I’m easily distracted. OK I’ve said it. But now lets add some restrictions. I don’t get distracted by TV, music, people talking close by, etc. I get distracted by (what could be) interesting or useful projects.
Right now my priority is supposed to be (and really is) the background reading for my masters’ research, and the coursework that I have to do.
Now, distractions… What’s really interesting is that I don’t get distracted from my distractions. I realized this (again) when I spent many hours over the last couple of days looking for a web calendar that would meet the needs I laid out in my Internet Dependence post, going as far as trying some and attempting to judge how much work would be involved in adding a few features to them. After not finding anything acceptable, but having a few ideas, I’m very tempted to just start building the application from scratch (probably taking some code from some other open source projects). But I need to show some restraint, as I have other things in the queue as well.
Currently in the queue, there are a few side-projects in various stages of completeness:
- A program for numbering tickets, forms, etc. for digital printing (this is pretty much done)
- A database backend & HTML/CSS frontend for an upcoming history section for the IEEE Newfoundland & Labrador Section website
- A good web-interface for reading Tellico collections (so I wouldn’t have to write out a web page every time I update the database
- This web-based calendaring application
- Any talks I give to the St. John’s Linux Users Group
- I may have a hand in building a conference management system
- …and any other ideas that pop into my head.
I have to now show some restraint and not let things which may be more interesting (right now) take time away from things which should have priority, or which have deadlines.
It has come to my attention that I may, in fact, have terrible taste in movies. I thought that I may have decent taste, but I do know that I set the bar for ‘acceptable’ pretty low.
This came up when I attempted to share the news with a number of people that the trailer for Underworld: Evolution is now online. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one (vampires, werewolves, guns, some story, and Kate Beckinsale, what’s not to like?), but very few (but some) shared my enthusiasm that the sequel will be in theatres this January.
I’ve also gotten a couple of similar comments about my DVD collection. With the exception of two I haven’t seen yet, and one I didn’t really enjoy (the titles I won’t share, but feel free to guess) I think that all of these are OK, depending on the viewer’s mood. I certainly wouldn’t group all these movies together in the same class because some of them are far better than others.
I think for me a watching a movie is a night out with friends, and that’s enjoyable regardless of the quality of film. If I do put on a movie alone it, like I said, depends on mood. Sometimes it’s good to watch something mindless with guns, fast cars, explosions, etc. I also think it’s important when seeing a movie for the first time to have reasonable expectations of it. Anybody who walks into a random movie in the theatre expecting something on par with Lord of the Rings will almost always come away disappointed. Lower your expectations and you can (usually) find something in a movie to enjoy.
Internet Dependence (not to be confused with Internet Addiction) is something I’ve seen growing over the last few years, and I’m somewhat unsure what I think about it.
When I look back to my days in high school and early into university, getting onto the internet was a big deal. You had to make sure nobody was on the phone (or was expecting a call) and go through the whole dial-in, busy signal, retry, etc. until you finally got a connection. Then you quickly read and responded to any email, checked Slashdot, ran through usenet, etc. If you had to research something an encyclopedia on CD-ROM (or even in dead-tree form) was much more efficient and reliable.
Fast-forward to today. 49% of Canadian households have broadband internet access [Canada leads U.S. in broadband penetration], and I’d assume almost all businesses dealing in technology are connected.
That’s the background… everyone uses the internet, big deal, right? Well, next up is the dependence upon. The number of programs that depend on (or at least have some part of the functionality that depends on) having internet access is astounding. CD Players use the net to get track names and show you related info, office packages use it for templates & clip-art, calendar applications use it to find out which days are holidays. At last place I was working, we couldn’t compile the application without access to the internet. I know that in a lot of places if you were to shut down the internet access, you might as well turn off the power.
Is this all bad? Hell no. The internet is (generally) pretty fault-tolerant, and we can rely on it being there almost all the time. I, for one, am favouring web-based applications to desktop ones more and more. When you switch computers often (home PC, laptop, lab computer, etc.) it’s nice to have your programs follow you.
I’ve migrated to GMail as my email application. All my mail is now stored on Google’s servers and I can access any message from anywhere. (I really like the ‘Search, don’t sort’ way it works–labels are more powerful than folders when used properly)
I just started using Google Reader ass my RSS aggregator. I know Firefox supports RSS, but Reader will bring to my attention the things I haven’t read yet, and will stop me from having to check an ever-growing list of sites each day.
The program I haven’t yet found is a good online calendar program. I want something that I can read/edit from anywhere, as well as synchronize with my PDA. I’ve seen some good things done with the iCalendar format and WebDAV, maybe someone (maybe me, but no promises or even intent right now) just needs to write a program to sync CalDAV with a Palm OS PDA.
There have a number of been rumours in the last month or so about Google doing a word processor as a web application. There have been many people saying that this simply won’t work, I disagree. I think so long as it had the option to import/export an offline format like OpenDocument, which pretty much every office suite (except the most popular one, which doesn’t… yet) supports, and it had the ability to export to PDF for printing, it could really take off. The ability to read and edit your documents from any web terminal could be quite desirable.
I think AJAX is actually doing what Microsoft once feared that Java would do–make the browser the platform, and make the OS irrelevant. Can it replace all desktop apps? I won’t say yes, nor will I say no, I’ll leave it at ‘not yet’. Things like photo editing will require a large amount of bandwidth and storage space, but give it time. I’ve seen that some of the online photo-printing places will let you do simple things like cropping/removing red-eye. I think as bandwidth increases, we’ll see more and more apps turn web-based, but it’ll be quite a while for some other applications like video editing ones (massive bandwidth required there).
As a sidenote, I’ve decided to steal a little idea from Penny Arcade and start putting a song quote at the bottom of my posts. See if you can identify the song before getting the answer by hovering over the text.
OK, so I haven’t posted anything in a while, so I’m about to rant on something that’s been getting on my nerves. (Prompted by a Digg link today)
First off, for anybody who doesn’t know, Slashdot and Digg are both (supposably) technology news sites. Also, for the record, I currently read both at least daily. Where Slashdot is the old dog here (started in 1997), Digg is new kid on the block (November 2004).
The thing that’s been driving me nuts, is the apparent penis envy felt by the Digg community. It’s not enough for them to have a tech news site, it has to be better than Slashdot. They’re the guy who pulls up next to you at a red light and starts revving his engine and then takes off. Newsflash: there is no race, and you just made yourself look (more) like an idiot.
What these kids don’t understand is that the sites cater to different audiences, and have different purposes.
Slashdot is a news discussion site that caters to programmers, system administrators and the free software/open source community. The articles are hand-picked by a group of editors and are intended to provide the news while spawning some discussion. The discussion on Slashdot is good, so long as you filter out the trolls first (I read at +2 or +3 with the comments threaded and ordered highest scores first).
On the other hand, Digg is a link site. It’s catering to the new tech enthusiasts, web developers, bloggers, Apple fans, etc. The quantity of the links is much greater than that of Slashdot, but the quality is much less, there are often stories like “This site has a bunch of high-res wallpapers”, or “new episode of X is out”–I fail to see how that passes for news. And a large number of the submitters like to link to their own blog post about a news story instead of the actual story in a shameless attempt to get hits; to those people: “nobody cares what you think, just post the actual link” (as a sidenote, I already know that nobody cares what I think either, I write these posts for the sake of writing them). The comment system on Digg is also near useless–the majority of the comments say things like “awesome link. dugg”, adding no useful insight at all. When there are a few good comments, trying to find replies to them is a pain because the comments are totally flat (unlike Slashdot’s threaded system).
To clue this up, I still read both sites and will most likely continue to, they both have their uses. I go to Slashdot for the news and good discussion, and I go to Digg for links (the same way I go to del.icio.us).