Writing from December 2002

Hal Hartley on BBC2

On Friday night BBC2 are showing Book of Life by my favourite director, Hal Hartley. I don't think this was shown at the cinema at all in the UK and it hasn't come out on VHS or DVD here either. Not only does it star the wonderful Hartley regular Martin Donovan as Jesus, but also PJ Harvey as Magdalen. Set your video/Tivo for 1.15am.

In Misc on 3 December 2002. 4 comments. Permalink

Up and running

Two weeks later and my PowerBook's running again. If you're not interested in the gory details, which are more for my therapy than your entertainment, you can stop reading here.


In Mac on 8 December 2002. Permalink

Encoding with LAME in iTunes

Last time I did this I didn't write this down anywhere so I've had to find all the pages again. Next time it'll all be right here. It's possible to encode MP3s using the LAME encoder directly from iTunes without too much hassle...


In Mac on 8 December 2002. 13 comments. Permalink

Skin this site

You can now skin this site, although there's currently only one alternative that is, in practical terms, useless. It's partly so I can work on things without breaking the site but maybe I'll come up with more exciting uses in the future.

In Misc on 11 December 2002. Permalink

Six degrees for geeks

Stewart Butterfield has an interesting piece wondering whether it's possible to automate the creation of groups from a network of 1-to-1 relationships. He seems to think (or maybe it's just my own conclusion) that an automated system could suggest some kind of groups but these would be more crude than real-life groups whose boundaries are not on/off, but fade out. If real-life group boundaries were distinct one would never be in the situation of deciding where to draw the line when inviting a group of friends to a dinner, party, etc.; it would be obvious where the social grouping ended.

Anyway, this has prompted me to get round to writing up the making of my friend-of-a-friend file...


In Web Development on 13 December 2002. 2 comments. Permalink

Uses for friends-of-friends

In my previous post I talked about FOAF files and longed for some exciting things to do with them. And here they are...


In Misc on 17 December 2002. Permalink

Where your FOAFs are

After my last post Jim Ley told me about his other fun thing, his global FOAF people map (again, you may require the Adobe SVG viewer). I don't usually like attempts to map where webloggers (or whoever) are in the real world -- I either don't care or I can remember that kind of information. But, if you just happen to have put data about your nearest airport into your FOAF file, and added (or updated) your info in the FOAFnaut database using this form, then you'll magically appear on the map. Yeah, it's a stretch, but it's still a good demo of another use of FOAF data. Here's a brief guide to creating the airport data at Perceive.net.

In Misc on 17 December 2002. Permalink

New Yorker Gawker

I hate linking to things that I've seen mentioned on a handful of other sites, but Gawker.com, a "weblog magazine" in and about New York gets me excited for two reasons. First, because I want there to be something like that in London. Is there anything like that in London? Aren't we simply reduced to the tabloidness of This is London/The Evening Standard or the eternally slap-me-round-the-head-why-did-they-never-get-it dumb Time Out London? Where's the smart and net-savvy London weblog magazine?

The second thing that gets me excited about Gawker is the right-hand column contains two columns of links. This makes the secondary column seem more beefy and wide, which I like. The LA Times used to do this well. It makes me think computer screens are growing, that we're inching into the future, that we can absorb more than a single column of information at a time, that third and fourth columns crammed with supportive and related information will gradually appear near our scrollbars until our heads explode in blipvert-like resistance.

In Misc on 19 December 2002. 3 comments. Permalink

"Wisdom you can’t get from a terminal"

A spur of the moment decision yesterday evening resulted in going to see the film Avalon an hour after my train slowed into London. I think Matt, who pointed the movie out a while back, said afterwards it was almost exactly what he didn't expect. It was almost exactly what I did expect of an Existenz-type story shot by a Japanese anime director in Poland. I won't say more about it because you should see it knowing as little as possible.

Just like Existenz it left me on edge, unsure where or when I was, looking sideways expecting the scene to shatter into pixels at the edge. A segment of Verdi's Requiem swelled out of my iPod as I walked to the bus stop, echoing the film's overpowering choral theme. I stood waiting for the bus, glancing behind me occasionally. I stared at the buildings lining Shaftesbury Avenue, wondering if the monochrome shells separating the street's glaring neon and the angled roofline could be constructed from a small set of standardised graphic blocks without anyone noticing. The bus zipped east at unusual speed and I kept my eyes alert for every spot of light, from the string of colour traffic lights marking the route to the gentle Nokia glow on the cheek of the Japanese girl in front of me. The moment I sat at my computer I heard the rapid thuds of a helicopter outside the building.

This morning I'm still a little jumpy, ready for the world to tilt and shift into another place...

In Personal on 23 December 2002. Permalink

Friendster and FOAF

It's interesting to compare Friendster, a Six Degrees-style site for building social groups, and FOAF, an open way of defining your own social network. Both do pretty similar things but with some crucial differences. Differences that resulted in an explosion of Friendster links and invites across the net in the space of a few days while FOAF languishes in the world of Perl Mongers and the technically curious. So how could FOAF learn from this...


In Misc on 23 December 2002. 7 comments. Permalink

It’s Samuel Pepys’ Weblog!

I've just launched my new site, Pepys' Diary. Every day, starting 1st January, I'll be posting a new entry from the diary in a familiar weblog format. I'm looking forward to reading it myself, and I thought this would be a good way to have lots of people read it with me (that means you). Pepys' personal life was interesting enough and there are also bigger events to look forward to, such as the restoration of Charles II, the Great Fire of London and the Plague. If you have any comments on it so far, do let me know. So, tell your friends and start reading on Wednesday!

In Pepys' Diary on 26 December 2002. 10 comments. Permalink

Festive taping vs festive downloading

I'm currently listening to John Peel's Festive Fifty on Radio 1, an annual event in which he plays tracks voted for by listeners. It's been a ritual for me every year since 1989 when I first began working out what music I genuinely liked. And almost every year since then I've managed to tape at least some of the Fifty, looping through it on a walkman for weeks into the following year. However, this year I'm not recording it, despite the broadcast conveniently fitting into a single evening...


In Music on 27 December 2002. 3 comments. Permalink

Movable Type is watching me…

I decided the people and places footnotes at Pepys' Diary needed space for annotations, just like the diary entries have. Some of the Victorian footnotes are less than useful. Previously, those pages were constructed using PHP, but I had the idea of using a second Movable Type weblog to store them. Then, each footnote could have its own comments and trackbacks. After I got my head round using MT as a content management tool for entries that aren't date-based, it was nice and easy.

Once the new pages were live, I just had to change the links in the first diary entry to point to the new MT-generated footnotes. As that entry rebuilt I realised it was pinging each of the pages it was linked to... my brain clicked slowly... each footnote page would now have a trackback link to this diary entry... this would happen every time I linked to a footnote from a diary entry. Now, thanks to Moveable Type and its auto-trackback mechanism, every item in the footnotes would automatically list links to the entries in which the item appears! This was something I'd thought of doing when first developing the site and gave up as too much manual labour. I'm stunned that something so incredibly useful has happened almost accidentally. Now I'm understanding why trackback is useful, and I'm in awe.

It's going to get, hm, interesting after a few thousand entries and trackbacks, but we'll see how it goes...

In Movable Type, Pepys' Diary on 28 December 2002. 7 comments. Permalink