Beer and projects

Got quite a few projects on the go, although they are on a bit of a temporary hiatus while I finish the next book. (DOM fans, it’s not a DOM book; it’s about setting up a LAMP server.) None of these projects have yet come to fruition, but they will do and will be cool. The latest one I’ve come up with I am really excited about, and I should have something runnable in the next few days for people to play with.

In beer news, last night I drank a lot of beer, oh yes. It was the Annual Wolves LUG big beer drinking night, because it’s nearly Jono’s birthday, and it’s just worked out that that night is the big beer night. Actually, it wasn’t a massive beer blast; instead, we ate a curry, drank a lot of Carling, and watched Ron do an interesting talk on Asterisk and Voice-over-IP. I’m still of the opinion that using VoIP right now is a bit like using the X Window System was five years ago; you have to configure stuff and know loads of acronyms. Just like how setting up X meant you had to know about ColorDepth and Visuals and Modelines and the refresh rate of your monitor and what chipset your graphics card was, until Klaus Knopper and Red Hat and lots of other people made the damned computer work it out for you like it’s supposed to. Ron demonstrated some hardware SIP phones, which look cool, and a lot more successful than trying to use softphones like KPhone or LinPhone. Personally, I think shtoom has real potential as a softphone for someone hacking on it and improving usability (I’d like to do this, because it’s in Python and I can hack it), because the UI for a softphone should be a window with one textbox that lets you enter a phone number and that’s all. However, shtoom’s underlying VoIP implementation isn’t quite good enough yet (and the shtoom guys acknowledge this, and they’re working hard with it).

And yes, that’s one more project on my list that I’m not going to get to for a while. I need to do some more contributing to free software projects, I think. Gotta rebuild this website first, though. And finish the book. And, y‘know, get thinner too. Too much to do. Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, usability. Havoc made me laugh with his note on the Tor design contest. You see, Tor is a thing that anonymises your internet connection (it makes your connection bounce through a load of servers before getting to the destination, so people can’t tell it’s you connecting). It’s a bit of a bark to set up, though, so the Tor people have announced a UI design competition to build a GUI to configure and manage Tor while it’s running. Havoc thought exactly the same thing I did: the “GUI” for Tor should have one big tickbox on it which says “Enable anonymous internet connection” and that’s all. If you have to show people which servers your connection goes through or have them configure that or even care about it then you’re doing it wrong, I think.
I need to install my own web-based RSS aggregator. I’m tired of Bloglines being down and slow and not telling me how many of the “unread” messages it indicates next to each weblog name are actually “Keep New” messages. Anyone got any suggestions? I’m trying to avoid the urge to write one—q.v. big list of projects above.

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