May 2005

Musings31 May 2005 02:37 pm

I love sarcasm.

By the way check out the new YM, damn they just keep adding shit, its like nuclear powered with lasers…

Lifehacks31 May 2005 11:37 am

Now I am not saying I use or advocate using P2P tools/networks for downloading anything other than say…Porn. But if you do perhaps indulge in a bit of the downloading… well check out PeerGuardian2. It blocks IP address for known monitoring agencies of P2P networks. Once agains the arms race heats up. Then again you could just use Waste and stop using the public networks all together.

Gaming&Projects27 May 2005 01:09 pm

So I know I have been silent here for a week or so, I have been busy with some releases. The first of which has been for work, but the second one is the topic of this post. PCGen. PCGen is an open source project that I have been working on for a number of years that is used for making characters for pen and paper RPGs. After a year of work, the team has finally managed to release a new stable version, and it has been a long and hard road. I work on software as a job, and I maintain connections to a number of open source projects, and I have to say, I think getting a stable release out on an open source project is much harder then getting one out in a professional environment.

Open source projects are very difficult to lead, because there are so many people that participate, with so many conflicting goals. Add to that: If your project is used by a business, especially if the business makes money doing something related to your project, even if you are unaffiliated with that business, you can expect regular and constant flame wars erupting. (I might add that normally the people who are most opposed to commercial involvement, and a “business stealing from the project” are people who have contributed absolutely nothing, and thus personally have nothing to be “stolen”). So this results in substantial amounts of our resource time going to fighting fires instead of working on the project.

The last big thing that makes releasing a “stable” release on an open source project is that it’s very hard to make a release good enough to go out the door. This particular issue is IMHO one of the strengths of the project. As an engineer it’s very hard to predict what will be important to your users. If you have constant feedback from your community, you can see how things break for others, and it means what you release in the end is far better.

All in all, I have learned a ton in the last year about how to have a leadership role in an open source project, which I’m gonna need this coming year, as the changes we are implementing in pcgen over the next calendar year are going to be very deep, structural and profound for the project. Hopefully the experiences of the last year has taught me and the rest of the team a lot.

Futurism24 May 2005 07:39 pm

Most people will be familiar with the Long Now foundation. Some people may have missed (like I did) the Long Bet. Essentially this is a website that allows people to make bets about future events, if they win their winnings are given to a charity of their choice. Its a neat system and makes for some interesting reading. People bet on everything from the length of the future work week to the likelyhood of AI.

Movies20 May 2005 03:07 pm

I enjoyed the latest Star Wars movie. I really did.

But the question I have to ask everybody is this – is there any dialog from the movie that you will remember two weeks from now ? I know there is not a single line from that movie that I remember at all. Not a one. And while that is not a complete measure of a movies utility I think it is a damn useful metric. Now ask yourself the above question about the old movies. I bet you can think of lots of great dialog, some of which has since been incorporated into your social group’s slang. Now how is it that the Revenge of the Sith made so much damn money, yet I am not going to remember anything substantial from it next week. ?

Personally I would have liked Lucas to focus more on the characters and Annakin’s fall to darkness rather than all that damn CGI.

Lifehacks&Web18 May 2005 04:43 pm

So my compatriot is using the GTD Tiddly Wiki to try and organize his life and notes, but I have taken a different wiki road. The GTD Tiddly Wiki certainly has a lot of eye candy, and can be very easy to use, but I am finding I need a more featureful solution to dealing with my notes about umm, well, everything I do. So I chose Mediawiki. It has a lot going for it:

  • Easy to install (if like me you have a web server running linux. Gentoo makes installing mediawiki a breeze)
  • You have access to it from anywhere, using anyone’s computer
  • You don’t have to worry as much about losing your data. A server is easy to keep backed up. When is the last time *you* backed up your thumb drive?
  • Rock solid – this is after all the software that runs the gigantic Wikipedia.
  • Support for media – so I can upload related photos/drawings/other media and attach that to my notes.
  • Lots of good patches are available, like the one I installed that lets you make pages private.
  • Running this on a webserver means it’s simple to make any part of it accessible to other people – and you can give them accounts if you want to collaborate with people on an idea.

Course, now the software engineer in me wants to do all sorts of stuff with it, which is always dangerous. Ideas so far include finding a way to integrate it with Gallery, and writing a wiki that allows Game information to be stored in a wiki – with privledged accounts for referees/GMs, and accounts with lower permissions for players.

Hrm… Wonder if I can write a plugin for PCGen.

Design17 May 2005 05:27 pm

I have been mulling over the concept of design patterns as applied to life and societal problems. These would be patterns that humans use over and over again to solve problems, most any sort of problem. The first, perhaps most basic pattern that I have been contemplating is the concept of “Make the invisible visible”. This concept will form the nucleus to the solutions we arrive at for our most serious interpersonal and societal problems. Bold words I hear you say, well yes, but think about it. If you except the idea that most people when presented with the actual information about a given situation will make a choice in keeping with the ethics of reciprocity then you can’t help but conclude that presenting the actual information to the relevant people will net a solution. Now this grossly simplifies most problems and therefore their solutions, however it is also true that most of societies and peoples interpersonal problems come down to the choices they make regarding their actions in their sphere of influence.

Lifehacks13 May 2005 01:00 pm

Another damn thats cool moment. These seem to be happening more and more lately.
This time I ran across another clever tool intended to help implement the GTD system. It is a clever little one page personal wiki. At first I was confused with the simplicity of this tool. I kept looking for the application to download, the zip or the exe. And I never did find it, instead I finally got it, all this clever little tool consists of is a single large HTML page (114k!) that can modify its own contents. It uses some slick javascript to be pretty and functional. I am going to keep a copy on my USB keydrive and use it to keep notes, todos, goals, links, etc. With periodic check-ins to SVN for backup this will rapidly become a very useful little tool.

Design&Futurism12 May 2005 02:16 pm

I have been saying for a long time that the solution to humanities energy needs is not going to be one single technology. Rather a constellation of technologies that all complement each other, solar, wind, tidal, thermal, nuclear, etc. Well a version of solar power I have been watching for some time is looking as if its going to come to the commercial market soon. It works very differently than traditional photovoltaics. It uses a Stirling engine and a solar collector to pump heat into the engine and from there a generator is turned producing electricity. Based upon a 1000 MW power plant the cost per kWh would be about 6 cents.

Given that the average cost of power so far in 2005 for residential users is 8.49 cents per kWh I think we are now ready for solar power.

Additionally technology like this must become our mainstay for power generation for a variety of reasons

Lifehacks10 May 2005 12:33 pm

Part 2 of my series of articles on how to tame the mass of paperwork and other crap we have to deal with in the modern age.
Here is part 1.

I guess I’m a true child of the computer revolution, because I am *far* more comfortable as to what to do with email then I am with snail mail. I hate mail, and not just a little. For years, I have had issues as my mail comes in, and forms piles on any horizontal surface (or as metauser calls them, “horizontal shit catchers”) in my house. These piles form as I don’t really want to take time to meticulously file them, but some of this mail *could* be important, so I keep it. Thus, piles on top of all my horizontal shit catchers. I decided last month that I had had enough of this, and I deployed a new strategy designed to combat the snail mail trails that were being left everywhere.

This strategy needed to meet the following criteria:

  1. Quick and as easy as leaving the mail in a pile on one of my horizontal shit catchers.
  2. Must be easy to find stuff if I need it in the future.
  3. Needs to highlight action items

So after some thinking, I came up with a strategy that seems to be working pretty well a month later. You need the following items:

Take the file folder, and set it somewhere that is easy to get to, preferably on the surface you currently toss your mail onto, so that you can leverage the existing habit. Set the magazine holder next to the file box. In the file box, you want a folder for each important subject, plus 1 hanging pocket for misc mail, and one more for receipts (if you want to store receipts as well). When you get home, toss any mail that you don’t want to deal with on top of the file box. When you are ready to deal with it, grab the mail and the file box, and then sort through the mail. You will likely want to file things related to certain subjects on their own (for me it’s mortgage, home owners association, and retirement accounts). All other mail either goes in the hanging pouch or gets thrown away when you are done with it. Many letters get tossed in unopened, but really, you should try to at least *look* at most of the mail that goes in the random mail pouch. Any things that are action items you toss into the magazine holder. If you want to keep receipts, toss them in their own hanging pouch.

The end result is that you have a box for each year with essentially everything that is important to that year in it, and you have no snail mail trails on your horizontal shit catchers.

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