Archive for category Computers

Reality Distractions

Posted by on Tuesday, 30 August, 2005

It’s been almost three weeks since my father passed, and I’m desperately keeping busy, trying to catch up on weeks of computer and music work. Whenever I stop to breathe, I still feel depressed. I guess that’s normal, though… I expect the depression to last a while.

Still, there’s nothing like a bit of escapism to help distract from the sadness of reality. Why read a book, when you can live the book? I’m referring to MMORPGs, of course. My new favorite game is Guild Wars, which, unlike other online games, does not require a monthly subscription. You just buy the game, then pop online and go adventuring with friends. If anyone out there also plays, let me know, so we can do some online socializing and questing together. I’ve been playing with one friend recently, and it’s really great to do a VoIP voice call while playing … either through Skype or Google Talk. It makes a huge difference.

T minus six weeks till baby. After that, I doubt I’ll have time play games anymore. I’ll probably be too sleep-deprived anyway.

Video Camera

Posted by on Sunday, 3 July, 2005

So I succumbed to (1) my gadget addiciton and (2) the cultural rule that all imminent fathers must buy video cameras. Bought a Panasonic PV-GS150, and it really is neat. It has three CCDs, so the color quality is way better than other cameras in its price range. We did a lot of comparisons in the store, and the difference is dramatic.

So after filming two minutes of cats and wife shaking fist, I plugged the camera into the Mac’s firewire port and clicked the ‘import’ button. The video got slurped right into iMovie. Now I just need to figure out how to edit the stuff. Though in the long run, I guess I’ll be doing the editing on my XP music-studio box. The machine actually belongs to me, is faster, and has way more disk space.

However, Mark and Marg were kind enough to do an iChat videoconference with me as a test. It worked really smoothly over 802.11b… though they claimed the audio cut out for them now and then. I’m not sure if that’s an indication that I need to a faster DSL upload speed, or if I ought to just go buy an 802.11g router.

Bluegrass podcast

Posted by on Saturday, 2 July, 2005

Apple has finally caught onto the popularity of podcasts. A podcast is similar to a weblog — instead of amateur journalism articles being posted to a web page, it’s an amateur radio show posted a series of mp3 fies. Both blogs and podcasts are syndicated through RSS feeds, and can be “subscribed” to through aggregation programs that automatically download the latest broadcasts.

In any case, Apple just released iTunes 4.9, which now has the ability to subscribe to podcasts. After installing, I searched the podcast directory for “bluegrass” and found a radio show released by the Bluegrass Preservation Society. It’s basically one guy in the mountains of West Virginia who records local bluegrass bands and narrates a show around them. The music is fantastic. And the guy has a nice cat named Buster, who he claims runs the booth controls for him!

As requested on his radio show, I sent the guy an email, letting him know he had a new fan in Chicago, and he wrote back a really nice response. I recommend you download an episode of his radio program, it’s great stuff.

Recipe Database

Posted by on Monday, 27 June, 2005

OK, for two years now I’ve been trying to develop a web-based recipe database for Frances. She’s an amazing cook, has a huge collection of cookbooks, and is always trying to organize her favorite recipes. She wants to organize them, file them, categorize them, and record when they were served, and how they went over. She also wants to track people’s personal favorite recipes, and their food allergies. She wants to select a bunch of recipes and produce a grocery shopping list. She wants her friends to log in to add their own recipes, and add comments to existing ones.

The database should reside on red-bean, and Frances should be able to enter (and query) recipes through her web browser. We’re talking about writing a basic app for the LAMP platform. Simple enough, right?

Maybe not.

At first, I took the whole LAMP thing way too seriously. I created a bunch of MySQL tables, then created a bunch of python classes that represented all the different objects in the system, and gave them methods to load and save themselves to tables. Then I cobbled a horrible CGI interface. It was a big mess, and it took way too long.

The mistake? Reinventing the wheel. There are dozens of LAMP-y content management systems out there already which do all of this stuff automatically: user accounts, document publishing, permissions, discussions, slick site theming, and so on. So now I’m using Plone, a fantastic CMS written in python, built on top of Zope, which is a general object-database-webserver app. I love it to death.

Now that I’m on a bit of a theater break this summer, my goal is to get the recipe system up and running before the baby arrives in October. I somehow imagine Frances up in the middle of the night, feeding the baby, while entering recipes into a web browser. It will give her something to do!