Semester 1 Finals

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Rambling about digital gardens

I rediscovered “digital gardening” earlier today through a site on the XXIIVV webring–cultivating a sort of wiki for yourself, your notes, links, and whatnot. I’ve been seeing some really elaborate ones, and I’ve been thinking about it as I’ve been writing this on a somewhat-lazy December afternoon.

I tend to find something that’s been holding me back from really fleshing out my website with what I’ve dubbed Interest pages or posting a whole ton on my blog has been trying to fit things into a rigid structure, or feeling anxious over a blank page. Thoughts like:

  • “Am I phrasing this right?”
  • “Do I really know enough about this?”
  • Do I have enough to say?”, and
  • “Is this enough to justify an RSS feed ping or a changelog update?”

rush all throughout my head whenever I think about writing a self-dubbed Interests page–a section that, I thought, would solve this problem–or a blog post. In the case of a blog post, a lot of a time I coax myself into feeling “This is a blog post so I won’t ever be able to update it again, so it’d better be good and readable on its own or have a genuine point to make!” and then eventually never do it.

By contrast, from what I’ve read, a digital garden’s focus appears to be not only what you come out with in the end, but the process itself of learning and doing–collecting notes, building, growing things up organically.

The phrase “digital garden” is a metaphor for thinking about writing and creating that focuses less on the resulting “showpiece” and more on the processcare, and craft it takes to get there. While not everybody has or works in a dirt garden, we all share a familiarity with the idea of what a garden is. A garden is usually a place where things grow.

🌱 My blog is a digital garden, not a blog (joelhooks.com)

On occasion I come across something I think is neat, say a history of ASCII art, and I want to have some record of it but I don’t want to cluttering up my site’s navigation of copious amounts of pages or write a blog post about a subject I don’t really have authority or much knowledge on. Perhaps I want to keep lists of other interesting things and links I come across over time but don’t want to let making or updating them become a burden.

And as I speak, ideas are brewing in my head. I could use it for like, code snippets, even, little notes about AutoSite features while I work on them, whatever browser extensions I use, programs I use, hoo. And possibly thoughts on the little productivity things and tools I’ve been trying to apply to my workflow, like using a pomodoro timer and tools like Todoist and TickTick. This much content in the form of small notes would feel cluttering, maybe even spammy (several unupdated blog posts stamped in time) in other formats.

This is a really drawn out ramble, but essentially I feel like I’d be able to compile together a whole ton of assorted stuff over time if I could just go off on all sorts of topics that jump in my head without worrying about word count, polish, whether it’s “finished” or even if people are gonna look. And possibly that in its own is an essence of mumblecore.

I think a blog or microblog is like a stream, a standard structured website is like a hierarchial tree with usually one or two sublevels, and a digital garden in this fashion is like a sprawling web, living, breathing, organic. Something poetic like that.

So, yeah. Maybe I’ll give growing a digital garden a try sometime. Thinking about it.

Dropping some links on the subject so I can clear all these tabs..

Some gardens:

Resources/articles:

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Tomate, a Pomodoro timer for your Windows Mobile

So, a few days ago I had an idea knocking around to make a Pomodoro timer. I’ve used Pomofocus every now and again but wanted to take a spin at it myself in VB. I was thinking of having it as a desktop application but then thought it’d be more fun to write it as my first proper Compact Framework application. I jotted a mockup down before going to bed, and got to implementing it today.

One thing I really like about Compact Framework development is its close similarities to Winforms. You get a designer (with the option to have a skin for any targeted screen size) and a subset of the controls you’re already familiar with. After about an hour and I had my first minimum viable product, something that could run within an emulator and on my phone. I even found out how to make those CAB installers.

This was the MVP, I’d say. 11:48 A.M., too. I spent much longer polishing it up and getting the beep to work.

Remember how I said that mobile development was really similar to Winforms? Well, that also means Compact Framework executables are more than happy to run under desktop Windows. (So long as you aren’t using any fancy device APIs, of course.)

This was pretty sweet–or, ripe.

A chunk of my time was then spent scratching my head and reading StackOverflow at how to implement playing sounds from the project’s Resources; I ended up giving up on that front, but was able to play the \Windows\Standard.wav sound and just do a system beep if that was not available (Desktop). Couldn’t have the pleasant sounds from Pomofocus unfortunately, rather a smidge loud beep sound. Perhaps later down the line.

Here’s the final version. I had polished up the UI by adding the arrow indicators on both sides of the screen when the timer is stopped, and replacing the mainMenu control with my own Start/Stop indicator label. All of these have Click events so they’ll work on desktop and Pocket PC. On desktop you can also start with Enter and switch modes with the keyboard using the same key codes internally as Windows Mobile. Convenient!

As I was making a release on GitHub, I found out I could actually target older platforms all the way back to Pocket PC 2003 (a touchscreen platform) without losing support for Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard (a non-touchscreen platform). I had thought that it would refuse to run, but it just worked. That was really cool to see.

I’m very happy with what I got done in the end. One more crossed off my idea list, and something I can really see myself using.

Oh right! You can find Tomate on my site or GitHub. Send feedback and help out if you wish. The CAB’s for installation on mobile devices, and the exe file will work on desktop. Check the readme if you need prerequisites.

(Sidenote: I’m not sure why Visual Studio packages with the CAB extension, uppercase. Alas, possibly one of those fabled Microsoft mysteries we’ll never solve.)

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And now for something completely different

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Bryce

From the comments section of a 1996 drum and bass mix YouTube put in my recommendations (which I’ve been enjoying very much, going into the weekend!), I discovered Bryce: a fractal terrain generator, modeling program, and lost art.

Surprisingly, there still remains an active community for this piece of software and you can still purchase Bryce 7 Pro from Daz 3D, with the same iconic interface and rendering style. Top row of the gallery above was rendered in Bryce 2, and the bottom row in Bryce 7.

Precipitous Rocks, some Bryce work from the incredible Horo. Check out his web galleries and panoramas.

I love the look of Bryce’s output. It’s so.. vibrant and wistful, and yet has this pinch of digital surrealism you can’t quite pinpoint. It’s like a dream where you can’t quite figure out what’s happening, but want to see what happens next. In the age where photorealistic computer graphics are ubiquitous, it’s refreshing, and oddly soothing. And just perhaps, it’s the old drum and bass to the clean-cut EDM of today.

Mmm. Makes me want to make album covers.

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Google Maps on Windows Mobile: Still works!

Now here’s something pleasantly unexpected: Google Maps 4.1.0, from 2010, still works on Windows Mobile 6! I found this on freewarepocketpc.net, which to my delight still exists (Winmo software is hard to find!) and hosts mirrors of a bunch of software.

I have uploaded it to w2krepo (check out the new changelog). If you have any other useful Windows Mobile applications, drop me a line. I’ll be sifting around that site to find more stuff as well.

(If you’re wondering about the screenshots, they’re taken on the phone with SmartSS, transferred to the Storage Card and converted from bmp to png before uploading.)

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Encarta!

Having to do some research for school and bored of just using the internet, I installed Encarta 99 earlier. It’s always been something of niche interest to me and I’d be more than happy to have some helpful information stored for when I need to work offline; on top of that, it’s just a plain neat piece of kit altogether.

While Encarta has sadly long bit the dust from the likes of Wikipedia and other internet resources (its last release was in 2009) leaving as but a faint memory, I can tell how exciting it must have been- and, arguably, still could be- to have a full interactive encyclopedia right on your hard drive.

Throughout the 90s, multimedia sold PCs. Interactive CD-ROMs popped up left on many subjects and niches. Microsoft Home had plenty of them, some of which I have in my posession, including the ever-so enlightening Julia Child’s Home Cooking with Master Chefs.

See the source image

Encarta was the flagship of this era. Put away your Encyclopædia Britannicas and tap into a wealth of knowledge within seconds, with not only articles and images presented in dazzling hypertext but also maps, panoramas, presentations, tables, charts, a dictionary, web links, and updates for a whole year.

The update servers are sadly long gone, and I’m not sure if the updates have been archived.

It was a breakthrough. So much content, delivered in a way that’s accessible and fun to explore. I really like the presentation of the articles and different topics in Encarta 99: it’s got that neat late 90s Microsoft aesthetic to it, which I’d totally use in a site sometime. It also appears that the Chicago font (of Classic Mac fame) was used quite a bit as well for small type, amusingly. Good choice, all things considered.

A bobcat.

I’d still happily recommend trying out an old copy of Encarta one time or another in the same way one might keep around an old encyclopedia from yesteryear– just make sure you have Shockwave Player 8 installed first if you’re on modern Windows. A lot of the information is out of date, but when you’re looking in historical contexts or general subjects, it can be fun and useful. You might even learn something new just jumping around the navigation.

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Converting video for the Wii’s Photo Channel

Wii Video 9 (nice title) didn’t want to work for me, so here’s a better way with ffmpeg:

ffmpeg -i "gatogrande.mp4" -vf scale=-1:480 -c:v mjpeg gatogrande.avi

Videos don’t have sound, not sure which one I need to use, as it seems the default AAC codec ffmpeg uses does not work. Might update this post if I find out.

In any case, I’m happy to have finally got this elusive (to me anyway) feature to work: even the puzzle game works, and you can post frames to the Message Board and Wii Menu banner. The Photo Channel’s a lovely piece of kit, really. Good memories with it.

From the Wii’s manual. Apparently mjpeg .movs are supported. And ooh, .m4a audio support– glanced over that completely. 1.1 removed .mp3 support though too? For some reason? Legality? Nintendo says it’s because of quality, but why they removed the option is beyond me.
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Direct: 9/25/2020

I’m kidding about the title, don’t worry, you didn’t miss a Nintendo Direct. And even if you did, it’s probably just another Wii U port.

This has been a quiet but certainly busy month from me, in regards to this site and things, so I figured I would write this post as a recap of sorts and a preview of what could be to come.

First of all, the obvious: since the last post I’ve been in school, and trying to break some procrastination habits– though, apparently, that can’t keep me from calling it for the rest of a Friday night to write a blog post. Hey, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Figuratively, and literally.

With that said, here’s what I’ve been up to in and around September 2020 thus far:

  • AutoSite is now on Download.com. Since it’s RC4 and they took that for a beta version, there are no options for reviews. I do kinda wish those 2 AV false positives were resolved too. (I sent RC3 to BitDefender back when I submitted to Softpedia a month or so ago. Sending RC4 wasn’t necessary afterwards, if I recall correctly.) In any case, it’s getting out there. Would like to do more stuff for it as it gets cooler.
Alas, I must be known as Dotcomboom, not dotcomboom or DOTCOMBOOM.
  • I want to put more stuff on this blog (or tumblog, depending on the time of day). It’s easy for me to get hung up on topics and what I’m gonna write about instead of straight up going for it. Speaking of which, I wrote a post earlier in the month for the group blog about my Android and Termux-based IRC bouncer setup that I’ve been meaning to do since June so if you haven’t read that, you may do so here. Excuse the technobabble.
  • Truth be told, I’ve been practice doodling more. Mainly fluffy things because I guess that’s the kinda person I am now. Noticably, a particular Lince on my revised homepage:
Ah ye. (9-5/9-7)
Notebook sketches of Beo, a Neopet of mine. Confident little rascal. (9-14)
Quick rough of a possible arctic fox lad? (9-24)

Definitely gonna share more, when the time comes. Get some more little drawings on my site, make an interests page, keep that place from getting too rusty. Gonna be good. Branching out, trying new things, gaining confidence. That’s been the goal for this year, and it’s finally starting to pay off in these couple of months. Love it.

  • Escargot got a board on a new forum, that’s pretty cool. And I have a gut feeling we might have WLM 2009 by the end of the year. Sure, it might have been the same gut feeling I had in 2018 and 2019 but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be excited for it!
  • Caby and Borb graced me on the 17th with some lovely birthday art! Click to view the images full-size.
  • I’ve been playing on Somnol’s newly resurrected whitelisted Minecraft servers, this time on Beta 1.7.3 (my new favorite Minecraft version as of late; you don’t need more mobs than there are Pokémon to have a good time, lads) for survival and 1.8.9 for creative. If you’re cool and hang around our IRC, who knows, you might be able to join us. We’ll have a page to showcase what’s up there on our main site, keep your eyes peeled for that. The spirit of 2011 will never die.
My house on the right (bit obscured here), and the deck I built on a hill. I tunneled up through the hill into a cave and then built the out of a hole on the side. I love Beta’s hills.
Somnoville at night, as of now. Cammy recently put glowstone into the roads and the view from above is stunning.
Beta didn’t have such luxuries as a brightness slider, so keeping your world and builds well lit is a necessity for those cold, dark nights. I need to stock up on torches and eventually make it into the Nether myself to snag some of that stuff.
  • I’ve been thinking about 0x10c and listening to its music a lot. Might be a loose topic for a post in the future, not sure yet. Also wrote a bit about my X230 Tablet, that might surface sooner or later.
  • I did a little bit of overdue tidying to w2krepo and added a changelog.
  • This video. My kryptonite.
  • Some Ceramics classwork:
cat 👏 mug 👏 gato 👏 mug

I’d like to do this more, like a rough recap of where I’ve been and where I’m at each month. I get to put up some things I wouldn’t have otherwise outside of my smaller circles, and I can sorta keep track of it better as time goes on.

Homework tomorrow! Fortunately not a crazy amount, unless I make it that way. Then Minecraft. Then getting destroyed by Cammy at Tetris maybe. Willpower, lads.

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Morning all, it’s that time of year again

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