The Sound of One Hand Clapping…

…would make significantly more noise than I have on this blog, as of late.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The main one is that I don’t actually have the internet in my new flat yet, and won’t for another 9 days. Bloody Virgin Media. Serves me right for not going with media which has a bit more experience, I suppose. I’m writing this at work, which is something I really don’t like to do, but it’s very much the end of the day and I’m in late because I started late. I figure: a quick post can’t hurt.

Another reason is that my life has been incredibly complicated for the last couple of weeks. I have been bounced around all over the place. I also missed a flight, an expensive mistake I may devote a blog entry to at some point, now that my (partially self directed) rage has subsided, since it has some comedy value.

More importantly: my paternal grandmother died. There’s really no way to sugar coat that fact. To head off inevitable questions:

Yes, we were close. In point of fact she basically raised me. I probably loved her more than anyone else in the entire world. I was also her only grandchild.

Yes, I am okay. I will be okay. I knew that day was coming. She had been ill in one form or another for basically my entire life and the years were being increasingly unkind.

No, that did not make it any easier. I cried for more or less the entire funeral, and I have no qualms (zero!) about broadcasting that fact over the internet. I was very glad to have my family and some close friends who knew my Nan there with me.

It is not my intention for this post to be macabre, though. For one thing my grandmother would not have wanted that. I mainly wanted to just check-in and indicate that this blog is still around, and more posts will be forthcoming. Especially now that: a) I have my computer back, and b) Shamus Young and Michael Goodfellow are making significantly more progress than I on their procedural generation projects. I am jealous of this.

I’ll be back with more to say soon. Future topics of conversation will include: why I hate RyanAir, donuts, and dog food. Yes, dog food.

RIP Cath / Kath Johnson*

* Funny story about my Nan: no one is 100% sure of what her first name actually was.

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The Process and the Platform

The effort required to actually publish that last post was… considerable. Several factors contributed to this:

  • I have slow internet access at my hotel;
  • Currently, my only (full) computer is my work laptop;
  • This doesn’t have iPhoto installed (this is mostly for reasons of simplicity, I’d probably get it if I asked).

In the end, I wrote the text of the post in Evernote on my iPad (using an external keyboard), since I’m supposed to install an absolute minimum of third party software on the laptop. Next, I did a copy paste into BlogPress, a blogging app which lets you insert images inline. In theory the official WordPress app also does this, except that the upload always fails for me. As you may have gathered, I inserted the images here. This also rescales them, so you don’t need to upload all 12 megapixels. Next, I uploaded it to my actual blog as a draft, and used the web interface to fix any formatting errors and add any extra formatting, since BlogPress doesn’t allow bold or italic text (that I’ve found). That done, I hit the publish button, and: presto!

Needless to say, this is not an ideal workflow. I like using Evernote for writing the actual text (on both iPad and Mac) because it has about the right amount of functionality and it backs everything up and synchronises it between all of my devices. I like having that always available record which I can look back over and search as I see fit. I also like being able to drop one device, pick up another and keep working on the same document more or less seamlessly.

Digression: I also like that I can use it as a permanent record of my notes. Before I moved down to London I was part way through scanning my notebooks from my PhD into Evernote. Evernote runs OCR on the images, finds the text (when my handwriting makes this feasible) and make it searchable. Brilliant. It’s like being able to carry all of my old note books around with me, all of the time.

What Evernote doesn’t allow you to do is freely mix text and images, however. The WordPress interface does (obviously), but that leaves me with the problem of uploading the images. This is where the low bandwidth and lack of iPhoto were became problems. I suspect the cleanest workflow would be to immediately upload an album to Flickr (or other photo sharing site) and then use the appropriate URL to include the image in the blog post. Searching through the iPhoto library manually sure as hell isn’t ideal, and that’s the only real option for doing it image by image in the web interface.

The most pleasant experience I’ve had for putting together blog posts with both text and pictures was actually iWeb, and by a metric mile. iWeb uses the built in OSX controls and lets you select images according to meta-data and what they look like, rather than their file name, as though you were working with a file system specifically designed for serving you images. The iPad does more or less the same thing, in fact, so that part wasn’t actually too bad. Using iWeb leaves you with very limited options for your blog, however. It’s made me think I should look at using a dedicated program, such as MarsEdit, for writing my posts, or at least for the final stages.

Ideally, I need to find a decent workflow, which doesn’t break down when I’m away from home and likely to actually have semi interesting things to blog about, but doesn’t restrict me when I am at home. Ideally, it should allow me to jump between different machines with a minimum of effort, and not require me  to always add the final touches from the same machine. The workflow should also not break down when no internet connection is available. Text is fairly easy. Images make things more difficult, especially if the images were recorded using my own camera.

Lastly, I’m giving some consideration to porting this blog over to Blogger (only if I can transfer all of my posts and comments, however). It’s not a coincidence that I now work for the company responsible for Blogger’s infrastructure. Becoming more familiar with that platform can only really be a good thing for me here. Blogger also gives me a couple of options which WordPress doesn’t, though. Thoughts?

A Short Note Regarding the Deafening Silence

For a while there it really looked as though I was on top of this whole blogging lark, didn’t it?

The problem is that writing this blog (and to an even greater extent, working on the Clockwork Aphid project) doesn’t feel like procrastinating. It feels like doing something. Not working exactly, but definitely making an active contribution.

As a result, if there’s something else I’m supposed to be doing with my time, I have a really hard time working on either without the guilt setting in (it’s happening right now). This doesn’t stop me from dicking around on the web, complaining about the latest change to Facebook and working my way through my mountain of articles which get dumped into my RSS reader on a daily basis, of course. They do feel like procrastinating, you see, so I waste plenty of time doing those.

This is one of those times when there’s something more important I need to work on.

Hopefully I’ll be able to talk more about it later. That doesn’t mean I’m not spending time thinking up new blog posts (I have at least three fairly big ones sitting in my head) or going over possible implementation strategies for Clockwork Aphid (I probably need to find a catchier name for that). At the moment I’m giving some thought to the management of the landscape data. As in:

  • how much do I show to the user?
  • How much do I keep in memory?
  • How much do I keep on the disk?
  • How much do I keep just on the server?
  • Also: why don’t I use more bulleted lists?

To help with this I’m doing a bit of research and reading a journal paper called “Terrain Simplification Simplified: A General Framework for View-Dependent Out-of-Core Visualization” by Peter Lindstrom and Valerio Pascucci. The previously mentioned Shamus Young used in one of his previous projects and talked about it here. The links he gives are dead now, but if you’re interested you can find a copy of the paper by googling the title.

As for Shamus’ current project, he’s doing something with a landscape subdivided in hexagons. This makes me think it might be some sort of turned based game, as hexagons have the nice side benefit of being equidistant from their neighbors (measuring the distance from centre to centre). Interesting… This makes me wonder if there’s a good method of doing fractal subdivision using a hexagonal (rather than square) topography…

Identity

Note: If you’re reading this on facebook, thanks for reading my blog! Please do leave comments, but I’d be very appreciative if you could leave them on WordPress (here) and not on facebook. Thanks!

As you may or may not know, I’m currently in Australia. In fact, I’ve now been here for a little over a month. I’ll blog about it sooner or later, but not yet. This is largely because I don’t know what I’m going to say. This trip has been an alarming combination of coolness and frustration so far, and I don’t want to let too much of the later slip out. That would be highly unprofessional of me, and possibly not great either for my employer or my career.

This post shall be about something else.

I have a side project that I’ve chomping at the bit to get started on, and while I’ve been here I’ve worked up a couple of fairly good ideas for it. I can’t start work on it, though, because I only have my work computer with me, and a studiously avoid doing any side projects or personal work on it, just to be on the safe side, intellectual property wise. Aside from reading up on things and doing some scribblings on paper, the other thing I can do is set up a bit of infrastructure. I’m going to make the project public, both in terms of open sourcing the code and blogging about the ideas behind it (at least to begin with). But where, though? Here’s my dilema: I’m HarveyNick on wordpress, Tumblr, Twitter* and now BitBucket (the place I’ll be hosting the code – side note: I’ll be going with Mercurial for revision control). Should I write the blog entries here (and have them trickle down to tumblr and twitter), and host the code directly under HarveyNick’s account on BitBucket? Let’s say I name the project after my old band, the repository would be

bitbucket.org/harveynick/hinge

Which stamps my ownership on it quite heavily. Likewise, if I put blog entries here: same situation. In some senses that’s a good thing. Right now, it’s my project. I might not always want it to be that way, though. Getting other people involved might also be good. I tend to work better (a lot better) when I have someone to bounce ideas off. So let’s consider option 2; I put the project under another umbrella, and give myself (ie the harveynick identity) access to it. Let’s say I go with one of the names my old band was thinking of switching to after some assholes in Chicago threatened to sue us. That would put it here:

bitbucket.org/deadcitywalking/hinge

I could then start a deadcitywalking.wordpress.com blog to talk about it, and perhaps link the entries here. Should other people start playing in this particular sandpit, then they could perhaps add their own entries to this blog.

You’re probably not interested in this. I’m mostly just thinking out loud. But if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

* Why do I have all three of these? I’m not entirely sure yet, other than because they’re there.

Starting again… again.

Blogging.

By my count I’ve had three previous attempts (on different services), none of which has entirely worked out. The problems which cause this to be are multiple, but two in particular tend to stand out. Firstly, I tend to write long rambling posts which take a lot of effort, and secondly I tend to not believe that anyone is actually reading them.

So I’ve come up with the two pronged strategy to try and solve this. First of all, I’m going to try and make it easier for me to blog. Thus, I’m switching to WordPress. Why does this make things easier? Well, it means that I can use their software to blog from my iPhone (which will theoretically also lead to shorter posts) and I can also use the web interface. Thus I can blog from (literally) anywhere, where as before I could only do it from my home computer, as I was using iWeb. I still think iWeb is an awesome program, but I was using a small portion of it’s functionality, and thus a more bespoke solution becomes a better idea.

Secondly, I’m going to try and advertise it a bit better. So the particular web interface I’m using is the WordPress facebook application, which should drop a thingy into my friends’ feeds when I write a new post. Maybe some will read it. Hopefully not too many will find it massively annoying. I like this synergy, it’s certainly not something I could accomplish using iWeb.

I’m going to transfer over my previous film reviews, but stripped down without the header and the footer, and make this blog a bit prettier over the next couple of days. I’m also going to finish the my digital life post I start an age ago, so come back, ya’ hear?