Archive for the ‘Web 0.2’ Category

Old Betsy and Dot-Matrix Printers   4 comments

Old BetseyMy first job supporting computers was at the library at Miami University. I was responsible for a number of computer-based indexes to periodicals and journals. During my time, a computer-based card catalog–an innovation at the time–was rolled out, and expanded my scope. My job was to make sure all the terminals were functioning, as well as provide instruction to the users as to how to use the systems. At this point, in the early Nineties, computers were no where near as ubiquitous, and the technology was still relatively basic. All of the systems were dumb terminals, hooked to a central server.

Among my duties was the care and feeding of the printers. In those days, inkjets weren’t common, and laser printers were quite expensive. To print the references you needed, the cheap solution was a dot matrix printer. In the case of the library, it was scores of Okidata 390s–you can still buy them today.

These really were reliable printers. Where my inkjet seems to take several moments of priming and humming before printing the first line, the Okis just went. When I consider the environment they operated in–a lot of start-and-stop print jobs in a publicly assessable area–the tractor-fed paper rarely jammed. Even then, it was usually due to a fellow student attempting to “fix” something. I’d have to lug a new box out to the card catalog every once in a while, but, for the application, the continuous feed paper was a perk. The ink lasted forever, and when I did need to replace it, a new cartridge just snapped in. There was no “aligning printhead” or other action on the printer. One person in my role could typically take care of the estate with a five minute pass every hour. Everything was just simple.

Granted, you couldn’t print graphics on it, and, if you wanted any speed at all, you were limited to the 3-6 typefaces built in. But, for just printing data, they got the job done reliably. Sometimes, when I have to pace back and forth between my desk and the office LaserJet, I wonder if it’s really worth what was given up.

I seem to not be the only one who feels this way. Over the weekend, I saw an Oki at a bookstore, lovingly tagged Old Betsy. The plastic clearly yellowing with age–it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been there nearly all of the store’s twenty-eight years. I pointed it out to my wife, and the clerk said that she was the most reliable printer in the shop. I absolutely believed her, and, for a moment, wondered if we had one kicking around our closet.

Securing Blog Posts   2 comments

For my personal Internet presence, I make an effort to minimize the direct ties back to me personally. Where I have to use my real name, I lock down the privacy controls, and minimize references to my employer (save, of course, for LinkedIn). However, for publishing my own things, I use a pseudonym, “MrGuilt,” for public forums wherever I can. It’s not airtight–someone spending a few minutes drilling down can likely link the two. However, it does make it take just that much work, keeping someone from typing in a term in Google and making the link.

Not that I suspect many people care that I’m making posts about cats, fountain pens, and baking. However, once in a while, there is something bigger rattling around in my brain. I may write it in my journal, and feel I need to share it with the world, but fear that it might make me look bad to my employer (or to others in the world). Again, I’m OK with my usual readers seeing it, I just don’t want it to be at the top of a Goggle search.

What I really want is a brown paper bag–one where anyone can access it if they choose to, but it would require a trivial bit of extra effort. ROT13 is how it used to be done, back in the days of USENET.* Basically, it is a simple substitution cypher. I know that I can also password protect a post–an interesting solution (many have either done two posts, with one of them being “here’s the password for the other post,” or just have an established standard (“type the date it came up”)). Both options achieve the desired goal.

However, I was wondering, how do others handle this? Do they use one of the methods I describe above? Have a cleaner solution? Simply accept that editorial discretion may preclude some posts?

*Historically, ROT13 was often used for things we now call “NSFW.” Nothing I would post would be obscene, or really NSFW, more that it might cause me embarrassment.

Posted 2013-03-19 by Mr. Guilt in rant, Web 0.2

Tigers and Turing   1 comment

Lined Up for Mom

Alan Turing is better known for his contributions to cryptography, efforts which ultimately resulted in the modern computer. What I wasn’t aware of was that he also made contributions to the field of biology.

Turing had a hypothesis regarding how the pattern of tigers’ stripes are formed. He thought a pair of morphogens, molecules responsible for tissue formation, controlled the pattern–an activator and an inhibitor. With the activator, a stripe is formed; with the inhibitor, a blank spot. Turning these on and off make the stripes. This repeating pattern can be found in a number of places in nature.

This was unproven until recently, scientists at King’s College in London performed experiments with the ridges in the roof of the mouths of mice. By manipulating these morphogens, they were able to control the pattern of the ridges, and, in turn, prove Turing’s theory.

Posted 2012-02-24 by Mr. Guilt in animals, cats, Interesting, tigers, Web 0.2

Vox is Now Closed   6 comments

I dare say many of the folks reading my blog are what I have termed in my RSS reader as “Vox Refugees.” We all received notice about a month ago that Six Apart decided to discontinue their Vox service. Yesterday, September 30, was its final day.

When it came out in 2006, I think Vox had a great “fit-to-purpose.” For a casual blogger, you were able to produce a pretty good looking blog for minimal effort. The concepts of “Neighborhoods,” “Friends,” and “Family” made a simple security model. It worked and played well with several popular services, such as YouTube and Flickr.

After a year or two, though, it started to feel old. In 2006, FireFox and Internet Explorer were really the only choices for browsers, and attaching a picture to an e-mail really was the best anyone could hope for for a mobile solution.

By 2008, the iPhone demonstrated just what the mobile web could be. Safari was becoming a key player with Chrome following behind it. Twitter was showing the value of stand-alone applications driven by an API. Other players (such as WordPress) quickly embraced these changes. Vox continued to soldier on like it was 2006.

While I dipped my toe in the water here and there, getting an iPad is what finally convinced me that Vox was dieing. Here was what many viewed as a revolutionary product–something that would bring “mobile” to the forefront. Vox offered little in the way of support. It was still operating like it was 2006, with FireFox and IE as the whole world. I figured we’d either see Vox 2.0 or the service would be rolled in with one of Six Apart’s other offerings. It seems the latter option is the closest fit.

Overall, I view Vox fondly. I really started blogging with it, and met a lot of great folks. For the most part, I’ve been on WordPress all summer; I moved on. Still, I’m sad to see it go, doubly so as it simply faded away due to neglect.

Posted 2010-10-01 by Mr. Guilt in computers, Internet, IT Opinion, rant, Web 0.2

Duke to Shutdown USENET Servers   Leave a comment

I like to say I was the last of the first people to get on the Internet. I got on in the last couple of years before the web browser came about. In this world, everything was text. While the content wasn’t as rich as it is today, it had a depth to it. You could also access it via almost anything (dumb terminal, 1200 baud modem, etc.).

USENET was the major discussion area–the precursor to today’s forums and blogs. Google bought out and now hosts the archive as part of Google Groups. In fact, I can still find some of my old posts from that day.

clipped from

Duke to shut Usenet server, home to the first electronic newsgroups

On May 20, Duke will shut down its Usenet server, which provides access to a worldwide electronic discussion network of newsgroups started in 1979 by two Duke graduate students, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis.
The “Users Network,” Usenet for short, grew into an international electronic discussion forum with more than 120,000 newsgroups dedicated to various topics, from local dining to computer programming languages. Each group had a distinctive name such as soc.history or sci.math.
Many social aspects of online communication – from emoticons and slang acronyms such as LOL to flame wars – originated or were popularized on Usenet.

Jim Ellis was one of the two Duke graduate students who helped develop Usenet in 1979.
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Posted 2010-05-19 by Mr. Guilt in computers, Internet, Web 0.2

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