The Internet Vagabond

Disjointed Thoughts

I'm on vacation this week, which is pretty grand. Thus far I've accomplished one of the 4 rather meager goals I set for myself, played plenty of games, caught up on some reading and videos and feeds, and slept in far later than I should have. In doing the reading, primarily an article on 'Wait, But Why' about Elon Musk [ link ], I found my mind wandering across a few different thoughts, that I felt were worth jotting down, though I couldn't imagine dedicating an entire post to; paragraph-worthy thoughts. So, let's just throw them all together!

Thought 1: Chef and Automation

The aforementioned article speaks a lot of the idea of a chef versus a cook, and how we should all aspire to be chefs. This coincides mostly in name alone, but also by proxy with Chef, the configuration management software. We've been implementing Chef at work, and I dabbled in it a bit here and there. Actually, the primary impetus behind learning Ruby was Chef. A solution Chef was supposed to provide was the opportunity for automation. On the surface, I was onboard. Once I learned more, I cannot agree with Chef being the proper tool. I should preface any computer-related topics I discuss with the disclaimer that I find the Unix Philosophy very appealing, that I believe that efficient tools don't need fancy GUIs or complicated philosophies or use cases, and that the terminal is a very beautiful place. Chef's use is as configuration management: ensuring that all hosts managed by it are kept synchronized. With respect to automation, this means Chef is ideal for placing the automation files onto hosts, ensuring they're current, and accessible. However, when it comes to automation, I think a different tool is required. My initial thought is using SSH to run the remote commands. I've got a bit of a crush on SSH. I think it's an incredible and powerful tool. I think the combination of Chef for configuration deployment and SSH for remote execution is a pretty dang good couple.

Thought 2: Ayn Rand and Objectivism

I have taken an unfair and rather ignorant position against Rand and her objectivism. I can all but blame my father for the position, since as an angsty teenager, hearing him support something, however slightly, meant I had to disagree with it. That being said, my experience of Rand is probably the same as many other Americans: I read a few of her works in high-school, promptly forgot about it, and then learned via blog posts and Wikipedia what she was all about. Even writing this I have a bit of a sour taste, formed by biases developed in ignorance. I have decided to test my assumptions, by reading and analysing Rand's works and philosophy first-hand. Look forward (or don't) to a post specifically on Rand, her works, and her philosophy. Just... don't wait up for it. This one will take me a while...

Thought 3: Developments

A few projects I've been working on that have excited me.


I love IRC. I think it's still the most powerful chat service available, and doubly so for technical chat needs. I can certainly understand why HipChat or Slack is chosen over IRC, but I can't agree with the decision. Regardless of that battlefield, to better make use of IRC, I am creating a bot. Thus far I've built it using Cinch [ link ], but I think in the future the goal will be to refactor Cinch out in favor of my own code. Nothing against Cinch, but the fewer dependencies the better. The one unavoidable dependency is Gearman, which is a distributed job system. Gearman allows me to have a bot written in Ruby, but execute shell scripts natively without exposing a shell, and without tying up resources. This is very useful considering the purpose of the bot is mostly for operational information, such as host health, network quality, and even automation. It's been a very fun process thus far, and I look forward to continuing to expand and consider functionality.


My dotfiles are like a beautiful garden secluded from the world: fun to work on, but generally fruitless. In a continuing effort to remove any unnecessary dependencies, I have resumed my investigation into using Make to manage my dotfiles. I found a fantastic article detailing self-documented Makefiles [ link ] and some assorted sources of others using Makefiles to manage their dotfiles. I'm quite excited about this development, because it means my dotfiles should be deployable across any Unix platform.


I find myself writing a decent amount of documentation at work. While speaking with co-workers about this, and pondering why documentation is often so lacking, I've decided on the following conclusions: documentation is tedious; and documentation is hard. I've been mulling over the idea of a documentation engine build on git and leveraging GitHub technology. When I think about documentation, I like comparing it to programming: documentation is just code in English. If you follow my premise, then it's perfectly reasonable to expect the same services for documentation as we have for code: linters, style guides, builders, automated deployments, pull requests, etc. Git (and GitHub) already provide version control, which should be essential for any documentation engine. Build on top of that services which hook into the repositories, and I think documentation could be made significantly less tedious, while considerably more standardized, accessible, and useful.

Thought 4: Guild Wars 2

I really enjoy Guild Wars 2. However, one unfortunate thing is the state of my favorite class, warrior, in the standardized player-versus-player format (sPvP). I've been thinking a bit about how to improve warrior, and I think I've come up with some interesting ideas. On the off-chance that someone from ANet finds this post, let me here and now give you full permission to use any and all ideas related to GW2 as you see fit; considering it in the public domain. My favorite warrior, WilsonStorm, once quipped that warriors don't have any fancy magic to do their stuff with, they just hit things. I like this summary: the warrior is a martial master, who relies on pure physical capabilities and eschews any magical help. With that in mind, I would propose the following 3 major changes:

  • Embrace the Adrenaline
  • Make Stances Like Attunements
  • Make Banners Like Spirit Weapons

Embrace the Adrenaline

I would like to see more functionality provided by default from adrenaline. An example would be decreasing weapon-skill cooldown based on the level of adrenaline, 1 second less per level of adrenaline. I like keeping some functionality in traits, though, because it encourages build diversity and can force critical decisions.

Make Stances Like Attunements

Not as in they become F1-F4, but in the following sense: Only one stance can be active at a time, activating stances provides an ongoing lesser benefit, and activating the stance again provides a temporary significant benefit but ends the stance. Let's take Berserker Stance as an example. In its current iteration, it gives you adrenaline every second, and resistance every 3 seconds, for the duration of the stance. In my revised iteration, you would activate a stance, and have a passive benefit plus a new active option. So, you activate Berserker Stance and start gaining adrenaline every second (while in combat). Then you can activate it again to gain resistance (say, 3 stacks every 3 seconds for 6 seconds). This would remove the passive benefit of Berserker Stance, and put it onto cooldown. However, you can only have one stance active at a time! So, say you were in Berserker Stance, and suddenly you wanted to be in Balanced Stance. By activating Balanced Stance, you would deactivate Berserker Stance without using it's active ability, putting it onto a shorter cooldown than normal. As part of this change, I would probably revisit what each stance does as well, since some wouldn't properly fit into the new format.

Make Banners Like Spirit Weapons

Again, not exactly like Spirit Weapons, but drawing similarities. First, instead of banners being bundles summoned at a location, they would provide an aura around the warrior when activated. This would be visually apparent by the warrior literally having a banner on their back. Each aura would do what the current banners do, but would be centered on the warrior. After being activated, the banner skill will flip to a secondary skill similar to how Spirit Weapons flip after being summoned. This would be the previous on-summon ability. So, when you activate Battle Standard, you start eminating the passives to everyone around you for the entire duration. After being activated, Battle Standard flips to a secondary skill that is the AoE revive. Unlike stances (and just like spirit weapons), multiple banners can be active at once, so the passives could need adjustment, but probably not much. The only downfall to this is the loss of the banner as a bundle/weapon, but I can't imagine many people actually use it as such.

I think the really excited thing about these changes would be the build potential. Consider a build that uses a stance and a banner! There's suddenly actual use for banners outside of niche builds or one-off uses in dungeons! Stances and banners actually require planning and tactical usage rather than reactionary button-mashing to break stuns or revive team mates! And warriors gain much-needed viability in a team, due to providing buffs to team mates, and better damage output.

Bill Niblock 2016-03-11
[ technology gaming ]