Older blog entries for neale (starting at number 32)


Lots of activity all of a sudden on virgule-dev. It looks like I dropped it prematurely. On the other hand, some of my work has undoubtedly made it into Advogato, so I still feel like it was a net productive diversion.

graduate school

My sister was just accepted to graduate school to study cognitive psychology. I think there's a lesson for me here. I just said "I wanna go to graduate school for computers" and didn't get in. My sister said "I'm interested in studying cognitive psychology" and started talking to professors who were studying that, then narrowed down her choices to the professors who expressed an interest in her, and only after all this did she apply.

As a result of this realization, I'm trying to decide what I'm really interested in. One of my initial thoughts is that I sure do enjoy learning new languages, and that even though I'm still endeavoring to really grasp it, ML strikes me as the Right Thing. My new plan is to finish up The Little Schemer, write everything in Guile for a month or two, then get cozy with a good book on ML. My goal is to install the Hello Project and start hacking it. At that point, I'm hoping it will be pretty clear to me whether or not I'm really interested in doing graduate work in ML, and I presume I'll have a good idea about what people I should contact, at what universities.


I finally understand comments Raph made a year or two ago about SMTP needing a successor. I have a fairly decent (but very simplistic) trust-based email filter: a whitelist constructed from my address book. Wouldn't it be cool if in addition to that, I could query some of those peeople about incoming email? For instance, what if my procmail recipie could automatically ask alice@example.com a question like "What do you know about bob@example.net?" Better yet, bob's email could carry with it a certification from alice that bob is a good guy. I already trust alice, so I could put bob's mail in a "probably not spam" box.

This isn't a terribly difficult concept. I'm surprised it hasn't already been implemented on a wide scale. It's been in PGP for decades.


I've been doing a lot of reading lately. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever undergone such a surge in voluntary reading. And to think, it was all begun by reading the Harry Potter series. I suppose it just took reading something that made reading fun, and the realization that I'm not required to read things in which I have no interest.

The best book I've read in this recent literary explosion has got to be Civilization before Greece and Rome by H.W.F. Saggs. It's just a history book, but the subject matter fascinates me. Right now I'm reading about the government of ancient Egypt, and I keep drawing parallels between their bureaucracy and various bureaucracies today. If nothing else it's encouraging to know that the good old days really weren't all they're cracked up to be.

Another thought-provoking and fun read was Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. If you liked the movie "Deep Impact" but felt like it could have done with more science and more exploration of the before and after on earth, this book is for you.

Powell's Bookstore would be a good place to visit if you're trying to find an alternative to Amazon. This store has been around for quite some time in Portland. In the Pacific Northwest it is generally agreed that Powell's is the best place to go for books, especially technical books. That they're privately owned is a plus in my book, as well.

20 Dec 2001 (updated 20 Dec 2001 at 17:26 UTC) »

Got married recently, and I haven't had much time for hacking. Actually, I haven't had as much time as I'd like for hacking in quite a while now. But then I guess I'll never be able to go back to those 2-day stretches I pulled when I was 14.

Recently I've gotten into Make and AWK. I used those two to create my new photo album software (source code available, but it's not for everyone), and a suite of Makefiles to build directory listings in my web space every night.

I have this dream of finding some project I can really contribute to, but I'm becoming increasingly aware that this will never happen. What I seem to be best at is contributing useful bits and pieces to projects (maradns is the latest), and then moving on. Which is okay, but it sure makes it hard to keep track of the hundreds of little hacks I've done.

This Sklyarov stuff is keeping me pretty busy. I hope they let him go soon, so I can get back to my normal life.

28 Jun 2001 (updated 20 Dec 2001 at 17:30 UTC) »
drc's post about the reworked advogato stuff convinced me to finally learn enough about CSS to make bordered boxes. You can do it, but finding out how isn't easy. The best way appears to be creating an element with table-cell display attributes, like this:

span.cert {
    display: table-cell;
    background-color: inherit;
    padding: 0;
    margin: 0;
    border: 2px;

Of course, Gecko is the only rendering engine that gets this right (although Opera does pretty well). Konqueror draws it correctly but then fills background over the text. IE does some weird word-wrapping. Looks good in w3-mode though.

So you can get advogato-like output using CSS, but it's not well-supported yet.

If you'd like to see the resultant output, check out thunk.

Yesterday, I submitted an ITP for robotfindskitten.

kgb, I like your wife's cards!
1 Jun 2001 (updated 1 Jun 2001 at 16:53 UTC) »

Gar, flub, mispost.

Yesterday I merged my mod_virgule changes in with CrackMonkey's tree. So now there's a mod_virgule tree which has an XML configuration file (for virtual hosting--no more recompiling! at least, not as much) and CrackMonkey's awesome "Last Read" hacks (as seen on Badvogato, among other places). Next stop: GNOME CVS.

I dusted off my modified jhcore last night. Maybe now that I know real (as opposed to net.) people, it will see some use. I debated a little bit about whether I should use a Cold Project core, since I'm much more familiar with the language, and tinnkered with the idea of a Scheme MOO, but decided to go with jhcore simply because it's very robust and I don't get much hack time these days. The first MOO I launched was pretty successful until I axed it and replaced it with a ColdCore. The users tried to use it, but eventually everyone ditched it.

Seems like I'm not content unless I have too much stuff to work on.

14 May 2001 (updated 14 May 2001 at 19:07 UTC) »

Working on mod_virgule now, and raph has perused through my patch archive. This included him seeing a rather flippant comment about a quick hack I inserted to make something work. I hope he didn't take it the wrong way, but I realize now that when you're treading in the tracks of your elders, it's wise to show a little respect.

raph, I think Advogato as it stands is just about ideal for its purpose. It's a community for free software developers, and the projects et cetera are targetted toward that sort of group. Adding additional rooms to this forum would be out of place, IMHO. Do one thing, and do it well.

If, however, you wanted to make Advogato its own room, inside a larger board, I imagine that would be fairly well received. But perhaps your best bet is to virtual host a new site with new users. I would like to end up with something that can continue to run Advogato more or less as it exists today, perhaps with a few extra amenities, but something which is also capable of supporting a larger BBS-like site with multiple topical message boards.

Wouldn't it be cool if the rooms could be distinguished by virtual host name? books.advogato.org, rants.advogato.org, what have you. Then www.advogato.org could be what it is right now.

I got on to say something about how there was more traffic to the mod_virgule archive than I expected, and ask if I should start a mailing list, but then I saw binaryfoo's diary entry and it changed the flavor of my day. It's cloudy out, perfect weather for introspection. Today has ceased being a good day for work.

More on thunk. The spouse factor seems to be an oft-overlooked hacker-related issue, and I don't doubt that folks on Advogato would have quite a bit to say about this. Maybe there's something relevant in the linuxchix mailing list archives.

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