Metapost Changes

03.36.36 - Mark

A few months ago I restarted my metapost feature, built a working version (as opposed to a nonfunctional heap of code I had when I first tried building the feature), then set up a cron to run it every day. At the time I think I was probably going to be writing more articles, talking about cool things, the way I used to run this site. If that had been done, daily bursts wouldn't have been a bad thing.

But obviously that didn't quite happen.

There are reasons why, which shall be written, just not in this little note. So since the metaposts have been showing up like crazy I decided last week to make it a weekly occurrence, rather than a random day. Methinks it'll look better with the blurbs I've been doing on them as well. Course a tweak here and redesign there, it's always adding more things to change on this site.

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22.07.42 - Mark

Since moving from Iowa to North Carolina, the winter thing largely disappeared. It gets chilly, but the winters around here don't create iced over ponds good enough for skating. Snow is almost equally absent, the few times it shows up (at least a bit off the mountains) accumulations seems to be fractions of an inch. Today however 3 inches isn't hard to find, and a foot or more is still predicted. It's truly lovely.

So while the snow is still falling, I'm reviewing some of what I did building this site. While the "disconnection" from the internet is easily blamed for the lack of writing, the reasons for some of my content disappeared in other ways. A variety of reasons I effectively stopped reading though a pile of RSS feeds (but now redeveloping), custom blogging tools I've honestly forgotten about until looking over my code. And while this code has remained working for years, I quickly fixed a few after yesterday's post (like removing the 19 empty archive pages that that post triggered), but I have a number of more bugs to iron out. Good thing I still enjoy coding.

The other little bit I've rediscovered is mess of changes to some of the online tools I had been using to help. I had forgotten Feedburner was purchased and moved to Google (admittedly well before I paused blogging), and my list of RSS feeds used to be backed up on NewsGator Online, but they shifted their goals and I apparently was supposed to have moved my list to Google Reader. Easy enough solutions to fix, just a bit surprised that I missed those changes.

Oh well, I suppose I've got a few more spider webs and dust to clear off this site.

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5 Years?

10.48.08 - Mark

In most cases, I could care less about a website/blog/podcast/vidcast anniversary of any sort, and off hand I couldn't tell you the "launch" of my various excursions into owning and caring for a personal website, other than I think it was around 2000 or 2001. I couldn't tell you off hand how many videos I've made and posted (tho' I've only done one audio show and that, thankfully, is mostly buried), but I noticed a few days ago that I started this blog thing on blogger 5 years ago today after getting tired of managing almost daily posts on the old static site by hand, so Happy Birthday blog-like entity.

If I keep it up, I might get decent at this blaging thing...

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Something Else I like about Dreamhost

16.22.17 - Mark

I've hosted my various sites at Dreamhost since December 2004, and despite some hiccups and screw-ups (some more serious than others, but none of them lingering) I've always been happy with the service I'm getting. For about $120 a year I get more than enough resources for my various personal projects (and have taken to hosting some stuff for friends and family for free under my account) especially since some of it's insanely easy to set up using Dreamhost's control panel. It's hands down better than some of the small hosts I've known, and easier to use than some of the other big hosts I've used. To top everything off they (and by extension my websites) are carbon neutral too. I'm convinced that they're hard to beat if you want some personal web space to play with.

Plus the user friendly tools they offer are always useful. The latest one I've found really has me happy - an online flash video converter and player. I've thought about setting up a streaming flash video player for my videos for a while, but the process of converting my files to flash video files was a little intimidating, and I'm not a big fan of flash in the first place so setting up a player wasn't very appealing either. But since Dreamhost will do both, I'm actually getting it done (Even the converting is enough to make me happy). I still need to queue a few of the videos and add the player code to the site, but I'm going to try and have streaming videos up by the end of the weekend.

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Giving into Twitter

00.34.25 - Mark

I've been more or less ignoring Twitter since it's start up buzz at SXSW last March, partially because I didn't see it as being useful, but also because I'm a big fan of keeping control over my content. Getting onto facebook several months ago to keep in touch with some friends started to show me the usefulness of "microblogs". When my cell phone got upgraded to a text messaging plan a few weeks ago I started a twitter account (maybe the last geek on earth to do so...), and I've started playing with twitter. I'm really starting to like it. Sort of.

Being able to send off short what I'm thinking kind of messages is great, and sometimes I have something I want to share without writing out a lot of detail (or filler content) For that purpose Twitter is great. I need to upgrade some code, but I'll probably tie my twitter account into this site, and I'll be even happier.

What I don't like is seeing this rehashing of the A blog is this, a blogger is that, here's a commenter, and over on that stone tablet is a list of things you now can and can't do. I've seen this same useless diatribe in Are you Twit or Twerp and the 10 Commandments of Twitter (both via Dave Slusher)

I've sat through insanely boring meet ups at blogging / new media conferences where a handful of orating idiots argue definitions and language, and use, and whatnot for hours on end and three things happen. 1) Nothing is decided or agreed upon 2) Nothing useful is said 3) Everything is ignored by everyone (especially by the general public, and except the orating idiots)

Rather than pay attention to stupid arguments over usage and language, or the seemingly regular attempts at analyzing twitter from the outside, I'm going to use a free online tool in a manner that suits me.

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Let's try this again.

00.45.56 - Mark

Every once in a while I get it in my head that I'm going to do something useful with my flickr account. This tends to result in a bunch of photos being uploaded over a day or two, followed by months of casual disregard. Its not that I don't like flickr, just that I was using the limits of a free account to justify not uploading there. I'm going to try and do better because I've now upgraded to a "pro" account, and I'm not a fan of wasting money.

I've been making it a pretty regular feature to post a photo on these pages, and that will continue since I like doing it, but this isn't a photo of the day sort of site. Life aggregator would be a good term since I've been posting the movies I've watched, the books I've read, and occasional links I think are worth sharing.

We'll see if this works. I love sharing photos, but there's that feeling that posting my stuff onto flickr helps flickr (and by extension, Yahoo) and not this site (and by extension, Me)

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Clearing out the undergrowth

13.51.11 - Mark

My RSS feed reading has been on and off for a few months. Part of that is flaky hardware, most of it is the mess of RSS feeds I try and keep up with. Up until this week I've been keeping related feeds together. All the news in one folder, all the blogs in another. It was a tangled mess and my irregular reading left a lot of dead feeds in the system next to some hyperactive feeds reporting hundreds of unread posts. When I was browsing feeds half the time was finding the good feeds with information I wanted.

Last week when 43 Folders posted a tip on organizing feeds by the value of the source rather than the topic I set it aside to use as a guide line for sorting out my RSS mess.

I'm not 100% done with the sort and toss, and I've got a folder filled with broken feeds, but I can already tell the new system is working for me. I'm staying caught up with my low signal to noise ration feeds, nearly caught up with middle of the road feeds, and I'm almost comfortable with ignoring everything I have ranked below that threshold. It feels good to have organized feeds again. Which I suppose means I need to stop putting off some of my planned code updates for this site...

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Stuff I Make (and sell)

02.34.14 - Mark

Blogging has been light recently, part of it's being lazy, part of it is working on other websites, part of it is some light changes I made to this site last week.

Some of the cooler or more useful items I create here are going to get passed on to a Goodies section. We'll see what direction it takes, but right now it's a mini store for my Raven Knob panoramic. I'm also making my web development a little more visible but linking to my portfolio. I need to update it, but I've got other projects that need more attention

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I'm on MAKE

18.28.34 - Mark

Clear Airport Basestation MAKE linked to one of my older hardware hacks today. Always cool to see a spike in traffic for a project page, especially the older ones. It looks like a number of the visiting Makers are exploring other pages too. Kind of wish I'd gotten around to updating those pages some. It's been a year or two since I really touched the homepage.mac.com/g3head stuff

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Green Hosting

01.51.23 - Mark

Green Web Hosting! This site hosted by DreamHost. Dreamhost, my hosting company of choice, is now carbon neutral. As nice as carbon credits are, they're not a replacement for renewable/efficient energy sources, but I can't fault them - they are running a hosting company. An interesting side note is they are also taking steps to reduce their resource requirements by buying more energy efficient servers and taking other measures at their offices. Still green hosting - I'm happy.

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Coding mode.

23.50.15 - Mark

Funny how time disappears when you're working on a project. I'm juggling a couple small site designs and a renewed effort towards one of my own web 2.0-ish side project. I want to think I'm getting close to opening it up, but there are a few things that still need ironed out (which is important) and an unending list of features I'd like to add. Fortunately it's a web app and I can constantly release upgrades :)

My secret web project

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Much ado about nothing

14.38.41 - Mark

The web is making a big deal about the planned dreamhost outage over the weekend, and I'm not quite sure why. I've been hosting at dreamhost for over two years, and in that time I've suffered two significant outages - this weekend's building repairs, and the LA blackout in 2005 and only a handful of short downtimes. Only the LA blackout was a concern to me since it was the only one that I actually noticed. In a year, I'd be pushing it to say that I'm suffering more than 8 hours of downtime. 99.9% uptime is fine with me.

Rogue Amoeba has some good things to say about webhosting, but it's from a business point of view. As a software company, they need to have a site online 24/7, they need it to be fast and secure, otherwise their sales will suffer. However as an individual, with a couple of small projects, or, having recommended Dreamhost to friends and clients I've built sites for, a small business, 100% uptime is not only superfluous, but expensive. The Rogue Amoeba posts says they pay about $1500/year on a hosting solution they feel gives them 100% uptime. At dreamhost, I'm paid up though the end of this year and for three years of service, dreamhost has taken less than $200 of my money, and it averages out to under $5 a month. If the difference between 100% uptime and 99.8% uptime (a maximum of 16 hours of downtime/year) is $100 a month, I can live with my site being down for a few hours a year.

If I felt dreamhost was at fault for any of their downtime, I'd probably seriously look at moving my hosting elsewhere, however I feel confident that Dreamhost isn't at fault, and that they are constantly taking steps to improve their service.

My Dreamhost referral link, if you want to try out dreamhost yourself.

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