I've been on LiveJournal a long time. I joined in October of 2000, more than eleven years ago. I've posted more than 2,000 entries. If you go to my profile page, you'll see that my user ID (17832) is in the low five digits. If you were to create a new account today, you'd get an eight-digit user ID. I obviously haven't been here since the very beginning, but I've been here long enough. I have a lot invested here. But I'm thinking hard about abandoning LiveJournal as my primary blogging platform.

I'm not going to rehash all the changes in management and ownership that have plagued us here over the years, the privacy concerns, the outages and denial-of-service attacks. That all contributes, but the biggest problem I've come to have with LiveJournal is simply the lack of some basic features that most other major blogging platforms feature. And two of the biggest of those are the inability to save more than one in-progress blog entry at once, and the inability to schedule completed entries for future posting.

Over at my personal site, I'm running a Movable Type blog. I know it's not the best choice out there, but it's the one my hosting service offers, and I've customized the hell out of it and even built some of my own widgets. I've written a script, also, to scrape my entries from here at LJ and repost them over there. But now I'm thinking seriously about reversing that polarity.

So here's my question. I know that a lot of you blog elsewhere and have your entries reposted to LJ. What process or service do you use to do it? How do like the results? I seek your wisdom.

I was sorely tempted to name this post "DeadJournal," but of course there is a site called DeadJournal. It's one of the many alternative sites built on LJ's codebase. I'm not sure whether or not the code is still open-source.
Today is the 114th running of the Boston Marathon. I am reminded of this because I've started receiving race alerts via text message for a runner named Jen Stronge. So has Laura.

I wish Jen Stronge all the luck in the world in finishing strong in the marathon this morning. But I never signed up to get her alerts, and I wish they would stop. My guess is that she has the same chip number that Laura had last year, and the fine IT staff of the Boston Marathon never cleared out the alert requests from last year's race. Which makes them, for today anyway, some of the dumbest fucks in the tech industry.

To repeat, Boston Marathon IT crew—you suck.

UPDATE: It's the bib number that's the same as Laura's from last year—18649. A dumb, dumb programming mistake, friends. And who's paying for all those bad text messages?


Mar. 15th, 2010 09:46 am
shunn: (Lavender Mist)
Sometimes as I glance through my website's server logs, I see the anonymous messages people have sent through my little Scrabble-izer. Here's one of the sweetest I've seen, which just caught my eye:

If you were a Scrabble tile, you'd be a Z - one of a kind and worth more than everyone else
Or see it in Scrabble tiles.
On Tuesday I plan to sit down and watch The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time, ever. I've seen bits and pieces before, but this will be the first time I watch the whole thing in a premeditated fashion. Hey, I want to hear Roger Ebert's new/old voice.

Ebert's new voice has been synthesized (and is being further refined) from DVD commentary tracks he recorded for a handful of movies. The Scottish company behind the voice is CereProc, which specializes in text-to-speech synthesizers that speak in a variety of accents. It's fun to play around with their live demo and make voices from all around the British Isles say vulgar and juvenile things.

As more and more of us litter the intertubes with extensive examples of our speaking voices, the easier it will be for convincing artificial versions of our voices to be cobbled together. I suppose the technology will have matured when it can pass a sort of text-to-speech Turing test—when someone can call your close friends or relatives by telephone or Skype or whatever and fool them into thinking they're talking to you.

Damn, I just got an idea for a story.
I end up with some very interesting Google Ads showing up on the page for my Accidental Terrorist podcast. Just now there was a big splashy banner ad for the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute ("Gunfights don't give second chances"). Apparently the Googlemind doesn't want you potential terrorists going out into the world without firearms training!
I love Google for its geeky in-jokes. If you haven't noticed this one before, search for "recursion" and see what the result page offers as a suggestion under Did you mean.

I'm also reminded of Inglourious Basterds, which I saw yesterday morning, in which one instance of the word "Merci" was translated in the subtitles as "Merci."


Dec. 5th, 2008 07:05 am
This may be heresy, but I just don't feel as much compulsion to blog now that it's my own time I'm stealing as I did when it was my employers'.
A technical question for you techie writer types out there. Do you use version-control software to keep a repository of your work? If so, what? What platform do you run it on? What do you like? What don't you? I know CVS pretty well from my programmer days, but I'm not sure that's what I want to use for my writing. Maybe Subversion? SVK? I've just started looking into this, and there are a whole lot of options.

I used to just use the Windows Briefcase to keep my writing in sync between machines, but my new laptop with Vista doesn't seem to implement Briefcase in a way that's entirely compatible with older versions, and anyway it doesn't do squat to keep copies of older drafts around. I'd like to start doing something a little more sophisticated than that.
After I brought my new laptop home yesterday, what was the first thing I had to do? Of course:

Computers take pictures of each other, part one

Computers take pictures of each other, part two
I will have more thoughts to offer on this milestone later, but for now let me just say that my job has ended. Like a wounded deer it kept dragging on, but at long last, finally, my last day working steadily as the senior software developer and architect for (the fine and worthy) BenefitsCheckUp, my employers lo these past six and a half years, came yesterday. This has not quite sunk in yet (probably due to the fact that I'm a little punchy from working every day since mid-June—51 hours Monday to Thursday this week alone—which is also why you haven't seen much of me around these parts lately). I thought the day was never going to come.

Now I'm a full-time writer. (No pressure!) And as such, I'm of course going to procrastinate work on my novel for a three-day blowout with Laura at Lollapalooza. (Thanks, Shana!)
Netflix is going to eliminate account profiles this September. If you don't know, that's the feature that allows you to maintain separate DVD queues under one account.

YMMV, but to me Netflix is taking a giant step backward with this move in terms of serving its customers. This feature was a godsend when they first implemented it. Until then, if I wanted to be sure I always had a Bill-movie on hand (as opposed to a Laura-movie or a Laura-and-Bill-movie), I had to work hard at managing my queue, moving a new Bill-movie to the top every time I sent a Bill-movie back. Profiles took all the effort out of that effort. I'm used to it now, and it pisses me off that they're taking it away and sending me back to the Stone Age.

Good customer service is about continually making things easier for the customer, not harder. It's about giving the customer good new stuff without taking good old stuff away. I hope Netflix has some killer features they're planning to roll out instead, because otherwise they've just made the first move that would make me reconsider how useful my subscription is to me. And they didn't even ask me first.
When you absolutely, positively have to be a smug asshole to your friends and love ones one last time, there's:


In a nutshell, the site queues up messages from you to your infidel friends that will be dispatched after the Rapture. And how does the site know that the Rapture has happened? Because at least three of the site's five designated holier-than-thou's will have failed to log in for three days running.

This begs the question of what would happen should, God forfend, a catastrophic but non-Rapture event should wipe out those saintly designees all at once. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue should all those ha-ha-I'm-in-Heaven-now messages get sent while their authors are still miserably earthbound? I hope someone hacks the site and makes it happen.

Of course, maybe the opposite will happen, if Jesus frowns on seeing people profiting from the anticipation of the Rapture. In that case, maybe none of the designees will get lifted up, up, and away on that great and fateful day.
So, the company my wife works for has been redoing their web site—transparently, exposing the whole process. Every week they post updates about the project, and this week's offering is...

Engaging Imagination, with Laura Chavoen, Senior Vice President, Digital Media
Last April I wrote the first draft of a story called "Care and Feeding of Your Piano." It's a short, humorous piece written entirely as excerpts from the interactive instruction manual for a bioengineered piano*.

Armed with some suggestions from my writing group, I sat in my Baltimore-area hotel room a month and a half later and spent two hours applying some heavy revisions to the sucker, which including reordering many chunks of text to achieve more comic juxtapositions. I sync'd the laptop with the USB memory stick I always carried as backup—at least, I presume I did, because that had long been my habit—then rushed over to Balticon for my scheduled reading. I read that story and one called "Timesink" (which was then and is still forthcoming in Electric Velocipede) directly from my computer screen. The reading seemed to go over pretty well, at least according to Jamie Rubin, who was there.

In June, as I prepared to attend the Blue Heaven workshop, I got frustrated with all the cruft slowing down my laptop, so I wiped it and reinstalled Windows XP. At the end of that month, we moved to Chicago. As we unpacked, I became more and more uneasy the longer my black Manhattan Portage shoulder bag, which I was looking for, failed to turn up. I always carried my USB memory stick in a little Velcro'd pocket on the front of it. The shoulder bag has never turned up, one of the very few casualties of our move.

It wasn't until we'd been here a month or more that I went to the desktop machine to take another look at my revised version of "Care and Feeding." I was going to give it a quick polish-and-trim and get it out there—first stop, New Yorker "Shouts & Murmurs" submission. (Why not, right?)

But what appeared before my eyes was not my lovely revised version of the story but my first draft. Apparently, in all the excitement of preparing for the move, I had never sync'd the memory stick to my desktop machine. Fine, I figured, I'll just have to get it off the laptop.

But it wasn't there either. That's when I remembered I had wiped the machine in June, and the story directory there was identical to the one on the desktop machine. With mounting horror, I tried a couple of different low-level scans on the laptop, but to no avail. The revised draft was gone.

It took me about another six months to work up the energy to tackle re-revising my first draft. That's what I did Sunday, taking a break from the minor revisions to The Accidental Terrorist that are my focus here for the next week or so. It took me all day to achieve what felt like a reasonably successful recreation of what I did in that Baltimore hotel room, far longer than those original revisions had taken. At the end of the day, I printed out the story and read it aloud to Laura while she cooked.

I made some notes on the manuscript as I read, as I usually do. Yesterday I went to the desktop machine to pull up the story and fix the elements I'd noted. What appeared before me was the original, untouched first draft. I was puzzled. I clearly recalled syncing the laptop to the desktop machine after printing the manuscript the day before, but perhaps I had goofed something up.

I turned on the laptop, which is where I had done the revisions. I brought up the story. I felt a knot in my stomach at the realization that this, too, was the original draft.

I had sync'd the wrong way, overwriting my revised draft with the original. I swear, something in my subconscious is out to get this story.

At least this time I have a printout of what I did. All I need to do is type it back in. (No scanner here for an OCR shortcut.) Of course, all the stalling blogging I've done so far today will demonstrate how mountainous even that simple task seems to me right now.

I remember reading recently how Stephen King has lost a couple of partial novel manuscripts without a trace, so I don't feel like quite the dumbass I might. Anyone have a similar tale of woe?

* The Maedong & Daughters pNano® cG Mark VI.2, to be precise, the only autotropic concert grand piano with true Biostatic Action™.
Any Chicago folks here going to TECH cocktail this Thursday?

Time Out Chicago says:

[F]or Frank Gruber and Eric Olson, no element of TECH cocktail, their semi-annual networking party, is too grand. And this could explain the success of the free event for tech-industry workers, which holds its seventh fete on February 21 at Wrigleyville bar John Barleycorn. TECH cocktail offers tech enthusiasts—from casual podcasters to programmers—a chance to connect with each other. They also can snap-up swag doled out by tech sponsors like Web-host company midPhase, which provided ... limos as a way to safely cart off the 350 or so techies who'd been imbibing gratis beer.  [full article]
I'm on the fence, but only because it's hard to leave the house in winter.

Update:  Ah, well, never mind. It's free, but it's still sold out.
One day last week I cleared out my spam filter at exactly noon and checked it again at noon the next day. I wanted to see how much spam I would receive in a 24-hour span.

890 emails. O why do the spam gods not turn their bountiful gazes elsewhere?

Junk mail?

Sep. 27th, 2007 07:02 am
It is a measure of the vileness of much spam that when I get one entitled "Increase your business," I'm not sure whether I'm being offered a direct-marketing service or penis enlargement.
Pardon me while I indulge in some geek talk. So I'd been needing a couple of much larger external hard drives for some time, one to hold the music collection that had long since overspilled the Maxtor 200 Gb drive, and one to backup the entire system. After some hunting around, I found a great price on a couple of Seagate FreeAgent Pro FireWire drives, one 500 Gb and the other 750 Gb:

A terabyte and a quarter
Looks good in the light...

A terabyte and a quarter in the dark
...looks better in the dark!

That's a terabyte and a quarter! Right there on my desk!

Anyway, these babies were easy to install and get running, and it was almost as easy configuring the autobackup software to start saving everything to the huger drive. I moved a lot of files around, and everything was cool.

But then a few days ago I began to notice an annoying bug in the personal music server I wrote for myself a few years back (now serving 49,428 tracks!). My music would play fine, but the component that tallies what I've played (and also allows me to resume an album or playlist later where I left off, and to chain play actions together) began failing at what seemed to be random times.

Looking at the code, I figured that maybe the database had gotten big enough that certain queries weren't executing quickly enough, so I rewrote those bits. I thought I had fixed the problem, but then the failures started happening again. So I inserted some debugging code and was able to discover that from time to time database writes were simply being ignored, though reads continued to work fine. I was completely flummoxed.

But this morning I had the Eureka! moment. It was the new autobackup software! It runs constantly in the background, monitoring files that change and then duplicating them to the backup drive during off moments. Unfortunately, though, the database file changes every few minutes while I'm playing music, so it's always being backed up. If a copy operation is executing (and that takes a few seconds, since it's an 80 Mb file), then the file is locked and my music server can't write to it.

In fact, this explains some transient errors I've seen in other applications.

Anyway, I've taken the database out of the backup lineup for the moment, but I'm going to have to really dig into this software and see how finely I can control the backups. I will be annoyed if I can't control when the autobackups occur.

On the plus side, though ... a terabyte and a quarter! Right there on my desk!


Apr. 16th, 2007 06:15 am
How nice to wake up in the morning and discovered that one has been Boinged! And that the bandwidth usage for my site has pegged in the red.

Update:  I should clarify here that I am not in any way complaining!
One element of my new site redesign I want to point is my bibliography page. Cross-indexed, cross-referenced, and fully interactive!

I continue to wonder why I didn't switch from hand-crafted HTML pages to Moveable Type years ago.

By the way, suggestions for bibliography interface improvement are very welcome.

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