Category Archives: IT

Galaxy Chart in D3

When I first started working in for the Deputy CIO for Business Process & Systems Review, I was exposed to a data visualization called a “galaxy chart“. The version I saw was developed by Technomics, Inc., who (interestingly) do a lot of work for my former organization, PA&E (now CAPE).

While Technomics seemed to claim (when I met them) that they “invented” the galaxy chart, I think this is probably an overstatement, since there seems to be plenty of prior art.

Anyhow, I built a D3 plugin for a galaxy-chart layout.

Example galaxy chart

Example galaxy chart displaying a view of the United States Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2011

Most cryptic error message of 2014

My work computer (Windows 7 Enterprise) informed me today with a sad red “x” icon that:

Provider could not perform the action since the context was acquired as silent.

This is now my favorite error message; just barely edging out the message from 2003-era Windows ME which informed my girlfriend that she should contact her system administrator.

How to apply an Open Source License to a US Government Work

This article is also posted to my Intelink blog.


Every so often, a government project manager asks me a question like this:

I’m looking to hire some government guys and I’m interested in young folks hacking on [my project].

So, here’s my predicament:  if they work on the code, their work becomes ‘public domain’ and not something that could be restricted by licenses (at least according to some legal advice I’ve been given).  If the work is the in public domain, I have no way of ensuring that someone won’t take the code and sell it back to the government as their own (because they could modify it and put a proprietary seal on it).

Here’s my question: is there some legal structures that can be put in place to restrict modification, use and distribution like typical software licenses for government-created works?

Here’s some ways this has been done before. Continue reading

…the hope that Congress will recognize a “moral obligation”…

This article is also cross-posted to my intelink blog.


Part of the Antideficiency Act (codified at 31 U.S.C. § 1342) reads as follows:

An officer or employee of the United States Government or of the District of Columbia government may not accept voluntary services for either government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. . . .

I have heard this admonition at various times in the context of Open Source Software: if the government cannot accept “voluntary services”, then presumably it cannot allow people to volunteer to write open-source software for the government. Maybe it can’t even use open source software, since it was either written by volunteers or at least licensed for use voluntarily…?

These concerns are, of course, completely wrong, as I will endeavor to show:
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my reverse-proxy

UPDATE: There is a followup to this post.

Various people have asked me about my reverse proxy server, which I alluded to previously.  I’ve used Apache mod_proxy, and perlbal, but now I do it with a 50-odd SLOC node.js program, which leans heavily on node-http-proxy.  It’s too ad-hoc to be worth posting to GitHub, but its possibly worth describing for any other node.js types out there.
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