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From the wayback

Last weekend’s WordPress exploit drama prompted me to upgrade my textpattern installation on a couple of sites, a process which consists in its entirety of:

ssh -l ME MYSERVER
wget http://textpattern.com/file_download/56/textpattern-4.2.0.tar.gz
tar -zxvf textpattern-4.2.0.tar.gz
cp -r textpattern-4.2.0/index.php ~/webhome
[... repeat above for two other files and one directory ...]

But that’s not why I’m writing now. While the upgrade process is quick and easy, I do always like to doublecheck around the site and make sure that everything still works as intended. I have quite a few years of hackery under the hood here, after all, so I check in on the archives and the comments and assorted other bits. Since the site is so low-maintenance and I rarely get under the hood anymore, it also gives me a chance to remind myself just how Textpattern’s mix of section, page and form designs actually work.

Today I found myself wishing that I had done a better job of archiving all the various permutations this site has undergone over time. I’ve been doing various kinds of work with the web since 1994 but haven’t been very good at keeping records of the different kind of sites I built and helped build. Somewhere there’s a stack of CDs and 3.5-inch floppy disks with copies of all those sites I worked on in college, but I don’t own a floppy drive anymore and who knows if those old CDs are even readable? [1]

So I went for a drive through archive.org and oh man the memories. I dug up a trove of old material from college and I’ll foist those on my tired reader another time. Today it’s a part 1 of “why am I reading this guy’s web site again?” or schussman.com through the years (an entirely personal diversion that’s really for my benefit only and undoubtedly pays no attention to the things you’re actually interested in).

Pre-history

I registered schussman.com (godaddy; I know, I know) in the fall of 2001, but due to a squirrely web host disappearing entirely one night, I don’t have any records of the first site I built except for a few miscellaneous graphics floating around. It was wicked cool (I maintain), though, using a simple perl-based templating system to display the most recent of a set of dated text files within a design and with navigation and index to the other files. I had previously set up a similar system on my college account and on another ISP’s hosting. This was back when you had to roll your own blog, but it wasn’t long before I stumbled across Movable Type and relaunched the site.

And then that web host vanished.

I found a new host right about the time we moved across Tucson and started to settle into our first experience as homeowners. That gave me plenty of blog fodder, as did year two to three of graduate school where I was taking prelim exams and doing a lot of writing. I even have the vintage linux+Windowmaker screenshot showing my bibTeX library (working in sixpack reference manager).

A year later I had redesigned, and a year after that I had made the switch to Textpattern — then only days into public gamma testing. That, of course, necessitated another redesign (as well as a couple of days’ database tinkering to figure out just how to move all my MovableType entries into Textpattern).

The following year (spring 2004 to 2005) was busy and eventful, culminating in trying to sell the house, and then succeeding, househunting in Flag, and finally moving to the mountain. Of course, the new view inspired one more blog redesign, which, aside from some under-the-hood changes, has persisted ever since. Along the way that same year I ended up buying into the TextDrive VC II (all kinds of backend server changes accompanied that transition and subsequent TextDrive-no-Joyent activities — money very well spent), got my first Mac, and went for a lot of bike rides in the woods.

And since that last redesign? Well, I’ve written some, but blogging in general has slowed down. Though I’ve had a pretty good streak of Lightroom- and photo-related blogging, I’ve shifted most of my online production to the casual confines of twitter, posterous, and, yes, the Facebooks.

That probably means it’s time for a blog redesign.

1 Turns out at least one of them is. The other? Well, did you know that restarting a Mac while holding down the mouse button will eject a stuck CD?

Getting Things Done: Task Writer

I got a nice email this morning from Katy at Task Writer, asking me to take a look at their web app for getting things done.

It’s been a while since I considered myself an active devotee of the GTD methodology, so I’m a bit out of touch with the state of the art, but Task Writer looks to me like an app that is both a) pretty highly usable, and b) built with GTD in mind — that is, it’s not like a broader list-making web app like Remember the Milk or gubb, or an all-purpose tool like stikkit (rest in peace) that can be turned into a list-making app that can do GTD; rather, all the organizational elements of GTD are built right in.

Actions are organized by lists (inbox, waiting, someday, etc) and @contexts (@car, @computer, @email …) and can be further associated with specific projects and given due dates. A set of checkboxes along the left-hand panel of the app turns on filters that display only the selected tasks.

Task Writer tinkering

Adding tasks is really straightforward (I’d like to see the option to not put new tasks into a project – after all, that’s what the #inbox is usually for), and projects are easy to add/edit. There are a few interface quirks — Safari-specific, perhaps? Text doesn’t always seem to wrap neatly in column headers, for example, and the overall interface is a little wide on my screen.

For the most part, Task Writer seems to achieve a couple of things that are noteworthy: It’s specifically built for GTD, so there’s no obstacle to experienced users jumping in and immediately using it. But it’s also approachable enough, and starts with enough pre-built structure (a few lists, contexts, and projects) that one could use it without being a full-bore Next Action Acolyte.

I can see Task Writer really taking off. There’s nice room for some improvement, too: More keyboard shortcuts, a review mode (“what did I get done this week? last week?“), and being able to email/twitter tasks straight into it are features that could really give it a big boost.

If you’re looking for a new Getting Things Done-focused app or in the market for a capable list-making tool, I’d give Task Writer a good look.

mycrocosm beats me out of the gate

A little while back I had a fun idea: I bet I could use twitter to collect and store little, ad-hoc data statements; with a simple parser, those statements could be used to make data. A little ad-hoc database right inside twitter! I even got myself a domain name where I could tinker with it.

Well, mycrocosm beat me to it. It’s cool. It makes graphs. Rad. Exhibit A, on my time spent engaged with the Olympics:

10000

Also. Tinkering with mycrocosm, I found Google Charts. Holy smokes!

Update

And today I see daytum, another service of the same sort. It’s invitation-only, dammit. But it looks cool.

Dear Pine Forge Press

I appreciate your enthusaism for innovative internet functionality, but I must point out that IE 5.5 was released in the year 2000. I am reasonably confident that whatever it is your website does, Camino can handle it.

Web 2.Oh-my-god

Subtitled: When splash pages go awry. In 1998.

Wonkery

After a false start last week, all of us at Piazza della Schussman are just about ready to move to our new hosting digs. The steam pipes may be particularly thumpy for the next couple of days as DNS changes make their way about, and parts of the site that don’t use relative URLs (some graphics, for example) won’t show up. Things should be back to more or less normal soon.

Update: It looks like things went pretty smoothly. Neat.

Freshman

This is quite a bit more disorienting than I expected: Yahoo circa 1995. Suddenly I’m nineteen years old again, in the consultant office of the Olin Hall computer lab, using Netscape 1.0, and I have a ponytail.

(Link via Jonas Luster)


About, the short version

I’m a sociologist-errant. This site is powered by Textpattern, Pair Networks and the sociological imagination. For more about me and this site, see the long version.

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