96Methods.com

•February 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ok, I finally have my own site being hosted. It’s mainly a blog but may have some examples of the things I’ve been working on in the not-too-distant future.

It’s not perfect, but it’s mine. The posts on this blog will, therefore, now come to an end, unless I manage to screw-up the new site.

The new site can be found at: 96methods.com. Please come and take a look.

Small Worlds

•November 20, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I apologise for the rambling nature of this post. I began writing it some weeks ago and felt that I should just get it posted as otherwise it would just sit for several more weeks. So, Small Worlds…..

Or more to the point, Virtual Worlds. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, Google’s Lively (although not for much longer), There, etc. I perhaps somewhat naively think that these things are going to be the next big thing on the web, or if not the next big thing then the next big thing after that. I think that the potential for creativity, remote working, entertainment, work, distance learning, collaboration and communication is huge.

I am however a little concerned that the sheer number of virtual world providers with their closed standards (or lack of standards) could mean that we won’t be able to settle on a specific platform and that we’ll end up with a number of non-integrating virtual worlds.

There are a large number of, for want of a better expression, virtual world sites out there at the moment and they all seem to have boundaries to creativity. Take Second Life as a first example. It would be great if 3D models produced using a 3D modelling package (Blender, 3D Studio Max, etc.) could be imported into Second Life but I don’t believe that this is currently possible. Instead the in-world tools must be used. Some of the newer virtual worlds are in beta phase still and there’s no way for your average user to create content, they must rely upon existing models. This applies to Google’s Lively and Small Worlds.

On the subject of Small Worlds this world seems to be more of a game (and a world full of games) in itself rather than a place where business may be conducted. Small Worlds is in Beta and, currently, there’s no way of obtaining currency with which to purchase things unless you perform various tasks. For example, you have a small amount of currency, or credits, when you first enter the world and receive further credits when you complete a task or mission. These missions cover some of the basic tasks that you may want to perform such as visiting a shop to buy a sofa for your room or making a simplistic drawing on a whiteboard. The missions are good in that they offer a number of things to do for the newbie and essentially provide training in a fun way so that the new user can get to know how to achieve things in the virtual world. However I feel like it’s akin to jumping through hoops to receive a reward.

I’ve recently gained an invite to the Metaplace world beta but I’ve not had much chance to take a really good look at it yet. My initial impressions are that it’s a bit like Small Worlds, has the same isometric 3D viewing system, but the existing objects seem to have very little interactions available. I’ve spent a very short time playing with There and perhaps should go back and take a further look.

One rather exciting possibility is Sun’s Wonderland project. I became aware of Wonderland because some of the folks at work are beginning to experiment with it. As far as I’m aware hosting of the world would have to be arranged but the potential seems big as the project is open source, content can be created and the behaviours behind objects can be extended or even completely written as far as I can deduce. The server and client are both written in Java and it even supports voice communication.

What I want is something like Second Life where it’s possible to buy some land and start making things, such as buildings and the interiors of those buildings, but with the ability to produce the models of these objects outside of the virtual world and to then import into the world. If anyone knows of such a place please let me know. I may return to Second Life one of these days and look into getting a piece of land for myself. Why do I want this? Well to keep my options open and to explore what might be the future of the web.

A possible future post: Are the Virtual Worlds one way of getting off the current consumer bandwagon? Shifting consumer greed (my own included) from desiring real world (energy greedy and resource greedy) possessions to virtual world possessions?

Drupal versus ?

•August 31, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’ve wanted to get this little blog of mine hosted without having to rely upon the somewhat limiting wordpress.com domain name. I don’t think that I can change the style of this site unless I have it hosted with a host of my choice. I could use Rails to support the backend of the site but this seems like total overkill and someone at my place of work suggested that take a look at the Drupal CMS. I installed Drupal on my PC but I’ve not really had time to play with it during the past few weeks. It seems incredibly powerful but it also looks like there is a very big learning curve and frankly I can do without that right now.

I was just flicking through an old issue of .net magazine (known as Practical Web Design outside of the UK) and found an article on building WordPress themes. It seems the obvious solution. I guess that I saw WordPress simply as a blogging tool, but hey, what is my site going to be? Well a blog and somewhere to experiment a little so WordPress should be fine for now.

Sorry Drupal, you seem like an excellent CMS but I just don’t have the time to figure out how to tame you.

Ubuntu goes Desktop

•July 31, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Well I’ve now got around to getting myself a new hard drive for my desktop PC and I’ve installed Ubuntu 8.04 on it. Actually managed to get my Netgear wireless device working and, therefore, my wireless connection working fairly quickly (thanks to the Ubuntu forum). I’ve also got Aptana Studio working, Rails working, I’ve even got Subversion config. control working and my Rails project checked in. Wow!

I bookmarked some of the Ubuntu forum pages that helped me configure my system for wireless net access but looking at them now I can’t remember which ones I used. So much for documenting my ‘process’!

Ubuntu

•May 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I initially installed Ubuntu on my laptop some months ago, maybe even as long ago as a year or more. I didn’t use it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to use it, on the contrary; I wanted to break the grip that MS Windows had on me. I wanted to try out an operating system that wouldn’t, I hoped, have my PC whirring away for the first 5 or 10 minutes following boot-up, 5 or 10 minutes where I could do nothing but sit and wait. Now I have to admit that this problem only occurred on my laptop which only has something like 512Mb of memory and I blame some of the problems on my Zone Alarm anti-virus/firewall software. But I hoped for a better world, free of Windows.

So back to the reason for not using Ubuntu initially. Well both of my PCs connect to the internet via a wireless connection, even my desktop PC. The problem with Ubuntu was that it didn’t want to talk to my wireless router. If I connected my computer to the router using an ethernet cable all was fine and I could access the internet but not so via a wireless connection. I gave up on it. I just couldn’t be bothered trying to get it to work. Didn’t have time, couldn’t find the patience and so that was that. Until recently.

I’ve just spent a bank holiday weekend getting the wireless connection working (well just a few hours last Friday evening) and getting Ruby on Rails up and running. As I write this entry I’ve managed to port my current rails project from Windows to Ubuntu and it all seems to work!! Yay!

My problem now is can I repeat what I’ve just done? Can I install Ubuntu on my desktop PC and repeat my success that I had with my laptop? All I can say is that it wasn’t easy. A lot of time was spent searching with Google to find out how to install software, how to configure things and what Linux commands were available to copy files, navigate directories, etc. Foolishly, I didn’t make any notes as I went along, so all I’ve got to go on is a small number of bookmarked web pages and my instinct. I might purchase a second hard-drive for my desktop PC and get Ubuntu installed on that. I will attempt to make notes along the way next time and perhaps those notes will find their way onto this blog.

I bet that you can’t wait, dear reader!!

boagworld

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

What the blazes has happened to the BoagWorld site? There’s now some kind of landing page with just a notice about the return of the podcast on 7th May and a link to a Wikipedia entry. I’ve not visited the site for a week or two so I don’t know if there was any notice, although Paul Boag did, I think, say that the BoagWorld site was going to be re-branded as well as their Headscape site.

Oh well, I guess we’ll have to see what develops…

If you’ve not visited the BoagWorld site I highly recommend it, and their podcast is one of the best, if not the best, on web design / development.

*edit* They’re back and looking good!

To Do

•April 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I followed one of my RSS feeds yesterday to the TechCrunch site where there was an article that speculated as to whether or not Google are working on a To Do List app. From this article I then visited one or two more articles from TechCrunch about To Do List products. From reading the articles it becomes immediately obvious that there are an awful lot of these types of site out there. I’ve not tried out very many of these sites but they all seem to allow the user to create a to do list, tick stuff off your list, add more items, etc. Some allow only one list to be created, some allow more than one, some have an Ajax-style front end so that you can perform actions such as drag-and-drop but there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of difference between a lot of them.

For some time now I’ve wanted to create my own To Do List site. Well not just a plain to do list site, something a little more specific than that maybe. After I’d read those TechCrunch articles yesterday I began to wonder why I should bother though. What would my little site add, if anything, to the growing number of similar sites? Surely it would just get lost in all of the noise? Well that may be true, perhaps there really is no point in adding another To Do site. After mulling this over for a while I came to the conclusion that I should continue to produce my own site and I came to this conclusion for a couple of reasons.

I’m trying to learn Ruby on Rails and want to produce some form of web site fairly soon. Even if I’m just adding another To Do-type app. to the masses that already exist I will be learning from the experience. That’s the first good thing that would come from it. Secondly, my original concept for my site wasn’t just to produce a web-based To Do list application. As I had the idea several years ago I can’t quite remember my very first idea but I think that the To Do scenario was something I thought of adding to the site to make it a little more acceptable to people who might use it in the office, allowing them to plan their tasks and plan their day. So my idea isn’t just to create a To Do list site but it would allow the user to make lists of actions and enable them to group actions into projects. For some reason something is stopping me from actually writing about the exact nature of my planned site, almost as if I think that someone is going to steal my idea and make lots of money from it which, quite honestly, is never going to happen. If I told you right now what this idea was you’d probably think, “Oh, is that it!?”, or, “So it’s basically just a to do list with a bit of pointless extra stuff?”. Indeed you may have a point but I’m going to continue regardless anyway!

I could now spend ages coming up with a design for the site and researching into various topics (such as GTD) but I feel that it’s time for me to simply sit down and get something produced. Currently I think that I shall get a simple site produced and get it hosted so that it’s out there. Then I’ll add some more functionality to it. But right now the key is to stop procrastinating and get something developed.

 
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