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Quick Links for Those Who Think

Today I added a quick links section on the left hand side of this site. It’s a separate blog that I can post quick, interesting links to as I find them without creating a whole new entry in the main blog. Inspired by WhatDoIKnow.

I need to sleep more and play less…

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Read My News

Here’s a link to the news sites I read… it’s on bloglines, a very good online aggregator.

http://www.bloglines.com/public/zzzmarcus

Enjoy.

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Software

Plesk

Tonight I’ve spent several hours trying to back domains up in Plesk and restore them on another Plesk install on another server. Let me just say that it is not trivial. I’m not sure how good Ensim, cPanel or other similar web server software is at the process but if you’re going to use Plesk and potentially could have to move domains, prepare yourself for an adventure. Note: this only applies to Plesk 6. Plesk 7 is out and I haven’t tested it to see if the process is any easier in the new version.

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Arts

The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyville

I just finished the short story “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyville” by Mark Twain. It’s about a man who is wronged in a small town known for it’s honesty who decides to ruin the entire town by ruining their reputation. In typical Twain style, the story is straightforward, easy to read and comprehend and very engaging. I recommend if it you have some time.

I also read a short Sherlock Holmes mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle called “The Man with the Twisted Lip.” It was pretty typical as well, interesting and a quick read. Sometimes it seems that when I’m reading I unwittingly find a common theme among a wide variety of authors. Last month it was France and everything French, especially the lack of morals there. This month it’s opium dens… strange how these things play out.

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Hot Wheels Appeal

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If you’re a guy in the US (possibly elsewhere, and maybe if you’re a girl too, I can only speak for my own sex & country), and if you’ve ever had any tendency to collect anything at all, you’ve probably collected (or at least been tempted to collect) Hot Wheels. I’m not sure what it is about this toy, but it’s the one toy I haven’t been able to resist since I was 3 years old. Tonight at Target I bought one, and I have a secret stash in my closet (including some pretty old ones from when I was a kid).

I’m not positive why they’re so addictive, but from what I can tell, it’s a combination of these things (in no particular order):

1. Price – you can’t beat $.80 for just about anything.
2. They feel solid. They’re made of metal and they don’t break if you drop them. I think most people are generally attracted to things that feel nice and solid, like Hot Wheels do.
3. They’re universal. Everyone drives or rides in car or at least is around people who drive cars.
4. They’re marketed by Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and about every other ‘real’ car maker in the country. Not directly, but all that marketing hype transfers pretty well over to the miniature versions of their products; which brings me to the next step.
5. They’re small. Unlike model trains, transformers, guns or skateboards, you can keep a collection of Hot Wheels in a box under your bed and still have room for all the other stuff you have under your bed. Maybe that’s why people still collect stamps too :).

Now I’m going to set about planning my next entry, thinking of a product that will be equally appealing to the young and old alike for years and years and that will eventually make me rich :).

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New Design!

Finally, I’m no longer using the default Movable Type design for the front page! This one is probably not going to last a long time, but it’s at least something a little more interesting.

The default Movable Type templates are all CSS and use only one table for the calendar. I’m not ready to spend the time to design the site without tables yet, but that definitely is in the future. I also have tons of ideas for future features… all in good time.

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Software

Flash ActionScript Editors

The Actionscript editor built into Flash is okay, but not great by any means. Today I went off in search of something better–much better.

For the Mac, I found JEdit which also works on the PC. With some minimal customizing, it works great. The toolbar is at the top of the screen like every other Mac app, which is great but still very uncommon for Java apps on OS X. It allows you to collapse functions to better view code and the default install has syntax highlighting for Actionscript. In addition there are numerous plugins available and it has an active development and support community.

For the PC there’s a dedicated Actionscript editor that has the Flash API and autocomplete for flash syntax built in, allows you to build and preview your file right from the interface, also lets you collapse functions and allows for retectangular selections. It’s called SEPY or SE|PY. It looks like there’s a Mac port on the way–there’s even a screenshot of it working under OS X on their site.

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Software

Zempt – Still in Beta!

Maybe the title to my previous post (“Words of Warning”) should be the title to this one…. Last night I installed Zempt, a desktop application to publish to your weblog. It’s in beta status (0.3) but “Zempt is completely stable and should be suitable for most blog authors.” Well, it’s not suitable for me. It corrupted my database (unless it was just pure coincidence, in which case 2 other users on their forums suffered the same unfortunate coincidence). I spent the last hour recreating the entire weblog which is (hopefully) back to normal now. Fortunately I have saved versions and have not yet heavily customized the design.

The idea for the software is a great concept–it’s not unique, but it’s free which is nice. It allows you to spell check easily and publish quickly and easily without filling out a web form, but wait until they’ve ironed out some bugs before you try it on a live site.

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Words of Warning

Being a web designer/developer is addictive! I’m not sure what it is that causes it, but once you’re in, you’re in and there’s no way of getting out (even if you want to). It seems like if a couple months pass by and I haven’t designed a new site, I’ll find myself randomly thinking of ideas for sites to start. The difference between this type of pondering and other random thoughts is that with websites, they actually get created. It’s weird. It’s not so bad if it’s just a site or two here or there, or a site for a paying client, but it seems like that’s rarely how it happens. At least that’s not how it’s been for me.

Currently I find myself supporting several not-for-profit personal websites. This weblog is one, I posted a like to my cheesy personal site and then there’s the mandatory family site and the very outdated business site not to mention a couple sites that are still waiting to be developed and of course the longboarding site-gone-wild that now has a forum with over 60,000 posts in it. Those are just some of the ones that I run for ‘fun’… getting into clients is a whole different story.

So, a word of warning, if you’re going to get into web design, just make sure that you know what you’re doing. It’s not a hobby, not a profession, it’s an addiction.

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Arts

Were I a Dung Beetle

Today I read Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. It is a story of a boy who wakes up one morning to discover that he’s changed from a traveling business man, providing for his entire family, to a large dung beetle. The change doesn’t shock him too much at first–he’s more concerned about being late for work, but later the full impact of it settles in as he discovers his family no longer views him as they previously did.

I enjoyed it. Kafka does a great job of making the absurd seem completely normal– reading the story, you feel as if turning into a beetle were something that could possibly happen to you tomorrow morning. The descriptions are vivid–he makes it easy to feel what it would be like to be a dung beetle–everything from the physical aspects of learning to walk as a beetle to the alienation one might feel upon suddenly metamorphosing into a large insect. It’s also very interesting how he describes the process of losing touch with humanity and gradually starting to think like an insect.