Monthly Archives: February 2008

The BeOS Tip Server Is Back

Back in the BeOS days, I created a public database of tips and how-to information for BeOS users, called the BeOS Tip Server (betips.net). The site had grown to around 700 tips when Be, Inc. finally went under and I went looking for another career. At that time, I handed ownership of the Tip Server over to a still-avid BeOS user, and didn’t think about it much again.

Late last year, I discovered that links to betips.net were dead. I contacted the owner, only to learn that the database and the site templates had been lost in a data disaster. I combed through my backups and archives and couldn’t find any sign of the templates. However, amazingly, I still had a copy of the mysql database. Dug my old x86 laptop out of the closet, booted BeOS for the first time in eons, and found the original site templates tucked away in a buried folder. Eureka! But ewww… all table-based and mid-90s looking… just fugly.

Even though I have almost no interest in BeOS these days, I was once proud of the site, both for the content it had amassed and for the method I had used to serve it (TrackerBase).

Trackerbasethumb

Couldn’t stand the thought of the whole thing being lost to history, so decided to resurrect the site. Took a fair bit of grunt work to clean up the data and get the tables into shape as a WordPress back-end, but the work is finally done, I’ve got control of the domain again, and intend to leave the site up for posterity. There’s a standing offer for any current BeOS/Haiku users to help clean up old content and start adding new.

BeOS has an open source descendant called Haiku. I’ve never run Haiku, but expect that most of the content on the site will apply for that OS as well. I’m also interested in having new Haiku-specific content added to the repository.

Happy endings.

ARD Lite

The screen sharing feature in Leopard and in the new version of iChat already partially mitigates the need for Apple Remote Desktop in some environments, but this hack turns screen sharing into something very close to ARD by adding a bunch of additional features and controls. In other words, the screen sharing feature apparently is ARD with features stripped out – this hack lets you pop ‘em back in. I can imagine this hack being disabled in the next software update….

Music: Henry Threadgill :: Grief

Dr. Zira

Drzira What to do on a rainy weekend? Hey, I haven’t built a model for 30 years! None to be found at the local five and dime (OK, Target, Longs, etc.) Models just aren’t a “thing” anymore. Made some phone calls and found one of Berkeley’s well-kept secrets – the Ace Hardware on University has an entire huge basement downstairs packed to the gills with models and hobbyist stuff. Dusty boxes stacked floor to ceiling, some of them dating back to when I remember building models as a boy (though I couldn’t find the lunar lander or Banana Splits Banana Buggy models I remember building). But we did find Dr. Zira of Planet of the Apes. No, Miles has never seen Planet of the Apes, but it did give us a good opp. to talk about reverse evolution. Model glue is hard to come by these days, but we did find a box of the incredibly stinky enamel paints. Ooooo oooo, that smell! Came out pretty well, but I think he thinks Legos are more challenging.

Walrus

Walrus Miles wanted to know what a walrus mustache was. So I pulled out the razor and showed him. Chin feels cold – hasn’t felt cool air on it for years. Not sure if I’ll keep it, but change is good.

Music: Isaac Hayes :: Medley: Ike’s Rap IV / A Brand New Me

Carbon to Chalk

I love this. c|net: Carbon Sciences says it has come up with a relatively efficient way to turn carbon dioxide from smokestacks into chalk, which can then be used to make drywall or other products. The process still requires a fair bit of energy, but then so does sequestering. And re-purposing carbon is better than hiding it.

Music: Rufus Thomas :: Itch And Scratch (part one)

Creationist Diorama-Rama

1Stplace Utne Reader, on a Creationist Science Fair that recently took place inside a shopping mall in Roseville, Minnesota, including a diorama explaining how a broken motor disproves evolution, plus fossil evidence that people lived at the same time as dinosaurs.

The projects all used classic high school science language: Start with a hypothesis, move on to testing, and then draw a conclusion. The problem was that much of the science was backwards. In good science, you start with a piece of evidence and try to find a truth. With creationist science, you start with a truth (the Bible), and try to find the evidence.

Music: Isaac Hayes :: Going In Circles

Closing a Few Doors

Humans like to keep all options open. Even when we know some of the options aren’t frutitful. Even when it costs money to keep unfruitful options open (i.e. even when keeping options open is irrational). Interesting summary at nytimes.com of tests conducted on M.I.T. students designed to see just how far we’re willing to go to prevent a door from closing. “Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says.

Life lesson: Let options go. Simplify. Declutter. Know what’s worth your while, go for it, and don’t sweat the decisions that have already been made. Don’t kid yourself that you can follow every path, investigate every avenue. Know small potatoes when you see them. Keep your eyes on the prize. Obvious stuff maybe, but interesting to see it documented in this way.

Since conducting the door experiments, Dr. Ariely says, he has made a conscious effort to cancel projects and give away his ideas to colleagues. He urges the rest of us to resign from committees, prune holiday card lists, rethink hobbies…

Music: Billy Harper :: Credence

CD Cover Meme

Barbeue-Pork Righteous CD cover meme image pool happening on Flickr these-a-days.

1. First, you’ll need a name for your band. This will be the first article title on WikiPedia’s random page selector.

2. Now for the all-important album title. Grab the last four words of the very last quote on the quotationspage’s random quote selector.

3. And of course, the album art. Yours will be the third picture, no matter what it is, on Flickr’s most interesting page.

Run your elements through the Photoshop sausage grinder, emulating the style of an album you already own (if you like), and out comes an album cover that looks like it could be at home in the Indie or Alt.Whatever section of your local record store.

To get yours into the pool, you’ll need to join the pool, then go to your uploaded image and click the “Add to pool” link right above it (I’ve always thought Flickr made the process of playing in photo pools unnecessarily complicated).

I made one.

Music: Son House :: Empire State Express

PowerShot G1

Powershotg1 Last of the Incas. This old Canon PowerShot G1 from the J-School was dysfunctional beyond repair (not to mention antiquated to the point of unusable), so I brought it home for Miles. Took us 45 minutes to remove nearly every screw, pry apart nearly every surface, snip every wire. Turned out the inverting lens barrel made a very good hat for R2D2. Even when something has no remaining value, feels wrong to tear it apart. Wrong but fun.

Music: Elementales :: Camino De Pan Bendito

Obsolete Skills

Robert Scoble came up with the idea to make a list of obsolete skills – things we used to be good at but no longer need to be, including:

  • Dialing a rotary phone
  • Putting a needle on a vinyl record
  • Shorthand
  • Using a slide rule
  • Optimizing 640K-worth of memory
  • Refilling a fountain pen
  • Operating a dictaphone
  • Using the eraser ribbon on a typewriter

A wiki sprung up to flesh out the list, and there are now hundreds listed (I added “Cleaning ball bearings in skateboard wheels without losing them”).

Music: Herbie Hancock :: Edith And The Kingpin feat Tina Turner