richardf8: (Default)
Fedora Core 4 has proved unsuitable for my needs on the laptop. The choice then was between retrograding to RH9 or throwing Win2K on to the laptop. Ultimately, I decided to wimp out and throw on Win2K. Spent all of one night patching it. Here's what it's got right now:

Win2K, fully patched.
OpenOffice 2.0
Paint Shop Pro
Alleycode
Firefox/Thunderbird
PDFCreator
Acrobat Reader

I'm using open source where I can. OpenOffice on Windows is quite competent. Haven't pushed it real hard yet, but it appears robust so far. For Hebrew layout, I think I'm going to spring for Davka Writer. This is the chief reason I went for Win2K - It allows me to use a shrink-wrap solution. I've thought about using open office, but the chief problem there is Windows. I'm not happy with Windows' Hebrew Keymap, and it cannot be tweaked as easily as xkb. I have found a tolerable keyboard map, but it's not something I would want to do extensive work with. Davka has native keyboard handling with a mapping that is almost exactly what I want (some of the Nikud are arranged a bit differently from the ISO standard, but the differences are minor). I can also sync my palm with my laptop once more, something I had missed being able to do.

At this point, only my staging server is running linux (up for 152 days). This makes sense as it is chiefly a web server and testbed. And yes, I am enjoying the new build, despite it looking like Win2K.

New Printer

Jan. 9th, 2005 08:29 pm
richardf8: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and I replaced our dead and much maligned Inkjet today. We found a pretty cheap Laer Printer, A Konica/Minolta 3500W. My feelings about it are mixed - I totally shopped price on this one, because this was in many ways a needful purchase, and while I would have preferred the cheapest OKI PagePrinter, this was about 70 bucks cheaper.

It looks to be a good printer, with a small footprint, and setup was trivial, at least for WIN2K. It is, alas, a bit married to Windows, and although someone cared enough to develop a printer driver for it for Linux, it looks to be very raw, and I expect that getting CUPS printing working with it will be like pushing a dead elephant uphill with a teaspoon. Simplest solution might just be to save to PDF on the Linux box and then print on the Windows box from Acrobad Reader.

In the meantime, it's a relief to have a Laser again - the toner is both waterproof and Copic-proof, which is a very good thing for when I want to hand color scanned artwork. It also means that if I should be taken with a desire to do Gocco prints, I have something that will lay enough carbon down for that to work.

I tried printing some Cat-Tharsis strips from it, sized down to what they would be in a Plan9 book. The printer's 1200 X 1200 mode fared quite well with my line-art. Lines were crisp and all details present. I've heard that Grayscale presents challenges to this beastie, but I very rarely use grayscale, so that will mostly be a non-issue.

My strips, on the other hand, scaled down to Plan9 book size are very busy. I really need to learn to get control of my composition - I tend to include far too much non-essential stuff in my panels. Mostly I need to learn to crop more tightly.

Well, I suppose I should return to wresting some creativity from my muse. More Pencil to Paper combat.
richardf8: (Eating)
Well, I have configured my first blocked website. It is called whenusearch. The scumbuckets not only try to push unsolicited software to the desktops, but include instructions with pictures and arrows showing the users how to download it, encouraging them ignore Microsoft's dire warnings and just download it. So now, if anything tries to connect to this site, the Firewall will throw up a message stating what I think should happen to the people behind this. I won't quote it verbatim, but it involves anal delivery of superheated US currency.
richardf8: (Default)
Thank God for Plan9 Publishing. While the good folks at the Gutenberg project are industriously converting printed and manuscript texts to electronic media, making them more accessible, and more readily searchable, Plan9 is doing work that is arguably more important: converting electronic media to print. This is important work because of the inherently ephemeral nature of digitally stored data. The entire reason that Gutenberg can do what it does is that it has source media to work with that are not, by their nature ephemeral. Our cultural predecessors left us permanent records of their philosophy, their literature, even their government. As the ideal of "paperlessness" is extolled, I wonder if we will be able to leave an enduring legacy or if large swaths of our culture will be lost to media obsoloscence. I also wonder how trustworthy even the information we do record is, given the mercurial nature of digital media.

A book, a scroll, a chiseled stone are all artifacts. This is the key distinction between these things and a web page. If I alter my web page, what it was before dies as if it never was. It may know a brief half-life in google's caches, may survive a little bit longer in spaces like the Internet Archiving project, and I will confess to being amazed that when I google my name, one of the items that I get back is a joystick port pinout that I posted to a newsgroup over a decade ago. But we are deluding ourselves if we imagine that these electonic records will survive a complete decay of civilization. Print records, however, have. Many have been lost over the millenia, it is true, but so many have survived that we can put together a reasonable picture of the cultures of Greece and Rome, and even get glimpses of legal customs in cultures older than those.

The other concern raised by ephemeral media is the ease of revision. Information may be excised without leaving a trace behind, an embarassing remark excised from the record without so much as a palimpsest to betray the change. This opens up important questions about knowledge and history. If we rely on the internet to record our history, we should not be surprised when something we remember being said or done is suddenly gone from the record. Indeed, the ephemeral nature of electronic media remains the strongest argument against electronic voting.

This is why I sing the praises of Plan9. They are pioneering the conversion of ephemera to artifact. And I know that in a hundred years, when the web is a barely remembered fin de siecle phenomenon, copies of Regime Change and Gone with The Windows will remain as monuments to the artistry of the information age.
richardf8: (Default)
Well, last Tuesday the box I use for my art/music production stuck 4 feet in the air. It chose the all too common Death by Bulgy Capacitors. Nothing for it but to replace the MB (and while I'm at it the Power Supply and CPU fan, seeing as these were both being a bit wonky and may have contributed to the death of the Capacitors). So [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and I schlepped the thing down to General Nanosystems, bought the new parts, and with the two of us working pit-crew style had the new mombd and PS in within 30 minutes. The easy part.

The hard part can be summed up in two words: Windows(tm) 2000. You'd think the idjits in Redmond would design the operating system, which is allegedly plug-n-play (hah!) to use a universal IDE driver when it notices that the IDE controller has changed, but Noooo, it's gotta throw a Blue Screen and proclaim that you might have a virus. So here I was with a computer imupudently refusing to boot. So I know I have to flush the day rebuilding it. First install a secondary Win2K install so I can get at my data, join the Machine to the domain, and backup all my data (all the Cat-Tharsis files, and bunch of music of my own and others) and assorted and sundry other creative works to Morgan's PC. Only then can I go through the cleansing ritual of scrubbing the drive and reinstalling everything. Except PhotoShop because Paint Shop Pro kicks its ass at 1/4 the price. Miraculously I found all my media without having to turn the house upside down.

So, long about 3:00am Saturday I finally go to sleep, my system lacking only a decent web browser. (I'll Install Mozilla on it when I browse the web from that machine again. I do most of my web browsing (and development) from my Linux notebook anyway. This morning, my next door neighbor, who believes that her sweat is so powerful that only enough Downy to qualify for a superfund grant can render her clothes wearable after a long day changing oil (she works at Valvoline), decided to poison me by doing her laundry. Aghh, time to get her a new bottle of eco (and lung) friendly fabric softener.
richardf8: (Default)
After an evening of kitten dreidel with [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and Maeve, followed by bedecking our house with the festoonery of the hap-happiest time of the year, I decided to give Cat-Tharsis' web site a facelift. I've done all the work on the staging server, and am planning to publish the changes to the production server no later than New Year's day (and possibly quite a bit sooner).

The major problems I wanted to address with the existing site had to do with usability. Specifically, visitors could not discover the links, news, feedback form, or other apparatus without scrolling down past the comic. In order to address this I made a fresh set of menu and navigation images that are significantly smaller than and way less clunky than what I had before, and arrayed them in 40 pixel tall bands above and below the comic; a style inspired by [livejournal.com profile] kevinjdog's Newshounds layout. Another problem I want to solve is the way my links stay trapped in the cat-tharsis.com frameset my domain name registrar uses to hide my site's internal structure. I think I just discovered how to do this, and I will experiment with it tomorrow.

I'm pretty happy with the new look and feel, most users will encounter the the entire apparatus without need for scrolling. My hope is that if visitors can actually find my feedback form, they might actually drop me a note. I have been wondering about providing a forum, but I don't want to do it if it's going to be moribund. Getting some feedback from users would help me determine whether there is enough interest to warrant it.

And now, the timer having turned off our holiday display, I shall away to bed, where great story ideas will come that I will not have the wherewithal to write down and which I will forget by morning.
richardf8: (Default)
Well, I finally got around to fixing the calendaring bug on Cat-Tharsis where the next month/previous month links pointed to nothing at all. I was able to recycle a code snippet from another function to do most of that work. Also fixed a problem with months that begin on Sunday having their final day not fit on the calendar. So, a pat on the back to myself for actually getting that done. Not only that, but I freshened the catboxes, took out the trash, and fixed dinner for [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and myself for tonight and tomorrow.

It makes me feel like a natural nerd-boy.
richardf8: (Default)
And productive too!

Saturday, I built a notebook I had lying around into a new web development/staging server.

The gory details:

IBM Thinkpad 380z, 233Mhz, 64M Ram, 4G HDD.
Redhat 9.0 running Apache, MySQL, PHP, and various and sundry other goodies.
Since I want the processing power for the good stuff, it does not boot to X.

It is Waaay quicker than its predecessor, and getting it going was easier than I'd planned. The only snag I ran into was with the PHP parser. It's a later version than what had been on the RH 7.2 box, and had globals turned off by default, so it wasn't parsing my code. Turned globals on (which is also the way my ISP has their PHP Parser set up) and everything was hunky dory.

Sunday, I pencilled AND inked Tuesday's strip. So much nicer than the past two weeks when I ended up inking hastily Monday night. I was able to use the dip-pen rather than the fountain pen (though I lettered with the fountain pen). It was more relaxed and deliberate than inking with the fountain pen. Inking with a dip pen has some of the characteristics of meditation. And tonight was the first time I inked without music. It was very refreshing.

Geek-O-Rama

Nov. 9th, 2003 09:18 am
richardf8: (Default)
Well, like I said earlier, the PS in my staging server died on October 31. This was the box on which I did all my web development, and which also did nightly backups of the database backends for Good Eating in the Twin Cities and Cat-Tharsis. Then, on Thursday night, my database disappears from my ISP's servers. Well, that pretty much kills Good-Eating, whose content is all database driven. It also meant a little down-time for Cat-Tharsis until I could comment out the visitor logging code.

So now, how was I going to restore the data from my dead server to the ISP? I took the same power supply I ripped a fan out of for the art-box last week, and used it to bring up the server long enough to migrate the critical files to my art-box. I then restored the databases from the week-old backups rescued from the staging server, and shot of a snarky e-mail to the ISP.
richardf8: (Default)
Well, rather than go out and buy a new PS for the Art-Box, I took a case fan out of a corpse I had lying about, and replaced the PS fan with it. Of course, I had to peel off the label that said "No User Serviceable Parts Inside" in order to service the part. but, it went smoothly and I'm typing this entry from that box. Ah but there are other fans in the system that look like their days are numbered, and I don't have their like on hand. Ah well.
richardf8: (Default)
Drawing the strip was tough this weekend, because my mood was very weird and I could barely stay focused. Wound up finishing my pencilling tonight, which is also when I need to upload. So I inked quickly using Copic's new fountain pen which I picked up at Wet Paint on Saturday, instead of my usual Tachikawa dip pen in Higgins eternal ink. It saved me time which was at a premium, and the pen worked well. Way better than Tachikawa's fountain pen, which clogs if you look at it wrong. But generally, I prefer the dip pen. It forces me to work more deliberately. At some point I'll probably review the Copic fountain pen in [livejournal.com profile] arttips. I bought it mostly for sketching, rather than serious inking, but it does the job nicely and stands up well to the eraser.

The other thing that made getting the strip out a little weird is that my graphics workstation is wonky. For the past week or so the house has been filled with this, er, smell, whose source I have been trying in vain to locate. Then the spontaneous reboots started happening. I noticed the computer seemed a little toasty, and there was no exhalation from the Power Supply fan. So to get my stuff done I opened the case and I nearby window. This held my CPU temp at a nice stable 94F degrees, as opposed to the 140F it was reaching before rebooting spontaneously. So tomorrow, I guess I need to snag an ATX power supply somewhere. Ah well, it'll be a great opportunity to actually USE the power driver [livejournal.com profile] morgan1 got me for my birthday.
richardf8: (Default)
Got Tuesday's strip pencilled and inked. I'm happier with it than I've been with many. Tomorrow I will scan it. The first panel contains some stuff that I'm going to computer letter, because I don't think I can do a decent Courier by hand, and the dialogue is a written exchange between Grendel and his PC. In PHP.

Which reminds me. . . the PHP program that serves up the comic has a little glitch in the calendar control that causes the latest comic to be displayed when one of the Month links is clicked, unless there is a strip for the first day of the next month, or the last day of the previous one. A look at Cat-Tharsis' log database has revealed to me that this glitch has confused at least one visitor, so I need to fix that. It should be easily accomplished with a couple of trivial functions.

[livejournal.com profile] morgan1 and I went paddling yesterday. Two lakes and four portages. It was the first time this year that I was out in my solo boat, which is just sad. It beat the snot out of me, which is testimony to just out of tone I've become from lack of paddling. Oh well, it was an extraordinarily depressing year, but things have been starting to look up. It seems that to be willing to do a lot of the fun stuff, like paddling and camping, etc. I really need to feel that I have a stable base, and with the past year being the least stable since . . . well since the last time the President's name was a four letter word, I haven't really had the confidence that that confers.

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