What I Did On My FoRK Break

Jeff Bone jbone@deepfile.com
Fri, 14 Mar 2003 10:38:14 -0600


Since I've been around these parts before, I thought a short update on 
what I've been doing would suffice instead of a full intro.  Doesn't 
look like we acquired very many newbies in 2002...?

= Deepfile =

We started putting Deepfile together in late 2000...  it took until 
April of 2002 to get our venture money in place.  I think we were the 
only seed-stage venture-backed tech company funded in Texas from Nov. 
2000 to Apr. 2002.  Great thing about it, the only thing you can do 
when you don't have money is talk to customers.  We started out 
building a filesystem, narrowly dodged that bullet thanks to great 
customer input early on --- look around at all the vintage 2000 
distributed / global FS companies blowing up.

We ended up somewhere much more concrete:  high-level / semantic 
filesystem and storage resource management.  We provide a suite of SRM 
and filesystem content management apps on top of an information 
lifecycle management platform.  After getting started on development in 
April of last year, we built and shipped product (Auditor, beta'd in 
October, GA in January;  Enforcer, going into beta this month) in 
record time with a very small team.  We ship the apps on a Linux-based 
1U appliance.

Our key differentiation with typical SRM stuff is that while they look 
at the world from a mostly-physical (LUNs, volumes, etc.) level 
upwards, we look at the world from a mostly-logical, semantic, 
file-and-directory content level downwards.  This enables policy 
definition for automated storage and system management at a much higher 
semantic level than other players.  Further, we're a lot more scalable; 
  we can squeeze extensible metadata for about 500M files and 
directories into a single appliance;  imagine about "1/6th of a Google" 
in a single box.  (Okay, full text indexing is a lot more expensive;  
I'm talking extent of what's cataloged, not extent or depth of the 
catalog itself.)  Interesting rocket science under the hood in storing 
/ managing / retrieving / leveraging huge amounts of arbitrary 
metadata, some interesting solutions to combinatoric problems related 
to mapping and analyzing large graph structures.

We're having great traction, things look very good, getting our second 
chunk of venture money now.  It's amazing what happens when you 
actually listen to what customers ask for and build them a solution to 
a problem they know they have, that they MUST solve, and that they have 
budget to solve.  Much, much better than the "field of dreams" / 
"dictate the future" / "big picture" / technology-driven process we all 
thought was the right thing back during the bubble...  Yeah, yeah --- 
we all said we were "market-driven" and "customer-focused" --- but we 
weren't.

= Switched =

I bought a Mac PB G4 last year, and I've never been happier about my 
computing environment.  It's not perfect, but it's closer than anything 
else I've ever used.  My life has been split among multiple boxes (or 
at least multi-boot setups) for years;  as of February of last year, 
that's not true anymore.  Before, if I wanted to do dev I had to be on 
a UNIX / Linux box, but everything else had to be Windows.  (Grrr!)  
Now, I can run MS Office on a UNIX box, and I get a raft of right-brain 
graphics tools (OmniGraffle rocks!) and entertainment / "home 
productivity" apps, too.  And I spend less time fucking with sysadmin 
than ever before.  My entire digital life is now consolidated in a 
single, portable box.  Score!

= Moved To The Barrio =

Sold the monster dot-com suburban house I'd bought during the bubble 
but never moved into after using it as a rental property for two years. 
  Bought a much cheaper, smaller, and more modest house down in an 
inner-city neighborhood in downtown / south Austin and moved into it.  
I'm now within a couple of miles of a large percentage of the taquerias 
in Austin;  menudo or pozole for brunch on Sundays.  Brushing up on my 
Spanish.   Also within striking distance of many good music venues and 
6th street, though I have very little time to take advantage of that 
fact.  Very happy about this decision:  less is more, particularly if 
it's the right kind of less.  I was never cut out for suburban life --- 
"I can't grow old in Salem's lot" --- so this was more a matter of 
salvaging my soul than anything else. ;-)

= Cloned The Cat =

Well, not really, not yet, but...  One of my long-term feline 
companions, Arsenic aka "Girl," developed a really aggressive oral 
cancer not too long ago.  She went downhill pretty fast, and we had to 
euthanize her.  I was pretty upset about this;  she'd been a part of 
the family for almost 14 years, and she was perhaps several years older 
than that.  I was upset that I'd made a decision by fiat years ago to 
sterilize her.  This began to bother me for a couple of reasons.  
First, I'd chosen to take her out of the gene pool w/o her consent 
(obviously) and mostly for my own convenience.  Second, I was sad that 
there wouldn't be any of her descendants around my household, any 
little piece of her to provide some continuity.

I did some Googling and found a company called Genetic Savings and 
Clone, a spin-out from two projects at Texas A&M (Missiplicity, a dog 
cloning project, and CopyCat, a cat.)  Now, GSC doesn't yet offer 
commercial cloning services;  they do offer tissue banking services in 
the anticipation of offering cloning services eventually.  So when we 
had the cat put to sleep, I had that done.  I know that I'll never get 
my friend back --- in fact, the clone in the CopyCat project didn't 
even look very much like the gene donor;  apparently the egg mother's 
mitochondrial DNA in felines may effect appearance more than expected.  
(Weird.)  But it seemed to me that allowing Arsenic to potentially have 
kittens after she was gone was a nice final gesture I could make for 
her.  Or for myself, whatever.  I know this is freaky, so FU anyway. ;-)

= Got Addicted To American Idol, Wrote NikkiDial =

I got obsessed with American Idol last year.  Hacked together a little 
autodialer for Mac OS X / Linux called "NikkiDial" to help push my fave 
(Nikki McKibbin) up the ranks;  she apparently had a large part of the 
geek contingency behind her and this created some controversy.  I doubt 
folks using my little app were responsible for more than a fraction of 
the dialing traffic, but it was fun. :-)  (Gearing up to push Clay 
Aiken through this year, but it doesn't look like he's necessarily 
going to need it.)

= Late-Night Projects =

Been working on a few things over the last year.  Main one is a project 
that I call "Possum" --- a kind of RESTful knowledge management meets 
Lifestreams meets filesystem management meets wiki meets blogging meets 
Clickfeed meets iProxy meets uShare meets e-mail kinda unified 
Python-based thingy.  What I ultimately want is for every discrete 
piece of information or metainformation I produce / view / touch / use 
in some way to have a URI and to be accessible / manipulatable in 
various ways via a browser and nothing more.  I've been writing a lot 
of Python code;  I've got a little HTTP archiving proxy (leveraging 
some of Aaron Swartz's stuff), some experimental RDF metadata 
management facilities, a hacked-up PyBlossom blogging thing, some 
indexing and information retrieval pieces, and a few other bits and 
pieces.  None of this is really a coherent whole, yet...  I'm still 
doing a random walk through "what do I really want to build"  / 
requirement space.  Also been playing around with classification / 
clustering algorithms and multi-agent systems for document workflow.

= Things I Didn't Get Done =

REST / "generic interfaces" compositional complexity argument 
formalization.  Getting a blog up.  Signing up w/ Alcor.  Smart home 
build-out.  Real vacation.

= Goals For This Year =

* Continued Deepfile focus
* Get Possum up, maybe open it up
* Clickfeed Personal Edition (via Possum)
* Get blog up (via Possum)
* Alcor
* Vacation
* Steal more music

----

That's about it.  A year doesn't really look like much at that level, I 
guess...  It's been a busy year, but most of that's been work.  Been 
nice going off-list for a while, though I've got to tell y'all --- it 
took some adjusting after several years of daily over-FoRK.  As 
mentioned before, very glad to be back.

What's new around these parts?

jb