Older blog entries for elanthis (starting at number 379)

New LARP Weapons

Spent some hours making these. I hope they’re actually legal. :/ The halberd (looks far more like a german poleax, oops) is constructed with 1″ diameter rattan, a styrofoam kickboard, the usual tan pipe insulation, some thinner dark tan (not black) pipe insulation I found, and strapping tape.

The halberd’s head is a bit bigger than I intended. I cut the styrofoam without taking into consideration the width of the padding (I used the light tan stuff for the blade’s edge, and the head spike and butt spike), so the blade came out a bit more gargantuan than I wanted it.

The dark tan padding used on the haft kinda has me worried - it’s not the rubbery black stuff that breaks down uber quick - it’s the exact same material as the light tan padding - but it’s only about 5/8ths as thick. I actually like that fact, but it may not be up to the standards of the game I’m heading to this weekend. Guess I’ll have to find out. It seems to hold up all right and is just about as cushy as the thicker stuff, but I imagine I’ll have to repad it sooner. Granted, the light tan stuff can last well over a year if you aren’t hitting like a retard and store your weapons somewhere acceptable.

The sword is a little atypical in construction too. The hilt is attached a little differently than most, as it’s a single length of padding with a hole cut through the middle edge-wise, and the PVC slide through that. It’s then secured with a healthy amount of strapping tape, similar to how all the bits are attached on the halberd. The blade was then covered completely in the dark tan padding, and then another strip of the dark tan was cut in half and doubled up on the blade edges. This gives the sword a slightly nice shape, although it’s giant and bloated compared to a real sword. The thrusting tip then has some extra light tan padding to give it a slight taper and extra cushion. The pommel is the regular light tan padding construction, albeit attached with strapping tape instead of just duct tape.

I have complete confidence that the sword is safe. The blade edges are actually even cushier than normal boffer swords since the dark tan stuff doubled up is a bit thicker than the light tan padding.

Syndicated 2008-04-11 18:12:42 from Sean Middleditch

OpenJDK / IcedTea Web Plugin

I’ve been completely unable to get most of the Java plugins I need for work to operate using the OpenJDK / IcedTea plugin that both Ubuntu and Fedora shipped. Looking into things, it appears that they’re using a modified version of the GCJ plugin which has always been pretty behind the curve when it comes to actually working.

Anyone know why the official Java plugin isn’t released with OpenJDK, or if it is, why IcedTea is sticking with the incomplete GCJ plugin?

On a side note, why does OpenOffice.org on Fedora 9 require java-1.5.0-gcj instead of using java-1.6.0-openjdk? It seems a bit goofy to have two JRE’s installed.

Syndicated 2008-04-03 16:08:42 from Sean Middleditch

OpenID Not The Best Bet

So, I’ve tried toying around with OpenID a bit, and I’ve come back feeling a little unimpressed.

There are two problems. First, it is still a super pain in the ass to setup an OpenID server. None of the servers I could find were installable with a simple tarball unpack and config script - they all required source modifications and even then didn’t really work. There are toolkits for building OpenID servers, but no ready-to-run servers.

The biggest problem though is just the user-experience as a whole. Having to type in anything at all is still kind of clunky. I want single sign-on - if I am online, any site I go to should be able to verify I am the entity I was last time (with the ability to easily allow/deny sites from doing so). I shouldn’t need to type anything in. The amount of information available to the system should be more than enough for any site, be it a simple blog comment form, a forum, or an online store.

I’m all for having a server to centralize this, but I don’t think the technology should be built around users interacting with this server. The server should be a storage medium at most, not the actual UI. Instead, I am imagining a browser extension (which should be possible for Gecko, IE, WebKit, and Opera) that exposes a new JavaScript object, something like window.AuthService. This object allows the site to query information about the current user, including name, email, contact information, etc. It will also be able to retrieve a user ID (which would probably be an email address, or something else guaranteed to be unique per-user) as well as a site token. This token would be a completely unique and cryptographically strong random identifier that is associated with the user ID and the site domain. In particular, each user/site combo gets a different token.

So, I connect to google.com, and it wants to know who I am. It queries window.AuthService.userId and window.AuthService.siteToken and gets ’sean@mojodo’ and ‘F583AC9…4AC’ back. It then uses these to log the user in, or create a new account (which in many cases could be completely silent).

The first time a site attempts to access the AuthService object, the browser can display a popup (or one of those notice bars that are becoming popular) informing the user that the site wishes to identify him, and allow him to accept the authorization (possibly selecting between multiple profiles), permanently accept it, deny it, or select the access level (id and token only, id token and contact info, etc.).

The central server comes into play by allowing the browser to configure such a server (which could easily just be an LDAP server) to grab identifies from. Browsers set up in public terminals could be configured to ask for the server login information when the user first accepts an AuthService request (and not store this information past the end of the browser session). This allows users to keep their authentication information somewhere central, but keeps the UI solely in the browser allowing for a far better user experience.

Obviously a lot of details need to be worked out, including the exact interface (would it be better to use HTTP headers rather than or in addition to JavaScript?), the UI needs to be nailed down, etc.

I’ve considered writing a Mozilla extension for this (as well as extensions for WHAT-WG Connection class and Server-Sent DOM Events), but writing extensions for Mozilla is such a byzantine process and the documentation on how one might register new objects in windows (and do so securely - the docs just say it’s insecure if not done right, warning you not to do it, which is fucking useless compared to just explaining how to do it correctly and securely) that I haven’t been able to get anywhere on any of those ideas.

In the end though, I think OpenID is pretty much dead technology. At most it might become very slightly popular with blogs for posting comments, but it’s usefulness pretty much ends there. The UI sucks and the ease of user control and information handling is too lacking.

Syndicated 2008-02-14 19:11:50 from Sean Middleditch

Mojodo Inc.

I finally got my hands on the domain I’ve been drooling over for over a year now, and am currently in the process of converting AwesomePlay Productions, Inc. into Mojodo Inc.

I’ve kind of hated the name awesomeplay for a long time. I came up with it back when I was, oh, 11. I think it was a direct rip of Interplay Productions, my favorite computer game company at the time (they published Dungeon Master II and Stonekeep). The name is pretty lame, dated, and unprofessional. Mojodo on the other hand is totally Web 2.0, which is also kind of lame in its own way, but what else is expected when every other reasonably intelligent domain name is taken. :)

The actual company site, once I get it developed, will be hosted at mojodoinc.com, and a new Service (oh crap) will be hosted at mojodo.com once I have the time to invest in that.

In slightly unrelated news, it’s kind of surreal that I’ve found articles written about PHP-Sugar already. Hopefully soon the new domain will be the top hit for Google searches, and the online reference manual should be ready in a week or so. 1.0 isn’t far away.

Syndicated 2008-02-14 07:29:03 from Sean Middleditch

PHP-Sugar 0.73 Bugfix Release

Several bugs were found in the 0.72 release of PHP-Sugar, so I’ve released 0.73 with fixes.

The two main fixes are a correction to the Sugar::isCached() method to always return false in debug mode and fixes to avoid warnings and errors in E_STRICT mode.

I also fixed up some of the tests to work properly again, and added a new test for comments.

Syndicated 2008-02-12 06:00:19 from Sean Middleditch

PHP-Sugar 0.72 and New Website

Earlier today I registered php-sugar.net, and installed the site code from sourcemud.org. The site code isn’t quite complete (the bug tracker, for example, doesn’t let me edit bug statuses yet, nor search for closed bugs), but otherwise I’ve got a complete project hosting solution ready. Things are even better when using git, since I have a very functional git browser built in to the sourcemud.org code; too bad php-sugar uses Subversion.

Even more interesting than the new site, however, is the release of PHP-Sugar 0.72. This release contains the last of the major feature additions before I’m ready to move towards a 1.0 release. The new feature is that HTML caches now store the list of all template files used to create the cache, and these files are checked on cache load to see if the cache is out-dated.

There are certainly some more cleanups and very minor feature additions I’d like to do (mostly new functions for template authors), but php-sugar is for the most part feature complete at this point. Hopefully I can get a 1.0 release out in the next month or two.

Syndicated 2008-02-09 06:23:03 from Sean Middleditch

First Vector Graphic

So I decided it was finally time to pop my Inkscape cherry and give vector graphics a try.

I needed a logo for Source MUD. I used one of those Flash-based logo designers to come up with some ideas, but naturally I couldn’t use anything I created due to licensing issues. I took one of the designs and decided to go with that, albeit created from scratch and using a font I had legal access to.

The result is this:

Source MUD Logo

Yeah, it’s not exactly the world’s most complicated design. It’s made up of three paths and some text. It took some time to get that done, though, since I needed to learn exactly how one does graphics with Inkscape.

First was the creation of the blue squiggle shape thingy. I created the center line, then the left and right lines. Then I tried to figure out how the hell to get the color fill. After a lot of playing around, I eventually discovered that I’d have to merge the paths into a single object. I cloned the center line, and created an object of the center line and the left, and a second of the cloned center line and the right. Filling these produced some… weird results. I needed to merge the end control points of the two paths that each object was made of, but I was having trouble getting this to actually work consistently. I found that I needed to get the points very close together (_very_ close) before merging. Then on the right-hand side I kept getting a weird line segment pointing out into the middle of nowhere every time I merged. I played around a bit more and finally got that to work.

Then it was just a matter of lining things up, adjusting line widths, sizing things, etc.

Exporting to the PNG was the most difficult part. I’m really not happy with Inkscape’s export facilities. First, the default was to export the “drawing,” not the whole image, so the output was cropped down from the image size I had originally requested (web banner). That seemed a goofy default given that I had asked to make a web banner image. Second, the background was always transparent, which I really didn’t want - IE6 is still way too common to rely on transparent backgrounds in PNGs. The only options in image export though were basically canvas size options. I ended up making a large white rectangle, moving it to the bottom of the object stack, and then exporting the page to get the final PNG.

And there we have it.

Syndicated 2008-02-07 23:54:17 from Sean Middleditch


The last year and a half at the old apartment has watched me get really out of shape. One of the niceties of the new apartment is that I am on a concrete slab, so I can actually get my workout equipment here. Unfortunately, I’m not sure my 500 lbs. treadmill can be moved down the stairs and through the doorways realistically. However, the main office does have a gym.

I just tried doing my first set of situps (my new couch gives me something to prop my feet under), and I managed to barely do 44 before my knees and back gave out. 44. Pathetic. I tried to do pushups, and managed to get through 3 before my arms gave out. That’s really pathetic. I only hope that my performance is degraded a bit due to my current severe cold, and that once it’s shaken off I’ll be at least relatively close to what I used to be able to do.

The current plan is to get the Bowflex in my bedroom after I figure out what to do with the piles of books, and then give thought to getting the treadmill in here. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll start using the one at the gym, although I’ll need to figure out what to do about music in that case. I’m also not particularly fond of walking to the office in gym clothes in this weather, so I’d really prefer to get my treadmill in here.

I seriously need to get back in shape. For the first time in 4 years I’ve actually gained weight, and my waist size increased. Most of my super sexy muscles are all but gone, too, so I need to work those back into shape.

I’m in turn going to have to increase my protein intake. The whole “going organic” thing makes that slightly more difficult, as getting my hands on affordable all organic beef is not particularly easy, and I’m not a huge fan of most other sources of protein. (Peanut butter is an exception, but as I said in my last post, I need to seriously cut back my peanut butter consumption, not increase it.)

I’d like to be in “not embarrassed to go to the beach” shape by July. Hopefully between my more reserved diet and working out again, I can get there by then. I don’t have a ton of time, but I’ve once already lost more than twice this amount of weight in less than half the time I have until July, so I’m confident I can do it again.

Syndicated 2008-02-01 19:57:16 from Sean Middleditch

Going Organic

I’ve never been much of a health nut, but there are a few things I’ve tried to pay attention to. I avoid drinking soda as much as possible, especially anything with corn syrup in it. I buy organic meat (no steroids), and preferably buy the stuff raised the old-fashioned way and not on a large industrialized farm. I drink soymilk instead of regular milk, especially since the doctor recommended that one to me. I eat organic oatmeal. Other than the occasional splurging on fresh organic fruit or a trip to Zingerman’s, that’s about the extend of my organic buying.

A friend who is very big into the organic food and local farming lifestyle has kind of given me a bit more motivation to try harder. After my last shopping spree, I’ve managed to convert about 1/3 of my diet to all organic products without really raising my grocery bill much. I still have a ways to go.

The biggest problem I’m noticing is a lack of pre-made or semi-made foods that are all organic. For example, I can get the ingredients to make some kick-ass pasta sauce (along with all organic wheat pasta) easily enough, but finding a bottle of already made sauce is another thing altogether. I’m lazy. I don’t really know how to cook, and even if I did, I don’t think it would be something I’d do more than once or twice a week. Especially not in this stupid apartment with the neglectful landlord who won’t get rid of the ant problem that makes my kitchen close to unusable.

So, most of the organic food I’ve bought is stuff I can eat with little to no cooking or preparation. That mostly comes down to snacks and light meals, but not the kind of stuff I can really live off. I’d love to see a bigger variety in organic cheeses (the only ones I can find are generally whole wheels that cost a fortune), pre-made sauces and side-dishes, and so on. I’d also like to see a bigger variety in organic and whole-wheat pasta; I can’t find farfelle organic pasta for the life of me, for example.

Assuming I could find such products, I could get my diet up to at least 3/4 organic foods, with the rest of my diet being from restaurants (and several of my favorite restaurants are all organic).

My last major sin in terms of food consumption would then be that I drink bottled water. A lot of bottled water. About 150% to 200% of what the average person goes through. I don’t know why, but my body needs more water than most people. I sweat heavily even in cold weather. My father is the same way. Also, I just can’t freaking stand tap water. I mean, to the point that drinking it actually makes me gag a little. It might be that I was raised on nasty well water and I’ve been conditioned to hate tap water, but I swear even the filtered city water I have now is pretty gross. Now, I don’t believe that bottled water is bad for me (it isn’t), or even that drinking that water is bad for the environment (it isn’t), but the huge number of plastic bottles I go through is enormous. We don’t have recycling collection around here, and even if we did, it’s generally shown that recycling creates more waste due to the energy recycling and collection requires than just throwing the stuff out. I’ve tried a few alternatives to drinking bottled water, including the reusable water jugs that stores like Meijer has, but that water tastes almost as bad as tap water (that’s probably all it is). I wonder what other alternatives are available given that I just will not drink tap water?

My cupboards currently contain a few foods I bought earlier this month that, once consumed, I’ll replace with organics. I’ve got a jar of peanut butter (which, honestly, I need to cut out of my diet - that stuff is going to be the death of me), some farfelle, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and some jars of Kroger brand strawberry preserves. Everything else is organic, a lot of stuff is whole-wheat (I haven’t eaten white bread in more years than I can count, except for the occasional baguette), and a few things are possibly even locally grown (most of it isn’t, though).

I’ve also started taking some “all natural” vitamin supplements, as it’s been pointed out to me that my general diet sucks and I’m probably missing all sorts of crap my body needs, which combined with my lack of working out for the last year and half has led to some severely deteriorated health. I’m sick for the second time in less than a month, for example.

Laura also gave me some recipes for some very easy to prepare dishes I might try out once the fucking ant problem is solved. (This might have to result in me threatening legal action for landlord negligence due to failure to correct unsanitary living conditions. Fun.)

Syndicated 2008-01-31 05:17:37 from Sean Middleditch

Back to Fedora

I’ve been using Ubuntu pretty much since it first came out, after Jeff Waugh sent me an invite. (I forget why he did so - possibly I was bitching about whichever distro I was on at the time.)

Ubuntu was pretty great until the last few releases. Starting around the time of Feisty, the number of bugs seemed to be creeping up and up, and more effort was being put into adding horrifically fucking stupid features like “Compiz by default” (whoo, an ugly and eye-straining WM that only works on less than half the hardware out there with OSS drivers, just what we needed).

Some of the bugs were really starting to impact the usability of the desktop for me. They weren’t getting fixed, but new stupid-ass features were being added all the time. I gave up.

Having heard good things about the last few Fedora releases, I decided to reinstall my desktop with Fedora Core 8. The install went very smoothly (unlike Ubuntu, with its idiotic Live CD installer that takes longer to boot than it does to install, and usually crashes or locks during said install), and I’ve got the system up and running.

The first problem I ran into was not being able to log in as my user. I had left the /home partition unformatted. I had also left the default SELinux settings in Fedora enabled. The problem was that the /home partition was not labeled, and so my user could not access his own home partition. After a few minutes of learning the SELinux commands, I fixed that up.

Next, the display in the desktop was practically unusable. The max resolution supported was 800×600, and I had no mouse cursor. I had to reconfigure the monitor to a generic LCD 1680×1050 to fix the resolution, but I still had no mouse cursor, and everything was looking stretched even though the right resolution was being used.

The nv driver had been selected by default, so I switched to the nouveau driver, which I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. Switching the driver gave me a mouse cursor, but things were not peachy. The color of my desktop kept randomly changing, and the screen was somehow taller than the monitor, so even after auto-adjusting the top of my screen was not visible. Plus, just like with the nv driver, all my fonts looked like shit, and were stretched out too wide. It’s like neither of the drivers support wide-screen monitors correctly, even though they were running in the right resolution (well, maybe nouveau wasn’t, even though it was told to).

So, I installed the nvidia binary driver from the livna respository, and blam, everything looks great now. This a real shame that just getting basic 2D functionality working still requires the binary driver. ::sigh::

I’ve since tweaked a few other things, and am still doing getting everything up and running just right. The only other actual problem I’ve had so far is that all the channels on my soundcard were set to 0 and muted. Weirdness.

All of the bugs I had in Ubuntu are gone, though. Including bugs which I would have guessed were GTK+ or X bugs. So either Fedora is actually bothering to fix stuff, Ubuntu’s new feature squad is breaking stuff, or the bugs only manifest with a certain combination of software versions that is different on Fedora. All the base package versions are the same, though.

Oh well, I can use my computer now without constantly getting frustrated by stupid bugs. Yay me!

Syndicated 2008-01-26 21:32:35 from Sean Middleditch

370 older entries...

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!