Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   quicky graphing calculator
Wednesday, November 4 2009
I had another of my prison visits today, this time in Sullivan County. On the drive over I was explaining to Jed the skills and knowledge necessary to be a web developer. It was one of the few times I'd ever found myself talking to a non-programmer who understood enough about the technology for me to be able to explain things to the detail of what computer languages are actually used. Most people who hear me describe what I do remember it as "web designer," and that's become so irritating that I've taken to not saying "web" at all in my initial description of what I do. Instead I use words like "database" and "content management."
It turned out that most of the work I did today in prison was web related, though it didn't relate to the Web. These computer labs have their own little micro-webs full of research materials and whatever can be best served through an HTTP connection (indeed, I have it in my mind to find or create a way to put a web front-end on all the annoying little education Windows applications that we have to install individually on all the workstations). My task today was to load materials onto the lab's web server and to configure it so it could easily receive updates across the modest little network. This ended up being about then minutes' worth of work, which left a lot of extra time in the two-hour-long module. The thing about prison is that when you decide to go in as a civilian, your time behind bars had a granularity of modules. Normally you can't just duck in and then come back out when you're done.
The only other thing that ate into this time was the manifestation of an unusual amount of suspicion about the content of a Microsoft Office CD we'd brought to load onto a server as an installation backup for use in the lab. This CD was, like all CDs we use, a handmade copy (it's totally legal; the relevant people have a site license), but this woman who works there demanded to see the contents of the CD. So I opened it up and showed her. As with all Microsoft installation CDs, there were zillions of files on there, and she asked me what they were there for. It was sort of like some Aborigine tribesman stumbling into a Toyota plant and demanding to know what all the people on the assembly line were doing. "I have no idea," I confessed. So then she poked around, ending somehow in the Control Panel, where she opened up a few control panels. It was a little like watching a two-dimensional policeman executing a search warrant on the indentations in the two-dimensional cross section of a large and complicated three-dimensional object. In the end she focused on a folder called "DOCS" — which is the common abbreviation for the "help documents" folder for an application. But for her that stood for "Department of Corrections," and she went in there looking for contraband. But there was nothing; this particular CD was completely straight; it was nothing more than a Microsoft Office installation. It didn't even have the little utilities I sometimes add to fill out the balance of the CD's recordable surface.
Once I was done with my tasks, I had to find some way to look busy or otherwise stimulate my mind. So I quickly wrote a Javascript-based graphing calculator. It had a form where you could type in a formula using Javascript functions like Math.sin, and it would plot the graph. It was the start of a really clever little web application, and it would have been nice to somehow load it onto some media and take it out with me. But alas, we'd brought no writeable media. So I left it on the web server for the prisoners to use.

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