Monday tutorials were a mixed bag.

My first tutorial was about object oriented programming in PHP5 was less about PHP5, and more about teaching PHP4 people what object oriented programming is. I didn't learn much, and had a hard time convincing the PHP5 guys that the polymorphism in PHP5 is awkward and wierd. Oh well... its not like its a real language anyway.

The second tutorial, about advanced topics in the Python core framework was very good. It was a great overview of tips and tricks for writing Python, as well as a long brain dump of killer third party Python apps. Paul Prescod really knows his Python. It really got me fired up to use advanced Python a lot more.

[18:00] | [/oscon2004] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Sun, 18 Jul 2004

you do not TALK about bike club!

Michelle is back in Seattle this week, so I decided to spend my Saturday night with Alec on his Saturday Night Bike Ride. Thirteen people showed this week, and we probably biked around 50 miles around the city... It was pretty high speed too...

We started at the Minneapolis U of MN campus, we went to St Paul along the river, blasted through some trails by Fort Snelling, meandered into downtown St Paul, and crossed the High Bridge.

At that point it was about midnight, and Alec wanted to head back to the King And I for a cocktail and a snack... but the group wanted to keep going, and claimed to know a great way to Minneapolis. Well, we went along the west bank of the river for a while, and wound up in Mendota. Not the most direct route Id say... we didn't get back to Uptown till 2:30 AM... of course, Chuck getting a flat didn't speed things up any.

Most of the trails were pretty dark. Luckily Alec brought two headlghts, and let me borrow one. That was a lifesaver, literally! We were really close to home - barely a mile - and wouldn't you know it... I took a nasty spill on the greenway. My left leg and arm are a bit banged up, but that's life when you bike everywhere!

I hope to be able to do it again sometime... but I'll need a bit of time to heal first...

[13:00] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Sat, 17 Jul 2004

finally up and running with PyBlosxom

I finally got some spare time to set up PyBloxsom on Alec's site this weekend!

Im still working the kinks out, but I got it to format the blog posts just the same way that the rest of my site does. I also whipped out a little web based Python script to allow posting via the web, and output the dynamic data to static HTML files.

It amazes me how publishing static HTML pages is such an afterthought in so much blogging software. How else could a small site POSSIBLY handle any traffic?

Anyway, Ive moved some of the news items over to the new PyBlosxom format, and will hopefully set up the 'articles' section to use the same architecture. Lots of people out there have nifty plugins for PyBlosxom... maybe I'll find something I wont need to totally rewrite ;)

[16:00] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff

Thu, 01 Apr 2004

Wedding Update

The wedding is near! Well, three and a half months. We're doing the invitations now, and trying to tie up some of the loose ends before we start to panic.

Go to the wedding homepage for more information.

[12:00] | [/diary] | ### | Brian 'Bex' Huff