Nostalgia and excitement

…seems the best description of the last few days.

Friday was a big day for several reasons. We:

  • started building FF3.5beta99 (build#1)
  • aborted FF3.5beta99 (build#1) after a blocker was found, and started FF3.5beta99 (build#2)
  • pushed FF3.0.11build#2 to beta users
  • started building TB2.0.0.22
  • oh, and moved office.

The first four would have counted as a busy day. A really busy day. Add to that the contingency planning to make sure that we could still be ready whenever we finally got the “go” to start FF3.5rc1, regardless of when the physical building move really happened. Both FF3.5rc1 date and building move date changed quite a bit, so we just made plans for the worse case – doing it all on the same day. There was some last minute changes to the contingency plans when we added FF3.5beta99 to the schedule late last week.

While I dont normally like respins, in this one case, I was happy for the FF3.5beta99 respin, as it suddenly gave us ~3 hours before we would need the signing machine again. So, Aki, John Ford and myself quickly moved the mobile devices from Aki’s desk, and the signing machine keymaster out of the server room, into two cars, and drove over in careful slow convoy to the new building. Thankfully Aki thought to put all the mobile devices into a portable guitar base pedal case, which made it “easy” to carry.

(Healthy paranoia caused *me* to carry keymaster, and the signing keys, so I would deal with the consequences if it got dropped in the move. )

…although keymaster looked too unsecured in the back seat like that, so Aki sat in the back, and physically held it for the drive.

Earlier today, I went back to Building K, tracking down some loose ends. It was weird and nostalgic walking around the ghost of the empty building all by myself. Its been my home-from-home for the last two years, and it was surreal to see it all empty like this.

ps: if anyone knows who this crutch belongs to, could they let us know?

Big tip of the hat to Rhian, Chris Beard, Karen, Erica and IT for a phenomenal job on all this. I’ve done moves like this in previous companies, and there’s always a million-and-one loose details. But they seemed to have everything all calmly taken care of. Quite amazing!

Interesting commuter driving on Golden Gate Bridge

This morning (06:50am 28-nov-2007), a commuter went unconscious while driving her sport utility vehicle on the Golden Gate Bridge. With the sole-occupant driver unconscious behind the wheel, the car swerved out of its lane, and towards the oncoming traffic on the other side of the bridge. Another commuter reacted quickly, used his pickup truck to force the still moving sport utility vehicle away from oncoming traffic and over to the side of the road.

[Link to full story on]

Quick thinking and very nice driving.

BBC TopGear in a Bugatti Veyron

The folks in BBC TopGear do it again. Bugatti claims the Veyron is “the fastest production car in the world”. The basic stats of the car:

  • fastest car in production in the world
  • 1,001 horsepower
  • 8.0L w16 engine (they stuck two v8 engines together!)
  • 4 turbochargers
  • top speed 253mph / 407kph
  • and 10 radiators, to stop it all overheating!
  • more specs on wikipedia

So, of course, the folks from TopGear ask the real question: Does it actually go up to that theoretical top speed? To find the answer, watch this! (its ~9mins video clip). Amazing well put together snippet, good camera work, music. Even if you dont care too much about cars, you should watch this because of the production quality. And, well, if you’re interested in cars, its even better! Just dont try this at home!

UPDATE:TopGear and YouTube are playing “whack-a-mole”, taking down different copies of this video clip, but its being reposted by fans as fast as they take them down. Search for “Top Gear Bugatti Veyron”. Its 7min40sec long and starts with a black Veyron on a rainy road with the voiceover saying “Vlad the Impaler is back”! Dont look at any shorter video, as it will ruin the ending!

UPDATE: BBC’s TopGear stopped playing “whack-a-mole” and now have, as well as an official TopGear channel on, each with great clips from various shows.

(john; 14nov2009)

Paris Car Culture

Obviously local environment, and local culture, influence what people look for in car design and car usage. After living in California for 9+ years now, and then arriving in Paris for a couple of weeks, I found the car culture differences between Californian cars and Parisian cars quite amazing. More then I realized from previous trips.

  1. Tiny streets, tiny parking spaces. By tiny, I mean that villages in West of Ireland have bigger roads. Simply fitting your car down these narrow one-way streets, with parked cars lining each side of the road is a challenge in a small car. VW Golf counts as big. Very common here are Smart Cars, small, fast, practical city cars, and the fact that there are some made in France is probably helping too.
  2. Expensive petrol/gasoline – hence an interest in hybrids. So what new, thats all the rage in California too, right? Well, then I spotted this. Turns out that electric cars have reserved spaces throughout Paris, and the parking meter includes a recharging plug for the car!

Sidewalk cafe, watching commuter traffic in Paris

Commuting back from the office on a brisk winter Monday evening, as we were coming out of the metro, I saw a sign “Commuter special: Belgian beer + plate of chips 5euro”. Interesting retro designed cafe, right there at the very top of the metro steps. How could we resist? Perfect place to sit while we decided what to do for dinner. Two minutes later, we are sitting at an inside table in the cafe, looking out the window at the traffic, sipping our beer, waiting for the fries and contemplating the day at the office.

Looking out the window, I realized that the cafe was on the corner of a couple of streets, with evening rush hour traffic in full swing just the other side of the metro steps. It was all behind us as we came up the metro steps, so I could only see the surface roads now for the first time. Slowly, I realized it was a 7 road intersection. And a complete free-for-all.

There were no lights, no stop signs, no yield signs, no roundabout in the middle, no lines in the road. Just a large empty space where 7 roads meet. So, for example, cars zipping through from R.duTurbigo to R.Beaubourg had to duck-and-weave around cars going from R.Reaumur to R.Bailly. (Click on street view for better perspective). It was all done at a fast pace, with no indicators, no horns, no squealing brakes, and amazingly enough, no accidents! It just looked like a busy smooth flowing intersection, until you looked in detail and realised that there was no stop-and-go in the flow because there were no lights controlling any cars entering the arena. All of the 7 roads seemed to have similarly large volumes of traffic, adding to the whirling dance-of-hubris feel.

In a nod to practical reality, at least the city planners explicitly did not paint any road markings in the center of the intersection. At first, I thought that added to the hazard, but I later changed my mind. Beats me what way they could have painted lines, anyway, even if they wanted to. Honestly, I now think that if they had painted lines in the intersection, that would give people a false sense of security, some sense of “what is right, what is wrong”. Instead, by leaving it completely unmarked, all drivers were equally on edge, equally unsure of his right-of-way status, which is probably the best you could hope for. Each road connecting in/out of the intersection was painted correctly, but when they reached the edge of the intersection, the road-line-painters just stopped.

Once the initial surprise wore off, and I stopped wincing at some of the near misses, I noticed some interesting details:

  • There was a traffic island on the NorthEast corner, so cars going from R.duTurbigo to R.Reaumur had to do a U-turn around the island, all in the middle of the arena. It wasn’t painted, had no signs/bollards, so was easy to miss in all the excitement, yet no-one hit it.
  • There were pedestrian crossings all over the place. Mostly, they were near the edge of the arena, and conveniently blocked from sight by advertising billboards on the sidewalk. This meant that a driving zipping through the intersection had to also be prepared to stop suddenly at the zebra crossing if they turned the corner and found a pedestrian right in front of them. And the car behind had to be prepared for that also!
  • Occasionally, a car would weave through the arena to reach its chosen exit road – only to realize that it was the wrong exit road! At that point, they just stopped and reversed back into the arena, until they had a clear shot at the correct exit road. They would then swing forward to the correct exit road and leave. This happened 6+ times while I watched, and no-one even honked at that.

Despite all the duck-and-weave driving, there were no accidents over the course of the beer-and-chips. Not sure what it says about the standard of driving in Paris, the same situation in Ireland or the US would have been a complete demolition derby disaster. If that cafe ever setup a streaming webcam, it would be well worth watching! I left the cafe, carefully looked both ways before hurrying across the zebra crossing, and vowed to never drive in Paris!