Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

February 2005 Archives

Wait a second...

So I'm sitting here in the apartment, and there's a light snow outside, and I find myself wondering, "Hey! Why is it so bloody cold in here?" And then I realized that it's been oddly quiet all day. As in, the radiators haven't been banging and clanging.

What. The. Hell.


Bringing down iTunes.

So this week I've finally started to solve the multicomputer problem. I'd been working on all kinds of different ideas for how to handle syncing my data between my different machines, and finally – with the help of John Hicks I hit upon the solution – queue up the PowerBook as a FireWire drive and boot from that bad boy. Now I'm reconfiguring things in interesting ways, and starting to suspect that somewhere in the next six months I'm going to wind up investing in a monstrously huge iPod photo as well as an iPod shuffle for exercising. To that end, I'm also cleaning up my current collection and tagging as many of the mp3s as possible with art from Amazon. As I am also an English geek, I'm also using some great AppleScripts to clean up the titles and tags. For example, "fly me to the moon" becomes "Fly Me to the Moon" (and major props to Cantus Vetustus, the dubiously-named author of the Proper English Capitalization AppleScript for allowing me to automatically make this really work, instead of resulting in merely "Fly Me To The Moon"). However, if I'd thought about it, I'd have probably realized that setting a script free on over 7000 songs would have been enough to bring iTunes to its knees.

Oops. Learn from my mistakes, kids.


Waxing the sideblog, waning the mainblog.

So I mentioned Jason Kottke's jump to full-time blogging in passing over in the sideblog, and I was going to let it go at that. Yet kept popping up in my thoughtflow here this week. for a number of different reasons. The biggest reason is that I'm contemplating ripping off his posting style.

See, even though Jason's doing this gig full-time now, his posting style is one big post every day or so, punctuated by a smattering of short links in-between. When I recently flipped the switch to TOTQ 2.0, I added a sideblog. What happened next, I hadn't expected – that little sideblog has taken on a massive life of its own. For those of you who check this blog every couple of days, I'm averaging five new posts on that thing about every 36 hours. This is cool, but it means that people who don't check here as often miss a bunch of links, and it also means that the mainblog is being somewhat neglected.

Therefore, I'm seriously considering rolling those little links into the main blog section a la The Kottke Method, and replacing the sideblog with Recent Works or Currently Enjoying or something like that. So TOTQ 2.5 is in the offing (and I should mention that TOTQ 1.0 has just been officially deprecated; the links to the old address should now all forward here). Of course, to do so I'll need to boot some client gigs around to make the time. I seriously need to work on my efficiency.

That said, lately I've been making a more concentrated effort to incorporate Quicksilver into my daily routines, as advocated by the efficiency wonk Merlin Mann. At first QS didn't do much for me – I tried it out back when it first came on the scene – but now that it's had some time to officially mature, I have to say I'm really impressed with its quality. If you haven't downloaded and installed it yet (sorry, Windows users, this is another reason to buy a Mac), by all means do so, and then grab the plug-ins for at least iTunes and Safari. The ability to queue up a Norah Jones by simply typing command-space iT left down down down left Nor left return is pretty freakin' amazing. Definitely give this a try, guys – it takes a little getting used to, but once it's in your thoughtmap it's nigh impossible to imagine living without it.

Also, in case you missed it, Panic's new Transmit 3 is crazy useful. The more I use it, the more I love it – my newest love-on for it is the addition of subsets for bookmarks. At first I thought, "What am I going to use this for?" And then I realized that I could create a subset purely for my development extranet – which is bloody useful when you need two FTP shortcuts per client, one for the dev site and one for the actual site. Yet again, go get it.

Finally, to round out my software-upgrade Friday, folks should take another look at Jumsoft's Process, a to-do list on steroids. It still lacks some of the features that I would have in my dream system, but it's getting perilously close. It's just added a new progress bar animation which is definitely cool, but it still lacks the ability to do that calculation for each subproject, and to compare the progress on all open projects. Further, in the Best of All Possible Worlds (cue Voltaire) it would have some kind of hooks into some facet of 43things, such that my to-do list transforms social software. Social software is the new everything – look at 43things, Basecamp, Flickr (Stewart and Caterina, say it ain't so) and the rumored next version of Delicious Monster, the future of the Web OS is all about the social factor.

Hell, even Inkblots is getting in on the act, but more on that later. Much later. ;-)

And I'm still looking for some more reliable staff people here, so shoot me an email if you're interested!


All quiet on the Midwestern front.

Things here are pretty quiet at the moment. Had a fantastic weekend with the Kenyon crowd, but now I'm back to the daily grind and hammering like crazy.

It's 32 degrees and foggy in Chicago. Am considering replacing the top of this weblog with a photo of Maui.


Oh, yes, we need a little Kenyon, right this very minute...

The old social calendar lately has been packed. Last weekend my parents came into town for a visit, bearing some belated Christmas presents: a set of customized kitchen cabinets and a coffeetable that my Dad and I designed. This thing is amazing – it's made of solid cherry with a half-and-half stain that really brings out the grain, built with a new industrial riser system under the top so it can be lifted up to make a regular-height table, and designed with a piece of brown leather stretched across the top beneath a pane of glass, between which I've sandwiched a reproduction of an antique map of Venice and a 1950s-era postcard of a Vespa motorscooter. I'm so proud of this thing, and this weekend I get to show it off when my friend Nick Ferraro shows up.

Nick's not just coming into town to see me, though – a veritable platoon of Kenyon grads are descending upon our friend Emily's place in Lansing for a belated Super Bowl party. Really it's just an excuse to see old friends, but I'm really in the mood for a mini-reunion. For some reason I've been kind of bummed for the last couple of weeks, which I suspect has to do with the somewhat bleak Chicago winter. The sun is finally coming out and there are hints that spring might put in an appearance here someday, so I should start perking up here soon, but for right now... Man, this little get-together couldn't come at a better time.

Then my Untyped co-conspirator Matt Jadud is showing up the week after that, and then before you know it SXSW will be upon us. Wow. Where does the time go?

Oh, right. It goes into projects. One reason why I've been quiet around here lately is the frenzied completion of a new big site, over at If the URL sounds familiar, it's because I've been doing a lot of work with these guys for the last year-and-some-change. Now a new site has been rolled out, with much better graphics, a weblog of their very own (for which the TOTQ install of CaRP was a dry run, I should add) and a bunch of bells and whistles still to come. This is yet another site where a judicious install of SlideShowPro might be in order. I'm excited about the prospects of SSP joined with Flickr. One could easily hammer out a spiffy photoblog using SSP, Flickr and RSS. I need to find a couple new photographer guinea pigs clients to try out some of these ideas...

I have another couple of gigs bouncing around in the hopper and nearing completion. Just like always, a couple of months will go by when everything's percolating, and then in the course of a couple of weeks, it's Finishing Season again, when everything goes live. Feast and famine, my friends, feast and famine... Look for some niftiness coming down the pike soon.


Lazyweb request.

So I've been tinkering with Skype, and it's really impressive. The only problem I have is that I'm already a big iChat AV user. How difficult would it be to build an iChat - Skype bridge? You know, make the sucker totally transparent, so that anyone online with a Skype account would show up in my iChat list as available for a telephony chat?

My God, I need more time.


Still not right.

So it's possible that "Quackers", the new version of 43 Things will come through and boggle my mind with its actualization of all my hopes and dreams, but I doubt it.

I'm having one of those weeks where I'm getting fed up with not having the system I want in place, and am revisiting the idea of rolling it myself, with some help with some friends. There is still gold in them thar virtual hills.


Derek Powazek is a plague carrier? Unclean! Unclean!

I read it on the Internets, so it must be true.


Comfy car seats.

Just a quick thought: how come there's never (as far as I know) been a car seat made out of denim? Is it because it wouldn't be resistant enough to rain and other weather? Anybody know?


Lloyd as Lessig on The West Wing!

Wow! Christopher Lloyd is playing Lawrence Lessig on The West Wing! Christopher freakin' Lloyd is playing a public intellectual whom I've met on my favorite TV show. You'll have to excuse me, I'm having a life is pretty freaking cool moment.


Welcome to Tip of the Quill 2.0.

At long last, it's time to finally whip the sheet off the new version of the ol' weblog. I still need to format the comments and get the archives up and running, but some of the new features are now operational. These include:

More spam-resistant comments
The new weblog is powered by Movable Type 3.15, which allows me to bring back the Comments system with a one-two punch of TypeKey and the new 'nofollow' function. I realize that TypeKey is a system that still cocks some eyebrows, but I'm going to give it a shot. If it works really well, I might try to extend that login system to incorporate more than just comment registration, but that's sure to be a version or two down the line. Please do register with TypeKey and make comments – I miss hearing what all of you have to say. It's a pain, sure, but if it keeps the spammers from destroying our servers, then it's what has to happen.

New Photoblog side panel
I've changed the animated Flikr box on the left over to a static thumbnail of my most recent addition. I liked the Flikr Zeitgeist function, but I found it was just too distracting. This is brought to you courtesy of Fraser Speirs' FlickrExport plug-in for iPhoto. My hope is to be able to upload photos more regularly with this new system, but I'm still slightly hesitant about Flickr's appropriateness here. I'll admit that I dislike the size options that Flickr provides for their 'Flickr badge' function, and loading a larger image and then shrinking it down somehow seems horribly inefficient.

'New and Notable' pane added
My favorite new addition is probably the sideblog. You might remember that I'd posted a few short links last week, which were actually just raw material for this new feature. Little things that don't really warrant a full post will now show up over in the sideblog, which has (of course) RSS feeds of its own. This is powered by CaRP, a GPL'ed cached RSS parser, and was set up with the assistance of the inestimable Matt Jadud. Thanks, Matt! (Oh, and for those code monkeys in the audience, do check out Matt's new project, The Transterpreter, a small portable runtime for the occam programming language.)

Technorati tags added
Following Derek's lead, I've added support for Technorati's new tags system. Each post is now followed by a small green link to a collection of similar stories as indexed by Technorati. So if I'm writing about Apple, you can click that link and find out who else is going on about the same thing. This is a function built as an extension of Movable Type's Categories feature, so I've elected to not add tag support to posts much older than December of 2004, and there are a decent number of posts to "Voice: Tip of the Quill", which shouldn't snag many Technorati links at all (and God help us if it does, because it means that I've probably done something spectacularly embarrasing to set the whole community chattering).

Sidelinks powered by Blogrolling
In an effort to tidy things up a bit, I've removed the big archive lists from the left and moved them to a new (eventual) Archives section. This is still being built out, but this has helped me streamline the lefthand column a bit more. Also of help is a new blogroll managed by The links there are now ordered based on the most recently updated, so whoever's at the top of the list has most recently updated their stuff. A useful little trick all around.

Lost time
One thing that I'd noticed about some of my favorite webloggers was their aversion to timestamps on their posts. Dates, sure, but not the exact time, and on reflection that makes sense. There's no great need to tell you that this post was written at 12:30 AM, so I took it away.

Yipes, stripes
I'm still playing with this one, but stripes are everywhere this season and I thought it might be fun to jump on the bandwagon. I think the new background pattern feels older somehow than the beautiful Don Barnett tile we were using before. This might change around a bit in the next couple of days, but you get the idea.

Back home where I belong
The final change is that after a couple of years at the mt_testing address, the weblog is back home at – right where it belongs. I think I finally have the hang of this whole "Movable Type" thing. Kinda.

And there you have it. There are some other experiments I plan to try on these pages in the upcoming months, but for now, TOTQ 2.0 is up and running. As always, thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!