It’s 2012, Time to Talk Resolutions?

Another year gone and it’s time to take stock of things done and make some plans for the new year. Do you want me list off a lot of goals and resolutions for 2012? I didn’t think so – too boring. How about if pull out my list of goals for 2011 and tell you some of the stuff I actually did. Things really done are always more interesting to read about.

After devoting a huge amount of 2010 to getting Dallas Makerspace off the ground, I took most of 2011 off from hackerspace managing. I attended meetings and helped out now and then but most of my time and interest went elsewhere.

In late January 2011, I joined a team of Camerpedia editors in saving the website from being assimilated by Wikia. We relaunched it under the new name Camera-Wiki.org. I developed quite an interest in Vivitar history and have been collecting many of the oldest Vivitar lenses; not just to document on Camera-Wiki but also to shoot with. Camera-wiki.org has been a huge success and has attracted lots of new editors. It’s growing at a faster rate than it ever did in it’s previous incarnation and we’re working hard to improve the quality as well as the quantity of the content. Hosting is paid for entirely through donation, so if you appreciate old cameras and lenses, why not help us out by donating a few dollars to our hosting fund!

I’ve continued to pursue photography in other ways. I did several more shoots with models in 2011. I did several paid shoots including a gig as the official photographer for the 2011 Vex World Championships. My photo essays continue to be published in Robot Magazine and Servo Magazine. One of my photographs was displayed in a local art exhibit, meeting another of my goals for the 2011. I hope to be in more exhibits during 2012.

Susan and I attended lots of art exhibits, music performances, and a few lectures. I managed to get to several Pecha Kucha and Spark Club events. Much more of the same for the 2012 I hope!

If you’re not an Advogato or robots.net user, you won’t really care but I finally managed to get the long-awaited libxml2 parser into the mod_virgule code base. It’s still a bit buggy but no more so than the old parser and it provides a good path forward for consolidating and simplifying the code. Whether mod_virgule can remain relevant in the world of Facebook and Google+ is another question. Perhaps 2012 will provide the answer to that one.

2011 was the year I finally created some ornaments for the annual Blue Yule charity auction at the MAC. I also volunteered at the 2011 Art Conspiracy Auction. That took care of two more 2011 goals. I hope to find a few more outlets for my artistic and creative sides in 2012.

As usual, there were goals I didn’t meet in 2011. I didn’t finish the project of scanning all my family photos. This has turned out to be much more material than I’d anticipated. I’ve scanned thousands of old photographs and negatives so far. Hopefully 2012 will see the scanning portion of the project completed.

2012 is an election year but with Obama running for his second term that means there is only going to be a Republican primary this year. I consider myself an independent but still feel compelled to vote in the primaries, which means this year I’ll be voting in the Republican primary regardless of how I vote in the final election.

At present I’m leaning toward Ron Paul for the primary vote. I don’t really like any of the choices but Ron Paul seems the least insane of the bunch and I think may be the only one of them who holds any positions at all that I actually agree with.

So for the next four years, the State of Texas will consider me a Republican despite my claim to be an independent. I’m pondering whether I should start going to my local Republican group meetings and see if I can do anything to reform them or shift them a bit toward the center or at least slow their movement toward the right-wing fringes. Unfortunately, I don’t think reason mixes well with the far right (or the far left for that matter). I’ll report on my experiences if anything interesting happens.

Rebooting my blog

I’m bringing in the new year at home, sleeping off a bad cold. Really, it’s a 2009 cold and with it will go the last remnants of that year and the last decade. It’s 2010 and time for some major changes around here. I’ve been compiling a lengthy list of New Year’s resolutions, life goals, and To Do lists. I won’t bore you with them but, if you’re reading this, one resolution is well on the way to being met.

My blog was neglected for the last half of 2009. I haven’t been totally offline. I’ve continued posting regularly to my photo blog and twitter (which feeds my Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn accounts) as well as making daily posts to robots.net. But my personal website has fallen into disrepair. It’s time to reboot things. First off, you may notice I’ve moved my blog to its own domain, steevithak.com, from its old home on my business website.

Over the last few years, I’ve consolidated my online presence from lots of different user names to just one: steevithak. It’s hard to spell, nobody knows how to pronounce it, but it’s uniquely me and gives me a user name that’s always available. Don’t worry, only machines refer to me as steevithak. If you’re human, keep on calling me Steve in person.

Back to my blog; I started blogging 1999 before it was commonly called blogging. I wrote my own set of PERL scripts to manage the process. So in rebooting my blog, I was faced with a 10 year blog archive in a one-of-a-kind format. The earliest blogs lacked titles and none of them were tagged with keywords, so I decided to manually convert them one at a time, adding the missing elements. Over a period of time, I reconstructed my entire blog archive using Pivot.

As the end of 2009 neared, Pivot 2.x was released, so I converted everything to that format. In December of 2009, I made a last minute decision to switch again to Word Press, which offered several features Pivot lacked. Pivot 2.x also proved to be mind-bogglingly slow, perhaps because it couldn’t deal with a 10 year archive stored in a flat file database! The conversion from Pivot to Word Press initially looked difficult but I found a script that was able to move the entries and titles. I modified it to also preserve the keywords I’d spent so much time adding.

So the new website integrates my blog, my photostream, and my twitter feed in one location. The blog will continue to be syndicated to my robots.net and Advogato.org profiles, manually for the moment but I think a Word Press plugin supporting the mod_virgule XML-RPC protocol may be forthcoming.

Now all I have to do is make life in 2010 interesting enough to blog about! I’m not worried. Something tells me we’re in for a good year.

June is gone already!?

Yes, June is over already and it feels like I haven’t gotten anything done. Work has been taking up most of my time. Since I last posted I’ve been to A-Kon 2009. I shot few A-Kon cosplay photos plus a few time exposures of the A-Kon Friday night rave. I also shot a few photos at Jerry Chevalier’s 2009 Texas Build Off, a cool event where movie robot replica builders from all over the world gather to show off their robots and, more importantly, share building techniques and help each work on robots.

I’ve never managed to blog much more than a couple of times a month, so if anyone reading this actually cares what I’m up to, you might want to follow me on twitter or check my canonical home page where you can see the relatively frequent photo stream updates from my crappy mobile phone camera. By the way, if you’re looking for other robot builders to follow on twitter, check out Wired’s list of 52 Robot Geeks on Twitter.

Speaking of twitter, I really need to find a good way to get that integrated into mod_virgule. And speaking of mod_virgule, I once again completely failed to find time to work on it. But I’ve exchanged some email with another programmer who might be brave enough to start doing some hacking on the code, so maybe that will get me motivated in July!

May Miscellany

Time for a quick update. May started off with the VEX Robotics World Championship here in Dallas. I was one of the judges evaluating the 270 teams and their robots. I’ll probably write a little more about it in an upcoming issue of Robot Magazine for those who are interested.

I created a robots.net twitter feed and robots.net facebook page for robots.net this month. So far the facebook page is ahead with over 160 fans while the twitter feed only has about 38 followers so far. To be fair the facebook page went online a couple of weeks earlier so we’ll see if it hangs on to the lead over time.

I’m still struggling to find time to devote to mod_virgule but squeezed in a few more hours of C coding on the new HTML parser. It’s now running on a test server with a subset of Advogato’s database. So far, so good. Blog aggregation and parsing seems to be working, as do local blog posting, article posting, and article comments. The magnitude of the changes makes this update a bit of scarier than usual for robots.net and Advogato. If nothing breaks in the next week or so of testing, though, I’ll cross my fingers and make it live.

I continue to drag my Canon 40D around with me everywhere and since my last blog post, I’ve shot photos of the Funky Finds Spring Fling craft show in Ft. Worth, the Aveda Walk for Water event in Dallas, the aforementioned VEX Robotics World Championship, the Cottonwood Arts Festival in Richardson, the 2009 DFW Dragon Boat Festival in Las Colinas, oh, and a few pics of my friends at Vivanti Group in Deep Ellum. In the retro-photo department, I posted some BW 127 photos shot with a Kodak Brownie Reflex Synchro. Yesterday, a package arrived containing that rarest of things, color 127 film, from a small manufacturer in Canada. I’ll probably run a roll through the Bencini Comet S sometime soon.

Advogato and Syndicated Blogs

Over on Advogato, cdfrey asked whether syndicated blogs were good or bad for the recentlog. He asked whether the authors who allow their blogs to be syndicated into Advogato’s recentlog stream actually stop by to read the recentlog anymore. I’m sure some of them don’t but I’m equally sure some of them do. In any case, I can verify at least one person who syndicates to Advogato reads the recent log – me! :)

ta0kira followed up with some further comments on the topic including the question of whether other sites interleave syndicated posts with content that originates locally. There are a few such as Facebook (see below) but Advogato has always done things that were a little, ummm, experimental in nature. He has a good point that it would be nice to be able to select whether or not to see the syndicated posts. It has also be suggested in the past that an ideal solution is to give each user the ability to create their own personalize recentlog view.

One aspect to consider is that there are several ways of syndicating your blog to Advogato that may go unnoticed. Posts syndicated by RSS or ATOM are explicitly marked as such in the recentlog but syndication by XML-RPC or the older HTTP POST method go unnoted. My blog posts, for example, originate on my personal blog and are then syndicated to Advogato and robots.net using the HTTP POST method; and to Facebook by RSS. Facebook’s blog syndication services are horrendously bad incidently, turning each blog post into a nondescript thing called a “note” with no clear indication of what it is or why it exists.

Another recentlog issue that’s been mentioned several times lately is that some people are piping their twitter feeds into the recentlog via RSS. I agree this can be annoying but rather than block twitter feeds, I’d like to see them rerouted into a user status field, much like Facebook or Myspace. For example, I use twitter and my tweets update my user status field on Facebook. Maybe it’s time to add a user status field to mod_virgule sites like Advogato?

Thanksgiving weekend

On Thursday we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at our house. In addition to Susan and myself, my brother Randy and a friend of his attended. After eating turkey and dressing, we played a dominoes game called Mexican Train that’s perfect for holidays since it can takes hours to complete. In the evening Susan and I drove to my sister Vicki’s house where we visited other relatives including my parents and my sister Kelly’s family.

Susan and I spent the rest of the weekend on our own. We’ve been playing more games in our spare time lately. We’ve read a lot of articles lately suggesting they’re helpful in keeping our brains going. It also seems to be a good way to de-stress after work. Let’s see, we’re playing Scrabble, Mancala, and a variety of card games. One game I’d really like to start playing is Go.

We ventured out to a few Black Friday sales but tried to avoid any places that looked too busy. We picked up a pre-lit Christmas tree for the office that we set up and decorated Saturday night.

I also squeezed in some time to work on mod_virgule for the first time in nearly a year. I picked up where I left off in early 2008 with the rewrite of the HTML parser. I now have the libxml2-based parser working quite well. It needs a little more work to purge some remaining XSS holes. It already looks a lot safer than mod_virgule’s built-in parser.