September 4, 2005


I've been infested by the MySpace bug. It's quite amazing how well the site's been able to permeate real life; it seems that all my peers have either already been assimilated or are being nagged to get with the program.

Although the site seems a bit unprofessional both at times (such as when you set your url; the two confirmation popups are rather oddly written), it does provide a useful service; that of interfacing the real world, the online world, and the world of your mind.

The layouts which it uses for the user pages aren't entirely pleasant, however. The rest of the pages serve their purpose quite well, but the user pages give off the impression of being overly stuffed with links and information. The MySpace URL box, for instance, seems completely useless since the url should, indeed, be in your address bar already. And even if this address had to be included, it seems that a better place for it would be in a well-hidden link, perhaps on the user's name.

The "Contact" box just above the URL box also annoys me; it provides a great number of options and the images it uses prop the left hand bar open. It seems there must be a more elegant way of designing it; perhaps move it to the right hand column, which is wider, or maybe put the options (or most of them) in some sort of DHTML-ish menu.

While I'm complaining about the left hand column, the information to the right of the user's picture could be streamlined as well; to start with there are too many line breaks. The state could be pushed up against the user's sex/age, making the list of info look less randomly placed. Perhaps, however, the extraneous line breaks are eliminated if you specify all the information which MySpace asks you for. If this is the case, the code simply needs to be more adaptive. This need for adaptiveness is also shown with the odd placement of BOTH the "Online Now!" icon AND the last login date. If the user's online, I think we realize that they must have last logged in not too long ago. The login date just clutters the interface.

Moving on to the right hand column, the box which indicates that the user is in your extended network seems a bit too prominent. Sure, it's important, but I don't think it's quite that important. I think it might look better if they toned down the box's spacing a bit, removed the border, and maybe underlined the text somehow to make it stand out a bit. As it is, however, it uses up too much of the all-important screen real estate.

The blog links also annoy me. They look perfectly fine when the user has a blog (although they might do with their own header, like the rest of the sections in the right column) but they shouldn't be displayed at all if the user doesn't have a blog.

The blurbs and comments sections look nice, but the friends section is a bit annoying; I think the "View All Friends" link might be integrated with the text which displays the number of the user's friends, much like the comments section does. This seems to point out another overarching flaw in the website; it isn't completely consistent. Two sections, back to back, have text and links which preform the exact same function and yet each is written in a slightly different way!

In conclusion, MySpace provides an excellent service and appears to have become a remarkable success, melding the world of reality with cyberspace. However, the user pages which are so important to the site are not exactly the shining lights of elegance. But oh well; It's time to break out CSS, Javascript, Greasemonkey, and Platypus I suppose. And hey, they have "Agnostic" as an option for the religion field; how can I resist that?

Posted by Trevor Savage at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

geekage, life, thing

Podcasts are quite interesting. They seem the ideal way to spend the trip to and from work, and a deliciously stable way to obtain such obscure (according to the local radio) genres of music as electronic and trance. Their large size is both a blessing and a curse to the 56ker. Without the necessity of streaming, it's possibly with a little patience to grab a podcast or a few and listen to them, while on the other hand any stream above a certain bitrate becomes practically unusable.

iTunes, although it provides a very nice interface, fails in delivering podcasts to 56kers. The downloads are unresumable, limiting your selection to that which you can download in one session, and to make matters worse the downloads have a tendency to time out after about 25% of the file has arrived. I just switched over to downloading the same podcasts with wget and it's worked great, not timing out once. I'll check iPodder out when I have the time to download it, and if it has any support for resuming downloads I imagine I'll become a quick devotee.

I've seen some complain that "Podcast" is just a new name for audio broadcasting over the web. It is, however, different, thanks to the new listening procedure. In addition to the automation that can make it convenient and the portability which can also be handy, podcasts bring to the table the ability to aggregate as many broadcasts as you want. Much as RSS itself makes it possible to keep track of many more news sites and blogs than could be easily done with mere webpages, podcasts make it easy to listen to as many broadcasts as you have the time to hear. In addition, thanks to the easy-to-use software which makes podcasts so nifty, more broadcasts are created than would be without this easy way to reach listeners. Sure, many of these broadcasts may be trash, but logic says that some percent of them will good listening.

Listening to my mp3 player on the commute, however, has one definite downside: it means that I don't get a daily dose of NPR, leaving me rather out of the loop as far as news goes.

And so I'm bearing through 1 hour and 20 minute downloads and eagerly awaiting the morrow, when I might try out some podcasts on my drive north. We can discuss the safety of listening to so called trance music while driving on the highway later.

Posted by Trevor Savage at 8:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 3, 2005

Media Weekend: Carmageddon and Cyberpunk
geekage, life

My mind tells me it's well past time for another blog entry. An outpouring of information is needed, for the well balanced sanity of my essence. And so I finish up my game of Carmageddon II and happily head for the text editor.

Having discovered OpenGLide, I recently dug up my copy of Carmageddon II to rediscover that it is quite the nifty game. It runs relatively well in classic using OpenGLide, the only problem I've encountered being that the blasted music doesn't want to play, although iTunes can remedy that rather easily. Although I can't find anyone else reporting this problem, I can only assume that it's something simple like OSX hiding the Audio CD portion of the game's disc from Classic somehow. Other than this, though, it's quite the enjoyable game.

It's interesting, however, how quickly it's community has declined. Having been released in 1999, just a year before my G4 came off of the presses, a vast majority of the fan sites centered around it have already either dissapeared outright or sunken into stagnation. And the official website appears to have followed the fansites into the darkness. It's quite strange to compare this to the ongoing popularity of Diablo II or even Starcraft, which, despite it's 7 years of age, still holds gamers in it's delightful claws and is even favored by the great gods with updates.

The stagnation of Carmageddon 2's internet appearance makes it seem markedly older than other games, making it age before it's time while the more favored of it's kin enjoy their player-granted extended youth.

Recently I've been on something of a William Gibson kick, although more by happenstance than any logical decision. He's quite the master storyteller, and I've extremely enjoyed most of his books, although his evidentally more mainstream novel "Pattern Recognization" seems a bit less coherent than the rest of his books. For one, it's a bit trendy; all of the computers in the book are Macs, and although I love Apple, it's a bit strange that everyone is so obviously using Macintosh computers. The main character is also a disciple of Pilates, a fact which seems to have little importance as anything other than a novelty, despite being repeatedly brought up. In general, the story as a whole dosen't seem to fit together quite as well as his others do, looking more like a collection of somewhat interesting aspects taped onto a rather sturdy storyline than his usual streamlined works.

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that, unlike most of his work, "Pattern Recognition" is set more or less in the present. At any rate, it doesn't hold together for me nearly as well as I expect his stories to, and although it did certainly hold my attention to the end, the world which was barely departed from our own somehow seemed less real than those which Gibson usually paints. Perhaps this is more of a flaw – if it can be called that – in my own mind than in the novel, however.

Anyway, it's back to the media pump for me; perhaps a spot of music and a tasting of WarCraft III. The lack of uncanned emotion tugs a bit at my soul, despite my attempts to drown it in media and hope.

Posted by Trevor Savage at 5:54 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2005

On the Job
geekage, life

Programming at a regular, firmly scheduled job is quite strange. For the first time ever, It becomes clear how much time each and every little computery task actually takes, as the daily schedule of start work, eat lunch, and stop work punctuates the programming. Projects and individual tasks which I'd before have said would be quick to complete drag out, taking up what, in the context of the not-so-comfortable office as opposed to that of the easy chair, turn out to be long hours, not to short ones which fly out the window while one's too distracted to notice one's hunger.

Doing a website (or starting to do so) for community service also had this effect; faced with the requirement of logging my hours so that I could get credit for them, the quick tasks which I completed on the website started to fill up the requirement remarkably quickly (although I eventually ended up doing data entry at Habitat for Humanity instead)

Inhabiting a real life workplace also has a few advantages though. Social interaction, as grand as it can be online, seems more fulfilling in person, and the chance to interact with interesting but previously unknown people is greater in real life. Today there was a general summer student meeting which I quite enjoyed, as about half of it was given to socialization, pleasing my starving mind greatly. Unfortunately, my mind is still too lazy to reach out for food through the internet or other lines of communication, but talking with other sharpies helped to ease it's pain. In addition, the ice cream available in real life must be taken into account; most people don't have soft serve machines in their homes.

Writing's coming a bit stiffly today; the words aren't flowing out of my fingertips, but, rather, they're being whipped out by a brain demanding that laziness submit to the forces of happiness. Except said brain isn't as energetic as that sentence makes it out to be. This stiffness seems to derive from the fact that happiness itself is in something of a short supply here, and as such it's sheer mass alone isn't enough to drive out the words and make my fingers eager to type.

I'm not unhappy though. It's just that work (if I have the right to call it that) doesn't supply enough happiness on it's own to keep my engines in prime condition, and the aforementioned laziness is preventing me from seeking out supplements of the magically drug-like combination of music and socialization which I desire. That, and I don't get enough sleep during the week. At any rate, here I depart, leaving wishes that your sleep is undisturbed and full of delightfully interesting dream.

Posted by Trevor Savage at 8:52 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2005
geekage, thing

storage for scrumptiousness
so stupendous for sharing sweets
stunningly sorted with simple strategy
waiting on infinite shelves to be seen is quite the nifty utility. In the past, when I've found a killer awesome site, I've usually either forgotten to bookmark it or thrown it into a random folder, too lazy to decide where it should really go or to create a new category for "salmon surprise recipes". And when I actually do bookmark something properly, the folder tends to get swamped with hordes of articles and forum posts that I want to read, the bookmarks to the actual killer sites getting lost in the muck. solves this with it's delightful posting system. All you have to do is enter the URL, a title, some comments if you wish, and a few tags to categorize it under. No messy folders to create, no URLs to memorize, and you can still use your bookmarks for the common muck, or, if you wish, just tag the muck properly on

In addition to providing a great bookmarks platform, is useful for it's social capabilities. If you're looking for a nifty site to read, a quick perusal of the frontpage or of a topical tag will certainly yield some glance-worthy material. It's also quite the delight to post your newly found gems, only to come back and see that other people have added them to their, people who you know have enjoyed your contribution. Finally, with the addition of mt-rssfeed, some tweaks to prevent mt-rssfeed from downloading anytihng more than once every hour or so, and some cron magic, makes a great linkblog! Just look over to your right.

In summary, is every bit as scrumptious as a good, chocolatey brownie. If you haven't already, check it out!

Posted by Trevor Savage at 6:57 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2005

geekage, thing

Recently, as mentioned below, I've been trying out Firefox. After the first bout of surprise at how much better it'd gotten in the last 2 years, I got down to customizing it, fixing it up until it seemed almost perfect in appearance, or as close as I could conceive of. A few weeks of browsing later, and the pretty facing which was tied to "Firefox" in my mind had expanded into the third dimension, filled in with knowledge of the interface's workings and certainty that the web is, after all, contained within it.

So, what makes it better than Safari? First off, there's it's feature set, both by default and when expanded by extensions. The ability to search your history, to set your cache size to a large number and then use the Work Offline feature, which I had previously missed when I switched to Safari from iCab due to it's great use when someone else is using the 56k line, and to create a handy live bookmark of your links all make the browser quite useful.

On the topic of extensions, there are several which fill in the features which Safari has but which Firefox is lacking. SwittTabs is one of these, adding a (configurable) key command for tab switching, a feature which is quite useful, particularly when you bind the key command to your mouse, which I became addicted to in Safari. SmoothWheel also serves the purpose of filling in functionality present in Safari – the default mouse wheel scrolling in Firefox is extremely jerky, making large movements, and the default "smooth" mouse wheel scrolling isn't really very smooth. SmoothWheel, however, while not quite as smooth as Safari, makes mouse wheel scrolling quite usable. Finally, User Agent Switcher, like the user agent submenu of Safari's debug menu, allows you to sneak into those pesky websites which try to regulate browser entrance.

There are also some great extensions which add functionality not present in Safari and which I've become hooked to. ForecastFox adds the weather and forecast to the browser, and when it's placed in the lower right corner of the status bar, it's quite unobtrusive and yet easy to reach when you want it. I personally find WeatherPop and the like to be too obtrusive and yet not particularly easy to reach when you want to view them. Crash Recovery is another indispensable extension, providing instant restoring of your tabs upon Firefox's crash, and, optionally, when you quit and relaunch Firefox. No longer do you have to make constant bookmarks of your tabs for fear of loosing them! ChromEdit is also a useful extension, allowing you to easily modify your profile's .js and .css files without you having to find then and open them up in a text editor yourself. has some very nifty extensions as well. Stop/Reload, when combined with some additions to your userChrome.css should you use a nonstandard theme, gives you some additional room on your toolbar. Fusion gives you the yumlicious Safari-style progress bar, although it doesn't work quite as well as Apple's; occasionally it'll jump backwards. And, despite making one skeptical of the bloat of one's browser, Cards, which adds a whole bunch of solitaire games, is rather irresistible.

I've also recently become hooked on Translation Panel, which makes translations of words or phrases a snap with it's contextual menu item or side panel, and which can access 4 or so different translation services online, as well as Context Search, which works great whenever you need to look up anything on a webpage in depth.

Finally, Sage, LiveBookmarkThis, and Sidebar are all potentially useful, although I haven't gotten fully into them yet.

Perhaps the best thing about Firefox is it's constantly improving nature and it's generally great customizability. There are a small handful of things which I dislike about it, but thanks to the fact that it's being improved daily I don't have to worry too much about these things, as I know that afore too long it's likely they'll be fixed– or I can try to delve into it and fix them myself. With a mainstream commercial browser, it's more likely that my desires wouldn't even be near the todo list, and even if they were I'd likely have to wait a half a year before I could get the new features in the first place. And with it's customizability, one can also fix many bothersome things via .css files or extensions.

As far as appearance goes, Firefox has good and bad aspects, although it can certainly stand up to Safari. The themes here are excellent, particularly the "pro" ones, which feature Safari-style tabs. Personally, I find that changing the spacing to 0px for the toolbar icons makes it look much nicer, and makes the toolbar about the same size as Safari's to boot! In addition, while using the Grapple themes and ForecastFox, it's very nice to copy Grapple's pinstripe.png to your profile's chrome directory and add this line: .forecastfox-panel { background: #FFFFFF url("pinstripe.png") repeat !important; } to your userChrome.css, so that ForecastFox's background is pinstriped instead of the ugly white which it usually has. When using the Stop/Reload extension mentioned above, adding this code to your userChrome.css will make the button work with Grapple's small icons.

Also in the appearance department, Firefoxy and the widgets that it applies make it easy to switch from Firefox's oddish default icons to ones which, as others have said, don't look like fake OSX widgets but don't look ugly either. The main downside to Firefox's visuals as compared to Safari which I can find is the lack of antialiasing- some pages, thusly, look quite a good bit better in Safari than Firefox. There are also a few very minor annoyances, such as favicons tending to flash when you mouseover them.

On the down side, Firefox is missing a few of Safari's features, and some of it's components don't work as well as they might, or as they do in Safari. Most of these downsides are minor problems which make it seem a bit unmaclike – for instance, pressing the up or down arrows in a text field doesn't always move the cursor, and right clicking in the extensions window doesn't change the selection, but instead displays a menu for whatever extension is already selected. Another goodly portion of these problems have to do with general usability – tab switching is a tiny bit slower in Firefox than in Safari, just noticeable enough to be a small annoyance, and if the cursor gets into the URL bar you can't switch tabs via keys. In addition, the cache seems to reset itself when Firefox crashes (or when the power goes out...), as I discovered when trying to use the Work Offline feature.

Firefox is great; with the help of extensions, it has almost everything which Safari has, baring super speed, perfect Mac integration, and complete freedom from bugs and idiosyncrasies. In addition, it has a number of features which Safari lacks, and if you ever have need of something which isn't included, all you need to do is find or write an extension. And for a 1.0 release of an application which is in constant development, I think the flaws which it does have are quite acceptable. Although I have some remorse at having abandoned Apple's porch, Firefox has quite won me over to it's shores.

Posted by Trevor Savage at 8:07 PM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2005

FrenchLookup: Cocoa Services
geekage, thing

"Three great virtues of programming are laziness, impatience, and hubris."
-Larry Wall

Being something of a francophile, I'll sometimes go surfing the web for french news or blogs or whatnot else to read, or try to tackle a bit of a text from Gutenburg. However, also being quite lazy, I certainly don't want to have to go to the trouble of looking up words that I don't know in an actual pulp-based bit of binding. Thankfully, there's a handy dandy online French dictionary, which has most words I need- the rest I can bear to lookup in the paperback. Even with this, however, it's a spot of an annoyance to copy 'n paste words into the dictionary's form.

So, I got the idea that I could automate the process. A contextual menu would have been best, but I don't know that such a global menu is possible in OSX. I then realized that, with a service doing the lookup on the selected word(s), I could have a global key command to bind to a mouse button!

Thanks to CocoaDev and a line or so of additional code it was soon working. Then, with some help from the handy dandy [NSString stringByAddingPercentEscapesUsingEncoding: NSISOLatin1StringEncoding] and some fixing of foolish but fun to solve problems, spread out over a few weeks, it no longer choked on accents and worked quite well. Yay for Cocoa! A few clicks about in the Logitech Con- eek. I think I'm out of buttons. I suppose I'd best cave in and get USB Overdrive (or maybe not- looks like it doesn't support nifty stuff like chording. cripes.).

While we're on the topic of services, if you have entries in your services menu from 5 different web browsers, 3 different text editors, and a myriad assortment of other programs, Service Manager is invaluable. It apparently just simply removes/modifies the services in the Info.plist files of the applications in question, but does so quite easily and quickly.

UPDATE: Another day, another browser. I realized that a two year old version of Firefox probably wasn't very representative of the browser, so I downloaded a new version. It's MUCH faster and prettier, and the selection of extensions is awesome. It's quite likely that DictionarySearch will become my new dictionary solution, and along with ForecastFox and the rest of Firefox's entourage, it's quite possible that Safari will be demoted to second in command.

Posted by Trevor Savage at 3:16 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2005

geekage, thing

jello, jello
such a naughty fellow

he sneezes and sleazes
and expels quite a bellow

jello, jello
foolish boy

don't you know that sneezing
when your mouth is full

is quite unkind,
even if you do taste mellow?

Googling for "Jello" is quite an adventure. First off, as one might expect, one encounters Kraft's official site; however, it'd seem that Google found it at a bad time, as it reads "Sorry, Page Not Found", leaving a bit of confusion as to whether it actually is the official page until one clicks through.

Secondly, one comes across a rather odd page full of seemingly random phrases and such about Jello. Some hilights of his page seem to be "Why is school not made of jello?", the delightful "Ode To Jello", the "key to sucess" and "But I HAVE to be Jello!".

Thirdly, we come across the webpage of The Jell-O Museum and Gallery, located in LeRoy, New York, where Jello evidently made it's debut.

Skipping along, we come to a page about dyeing with Jello, which introduces the strange yet intriguing idea of dyeing your various fibers in concoctions of prepackaged foodstuffs.

Next, we come across a quite interesting Jello fansite, which features some Jello poetry, including another "Ode To Jell-O", as well as pages entitled "The Happy Land of Grape Jello" and "Walkin' Jello".

Finally, we come across yet another Jello song (does Jello just call one to hail it in verse?), entitled The Jello On My Fork, which explores the delightful relationship between Jello and Forks, including a story of a piece of Jello which, although content, didn't quite fit on the fork it found itself.

Now I want some Jello...

Posted by Trevor Savage at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

devlog: Mission Statement
geekage, thing

Greetings from Trevor, knitter, rower, dreamer and general geek. I welcome you to the newly christened ClosetPacifistic Devlog. Poke around if you will, but most of all, enjoy yourself.

The purpose of this blog is several fold. First off, it exists to log the development of my computer, mind, daily life, and yarn. Secondly, it exists to provide some entertainment or information to you, the as of yet ethereal readership. Finally, it exists as a scratch sheet for the exploration of my pen and satisfaction of my mouth. Here's to a successful run in this newly formed craft!

Posted by Trevor Savage at 5:16 PM | Comments (0)