Monthly Archives: November 2005

Why am I not surprised.

Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters
>“There have been several postings over at Xbox-scene complaining of crashing Xbox’s on new games, with default settings on single player. Crashes on Xbox Live and on startup have been reported too, and Project Gotham”

I used to run a Windows network and support a bunch of Windows users. Granted, this was back in Windows NT days. But, my history with Microsoft’s products – especially the version 1.0 or 2.0 or 4.0 actually – makes the story above seem like an old refrain from a crappy song that you can’t get out of your head.

MediaWiki Plugins

Here are some MediaWiki plugins I ran across while surfing around. NOTE: Haven’t tried any of them. YMMV.

MediaWiki Tasks
>This extension provides the ability to create tasks on any page of your MediaWiki. Also included is a highly configurable Special page for aggregateing tasks on your site by various criteria. All tasks are stored in MySQL, so the Sepcial page is extremely fast.
> You can provide several arguments to limit the tasks that are returned.
>
* status – Show all tasks with the specified status or higher. So, specifying “status=2” would include tasks with the status codes 2, 1, and !.
* owner – Only tasks assigned to this user.
* limit – Number of total tasks to list.
* hidden – Enable the display of hidden tasks.

MediaWiki Dublin Core
>An extension that gives a bit more Dublin Core style metadata to an article, via a new action. Quite good for projects that use MediaWiki that, like the one I’m working on, have government sponsorships that require a fair amount of easely accessable metadata.

Easy Time Line

This plugin creates graphical timelines that are pretty amazing from tabular data.
>You will find here a detailed recipee for generating graphical timelines from a simple script. You will need three small programs, which are all open source and can be downloaded from this site.

UPDATE 23 November 2005 – it appears that the Dublin Core plugin is defunct. I’m looking for another similar solution. – Jim

PowerPoint Presentation Tips

At Particletree there is a good list of articles on PowerPoint Presentation Tips. The Gates, Jobs and the zen aesthetic article is very good and very interesting. I always enjoy watching Steve Jobs give a presentation. His presentations often go on for a couple of hours but they are very clean and informative. The slides are minimalist and simple but very functional – very much like Apple products.

Say muh-sheen-eh-mah

Machinima is “filmmaking within a real-time, 3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies.” The 2005 Machinima Film Festival just ended and the people at Rooster Teeth came away with three awards. Congrats Roosterteeth!

If you haven’t seen machinima, then you are missing out on a very entertaining suite of short films. These films use game engines to make the movie. Some of the films, like Red vs. Blue and The Strangerhood use the characters and the environment as is (mostly). The film is made by acting out a script using the game characters. Red vs. Blue is acted out using Halo characters. The Strangerhood is acted out using the Sims as the engine. I think that Red vs. Blue is very funny. Ena said, “I think you must need to play those games to find this entertaining”. Could be a guy thing.

A different genre of machinima make new characters and lands for the game engine. The Journey is a machinima that was built on the Unreal Tournament 2003 engine but you would never guess that. It looks like hand-drawn pencil animation.

Head over the festival site, to Machinima.com and to Rooster Teeth and download some machinima. Good fun small films for your computer.

Book – “Long Way Down” by Nick Hornby





I just finished reading A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. This is a very funny, laughing out loud and waking up your wife, story based on a dark theme. Four people meet on top of the Toppers building on New Years Eve. Each has come up to commit suicide. The four very different people become intertwined by their common goal and their desire to understand how they reached the top and how they can stay alive.

The four characters are excellently envisioned. Each one is pure to their character in their thoughts and behavior. The tale is told by cycling through each characters first-person voice. Each person’s character is so strong that there is no mistaking who is doing what. By the end, I was thinking things like, “that is so Jess”. The ending was bit weak but given the starting premise it is hard to imagine an ending that wouldn’t be either preachy (“and that’s how we all came to love life again”) or trite. I’ll don’t want to spoil the read so I’ll leave the ending out. I think that Mr. Hornby let his characters find their way to the endings and that the ending matches each one.

This book, the story of four characters who all start out with suicide on their mind, was an interesting contrast to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go where three young students start out full of life. Read them both. Read them back-to-back. They make an interesting study in human nature.

This was a very funny book and a quick read. I’m certain we will see this as a movie or a miniseries (from the BBC) in the near future.

Past two weeks in review

I returned from the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference two weeks ago. I came home to Ena home sick with a cold. I came down with the same virus on Sunday after my return. I have been sick ever since. I’m in week 2 of this thing. The last week was the week of “is this cold still hanging on?!?” Thursday and Friday were absolutely gorgeous weather-wise. Fall is in full swing so I decided that I would ride my bike into work regardless of the cold. So I coughed and needed to carry a ton of tissue, I am going to ride my bike in… PERIOD.

While I’m on this rant: I find driving in very annoying. It takes me 5 to 10 minutes longer to drive to work that to ride to work.

>On the plus side of driving: You can carry stuff in that is hard to carry on your bicycle (like 4 12-packs of mineral water – that would really suck to carry on your bike). When you get in, you don’t need to change clothes and your not sweaty. You only have to think about one set of clothes in the morning – the ones you will wear at work not the ones you will ride in and the ones you will wear at work.

> On the minus side: other drivers who think that they “really need to get to place X regardless of traffic conditions or the fact that there is another car in the place that they are attempting to move into. The fact that you have to buy gas usually when you don’t really want to stop and fill the car up. Stress just builds up when you drive – there is no place for it to go.

>On the plus side of biking: Stress gets released as exercise. You get to see the world and smell the world and feel the world. You sense the seasons changing and that there are more than four seasons something like 12 or 8 – I’ll have to write about that sometime. It is faster. It doesn’t use gas. You get a work-out on the way in and the way home. Cycle-time is a great time to get your brain in gear or wind down. It is an excuse to buy gear like jerseys, gore-tex jackets, computers, cool lights.

> On the minus side of biking: You have to get dressed in gear, pack clothes for work, get undressed from gear, get dressed in work clothes, work, then reverse the process. You don’t arrive at work in “ready to go” state – you arrive in “all geared up and somewhat sweaty need to cool down, clean up and change clothes” state. You can’t carry as much stuff.

It is much better to ride to work. I hope to ride up to December 1st. There are people here who cycle year around – I’m not kidding. 24 below zero and there are bikes on the road. Eight inches of new snow and there are bike tracks on the road before the plows. And these are homeless, don’t have a car people – they do this by choice. I’m not that gnarly. I may make it to December 15th. We’ll see.

Back to the main thread of this post.

So I get sick on Sunday. I have to give a presentation on Tuesday afternoon at the Wisconsin SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) Summit. I spent most of the rest of that week running into work for critical meetings in the morning then running back home to sleep and try to recover from this cold.

In other news: I’m playing a new game (for me) – Tropico 2 – Pirates Cove. This is a simulation game (sim) where you are pirate and you try to run and island and grow a pirate economy. It is pretty fun. It has sucked up hours of my evening. One night – the night we switched from Daylight Savings as a matter of fact – I stayed up until 12:30AM playing. I looked at the clock – it was 9:30PM. I thought, “I’ll play for a while”. Next thing you know, it is after midnight.

So that’s been my last two weeks. Sick. Work. Finally back on my bike. Playing a new computer game. What else is there?

– Jim