Monday, April 30

I'm sitting at an empty row of ancient IBM PC's in the library that serve as e-mail terminals (connecting to a Linux server somewhere or another where people can run Pine). Fortunately, I can also get to a shell, which means I can do pretty much anything...

Took my computer home today, which is why I'm sitting in the Library at 11:00 typing this. It's not that I really have much to say, but I figure I'm on a roll. Probably be a mistake to let this slide again.

I think that perhaps I'll go read through my Biology notes, there being a final tomorrow and all. Then again, I could just go read a thick fantasy novel for an hour or two.

Real content later, I promise. Maybe.

tags: topics/technical

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 30

Sunday, April 29, 15:05 CDT

Happy b-day, Gul.

Well, in about 5 minutes, I'm going to start my take-home final for drawing, then perhaps think about the homework and extra credit project due tomorrow... Might as well update this first, though.

I just stumbled across something that looks like it might be Very Cool - Squeak is apparently a cross-platform Smalltalk implementation that, from a cursory inspection, does some really impressive stuff. To be more specific, fire it up and you get a sort of desktop with some text windows which lead to all sorts of interesting little demos - a built in graphics framework, music support, 'net tools, etc. Apparently you can share and publish stuff over the Internet, and treat code you write almost like a web page. It's also free software.

I haven't spent any real time playing with it yet, and I know little to nothing about SmallTalk, but for anyone who remembers HyperCard with any fondness at all (or has heard me enthuse about it), this looks worth checking out.

Lake Effect, one of the half dozen or weblogs I skim relatively often, has a new design that uses nothing but CSS for layout. And amazingly enough, it's completely readable in Lynx, which would definitely be untrue of the hideous mass of tables that would otherwise be required to achieve the same effect... Yep, this is definitely a good idea.

S'pose I had better go do that test now.

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 29

Sat Apr 28 00:59:35 CDT 2001

(Can you tell I was too lazy to type a date? Come to think of it, why put a date in the entry at all? Might as well let the script do that...)

Ever heard The Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus? Good stuff. Aside from the bit with Yoko Ono wailing, but I suppose everything has to have *some* flaw.

Coolness. Stephen's updating again too. Must be something about this time of year. :)

Gul, if you're still reading this, I'll e-mail ya one of these days. Been too long...

I'm at home for the weekend, as usual. Spent today chainsawing, cleaning up brush, and pulling nails out out of a roof we're going to cover in tin. (Which sucked largely because really old, moss covered wooden shingles produce some incredibly nasty dust when you stir them up on a windy day. I'm still not breathing right...)

I think I'm sunburned.

One more week of school. And then, Summer.

Summer rules.

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 28

Thursday, April 26, 23:50 CDT

Having downloaded the recent Opera, I have to say that this remains (despite the obnoxious banner ad thing in the free version, and the obvious fact that it's not open code) one of the best pieces of software I've ever used. And the mouse gestures? To my surprise, they not only work - they do so extremely well. Calling any computer interface intuitive is a little dishonest, but this is quite clearly one of the closest things I've ever seen.

Anyway, reading a little bit more about gestural interfaces leads to all sorts of cool stuff. Apparently, there're at least a couple of projects to implement a gesture based interface for the X Window system - LibStroke, a library that looks like it should soon have GNOME support, and wayV, where you can also find a bunch of links to nifty interface related stuff.

I look forward to trying more of this stuff. It seems like an advance (granted, it's been around for ages, especially in games, but it's not widely used elsewhere) in interface design that's both useful and potentially practical for a great many applications. Something that could (and I think will) actually improve the software we use dramatically. Sceptical? Opera is a paltry download - less than 3 megs - for an all-around excellent piece of software. And then there's Black & White, the playing of which is not exactly a hardship. Why not give one of them a try?

Apparently, there's a

Thursday, April 26, 21:59 CDT

Why I still occasionally read /.: Opera for Windows apparently now supports a gesture based interface - if you're not familiar with the concept, this means that moving your mouse in a certain pattern actually issues a command.

I once would've thought such a system less than practical, but after playing Black & White for a few weeks, and having used a Palm PDA for a few years, I'd say it's actually high time this sort of thing spread to more interfaces.

A strong contender for the coolest thing I've ever seen on an official book site: Neil Gaiman's journal on the American Gods site.

(The other contender for that title would probably have to be the copy of In the Beginning Was the Command Line on the Cryptonomicon site.)

Thursday, April 26, 11:59 CDT

Yet another nearly perfect day, and I'm done with classes... Life is good.

Think I'll head home and mess around outside for the rest of the day. Should probably take some stuff with me... Next week is finals, and then we're out of here.

I should really call network services and get the token ring card pulled out of this machine, but somehow I'm loathe to give up my bandwidth... Still, I suppose a week more or less doesn't matter much. It would probably good if I had less incentive to spend time plugged into this box. Or at least that's what I'm thinking after spending an hour last night trying to think of anything to do besides turning on the computer.

I downloaded an ISO CD image of Progeny Debian, a commercial Debian distro that looks sort of interesting. Might give it a try one of these days, or just get Debian's unstable tree on CD...

And now everyone in the room is arguing over what a capital cursive Q looks like...

Ok, I'm outta here.

tags: topics/debian, topics/linux, topics/warelogging

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 26

Wednesday, April 25, 23:42 CDT

I finished The Death of the Necromancer... Decent, I guess.

Wednesday, April 25, 13:04 CDT

I think I've decided that kuro5hin just isn't worth all that much of my time. It's not that it doesn't have both content and quite a few intelligent people putting effort into it. It's just that nearly every time I actually read any story or the discussion on it, I find myself frustrated rather than, say, enlightened, challenged, or even mildly amused...

I'm fast coming to the conclusion that what I really want out of the 'net communication that I participate in, despite my love of a good argument, is not a steady flow of disagreement over nearly every possible human belief or idea. Weird as it may seem, I want to find things that I have in common with others. I'm not talking about glossing over genuine differences - just building something on what you do share, without raging endlessly at what's different.

At any rate, it is a surpassingly beautiful day outside, and I fully intend to go make the most of it in the hour remaining before my drawing class starts and I have to find a way to salvage my rather badly begun final project.

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 25

Monday, April 23, 23:53 CDT
I'll bet you thought I wasn't going to update this today.

Well, you were wrong.

So I'm still sitting here running Windows 98, the World's Most Utterly Mediocre Operating System, having resigned myself to it for the remaining week that I actually have network access here. You use a lot of telnet sessions and cygwin shells, it's semi-tolerable. And hey - it does run Black & White.

Next year, this dorm'll be on Ethernet instead of Token Ring. Which means I'll have network access under Linux with about 5 seconds of fiddling - and on top of that, I can buy a cheap ethernet card and not worry about turning my baby here over to Network Services to have one installed.

I bought Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti the other day. It's a double album, including seven tracks of more than 5 minutes in length. We're talking a lot of material here, little of it besides Kashmir heard in radio circulation, or much of anywhere else for that matter.

This is Good Stuff. The kind you listen to straight through, stopping only long enough to change CD's. Which is not to say that it leaps out and grabs hold of you immediately. Aside from Kashmir, Houses of the Holy, and the beautiful little acoustic piece Bron-Yr-Aur, it's all taking me a while to get used to. But then that was true of II, III, and Presence, all of which I now listen to in fairly heavy rotation. Still need to get Led Zeppelin I and Coda, after which I think I'll have all the studio albums...

Also got The Who BBC Sessions, the second half of which (at least) pretty much kicks ass.

I here repeat my assertion that web comics will be the salvation of the medium, even as newspaper comics pages continue their slow but steady journey towards complete mediocrity (we'll just forget that I probably mentioned User Friendly) Further, I offer actual evidence that I might just be right:

And, on a tangentially related note (related because I noticed this link over on Penny Arcade), check out Armagetron, the spiffiest lightcycles clone I've ever seen (think Tron).

tags: topics/technical

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 23

Sunday, April 22, 20:48 CDT
Well, the new design's still pretty tentative, and it has yet to spread beyond the front page, but it's a start.

I've discovered two things about stylesheets. They're rife with potential, and they tend not to work like they're supposed to. That said, I'm going to use them anyway. There're just too many possibilities not to, and they fit nicely with my feeling that pages should be coded in dirt-simple HTML that renders acceptably in anything more advanced than telnetting to port 80 and typing GET.

That gray box you might or might not be seeing over to the right, for example - it's just a paragraph with some special formatting applied, which means that even if your browser doesn't do CSS, nothing much is lost, and I never have to use a table for layout again.

(My current stylesheet (brennen.css), in case anyone wants it. Not a very good example file, I'm afraid, but I'd like to turn it into one.)

Anyway, where do I start here? Going over everything worthy of mention that happened since I last made much effort to update this would take a painfully long time. I'll try to hit a few highlights anyway, in no particular order:

Somewhere in there, I went to a concert in Lincoln - Oleander, Fuel, and Three Doors Down. Oleander was passable. Fuel tore the roof off. Three Doors Down played reasonably well, but they couldn't match the sheer intensity of Fuel's performance. My ears took about a week to stop ringing. Many more concerts, and I'll be as deaf as my dad - and if I get another chance to see Fuel live, I'm taking it, hearing loss or no.

I've been doing depressingly little offline reading since I started school, but I did manage to finish The Prydain Chronicles, by Lloyd Alexander. Yes, they're juvenile or young adult fantasy, or some such classification, but they remain very much worth the reading, in order. Taran Wanderer, the second to last in the series is an outright masterpiece, and The High King, the inevitable cataclysmic Good vs. Evil conclusion finishes things off beautifully.

I am officially addicted to Black & White. In many ways, this may be the coolest game I've ever played. Whenever I finish the single player story mode (actually probably the weakest element of the game, and still impressive), expect a review, but don't expect it any time soon. I'm having too much fun just messing around.

The Sioux City Public Library's book sale (towards the bottom of the page) is going on right now, which means one of those rare opportunities to indulge my bibliophilia with relatively little cash outlay. Among other things, I've found copies of:

  • Martha Wells' The Death of the Necromancer, which I'm about halfway through - sort of a gaslight era alternate world urban fantasy with undead minions of darkness scurrying about. It's good, but I get the impression it's a sequel, and I'm not enjoying it quite as much as I think I should be, if you know what I mean.
  • The Golden Key, by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott, which I hear is good, despite the three authors and a hefty pagecount.
  • O'Reilly's Whole Internet Guide, a revision published in 1994. Talk about a nostalgia trip.
  • The Adventure Game Book, which appears to contain a map and walkthrough for most of the great classic text adventure games, starting with ADVENTURE itself.
  • Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity
  • Most of Doc Smith's Lensman series, which I've been wanting to read for a while.
  • Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials - very cool, even if it does clash with my own mental images of some classic SF aliens.

I spent a couple hours standing in the rain today, watching UNL play rugby against, I think, Northern Iowa. (My cousin Beau plays for Nebraska.) I've only watched three or four of these games over a couple of years, but so far I'm noticing a disturbing correlation between rugby and the occurrence of rain, cold, and gusting wind.

Looks like Saalon is doing the journal/weblog thing now. And doing it better than I am, too. And after everything I've taught him... Ingrate.

Think I'll go fiddle with my update script... Need to get it to spit out lists of archived updates and so forth before I actually show anyone the code. 'course, it'd probably be good to clean it up and document it so it looks less like something written in BASIC by a 10 year old with a sketchy grasp of cause and effect...

tags: topics/iowa, topics/midwest

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 22

Thursday, April 19, 5:57 CDT
Heavy changes underway. Perl and CSS are fun (and pretty much unrelated, other than in how I'm going to be using both of them here pretty quick).

Ya know, it's been a while since I stayed up this late | early.

p1k3 / 2001 / 4 / 19