3 Dec 2000 jct   » (Journeyer)

Do not adjust your set. This is a Streaming Freedom video bulletin. The cable hack will last exactly sixty seconds; it cannot be traced. It cannot be stopped. And it is the only free voice left in this city.

So goes the tagline of a rogue journalist in the TV series Dark Angel. The character represents the voice of freedom (free as in "speech") in the struggle against a corrupt, dysfunctional society. It's an interesting parallel: his fiction and our reality in the OSS struggle against proprietary software. The resemblance is only skin deep, but compelling nevertheless.

* * *

I discovered Advogato some time ago, but have neglected to register until now. I have my own online diary software: some PHP3 code I threw together some time ago. My software is modeled after sites like everything.org and wiki-wiki-web in that it automatically generates hyerlinks between entries (a feature that might be cool to see here at Advogato). But my software is also immature, so I'm going to give Advogato a try.

I used to attempt keeping notes in a file in my home directory: kind of like a changelog with some simple formatting convetions. I used a small Emacs mode I wrote to help automate the editing. It worked very well until about five years ago when I started using linux. Until then I only had one account on one unix system, which made keeping track of my log file no problem at all - it was always there when I needed it in the same file in the same directory.

When I started using linux on my home PC, I used the same software to keep the same kind of log on my home system. At first, this worked: work-related notes on the system at work, personal notes on the personal system at home. Pretty quickly, though, the system broke down: I often think about work while I'm at home, and vice-versa. (Yeah, I'm not supposed to think about personal stuff on the clock, but the thoughts come unbidden. Try not to think about purple elephants, and you'll see what I mean.) My notes started to cross-pollinate between the two log files, and pretty soon it was hard to tell one from the other.

To make matters worse, I changed jobs to one that requires me to work on several different systems. And just last year, I bought a laptop, one more system to throw into the mix. My notes, thoughts, to-do items were now scattered across several files on several systems. I could still record my thoughts anytime I needed, but going back and finding them later became a real problem - often the entry I was seeking wasn't on the same system I was using, and then I had to go into hunt mode.

I suppose I'm probably preaching to the converted here: who hasn't had a similar problem? I thought my Palm organizer might help matters - it solved a similar problem I had keeping track of phone numbers. But great though the Palm is, it just isn't great at writing notes onto.

Now that the Internet is everywhere, it's clearly a great potential candidate to solve this kind of problem: put the the notes online. Store them in a database. Enable me to retrieve them, add new ones, edit old ones, etc., from any computer connected to the net.

I've been using my own PHP journal pages, but they're not as mature yet as the Advogato diary system. The Advogato system is obviously very simple, and not very feature-burdened, but sometimes less is more. I really like its ease of use. I like its fast-loading design. I like its clean, uncluttered look. Some new features would be nice, and who knows, maybe I'll take the Advogato code and add my own features. That is how the whole OSS thing works, right?

Stay tuned. More about ODS, exif-tools, and linux digital photography still to come.

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