The Chronicle

of a ColdFusion Expatriate

Shadow IT Is the Canary in the Coal Mine

June 13, 2015

In the early 20th century, long before “information technology” was a phrase anyone had heard of, coal miners brought canaries into the mines with them because the birds, being warm-blooded and more sensitive than humans to most environmental effects, would become ill from carbon monoxide or other toxic gases found in the mine long before the miners would, giving them a chance to escape or take protective action.

Such “animal sentinels” saved many lives by acting as an early warning system for dangerous conditions that the humans could not sense themselves (carbon monoxide in particular being entirely without scent), and the phrase “canary in the coal mine” came to be used as a general term for something that provides a signal of danger.

“Shadow IT” is a term used to describe systems put in place within organizations without explicit organizational approval. A very simple example would be some team deciding to use their personal Google Docs accounts to track project data in spreadsheets rather than Microsoft Office documents on an internal file share. Shadow IT is generally perceived as a security or privacy risk because the organization doesn’t have the access and auditing controls built into approved solutions.

Nevertheless, Shadow IT is a sign of danger. It’s an indication that approved solutions don’t meet all of an organization’s needs. It should be treated not strictly as a departure from the acceptable path, but as a strong signal that existing solutions are inadequate.

Evil Mode

June 03, 2015

“Evil Mode, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Emacs”

That was the title of the talk that I gave at the Boston Vim Meetup group. As you all may know, I was a Vim user for 15 years and I’ve been attending the Boston Vim meetups for quite a while, so this was an interesting experience for me.

I think it might be an interesting experience for you, too, so I’m posting the video here so you can all enjoy it in the privacy of your own homes!

Don't Be Typecast By PHP

May 25, 2015

When I tell people I meet that I am a PHP developer, it’s not too unusual for them to scoff or even laugh. In spite of PHP’s enormous popularity, its unflinching support by the unstoppable Facebook engineering machine, and its continuous and impressive improvement as a language year after year, many people in the software industry are openly derisive toward PHP.

Don’t let PHP’s own reputation sully yours; don’t let PHP itself typecast you.

In television, film, and theatre, typecasting is the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups.

Wikipedia, “Typecasting (Acting)”

You are more than the language you use, or even prefer. Moreover, the language you use usually has very little to do with your success as an engineer, or even the success of any business using it. Let me give you some advice.

From Vim to Emacs in Fourteen Days

May 24, 2015

Yes, my friends, it is true. After more than fifteen years using Vim, teaching Vim, proselytizing about Vim, all the while scoffing in the general direction of Emacs, I’ve seen the light. The light of Lisp… Or something.

If, like me, you’re curious enough to give Emacs a try, this post should help you get off the ground.

It’s taken me at least the fourteen days described in the title, but with my help it should only take you two or three. There are some things to get used to, some new paradigms, and you have to learn a bit of Lisp (Elisp, actually), but don’t be afraid, it’s not that hard.

Learning to Love Emacs

January 17, 2015

It would be safe to say that I’m a Vim devotee; a follower. I own more than one t-shirt with Vim “stuff” on it (one bearing its logo, another the image of “HJKL” key caps). I’ve spoken at local Vim meetups, I subscribe to Vim-related lists, I’ve casually urged people to switch from Sublime Text to Vim at the office and a few actually did.

For me, saying that I use Emacs or, heaven forbid, advertising it through wardrobe choices, feels like an act of high treason.

Still, it is true. I’ve been secretly using Emacs for the past few months, exclusively. I have told a few people at work and all of them, without exception, literally gasped. That’s how broadly I had advertised my love of Vim. But it’s time now to explain why I switched and why you should think about switching, too.