December 18th, 2008
So today was a pretty good day. Things are starting to sort themselves out and pandemonium of the close of Fall Semester has FINALLY started to die down.
Doing my best to get ready for the Spring Semester; hitting the ground running and all that. I need to figure out of Tower will be requiring my services again (I feel like Rambo: they keep bringing me out of retirement to send me to Vietnam… Where Vietnam is Johnson County, and the Viet Cong are easily annoyed New Money Types.). I’ve got to get working on applications for summer internships. I’m looking at one in Germany, even! Plus some in Boston. I really, REALLY want to get a good one, so I’m going to work really hard on these.
I also need to log some serious time working on some analysis of astronomy data; the idea being that Cody and I may be working on a paper of sorts in the early weeks of Spring Semester.
So that’s the work end of things. For fun, I’ve been playing with getting my computers to talk to each other with VNC. That basically means you can open up a window on Computer 1, and in that window you see the desktop of Computer 2, and can use it as if you were sitting in front of it, which I think is cool. I’ve yet to get it to work on my Server-To-Be machine though.
In a previous entry, I mentioned wanting to get a server up and running. Well, the machine is here, and I even loaded it with my old install of Ubuntu, so that much is done. Getting it to play nice with VNC has been trying, and I haven’t even broached the actual “server” aspect of the project. That’s essentially a work in progress, but I do love a project, and this one is keeping me pretty occupied.
Trying to think if anything else happened…
Got back from Arizona. The house was SO DAMN COLD. It was a little unpleasant, and I slept only about three hours before driving home through the snowstorm on an all-Radiohead playlist (a la 2007 Break Drive Home), which was always an experience.
Got some stuff worth looking forward to, mainly the write-up edition of Tom & Ian’s Top Albums of 2008. We did the radio-edition, which isn’t posted yet, but will be soon. I might work on that later this evening, but we’ll see. FTP-ing 2-hour-long MP3 files… is painful. For you guys though, it’s worth it.
Oh! And I’ve been pouring a ton of time and effort into the planning phase of my RPG I’m working on! I really like the storyline I’ve come up with so far, and I’m finally getting it to where I like the flow… it’s just now I need to actually execute that all into a game that is perhaps maybe a tiny bit fun, and people will want to play. (Where ‘people’ is Ian and Joey, and Ethan if I ask nicely.)
But really, the point is that things are looking up.
December 12th, 2008
So we had our first night of observing up at Lowell: It was pretty badass. The control system they have is pretty slick: One computer, aptly named “MOVE” controls the direction of the dome/telescope contraption, while the other, named “PEGASUS”, operates a software package called LOIS (Lowell Observatory Instrument System) that takes the pictures and can run some useful mid-observing tests.
We arrived at around 6:30, PM. Ed, the super-nice technician dude helped us get started, showing us how LOIS worked, what to be careful of when moving the dome and telescope, and how to restart the whole shebang when (yes, when, not if) it should crash. Soon, we were off.
Cody and I ended up going first, so we pulled two targets off our giant heap and started going for it. This process ended up entailing an exceedingly simple and repetitive series of actions that Cody and I needed to perform every 15 seconds. An exposure takes 10 seconds, and then about 5 more seconds for the system to reset itself, then we point it to the second target, repeat. Point it back at the first, repeat, and so on. We did this until 11:30. I’m still a little scared to do the math, but we ended up taking something like 300 images on that first go. *cringe*
Then Cody and I had a break while Nick and Kerry did their thing. Eventually though, around 3 AM, myself and Cody were back in the hot seat. We picked two more targets, which thankfully were dimmer, and so needed longer exposure times, but basically entailed the same methodology. Sadly, we both began to fall apart around 6 AM (having been awake then for 16 hours, 8 of which were in what would be considered ‘normal sleeping time’): He’d move the dome while I was taking an image, or I’d take an image while he was moving the dome. We were a mess!
By 6:30, the decision was made to call it quits, and we happily did so. Quickly we returned to the Chalet for some sleep. I awoke at around 1 PM with something like six hours of sleep under my belt… Alarmingly, that’s pretty typical for me.
Only problem now is that we have no water, which is… unfortunate.
I’m dirty, and perhaps a tad over-hydrated.
We’ll see how this goes.
In Other News:
Mom and Dad got a new computer over Thanksgiving, and after much begging, I convinced my mother to not throw the old one away (she HATES having old computer stuff around the house, as much as I love it, it seems). I’ve got big plans for this little machine though! I’m going to wipe the hard drive, and install the Ubuntu distro of Linux on it. Then, I’m going to try and run it as a web server out of my house!
“But Tom, you already have a web server! You pay a hefty chunk of money every year to keep it in operation! Why do you need two?!”
If this one works well enough, I can host Schrodinger’s Blog locally, and NOT have to pay a gazillion dollars a year to keep my crappy, little-used blog in operation. Also it would just be mega-hardcore to do it myself.
June 29th, 2008
So I’m not really huge on the internet, or internet-related tests and whatnot, but this made me pretty happy, as I am a huge fan of the ol’ Achewood.
Your result for The Achewood Character Personality Test…
As mentioned on the previous entry, I’m hard at work getting the 2.5 version of Schrodinger’s Blog put together. A lot of cool features coming up, and also just some book-keeping/housework type of things too. It’s still a ways off though.
However, part of the process I did feel like sharing with everyone. I mentioned a while back getting prepared for a visual overhaul of the site. I even went so far as to prepare some material for that:
The plan for the overhaul was to simulate the look of a nuclear launch console. I based my design roughly off of this picture. However, the barrier I keep running into is my Adobe PS skills are only what they are. I’m no whizz at the thing, and I don’t really have any training/talent in artsy things.
You can see different manifestations I played with; the leftmost button is “pushed”, and lit up red. The second one I tried for a more realistic backlight, with a textured surface and a washed out yellow light color. The second two have a different orientation of the text, and are “unlit” or “unpushed” buttons. So. That was the first idea.
I showed this to Ethan though, and his comment was that he liked what I had now. And so I thought to myself, ‘I should just polish up the current design.’ What better to make something look fancy than adding brushed aluminum.
You can see my stab and making an aluminum textured surface on which to place the buttons. The leftmost is “pushed” with a red ring around the edge. This and the aluminum were attempts to make the style similar to a real elevator, which the design is patterned off of. In the end though, I dunno. I really like what I have now, and to change it just for the sake of seems silly.
Brak Blog had one major visual overhaul in its day, but that was when we went from Blogger to LandingClouds, and so it was out of necessity. This would just be “’cause,” and I’m not confident it would be a change for the better. (Though I do like the aluminum!)
So ultimately, I scrapped the idea to do any major graphics work, but I thought I’d share some of the failed drafts with you guys.
Not a whole lot else to mention, besides my thoughts on Thunderbird as an RSS reader. Long story short? It’s not bad. It’s way better than my current method, which was to use Firefox’s Live Bookmarks utility:
This is pretty useful to follow like, maybe one or two blogs or webcomics. The problem, at least for me, was that I started to want to keep track of too much stuff. That bar is only as wide as the browser, and then things trail off into side menus, and it’s not nearly as convenient.
Running it through Thunderbird isn’t bad though. Postings to an RSS feed are basically handled like an e-mail. Everyone does it differently, so a lot of times they look a little rough before you get to the content you need, but it works more or less like basic e-mail:
The one thing that helps is an add-on called ThunderBrowse. This allows the message pane (where the little dog is in the above picture) to function like an internet browser. So when your feeds come into the program, they look like little e-mails with links in them; ThunderBrowse allows you to click that link, and visit the page inside the e-mail client itself! Which is pretty cool.
I know maybe that sounds a little complicated, but the alternative is visiting the sites you see in the panel at left constantly, multiple times a day to see if they’ve updated, which had started to become a problem for me. Now, I just open up my e-mail, and it tells me exactly how many times each site has updated. However, if using Thunderbird seems to daunting (and I’ll be frank, the add-on is a little difficult to install), try Google Reader. Ethan uses that to sift through hundreds of updates daily, and he really likes it. Plus, it’s web-based so you can always read it, and it’s pretty simple to set up.
Regardless of which you pick, there’s a whole world of RSS out there. If you haven’t really made an effort to put some of it to use, I really recommend it. It makes your internet time a lot more efficient, even if that just means getting to your weekly webcomics that much quicker. If anyone’s got questions, I’d be happy to field them. I’m a huge RSS fan, and would love to get other people into it too. (In fact, one such planned update to the site is an index of everything that I get RSSed to my Thunderbird, as a sortof “next gen” version of the old concept of a “Recommended Links” page!)
March 31st, 2008
SO yeah. I am slacking on blogging, and just about EVERYTHING else too.
Here’s the cool thing though: This week, what I lack in one creative medium, I make up for in another!
My big news of this week is that I just finished my first program as a Radio Disk Jockey.
Dobson Radio is a super-small operation that reaches barely most of the Truman campus, but they let you play whatever you want, and they let a bum like me on the airwaves! I’d been fretting over this for the past week or so, and wanting to do it for much longer than that. Suffice to say that when 4 PM on Saturday rolled around, I fulfilled a bit of a dream of mine.
It wasn’t anything flashy, and I need to work on cutting down on dead air and verbal pauses, but it didn’t suck. And the music was good. I won’t elaborate much more, except to say that you can check out the online archive of the first (and following) shows at radio.schrodignersblog.com. I finally settled on the radio-person name that Ian came up with, and so henceforth I shall be “DJ sHogun”. Get it? (Let’s hope so)
The name of the program is still being determined, but tune in next week at 4 to find out!
In other news, the internet is a delightful place of wonder and magic, but with it comes some perils and pitfalls. I tend to complain a little too much about these things, particularly to Ian and sometimes Lizz, and so I thought I’d make it official:
Tom’s Official List of His Most Hated Things on the Internet
- Adobe PDF Files-
“But why Tom? How can you hate these useful image-documents? Haven’t you seen that cute commercial where they look like presents? [NOTE: I tried to fine YouTube video of this, to no avail. There was this ad a long time ago that had all these people opening up the same little gold-wrapped-red-ribbon present, and at the end the ribbon turned into the PDF logo, and it was supposed to be like 'everyone loves getting PDFs'. ...]
Well guess what! I HATE THEM. Whatever little mechanism that has to gear up for my browser to read PDFs always causes it to hang, nearly to the point of crashing, which is a bit of a feat with Firefox. And plus, people slip them in everywhere like it’s no big thing. I’m cruising through my google research, havin’ a terrific time of it, and I click the link, and suddenly there is a whole manner of slowness about my browser.
“Damn you PDF, DAMN YOU TO THE ETERNAL FIRES!” I scream with such fervor that Ian makes in inquiring face. Perhaps the shaking of the fist is what confused him. Perhaps it was that I do this on a nearly-weekly basis. Suffice to say, I hate PDFs being all big and everywhere and everyone pretending to love them when they really just make my life more complicated.
- Real Player-
Congratulations, Real Media. You’ve successfully created, maintained, and perpetuated an audio format that NO ONE ASKED FOR AND NOBODY WANTS and everyone just wishes would leave the party because it is becoming hell of awkward for the cool kids (MP3, MOV, even WMF for heaven’s sake) that are supposed to be there because they are popular.
I just get really mad that this file serves like… no purpose. Windows has the filetype for its media player. Apple has one for its. MP3 works for everyone! Happy day. And suddenly *.rm shows up, as if to say, “Alright! Let’s ROCK THIS!” and everyone just kinda stares.
What’s the point? What magical substance has RealMedia laced these files with that makes them so much better? For years I was able to avoid these, but finally I needed to watch some lectures, and they only format they were available for was Real Audio. I downloaded RealPlayer. It was like purchasing a prostitute, in that I felt like I needed to take a shower afterwards. Gross.
It’s just another way to get me to download some thing that will throw advertisements at me.
NO! [In a fit of rage, I literally took five minutes here to uninstall RealPlayer right now. I hate it THAT much.]
- Streaming Audio-
Why is streaming audio and podcasting done in seven thousand different ways? There seems to be some consensus that videos are done via YouTube/Google, images are .jpg, or .gif, and if you want to stream audio, you write your own code, poorly, and invent some protocol by which to deliver it.
That’s silly. And it confuses me.
And it’s also taught me how to truly loathe the gerund “buffering”.
If I have to wait longer than the length of the media clip for it to load and begin playing, that makes a streaming audio clip LITERALLY pointless. You might as well just download it at that point! Madness.
- Win a Free Blank-
Once a year I try one of these things becuase I think I may have finally found a way to outsmart them and get free stuff. And once a year I hate myself so much that I almost download legacy versions of RealPlayer as punishment.
I’m sorry. A free iPod nano (lame!) does not equate to me purchasing a year of satelite TV, three metric tons of microwave popcorn, and vinyl siding for the home I don’t have. [That's how they work: you have to buy all this stuff from their sponsors, get some confirmation code for it, and with enough codes, you get a "free" thing] It just doesn’t make sense. And that’s the worst of it. I always tell myself at the end, when I fail, that if I’m going to make a big purchase in the future, I’ll remember this, and get a special code for something I was already going to buy.
But you can’t do that, becuase it means you have to buy a years worth of flowers delivered to your home weekly, a new muffler and set of break pads, and three seasons of Dallas on DVD. I can think of no such situation when I would need all of those at once, and so no matter how you spin it, it’s a scam.
I’m at the end of my quick list off the top of my head, but I know there’s more. I’ll keep you posted if I remember any more. Geez. I really get bothered by this stuff. Probably because computers are kindof my thing, and I get upset when I feel like they’re turning on me.
That’s it for today.
Keep checking back for updates on the radio program, and life in general.
P.S.: Sorry for going rage-blackout on you there. I’m even more sorry that it was over something as esoteric as file types and internet scams. Oh well. It’s been a weird day.
November 1st, 2007
I’m working on something kinda new.
It’s always been my dream that people could here the songs which I name the entires after. The problem’s always been that embedding audio is a royal pain, as Real, Windows Media Player, and Quicktime never came seem to agree on a happy medium.
So screw that. I found a stat which says that 97% of web users have Macromedia (Now Adobe, I believe) Flashplayer. Odds are that you are one of the 97%, and so I found a flash-based solution. Originally, I had tried XSPF Web Player, which was a small, simple player that actually uses an open source architecture for the structure of the playlists, which is rockin’, but it was too hard for me to get the hang of. [I couldn't get the *.xspf files to behave correctly.]
A much simpler solution was the Audio Player for WordPress Plugin. It integrates directly with WordPress, and has a lot of customization without me needing to learn any crazy programming stuff. Which is neat.
So without further ado:
I think in the future I’ll just stick these right at the top. You can listen to the song and read the entry concurrently. Any feedback on this little feature would be stellar. Right now I’ll upload some legacy tracks to the entries on the homepage. I’m not sure if I’ll be leaving them there forever, but we’ll see.
I don’t want people munching up my bandwidth just listening to MP3s and not reading the posts, so it might be a “only 10 audio files online” at a time thing. We’ll see. For now though, enjoy!
I should also say: I got so distracted working on this little tweak that I neglected to study for a German test I had Wednesday until like… 2 AM on Wednesday… Which was dumb. But this thing’s really cool, and the test was a joke, so I guess it’s all good.
That probably was my latest college night this year, clocking in at 4:30 AM before I was in bed and turning off the light. I was fine the next day though, which is encouraging; though sleep-fest of this semester has made me soft, I still got it where it counts, you know?