I hate my blog

15 10 2010

I really hate my blog. I’ve always struggled with my online identity. Should I be funny? Should I be serious? Who knows. Guess it’s a little bit like real life.

Not that I don’t like blogging. No, on the contrary, one thing I can tell you is that blogging can really help you out.

The best advice I’ve ever heard is to try to take your feelings and put them into words. Whether you share them publicly is your choice or not, but it’s nice to struggle through a complicated thought and come out on the other side with a better sense of clarity. A blog can be your ally in doing that. Depending on your situation, it can really help you solve a difficult issue. I’m a firm believer in the format. It’s good promotion, too, assuming you are careful about what you express.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’d like a real bona fide thing that says, “this is who I am,” that isn’t vulnerable to some opportunistic rant that could show up in the Google cache some years later.

The age of the homepage seems to have died. It used to be you’d get an angelfire or geocities account and build some crappy circa-1994 thing and push it out there and tell people that’s your homepage. Now it’s blog, blog, blog, which is cool, but doesn’t provide that biographical feeling (and can really catch you at an awkward moment without the context of who you are).

After working 11 days in a row (mostly by my own choice), through my somewhat bleary eyes and short-tempered stupor, I feel like maybe this is a good time to give it some thought. What would my ideal online home look like? What would it have?

Would there be a text area? Video? News? Something interactive? What would I want to put there?

I almost feel like my ideal blogging situation would be a bit like Twitter or the Facebook feed … you know, there’s various kinds of activities. There’s the things you’re reading, the things you take pictures of, the things you write in 140 characters or less … oh, hey, there’s Tumblr for that. I think my big gripe with Facebook is it’s kind of ugly. It is, however, highly reliable. No fail whales there, Zuck.

So look for some updates to come as I hash out my thoughts. Chances are, I’ll be putting them into words right here.

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Not the Night Before Christmas Anymore

25 12 2009

OR: BUSTA X-MAS RHYME, YO!

Nerditor’s note: This is an unauthorized, potentially troublesome parody of “The Night Before Christmas” that you can read and love in its original format. What you’re about to read is a twisted, nasty, naughty, weird version of the traditional feel-good holiday poem with a little modern techie spin. I originally posted it on Twitter in 140-character-ish spurts. Some parts were omitted for brevity and to prevent mass-unfollowing from taking place, and so that I could finish by midnight ET for all my peeps on the Atlantic side of things. This is the uncut, unaltered, un-neutered, uncircumcised, mano a mano version of the parody. Enjoy.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Every keyboard was stirring, each mouse in the house;

We updated our facebook stati with care
In the hopes that likes and comments soon would be there.

The children wore snuggies pulled over their heads
But the copyright folks said to call it a ‘sleeved blanket’ instead.

Pa in his wayfarers and ma in her Uggs
Could not get to sleep without aid from drugs;

When all of a sudden, snow fell and the cold grew bitter;
I decided to post photos and update my Twitter!

But first, Windows told me to update my Flash,
Had to restart my system and empty my trash;

Lawnchairs, grills, flamingoes covered in snow
Gave warning that Jack Frost wanted to nibble my toe;

When what to my wandering eyes did appear
But a schmaltzy TV pitchman and eight robotic reindeer;

He wore a funny hat, his personality lively and quick
I asked him his name, he said it was Nick!

More rapid than eagles, Nick’s sales pitches came
And he whistled, and shouted, the robotic reindeer names!

“Now, Crasher! now, Necromancer! now, Hacker and Stricken!”
“On, Grommit! on Blooper! on, Blunder and Chicken!”

So up to the house-top the robots they flew,
With geeky griffin-like wings of metal, and Nick, too.

Then, in a ring-a-ling-a-ling, I knew a text had come.
Felt jolly buzzing in my pocket, so I typed with my thumb.

I’d asked, “Yo Santa, wat r u gonad bridge me?”
“Hot hoo hoo,” went another typo-ridden T-X-T.

CUT: [[[ Let’s skip lengthy description of Nick’s jelly belly —
The rosy cheeks, smoky wreaths, reindeer breath so smelly … ]]]

He stayed pretty chill though ash covered his suit and loot;
This North Pole pro’s hair was perfectly coiffed to boot!

A plethora of thingies he had stuffed in his sack,
And he looked like — was — a peddler opening his pack.

His CrackBerry — how it twinkled! his iPod how merry!
The LED’s were like blinking roses, iPhone case like a cherry!

His troll-like mouth was drawn up like a bow,
His ears pointy and Spock-ish and all logical, you know.

He wouldn’t stop smoking despite pleas to the contrary,
And just kept puffing away so much that it was scary.

He had a cute little face and a clear-cut beer belly,
Like a pregnant man with a dude-womb full of jelly.

He was stocky and big-boned, which is code for “chubby,”
But I wouldn’t say he was quite on par with a Teletubbie.

With twist of the radio dial and a pounce on his touchpad,
He chuckled a bit at the gumption of those yo-yos at NORAD.

[[[END CUT]]]

The Northern sales-lad worked quietly to not be a jerk,
Giving free samples of things we don’t need — such a perk!

I shuddered when he put his finger in proximity to his nose
Fearing he might be in H1N1’s throes.

As he veered for the chimney, I missed him like whoa,
But I knew he had peeps to see, places to go.

With the sound system cranked up, the sleigh flew out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all,” he said, “Cuz this Saint Nick’s jammin’ tonight!”





The value of civility

4 04 2009

Honor and civility have their place in this dog-eat-dog world we live in. I firmly believe that you must keep your head high no matter what, and you can’t stoop to any level. Sometimes it’s hard to live up to this ideal, but you have to try. Conflict is a chance for communication and greater understanding.

People on the Internet, and in many facets of society, often fail to realize that others are just like them. Some are just trolls. But in many cases, a would-be enemy can be turned into a friend.

Case in point, a few days ago, I received a heated comment on one of my flickr images expressing offense and disappointment at the title. My first urge was to retaliate. How dare he? Upon closer examination, it seemed that the person was probably reaching out (in their own way). As much as I wanted to give this person a piece of my mind, I decided to change the title and then initiate a conversation with this fellow. I think now that I have made a new friend.

This was a strangely profound experience for me, however miniscule in the scheme of things.  I wish more people would just calm down and take a second to listen to each other, and that goes for myself too. Indeed, by being understanding and assertive, we can turn enemies into friends and the opposition into allies. This is not to paint a rosy view of the world (as I am extremely well aware of the many inequities this world brings), but only to emphasize that even when it is difficult, the only way we can move forward is together.





Andy Warhol was a bit generous

29 03 2009

Rain, rain, rain, there you go again, messin’ up my plans
Ruinin’ my day of fun best as you can
I think it’s fair to say that I’m not your biggest fan
But I always make do in these gray hours, best as I can.

ONE of my favorite new rainy-day activities is 12seconds.tv, a new site that we are using. You get 12 seconds, not 15 minutes, of fame. That is, if the community likes what you do. For me, I feel like if I’m going to ask other people to submit videos, I sure as heck had better be submitting videos, too. So submit I do, and I’ve had a modicum of success. It’s good to know what it feels like to submit your work and be part of an active community. Hopefully this experience will help me do better at my job. Also, hey, the site is lots of fun to use and I really enjoy trying to stretch myself and see if I can respond to the silly and thought-provoking challenges. Good times!

Here are some notable pieces I’ve done so far:

So check it out. Also, Muse rules. Oh how I love your sweet sounds.





Someday, the Internet will be a virtual world.

23 07 2008

It’s going to happen. At least, I kinda hope it will.

One day we’ll log onto the Internet and we’ll be able to customize our view and our environment to suit us. It will be a virtual world and we’ll operate within one tiny sphere of it.

The closest physical embodiment of the Internet is the universe, because the World Wide Web is bigger than any one of us and already may indeed be bigger than this planet. Someday we will explore beyond the earth and the confines of a single rock in space will not be big enough to hold all the information we possess.

The Internet could be represented as a field of stars, with sites occupying planets and being grouped into galaxies, solar systems and the like. In the case of an errant supernova, nearby orbitals would of course not be affected.

We’ll travel between these faraway places using what I would best describe as “spaceships” (guided by maps of course) and we’ll explore planets using transit provided on the surface and by exploring via flight or foot. Generally the “planet” idea will be mostly a representation, as only a small portion of the planets will be inhabitable, if at all. The concept of scale comes into play here, too; Second Life takes place on land because it has to be walkable, and comparable to something from the real world. In this universe, scaling is a challenge.

Some data bits from older Web sites and such will remain as searchable pods. With existing search technologies, we’ll be able to read the Metadata of planets and pods and orbitals and satellites and such and find our way around much the same was we do the current Internet.

The Web will still exist as a data-only form, but increasingly, sites will have a virtual form. Older sites will be grandfathered in and posted into pods. People will give up their cheesy “homepages” and opt for houses like you see in Second Life. Information will be presented in browsers and displays similar to what we already have, but the browsers will integrate seamlessly with the environment.

Multimedia will be an afterthought; we’ll have built-in chat, video and music capabilities that far exceed what we have today. The whole system will be upgradeable, modular and open-source; you’ll be able to view the Internet as you like and even put skins on it so it looks like what you want: the universe out in space, an aquarium with fish, a golf course.

The idea as I see it is to take current information and make it viewable in the virtual world, while at the same time creating virtual-specific environments. Information will be classified as nuggets in a hierarchy that is standardized and compatible with backwards standards. Programs will emerge that will either define or work within the confines of these standards. Many different services will do battle, and only a few will emerge as victors.

In order for a plan like this to work, the Internet from circa 1993 should work seamlessly alongside the Internet from Now.

The current vision of the virtual world, as a sort of fantasy life that is separate from the real world (and at the same time very similar) will continue to be valid, but will operate as its own society within the greater virtual society. Specialization will grow in the fantasy worlds and they will cater to certain kinds of clientele. The greater virtual world will serve as a pathway to steer people to where they want to go, and a platform upon which sites will create their own environments. Second Life, for example, would seamlessly integrate with the greater virtual world while remaining separate from it. Sites like Facebook and such would be emulated in a virtual form and people’s personal sites would be a matter of choice.

Where to start? The first obstacle is technology, and then comes old habits. Perhaps a virtual world like Second Life is the future, or perhaps something else is. It’s hard to tell what will happen, but something will happen to visualize the Internet.

The first step, I think, is coming up with a way to quantify the current Web. Perhaps sites could be viewed as fish in an aquarium. The trick is to have a virtual world that operates within these parameters and is searchable — enough to make the head spin — and is compatible. This world cannot be owned by one company to survive. It must be open-source and malleable according to different developers’ involvement. Innovation, while occasionally painful, will be required.

Why do I think about these things? I should go to bed now; a long day awaits.





Building Facebook apps? Good luck…

18 05 2008

They’re annoying, they’re mystical, and they inspire a false sense of self-confidence like no other. They’re Facebook apps. You look at them and go, yeah, I could do that. Or, you get so overwhelmed you don’t even want to try. I decided to keep my expectations low (a smart strategy I’m finding) and see if I can do sappshotomething very basic and no-frills. The happy medium between changing the world and doing nothing.

I got a self-hosted Facebook app working, shown at left, and it is totally functional even though I am/was using PHP4 on my server space and Facebook generally requires PHP5. It’s a sample app that Facebook provides, but it was a big step for me. Here, I’m going to outline the process that I went through to get started building Facebook apps.

GoDaddy server space is a little unique in the way it’s set up and the way that Facebook apps interact with it. I’m still in the process of reconfiguring my space, and I’m also encountering a technical problem accessing phpMyAdmin (WYSIWYG MySQL database manager, as opposed to command-line) so development is limited to non-database projects at this point. The techie ticket is out and hopefully they’ll fix it soon…

developer pageBefore you do anything, join Facebook and get the Developer app on your profile. Make a new application and fill out the minimum of forms. This will get you an application key and a secret, which you’ll need to do anything. This is also where you can get sample code and link your external program to Facebook once you’ve got something to test. The apps usually won’t work outside Facebook. You can also set up a test profile (follow the guidelines) and find information on the Developers Wiki. Here’s a page that goes into more detail.

So if you want to get started doing the bare minimum things that I am doing, here is an outline of what I did:

  • Make sure you have a Web host set up. GoDaddy is the most ubiquitous. The server should be PHP-compatible. On GoDaddy, make sure you have a Linux server and NOT a Windows server.
  • Make sure you have MySQL database capability on your Web host (or on your computer if you’re developing on your own space) although this is not necessarily needed for all programs, such as the first example that I ran. You will need it to do more advanced things, however, that require file I/O.
  • Find out what version of PHP you are running and upgrade if necessary. PHP5 is preferable. PHP4 can be worked with, but requires an extension. I built my first app in PHP4 but am upgrading to PHP5 now for simplicity’s sake.
  • If you have GoDaddy, make sure you’re aware of what upgrade level you’re on. I just switched from v. 1.0 to 2.0. In the latter case, I plan to run some tests and then edit my .htaccess file to ensure that PHP5 is the default, rather than PHP4. GoDaddy can run both versions concurrently, and this has caused problems for some Facebook developers.
  • Obtain good FTP software, which is a fairly obvious point. I’m using Classic FTP on Mac OSX Leopard. It’s quirky and doesn’t always preserve tree structures when I try to move directories, so I often have to move files over one at a time. This is a messy process and produced errors for me when I installed the PHP4 extension, which has complex directory structure. Yet another reason to upgrade to PHP5…
  • Create a directory on your server that is devoted to Facebook projects.
  • Download the client library and footprints [test app, requires database] example. You should have three folders: client, footprints, php4client
  • If you’re using PHP4, download the PHP4 simplexml extension
  • Copy the PHP4 extension folder you’ve downloaded (titled simplexml44-0_4_4) and paste it so it is nested INSIDE the folder-directory called “php4client.” Do not change the name of the extension folder.ftp shot
  • Use FTP to transfer the client, footprints and php4client folders to your facebook folder on your server and verify that the folder trees are accurately copied. I encountered weird situations where folders that were supposed to be on the same level ended up nested within one another.
  • Create a new folder for the test app at the same level as client, footprints, php4client
  • Generate a file called “index.php” from the sample code on this page. You’ll have to click the link at the bottom. Add your API key and secret into the code.

  • On the line that says to require once facebook.php, check the path for accuracy. In the case of how I did it, I had to set it to say require_once ‘../php4client/facebook.php’; so the system would know which facebook.php to look for (the old-school version) and also to know how to navigate the directory tree structure. If I’d had PHP5, the “php4client” would have been “client” instead in the path.
  • Save the index.php file you’ve been working on and use FTP to upload into the test app directory that you have created.
  • Go the the FB developers page and EDIT SETTINGS for the app.
  • Set the “callback URL” to the directory where index.php is located. (The system will automatically look for index.php) — use the whole URL, including your domain.
  • Set the canvas URL to the URL of your app. This is the directory name, be it “scrabulous” or whatever. Just type one word in the space, it’s pretty obvious what you’ll need to do. Your app URL will then become http://apps.facebook.com/%5Byourcanvasurlhere%5D
  • Visit the URL that you’ve created and see if it works. It should. If not, check your files, tree structure, code, PHP version, file names and server settings. It took me a long time to get this working.

Hopefully that helps demystify the process a little, or adds more questions than answers. But this worked for me and hopefully it will work for you.

The next lesson, once I get things figured out, will detail how to create databases and build a simple database-based app. Or else I’ll go over basic coding techniques and modifications to the above app. We’ll see how the tech works out.





Flickr allows video posts!

12 04 2008

peeps test video on flickr And this is what I do with it… it’s not easy to embed, though. The code I grabbed showed up as a white space. I had to just grab the thumbnail and link to the video, which is the old way of doing things…

I like this feature though, in terms of my own personal use. It’s helpful for those times when you have good photos and video but the vids don’t stand on their own. YouTube, it’s not, and it’s not trying to be. (Here’s the other mini-peeps-production)

The story behind this video? It’s an outtake from Monty Peeps and the Holy Grail. I started working on it over my “spring break” in the PHX but didn’t do much with it. I filmed the parts up to approaching the cute bunny, but I haven’t finished filming the elements featuring the bloody battle.

The yellow Peep chick is the bunny, and the purple thing is actually a lavender-colored peep. I stuck a straw in its side to serve as a sword, and the paper stuck through the straw is a “shield.” It’s kind of a hack job, but I thought it was kind of amusing.

I tried to put it together with Windows Movie Maker on my old PC that remains at the parents’ house, but the stop-motion segments combined with the video were too much for it and the whole thing kept freezing up. I’m wondering if iMovie will handle this any better. (I’m now a Mac user; hell hath frozen over. I love my speedy, agile little MacBook. It even runs Second Life. I’ve never seen a PC that could do that, other than a Dell XPS upstairs at work.)