Falling Behind the Web

I’ve been thinking of putting together a web site for my illustration work, and threw together an install of wordpress at a subdirectory of another site.  I fired it up and took a look at it and saw the default theme (“twenty ten”), and thought, “I’d like to change that to something I could design, or just something super simple that I could add my own images to.”  I thought back to a long time ago when I’d put together a little art site using blosxom (remember blosxom?), and hacked up the very simple theme file to include a image of my own, colors of my own, simple stuff like that.  It looked nice, simple but nice.

These days it’s not a little blosxom flavour file, it’s a WordPress theme, and it’s complicated.  It’s a bunch of files full of PHP. I’ve tried in the past to hack WordPress themes, and I’ve always given up.

Another thing I’ve given up on is Rails. When Rails first came out, I was already a Ruby fan, so I was interested. I got a book on it and did some tutorials. The code generation (scaffolding) kind of bugged me. If you generate code, then hack it up, and then have to regenerate, you have to re-hack it? That seemed like bad abstraction to me.  But then, scaffolding was supposed to be a temporary measure anyway. In any case, it made it inconvenient and weird. It was like you had to know before you started exactly how everything was going to go. They changed the code generation in later versions, so now you could let it generate scaffolding on-the-fly, and they had this new abstraction around setting up your databases, called “migrations.” “Later” versions are still pretty early, because I haven’t been in touch with Rails in a long time.  Every time I look at it I look at the instructions for deploying it on Dreamhost and eventually give up, because I don’t want to think about it.

Of course I’d thought of trying Rails for the illustration site first, read some stuff about it on Dreamhost’s site, and given up, realizing I didn’t have the attention span for it. It’s come a long way without me and I just don’t have the spare time and willpower to catch up with it.

That’s the way with a lot of technologies I’ve been interested in at one point. I had a book on Cocoa programming for the Mac; read through it and understood most of it, not all of it… but even if I went back and learned it again, they’ve advanced it way beyond what it was when I read that book. There’s all kinds of new technologies involving things like automatic memory management and a thing called “Core Data” and other stuff. I could learn all that if it was my job, but not for my own sake.

That’s it, you know? The web used to be constructed out of materials that were simple enough that you could pick them up in your spare time. Not anymore. And it’s not just the web — lots of technologies have moved beyond a level where I can make them my own anymore.

Might as well just stick to services that do all the work for me, and I just add some content. Why do I even keep my own copy of wordpress here on goesping.org? Is there any reason in the world I should be doing this instead of just hosting it at wordpress.com? Answer: No.

I miss it though! I miss having a clue. I miss having some idea how to make pages that are actually my own and look OK. But you know, losing touch was a gradual process, starting when CSS and “DHTML” hit the shelves. I was never actually good at web design and programming. But I used to be able to fake it, and that fell away and now is long gone.

Digital Drugs = Free Software + Evil Genius Marketing

Lately there have been occasional blurts in the news about “Digital Drugs,” which are supposed to be special sounds you listen to on your computer that get you high.

I learned a little more about that.

It is marketing GENIUS. GENIUS.

Here’s what happened. There’s a free software program (GPL’ed) called SBAGEN, that’s been around for years. It generates binaural beats to help you meditate, relax, or whatever.  Binaural beats are a mysterious effect where if you play tones in each ear which differ slightly, such that if you played them out loud the frequencies would “beat” against each other, that same beat effect takes place inside your brain somehow, even though presumably by the time those sounds “meet” they are no longer sounds, but are neural correlates of sound, whatever that is.  There’s no prima facie reason it should work but it does.  Anyway, the binaural beat effect has been known for many years, but in the past few decades some clever folks have come up with the idea of using them to entrain brainwaves to a particular frequency, the same way you can use pulsing lights to entrain brainwaves.  The binaural beats trick is useful because normally beats at the frequency you would need to entrain brainwaves are low enough not to be easily audible, so where you couldn’t normally match sound to brainwaves, you can this way.

Whether or not entraining brainwaves has any particularly powerful effects beyond placebo is open to debate.

Anyway — SBAGEN.  Neat program, been around for years.

Some dude ripped SBAGEN off and changed it  and renamed it “i-doser.” The only real changes he made were —

  • installing some crude encryption and DRM-type stuff, so that each time you downloaded a file to play, it would include a random marking to distinguish it from any other times you downloaded it… only your copy of the program would play it, and it would only play it once. Then you have to buy it again. This is to make it more “drug” like — you have to buy a “hit” of it, and then pay to get your next fix. Even though you’re just paying for the privilege of making your computer make a humming noise.
  • making a bunch of little textfiles “play this frequency for ten seconds, then this one for two minutes, etc etc” files and naming them after drugs, cagily suggesting that they would have the effects of those drugs. Maybe some research went into this, but not likely.  In any case they’re just a bunch of text files wrapped up with the aforementioned gratuitous encryption and copy-protection schemes.

So that’s pretty much it. Eventually somebody discovered that he’d ripped off an open source program and he had to come to a legal settlement with the original author, but the revelation that he was selling what somebody had been giving away for free for years doesn’t seem to have hampered things any.

The key is the drug angle, which makes it seem rebellious and subversive, and even generates free marketing in the form of Concerned News Reports on the local news.

Mr. i-Doser must laugh all the way to the bank.  I bet he calls up local news shows all over the nation, stirring up fear and scandal, getting the equivalent of millions and millions of dollars of free advertising.


Bwahahahah Vote Tea Party!

Group files to get Tea Party on ballot | WOOD TV8.

OK, these Tea Partiers need to make up their mind.

Are they an organized, unified movement with an established, top-down leadership, which is allied with the Republican party and wants its membership to vote Republican?

Cause if that is true, then registering a “Tea Party” is a dirty trick to take votes away from the Republican party, which deserves all Tea Partier votes because Tea Partier really means Republican.

Or are they a grassroots organization, bottom up, not affiliated with any party, just a bunch of angry Americans afraid of where their country is going (cue Glenn Beck’s tear ducts) and fed up with Washington?

In which case some grassroots person registering a Tea Party is completely legit, people can vote for the candidates or not based on the candidate’s own merits, and they aren’t any more likely to steal votes from Republicans than from Democrats?

YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS, KIDS.  Either you’re just Republicans trying to escape the stench that has been attached to that party’s name in the past decade, or you’re independent, non partisan, and grassroots.  Make up your minds.