Time Sinks

Over the past few weeks, I have been playing with a couple of different window managers on one or more of my Linux boxes for reasons that are diametrically opposed. I want a desktop that is easy to use, stable, responsive, easily configured and customizable, reasonably polished in appearance, and is (again, reasonably) consistent across all of the applications that I really care about.

Fluxbox: I used to run Fluxbox on my Mandrake boxes, primarily because of its very low overhead and speed. I hadn’t played with it in nearly a year (since switching to Ubuntu). Still very fast, very customizable, lots of themes available (and those themes are very easy to tweak). The one piece that it seems to be missing (and this probably says more about my own idiosyncracies than any real shortcomings of the project) is support for SVG icons. It does support icons on its menus, but until it provides SVG support, those menus will never look good for anyone (like me) who can’t design decent icons at small (e.g., 24×24) sizes.

Enlightenment: I looked briefly at Enlightenment DR16 a while back, but couldn’t ever really find a way to get DR17 running at that point. I recently came across several posts on the Ubuntu forums about DR17, and in fact someone has established a repository that put me in a position of being able to very easily get E DR17 installed and running via synaptic. Impressive, heavy on the eye candy, and very usable at this point. It’s drawback (and, again, this is probably more about me than the project): I can’t figure out how to configure nearly anything there — the menus, the applications available on the iBar at the bottom of the screen.

At this point, however, I am back to my Gnome desktop. Why? It just works, looks good, and is consistent across applications (at least the ones I use and care about). I have enough horsepower on all of the boxes I am currently using for Linux that Gnome is responsive enough to be satisfactory. I found myself spending so much time tweaking, twiddling, and looking for help, that I wasn’t getting anything done, and ultimately, I need my desktop to help me get work done. It needs to be a means to an end, not an end in and of itself (at least for now).

TiddlyWiki

I spent some time this past week playing with a very interesting little… hmmm… not sure what to call it. It’s called TiddlyWiki, and it blurs the line between a Web page/site and a Web application. Think of it as a self-modifying Web page, written in XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

I spent some time this past week playing with a very interesting little… hmmm… not sure what to call it. It’s called TiddlyWiki, and it blurs the line between a Web page/site and a Web application. Think of it as a self-modifying Web page, written in XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It appears to me to be a tour de force of standards-based Web development, and provides a simple, elegant means of setting up a standalone micro-Wiki very quickly. Its plumbing supports extensive customization, extensions, macros, and modifications, and the tool is even capable of generating its own RSS feed. It’s kind of a wierd concept to get your head around. Definitely worth playing with. It seems perfectly suited for putting together small documentation projects (e.g., we are using it for our Subversion procedures and notes within my development team).

One of the contributors to this project, a young man named Clint, worked as an intern in our department at work, and has several mentions on the main TiddlyWiki site. Do take a look at some of the customization work Clint has done with changing the appearance and layout of the tool.

A Teenager

It’s official. Ian is now a teenager. Hard to believe…

Not that I expect to see a step-change in anything, really. It has been amazing to watch howmuch he has changed, both physically and emotionally over the past year. God has really given us an amazing gift in this young man.

I Can’t Imagine

Ian had three of his friends over for the night last night. It’s kind of an annual thing, and each time I am struck by a couple of things:

  • I can’t imagine what life would be life with 4 of him around! It turns into sensory overload for me (and for Deb, I think) pretty quickly. I know its a function, at least in part, of what you’re used to, but I can’t imagine what life in a household with a large family must be like. I suppose I am used to our (mostly) quiet life.
  • His friends, in spite of the exponential increase in energy and noise when they get together, really are pretty good kids.

These guys really are almost as geeky as him, and the twists their conversations take are typically pretty good for a laugh. Last night, at one point, the conversation turned to their ancestry, and before we knew it, they were coming up with weird combinations (e.g., Ian being Scottish and German, was either “Scerman” or “Germish”).

Crypto

Steven Levy, 2001, Viking

It’s subtitled “How the Code Rebels Beat the Government — Saving Privacy in the Digital Age”, and the common theme throughout the book is the “code rebels” (the individuals outside the NSA who were interested in cryptography) against the US government (whose interest and involvement in cryptography diametrically opposed those rebels’ privacy concerns). It is an interesting read, and provides a readable, (mostly) non-technical overview of cryptography. It starts with Whit Diffie’s realization that the privacy of his information on an multi-user timesharing system was in the hands of, and at the mercy of, the system administrator; the more he thought about that, the more he became convinced that there had to be a better way, and that as computers and networks became widespread, the privacy of his information and his communications was increasingly at stake. The story takes off from there.

Coincidentally, the day after I finished reading Crypto, the latest issue of Wired showed up in the mail. This issue’s (August 2005, 13.08) cover story is “10 Years that Changed the World” and is the story of the Web, the start of Netscape, and the explosion of the Web into almost every facet of life as we know it. I was struck by how much the work of those cryptographers enabled that explosion and changed the way we live and communicate. No e-commerce without that public key cryptography they worked so hard to invent and then, in spite of the government, make both available and reasonably secure would mean no overnight shipment of books on CSS and Python from Amazon.