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Saturday September 20 2003

Software anticipation

It's all go at the moment regarding various bits of software I rely upon. MyIE2, the browser shell for the IE engine, has a new release out - and so far it seems a considerable improvement in terms of stability. I was having a few problems with it before, now I'm not.

Open Office (get it if you need an office suite!) is approaching a final 1.1 version apace, so watch the site. Likewise Mozilla Firebird, approaching a keenly-awaited 0.8 release. And Fahim is back in the saddle offering a version 8.0 of Blog ere long, with a much better editing component which I'll be very pleased to see. It's what I use to create this blog.

Watch the sites, the goodies are coming. And it's all free.

Posted at 7:38 pm by Jim Woods


Here's rather an interesting project. Contiki is an operating system for a whole range of 8-bit devices - which means, among other things, that you can install it on your old Commodore 64. I don't know what possessed me to get rid of my old Commie, actually, since it was a great little games machine and was totally silent in operation. Had I known that something like Contiki, which will do networking including internet and all sorts of other things, would come along I'd have kept it. If you've got an old 8-bit personal computer check out Contiki, as it's a fair bet there's a port for you.

Now, back to trying to find a use for my old Apple Mac 7500/100. If I had a bigger SCSI drive for it that would be a start...

Posted at 7:27 pm by Jim Woods

Friday September 19 2003

A trip down memory lane

Thinking back to when I first started using the internet at college in the mid-to-late eighties, well before Tim Berners-Lee (respect) gave us the WWW, I remembered Gopher. This little program (and the servers associated with it - it's a protocol rather than a specific piece of software) was the first non-arcane point-and-click method of looking up information on the internet that I'd ever encountered. Hmmm. I think I'm going to stop trying to explain it and cut to the chase.

If you want to play with Gopher - which is not quite extinct yet despite what the net might have you believe - get the client software and enter sdf.lonestar.org as your home gopher in the preferences. And then you can get a flavour of what it used to be like before we had the web. And also find some historically fascinating data, for that matter!

Posted at 2:59 pm by Jim Woods

Thursday September 18 2003

Forgot to mention...

...that one of the things that makes mIRC so useable is that it comes with an enormous list of chat servers. So you don't have to spend ages looking around the web to find addresses for 'em. Rock and roll.

Posted at 8:15 pm by Jim Woods


Should you wish to immerse yourself in the endless time-sink that is IRC - and if you don't know what it is you probably don't - then you need the softies with which to do so. You all know by now that I like free software, and in fact pretty much use it exclusively. Well, I'm going to recommend a package now which will cost you $20; a bit under 13 English quid. And the reason I'm going to recommend it is because it towers over the alternatives, which seems as good a reason as any to get yer wallet out. The program is called mIRC, and you can download it here.

It's not that there aren't free alternatives, but rather that all the freebies I've tried have been unstable, messy or just plain nowhere near as good as mIRC, which lets you do all sorts of things that you rather thought an IRC package should but most don't. It's complex, but it's nice and it's led the field for so long that it's become THE IRC package for Windows.

There is an exception to my comments about the opposition, Xircon. Xircon is free for sure, and although it's really, really simple it can be extended by using scripts, many of which are also freely available. If you're a TCL wizard, this may be the one for you. The only catch is that there has been no development on it since 1997, and nor will there be. So it's a fairly retro experience. Having said that, I've used it a fair bit over the years and it's never given me any grief - so rest assured that you can try it without fear of complications. Your call. I reckon mIRC is worth the quids, personally.

Posted at 4:49 am by Jim Woods

Back to the days of the BBS

I remember well this sort of thing. Before internet access from home was economically viable - or even feasible - those of us who were into computers and communications were running up ridiculous phone bills calling text-mode bulletin board systems (BBSs). I was even involved in co-running one at one point. The cost was stupendous! A 14400 modem was well over a hundred quid, for example. In those days a hundred quid was loads of money. My fledgling efforts in home computing involved a sort of rat's nest of a couple of Atari STs, an old Commodore 64 and a (hushed tone of awe) IBM PC XT. The PC was an 8088-powered thing with an amber screen for text only, a 20 meg hard drive, no mouse - no nothing. Cost me a fortune - secondhand, too. There was a small colour TV, a 2400 baud Amstrad modem, and a load of random crap like matrix printers. All of this was hooked up with a tangle of wires. No networking as such, just a cunning home-made system allowing various things to be hooked to various other things depending on what I was doing at the time. The Ataris had a nice GUI, the PC could run loads of neat software. The C64 had nice games. The Apple II was American, and no-one here in the UK could afford one. No-one I knew, anyway.

How we jealously hoarded text files to exchange on BBSs. You had to upload as well as download to keep on the right side of the sysops, so any file you had was an asset. But we had fun...

This site is a great repository of the sort of material that was doing the rounds, and gives more recent converts to the joys of being online a taste of what things were like 20 years ago.

Now, where's my C64 these days?

Posted at 12:48 am by Jim Woods

Wednesday September 17 2003

Got Windows?

Then you have a few neat little bits of software you may not know about, among them some internet tools.

Run a DOS prompt and type "ftp", and you'll find an oldskool text mode ftp package is there. Experience the net the way we old people did at the start. Not pretty, steep learning curve, but FAST. Try also "ping" and "telnet". In ftp and telnet entering "?" at the prompt will give a list of fairly self-explanatory commands, as will running ping without parameters. I'm rather into these stripped-down command line programs. The rapidity with which they get things done is refreshing, plus there's the mild buzz of doing things "properly". One can write scripts for these utilities too, to automate routine tasks. Excellent fun. Bin the mouse...

Posted at 2:32 am by Jim Woods


Well, if you can consider changing the background colour of my pages to a uniform and fetching shade of blue a restyle, then restyle has been visited upon them. Actually, I like the new simpler layout. And pages should all now look pretty much the same, although in some cases I've centered content where it looks better.

Anyway, enjoy. As always no adverts, no popups, no lame Photoshopped images and so on and so forth.

Posted at 2:16 am by Jim Woods

Tuesday September 16 2003

Do your head in
Go on...
Posted at 6:57 pm by Jim Woods

Heaves sigh of relief

Now the site looks good in both IE and Mozilla-based browsers. Not optimal, but the best compromise I can reach.

In my travels, trying to work out why my inchoate (yes!) HTML was playing up, I found a great tutorial which makes even fairly complex coding straightforward. You can find it here.

Posted at 6:53 pm by Jim Woods

No, I don't know...

...why this new layout looks so crap in Mozilla-based browsers. But I'll fix it in time. Sorry. At least it's still legible :)

Posted at 5:03 am by Jim Woods


So it is. There's Blog, and there's TKBlog. And those are the only two applications I can find that sit on your home PC and cheerfully publish a site in a format like this one to your web space without requiring anything special to be done vis-a-vis scripting on the server or whatever.

Ok, so I need to be on my own computer to publish stuff. Ok, it's down to me to wrestle some sort of template into shape. But it's simple, and no-one makes me push advertising down the throats of my readers. Given the plethora of software out there for blogging, and indeed the explosion of interest in the whole blogging culture, I am astonished that there aren't more simple tools like Blog and TKBlog out there.

And I'm b*ggered if I can get TKBlog to work, even after several hours of trying.

So it's still Blog for me, because there is no alternative that works the way I want. I can't think of another type of application I use where the effective choice of package is one...

Please, amateur coders, stop writing another popup-blocker or media cataloguer or whatever and get going on some blogging software. There's a real demand.

Posted at 4:17 am by Jim Woods


HOW I hate fiddling around with HTML. You can see that for now I've gone for about the simplest layout possible, and I have to say that even that took me ages of trial and error to get working. This is why I'll never make a programmer per se. The whole process does my head in. Still, I think the blog looks better and more legible now than it did - so I'm ok with the current layout now. Doubtless I'll tinker more when I get the mania again.

I do get envious looking at other people's blogs though.

Posted at 3:29 am by Jim Woods


The spice of life it is.

So, go here and do as much clicking as you can bear every day. There are various sites, as you can see from the "tabs" at the top of the page. In a small way you'll help various causes, and your karma will improve for taking the trouble. Go to it.

I wish the hard water here didn't result in such a rate of attrition on coffee machines. As another Morphy Richards coughs itself into retirement I am forced to consider de-scaling with the sort of nasty stuff that I don't want near my coffee, and am reminded that there is no point buying a decent coffee machine.

And I wish my site looked a bit better but I hate to code even in HTML. Still, I must get a coherent design together.

Posted at 2:01 am by Jim Woods

Monday September 15 2003

Good times, no entries

I've been a bit quiet over the last few days, since I've been riding my bicycle around in the sun and playing bass with a heavy metal band - a good combination if you need an aerobic workout. I'm halfway through doing an article on good software I use (I care even if no-one else does) and I'm doing some complex deals on some music equipment. The more equipment I find I have the less space in my bijou lair, and the more time I'm likely to spend farting about with it rather than getting out and actually playing a variety of stuff. So there. Purge gear, it's the final enemy...

Posted at 9:41 pm by Jim Woods

Dostoevsky on the nail

At The Register here is rather a good article on the pitfalls of modern technology. I don't know how long this link will stay valid, so be quick...

Posted at 2:51 pm by Jim Woods

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