May 2009 Archives

Back when I investigated how to create a webpage template, a couple weeks ago, I really had in mind the notion of using a template as the basis for a new Rad guide .. not one on Dreamweaver Templates however, but rather one for » Drive Imaging & Disk Cloning. Today I created that template, and began a new Rad guide.

Hard disk drive internals Definitely takes longer to get up-n-running when using a template, cuz you first must determine exactly how the guide will be structured .. and what items to include in the template, and what parts need to be editable.

Can't just start cranking out pages of text and entertaining new ideas (.. like I used to) .. leaving the details of page structure to deal with later.

Templates force you to pre-think everything up front, before you begin generating content-one. They even force you to anticipate changes .. which is new for me .. especially since I've grown accustomed to the ready-fire-aim approach, which leaves the details of page structure for later .. but by then it's difficult to make changes .. cuz each page must be edited individually (.. hence the need for templates).

I was so eager to get started on the guide that I actually had to start over (several times) .. due to major template modifications. (Arrgh!) Kept getting new ideas .. things I wanted to add/tweak.

You can always modify a template, as that's what they are designed for. But when a template requires many edits, it seems easier to just start over and create a new one. (Something I'm getting good at .. from all the practice.)

Cool dream last night. Ultra-realistic & vivid. » In a cozy cabin set up in the mountains, I'm cooking a batch of my world-famous puttanesca .. when shortly before sunset I hear this heavenly singing. So I set down my big wooden spoon and go investigate.

PavarottiOpening the front door, I see (with snow-capped mountains framing the distant backdrop) Pavarotti and another fellow walking up the dirt path. [ No, I don't own any Pavarotti CDs. ]

They're singing (with great passion) the most beautiful songs I've ever heard (Italian opera). Indescribably gorgeous. (Think » sex for your ears.)

Pavarotti has a huge smile on his face. Beaming. He seems like the happiest man in the world. Both men are wearing hiking clothes.

With hand outstretched, Pavarotti calls out, "My friend, forgive the intrusion, but we've been following this wonderful aroma for many kilometers."

I tell him what I'm fixing and Pavarotti responds with a proposition, "If you will kindly fix us each a small plate, we will sing for you *two* songs while you cook, another two while we eat, and two more after dinner." (each time emphasizing the word » two)

While I ponder his offer, Pavarotti saunters up and says in my ear (quite matter-of-factly), "Many think I'm the greatest singer ever, but actually my cousin here is much better. He just couldn't tolerate the music industry and its shenanigans."

Other than how beautiful the singing sounds, the most poignant part of my dream is how happy Pavarotti seems. Downright radiant, he never stops smiling.

Of course, I invite them in. While Pavarotti warms himself by the fire, I ask his cousin, "Is he always this happy?" "Yes," he answers, "I think there's something wrong with him." (which makes me smile)

It occurred to me again today, while composing a short thank-you note, that Texans donate more to the Rad cause (this site) than all other states combined.

TexasNever been ever to figure out this statistical curio, seeing I live in California.

I've lived in many states over the years .. including Connecticut (where I grew up), Florida, (where I attended both bootcamp & the Navy's Nuclear Power school), Maine (shipyard at Bath Iron Works), Hawaii (the first state away from home to feel like home), Idaho (gorgeous .. in the summer), Washington, Pennsylvania & Illinois, and vacationed in many others, but Texas isn't one of them ..

.. tho I do recall being enchanted with the sense of expanse there as I drove thru the panhandle on I-40 (on my way to California). There was something compelling about the landscape .. readily apparent soon as we crossed the border. Vast & open. Felt like I could see for a hundred miles. Couldn't stop looking, as if it were beckoning.

So maybe Texans are simply the most generous?

Anyway, thanks to all you Texans for your continued generosity over the years .. especially during these difficult economic times, when so many are struggling financially. I'm sincerely grateful.

While surfing the web recently, I've noticed more website authors including a photograph of themselves on their home page (.. places such as here & here) .. aka 'mugshots'.

Mug ShotI forget when I added it, but my mugshot has been posted there for quite some time. It was taken at night (at the Noguchi sculpture garden in Costa Mesa after a yummy Italian dinner), and the flash illuminated only my image (nothing behind). So the background is dark .. which works nicely with the page design (dark background).

I even sampled the exact shade of black contained in the photo's background, so I could blend the photo perfectly into its surrounding box.

Personally, I like to see a photo of the authors whose sites I visit and whose articles I read. It's been said » the eyes are the windows of the soul. In other words, you can get a good idea of a person from a photo.

It actually took more courage than you might think to post that pic there .. so prominently .. for all the world to see .. the online version of stagefright. (Tho I wouldn't be surprised if some printed it out, blew it up, and used it as a dartboard .. or for other things.)

If you view this home page in Firefox (or a browser other than IE or Opera), you'll notice I added some rounded corners.

The rounded corners of this box use graphics to achieve its effect (1 in each corner). Not as cool as pure-CSS. But that's why you can see these rounded corners in IE & all browsers. This box will expand and shrink (down-n-up) as necessary to accommodate text inside, as its width is fixed (to 205 pixels).

Been reluctant to spend much time focusing on site styling, preferring rather to concentrate on generating » content.

In the world of cars, for example, I've always preferred the spartan cockpit of a Porsche to the bells & whistles you find sitting in a corvette. Tho admittedly, that's just my druthers.

My point » function should never take a back seat to form.

I've considered adding rounded corners many times before. Countless techniques exist. But they always seemed a kludge. (Andy agrees.) So I never felt it worth adding the extra markup necessary.

Techniques that use graphics to achieve their effect involve inserting additional HTML elements that are otherwise unnecessary, because current CSS standards (v2.1) allow only 1 background image per element (while each box has 4 corners). Future versions of CSS (v3.0) will support 8 images per element (for this very reason).

This approach has 2 main problems. First, adding (otherwise) unnecessary markup goes against all that is holy to the Web Standards movement, which touts the tenent of 'Semantic Markup' as one of its pillars.

If I knew then what I know now. Ever uttered those words? Looking back on my progression of web skills, one omission stands out » incorporating the use of templates to help develop & maintain the pages of my web site.

Templates are both powerful & flexible for two reasons:

  1. They speed up site development, by allowing the rapid creation of web pages based on a preformed (uniform) structure .. so all your pages have the same look & feel.

  2. They facilitate site maintenance, by enabling structural changes site-wide via the editing of a single-file .. similar to how CSS works. This aspect of templates is considerably more significant than item #1.

Dreamweaver TemplatesIf your web site grows bigger than expected (as they usually do), and you want to make structural changes (non CSS-based changes) to your web pages, you'll have to edit each page individually (.. which suks giant goose eggs). Tedious maximus.

When CSS came along, website designers could transfer all style controls into a single file, so that the look of an entire site could be modified by editing a single file (provided, of course, the entire site was based off of the same style sheet). Very cool development.

But what about structural changes? That's where templates come in. To be honest, I'm not sure if web design programs (such as Dreamweaver and Expression) had the ability to generate templates back when I launched the site. But they do now.

From the Inbox

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Received lots of mail regarding yesterday's post, which helped, cuz I was in a pretty bad place .. being wide-awake most of the night .. walking around out in the yard .. looking up at the stars .. as if for answers .. or strength. The cool, night air felt good .. the quiet, soothing.

MailboxMany shared incredible stories, which make my own experiences seem trivial.

Here's one I found particularly insightful & honest .. from Bonnie, who lives up in the Bay area. Used with permission:

Dear Rad,
I have been reading your blog occasionally for eons, usually when I am in some kind of geeky trouble. You write well and thoughtfully. For that I am grateful.

And so today I sought what you have to say about monitors. While not looking very hard and not finding that, I did see your touching lament about your boy's tears.

With too much experience as a single parent, I can say this is painful but will pass. Before long, your son will be craving time with you and won't be able to get enough.

Children always crave the parent who is not present, and the hardest thing is when a grownup burdens the child with an emotional barrier to the other parent. That he is worrying about losing you both suggests too much worry for such a little fella.

"I want my mommy."

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The Bug woke last night, crying, "I want my mommy". Very unusual. That's only happened a handful of times in the last 4 years .. usually when he was nursing or sick. But he's no longer nursing and doesn't seem sick.

Jungle BookI tried for 10 or 15 minutes to see if there was something I could do. But it was clear he really wanted his mom.

I tried calling several times, but there was no answer. So I drove him there and knocked on her bedroom window (midnight).

The thing is .. I see him so little as it is, and really look forward to our time together. Plus I have been criticized (in court) for bringing him back before.

But I don't really care what lawyers think (or say). And it's not about me, anyway. So when I could see he really wanted his mom, there was no question about what to do.

But now .. I am feeling very weird. A slew of confusing feeling are running around inside. Did I pay enough attention to him? Shower him with enough love? The thing is, you can *always* pay more attention to your kids, and you can always show them more love.

Frontline is airing a special tomorrow (9PM, May 12th) titled » The Madoff Affair. Should be an eye-opener.

A statement Madoff made in court following his arrest caught my attention cuz it reflected my impressions of the Wall Street culture .. (after I watched » Inside the Meltdown) .. that it seems like everything on Wall Street is about turning a profit .. at any cost .. regardless of the suffering & misery their actions might bring to countless Americans. And that enough is never enough.

Bernie MadoffHow can $50 billion not be enough? That's billion with a 'B' .. as in » $50,000,000,000.00 .. enough to turn 50,000 paupers into millionaires .. 25,000 hobos into multi-millionaires. Feed the hungry (steak & lobster for a lifetime).

Madoff's comments confirmed my impressions .. (nearly word-for-word) .. tho this mindset is difficult to understand, cuz life is short and (very obviously) no one gets out of here alive.

And I dare say he's not the only one. Madoff is merely the poster boy for Wall Street greed.

What kind of dysfunction drives such a culture? Hard to believe that greed alone is responsible .. and there are not more serious psychological defects at play.

Had a weird problem with my network earlier this week .. where I could not access my site .. which (as you might imagine) suks pretty bad. No problems accessing any other sites. Seemed as tho I was being blocked to my site and my site only.

Access DeniedFirst I called my web host. Can't access my site, I said. No web pages, no email, no FTP, SSH. Nothing. Have no problems accessing any other sites. So it must be a problem with the server.

Hmmm, the tech mutters, I was just checking out your site earlier this morning .. a few hours ago. Lemme try to pull it up.

Your site is loading fine for me, he says.

You must be loading from the browser cache, I argue.

He proceeds to perform his Linux-guru mojo and says, No, your site is fine. These are pages I didn't load this morning.

You sure? I ask.

He then has me check my IP addy and verifies I'm not being blocked .. then suggests I unplug my router (for 30 secs) to reset it before plugging it back in. This trick works! I can again connect to the site. Until...

After years of searching, I finally found a new template for the Rad Community forums. Named midnyte, it's (as you might expect) » dark.

YaBB = Yet another Bulletin BoardA template consists of set of files that style a bulletin board (aka 'online forum'). All templates include (among other things) a CSS file & an accompanying set of graphics.

Our old template was based on a much older version of YaBB (our forum software) .. so old, in fact, that I don't even recall which version it was based on.

I liked the way the old template looked, but it kept getting increasingly outdated with each additional update to our forum script .. thereby introducing an increasing number of compatibilty problems (which made me jump thru increasingly difficult hoops).

Actually, it was problems encountered following last week's upgrade that sent me scurrying to find a contemporary template (one based on YaBB 2.4).

Strange Looks

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Ever noticed, while going about your day (minding your own business), that people seem to be staring at you? Your eyes meet by chance and they quickly look away.

Rad-ensteinOnce or twice, it's no big deal. But when it happens lots of times, it starts to make you wonder .. "Why are people looking at me?"

Been noticing this .. the last few days. First few times, I wrote if off as mere coincidence. Chance glance. But today (especially) I started becoming self-conscious and wondering .. "Do I look strange?"

I admit I've been dealing with some gnarly stuff lately. (Was in court again last week .. the place where dads get slayed.) These things can take a toll. So I've been feeling rather .. 'rugged' lately.

Then (paying more attention) I noticed most of these 'looks' coming from .. ladies. Hmmm. Maybe spring is in the air and all that. But their looks tend to seem more like what you'd expect at a freakshow (a few mouths agape) .. than someone responding to birds or bees.

Upgraded the Rad Community forums .. to » YaBB v2.4 (released a few weeks ago). The boys at YaBB have adopted a new, fast-n-furious (3-month) release cycle, which keeps me hopping.

YaBB = Yet another Bulletin BoardThe 'upgrade' process begins with a new/fresh/clean install of the new version .. to a new/unique directory.

I then configure the new version to make it look like the version currently in-use.

After everything looks hunky dory, and appears to be working correctly, I place both (old & new) forums in Maintenance mode and copy all the member-accounts and posts (» folders labeled /Members and /Messages) .. from old to new directories.

That's always the trickiest part, cuz there are so many files to copy (more than 15,000). Our old Shared hosting server choked on this file-transfer. The forums contain ~5K threads with 40K posts (which I'd hate to lose).

Our new VPS however, seems to be handling the load much better. And I can now work from the (powerful) Linux shell (command line).

With world-economies teetering somewhere between a nasty recession and full-on depression, more folks are turning to open source (free) software to meet their home computing needs.

If you've been Radified any length of time, you know that cloning programs are our specialty, especially when used as a tool to backup your system partition (where Windows resides) by creating an image file.

ClonezillaSo the question naturally becomes » What's the best free cloning program?

I've tried many options, such as Macrium and O&O DiskImage Express, but never quite found what I was looking for .. until today, that is.

Perhaps I should interject by saying that, regarding the NOT-free solutions, I've found that Ghost, along with Image-for-Windows to be the best for-co$t disk-cloning tools. (By 'best' I mean » most reliable.) Ghost is also way faster than any other cloning product I've demo'ed .. if speed is important to you.

Lots of people also like True Image, but I had problems with it. (Errors I couldn't resolve.)

But what if you can't afford those apps? Then what? We still need an industrial-strength (nuclear-grade) backup tool. Enter Clonezilla. (Standing ovation.)

First, I'm not crazy about the name .. nor the website's design, especially the tiny menu on the left-side that I can barely read. (Update - looks like they fixed the tiny-menu problem after I posted this.)

Heck, I don't even like their logo (white Linux penguin inside orange penguin). But I *am* impressed with the tool itself .. now that I've had a chance to try it.

Yes, it's significantly more complicated to use than either Ghost or Image-for-Windows, but I don't feel this complexity is a barrier to those with a moderate degree of computer sophistication. (Such as the folks who frequent Radified.)

Note that .. a cloning program can (if used inadvertantly) trash your entire system and wipe out every every file on your hard drive .. with a single click. So you can't experiment like you can with other programs (.. such Photoshop Elements or Sound Forge, for example). In other words, you need to know wtf you're doing.

Perhaps I should begin by defining some terms.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2009 is the previous archive.

June 2009 is the next archive.

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