Last week was my birthday. I usually try to keep very quiet about it, and I don’t go advertising it on the GPF site as a way to drum up artificial congratulations from fans. I know it’s always annoyed me when other webcartoonists do that, expecting their readers to all sing in chorus and make them feel self important, so I expect it annoys others as well. Such cults of personality extend into the blogosphere and other similar user-generated realms, of course, but I know I saw it in the webcomicing world long before the term “blog” came into being. But I digress. I don’t do GPF to have tons of people become my personal cheerleaders and gush on and on about how much they think of me and my work; I do it for myself first and foremost, and it’s an added bonus if one or two (or several tens of thousands) of you enjoy it as well. It did kind of surprise me that nobody on the forum mentioned anything, given I know there are a few of you out there who are obsessive enough to keep track of such things, but I’d much rather have a low-key quiet birthday anyway.
And it was a nice birthday. It started off kind of lackluster, as I had a doctor’s appointment to have some blood work done and had to fast (only black coffee… no cream or sugar… blech), followed by Ben’s nine month checkup (which went very well). We ended up throwing a third doctor’s visit into the mix, as Randi the Wonder Kitty was throwing up (more than usual) and suffering from diarrhea (as if cat feces wasn’t unpleasant enough already). Still, she turned out to be doing just fine, and whatever was bothering her seemed to pass pretty quickly. After that, my wife took me out to finally see Spider-Man 3 (which I’ll agree with most critics that it wasn’t as good as the previous two) and have a nice dinner by ourselves. I received some nice gifts from all my family and nobody made a particularly big fuss about it, which is exactly what I wanted.
But I will tell you about the most interesting gift I received, which was “from” Ben. (Yes, I’m realistic know that a nine-month-old baby probably would have had extreme difficulty picking out and purchasing such an item over the Internet by himself, so I know he had help from Mommy.) I have finally plunged off the technological cliff with the rest of the lemmings and am now a proud owner of an iPod.
For some reason, I seem to resist some trends, even when they’re obviously techie. It was years after cell phones became hip and commonplace that I finally caved and signed up for one, and even now my current phone (my second) is rather spartan and utilitarian. No music or video, no Web access, not even a camera; it makes phone calls and that’s about it. The most useful secondary features it has are the contacts list (which is a watered down version of what’s in my LifeDrive) and the tip calculator (which is usually handier to get to than the one in the Palm). I had no immediate interest in MP3 players initially, preferring the permanence of CDs. Even once I started using PocketTunes on the LD, I have never purchased music online; I always ripped my existing CDs and encoded them myself. In fact, with the LD’s built-in 4GB drive plus any number of Secure Digital cards, I never felt the need for a dedicated MP3 player.
However, I now have some nice discounts with Apple through my current job, so I’ve toyed with the idea of adding some Apple products to our technology collection. While I’ve used my share of Apple ][s and Macs over the years (boy, does that first item date me), I’ve never owned an Apple product. I’ve eyed a MacBook a few times to make our little home network truly operating system agnostic. Still, I’m cheap and lazy, which does not make for a good combination for impulsive spending. I waffled back and forth in a similar fashion about purchasing a PDA before my wife broke down and bought my first Palm (a IIIc), and I’m now on my third. Sometimes it takes a good solid shove to get me moving in a give direction, and my wife is pretty good at that. 😉
So now I’m the owner of a sleek, black, “fifth generation” 30GB iPod. (I understand the “video” part of the name was dropped at some point.) I’ve got to admit, this thing is pretty slick. There are some very good reasons why these things dominate the portable media market. I had always heard the interface was intuitive, but I didn’t realize it was so ridiculously easy to use. I barely even looked at the instruction card (it’s hard to call it a manual, when there’s only a few fold out pages and very little actual information). I was using it almost right out of the box with no tutorials. It did take a day or two of on-again, off-again syncing to copy all my media onto it, but that was relatively easy to do. It imported my previously ripped CDs without (much of) a hitch and ripped the rest (new CDs I received for my birthday plus a few I never bothered to copy before) very quickly. I re-encoded some of my home videos of Ben into a compatible format and they look awesome on that tiny screen. It took a bit to figure out the podcast subscription setup, but once I got it down I was able to add the few podcasts I listen to with relative ease. The jury is still out on battery life as I haven’t been able to listen to it too extensively yet, but it does seem to be holding up better than the LD for extended listening.
Some of the few caveats I’ve encountered, which are mostly personal irks than anything else and actually have little to do with the device itself:
Now that I’ve vented, I thought I’d share a little humorous bit I thought up. Shortly after I had toyed with the iPod a while, an imaginary conversation popped into my head about what the LifeDrive and iPod would say to each other on their first meeting:
LifeDrive: So… you’re the new guy, huh?
iPod: Yep! Hi, I’m an iPod! And you are…?
LD: A Palm LifeDrive.
iP: A… what?
LD: A LifeDrive. From Palm. You know, they make PDAs.
iP: Oh… one of the “old guard.” Gotcha.
LD: “Old guard?” What’s that supposed to mean?
iP: Heh… ah, c’mon. A PDA? Who uses those anymore? I mean, with cell phones doing all that PIM stuff…
LD: And playing MP3s…
LD: So… you play music. What else can you do?
iP: Oh, I can do much more than that! I do podcasts as well. That is, after all, where podcasts got their name.
LD: Jeff used me to listen to his music and podcasts all the time.
iP: I can do video too!
LD: Got about a hundred megs of baby videos right here on this SD card. And I saw the files he converted for you. They’re several megs bigger than the files he encoded for me.
iP: I can also play games!
LD: Been there, done that, bought the leather case with a belt clip. What else you got, kid?
LD: Got BlueTooth?
iP: Not… built-in…
LD: Voice recorder?
iP: As an $80 add-on accessory…
LD: Copious amounts of storage space?
iP: HA! Got you there, old man! 30GB right here. How much do you have?
LD: Er… built-in? Only 4GB.
iP: AH HA!
LD: But with SD expansion cards I have virtually limitless capacity!
iP: And just how many cards do you have?
LD: Well… um… if you add them all up…?
LD: Um… there’s the ones here in my case… add in these old ones in the briefcase… maybe count the ones with the old Tungsten C… so… approximately 3.84375 GB?
LD: Well, some are less than a gig. And if you include the built-in hard drive, that brings me up to 7.84375 GB. But then, realistically, you have to subtract the drive space used for “memory” and that brings it down to…
iP: Never mind. I’m sorry I asked.
[More uncomfortable silence.]
iP: Well… at least you’re not a Windows Mobile device.
LD: Of course not. I’m from Palm. Although some might say my OS is becoming outdated, at least it’s not a watered down version of a piece of desktop bloatware. The only reason those guys have so much more memory and processing power is because they need it just to make the darn OS run. And I won’t even associate with those Treo 700w’s and 750’s. Traitors.
iP: Amen to that.
LD: Why do you say that? You got something against Microsoft?
iP: Well, duh. I’m from Apple.
LD: OH…. That… that says a lot right there.
[Still more uncomfortable silence.]
iP: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
LD: Just keep your ear buds to yourself, kid, and you’ll get along here fine. Just wait ’til you meet Cell. He’s… special. If his antenna falls off, try not to notice.
iP: Um… right.
As previously mentioned, I’m headed to SIGGRAPH in August. The pre-con report is now up on the GPF Shows & Cons site and, as usual, will become the core place for news and updates about my trip there. (I’ll probably end up mentioning the same stuff here as well, but that’s the official place to look.)
It occurred to me yesterday while I was writing up a News item for Monday that SIGGRAPH may–or may not–be a good place to hold a key signing party. For those unfamiliar with public-key cryptography, this is a gathering where PKC users can verify each other’s identities, prove you are who you say you are, and obtain signatures on your public key. This increases your perceived level of trust; the more signatures you have on your public key, the more people who say they have verified your identity and thus the more trustworthy your own signature becomes. This “web of trust” is the core to PKC; without it, anyone could create a key and say they’re somebody else and there wouldn’t be an easy way to prove otherwise.
I said it may be a good place for a key signing because there will be a lot of computer professionals there. It might not be a good place because most of those computer professionals are more involved with graphics than with cryptography (which is ironic because both require a great deal of mathematical knowledge). Thus, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find anyone there willing to sign my keys or not. My public key has a pitiful few number of signatures, mostly because I haven’t been able to meet face-to-face with like-minded cryptography nuts to add any. I’ve searched and searched and have yet to come up with anything in this vein officially or unofficially attached to SIGGRAPH.
So here’s a two-pronged appeal. First, if anyone does know of an official or unofficial key signing event somehow attached to SIGGRAPH or that might be going on in the area during that week, please let me know the details so I can somehow get involved. If there isn’t one going on, I’d love to see one organized. I’d consider organizing it myself if it weren’t for the fact that I’m not from San Diego and I don’t have a clue about where would be the best place to hold such an event, let alone how to get the word out. I’ve put my entry up on BigLumber’s San Diego listing in hopes that someone might see it, and at least one San Diego resident has expressed interest. If someone else might take the initiative to get things started, I’d be more than willing to promote it on the GPF site.
No, I’m not looking to overthrow any governments. I’m talking about Subversion, the revision control system that is a “compelling replacement for CVS in the open source community.” Most developers are familiar with the concept of source or revision control: the “official” version of the source code for a given project is (usually) kept in a central location, and components or modules are “checked out” by developers so they can be worked on. When the changes are complete, they are “committed” back to the revision control system where they are integrated into the official source. Most revision control systems have ways to manage or at least identify conflicts (i.e. two developers making changes to the same code at the same time), thus helping to keep everyone on the same page. They also give project managers a way to tag “milestones” so that if you need to roll back changes to a previous version, it’s relatively simple to back out the new code and restore the original.
I’ve worked with a number of revision control systems over the years, most notably Sablime, which I used rather extensively when I worked for IBM on the Lucent contract. (In looking up that link, I just discovered that Sablime is actually a Bell Labs product, a fact I never knew before. Bell Labs, of course, was spun off of AT&T and became Lucent Technologies, which is now Alcatel-Lucent. This would, of course, explain why Sablime was so prevalent there. And here I thought they were just being masochistic.) I also worked briefly with Microsoft’s Visual SourceSafe… the key word being “briefly”, to which I would prepend the word “fortunately”. I am fond of neither of these systems, and wouldn’t personally recommend them. I have, of course, heard all kinds of extensive things about CVS, both good and bad, but have never really used it on a project.
When I got to ManTech, they had recently rolled out Subversion (or SVN) as their internal revision control, using TortoiseSVN as the front end. (Ours is a Microsoft .NET shop, and Tortoise makes using SVN as simple as a couple context menu choices in Windows Explorer.) SVN touts itself as a “replacement” for CVS, “improving” on its functionality and adding features that long-time CVS users have begged for. After using it now for a while, I’ve come to really enjoy working with SVN and Tortoise. It’s become so useful, in fact, that I installed in on Demeter (our Linux box) and use it for my own personal revision control. I’ve even come to use it for some rather unconventional things. Among its current tasks:
I’m sure most of you could care less, but I thought this would be a neat little anecdote to share anyway. Plus, I haven’t posted in ages, so I wanted to get something up anyway. I’d say if you had any interesting revision control stories to share that you should post them in the comments, but since the comments still aren’t working, I guess it doesn’t matter.