Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

Blog updates

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

I've been doing a little spring-cleaning of the old blog now that I've started writing in it again. I installed the WP-Syntax and WP LaTeX plugins and went back through my old posts to prettify up the code blocks and equations. I think I've got most of them (with the exception of a few bits of code that are in languages that I made up, so the plugin doesn't understand them, and a few odd here and there).

There are so many LaTeX and syntax highlighting plugins available for WordPress, though - I have no idea if the ones I'm using are the best. I ended up just using the "most popular" search on the WordPress plugins page and picked the first results for "syntax" and "latex" that looked like they would do what I wanted, on the theory that the most popular ones would be the best. They seem to work well enough but I do worry a bit that at some point I will find they're missing some important feature and I'll have to switch plugins and go back and update all my old posts again.

I also went back and fixed any typos and mistakes in equations that I noticed while doing the updates, and updated with new developments such as the mention of the Eclipse of Mars illusion in The undiscovered colour and the 75 ohm load in CRTC emulation for MESS.

I also want to change my theme (Default is okay but I think it belies how much work I put into this thing). I'll probably change it to Twenty Eleven with a custom header unless someone with better design taste than me has a better suggestion. I need to find a better way to do centering of large images as well. The current way still mostly works but occasionally collides with the links over on the right, and there's a lot of pictures without the correct stylesheet class. I also want to fix the ordered list style - I'd much prefer nice round bullets to those chevrons.

To make the banner I wanted to take a big pile of pictures that I had made especially for blog entries and just sort of stick them all together at random in a big jumbled collage with some nice blending between them. I thought it would be easy to find software to do this but there's about a million "collage maker" programs, almost all of them "trial-ware" and all of them completely useless for the purpose. It seems that to do a jumbled collage in any of them I'd have to individually add, place and rotate each picture. I found one with a wizard that did an automatic layout with blending, but you can't change the blend radius to anything other than "hardly noticeable at all", the pictures are forced into a grid layout and the program is buggy anyway (and won't let you save in the trial version, but doesn't seem to mind you taking a screenshot of the finished result).

So I think I'm going to write my own automatic collage maker. Shouldn't be too hard, and that way it'll be easy to update the header as I add new images.

One other thought that came to mind as I was going through all my old posts - this blog used to be a lot more picture heavy than it is at the moment. I have a big backlog of pictures (over 2 years worth) that I do eventually want to put up here - I'll probably do a month a day at some point. Most of our pictures these days are taken by Gennie, though, and she tends to put them up on her flickr. There will be some overlap with that, though I don't think I'll be including all the food pictures here (I know I have in the past but that was before Gennie started using flickr).

Code blog

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

It's been a year since I last wrote something here, but I haven't been idle. I made a resolution to write some code every day and commit some kind of functional change to my GitHub repository each day, even if it's just a one line change. So far I've kept to it pretty well (apart from travel days). I'm adding more stuff there all the time, most of it brand new but some of it is stuff that I wrote previously and which hadn't been under version control before (updated to work with the library code I'm also committing). I know my github workflow is rather unusual - lots of projects in one repository and commits corresponding to days rather than to features. But the version control is mainly for my benefit at the moment (since it's just me working on this stuff) - I just want to have all this backed up offsite, to be able to see previous versions and to have a record of what code I wrote when. The current set of subdirectories under of the main repository is:

  • 4to8 - little program I wrote to convert the audio data for the game Fire! by New Deal Productions from 4-bit to 8-bit format so that I could play it back properly.
  • 8088 - various projects relating to the original IBM PC/XT - a cycle-exact emulator and a demo I'm working on.
  • UnityALFE - a compiled language I'm playing about with. This name is a bit overloaded, I might call it ALFE (A Language For Everything) instead.
  • codec - an idea I had for a method of compressing audio with extremely low playback overhead. Doesn't currently work, and I have no idea if it ever will.
  • collage - a program to genarate a header image to use on this blog (not yet finished).
  • crc32 - a handy utility for computing CRC32 checksums of files.
  • crtsim - a CRT simulator.
  • euclids_orchard - a program to generate a Euclid's Orchard image.
  • fractals - some fractal plotter programs. Currently there is only one - a zoomable Bifurcation fractal.
  • image_resample - my custom image resampler.
  • include - various libraries used in multiple projects.
  • intervals - code and simulator for my intervals bar toy that is in progress.
  • multifunction - a program to search for useful multifunction gates.
  • oscilloscope - an oscilloscope program based on an idea I had for rendering waveforms. Not really started.
  • perceptual - a program to find maximally distributed colours in perceptual colour space.
  • primes - prime number experiments.
  • ravioli - an idea I had for eliminating memory fragmentation.
  • run_random - recursively enumerates all files in a directory and then picks one at random to run.
  • strobe - an Arduino program for a strobe light with controllable duty cycle and accurately controllable frequency.
  • test - some unit tests for libraries in the include subdirectory.
  • tone_matrix - the code for my physical tone matrix.

I'll blog more about these in upcoming entries. And I'll try to remember to update this list as I add more projects to the repository.

Yes, I'm metablogging again

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Recently, I got a piece of blogspam emploring me to turn off "no follow" on my comment links in order to increase my blog's readership. The "rel='nofollow'" attribute on a link (for those who don't know) means "I do not endorse this link - it was added by a user of the site, and may be spammy in nature", and is used by search engines (Google in particular) to mean that it should not contribute to the linked page's pagerank.

My first reaction was revulsion that spammers would use such a down-right dirty tactic. But then I realised that if spammers are doing this, it means that nofollow is working - it's getting harder to get non-nofollow links to your site via spam, and therefore harder to fraudulently increase your pagerank. This is a very good thing for bloggers because if spamming blogs is no longer effective, it will stop. So (in order to counteract any damage that this "disable nofollow" spam might do, I encourage bloggers and operators of other sites where users can add links to ensure that the "rel='nofollow'" attribute is placed on all links that you haven't personally checked and endorsed. It has no effect either way on your readership (only producing quality content that people want to read can do that) but it makes the efforts of spammers useless. Also beware of anyone coming out of the blue and wanting you to link to their site (even if they're offering reciprocal linking) - chances are they're SEO spammers.

Bloggers' remorse

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Sometimes I'll be really proud of a blog post after having written it, but then when it comes time to actually post it I'll cringe a bit to remember it (especially if there's anything at all controversial in it). The feeling usually goes away (at least mostly) when I re-read the post and it isn't as confrontational or embarrasing as I remembered it but sometimes I just have to grit my teeth and post anyway. There have been times when I have just pulled posts altogether though - either because I no longer agree with what I wrote or because I want to find a better form to put those thoughts in. Perhaps someday I'll come back to those posts and see if they can be resurrected in some form or other.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

I recently reorganized a big box of junk and put into smaller various boxes. Behold my amazing junk classification scheme:

  • Broken electronics, for spare parts or recycling
  • Things that work but which I don't currently have a use for
  • Spare Ikea parts
  • Ikea tools
  • Stuff that I don't know what it is.
  • String
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Nuts and washers
  • Screw eyes and pins
  • Stickers
  • Picture hooks
  • Screw hooks
  • Rawl plugs (or wall anchors as they are called here)
  • Anti-static bags
  • Small plastic toys (I'm sure Alexander will have a lot of fun with this box when he's old enough not to swallow the parts)
  • Junk (stuff that doesn't fit into any of the other categories)

It occurs to me that the category system on my blog works a similar way (though the category corresponding to "junk" is called "random").

Temporal or non-temporal blogging?

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

I have a 70 day blog backlog (at time of writing, 44 at time of posting), meaning that even if I don't write anything for 6 weeks you'll still get a post every day before I run out. So far I have been operating this backlog as a FIFO queue which seems to work pretty well. The only problem is, though, that now if I write something it might be quite out-of-date by the time it's posted. This discourages me from writing about current events. Perhaps I should let the backlog drain (by posting faster than I write if necessary) and then post as articles come into my head like most people do.

CSS woes

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I think I finally figured out how to properly center images that are wider than the column (450 pixels). I couldn't seem to get all four cases (image<=450 pixels, image>450 pixels)x(IE, FireFox) working correctly. I finally resorted to using a different image class for wide images, which looks like this:

img.centerwide {
	display: inline;
	margin-left: -287px;
	margin-right: -287px;
	position: relative;
	align: center;
	text-align: center;

Of course, I'm sure this breaks every web design rule in the book and probably doesn't work for some of the less popular browsers. Oh well, it'll do for now until somebody complains. I really ought to learn about HTML and CSS properly.

Grand unified blog

Friday, May 9th, 2008

I've incorporated all my old website pages (many of which were woefully out of date) into this blog, thus giving me an excuse to leave them out of date (nobody expects old blog posts to be kept up-to-date). There were 80 of them which is more than I would have guessed.

I have no idea when some of the pages were created, so I figured it out the best I could. Please ignore any temporal anomalies you might run into here. Some of the page dates I was able to figure out by looking at the timestamps of images that I created for the page but for a lot of them the only clue was the page's timestamp. So a lot of the pages ended up on the 12th of July 2000, which is probably when I last changed the website's background.

One nice thing about using WordPress for everything is that now (or at least once I update the old pages to redirect to the corresponding blog pages) the entire site validates as XHTML 1.0 Transitional! Woo-hoo standards compliance!

I might still go back and edit old posts from time to time. Hey, it's my website - I can do what I like with it. I'll try to remember to delete any comments that such edits render incorrect. So if you notice a broken link, spelling mistake, factual error or some other update which you think I should make to an old post, feel free to comment on the post in question.

Back to the past

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Let's see if I can get back into this blogging thing again - I know you've all been missing me. I have been writing all day and have almost 3 weeks worth of posts in the queue - some geeky, some funny and some though-provoking (I hope).

To start with, here's a strange idea I had a while ago. Normally when we think of the past, we think of it as pretty well fixed. We can argue about whether some particular event happened or not but we generally agree that it either happened or it didn't - that there is a right and a wrong answer to any question we can ask about past events. The future, on the other hand, is a lot more debatable. It may be fixed (our free will may be an illusion) or maybe there are many possible futures.

This seems to be a curious asymmetry between past and future. As far as the fundamental laws of physics are concerned, the past and the future are on an equal footing mathmatically. This suggests that either we have no free will or that our ideas about the past are incorrect. Maybe there is more than one past. Maybe the past isn't fixed at all but in fact is actually a superposition of all possible pasts that are compatible with the present.

Furthermore, perhaps the reason that the beginning of the universe is so mysterious is just that if you go back far enough, any possible sequence of events could have resulted in the current universe, so the distant past is a superposition of everything (which carries no information).

This isn't a scientific theory because it doesn't make any predictions, but it might be an interesting philosophical idea to explore.

Hard news

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Conversation from this morning:
Gennie: I think Esme has an upset stomach - she ate some newspaper yesterday.
Andrew: Yeah, some of those editorials can be a little hard to swallow.
Gennie looks around for something heavy to throw at Andrew.

I've been thinking about some ways of motivating myself to write more stuff here. I have lots of ideas and half-written bits and pieces, but I think the trouble is that I'm a perfectionist and hate "putting stuff out there" unless I'm completely happy with it. This is also why it takes me ages to reply to email sometimes.

I think I need to change the way I think about this blog (again). Currently it's a sort of monster that I feel I need to keep on "feeding". Meanwhile I also have a personal website that I also hardly ever update (except for the photos section). I think what I'd like to do is to take some of the pieces I have written here and put them on my website, and then start updating my website on a reasonably regular basis with new stuff. This new stuff will also appear here so that you don't need to keep checking my website. That way my website will be something I can be more proud of (so I'll be more likely to update it) and the things I write will accumulate into an impressive looking list.