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Electronic Paper Cuts

Part 1

A Zagreb Reunion

Dec. 18, 2000. Well, in my time zone, nearly Dec. 19. And many months since I last posted a comment to my own site. How shameful. This, considering the numerous exciting and even interesting things going on in my life. So, with no further ado ...

Weblogs and the like: I have not been here since the beginning, unless you redefine “beginning.” More than likely, I am using “beginning” to meaning “beginning of,” where the “of what” is not explicit. In this case, I mean the beginning on the Internet. Depending on how one defines that, that could have been before my time. I was online in the early 90s, before “the web” hit it big, but that’s no claim to fame. During my first year of college Netscape started making the rounds in the computer labs. No one bothered with it that year, really. It seemed like a glorified gopher in many regards, which is not necessarily a bad thing—after all, I really liked gopher.

So when it comes to the web, I can sort of call myself an “old timer.” Well, perhaps not. I didn’t start writing webpages until my junior year in college, and I rarely browsed anyway, since I only had a 2400bps modem connection from my dorm room until my senior year, when I got an ethernet connection. Ah, those were the days ... but I digress. I remember when GeoCities started with their “neat” concept—give people free homepages and organize everything by cities, districts of cities, and neighborhoods within those disctricts. It was a tempting metaphor; it didn’t last long. Online real estate and the real world things are two different beasts. Eventually “Guestbooks” became popular. Everyone had a “dream book” or something like that, and soon they became standard features offered by free websites.

Soon thereafter everybody and their neighbor not only had a site and guestbook, but they were also going around signing other peoples’ guestbooks like crazy in an attempt to get exposure and to get others to return the “favor.” There seems also to have been an explosion, so to speak, in the number of “vanity” domains; some were cool, others belonged to old-timers who had been online for ages, and others were the property of angst-ridden teens with the need to prove their individuality by creating sites that looked like those made by all the other angst-ridden teens out there. I learned to ignore this phenomena.

A related group, it seems, were the online-diary writers; some drawing large crowds, others none. Some were posted only to webpages, others were sent out by email. Quality varied, of course, and still does. For a long time such diaries, journals and the like were confined to those who had discovered a way to write web pages. Some were better than others, but all the “better” pages out there were the work of people with some level of technical skill (and/or an ability to use a wysiwyg editor ...)

No more. Weblogs are here. Ok, that’s anti-climatic. They’ve been here for a long, long time. Weblogs are now where guestbooks were a while back. Guestbooks are merely little cgi scripts and html-files that take input from forms and post them to another hmtl-file. Easy. They became popular and were offered by a number of companies, each of which was posting banner ads all over the place to pay for this free “service.” Weblogs are no longer the domain of those with their own domains; you don’t even need any skill at html at all now. You simply sign up for a free account, modify the fonts and background of your page, type into a form, and press “submit” Weblogs are so much more advanced than they used to be—before, you posted, they listened (erm, read). Now, you post, they read, they respond, you read, perhaps you respond again ... perhaps you get ranked or receive bonus points if people visit your weblog enough. All sorts of exciting stuff.

So it was that I received a curious message from “Bianca” earlier today. Evidently she visited my site (so it as claimed in the email), and liking it, she passed the URL on to a friend (I’ll take her word for it); she further recommended that I consider writing a weblog. Alas (or perhaps not), a weblog is not quite my style, though they are admittedly somewhat attractive. Just another aside: diaries are quite often a private matter—I do not feel the word “journal” has such an intimate connotation—yet clearly weblogs, online journals/diaries and the like are a different beast entirely (and one which does not completely wet my appetite). In short, I cannot see a purpose, for myself, that is, to write one for a “general” audience; on the other hand, the diary feature of K5 does serve a purpose, and that is a more specific sort of audience. Finally, for my own purposes, this little site manages quite well.

In other news, I am still working on a few boxen at home. The Packard Hell will be leaving soon; I need the space. Call it a file and application server for 486-based X-terminals in the dept. Sounds good. I have a dying CD-ROM drive ... it doesn’t want to boot some of my CDs anymore; the Toshiba just keeps on chugging, though. I need to clean this crap up before I leave for the holidays; perhaps I’ll get Debian or OpenBSD on one of the 486 boxen tomorrow. Erm. Fat chance. And the AMD ... ah, yes ... another story.

Anyway, damn, it’s late, and time for bed. I guess I’ll end with links to a few of the sites mentioned here in this entry.

—December 18, 2000

I fell flat on my ass: I finally got my package sent off to Thomas Parr in Brazil—it took me long enough, but fankly, I hadn’t had a reason to go to that part of town for a while. In any case, only a couple bucks. On the way out I slipped on the steps ... all ice-covered and frozen. There went my feet, and before I knew it, there I was, bouncing down the stairs. I more or less missed my tailbone ... I turned a bit to my left and instead ended up bruising my left lower-back and the back of my hip. Painful, but at least I can walk.

Thereafter I held a review session for my students (exam in a few days). Earlier in the day I chatted with my colleagues while working on some computers. What follows is an except from one such conversation with Michelle Forsberg:

Michelle: I don’t even have caffeine pop.
Steve: Why not?
Michelle: It makes me all twitchy.
Steve: [pause]
Michelle: Like a gerbil.

I found this humorous enough to warrant writing it down for further use. This website is “further use.” Today’s computer woes are and were excessive. I took the Packard Smell into the department. I had to carry it—no problem—but it was very very cold out, and my hand was on the metal bottom of the case ... so cold it stung. Once in the department, I found out the PB keyboard was toast, so I had to go hunt for another keyboard with a PS/2 connector. I finally got RedHat 6.2 installed, but the motherboard seems nearly to be fried; the thing really doesn’t want to boot. I’m going to try to flash the BIOS. If that doesn’t help, well, I’ll take the drives and memory out, and trash the piece of shit. My whole plan for that box was to have it serve of X apps to my 486 terminals.

Next step: trash the 6100/60. Nothing personal. I love PowerMacs. However, I don’t have an adapter for the monitor, I’ll need another AAUI --> 10BT adapter, and it only has a 200+ MB hard drive. That will take me back down to the AMD, the Cyrix, the Gateway, and the PS/2, as well as the SE and the Quadra 660AV. Still too many, but hey ...

Time to outline—again?—the goals for these boxen. The AMD is my main workstation ... if only I could finally trash Win95. Before I can do that, though, I need to get a SCSI or USB scanner to work with Linux. The Cyrix box is still a tad flaky—lots of Sig 11s when compiling; it could be memory, or it could be the mainboard. Probably memory. Other than that, it’s stable enough (except it looks as if the CD-ROM is dying). The Gateway will be the gateway—I like sticking 4 ethernet cards into one machines (add to serial ports and a parallel port: there’s 7 network connections). The PS/2 ... hrm. Fucking over-engineered machine. It will probably run forever. I just need to stick a little more storage space in it. I want the SE as a toy and as a terminal for the Gateway. I don’t have much of a use for the Quadra, to be quite honest, but I’m sure I’ll find some use for it. [4 NICs in the Gateway = enough connections for the rest of the machines] In short, the only “necessary” machine is the AMD.

—December 19, 2000

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]