Inhuman Swill : Geekery

The obligatory SXSW recap post

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Into the belly of the beast
I keep not finding time to post about my trip with Laura to the SXSW Interactive conference last month, but it was a swell time and I should probably jot down a few memories before a) they become totally instead of just mostly irrelevant, and b) they fall completely out of my head.

Laura has been to SXSWi a few times before, and she was adamant that I should come with her this year to feed the programming consultant side of my brain. We bought our memberships and booked our hotel last summer. We flew to Austin on the morning on March 8, the day before the conference started, which turned out to be a good idea in several ways, the first of which was entirely accidental. We ran into our good friend Scott Smith of Chicago magazine in the departure lounge at Midway that morning. With him were Andrew Huff of Gapers Block and Steve Prokopy of Ain't It Cool News. We were all on the same flight, and we ended up riding the bus from the airport into Austin together and all trekking to Frank for lunch (the only time that weekend we were able to get in, incidentally). We were also able to go to the convention center that afternoon and pick up our badges in fairly short order. The next day, lines at registration were a couple of hours long.

The panels themselves were varied and interesting. I attended discussions of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, smarter algorithms for pinch-and-zoom on touch interfaces, social/local/mobile services, online privacy, and even more abstruse topics. These panels all seem fascinating in retrospect, though I'm afraid that at the time most of them suffered from the problem of not quite living up to the promise of their descriptions in the program guide. Very useful stuff that, at worst, got me excited about doing more iOS programming.

There was time for entertainment, too. We made it out to Skinny's Ballroom to see Scott and Andrew (along with 18 other readers) participate in 20x2, an evening of two-minute readings. (They both crushed it. By which I mean they were good.) I saw a hilarious panel on comedy podcasting featuring Kevin Pollak and Doug Benson and others, and I attended Rainn Wilson's (sadly hit-and-miss) presentation about his spirituality site Soul Pancake. I managed to get into my own top pick of events, which was a live taping of Marc Maron's WTF podcast featuring Jeffrey Tambor. But it was Laura who scored the coup, using her Amex membership to get us a free pair of tickets to a special Jay-Z concert at Austin City Limits Live. ("HOVA! HOVA!")

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I love Google for its geeky in-jokes. If you haven't noticed this one before, search for "recursion" and see what the result page offers as a suggestion under Did you mean.

I'm also reminded of Inglourious Basterds, which I saw yesterday morning, in which one instance of the word "Merci" was translated in the subtitles as "Merci."

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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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Care and feeding of your backups

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Last April I wrote the first draft of a story called "Care and Feeding of Your Piano." It's a short, humorous piece written entirely as excerpts from the interactive instruction manual for a bioengineered piano*.

Armed with some suggestions from my writing group, I sat in my Baltimore-area hotel room a month and a half later and spent two hours applying some heavy revisions to the sucker, which including reordering many chunks of text to achieve more comic juxtapositions. I sync'd the laptop with the USB memory stick I always carried as backup—at least, I presume I did, because that had long been my habit—then rushed over to Balticon for my scheduled reading. I read that story and one called "Timesink" (which was then and is still forthcoming in Electric Velocipede) directly from my computer screen. The reading seemed to go over pretty well, at least according to Jamie Rubin, who was there.

In June, as I prepared to attend the Blue Heaven workshop, I got frustrated with all the cruft slowing down my laptop, so I wiped it and reinstalled Windows XP. At the end of that month, we moved to Chicago. As we unpacked, I became more and more uneasy the longer my black Manhattan Portage shoulder bag, which I was looking for, failed to turn up. I always carried my USB memory stick in a little Velcro'd pocket on the front of it. The shoulder bag has never turned up, one of the very few casualties of our move.

It wasn't until we'd been here a month or more that I went to the desktop machine to take another look at my revised version of "Care and Feeding." I was going to give it a quick polish-and-trim and get it out there—first stop, New Yorker "Shouts & Murmurs" submission. (Why not, right?)

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TECH cocktail

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Any Chicago folks here going to TECH cocktail this Thursday?

Time Out Chicago says:

[F]or Frank Gruber and Eric Olson, no element of TECH cocktail, their semi-annual networking party, is too grand. And this could explain the success of the free event for tech-industry workers, which holds its seventh fete on February 21 at Wrigleyville bar John Barleycorn. TECH cocktail offers tech enthusiasts—from casual podcasters to programmers—a chance to connect with each other. They also can snap-up swag doled out by tech sponsors like Web-host company midPhase, which provided ... limos as a way to safely cart off the 350 or so techies who'd been imbibing gratis beer.  [full article]
I'm on the fence, but only because it's hard to leave the house in winter.
Update:  Ah, well, never mind. It's free, but it's still sold out.
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On the air

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On the air
Since my novella "Inclination" will soon be available for purchase and download as an audiobook at Audible.com, and since there's a distinct possibility of more stuff coming, I figured it was about time to upgrade my recording equipment.

Still playing around and learning how to use this stuff, but this should be good news for listeners of my podcast too.

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A terabyte and a quarter
Pardon me while I indulge in some geek talk. So I'd been needing a couple of much larger external hard drives for some time, one to hold the music collection that had long since overspilled the Maxtor 200 Gb drive, and one to backup the entire system. After some hunting around, I found a great price on a couple of Seagate FreeAgent Pro FireWire drives, one 500 Gb and the other 750 Gb:

Looks good in the light...

...looks even better in the dark!

That's a terabyte and a quarter! Right there on my desk!

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Rush Vapor Trails shirt
I almost forgot to show you what I wore today for record shopping:

And yes, I'm wearing it for work, and yes, I'll wear it to the NYRSF reading tonight.

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Boinged!

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How nice to wake up in the morning and discovered that one has been Boinged! And that the bandwidth usage for my site has pegged in the red.

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PublicaShunns

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One element of my new site redesign I want to point is my bibliography page. Cross-indexed, cross-referenced, and fully interactive!

I continue to wonder why I didn't switch from hand-crafted HTML pages to Moveable Type years ago.

By the way, suggestions for bibliography interface improvement are very welcome.

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