Monthly Archives: November, 2007

EP134: Me and My Shadow

Without question, Me and My Shadow the best episode of Escape Pod I’ve listened to in quite some time. It’s got just the perfect amount of creepiness to suck me into the story, rather than sending me running for cover. Additionally the level of tech seems entirely believable in that we could theoretically be doing this to criminals in the real world within a generation of now1. Those two factors are blended together into a tasty treat2 by the writing of Mike Resnick and Stephen Eley’s reading of the work.

1 As rule I prefer my Sci-Fi to be extrapolated from existing science to have believable future tech rather than wildly unlikely technology. Though if something with wildly unlikely tech has an interesting story or characters that can be fun too (e.g. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi).
2 I’m glad lunch is coming up soon, I’m starting to get pretty hungery. *smile*

Miranda IM

At my office we are required to be on an IM client for the entire work day. This is partly due to the company having multiple offices and partly due to some people working from home. In any case I did not much care for the client they had installed for me (Trillian Basic 31) and I had seen several articles around the web about other IM clients. A few weeks back I decided to take the plug and start trying out some of those other clients.


This was the first alternate IM client I looked at. It got bonus points for being multi-platform and open source, but was ultimately rejected as their website for it is so poor I couldn’t figure out if it supports sending/receiving files via the various IM protocols I use. To be perfectly fair, I probably should have worked with Pidgin a bit more to see if it could do what I wanted. However I also knew I couldn’t be offline too much while playing around with different clients and since they didn’t make the bits I needed obvious; I quickly moved on.


Miranda was the second IM client I looked at and is the one I currently use. Like Pidgin, it got bonus points for being open-source2 and as an added plus, Miranda’s site was simple enough for me to navigate and find the information I needed. Unfortunately, a fresh install of Miranda is very basic and is missing a number of features I wanted/needed. However Miranda appears to have an extensive community and there are many add-ons which brought it up to snuff.

  • tabSRMM: By default, Miranda displays all new IM chats in different windows; tabSRMM lets you group those chats into a single window. I configured my copy to only group together chats from users in the same group of contacts. It makes it easier for me to keep track of who/where I’m talking to. And yes, those of my co-workers who have seen my IM client do say I’m rather anal in how detailed it is organized.
  • Updater: Automagically checks for and installs any updates to Miranda and supported plugins.
  • Modern Contact List: This plugin gives you more control over the look&feel of the contact list, including theme support.
  • GnuPG: Enables OpenPGP/GnuPG encryption support.
  • SecureIM: In theory this plugin enables Miranda to use the various encryption methods of the various IM protocols but I’ve not yet gotten it to work. Then again I’ve not tried that hard to get it working either.
  • MetaContacts: Several people I know have multiple IM accounts and will send me messages using different accounts at different times. Since I only very rarely remove anybody from my contact list; this can get confusing remember which contact is which. MetaContacts lets me combine various screen names into 1 “metacontact”. So if I have 3 screen names in my contact list for the same person, I can group them together under the same metacontact. Basically it keeps my contact list a bit cleaner and makes it easier for me to contact people without having to remember which screen name to send to.
  • History++: Makes viewing/searching through my IM chat logs easier.
  • UserInfoEx: Gives you more fields to store more data about your contacts. It can import/export vCard files and even remind you when a contact’s birthday is coming up.
  • StartupStatus: Miranda IM supports multiple IM protocols. There is only one IM protocol I need to connect to for work, but there are several others I like to connect for personal reasons. But I also don’t want to be showing up as available/online/free for chat on those other protocols. This plugin lets me setup profiles for what statuses I want set for each protocol and can trigger that profile on startup or after a specific keystroke. Mostly I use it to show up as online on the “work” IM protocol and invisible on everything else.
  • SmileyAdd: What fun would IM be without graphical smilies? Exactly and that’s why I’ve got this addon installed. I use the MSN Tango Smileys with it.

1It always felt very buggy. It had high memory usage and couldn’t handle be shifted to my 2nd monitor very well. I use MultiMon to help organize the stuff I am working on/with and Trillian didn’t like it.
2Besides what Firefly fan could turn down an IM client named Miranda! *grin*

Text-Link-Ads Updated

Text-Link-Ads is a nice service which I use to help pay the bills for running this site. They just released a new version of their WordPress plugin which I use to put their adverts on this site, so I installed it but in doing so it overwrote a couple of changes I’d made to the old plugin. I had made those changes as I like the service and I definitely like the additional income1, but I don’t like how the plugin makes the ad links less than obviously ads. So my changes in the plugin add a specific class which I can then style via CSS. Since I don’t want to have to keep redoing my customizations from scratch each time they release the plugin; I’m posting the code changes I make here.

Under function outputHtmlAds(), I changed the following line of code from:
echo "\n<ul>\n";</ul>

echo "\n<ul class=\"tla_sponsor_link\">\n";</ul>

Also under function returnPostAd($postId), I changed:
return "\n\n<em>".$prefixes[$prefixIndex].":</em> $ad->before_text <a href=\"$ad->url\">$ad->text</a> $ad->after_text";

return "\n\n<div class=\"tla_sponsor_link\"><em>".$prefixes[$prefixIndex].":</em> $ad->before_text <a href=\"$ad->url\">$ad->text</a> $ad->after_text</div>";

Side note: TLA, you guys should change the Our Blog to be called something else as the link doesn’t actually take users to your blog.

1 I don’t make enough from these ads to get rich mind you. Just enough to cover the costs of running and maybe a cup of good coffee from my local coffee shop.

How We Roll

“Why are you people so weird about your dice?” Anne said.

“That’s just how we roll,” I said.

Taken from WWdN: In Exile: that’s just how i roll by Wil Wheaton.

Random Thoughts

I’ve been bad about posting anything here, so here’s a collection of random thoughts that have occurred to me since my last posting.

  • For several years I carried a PDA to keep track of appointments, jot down notes and to have important phone numbers/addresses handy. I started off with a Handspring Visor Platinum, later switched over to a Sonly Clie for a color screen and rechargeable battery. Eventually the Clie started giving me problems so I started leaving it at home more & more. Instead I carried around my “paper brain”, a 3×5 spiral bound notebook. It worked alright but pages kept getting ripped whenever people needed scrap paper. Over time it became a ragged shadow of its former self and needed replacement. A couple of weeks back I finally did replace it; this time I picked up a Moleskine or as I’ve taken to call it “my snobby paper brain”. The Moleskine was about 3 times as expensive as my old “paper brain” and I’ve read numerous articles online from devotees of these notebooks. Those articles had aroused my curiosity. I find the paper to be very smooth and pleasant to write upon, though I do need to find a pen/ink to use which doesn’t bleed through so much. I’ve been writing…
    • character ideas for games I’m playing
    • dreams I’ve had
    • things I need to get done
    • grocery lists

    … and little things like that. It’s stuff which if I ever developed the more interesting bits could end up here, but for the most part is too mundane to make me want to post it.

  • I used a print out of a Windows BSOD and a black robe I still have from several years ago to be the Blue Screen of Death for my office’s Halloween festivities. The costume netted me third place and a $10 Target gift card. Whee!
  • We were down about a third in the number of kids coming by the house last night for Halloween. Maybe the massive number of kids last year was them checking us out since it was our first year there. Or maybe something else happened, but I thought we gave out good candy and we were stocked up to give more this year. Heck, we had an entire bag left unopened after we stopped for the night. Ah well, it’ll make the office happy as I’ll bring all the candy to work to get rid of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s candy I like (saltwater taffy to be specific) but it’s a 5lb bag and I don’t need all those calories.

Update: I forgot to mention when I someday fill up my current Moleskine, I do plan to buy another one but next time will get the grid paper version vs the ruled paper version I have now. I think the grid will be more conducive to sketching than the lines, while still having something there to keep my written words running straight across the page.

Also I meant to talk about the new light fixture I finally got installed in our upstairs hallway. When we moved into the house, there was a floresent light in the hallway. But the bulb was never plugged into the fixture as there’s no switch for it1. So we bought a simple light fixture with a built-in switch. I got the old fixture taken down but in doing so found that the screws to hold the new fixture wouldn’t fit into the electrical box in the wall. I bought a new electrical box, but when I took out the old one I got another surprise. The old box was screwed into scraps of wood to kind of clamp the box to the drywall and as soon as I had the screws out of them… the bits of wood fell down inside the wall. *insert swearing here* Putting in the new light got put off for a while… basically until I had a chat with my father-in-law. He told me what kind of electrical box to buy and the next weekend I had the light installed.

1 Technically, there is a switch at the bottom of the stairs but turning it off kills all power to the upstairs.

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