Category: Technical stuff

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The key to faster technological progress is the more widespread use of free software. While computers and the Internet have already changed many aspects of our lives, we still live in the dark ages of computing because proprietary software is still the dominant model.

After the Software Wars by Keith Curtis

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iPhone.png
This is what my iPhone looks like (not today though).

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Millions of poor souls are glued to the displays of their mobile telephones. Such unfortunate folks who cannot live a single minute of their lives without seeking refuge by staring into that small flat screen in search of who knows what.

Some of the younger victims are even worse off though they do not seem to realize it. They become entwined to these modern gadgets with thumbs nimbly tapping the minuscule keyboard, searching for answers, hoping to receive some meaningful reaction, new ways of reorganizing and improving their lives.

This all reminds me of nervousness all around, no one can look you straight in the eyes anymore, insecure aversion to glance back down at the display where all is neatly defined and safe again.

Some people brave the day by putting these gadgets in a pocket or purse or some other place of safe keeping. Until the ringing starts, first softly and then getting louder and louder. They cannot find the ringing gadget quickly enough, it's pure panic, groping around and hoping to answer before it is too late.

That's a good reason why I turn off my mobile phone in order to enjoy life as it was really meant to b e.
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I thought I was wrong but I wasn't. That's a good feeling and makes me feel like making it happen no matter what.

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Everyone is staring intently at the little display (4x3 cms) trying to make sense of things with squinting eyes that cannot quite understand what is happening, thumbs and fingers groping the buttons in order to cause interesting things to happen or not to happen, that tiny screen reacting to our deepest impulses (or not).

At least the human mind had never evolved in the first place with the idea that this is how things would be in the long run.

As mobile technology evolves with things advancing in quantum leaps every two years or so, human evolution which is based on centuries if not millenia have to turn sharp corners and adapt accordingly.

Curious what will happen in the long run.

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This is a view from below or whatever. What I tend to stare at while waiting for the next train to arrive so that I can continue with whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing in the first place.

Rotate it around in your mind to get a better impression of how things really are.

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Canon IXUS 750 Digital Camera

Wow, I can really dig this new digital camera of mine! According to the instruction book, it can do just about anything one would ever wish a camera to do. Hopefully within the not so distant future I can figure out how it works.

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People should always discuss things in detail before taking an action that will affect them all as well as the people around them.

However, this is never an easy task.

A discussion can go on and on endlessly causing unnecessary delays and eventually resulting in complete failure because of hesitations and indecision. Let's all sink in the quicksand, alright...

On the other hand, rushing into things head-on because it should have been done yesterday may bring seemingly quick results, which in the long-run fall apart completely because of incoherency. Watch out for the bottomless pit, oops...

A combination of the two could perhaps be a better plan of approach.

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Palm T3
This is my new PDA.

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Right when I finally almost made it home in the car after a two hour drive back from Helmond, that is when I was struck by yet another amazing coincidence.

You see, the last turn-off is afrit 11. Can you believe that? In the Netherlands, all afritten are numbered which makes it much easier to give directions. Afrit means exit and afritten is the plural form.

Just go south on highway A12 and take afrit 11.

My favorite number is and always has been number 11, in case you were wondering. That was the day of the month I was born, the number on my baseball jersey, one half of the day Maarten was born, ad infinitum.

Funny how I have lived in Gouda now for more than ten years and only now do I realize that it is afrit 11.

Life is filled with these amazing coincidences, and by not paying attention we are missing out on daily miracles, amazing coincidences, and other near misses.

Pay better attention, will you?!

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Watch out for these nanotechno thingies...It never ceases to amaze me when I keep hearing how nanotechnology has taken off. Folks used to consider it a worthless pursuit, but as of lately there have been many useful achievements. Development of this fine art is taking quantum leaps and who can even begin to imagine where it will lead to.

You might want to check out the New Scientist article titled Nanoparticles to pinpoint viruses in body scans to find out more.

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In order to learn even more about the ins and outs of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), I purchased a great book Eric Meyer On CSS, part of the New Riders series called Mastering the Language of Web Design. I already know alot about CSS, but a good overview like this never hurts. In fact, you even pick up a couple jewels of information here and there.

Imagine the huge difference a one line change in the style sheet can make, and you will be happy beyond belief. At least that is my experience. Take my GishTeq web site for example. I admit that it looked pretty filled and the text was crammed together.

div#content p {
    text-align: justify;
    margin-top: 0px;
    line-height: 1.33em; /* I added this line */
}

All I did was change the line height, e.g. so that one-third of the current font size opens up between the lines. The added white space between the lines makes the act of reading easier and more enjoyable. The user's experience is improved, making my web site contents more accessible in the process.

So, you are asking yourself, how can this small change make so much difference? I will attempt to illustrate the effect by comparing two layouts.

Here is a paragraph with the default line-height equal to 1.0em:Here is a paragraph with the new-and-improved line-height equal to 1.33em:
Here is a bunch of text which is pretty much readable you could say but also at the same time gives the impression of being crammed up together and perhaps more difficult to peruse than should be absolutely necessary.
This is an example of a bunch of text which is a bit more readable because I have increased the white space appearing between the lines freeing up the text slightly thereby making the process of reading easier and more enjoyable.

Can you see the difference? Sometimes a very little bit makes all the difference in the world.

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Sony Ericsson T68i mobile telephone...Alright so I decided to go out and splurge on a nice new fancy mobile phone. I was sick and tired of carrying around my Nokia brick (back then it was state-of-the-art but not any more). I needed something with the following requirements: small, light, easy to use, with a color display and vibrating alert.

As it turns out, I could get the T68i mobile phone for free(!) if I agreed to extend my Vodafone subscription yet another two years. I could not resist so I did it.

I still have to figure out how the darn thing works, beyond just calling people and sending so-called SMS text messages. Things like vCard support for exchanging electronic business cards, sticker notes, SyncML with online calendar and contacts, WTLS full WAP security, games and even more games, SMS concatenated (long text messages of up to 1530 characters), WAP 2.0 compliancy, voice control, high speed data (HSCSD), fast and reliable WAP, enhanced by GPRS, screensaver, MMS and all that mobile Internet stuff, ad infinitum.

It also has this miniature joystick for scrolling and selecting menu options which takes some getting used to. So far the teeny-weeny buttons are a little on the smallish side, and I cannot imagine what it would be like having long fingernails. Because the phone is so small, I need some practice with calling in that I never know if I am speaking directly into the microphone alright or not. So far no one seems to have any problems understanding me.

I will need a whole day to study the user manual, if I ever in fact get that far. Well, at least it looks nice and people think that I am so "modern and cool" carrying it around.

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Trying to keep pace with the whims of technology is not an easy task. This is known to be especially hard the older one gets. What could be the real reason for this? Research has shown that older folks retain something like ninety-eight percent of their original brain cells, so it appears that at least the ability to learn has not decreased significantly. Rather the decreased ability seems to have something to do with the desire to learn arcane stuff, which I can imagine gets less the older you get. One's priorities change and other things become more important. Because of the reduced interest, one's concentrations gets worse and (subconsciously or not) it just does not seem that much worthwhile any more. Where are the true values, those which make the difference in life? Not so much buried in facts and figures as somewhere else.

You see, I still love technology and cannot get enough of it. But while the bits and bytes and other factual details may be important in one way, I feel the the real value comes in using one's mind in a creative way in order to make the best match between the potential of technology and how it best fits the needs of an ever-changing society.

That is what life is really all about. Who wants to remain a technology nerd anyway for the rest of one's life?

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Cutting-edge gaming phone with color screen, gaming keypad and hi-fi ringtones...There is still hope, and now it seems that there are enough micro devices out there, don't you think? The friends and allies of Sun Microsystems have completed a second version of Java software for cell phones. There are many challenges in moving towards this new and exciting technology. Up to now, Sun has not been very lucky with Java in its fight to overcome Microsoft's desktop dominance. However, this is one especially attractive market segment where Microsoft has been pretty weak. The Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) offers much hope, and I am currently investigated this new technology in the hopes of writing up a half-decent business case for myself. Rumor has it that Java will be the dominant handset platform, so I better get my act together or else.

For those kind folks out there who are interested in learning more about this exciting world, more information can be found at the following places:

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This is my new toy...This is my new toy. It keeps me company during my train trip to and from work.

Nice tunes which relax me and put me in the proper mood to be productive and happy for the rest of the day.

And when the day is over it brings me back to life as I ruminate over the day's happenings and watch them disappear.

A neat little gizmo, my friend and companion, the technical item which seeks to encompass me.

Encompass and surround me, that nice electronic doo-dad friend of mine. I love it.

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Since I had a "really" lousy time at work the last week, I searched for a much needed change of pace. Trying to do my best at balancing a hundred-and-one incompatible tasks at the same time with little success and lots of frustrations in-between is not my idea of fulfilling work. So I decided this weekend to go out and reward myself with a new and fantastic electronic toy. Out of the blue and just like that. Like a small boy going to the candy store, I had a sweet tooth that needed satisfaction, needed it badly. For awhile now, I have been investigating the various possibilities of interactive music via the Internet, and there are many many variations on the theme of portable music. The choice is an endless one, but I had the urge to get something. Now or never. Even if it meant spending a little more than I had originally planned. First I had to bring the girls to the field hockey tournament in Waddinxveen, and after watching Sabien play in the first match, I sped off in my car to Rotterdam (20 minute drive). I screeched to a halt, parked the car at a slight angle, and then I took a veritable beeline to the Mediamarkt electronics store. I got excited about all the nice gadgets they had behind glass. In no time the young and dynamic salesman convinced me to buy a MZ-N505 portable NetMD recorder from Sony. I really love the use of the OpenMG technology and the user-friendly OpenMG Jukebox program which makes checking out music a piece of cake. In one day I have filled up two mini-discs with Neil Young, Alanis Morisette, Chris Rea, The Cult and Veruca Salt. It is bad to acquire so much superficial pleasure from an external silver-colored object. For now however that is alright as long as the feeling is tempered properly with the realization that there is more to life than transferring music and letting it blare in your ears. This Monday morning it is back to work and I will squeeze myself between the many train commuters. This time I will let my mind wander with nice tunes to help me relax and prepare myself for a less frustrating week I hope.

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So I thought I would get fancy again and make my guestbook even nicer, nicer than it was ever meant to be. However, after I had changed some of the perl stuff and uploaded it to my cgi-bin directory again it all went boom. That is if I tried to add a new entry to the guestbook and hit the good old submit button, an ugly 500 internal error flew back in my face. Ugh and oops and what? What was the problem exactly? The most obvious choice is to recheck the Perl script for possible syntax errors, but that was perfectly fine. I had only changed a few items (5), and they all looked perfectly healthy to me. When I stuck back the original cgi-script to the server, everything was okay again. Weird. Why did I have to go off and change things, try to make them better but make them worse in the end? As it turned out, the cause of my problems was this and has to do with me "trying" to transfer my development environment to my new machine. The usual hassle. I use the wonderful tool called LeechFTP (sometimes crashes and/or generates cryptic error messages in German but in general pretty dependable and I am used to it). There is this option for setting file extensions which should be automatically uploaded in ASCII-mode. Well, you guessed it. The list of extensions was reset to the default after installation (".txt.htm.html.nfo.diz") and does NOT include the CGI extension. Oops, that means that when I try to transfer the file guest.cgi to my site, it gets sent in BINAIRY mode which is bad. Bad boy. Bummer man. I now quickly fixed that by appending the text ".pl.cgi.htaccess.pm.cfg.cgi" to the end of the default list. Don't want to forget the other types of files I upload regularly and end up having the very same frustrating problem now do I? Now everything works just fine again. Again and again. No use wasting energy doing low-level debugging stuff when that is not necessary. First think, think deeply, before proceeeding to the next step. Again and again.

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It is high time to treat myself to yet another new Goal-in-Life. Again? Yes, after much thought and serious ruminations, I have finally come up with a new challenge that is perfectly well-suited to my needs at the moment. It is related to my future-famous homepage which is slowly but surely getting better and better. I hope. At least that is what I try to do without letting this obsession get out of hand. Contain that monster, that creation of the mind, catch it before it escapes! This so-called new goal in life of mine is this. Make my homepage "XHTML Compliant, in other words: W3C validated, 100% procent CSS/XHTML-Transitional compliant code." That would be quite impressive, don't you think? One hundred percent and no less. An impossible task? The benefits are many, and just to name a few:

  • A painless transition to more advanced technology.
  • Cleaner, more logical markup.
  • Increased interoperability.
  • Greater accessibility.
So what happened to me then? Well, I read this article called Better Living through XHTML by Jeffrey Zeldman (creator of this fine website), and his words of wisdom inspired me so much that I wanted to change my life. Right then and there. Now or never. I will start tomorrow, and I hope to be compliant within a month (or two). I will be sure to let you guys and gals know when this achievement is finally realized. That's it. The very ironic thing is that I will have to tell you because otherwise no one will notice it. None of the changes will be visible. Is it worth all the trouble then? I wonder how many readers out there have the slightest idea what I am talking about. Well, you (true web geeks) might want to check out the XHTML/CSS Style Guide (NYPL) for more fun stuff. Spice up your life some more, and more. Until it is too late.

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Information

This personal weblog was started way back on July 21, 2001 which means that it is 7-21-2001 old.

So far this blog contains no less than 2279 entries and as many as 1881 comments.

Important events

Graduated from Stanford 6-5-1979 ago.

Kiffin Rockwell was shot down and killed 9-23-1916 ago.

Believe it or not but I am 10-11-1957 young.

Began well-balanced and healthy life style 1-8-2013 ago.

My father passed away 10-20-2000 ago.

First met Thea in Balestrand, Norway 6-14-1980 ago.