Inhuman Swill : Computer

Analog Joe's

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Eight years ago, an old and dear family friend gave Laura and I two $50 gift certificates to Trader Joe's as a wedding present. We were delighted with the gift, having heard rumors of the legendarily magical contents of that high-end grocery chain, but we were somewhat handicapped having no access to an outlet in New York City. (This, children, was back in the days before Trader Joe's came to Manhattan, though I hear tell it's no easier to shop there now than it was before the locations opened.) The gift certificates went into the bottom of a drawer and were, for the most part, forgotten.

Three moves later, with all the jumbling of one's stuff that entails, we live on Chicago's North Side, and Trader Joe's is a frequent shopping destination. In particular, it's about the only place where we buy coffee beans. I make my own Bilmo Blend by grinding together the Trader Joe's House Blend and Trader Joe's Bay Blend in equal proportions. In any event, Laura dug up the gift certificates a few days ago in the course of looking for something else. There was no expiration date, so I took one to our local store this morning and filled my basket.

When I presented my gift certificate at checkout, my cashier was good-naturedly stymied. So was the bagger, who had been working there much longer. "I only know the kind you can swipe," the cashier said. "I don't know what to do with an analog giftcard."

In the end, it took three Trader Joe's employees to figure out how to deal with a gift certificate dated 2001. The nice thing was that they treated it as a challenging puzzle, not an analog annoyance. And I ended up forking over a mere $1.96 for my basket of groceries.

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If you're reading this, I assume you have at least a passing interest, if not a full-blown stake, in the future of online journalism. Most saliently, how can the business of news-gathering and distribution be monetized? Can it ever make money? How will the news business survive in the future, and what will it look like? How will readers consume news?

If you live in Chicago and care about these questions, you owe it to yourself and your community to attend the Chicago Media Future Conference. Organized by Mike Fourcher, Barbara Iverson, and (my friend) Scott Smith, this FREE conference will be held Saturday, June 13, at Columbia College's Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash) from 1:30pm to 4:45pm. The program consists of two moderated 90-minute panels, each with a 10-minute introduction.

I hope you'll take the time to attend, but don't do it just on my say-so. Organizer Scott Smith was a guest this past Friday evening on WLUW's Out of the Loop Radio, and you can hear him discussing the conference in this audio stream, starting at about 2:01:

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Still the best-ever vandalism of my Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Shunn&oldid=53906941

Who can outdo it?

Subversion

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Thanks to everyone who weighed in yesterday on my version-control questions. I know it may seem like overkill, and I'm prepared to be made fun of, but I finally decided to go with Subversion (a/k/a SVN), which I'm running through Apache 2.2 with SSL on one of my boxes here.

A lot of factors came into play for me. We have several computers at home, and I like to be able to work on whichever one is convenient, which means it's nice to be able to grab the latest copies of drafts and my notes quickly from wherever I am. I need to be able to do this from outside our home network, in case I'm around the corner at the coffee shop, on the road, or over at the Writers Workspace. And since I obstinately continue to work in WordPerfect, I can't rely on solutions like Google Docs that are geared specifically toward Word files. Since I've been using CVS for years, SVN seemed like a natural step up for me, since it's similar but does a lot of things more smartly.

The coolest part of this whole setup, to me, is the SVN client I'm using, TortoiseSVN. This lets you access all the SVN commands from right-click menus directly in Windows Explorer. It also adds layover icons to the file icons so you can see at a glance what files and directories need to be committed. And SVN itself handles tasks like renaming and moving files and directories so much better than CVS, I wonder why I didn't start using it for code a long time ago.

I already use a free dynamic IP address from DynDNS to access my home music server from the outside world, and I'll use that to access my SVN repository from out there as well. The one slightly tricky thing that hung me up for a long time last night was writing a Perl script I could run on my laptop from the outside world to update the "svn" alias in my HOSTS file from an internal IP address to the current value of my network's dynamic external IP. That way I would never have to change the URL through which my laptop attempts to access the SVN repository.

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