29 October 2007

Bitten By the Twitter Bug

I have finally succumbed to the Twitter bug. Twitter's motto is "What are you doing?" and you are supposed to constantly update your Twitter home page with notes about, uh, what you are doing. You are limited to 140 characters, so this is not the time and place to rant and rave about something dear to your heart. AFAIK, text only, too, so no worries about picture file formats or lengthy videos. Ideally, you update the site from your iPhones or whatever Internet-capable device you carry around with you all day.

I don't expect to have any followers more than the Blogger site, but it is fun to use Twitter nevertheless. There are times when you simply don't have enough time to pour your heart out, like on Blogger, so Twitter fits in nicely. Sort of like a personal diary, just really short. Blogging for the lazy, I sometimes think of Twitter that way. I cheat every now and then and write about something that happened a few hours earlier, but hey, if someone posts "Taking a shower", does he not really meant he took the shower? Unless he has a waterproof laptop and cannot possibly do a very good job of cleaning himself if he has to type and shower at the same time.

I cannot help but think of the movie The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. Carrey's character was the center of a reality TV show without him knowing it. Every moment of his life was recorded and aired for the show audience to enjoy. Except with Twitter's case, the writer has control on what to put out there.

26 October 2007

Troubles In MeatSpace Part 2

Some months ago, I acquired an Amiga 500 computer, or A500 for short. In its heyday of late 1980's, the Amiga computer platform was touted as the best for desktop video. I dabbled a bit with video, but the one thing I learned from owning the Amiga computers was that command-line commands can be explicitly referred to. At the time, I subscribed to a disk-only magazine called JumpDisk. Each issue of JumpDisk featured programs, pictures, animation, music, etc. perhaps by readers and freelancers that the magazine paid. At one point, I happened to explore the scripts that came with the disks. Maybe to make sure the commands always work with the disk inserted, the scripts spelled out the full path of the commands and their arguments. For example, to load the picture Amiga500.iff in the folder called Pics using the Viewer program in the Tools folder, the command would be

JumpDisk13:/Tools/Viewer JumpDisk13:/Pics/Amiga500.iff

where the disk name is JumpDisk13. At the time, I was familiar with DOS commands and was aware of the PATH command, but it never occurred to me that there were other ways to issue commands. Using absolute paths, there was no need to CD (Change Directory) or to alter the PATH environment variable. But I digress.

The reason I acquired the A500 was that I had a few games on diskettes that I really like. I still have an Amiga 3000 but by default it boots from the hard drive. Most of the games were made for booting from the diskette drive. To do that with the A3000, I would have to hold down the mouse buttons at boot time then click a few buttons on the screen. After one game, if I forget to depress the two mouse buttons, I would have to reboot again after the A3000 completed booting up. And then there were other games that would not work at all with the A3000's newer architecture, compared to the A500, that is. To go around certain limitations, some games went directly to some hardware addresses. When the A3000 came out with changes in hardware design, those games stopped working.

So now I had the A500, games booted up from the diskettes easily - there are no hard drive anyway. It requires some patience to play the games, as it takes some time for the computer to read from the floppy drives. But the graphic and music are usually so great, even in these days and age, with faster computer and higher resolution graphics. The only problem is that now I have a bunch of floppy diskettes to juggle around. For starter, looking for the games that I like was a daunting tasks. It had been a while since I last needed to play Amiga games on diskettes. I somewhat knew where the disks were, but they had become very disorganized. A bunch here, a box there, all over. I managed to find most of the games I like. There were a few diskettes that I gave up on ever playing again and tossed them into a box for recycling - if I ever needed a diskette to be formatted. Luckily, the need never arose and I was able to rummage through the pile. I found Obliterator (platform game), Capone (shooting game), Pluto (vertical scrolling shoot-'em-up), etc. The only game I have not found is Menace, a side-scrolling shoot-'em-up game. It is one thing to own something, it is something else to be able to locate it, if it cannot be stored on a hard disk. This is where cyberspace needs meatspace. No physical diskette then no game.

18 October 2007

Trouble In MeatSpace

My other sister once spoke derisively of those who are hooked on SimLife and similar games. She is not a computer geek like me and do not see what is the big deal with having a second, digital life. While I do not play Second Life or ever want to have a digital alter ego, there are times I wish that meatspace, that is, the non-digital, real version of life, can be more like cyberspace.

My friend Teary finds it hard to believe that I am not handy with tools like hammer, power drill, and soldering irons. I am good at drawing cartoons, am I not? I must have good hand-eye coordination, otherwise I would not be able to draw that well. On top of that, I have a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering, too! Or so it seems. Perhaps because my parents did not let me do things on my own and then I got into the computer field, to this day I am very reluctant to take on physical projects. No putting up of shelves, no installing of flood light, or anything involving soldering. Plumbing problems like clogged drains I can handle, mostly with success. I can take pipes apart and send down the snake. With much sweating and sore arm muscles, so far I have always succeeded at clearing the pipes. One time I was too gungho and even took apart the pipe part that attached to the wall. I had to enlist my brother-in-law (on the Wife side) to help stop the leak afterward. For tasks that I cannot bring myself to do, I have to rely on contractors or my brother-in-law C (the real Mechanical Engineer), but he lives in St. Louis and can only visit every now and then.

In the perfect world that I sometimes wish I live in, everything would be re-bootable. Drilled a hole half an inch below where it should be? Reboot. Soldered a container shut then realized something is inside that you need? Reboot. Painted yourself into a corner? You guess it... reboot.

I recently had the displeasure of having to change the light bulbs for the master bedroom. The bulbs are those long, florescent tubes, not the kind that pops over cartoon characters' heads when ideas hit them. It was a drop ceiling and the light fixture was not attached to the real ceiling but instead hang from a socket via some strings. Aarrgh! It was simply impossible for one person to put the new tubes into the fixture. I had to have the Wife hold the dangling fixture. If I was in the digital world, I suppose I could have used some kind of select tool to surgically remove the dangling fixture and put in one that attaches firmly to the ceiling. I sure can use a digital Second Life.