This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

October 2005 Archives

October 31, 2005

A Townie's Tale:

Wha be tha blake prevy lawe

That bene wantoun too alle tha feres?


Ya damne righte!

Wha be tha carl tha riske is hals wolt

Fro is allye leve?


Konne ye?

Ars Technica's tour of the new Microsoft Command Shell. MSH is a big deal for me because I think the lack of a good shell, and a feeling that I couldn't integrate third-party shells the way I wanted, is part of what drove me away from Windows. But that was four years ago. If I were a Windows user today considering switching (to Linux or Mac), I wonder if MSH would be enough to get me to think twice.

October 26, 2005

Jason Scott, director of the BBS documentary, has announced his next film project: Get Lamp, a documentary on text adventures.

Two Ruby links from Jim: Using the Ruby Development Tools plug-in for Eclipse. Locomotive, a self-contained Ruby On Rails development environment for Mac OS X.

October 25, 2005

WSJ's video iPod review says what we're all suspecting, that the new iPods are great looking, have higher capacity than previous models, are astonishingly thinner and have bigger screens, and their video feature is cute but not the portable video player of the future. It also notes, like we're all noting, that Apple is not making that big a deal of the video feature, all things considered, for obvious market reasons: compelling content is not yet available, partly because it's too early and partly because The Media Industry is deeply scared. Also, it's a pain in the wrist to hold and stare at an iPod for the duration of an episode of Lost.

The article neglects to note that this is yet another foot in the door for TV-over-IP and podcasting to overtake The Media Industry in delivering content to people.

See also Ars Technica's thorough inspection with photos that really send home how mind-bogglingly thin the new model is compared with the previous models.

Also: iPod nanos are even smaller than they look in the TV commercials. But you probably already own one by now.

Via Boing Boing: The Bell Labs CARDIAC cardboard computer simulator. More photos and info from Mike Gunderloy.

Time Magazine's list of the top 100 English-language novels since 1923.

A selection of one-star customer reviews of the top 100 English-language novels since 1923.

On 1984 by George Orwell:

Don’t listen to anyone who tries to distinguish between "serious" works of literature like this one and allegedly "lesser" novels. The distinction is entirely illusory, because no novels are "better" than any others, and the concept of a "great novel" is an intellectual hoax. This book isn’t as good as Harry Potter in MY opinion, and no one can refute me. Tastes are relative!

October 21, 2005

Only because I had a temporary notice up yesterday about it, I'll mention that my site outage has finally been resolved. Dreamhost had performed a long overdue but inevitably problematic major upgrade to their server software for their shared hosting plans. I, and as far as I can tell a handful of others, subsequently could not run any CGI scripts. Static pages and PHP scripts continued to work. The cause: stricter suEXEC policies, and broken Apache configuration for some users involving which Unix groups are permitted to run scripts. An understandable problem with a straightforward fix, and expected in the light of the nature of the upgrade.

It's a problem that it took over six days, and repeated support contacts, to fix a very serious site outage for a customer. I don't think I've ever had a customer service response faster than 48 hours, which is a little disconcerting, and for this one, the first two responses neglected to take the problem to a complete resolution. But for the fewer-than-a-dozen outages I've noticed in over 8 years (!) of being a Dreamhost customer, this is the first outage I've seen that wasn't caused by something that would set off their pagers (hardware outages, massive power failure). DH has room for improvement in their processes and their software, but they're such nice folks, and they're so cheap, that they continuously win out over my abortive attempts to self-host on a box in my basement.

No points this round, but I rescind the Punishment By Blog temporarily enacted during the outage. It's just good to be back.

October 13, 2005

The Seattle Public Library now has digital collections online. SPL card holders can access OverDrive (including audio books), Safari and netLibrary collections.

Lots of DRM involved, of course, and Mac users have no options for using the audiobook collection or books only available as Mobipocket eBooks. Many print titles are available in Adobe eBook form, and Adobe Reader is available for Mac. I was able to "check out" a book from OverDrive, which uses Adobe Reader whole-hog for DRM purposes. I assume I have to "check it in" again in order to free up an item in my 6-item quota, but I'm not quite sure how to do that.

I can't get netLibrary to work at all with a Mac, with Safari (the web browser) or Firefox, despite having Adobe Reader installed. (The AR 7.0.1 updater said something about fixing viewing inside the Safari browser, which is what netLibrary tries to do, but I couldn't get it to work even after the updates.)

The Safari collection can be read directly in a browser, no reader and no "check out" required. The site is a bit slow, and every clickable thing reloads the entire page (on purpose?), but it's otherwise useful and good to have. This is probably the only benefit I'll see from this for a while, and then only because I have a use for referring to technical books online. It's an excellent complement to SPL's aging technical book collection.

The LASSIE Adventure Studio lets you build LucasArts/Sierra-style graphic adventure games using Macromedia Director and Flash. It's free for non-commercial use (though Director and Flash aren't).

October 12, 2005

Catholic Church no longer swears by [literal] truth of the Bible. Check out the "not true / true" synopsis at the end of the article for a handy reference. (Making fun of the article, not the Church. This is quite cool.) (Thanks Rebecca.)

Google Reader, an RSS reader. It's nice! I might actually use it!

Yahoo! Podcasts.

October 11, 2005

Ask MetaFilter: 529's and saving for children. (Thanks, Matt.)

Deskzilla is a desktop client for the Bugzilla bug tracking system. It's commercial software ($99) from someone other than the Mozilla Organization, but it's filling a need.

October 10, 2005

Dr. Stephen Hawking will be presenting at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle on November 16th.

TurboGears, a rapid web development framework for Python. Seems like there are a bunch of full-stack I-can-write-blog-software-in-60-seconds just-like-Ruby-on-Rails-but-for-Python projects out there (Django, Subway). TurboGears gets attention because instead of re-inventing the whole deal, it combines several existing open source projects with useful glue.

October 7, 2005

Sarah Michelson's "Daylight," a fancy dance and art installation, is playing at On the Boards in Seattle, through Sunday. The Seattle Times has a review, and On the Boards is collecting audience reactions from members of the OtB community in a sort of blog. The audience-on-stage thing works surprisingly well. To the extent that you're interested, it's fascinating. To the extent that you're annoyed, it's short. (I wasn't annoyed, but some were, and that's on purpose. Tip: Sit in the back row.)

The lone dancer on the mainstage that stares at the stage-back wall for much of the beginning is my mother. Go Mom!

October 4, 2005

Standard Data Vocabularies Unquestionably Harmful, how forcing standard vocabularies degrades data and introduces potential for fraud.

Zimbra appears to be an e-mail and calendar package with a gorgeous web-based client, and a server with a web services interface. Existing clients are supported for the standard mail features. There's some Microsoft Exchange interoperability here, too, though I can't tell if I'll be able to use Zimbra at work right away (not?). The Flash demo of the web client is impressive.

Zimbra is making their core technology open source, and using an open source development community to build and polish the product. It sounds like this is mostly for the interoperability pieces, a great idea.

Speaking of office apps in a browser: Writely, The Web Word Processor.

October 3, 2005

Raymond Carver on why he likes the short story form. (Thanks Rebecca.)

Cyan re-hires everybody, presumably due to a new source of funding and a new project. Weird.

mimetex is a small, self-contained program that can generate images for mathematical equations from LaTeX math mark-up. It can even run as a web service, serving a GIF given mark-up in the URL. I'd say it deserves a Builderoo plugin, but it almost solves that use case on its own. (I'll make one anyway, because not everybody can afford to have every math equation generated on every page load.)