Vortimax and Elkmar

I’ve got a weblog/portal project coming up and have been looking at what’s out there as far as software. Nothing seems to be available that does everything I want. Slash doesn’t appear to be very configurable – every site I look at that uses it looks exactly like slashdot. Slash also requires the use of MySQL while I’d prefer to use only free software like PostgreSQL for this project. Scoop looks much easier to use and modify and, while it also requires MySQL, it appears to use DBI so it should be possible to adapt it to PostgreSQL without too much trouble. Both Scoop and Slash use Perl which is good. Squishdot, being Python-based, is right out. There’s also mod_virgule, which has a number of advantages such as being written in C, having a cool trust metric system and XML support but it also lacks a few features I want. I’ve had a mod_virgule test system running for a while and I’ll probably set up scoop this week for comparison. Being Perl-based, it may be faster to hack a trust metric and PostgreSQL support into Scoop. Hmmm…

Sunday, Susan and I spent the afternoon at the Dallas Artfest 2000. It was not as interesting as previous years but it was still worthwhile. Lots of strange art and music.

I’ve been pondering Irish names lately. Erin is going to be having her second boy soon and wants a good Irish name for him. I think they’re leaning toward Rory at the moment. I’ve suggested a couple of nice ones like Vortimax and Elkmar but I think they’re more in the market for a name like Kevin or Colin. Turlough is a good one too (it always makes me think of the Fifth Doctor’s rather unpredictable companion).

Random News Updates

You can always tell when things are getting busy at NCC because the frequency of my news updates drops. We’ve got two big projects that may be starting in the next couple of weeks and I’ve been madly going through my todo list trying to get all the small things done while I’ve still got time.

Erin solved her long-standing connectivity problems finally. Since she moved to McKinney, she’s been unable to find a good connection to the net. The phone lines are so bad she wasn’t able use a modem reliably. DSL isn’t available. I talked her into trying ISDN, but it turned out she had constant line problems just like with the POTS line. She had tried two different ISPs with the ISDN setup and still no luck. Finally, this friday, she was able to get a cable modem. And it works! It’s fast and, so far, hasn’t had any downtime.

Randy did something friday that he’s been talking about for nearly a year – he bought a digital camera. It’s a Casio QV-3000Plus. It’s got an imager with 2048 x 1536 resolution and includes a 340mb IBM micro-drive for storage. It came with Windows software for the USB interface. I’ll have to check on Linux USB drivers. I’ve seen a few other digital camera drivers mentioned on the USB list lately. Pretty cool but I’m sticking with my analog Canon T90 for now. I’d be tempted by some of the professional digital cameras if the prices weren’t so high. The new Fuji S1 is the closest I’ve seen yet. At $4000, it’s still more than I want to spend but it’s less than a third the cost of previous hi-end digital cameras and the 3040 x 2016 imager is getting into the range where it could compete with analog for a lot of stuff.

Computers, Software, and Art

Another week already gone! After solving our Verio DNS problems earlier this week, I spent the rest my time working with PostgreSQL. It took a couple of patches but I got it compiled and running on our Sun Ultra 10 with Red Hat Linux 6.1. I added a new 13gig drive just for the database. That should be enough space to get started. I’ve got our new web server (an Intel/RH61 box) set up with Perl DBI and PHP interfaces to the database server. Meanwhile, I’ve been working with Erin on our first web database application. I sneaked out of the office for a few hours today to catch the Georgia O’keeffe exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. It’s over in a couple of days and I’d promised Susan we’d go see it. It’s definitely worth seeing (but skip the audio guide!).

ISDN and the Art of Line Monitoring

The last couple of days have been spent helping Erin get up and running on ISDN. She lives in an area where DSL is not available and she’s got a terrible quality analog phone line that prevents a good modem connection. You’d think by now that the phone companies would have ISDN down to a science but we ran into an unbelievable number of problems.

The worst was that her ISP, SWBELL, is a long-distance call from her area. She had metro service on her analog line but apparently this sort thing doesn’t work on ISDN data calls. SWBELL was apparently well aware of this problem but didn’t think it worth mentioning until after she’d gotten ISDN installed, the analog line disconnected, and we’d spent hours trying to determine why things weren’t working. Needless to say, she’s no longer using SWBELL as her ISP. After finding a local ISP she discovered the next problem – the same physical wiring was used for her ISDN as had been used for her unusually noisy analog line. The ISDN line is now suffering from a variety of intermittent problem that have so far prevented reliable use and allow only minimal use of one B channel. SWBELL (the phone company, not the ISP) is now “monitoring” her line.

If you’ve followed the saga of NCC’s T1 problems you’ll probably know that “monitoring” never works. The last attempt by SWBELL to monitor our T1 for 24 hours took over a week. First they monitored the wrong line, several times they scheduled the right line to be monitored but later claimed no one had carried out the monitoring. Eventually they claimed to have found the right line and actually monitored it but did not log any of the data. “Monitoring” as used by SWBELL apparently means that someone just wanders by from time to time and checks to see if your line (or perhaps some other line nearby) is up. No automated logging is done and they never provide any evidence that they’ve really done anything. They claimed that no errors were detected during a 24 hour period. During the same 24 hour period our router log showed around 100 line drops pretty evenly distributed over the entire time period. Hopefully Erin will have better luck with her ISDN. Hmmm…

Webgrrling with Erin

Erin invited me to attend a meeting of the Big-D Web Grrls this evening. Their mission statment describes them as “a community of women who share your interests”. Wow! A room full cute girls who like computers. What could be more fun than that for a male computer geek? Don’t worry, I behaved myself! (but if I ever go to a LinuxChix meeting, who knows…)

I was amused by the nomenclature – there were two Greeter grrls, a snack grrl, and a something-else grrl. The leader-of-the-group grrl spoke in lots of Dilbertese and did a thing that I absolutely cannot stand: the verbing of nouns. Instead of “having a dialog with someone”, she said she was “dialoging” them. I get really tired of people “officing” and “ideating” but at least those non-words show efficiency in that they reduce the number of words required to make a complete sentence. What I really can’t stand are verbed nouns used when an existing verb would work fine. Like “calendaring” – why not just say “scheduling”? The people who spread this bizzare word usage need to spend more time golf coursing and less grammaring. (and,yes, I know “verbing” isn’t a word but if other people can make up and use bad English, so can I – besides, the phrase “verbing nouns” follows the fine Unix tradition of self-referential names!)

But I digress… I really spent far less time thinking about grammar than it would seem from reading this. Oh well, I’ll report more next time Erin takes me webgrrling.

Supercomm 1999

I’m back from Supercomm ’99 in Atlanta. My advice to anyone thinking of planning a convention in Atlanta is, don’t! Atlanta simply doesn’t have the hotel capacity for a reasonably large convention. Supercomm is hardly NAB or Comdex but it was more than enough to have every hotel room in town booked up. And if you did manage to get a hotel room, Atlanta doesn’t seem to be a 24-hour city. If it’s 1 am, don’t expect to be able to get room service, much less find a restaurant that’s open. On the other hand, if you enjoy riding public transportation systems filled with deranged homeless people having loud arguments with invisible companions, Atlanta is probably the next best thing to New York City! As far as I’m concerned all conventions should be held in Las Vegas. I took the tour of CNN while I was there, since it was just across the street from the convention center. But I didn’t see Ted (or Space Ghost) wandering around CNN center anywhere.