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DMI News

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The Tank is Operational

March 03, 2007 21:14

At long last, I've got the tank working. For those who are scratching their heads wondering what I'm talking about, the tank is the replacement for the old rc car, which you can drive around over the Internet and watch where you're going while you do it. I've surpassed the point that the old RC Car was at for purposes of reliability, although the current revision is not without its problems, and I'm already working on plans for the next version.

The tank is a toy 1/16 German Tiger Tank which was remote controlled just like any other RC toy. I took it apart and basically stripped out everything except the lower chassis and the the mechanical part of the drive system. I built my own interface for the motors, controlled by a TS-7200 ARM embedded computer running linux. I use a usb 802.11g adapter for wireless comunication and an IPcam camera for the visual feedback.

Since I have quite a bit of power on board, I'm going to add some sensors, not only to help secure the safety of the tank from large inflexible objects such as walls, but also to add in the option of autonavigation. For now, I'm only allowing people with a profile to drive the tank. If there is a problem with abuse, I will change it to only those who have a profile one week old or older. I will also get the waitqueue working again so a single person can use the tank at a time for a 5 minute session.

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Server Problems

December 20, 2006 13:53

As I'm certain everyone has noticed over the last 24 hours, the server has ... well.... not been there. This has been most unfortunate, mostly for myself. I will explain the process I went through to get it working again.

About 4:50 pm I suddenly notice the server is not responding. Assuming the server has crashed, I order an automatic reboot. This goes off without a hitch, except for the slight problem that it didn't actually reboot the machine. But it thought it did. So I order a manual reboot which usually takes a little while longer to process. In the meantime I do some poking around and discover that the server is still responding to ssh, but won't let me log in, saying the passwords are bad. Confusing, but ok. Anyways, they eventually come back and say the server has been rebooted (again) and is now responding. Only problem here is that it never went down during that timeframe. However, I'm busy pursuing the ssh issue. On a lark, I decide to run a portscan on the server to see what IS open. Lots of stuff, but nothing much that should be. And one of the ports was opened on 31337. That didn't look promising.

So now I figure I've been hacked. Priority now is to get the machine shut down and off the network before whoever broke in was able to do any significant damage. Despite the obvious simplicity of pulling a plug, this request took about 2 hours to accomplish, although I later figured out why. I order a system restore for the next morning with the old drive slaved, and go to work.

The next morning, the next afternoon and into the next evening, they're busy trying to restore the system. This includes at first formatting a new drive and putting it in the computer, booting it and putting it on the network. That was easy and took less than 30 minutes. Only problem was, it didn't work. They didn't seem to be able to actually GET IT ON THE NETWORK. So... in an effort to solve this problem, they replaced and reloaded just about everything.

Eventually, they discovered another problem. There was an ip conflict on the network. They mentioned this at the time they discovered it, but in my stuporific state, I somehow missed it right then. It would appear that this was the reason that my server had gone offline. I was attempting to get into someone else's box and not my own, and for that reason assumed I had been hacked. My server in fact was purring along just happily oblivious to any problems, and as it would appear, traffic.

They fix the ip conflict issue, map the ip address to the mac address and proceed along happily. Only, it still doesn't work. So, the obvious solution to this problem is to reload everything again. Still nothing. Finally, the poor guy who had been working on this problem for the entirety of his shift forwards it to a supervisor on the next shift. It's about this time that I discover the ip conflict message and realize what the problem REALLY was, and I start mentioning this in the trouble ticket. However, by this time, they're between shifts and nobody's paying any attention. I put in requests to call me, and start bugging people until the next shift supervisor calls me as requested. I give him the quick rundown of what happened and tell him what I figure was the REAL problem we should be chasing. Armed with new information, he attempts to figure out what went wrong.

Less than an hour later, he comes back and states the problem has been solved and the server is now live on the network. What happened was, when they discovered the ip conflict and mapped my ip address to my mac address, that should have solved the problem right there. However, the mac address they used was that of the original server, and by this time, the server itself had been replaced, along with the NIC, so there was a new mac address in use, and the binding therefore was inaccurate and the end result was the same.

Once the server was online, I took a look through the old HD to see if there were any signs of tampering, but I could find none. I took a quick backup of the important stuff and told them to put the old HD back in as master and reboot. That took another 30 minutes, and they fired it up, and sure enough, everything came up just perfectly, no problems at all. DMI was back without skipping a beat.

ANYWAYS.... in light of this recent scare, I've implemented a 3 tier backup system. I'll have stuff I backup every day, every week, and every month. Source code will be backed up daily, most of the website stuff weekly, and some of the noncritical website components monthly, along with various system configuration files, and some home directories. I'll keep a couple past copies here locally for each so in the worst case, I'll be able to almost fully recover. I won't be saving logs or cam archives, as these take up a LOT of space and consist of the things I delete first whenever I need more space anyway.

So there you have it. An explaination of what went wrong AND a news update. News updates will be more forthcoming in the next few days. I've got a lot to talk about, just hadn't had the time to sit down and type it all out yet.

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Honeymoon

October 12, 2006 15:19

Of course, we decided to plan it the weekend that everyone else had a ton of things to do. Of course, there weren't a ton of things to do when we planned it, the rest of it just came up later. The girls were off school for 3 days, so we jumped at the opportunity to get in a honeymoon before the 1 year deadline was up. Call it an early anniversary at the same time.

Since the girls were going to need the only reliable vehicle we own that will travel at more than 45 miles an hour, we decided to rent a car. Ended up with a 2006 white Ford Focus. Nice car. It looks small, but has lots of legroom and trunk room. Perfect. Drove down to dallas and stayed 3 days at Maple Manor in Room 213. Not the largest room there, but very nice. Once we got settled in, we decided to just walk down the street and see what we might find to eat. Lo and behold, less than 100 feet away is a Pizza and wine bar. So we ate a large (like 16 inch) pizza, and drank a bottle of wine and strollstaggered back to the hotel to sleep it off.

The next day, we were served breakfast in bed, after which we got dressed and wandered around Dallas a bit. First we hit the Dallas Museum of Art. After wandering around there for a few hours and eating lunch, we did some shopping at more conventional retail haunts like Target and BigLots, then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the night's events. At 6, we went to the Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center to eat dinner at the Opus Restaurant and see the Dallas Symphony Orchestra featuring John Tesh. Great show, and that poor girl who volunteered to receive the basketball will likely never raise her hand for anything again.

Sunday we had no plans til the evening, so we wandered around the Turtle Creek, Highland Park area. Ate lunch at an outdoor mexican cafe, sat in Borders books for a while, wandered through some stores selling stuff which was priced a bit out of our range, and eventually wandered back to the hotel. That night, we ate next door at The Old Warsaw. Very VERY good food, live orchestra duet playing while we ate. 5 courses, and a fishtank with an eel. What more could you ask for. Once again, we walked back to the hotel, went to sleep. Got up the next morning, ate breakfast, cleaned up, and departed.

Pictures.

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More Updates Needed

September 10, 2006 18:16

Several updates are about to be implemented, as soon as I can allocate a swath of time to do it uninterrupted. First off, the visitors database will be updated.... finally.. with lots of new features. I'll also fix the bug that's preventing new accounts from being added, as well as causing the database to grow unusually large for no obvious reason. I suspect it's a related issue.

Secondly, I've been revamping the dynamic code for the site. Message replies will show up in a small window below the send form, or maybe above it, I've not decided yet. That can be a layout issue. I'm going to CSS the main page and add some dhtml features to the layout. It'll be nice to be able to make certain links grow in size when someone asks a question, and the bulbs will update on the page. I MIGHT even update the currently active list of cams & devices, and a dead cam will show a useful "not currently online" image instead of a broken link. I'm hoping to completely eliminate the hidden frame and any need for popups, since both of these things fail to work quite often now.

Once the bathroom, Tif's sink, and our bedroom is complete, I'm diving full force into electronics work for future projects. Both the car and the light show I'm planning to build will require some prototyping work first.

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The Weekend So Far

September 04, 2006 00:01

Yes, I know, it's been far more than a weekend since the last update. But we'll get to that later. It's been a busy weekend.

On Saturday, we loaded everyone up in the car and drove to Arbuckle Wilderness in Oklahoma. Spent the day driving around having various creatures drool, peck, and bite at the car in hopes of obtaining a token morsel. Most of them were successful. The giraffes got special attention. Here are some pics for you to enjoy. Camera #1 and Camera #2.

Then today we went and bought the cheapest handheld gps unit we could find and tried out Geocaching. It turned out to be as much fun as we expected and maybe more so. The kids are already planning and expecting to go do it some more tomorrow.

Despite what might appear to be an obvious lack of progress on the site, there just so happens to be an obvious lack of progress on the site, at least if you consider things you can see and do. I've actually put quite a bit of work in reprogramming some of it to make it load faster and put less load on the server. That way, should I get hits from a moderately large website, I'll actually be able to handle it. I've also been developing a multipurpose phone interface circuit. I expect to put some prototypes into effect this week. Among some of the features on the first run will include the ability to automatically start recording phone calls when a call comes in, and once I get caller ID integrated, depending on the source of the call, choose to stream it to the world. I could also use this to automatically block known telemarketer/creditor/unwanted people #'s. If I really get motivated, I'll have it control which phones in the house ring depending on incoming calls, and certain phones will go dead after a certain hour on weeknights... can't imagine who those will belong to.. :)

I'm planning to do a moderately substantial Christmas display this year, controllable of course. I'd like to sync it to music, and that CAN be done, but it'll be difficult to observe it realtime online due to the difference in video and audio streams, and streaming live video/audio in a package like wmv has proven to be both problematic, and very bandwidth intensive. To view it, I'll be setting up a mailbox out at the street and it will contain a camera looking back at the house.

I've been playing with ajax, enough anyway to incorporate it into the main page and replace all the functions that the hidden frame now serves, most of which don't work correctly anyway. This will include the lamp icons turning on and off, popup message and windows, and a redesign of the camera code to handle broken images and such.

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A Camp, and a Missing Tooth

June 25, 2006 12:24

Marjorie goes off to camp today. We'll be comforted in the knowledge that the location of this camp is a safely guarded secret. At least on the site for the camp. A child predator looking for a children's camp will thankfully not be able to locate it, since it is not immediately visible to anyone visiting the site. Of course, all you have to do to GET the location of the camp is to register your child to attend, but clearly that is more trouble than a child predator is willing to go to. In fact, visiting the camp itself seems like a bit too much trouble. I would think that any strange person that isn't a parent, counselor, or child would stand out like a sore thumb and would be immediately reported. But I digress. We must create the illusion of safety for the sake of the children and the sake of the paranoid. Your children are far more likely to get a nasty case of poison ivy, or some other conventional camp related ailment. I wonder if the site fails to mention that as well.. hmmmmm

Anabelle-Bob had a tooth sticking out, such that it looked like she was walking around with a toothpick. It was painful to the touch, she wasn't able to eat, and her breath smelled, so there was some obvious decay issues. Since we discovered this on a saturday night, and the earliest we'd be able to get her into a vet at normal working hours would be monday morning, we decided we'd better take her to one of these emergency vets. Gertie did the phone thing and we learned another interesting trait about Denison. All the Vets here are either owned by the same company, or they're some type of Cartel. In any event, they refused to see us because we haven't previously used a Vet in Denison before. There were no exceptions to this rule, and the answering service was quite rude in expressing this. The only alternative was to drive an hour to the emergency vet in Collin County. So we did. They were very nice, took her immediately, took care of the problem, and we were out of there. We spent more time driving than anything else. Turns out, she had a case of tooth rot, probably had for a while, and the bacteria had finally eaten through enough of it that it broke off, thus the loose nature. It came out easy and the vet perscribed some antibiotics and pain killers, which I must administer for the next several days, at much displeasure to the cat. She's now a kitty with a missing lower canine tooth. But she's much happier now. Even after that whole ordeal was over with.

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The Unfair Book Faire

June 23, 2006 00:43

Well, call that an annual event that I'll no longer be participating in. I'll start with a little background. The Plano Book Fair, which is held every year during the summer, is a 3 day event where you can purchase used, donated books for 75 cents to $1.50 each. Each year they have typically around 150,000 books for sale, and make about as much. Proceeds go toward various library functions for the city of Plano, TX.

The event rents out this huge convention hall for 4 days. 3 days for the sale, and the previous day for setup. Books for the sale are sorted year long by volunteers, are boxed up, and warehoused, and brought in on the setup day. Volunteers at the setup will take a box of books, which are sorted by category, cut the box open, take the books out of the box, and set them up on one of the many tables. As you can imagine, this is a task that requires quite a few manhours to complete. This has never been much of a problem though, as there are always plenty of volunteers available. As a token of gratitude for their efforts, the volunteers are allowed to purchase $25 worth of books on the day before the sale. If you've never witnessed opening night, that is quite a significant guesture. It can be quite a madhouse.

Well, that all changed this year. With no obvious warning, especially to the many volunteers who have done this annually for years and don't bother with signing up in advance, they decided to recind the ability to purchase books the day before... well, unless you're a "member", membership of which costs $35. The members get to come in the night before and purchase their books, and they're not required to do any work for this benefit. The volunteers get no special privelages at all.

Now, to avoid sounding like a whiny materialistic pig, I agree, it's their show, they can run it any way they like, and nowhere does it say I'm entitled to any benefits for this volunteering. I just falsely assumed things would work the same way they did the year before. Had there been a more concerted effort to notify the volunteers before they came in and set aside their box of books for purchase, perhaps we wouldn't have felt as insulted. We probably wouldn't have worked, but at least we'd understand. Maybe.

To make it more fun, we inquired as to the reason. Several were provided. On one hand, there were complaints that SOME volunteers didn't work the whole 3 hours that they're supposed to. Clearly, this is a good reason to punish everyone. Secondly, some of the paying members of Friends of the Plano Library were apparently upset that the volunteer riffraff were able to select books before they were, and apparently that tense political issue was taken care of as well.

The simple, not too difficult to read between the lines message that we got was, we don't work hard enough to deserve to get any books ahead of the crowd. And if we don't like it, we can just leave. They have plenty of help. I suspect a lot of their help didn't realize the tragedy of their situation until they tried to buy their box of books. "Oh dear, I'm terribly sorry about that. Thanks for all your hard work though. If you want to pay $35, you can join our little club and come back tonight, and maybe find some of the books you had picked out. In the meantime, we're going to put these back." And most of these words are verbatim what was told to us.

On top of all this, they decided that nobody younger than 14 will be allowed to attend the setup. I've been working there for 8 years and I've yet to see ANY problems with children. The children, in fact, help out as much as the adults do. Kids usually aren't dragged along to these things involuntarily. My step daughter worked two days there last year, and she was 11 at the time. Thursday night, in the middle of the madhouse, she was up on the stage hauling boxes and bags of books around for people who were storing them for later retrieval. And she definitely picked out her $25 worth of books, and spent a good part of the summer reading through them. This year, she was anxious to go again, begging us to let her skip swim practice for a day so she could go. Apparently she got the same message the rest of us did. She just doesn't work hard enough and isn't deserving of the privelage. I was still considering going down tonight and helping with the crowd, and asked if she wanted to go with me then, and she'd still have a chance to pick out her books before the sale started, but she had completely lost interest and wanted nothing further to do with it.

For that matter, neither do I.

There's a chance that a lot of these problems will be taken care of after this year. But what's the use now? A lot of the dedicated volunteers, people who have come there year after year, who got insulted and walked out, probably won't be coming back, no matter what they do to fix it, if anything. For me, the magic is gone. This was something I looked forward to every year. I scheduled vacation time months in advance to be sure I'd be available to attend. I enjoyed meeting people that I remembered from previous years, even if we don't talk at all during the year. It's as much a social event as it is an opportunity to get lots of reading material at a cheap price. All that is ruined now.

I'm sure the sale will survive without us. They still have some people who will work it anyways, others will fork up the money and just get their books that way. But it's not the same anymore. There won't be the same caliber of people walking around helping the customers. The people that REALLY love it, loved helping others enjoy it, those people won't be around this year, or next year, or the year after that. And attendance will start to wane. A lot of the steadfast volunteers also either donated a lot of books to the sale, or were involved in arranging donations from other sources. A lot of that can be expected to dry up. In time, it will be but a shadow of what it once was. And that hurts a community to lose a resource like that.

So I decided today, I didn't want to spend $30 in gas just to go help out someone who refused to show any respect in return. I'd probably just end up speaking my mind at an inappropriate time. No need for that. This will do nicely. Anyways, I now get 2 more days each year I need to find something to do with. I doubt I'll have any trouble with that.

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A Discussion on Trolls

June 19, 2006 13:15

I'm going to do this once, and only once. I shouldn't do it at all, but this issue affects and has affected far too many people, over far too long a timespan, that I'm going to put it all out for everyone to see, so there will be no confusion, no misunderstandings, and nobody going "huh huh huh???" long after this issue should have been settled. I'm going to talk about a troll. I'm going to give this troll undeserved attention, which is exactly what he wants. But I'm only going to do this once, and only as an educational exersize. Now pay attention.

For the last few months, on rare occasions, this site has been visited by a troll. It's not the first time, and likely won't be the last. But this one is more clever than most, and therefore has created more trouble than most. Talking to him recently, he claimed to be a regular in the past, although refused to provide me with a regular name he used. I did some research and discovered he used to go by the name an, when he showed a rare thread of consistancy. Normally he uses a different name on every post.

His gift, should you call it that, is sniffing around to find people's hot buttons, then pushing them repeatedly. Most of the time, these actions appear benign from a casual observation. You would never guess he did anything wrong without a larger contextual view, and lets face it, who really has the time to explore the ancient history of everyone they speak with. He will intentionally push someone's button, the victim will respond in an aggressive, defensive, and sometimes seemingly inappropriate manner, and the troll will then continue to push the same buttons, annoyingly so, until at some point he backs away, usually after getting kicked, banned or otherwise, because he "never did anything wrong." And an uninformed outsider who had no idea what all took place would likely agree. And so the troll's legacy lives on.

The troll, any troll, gets his kicks from a response, especially a negative one. More importantly, the goal is to create discord amongst the regular members as they get drawn into a controversial topic. Take Shiz for instance. Everyone who knows him realizes that he has a temper at times, and more times than I would prefer he will let a rude anon taste a bit of it before getting rid of the problem. A lot of us tend to feel the same way, so while we might not react the same way, we fully understand his motivations and generally don't have a problem with it. The troll will find a way to get the same reaction, only do so in such a way that nobody else can relate. This makes Shiz look bad to everyone else. And before you know it, other people join in on the bandwagon of saying "Yes, shiz DOES have a habit of kicking people out and cussing at them for no reason." Many times, it's the same person over and over again, but it looks like a larger segment of the population that has suffered the wrath of Shiz. Now that the troll has gained a support group, that group will continue to fight in his honor, even after the troll has left.

So who's fault is it? Ultimately, ours. Mine, yours, Shiz's, and everyone else who bothered to give this troll one bit of attention or one bit of credibility. It's not a problem with a simple solution, however. Ultimately, we all need to learn to simply not jump the gun with our reactions. Be it a troll, or someone making a clueless, but innocent comment, we can take offense to something seemingly benign. It would be better to respond to these things in a polite, civilized way, even if the reply is negative. Keep all illusions of hostility out of the response. Those who simply made a mistake will either apologize or refrain from broaching the same subject in the future, and a troll, not getting the desired response, will either escalate the effort or depart for greener pastures. An escalated effort to aggravate someone is easier to identify and deal with.

For the moment, I have created trolltags. Currently there is ONE troll listed in the database. Any caption or comment left by the troll will be marked, encouraging others to simply ignore whatever he's saying, in hopes he will go away. Any effort to bypass this tagging will be considered an abusive action and permanant removal from the site will then be an optimal solution. I normally would ban trolling outright, but since there is some discrepancy between the appearance of simple honest discord and outright trolling, I feel marking those who are consistantly exhibiting antisocial behavior gives them the opportunity to improve their ways, assuming they wish to. The trolls will not, will make it obvious, and at that point I see no reason to continue dealing with them.

So remember, the next time you feel compelled to be drawn into a controversial debate, be it a negative stance against a member of this site, a political conversation, a debate about religion, philosophy, the rearing of children, or the fundamental diatribes of the glowworm mutilation cult... before you get sucked into a flamewar, mind the source of your outrage. Have your own ideas, don't blindly follow the crowd. Develop your own thoughts based on your personal observations of the available facts. Yes. I know I'm not being realistic. People generally don't work that way. Mob rule, peer pressure, and herding are the way the world works. You'll have to decide if you want to lead, follow, or get out of the way. But the next time you're offered the opportunity to take a blind stab in the dark at someone, at least consider who's handing you the blade.

I have nothing more to say on this subject.

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Where Things Stand

June 11, 2006 02:56

Apparently there has been the general impression amongst some people that the site has degraded over the past few years from where it was. To this I have a simple response: you are absolutely correct. I'll attempt to explain why and what exactly I intend to do about it.

In the beginning there was me, my house, and my site. I had exclusive control over the site, all cams, controllable devices, and the visitors page. Visitors to the site could leave comments, but that's it. The ops could block users, and manage the chatroom, but that was the extent of their control. At the time I was working, but I was barely making enough to cover rent and the cost of the internet connection. The entire site was running on computer systems that were over 5 years old. Amazingly, it ran quite well, but without funds to expand, things did so only at a very slow pace. At least at the time, I had exclusive control over things, so the decision to do so or not was entirely mine.

Then everything changed.

Having to move out of my house, and having an immediate issue with the place I was going to move to, and ending up living with my parents, the site took a nosedive. Suddenly I was running the site off an isdn line and having an extremely restricted environment to do so. After a few months, I had arranged new living arrangements where I was assured these restrictions would be minimal, but that didn't work out as planned and only ended up setting me back further. In the meantime, the site lost most of the momentum it previously had. After leaving that place and moving back in with my parents again, I decided not to find my own place to live, one that I owned, such that I owed no homage to any roommates or a landlord. The only such place I could afford though was an old house that needed a lot of work. Thus for another year, the site had to sit in limbo while I worked on the house.

To make matters worse, I was involved (indirectly) in a lawsuit, which cost a lot of money and time, not to mention excluding part of the labor help I was expecting on the house. This meant that by the time I moved into the place, it was barely livable, and priority had to be given to getting bedrooms and other essential rooms and utilities working. Work on the site continued to limbo. And since by then my available funds had dried up, I had to get a full time job, which only cut into my time more. So for the last year, my time has been fully consumed with my job, my family, and work on the house. What little time I've had left to contribute to the site has usually been spent in a maintenance mode, just keeping it running.

The simple fact is, for the last 2 years, I've had very little to do with the day to day operations of the site. Everyone else has been keeping it going. So what you see is a result of that. This is not really a bad thing, it just is what it is. It's not what it used to be, but that's to be expected since without me running the show 24/7, you don't get to experience the results of whatever vision happens to drive me. At the moment, I have very little motivation to do anything with it. That is not to say I don't have ideas. I have a long list of notes I jot down when I have a chance. Plans of things I want to implement as soon as I get a chance. But those chances don't come these days. Too many other things come first, and when I finally get a chance to sit down at the computer, anything that remotely seems like work just is not going to happen.

So what needs to happen for this to change? I see several possibilities. I either need to find a source of funding that will replace my job income such that I can devote all work time to the site. Advertising on the site paid me $100 after 8 months, so that's not going to do the trick. Nobody's going to donate a significant amount, and nobody ever purchased merchandise when I had that option available, so I currently am, and will continue to provide this site as a free service to the world. It serves no useful purpose, so I hardly can expect anything in return. I could possibily land a job where I'm attached to a computer and have very little actual work to do, such that I can spend lots of time on the site and get paid for that time. While such jobs exist, and I do put forth some effort to find them, I've so far been unable to aquire any. I could also either quit my current job or take on a part time job, but both of these would reduce our overall income, resulting in less funds for the site. It's the ultimate catch 22.

The site does have one decent benefit for me though, it has in the past been a sort of dynamic resume, one that attracts prospective employers to me: employers that both support the site and my time spent on it, and therefore provide me with an environment that supports the site well. However, with the loss of momentum over the last few years, I'm looking at quite a bit of ramp-up time to get the site back where it needs to be before that option will be available again. The fact remains, I need to spend a lot of time working on the site so I will have the time to work on the site. Catch 22.

I can't give you any further answers. There is no plan for the future. Well, I have plans. I have a lot of plans. But I can't give you any indication which of those plans will pan out, which will be useful, or which you should even bother to expect. Things might change for the better. Or they may never change. The site might last forever, or I might shut it down tomorrow. All you can know is, that it is, what it is. And what it will be, nobody can currently answer. Not even me.

So make all the comments you want about it. Nothing you say will make any difference.

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Coming Updates

April 26, 2006 16:40

Well, the gang has all left now. We had plans to get quite a bit done on the house while they were here, but my job decided that last week needed to be both the heaviest volume week of the year so far, AND half the employees decided to have weeklong holiday related illnesses, or quit. We still got the boards hauled up to the attic and got started on the wetbar, hung a fan, and Cel made a wonderful live-in maid. Thanks Cel. :)

Living with a bunch of geeks for the last two weeks has inspired me to get working again on some of the many projects upon which I have been horribly lax for the last couple years. We've also managed to dream up a few new projects as well.

There will be an update to the visitor database in about a week. The fields to be added include the following: photo galleries, date created, selectable options for the primary visitor picture, metar code of the closest airport, latitude and longitude, timezone, date of birth, job, xfire name, zipcode, skype name (yes, there's already a skype field, but I'm stealing one of the unused ones), account status, and relationship pointer to link to the visitor page of your significant other. If you can think of any other fields that would be useful to add, now is the time.

Several projects will involve google maps. We've had two successful tests with using GPS and google maps to track the location of someone driving cross country. I plan on making it an option for anyone with both mobile internet andgps to be able to activate this while mobile. I'll also be putting together a car computer of my own for this purpose, as well has being able to have a mobile cam on the site while I'm driving. The social map project that I started a while back will get started up again, although I'll probably nuke the database again and redefine exactly how various relationships should be catagorized. This combined with the known values of various people's lat/long will make for some interesting maps.

I'm planning to purchase a 1/16 scale RC tank that should be sufficient to carry the battery/camera/transmitter around the house, with the added bonus of being able to climb over most of the downstairs obstacles. Most of the obstacles aren't too severe, room threashold trim and the like, but it would have been enough to stop the other rc car, much like the step in the living room of the old house was.

I'm working on fixing all the Object of the Day pages so they have the new sidebar and theme format, and then I plan to start adding new ones daily. The most recent one added was 3 years ago. It's time.

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