outdoors Photography Weblogging

Lost in the moment

I spent several hours until the setting sun finally drove me home tonight exploring along Highway 94, Katy Trail, and points beyond and between – getting totally lost in the beauty. I have so many pictures, I’ll have to post them throughout the week. And stories of trees with eyes and swamps and bats and rolling mists coming in across green fields, with echoing sounds of bull frogs and birds. Think of the stereotype of beauty and this is that beauty.

And then there’s the biker bar, which probably accounted for the bike half buried in the mountain along the way.

I must be disciplined tomorrow and finish the test weblog install on the server (ably assisted by that wonderful Webmin software), and write “Linux for Poets: What’s in a name”. I also have some paperwork I must finish by day’s end. Once done, though, I have a story I want to write, and more on the trip today – with photos.

Today was a good day. Tomorrow will be even better.



Defining ‘bad’

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

From the same person who brought us an exclusive invitation-only weblogger’s conference comes the following:

When Blogger and MT reinvented RSS, and had the audacity to call it RSS (man that is nasty), you gotta wonder why they did it. I don’t know. The only reason that makes sense to me is that they want to keep data interchange a dark art, understood only by a few, and widely considered impossible. That’s probably not the reason. As some wise man once said, never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence. Either way, it’s bad.

In this context, what’s the bad? From what we can deduce from the chaotic ramblings it’s the fact that MT generates RSS 1.0 as the default RSS, though it provides equal support for RSS 2.0. That’s ‘bad’.

Au contraire! Yet more suppressive ownership of what should be open interoperability specifications, as well as cookie-cutter parties masquerading as conferences, sponsored by elitists for elitists, weblogged online so the rest of us hoi polloi can see what we’re missing is not ‘bad’.

What is bad is losing too many good webloggers lately. People who don’t get invited to the conferences, who quietly write on so many wonderful things, who don’t thump their own damn chest with talk of “I!”, “I!”, “I!”

People who write on Intercultural issues and writingPolitics and personal libertyPolitics, photography, and life in other countries, and Life, Love, and on occasion technology (since returned). Losing these voices, that’s what’s bad. With so much emphasis on certain types of weblogging, and certain types of webloggers, we’re making this all into the same type of homogenous boring ego massaging bullshit, as we’ve made of other community and group interactions. Bring on the tiara and the Miss Weblogger contest, the society pages, the ‘in’ list, and might as well call it ’society as usual’.

I am not a regular reader of George Partington and he is not a regular reader of me, but we share many friends in our neighborhoods. When I read in Mike Golby’s post that George is taking a break, I felt saddened – not because I read him daily, but because all I know of him is how much he’s respected, how important others view his input. And I understand, too well, what he’s saying when he writes:

I haven’t been very funny lately. Have I ever? Seems like I started out this blogging thing laughing at myself and my willingness to let a buncha stuff out online. I tried to be creative and it was fun. For a while there, it was like a great party where more and more people kept dropping in, drawn by some inexplicable energy. Not referring to my site specifically, just the whole blog ecosystem I found myself in. That would be the progressive one. The intelligent one, the humorous one, and most definitely the concerned one. I guess it was serious then too; it’s just the laughter that’s changed. The lack of it.

Lack of laughter, and can we have a life and a weblog, too? Good question. I’ll let you know the answer if I find it.

I can understand why a person quits weblogging: it takes too much time, money, personal investment; it risks much, such as relationships and jobs; it stops being fun or funny. Ultimately, unless there’s something I can do about it, it doesn’t matter why individuals quit or take breaks, perhaps never to return. It doesn’t matter if I read their weblogs or not.

When a person quits it means one less unique voice in the mix; and, dammit, that’s what’s bad.


Linux for poets

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The support staff at Rack Force was kind enough to install Webmin (an open source system management tool) for me since I couldn’t use Plesk. It’s not as commercial or smooth as Plesk, or CPanel, or Ensim, but it provides all the services I could possibly want – and more. What’s even better is there’s a companion tool I just installed called Usermin that will allow the co-op members to manage their own information, such as passwords, files, etc.

Speaking of the co-op, I have a question: If I call the co-op the Burningbird Network Co-op, does this imply ownership? Or should we call it something else? Does being affiliated with the Burningbird Network imply both an association and a state of mind on the members? For instance, does it say that all members share my liberal political view, or that only RDF/RSS is supported?

(Heh Heh Heh – only supporting RDF/RSS. Boy that has wicked appeal to me. )

Name and RSS support considerations aside, back to the co-op server and the To Do Task List:

Rack Force installed and configured Apache, xinetd, BIND, SSH2, and MySQL 3.23, and I’ve installed and configured the FTP server (ProFTPD), and upgraded to MySQL 4.0. Now I’m about to download and install PHP support, and compile PHP in as a module with Apache. I need to disable root login, for security, and after that to look at the nameserver configuration and make a decision whether to use the box as a nameserver, or to use a well known free nameserver such as The Public DNS Service, and to disable BIND on the machine.

And as I write all of this, I can see several of my readers nodding my head going, “Yup”; but I can also see several other readers scratching their heads, going “What?” One thing about the one-button publishing enabled by weblogging software is that none of it requires that you know anything about the processes that support your pages – how they work or even what they are.

Personally, I think this is a mistake. I think that not having at least a basic background and understanding allows some hosting companies (not all) to hide system problems behind esoteric terms. For instance, you can’t see your pages and ask why, and the ISP comes back with a detailed discussion of routers and network switches, but the real problem is the ISP sucks.

Then there’s the issues of webloggers being told that they must do this, or that, in order to do the ‘right’ thing. Supporting comments comes to mind as part of this issue. So does RSS. Rodent Regatta asked the following about the recent controversy of funky RSS (see Sam Ruby’s entry on same):

Take if from one who knows; inexperienced (non-coding) users don’t know that their RSS feed is funky. After reading all the comments, those same folks have no clue what to do about their RSS feeds, if anything.

Will somebody kindly step through the fog and say, “if you want your RSS feed to be right, and not funky, go do these steps…?”

The more I think about it, the less I understand why I have a little icon in my sidebar for XML and another for RDF. I probably should be able to pick one or the other, do away with the icon and simply the link to “syndicate this site.”


Excellent, excellent point – time to cut through the bull for the “inexperienced (non-coding) users”. Question for my non-tech readers: Don’t you get tired of techies telling you what you have to do to have a ‘compliant’ weblog?

I also think that not having a basic background leaves the webloggers confused as to what they need to do to move from one ISP to another, or from one weblogging software to another, and so they tend to stay with one ISP even though they get lousy service. In fact, I’ve seen this happen too frequently lately, which is one reason why I wanted to start the co-op: to give webloggers a third option between a free but burdened service such as blogspot, and a commercial service.

The Burningbird Network Co-op (for want of a better name for now) is more than just a space to plant your weblog – it’s also a way for webloggers to learn more about the medium in which they find themselves, enough to be able to control what happens to their pages and their web sites. I’ve never been one to support the concept of the ‘passive user’, and I’m not about to start now with the Co-op.

I’m not talking about people becoming network or Linux gurus – there’s a difference between knowing how to set up a Linux web server from scratch, and knowing how nameservers and DNS works, so that you know what to do to change your domain from one ISP to another. The only problem is, most writing, online and off, about many of the concepts assumes that one’s interest is the former rather than the latter.

The view seems to be that either one wants to become a guru or one wants to be kept totally isolated from any of the mechanics. I look at many of the webloggers I read, the non-Unix guru ones that is, and I don’t buy the belief that they would rather be kept in complete ignorance of the processes that controls your access to their pages, photos, and sound files. I think that many of them would rather know something about this environment, at least enough to know how it impacts on them.

For most, understanding of basic concepts is enough. This includes basic understanding of FTP, the weblogging software, how to manage their own account, and DNS issues that surround their domains. Fair enough. Others, though, might like to go a bit further. On the Co-op box, we’ll have room to run different types of software such as a wiki, or group weblogging software such as Kuroshin’s Scoop.

Once the co-op is up and running one of the first things I’m publishing on the new site is a series of writings, including applications, under the title of “RDF for Poets”. I liked the concept of writing about technology from a perspective of ‘…for poets’, not because it’s specifically geared to poets or the poetically inclined; but because the writing is geared to the intelligent non-techie.

What a unique challenge – to write about technology for the non-tech, but in such a manner as to engage their interest. You must not only write clearly and make no assumptions, but I would think that your writing would also have to have some element of wit, and panache. After all, poets are dicriminating readers – if they wanted to spend their afternoon reading a bland, dry how-to they could dig up their TV VCR manual.

I thought that something like a Linux for Poets would also be a fun challenge to write. An attempt to answer the question, “Can one write about Linux is such a way that the writing is entertaining as well as informational?” In most of my previous technology writing, there is an assumption that the person reading it is a technologist – I’ve never tried to write about technology, seriously, for the non-technologist. Especially the type of non-technologist who lives in my neighborhood, who happens to be intelligent, artistic, well informed, curious, have limited time, and who doesn’t suffer pedantic nonsense quietly.


As I work through the co-op server technology issues, I’ll try and write about them under the premise of “Linux for Poets”, and we’ll see how I do. We could have fun. Or not. However, at least it’s something different from yet another round of “Why we weblog”.