Thursday, July 31, 2003

Adventure Construction Set

This was the game-creating toolkit that was used for some of "Great Quest" games mentioned in the post about Robertson's Planet.

ACS also had some of my favorite computer/video game music of all time. I've found MIDI versions online, and even C64 "sid" files. But none of them sound quite as good as the original. I recommend getting a C64 emulator just to hear this music the way its supposed to sound, even if you have no interest in actually making games for it.

Like I said, ACS was only used for some of the games.

The first game was written in BASIC, and used only character-cell graphics. Each "room" was stored in 40-column, 25-line text file. I don't remember how many rooms there were, but it was enough that I had to use both sides of two flippy disks. It never occurred to me to come up with some kind of compression. It was just so much simpler to have one cell on the screen go to one byte in the file. To make up for the primitive graphics, the game had some pretty strange computer-generated music. Some of the music can be heard as part of the Flvxxvm Florvm song "Itch".

After "Great Quest" was a hit with its intended audience (which consisted entirely of my friends, especially Brandon Downey), I decided to make a sequel. This time I used a copy ACS of that someone had given me when they got rid of their C64 (I did mention that all of this was for the C64, right?).

"Great Quest II" was also quite successful. Unfortunately, I don't think I ever finished "Great Quest III". I believe I finally jumped on the x86 bandwagon while I was still working on it.

In addition to Knarr, the Great Quest games were also the origin of the "Evil Grinn". The Grinn was one of the most feared monsters in the game. It appeared as a glowing fire-red smiley face in the dark. It only appeared in dark places, so you could never see if it actually had a body or even a head, you could only see two eyes and a mouth. It had two modes of attack. Firstly, it could attack with lightning or fire or some similar energy weapon. Secondly, it had the power to summon arbitrary numbers of "little evils", which were creatures somewhat like the Zols and Gels from Legend of Zelda. It could fill a room with them if you let it. (In turn, the main bad-guy Othor had the power to summon arbitrary numbers of Evil Grinns!)

In the original Great Quest, of course, the Grinn was never actually seen. All of the enemies were represented by letters, like in Rogue or something. In the ACS versions, the Grinn was represented by a graphic very similar to that used in the much-later Evil Grinn game for DOS.

I later named my BBS "The Evil Grinn", and from there the name has gone on to be used for various purposes like the "record company" for Flvxxvm Florvm.

Standard MIDI Files on the Net

The Most Complete & Best-Maintained List of Sites with MIDI Files


I haven't used this recently, but back when I did use it I liked it a lot. Back in the 90's, MIDI files played with Timidity sounded much better than when played directly on the synthesizers built into then-current soundcards. On modern cards it probably doesn't make much difference.

I'm considering using it again for some MIDI-to-WAV conversion, as it still seems to be the best-known solution for that problem which is both open-source and cross-platform (a term which I use to mean that the application is available for both Unix and Windows).

There are also many commercial, shareware, and even freeware utilities for Windows, and various stuff for *nix like kmidi, and I suppose you can always just capture the mix off of your soundcard to a WAV.


MusicXML is a universal translator for common Western musical notation from the 17th century onwards. It is designed as an interchange format for notation, analysis, retrieval, and performance applications.


I don't particularly have any reason to link this, except that I find this quote amusing.

Albert Einstein, when asked to describe radio, replied:
You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.

The Programmer's File Format Collection

This site contains file format information on hundreds of different file types and all sorts of other useful programming information; algorithms, source code, specifications, etc.

I've used this site before, but never blogged it. I've always found it annoying that the file format specifications must be downloaded as zip files, even though many of them are only a single file once you unzip it.

Ballad of the USS PUEBLO

by Robert H. Dobbs
We shall always remember,
as we did the Alamo,
The cowardly attack and the capture,
of the U. S. S. Pueblo

Possibly the direct inspiration of the line "remember the Pueblo" the Laws of Marvin?

I started looking for stuff about the Pueblo after hearing a story about this book on NPR this morning.

One page I found at mentions:
In two short movies shown in June, westerners gave the finger to the North Korean cameraman. It became obvious that these people did not know the meaning of this symbol of contempt, and that they were also unfamiliar with current western "culture", or colloquialisms. In the coerced letters written to families, friends and political figures, and in subsequent press conferences, the PUEBLO men attempted to use this knowledge as a means to discredit their captor's propaganda efforts.

And furthermore:
The first press conference which included enlisted men was held August 13th. An intentional (communist) press conference September 12th. Both times innuendos and archaic and corny language were inserted into the prepared statements to thwart the propaganda.

I've been looking for more examples of these innuendos and corny language. When I find them I'll blog them.

Remember the Pueblo!

The USS PUEBLO was a U. S. Navy vessel sent on an intelligence mission off the coast of North Korea. On January 23, 1968, the USS PUEBLO was attacked by North Korean naval vessels and MiG jets. One man was killed and several were wounded. The Eighty-two surviving crew members were captured and held prisoner for 11 months. The pages on this site tell the story of the Pueblo Incident and present the USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association.

This site is sponsored by the USS Pueblo Veteran's Association.


Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Mayfield Industries X-59e People Suit

I thought this was gone forever when Poobie told me that the hard drive had crashed on But thanks to the Internet Archive, it's preserved for posterity.

Mirrors.Org Web & FTP Mirrors

Videos, Flash files, pictures from the World Trade Center bombing of 09-11-2001 I mirrored these from several dozen sites as I found them in the month following 9-11, and I see that it's good that i did -- as of 2002-10-30, none of the original sites are still live

TechKnight.Com | Endangered Software Archive

Downloads including DOS 1.10 and Windows 1.01. - Games of the Week: Gorilla

Via Slashdot (where else?). For what its worth, Windows NT continued to ship with Qbasic and its games right up until it was replaced by Windows 2000.

Microsoft Windows and applications shortcut keys

Almost everybody knows the basic ones, but I admit that I'd never even heard of most of the shortcuts that involve the "Windows key". I think this is because I held onto using 101-key keyboards for so long that I never had any reason to learn what the windows key can be used for.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Master Timeline of Robertson's Planet

Pretty sketchy at this point. This information is pieced together from the few documents I have saved at my conlang page, plus some files I found on some old floppies. If I ever find my big (physical) binder of Robertson's Planet stuff, the timeline will get a lot bigger.

This is quite possibly the dorkiest thing I have blogged yet. Down in our heart of hearts, whether we admit it or not, most geeks want to be J.R.R. Tolkien. Unlike Tolkien, most of us have little actual talent for writing sci-fi and fantasy stories, but we still enjoy inventing the worlds in which such stories might take place. At least I do; or rather, did from about 1988 to 1996.

"Robertson's Planet" is my colloquial name for the world which its inhabitants usually call "Ristkon" after the god that they suppose to have created it.

In 1988 I painted over a globe of earth, and drew my own fake continents and countries. At first I was going to let it be a sci-fi world, a planet settled by explorers from Earth. For reasons that I might try to explain later, the continents were shaped pretty similar to those of Earth. Most of the countries had been colonized by either the USA or the USSR. Pretty soon I got tired of it, and painted over it again. This time the continents were still vaguely earthlike, but the countries were all completely made up. It was still influenced by late-twentieth-century earth, though. I soon realized that scattered about the planet there were a lot of countries whose names ended with -stof (this was, I think, carried over from the USSR-colonized parts of my previous sci-fi globe). From this, I was able to determine that most of planet had been ruled by an ethnic group called the Stofonians, in a period that roughly corresponded to the period during which most of earth had been ruled by Europe.

Over the next several years I created long lists of rulers and dynasties, alphabets, and (yes) languages. Most of this concerned the Stofonians themselves, but a lot of attention was also given to a people called the Elosians, to whom the Stofonians had once been subject before the tables turned. Within the history of Robertson's planet, there was room for all periods of "historical" fiction. The old days of the Elosians would be the setting for stories that might remind people of Greek drama. The early, barbarous years of the Stofonians' rise to power would be a world like that of the Crusades or the conquest of the Americas. The mature Stofonian empire would be a powerhouse of industrial-revolution militarism the likes of which this earth has never seen. In the period since its fall, we would be treated to opportunistic, machivallean struggles between its daughter states, fought with every weapon of contemporary earth except for the nuke (which I banned because it would've encouraged the re-formation of superpowers equal to the USA or the USSR... and the subsequent end of the interesting little wars).

But the crowning glory was to be my tale of how the Empire fell apart in the first place. The "Fracture" was going to be like the fall of Rome, the U.S. Civil War, World War I, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution all rolled into one, with a little bit of organized crime and a few serial killers thrown in for good measure. I made about three attempts to write a novel about it, but never really got anywhere. This is one of the things that made me decide to not be a writer.

Knarr, which is abnormally prominent on the timeline considering that it is a tiny group of islands that never ruled any sort of empire or much affected the outside world, was originally created in 1990 in support of a series of computer games called "The Great Quest". It was unrelated to the world of the Stofonians. Later, and possibly at the urging of Brandon Downey, I managed to combine the two. It was never a perfect fit, however. Knarr was a true fantasy world. It had kings, wizards, magic that worked, and gods that were real. The Stofonians lived in a naturalistic world. Sure, they believed in the supernatural, but we the readers were supposed to know better. In order to fit Knarr into this world, I had to say that the "Great Quest" games were based not on the actual Robertson's Planet, but on the internal legends thereof.

I also ended up folding in a few things like the Eevillians (get it, they're EEEEeeevil!) from some superhero comics that I was also trying to develop at the time. The Eevillians were an interstellar empire that enslaved people from all over the galaxy, including a group from the planet Juturia. A huge spaceship carrying a large number of Juturian slaves and a small number of Eevillian overseers crashed on Ristkon, and the slaves threw off their masters and founded a new country named Juturia. The Juturians were high-minded and liberal, with all kinds of ideas about democracy and freedom. They also had vague memories of technologies that Robertson's planet had never seen. They quickly became great rivals of the iron-fisted Stofonians. Their great showndown was something called "The Last War", which was fought with wooden steamships, cannon balls, muzzle-loaded rifles, and unreliable early steam-powered land vehicles. The Stofonians won, but the subsequent spread of democratic and pseudo-democratic government around the planet is due to the influence of the Juturians.


This project is dedicated to the design and implementation of CIFS solutions using the Java programming language.

Monday, July 28, 2003

More about the wallpaper

I actually created this about 3 years ago, when fooling around with HTML in general and support for 800x600 in particular was much more a part of my job than it is now. It was (obviously) made by taking screenshots at each resolution. So it preserves an interesting record of what programs I was running at the time.

Visible on the taskbar:
  1. Microsoft Visual SourceSafe
  2. Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Manager
  3. Windows Explorer
  4. Visual SourceSafe (again!)
  5. Outlook
  6. Forte For Java
  7. NT Server Manager (yes, this was NT 4.0... the stuff below about Win2K is only because that's what I use now)
  8. An Outlook email whose subject begins with "erd".
  9. Jasc Paintshop Pro (which was being used to doctor the screenshots)

Visible Quicklaunch icons:
  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Minimize All Windows
  3. ???
  4. Windows Explorer
  5. Outlooks
  6. Access
  7. Excel
  8. PowerPoint
  9. Word
  10. SourceSafe
  11. Epicor Clientele
  12. VNC
  13. Forte For Java
  14. Netscape
  15. unknown URL shortcut

Friday, July 25, 2003

Window-size Desktop Wallpaper

Occasionally I want to know how a website will look for people running at 800x600 and don't want to have to temporarily change the display properties of my PC. It would be nice if there was a way (in Windows 2000) to resize a window to specified pixel dimensions.

What I ended up doing was setting my desktop wallpaper to an image with boxes of various sizes (640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, and 1152x864). Now I can just resize a web browser (or any other window) to the same size as any of these boxes to get an instant idea of whether the webpage will "fit".

The three smaller boxes include a representation of the taskbar, so that you can account for the screen real estate it takes up. The 1152x864 box doesn't have a taskbar, because I made this back when I used to actually run at 1152x854, so I could just use the real taskbar. Now I have a larger monitor and tend to use 1280x1024. But seriously, the point of this thing is to support those poor saps out there using something smaller than 1024x768. If you need to worry about fitting into 1152x864, you're in trouble anyway.

Click here to see a thumbnail and download the wallpaper in BMP or PNG format.

I fixed the stylesheet so that the menu no longer shares the same screen real estate with the ads. When the browser window was sized at less than about 1200 pixels, the menu would appear in front of the ads, partially obscuring them. Now personally I consider this an advanced ad-blocking feature, but I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me too much.

The Cyber Hymnal

This site has over 4,200 Christian hymns & Gospel songs from many denominations. You’ll find lyrics, scores, MIDI files, pictures, history, & more.

Yahoo and Google

I just noticed that Yahoo's web search is still powered by Google. What happened to all that stuff I read a few months back, about Yahoo trying to compete against Google?

Thursday, July 24, 2003


(via Joel)
So, the next time someone suspicious asks for your email... make up a mailinator address on the spot and give them that. Then come here and see what they sent. Its that easy. Its that fast. Its like flicking a booger -- at spam.

Ironically, "Mailinator" is also the name of at least one email address harvesting tool.

By experimentation, I have discovered the following about Google's indexing of this page and its archives:

Searches for things in the archives actually turn up the correct page for 6/5/03 and before.

From 6/6 to 7/9, some individual posts are found in the archives. But for others it finds them in the cache of the main page (not the archives); but then when you try to view the cache, you actually get a page that doesn't include the post you were looking for, since it starts at 7/10. I have not found any rhyme or reason for why some posts are found in the archives and others are found on the main page.

Posts from 7/10 to 7/13 are found in Google's cache (of the main page) and can still be read there.

Posts from 7/14 to 7/21 are found on the main page, and can still be viewed there live (not cached).

Posts from 7/22 on haven't been indexed at all.

Bevo Bucks scamming discovered

To take advantage of the machines, Hayenga said, a student would swipe his Bevo Bucks card as usual. The machine would register the amount of money available, and authorize a purchase. The student would then disconnect the machine's modem, preventing it from telling a central server to subtract money from his or her account.

Shades of this story about the the "Blackboard" system. (I'm sure somewhere in that article or the ensuing comments you can find a link to the actual dirty details.. oh, wait here it is).

Unfortunately for the students, the system wasn't quite as stupid as they'd hoped:
"If you think about how they record the transaction, they probably record all the broken transactions," the student said. "They can link your student ID to the broken transaction." Which is exactly what happened.

U.S. Centennial of Flight Home Page

December 17, 2003 is 145 days away!

Balloons in the American Civil War

The fleet now consisted of the Intrepid, Constitution, United States, Washington, Eagle, Excelsior, and the original Union. The balloons ranged in size from 32,000 cubic feet (906 cubic meters) down to 15,000 cubic feet (425 cubic meters).

I'm trying to remember... in one of the Star Trek movies or series, they had a room with pictures or models of all the ships that had been named Enterprise. Was one of them a balloon?

Attack on New York

The September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center towers left New Yorkers stunned and bloodied, but unbowed. It was not the first attempt against the buildings; in 1993 terrorists exploded a car bomb in the basement of one of the towers. At that time, Thomas McLarty, then President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, said, “To my memory, we had never really experienced anything like this on American soil.” In reality, terrorists had struck at Manhattan more than a century earlier.

The web browser in my new cell phone tries to interpret CSS that has been deliberately set for "@media screen", even though its capabilities clearly place it in more in the category of "handheld" media. Sigh. It even tries to do positioning. This blog doesn't really work on it. I don't feel too bad because neither does any other web site that wasn't deliberately made for it by Sprint or their partners.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Its bad enough to have to tell people that your daughter's new favorite album is by a band called the New Pornographers. Its another thing entirely when said daughter is only 18 months old. Last night Dolly danced all the way through the playing of Electric Version.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Cryptomaster leviathan

Mitopus morioCoolest genus/species name ever!

This is the only page I can find that mentions this species, and it doesn't say much.

I have been able to gather that Cryptomaster leviathan is an arachnid in the order Opiliones (which includes harvestmen or daddy long legs). I am also guessing that it is a cave-dweller, based on stuff I've found about other members of the same family and suborder.

Note that this picture here is not a picture of Cryptomaster leviathan. Its a picture of Mitopus morio, which is at least in the same order. I admit that I picked that picture because it was the first transparent image of an Opilione that I found.

The Catholic Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia, as its name implies, proposes to give its readers full and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine. What the Church teaches and has taught; what she has done and is still doing for the highest welfare of mankind; her methods, past and present; her struggles, her triumphs, and the achievements of her members, not only for her own immediate benefit, but for the broadening and deepening of all true science, literature and art -- all come within the scope of the Catholic Encyclopedia.

More Burrito stuff

Although my ealier comments about Chipotle stand, I gotta give prop's to Willy's for at least one thing. Their menu includes "charolitas"
which is a taco whose incredients include coleslaw. I don't know if there is actually a slaw tradition in mexican cooking, or what. But its pretty damn good, especially if you choose the bbq pork as your taco's meat. And I'm pretty sure you can't get it at any of Willy's direct competitor's.

Moes, on the other hand, takes the cake some of the most appetite-killing menu item names. Who wants to go into a restaurant and order something called the "Ugly Naked Guy"? Also, the restrooms at their restaurants actually have paintings of people using the toilet, on the door. The outside door, where it is visible to half the restaurant. In spite of all of this, the food is pretty good. It reminds me of the restauraunt at Itchy and Scratchy Land.

And speaking of the The Simpsons, what is it with all of these local burrito places named after secondary characters? Willy.. Moe.. Who's next, Cletus?

Raging Burrito was my wife's favorite. I think it was all the veggie and tofu options.

As for Burrito Art, I've only been there once. I seem to recall that the burrito's were a little too fancy. Artsy. Rococo, even. Asian Meatloaf is not a "standard burrito", ever.

I took my watch to the jewelry counter at Target and had them put the case back together the same way they do after changing a watch's battery. Basically they have a vice that squeezes the watch until you can hear the case "pop" back together. Hours later, my wife pointed out the foolishness of doing this: assuming that it really did re-seal the watch against moisture, then the water that was already in there is trapped inside. My watch now has its own little self-contained weather system. I need to take it in and have them open the case, remove the water, and then re-seal it.

Since we no longer have a room in our house dedicated as an "office" (we use the laptop exclusively) I have several older computers, monitors, and associated hardware like mice and keyboards just sitting around unused. In fact they are taking up closet space that is badly needed for other things. I need to either use them or throw them out. Recently it occurred to me that I could build a MAME Cabinet. The only thing I'm missing (other than the cabinet itself) is a joystick.

Knowing how lazy I am, and how I have several unfinished home improvement projects going already, I probably won't do it. I'm blogging this now so that maybe having it out in public will actually make me do it.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Chipotle, the Starbucks of burritos, has finally made it to Atlanta.

Atlanta already has its share of trendy little burrito restaurants (Raging Burrito, Burrito Art, Willy's, Moe's, and the now-defunct Tortillas). All of these places had better watch out.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Portland Patterns Repository and WikiWikiWeb

I occasionally post things that I found here, but I don't think I've ever made a special entry about the Wiki itself. I've never contributed anything here, but you can learn a lot just by clicking around.

The Risk Management Catalog (via
Project management by risk reduction will only become common when there is a catalog of risk reduction strategies available to every project manager and team member.

Thursday, July 17, 2003


Audacity ScreenshotThere's a reason why Eric S. Raymond, in The Art of Unix Programming chose to use Audacity as a case study. It rocks. It is very easy to use, and gets its job done well.

Audacity is the kind of program that almost everybody needs: a simple "click the red button to record" sound editor. You'd think that OEM's would put software like this on their computers, since recording is one of those basic uses for their sound hardware. Unfortunately you're usually stuck with the Windows "sound recorder" app, with its restrictive limitations on sample length (max of one minute!).

Audacity can record as much sound as your hard drive can hold, and won't bog down doing it. It can also record multiple tracks and mix them together. It can export to OGG and MP3.

It's actually one of the better cross-platform Open Source applications. It's up there with Mozilla and Gimp.


I work in an environment where I occasionally would like to use UML to illustrate points I'm making in email conversations.

I'm afraid to embed models from Rational Rose or something as attachments or OLE objects (even though this would be possible since we use Outlook) because that would require everybody involved in the discussion to have Rose.

I also don't like embedding the UML as a bitmap, because it bloats up the email system and also because its hard for somebody else to edit it when they reply.

So, ASCII it is.

This page shows that most of this also applies to a Wiki, and has some suggestions for tools.

What do people use on Usenet, anyway? You'd think that some newgroup would've standardized an ASCII UML notation as part of its charter or something.

For those who hate my stylesheet in any of its variations, the "color depth" menu now has an "X" option to completely turn off all styles. No this is not the same as just choosing View-Use Style-Basic Page Style on Mozilla's menu. This kills everything, including the positioning.

The metal case back just fell off of my watch. I'm sure some of you Rolex-wearers out there will say that it serves me right for buying a cheap Timex piece of junk from K-mart, or something like that.

I've been loyal to Timex for years because they are usually just good sturdy watches that keep accurate time and are very waterproof. Every time somebody gives me a watch for Christmas or something, I usually don't bother using it because I know I'll just break it, and stick to wearing my Timex.

I just put the watch back together. I hope the watch is still water-resistant. I'd recently noticed condensation on the inside of the glass. I have a feeling that the back was already loose and just waiting to fall off, and that water was leaking in. It didn't seem to affect the actual working of the watch, though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Gray is Light Black

To clarify what I said earlier about PC/DOS colors: Colors are specified in terms of red, green, blue and also something called "intensity". Each of these elements is represented by one bit. Intensity is the high-order bit. These four bits can conveniently be represented by a single hex digit, which is what the "color" command does. The following table is the same one I posted earlier, but also shows the binary IRGB values.

binary decimal hex name real RGB websafe
0000 0 0 Black 000000     000000    
0001 1 1 Blue 000080     000099    
0010 2 2 Green 008000     009900    
0011 3 3 Aqua 008080     009999    
0100 4 4 Red 800000     990000    
0101 5 5 Purple 800080     990099    
0110 6 6 Yellow 808000     999900    
0111 7 7 White c0c0c0     cccccc    
1000 8 8 Gray 808080     999999    
1001 9 9 Light Blue 0000ff     0000ff    
1010 10 A Light Green 00ff00     00ff00    
1011 11 B Light Aqua 00ffff     00ffff    
1100 12 C Light Red ff0000     ff0000    
1101 13 D Light Purple ff00ff     ff00ff    
1110 14 E Light Yellow ffff00     ffff00    
1111 15 F Bright White ffffff     ffffff    

It should now be apparent that the only difference between "gray" (binary 1000) and "black" (binary 0000) is that gray has the intensity bit set.

(Note also that the names shown in the table are taken straight from the Win2K help system. If you type "color /?" those are the names you get. Why they choose to use "aqua" and "purple" for the colors that everybody's been called "cyan" and "magenta" for years is beyond me. I also take issue with what they chose to call "yellow" and "white".)

This also helps explain why DOS wouldn't let you use "light" or "intense" background colors in text modes. The foreground and background colors were packed into a single 8-bit byte. Now, this seems like it would've been fine, since each color is 4 bits. But they also wanted to be able to make the text blink. In order to make room for a "blink" bit, the background color has no intensity bit. Thankfully, the NT "color" command does not support blinking, so we get the full 16 background colors.

Finally, in monochrome mode, the "color" bits were used to control things like reversed and underlined text. There was not actually support for underlining in color text modes, so technically I'm cheating by using underlined links on the menu here.

Mac user beware..

Thanks to Novarese for pointing out that "The mac equivelent of fixed sys is monaco".

The stylesheet switcher currently only seems to work in Mozilla. In MSIE it forgets your preference when you leave the page. In Opera it doesn't work at all, and the mere presence of multiple mutually-exclusive <style> elements seems to screw things up.

Websafe? Nah, just lazy

The main reason I still use "websafe" colors is so I can use only three digits when writing stylesheets: #fff, #ccc, etc. I have a feeling that in spite of all technical and aesthetic arguments against it, the good old 216 will be around for a while just because of that little bit of shorthand.

More about the stylesheet

The choice of colors is deliberately limited to those which have been available on the IBM PC since its earliest days. This is the same list of choices supported by the "color" command for setting the color of the DOS prompt. The following table shows the codes and names that DOS/Windows gives to these colors, their actual RGB values, and the nearest "websafe" equivalent. Anybody designing a website and wanting to give it that "DOS/EGA" look should pick colors from this list.

code name real RGB websafe
0 Black 000000 000000
1 Blue 000080 000099
2 Green 008000 009900
3 Aqua 008080 009999
4 Red 800000 990000
5 Purple 800080 990099
6 Yellow 808000 999900
7 White c0c0c0 cccccc
8 Gray 808080 999999
9 Light Blue 0000ff 0000ff
A Light Green 00ff00 00ff00
B Light Aqua 00ffff 00ffff
C Light Red ff0000 ff0000
D Light Purple ff00ff ff00ff
E Light Yellow ffff00 ffff00
F Bright White ffffff ffffff

Admission: in real MS-DOS, it was not possible to set the background to any of the "light" colors (8-F). This restriction has been lifted in the Windows NT/2000/XP command prompt. This website ignores this issue and freely uses #999999 as a background color. Yes, #999999 (gray) counts as a "light" color because it is technically light black. I'm not kidding; I have the first edition of Norton's Guide to the IBM PC to back me up.

Me and Mozilla

Ok, I'm about to finally jump on the bandwagon and try Firebird.

I first tried Mozilla somewhere around Milestone 13. At first I found that the Windows version was noticeably slower than MSIE, at least on the 500mhz, 128mb of RAM that I had at the time. And I don't just mean startup time, I mean everything was slow (you could actually speed it up appreciably by using the classic theme instead of modern). It actually didn't take many more milestones after that to close this gap, though.

I've been using Mozilla regularly since approximately 0.8. For a while I actually used it on a 133mhz machine running Red Hat 6.2. That was just asking for trouble, and I got some of it in the form of long startup times and occasional crashes, but it did HTML and CSS so much better than Netscape 4 that it was worth it.

Around 1.1 time was when I finally decided to forget how to use MSIE and just use Mozilla for all my browsing except for the few intranet applications that use ActiveX controls and stuff like that.

I guess my point is, except for those early experiences I've never found myself saying "this thing is bloated! I want a smaller browser!". So I just never got the point of the Phoenix/Firebird project. But if that's the way that the Mozilla winds are blowin', I guess I'll have to go along.

Firebird just finished downloading; I guess I'll go install it.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Paul is Really Dead

"Undeniable Forensic Proof that Paul McCartney really was replaced with a Look-Alike in 1966."

I'm not sure where my wife got this link, but it sure looks like somebody went to a lot of trouble over it.

In spite my stylesheet's ugliness, I would like for it to be equally ugly on as many platforms as possible. I use the Windows "fixedsys" font. This was chosen for several reasons:
  • it is the default font used for display in the ubiquitous but primitive Notepad editor
  • it looks somewhat similar to the default front used by the DOS prompt
  • it looks pretty similar to the like the kinds of fonts used in low-res devices like 8-bit computers, TV sets, cell phones, graphing calculators, older game consoles, old computer games, etc.

Unfortunately, if you are not using Windows, you probably don't see this. Click here for a screenshot of what I want it to look like. My question to Mac and Unix users: what fonts on your systems have the above qualities? I'd like to add them to the stylesheet. I still haven't decided which of the following would be uglier:
  • Find a font that looks as much like Microsoft's "fixedsys" as possible.
  • Find fonts that have the same connotations to Mac or Unix users that fixedsys has to Windows users. Like if the Mac has an editor as hated as Notepad, what font does it use?

Correction: at least two pages. You can't Google this one either.

There seems to be at least one page in the archives that you still can't find with Google.

Yes, I know the new stylesheet is ugly.

Stylesheet Shenanigans

For a long time I wanted to keep the stylesheet of this blog at least somewhat consistent with the stylesheet of my main webpage. I have now decided to drop all pretense of this and give this blog its own style, which I will most likely screw around with on a regular basis.

Interesting.. when Blogger auto-inserts <br> elements for linebreaks, they use the XHTML syntax <br />. They don't know whether your page is HTML or XHTML, so they just assume XHTML.

The resulting HTML validates and also renders as you would expect in Mozilla, Opera, and MSIE. But it still doesn't seem right to mix up HTML and XHTML like that.

See also Sending XHTML as text/html Considered Harmful.

Is there a button I can put on this page to say "This site would be valid HTML, except for the ads which I don't control" ?

The W3C validator complains about the script elements that Blogspot inserts to make their ads work.

My neightbors still haven't put up their privacy fence.

As for the muscadines, we've also discovered that they also grow on a different side of the yard. They have been trying to grow back on the privacy-fence side, but those are doomed sooner or later.

Friday, July 11, 2003

The menu items are now in fact legal HTML lists. They don't look like lists with the styles I'm using, but they are. I found this article very helpful.

Ok, now I've done it. The archive and other links appear after the main content in the HTML source, and in non-CSS browsers. I don't know how many people are using Lynx to look at this site, but if there are they can stop wading through the mess of links to get to the goods.

Of course, now I have to make all those menu items be <li> elements or something, right? Semantic markup, you know.

Btw, I actually test this kind of stuff with Netscape 3 or Opera 7 in "user" style mode.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I've just been looking at the new Blogger's canned starter templates. They are so much cleaner, HTML and CSS wise, than the old ones that I am seriously tempted to throw away my custom template and start over.

Format changes

I've moved the archives to the main page. This is really where I always wanted them, but Blogspot didn't support it until now. (Tricks involving javascript included from the archive index to dynamically write out the links don't count.) At some point I may have to switch to monthly archives, though.

I also know that from an accessibility standpoint I really ought to put the archives and such so that they appear in the HTML source after the main posts, but I like them on the left and I'm way too lazy to mess around with CSS positioning or something to make them show up there without being physically before the posts.

Since I'm doing all these changes anyway, I went ahead and added the search form. I hope none of the other changes mess with Google's indexing of this site, or else the search will be pretty useless.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

San Francisco Bay Area Transit Info

Scientific Names--How to Say Them

Another guide to pronouncing scientific names.

Pronunciation of Biological Latin

A quick guide to the English pronunciation of Latin-derived scientific terms. This has very little to do with how these same words would have been pronounced in Classical or Church Latin.

I'd also like to find something similar for Greek. Although I guess all biological names are officially Latin, regardless of their actual language of origin.

HTML-Kit looks like it might be an acceptable replacement for 1stpage. I don't personally need it , but its good to know its out there.

Evrsoft's excellent 1stpage doesn't seem to be available anymore. All the "official" download links seem to be broken.

Too bad. It was a great little application, that I used to recommend to anybody who was trying to learn HTML. You could split the screen between code editing and preview, so you could instantly see the effects of your edits on how the page looks in a browser. Yes, lots of commercial HTML editors can do that, but this was free.

Poking around the web, it looks like you can still get it from some unofficial places:

The Craft of Text Editing by Craig A. Finseth
Ten years later, I was reading the USENET News news group Comp.editors, one of the many facets of that worldwide electronic bulletin board. A discussion thread had started up in which both sides of the discussion were citing my thesis as the authority in the field. Further inquiries (not by me: I was just reading along) showed that no one in that group was aware of any other document that described general text-editing technology.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Update on Z93: they're still playing that somewhat strange mix of "classic rock" and mainstream new wave. Unfortunately, they still play the same few songs all the time, its just that the list of overplayed songs now includes the Tubes and REM. I still listen to them, but mainly because I can usually win their contests if I actually want the prize.

When I get sick of it I can always turn to 96Rock, although they play a little bit too much 90's stuff for my usually driving-home-from-work mood.

When I was a kid, my family occasionally ate at a fast food place in Mobile called Colonel Dixie. It was sort of like a Dairy Queen, I guess. Seems like it was close to our dentist's office, and I would always end up having to eat their burgers and shakes with my mouth still partially numb. I always assumed it was part of a chain. Lately when I visted Mobile for my cousin's wedding, when I drove past there I realized that this was actually the only Colonel Dixie I had ever seen in my life. Is it a chain? Is this the only one left?

I didn't actually eat there. I had to feed myself while my wife was at a women-only party the day before the wedding, and I had to decide between Colonel Dixie and Whataburger, since neither exist in Atlanta. This time I chose Whataburger. The next time I go to Mobile it's the Colonel's turn.

Apparently there are no Whataburgers in Georgia at all, and all the ones in Alabama are in the Mobile area. Its mainly a Texas chain, I guess. I think I've seen them go there on King of the Hill.

This is the first time I've really used Blogger since they upgraded it. Yay, they finally got the little "hyperlink" button to work in Mozilla!

The problems with Google and this blog's archives seem to have resolved themselves. If it keeps working I may actually put a form to do a search on the sidebar of the blog. Or maybe not.. really c00l people prefer to do all their searches through browser tool/side bars these days.

And besides, it seems like the last few times I changed the template, the archive index got messed up, so I'm not touching it unless I absolutely have to. (I kind of suspect that a corrupted archive index might've had something to do with the aforementioned Google problems)

Saturday, July 05, 2003

We're spending this 4th of July weekend in Montgomery with Veronica's parents. Last night Veronica and I went to see A Mighty Wind at the historic Capri theater. The timing was perfect: as we were driving home, we found ourselves looking straight at a major fireworks display. We pulled over to the side of the street to watch it for a while before continuing home.

Favorite line from the movie:
Thank God for model trains. If they didn't have model trains, they would never have gotten the idea for the big trains.