Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chrome Web Apps: They're "Glorified Bookmarks" For A Reason

Since yesterday, I've been hanging around the Chrome Web Store to install lots of web apps onto my Chrome browser. Some, which Google officially calls "packaged apps", are small programs that install into your Chrome extensions directory on your local hard drive. The others, called "hosted apps", are the on the Web. In the comments sections, I read complaint after complaint that the "web apps" are "glorified bookmarks".

Guess what? That's the entire reason they exist.

For those who haven't heard, Chrome is not just an increasingly popular web browser like Firefox or Opera. It's also the desktop for Google's upcoming netbook computer operating system, Chrome OS. The point of Chrome OS is to keep as many applications (programs) as possible off your local hard drive and on the Web. That's why Chrome packaged apps are small programs similar to extensions and "hosted apps" are bookmarks (really, desktop shortcuts) linking from your Chrome "new tab" page directly to the existing online apps.

Those people who complain so bitterly expect the "web apps" to be big programs like mobile phone apps, which are indeed installed on your local hard drive like desktop/laptop computer programs are. They're missing the point entirely. They're assuming Chrome web apps are locally installed programs that just happen to run in a web browser; and that if they aren't, they by definition they suck. That's the real meaning of "glorified bookmarks". These guys (and no doubt they're mostly younger guys) probably never heard of Chrome OS; if they have, they assume it sucks as well because you can't install hefty programs in it even if they run in Linux (on which Chrome OS is based).

Me, I have no such illusions. I actually like the idea of having shortcuts to online apps installed onto Chrome's new-tab page. In fact, it got me thinking: if most "Chrome web apps" are really just links to existing app websites, there's no reason you can't do the same thing to turn the programs already installed on your computer into "Chrome web apps". In fact, the only thing keeping people from replacing their Windows Explorer desktop with Chrome may be that the Chrome OS file browser still isn't available outside Chrome OS...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Goals for December 2010

After winning NaNoWriMo for the fifth straight time, the question is: what should I do after that? That's where the Big, Fun, Scary Goals (link coming soon) come in. I don't have my complete 2011 list drawn up yet. However, I do know what I want to do in December.

My list of December goals:

  1. Win NaNoFiMo and finish Spanner book 1 (my JulNoWriMo winner, not the NaNo-winning Book 2).
  2. Draw at least one thing a day, whatever that thing may be.
  3. Get back to learning French: review one lesson and do one new lesson a day.
  4. Start practicing my guitar again, because FAWM is only three months away.

Even though my word goal is 50,000 words once again, I'm going to give myself time to achieve my other goals. And I actually believe that I'll be winning my first FiMo this year despite the fact that my goal is 20K more. The reason: deadlines.

Anyway, to begin...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Fifth NaNoWriMo Victory!


It's official: I've just won my fifth consecutive NaNoWriMo! You can see my word count in the NaNo word count widget to the left. Come to think of it, I should have inserted the widget into the sidebars of this blog and my project blog. I realized this when I put another counter widget in that place. Next year, I'll know better.

Next comes NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month). My goal: finish Spanner book 1 or write 50,000 words, whichever is more. I haven't written much since I won NaNo about a week ago (I reached 50,000 words on the 22nd and the word count validator bot made it official on the 25th), so this counts as another good excuse to get writing again. This will be my fourth FiMo, but I'll be going for my first win — significantly, writing a novel other than my '07 NaNo novel, Bad Company. I'll post my progress toward completion on the project blog.

A NaNo winner who wants his novel published can't rest on his laurels. I'll get back to writing soon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blog Maintenance: November 26, 2010

What better way to procrastinate NaNoWriMo than to redo all your blog templates and then edit the posts accordingly? Now this blog, my project blog, my opinion blog, and my Posterous blog now look different than they used to. I'd even say the three Blogger blogs look a hell of a lot better than they did, now that I've updated their templates.

The reason I did it is because my Blogger templates were simply broken. I'd customized them for expandable posts and Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz share buttons long before Google gave Blogger its own. As directed, I'd copied the code off the customization blogs and pasted it into my own blog templates. It worked for a while. No longer. Upgrading was necessary.

Sometimes you just have to give up the old ways and join the modern world. I felt that way when upgrading my blogs. The old templates no longer worked. Now I find my Blogger blogs load faster than they did. Now it's the Posterous blog that takes a long time loading — but that may just be because I posted so many videos from YouTube and Archive.org.

One thing I noticed is that I made posts expandable that most people would consider too short. Early on, I was all but infatuated with the expandable post, to the extreme of making even two-paragraph posts expandable. I've grown out of that little neophyte vice. I've edited all the short posts on the Blogger blogs so that they're no longer expandable. I reserve that now strictly for the long posts.

In short, an attempt to fix my project blog quickly turned into a major blog overhaul. I guess I knew a serious change was in order...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reading: The Advanced Genius Theory by Jason Hartley

Yesterday, I rode the bus around town and made a few stops (library, mall) to distract myself from writing too much as NaNoWriMo approaches. At the downtown library I idly scan the "new books" section and come across one that catches my eye. It's called The Advanced Genius Theory, by one Jason Hartley. Being a genius myself, I picked it up. Turns out the "theory" deals with the decline of great artists (its two primary examples are Bob Dylan and Lou Reed) without actually explaining it as decline. I checked it out from the library, and it became my bus reading for the day.

Hartley's "Advanced Genius Theory" attempts to explain apparent decline. The conventional assumption is that a genius has a hot period, then a high point, and then goes into decline and can be safely ignored in favor of the next hot young thing. Why the apparent decline? asks Hartley. Because the genius has Advanced far beyond the ability of his fans to understand and appreciate what he's doing — and this goes double for the early fans. Chuck Klosterman (whom Amazon.com credits with being the book's coauthor despite having only written the foreword, because he's more famous than Hartley) offers a concise introduction to the theory in his 2004 Esquire article. As Klosterman sums it up (and Hartley himself quotes this): "When a genius does something that appears idiotic, it does not necessarily mean he suddenly sucks. What it might mean is that he's doing something you cannot understand, because he has Advanced beyond you."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Which I Break My Media Silence, Post-AugNoWriMo

After I failed to win AugNoWriMo earlier this year, I spent nearly a month almost completely offline. Or at least avoiding my social media accounts except maybe an occasional visit to Twitter, and not blogging at all about anything. And now NaNoWriMo approaches, and I find myself in a sort of non-WriMo Panic Time. So here I am.

I have an explanation for my absence. Occasionally I find something that really obsesses me. This time around, it was something called the TV Tropes Wiki. I was always the kind of kid who got lost in encyclopedias, and I've gotten lost in Wikipedia numerous times. I got lost in TV Tropes for two full months, not writing any actually story words but merely listing (in a now massive Microsoft Word document) all the tropes (read: memes) that fit Spanner. I've got enough of an understanding of both the tropes and TV Tropes that it'll no longer distract me from writing my book.

Which reminds me: I need to update my NaNo profile now...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Now My Blog Posts Are Expandable!

I'd heard in recent months that Blogger would be premiering a new built-in expandable post method. Until now, my Blogger blogs used a custom method for expanding posts. I'm not going to bother to link to any pages or blog posts on the old custom method because that method's now obsolete. If I want to make a blog post expandable, all I have to do now is type, while I'm in "Edit HTML" mode:

<!--more-->

And then to read the whole post, click on these words on the main blog page:

Read more »

One thing this new method makes possible is short posts that don't have to expand at all, like the unexpandable posts on my Posterous blog. Expanding posts become an option, not a necessity.

Needless to say, this means that I'll be doing some serious housekeeping on my blogs. I've started editing my blogs' templates to remove the old custom expandable post method, and then editing all the entries so that they expand the new built-in way rather than the old custom way. And, of course, I'll be adding some stuff and getting rid of other stuff, updating my blogrolls, and so on. I've already started with my project blog; I've switched that blog to the new expanding post method and am editing all the posts accordingly. While I'm at it, I'm setting up a few Pages on that blog, mainly lists of links including the tables of contents to my novels and short story collections. And that will send me back to my project site, which I'll update for the first time in — how long was it? A long long time, I'm guessing. I'm writing some short stories, and I'll be posting some of them there.

And all this work comes at the beginning of AugNoWriMo... *sigh*

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

JulNoWriMo Starts At Midnight...

...and Ms. Plotbunny and Mr. Pac are ready for me.

I usually have trouble starting these WriMo things. That was not true last November for my best NaNoWriMo ever. After a few months' rest following this year's FAWM, I'm just as ready for JulNoWriMo. And it starts at midnight tonight.

I'll have to keep my muse restrained till then. She simply won't shut up...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Good Riddance Juneuary: Summer Finally Comes to Seattle

As I noted last entry, the Northwest has been groaning under gray weather this month. We got so sick of it, we called it "Juneuary". Well, one day after the official start of summer, summer has finally arrived in my corner of the country. Juneuary is over, and good riddance.

I've gotten so used to the dreary weather this month that I'm actually not ready for summer yet. It'll take me perhaps a couple weeks of sweating bullets in 75° weather before I adjust to it. Some of my neighbors are glad they can finally go outside in bikinis. I'm just relieved I no longer have to wear a jacket. I'll have to start seriously thinking about increasing my workouts so I won't be embarrassed by my physique...

Now to get out into the good weather. I might even take pictures and post them...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Juneuary!

The sun's out over Seattle right now, kinda. But for most of this month, the Northwest weather has been dark, dreary, cold, and sometimes rainy. Hell, Alaska's had three 75° days, and Seattle's had none! The local news media and the social networks have coined a new term for our unseasonable late-winter weather: Juneuary.

I, for one, never figured I'd be going outside with a jacket on. I thought I'd be sweating bullets like I normally do this time of year. Where'd my early-summer weather go? This is the first day of summer, but it still feels like early spring.

All the weather forecasters are predicting that summer will finally come to the Northwest tomorrow. That's why I wanted to get this post out of the way now. I'm crossing my fingers. Summer had better come soon, or I'll get seriously annoyed. I'm tired of Juneuary.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Enemies: How You Make Them, How You Keep Them, and How You Can Lose Them

Yesterday, I managed to turn a potential friend on Twitter into a sworn enemy with a glaring error of knowledge I didn't see, my big fat "Mr. Know-It-All" ego, and a misfeature in TweetDeck. I'm not blaming anybody, not even TweetDeck (though I'll bug them on Twitter till they squash that bug), though I'm at fault in the technical and legal sense used of car wrecks. Now that I'm recovering from the resulting cat scratch fever of the ego, I have let go of the anger and forgiven this person, and I will continue to apologize to her, especially when asked. So now I feel I can write about the problem I have now become all too aware of.

It's far too easy to turn a friend into an enemy on the Internet. That's because there's a whole lot less information in an all-text conversation than there is in a face-to-face encounter or even a telephone call. Emoticons were invented to deal with this, but even these fail all too often. Sometimes you think you're being nice when the other person suddenly declares they hate you, seemingly out of the blue, simply because they misunderstood what you were saying. This is a big danger even when people are close together and talking directly to one another. It's ridiculously easy to even turn the love of your life into your worst enemy: all it takes is one click, the one that changes your Facebook relationship status from "in a relationship" to "single" or even "it's complicated".

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stephen Hawking and the Evil Space Aliens, Part 2: The Menace from Earth

The Articles:
Do Aliens Exist? Will They Kill Us? (Discovery News)
The Alien Menace! (Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com)

This is the follow-up to this entry. In the Discovery News article, Ian O'Neill says in answer to Stephen Hawking's warning that we may have already doomed ourselves with our ancient transmissions. Conversely, an alien civilization may try to destroy us because of our attempts to conquer the universe. But Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo says Hawking may really have been speaking in science fiction about the alien invaders that already exist on Earth. Namely, the American Empire and the corporations that own it. Raimondo says of Hawking's description of the space-pirate menace: "That sounds like our ruling class, all right, and it's certainly no surprise they're extending their hubris into outer space."

For all the criticisms of his derivative script and new-agey "noble savage" sentimentalism, James Cameron struck a sore point when he made the villains of his ultra-popular movie Avatar (DVD, Blu-Ray) a resource extraction corporation and it hired mercenary marine army. THIS is what Hawking's talking about! O'Neill has precisely this in mind when he says alien civilizations we contact are more likely to destroy us because we're the aggressive colonizers. The American establishment hates Cameron because he depicts the alien menace (on Pandora, that would be the savage earthlings) as an American-style corporate empire hellbent on consuming the entire universe. Raimondo writes:
As the US rampages across the globe, imposing its will, one can easily imagine how we’ll act once we get to outer space – without going to see “Avatar.” Just as the logic of a foreign policy based on US military, political, and cultural supremacy has led us to invade and occupy large portions of the earth, so the same mentality will inevitably lead to interplanetary imperialism – which, first of all, will be about completing the conquest of our own planet.
As a science fiction author, I can't help but speculate. I already know what the alien menace is that Hawking's talking about. It's us in the future — or rather, the American Empire, long since become the Terran Empire, invading the past in order to conquer it — us, their ancestors — in their lust for universal conquest. Pandora is just one battle in the Empire's eternal crusade. For sooner or later the Empire's top weapons scientists will create a time machine. You've probably seen such a scenario in Star Trek: Generations, in which the Borg gets hold of a time machine and attempts to assimilate all the societies of the past, starting with contemporary Earth. In fact, it's one of the classic space epic plots.

Philip K. Dick, that most Gnostic of science fiction writers, notoriously claimed that "the Empire never ended": the Roman Empire never died; rather, its tyranny keeps taking new form — medieval Catholic Christendom, followed by the Spanish, British, and American Empires, to be succeeded by the New Chinese Empire, up to and including the Terran Empire, well into the 40,000th century of Warhammer. The brutal Bush-Obama invasion and colonization of the Middle East, he would say, vindicates him. And if a massive pirate armada comes from the future to treat its Terran ancestors the same way the Terrans treat Pandora and its natives in Avatar — that is, exactly the same way the Americans treated the Native Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries, and treat Middle Easterners today, and for the same reason: total domination and corporate profit at all costs — Dick wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

Back to The Space Helmet Show...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stephen Hawking, Evil Space Aliens, and Science Fiction

The article: Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking

According to the world's most famous astrophysicist, it may be a big mistake to actually try to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligences. Entire societies may be all but indistinguishable from our resource-extraction corporations, living in interstellar pirate ships and raiding every planet they can until they extract everything they can out of it and either leave it a hollowed-out shell or destroy it altogether.

Here's what how he himself describes it:
We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.
You know science fiction authors are going to latch onto this scenario. In fact, it's been a staple of space opera for almost a century already.

Putting on my science-fiction author cap, here's some scenarios I could spin out o this:
  • It could be used as an allegory to warn against those similar societies right here on Earth, the resource extraction corporations.
  • The alien pirates could be Borg-like collectivist entities (in fact, the Borg itself is precisely such a scenario). Or the interstellar pirate ships themselves could be the hostile alien lifeforms.
  • Expanding a classic space opera scenario to epic scale, how about what a Hollywood producer would call "the Spanish Armada in space"? The largest navy in the world at that time, Spanish King Philip II's massive Spanish Armada, tried to conquer England and was defeated by the English flotilla of smuggling ships, or "privateers."
The list could go on. But Professor Hawking's point is cautionary, and applies equally well to societies here on earth, including of course the corporations and the governments they've owned for the past century or so. And my own upcoming novel Bad Company: A Corporate Terror Story is in part a Hawking scenario about one particular corporation (combining a Blackwater, a Halliburton, and a Corrections Corporation of America) which, outraged by the American people's "treason" in electing "some black guy" with vaguely reformist rhetoric as their "Great White Father," decides to overthrow the US government and replace it with itself. The scenario works as well for political thrillers (corporations) as it does for space epics (extraterrestrial pirates).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preoccupations (Script Frenzy Panic Time, etc.)

I don't seem to be able to do two WriMos at the same time. Case in point: last month (March). I tried to finish recording some songs for FAWM and edit my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel for NaNoEdMo, and the result was that I was completely unable to do either. This month, I found I was only able to start adapting that novel into a movie script for Script Frenzy when I abandoned all FAWM follow-up. There must be some kind of short circuit in my brain...

That short circuit may be hard-wired in. I have problems teaching myself two different subjects on the same day.

There's another problem I've got that keeps me from doing the things I want. I wrote an entry about that, in fact. It's called Social Media Is My Crack. With the sequel What Keeps Me on the Internet Way Too Late at Night. Either I spend way too much time on Twitter and FriendFeed, or I spend way too much time reading articles on the Web. Or, to word it differently, I procrastinate on Twitter and the Web.

Anyway, I've procrastinated enough. It's Panic Time now. I need to write 58 pages of movie script (adapting guess which '07 NaNoWriMo novel) if I want to win this year's Script Frenzy. And that means back to writing...

I'll add a blog-related postscript here. A couple days ago as of this writing, Facebook announced that you can put one of their "Like" buttons on any site of yours that you want. Posterous added it automatically; earlier, they added a "retweet" button to all their blogs so that you can "retweet" an entry onto Twitter. So I decided to add a "Like" button onto a couple of my Blogger blogs, including this one. Turns out I couldn't load my blogs after that. So I removed the "Like" buttons. You can still "retweet" my Blogger blogs, of course, at least when Tweetmeme isn't down. My suggestion to Google: Add the option to "Share" single blog posts, not just the entire blog. If the competition can swipe from Google, why can't Google swipe from the competition?

The Single Point of Vulnerability

The article: BBC News - Facebook's bid to rule the web as it goes social

There's something going wrong with Web 2.0. It's becoming so consolidated into a few players, especially Google and Facebook, that eventually one hack attack will take down the entire Web just by taking out one company. This is known to hackers and security professionals as a single point of vulnerability.

I posted these earlier entries on Facebook's F8 conference and what's been coming out of it: "Hope You Like This" (on Posterous' new Facebook Like button) and "All Your Interwebz Are Belong To Us" (on, well, Facebook's ambition). My next one after this will be on the "giant monster battle" now going on between Google and Facebook, with Microsoft and Apple waiting in the wings.

Web 2.0 has had the effect of rapidly consolidating the Web into a few companies, perhaps soon to be one — whether Google or Facebook or some other player, we don't know yet. But this return to the bad old days of AOL is structural. Web 1.0 had the opposite effect: it was a decentralizing technology that, in its most developed form (Napster), began destroying an entire sector of the old media. Economically, consolidation into a monopoly is not a good thing. It ultimately leads to stifling stagnation, which is one big reason why I don't like corporatism (the other, of course, being that under corporatism, corporations gain police power and start oppressing the masses). In terms of security, one company in control of the entire Internet becomes the irresistible target, the single point of vulnerability, like the Death Star with its vulnerable exhaust port that every Rebel fighter just has to sink its torpedo into.

I hope Web 3.0, when it's finally implemented, reverses the current centralizing trend like Web 1.0, and thus reduces once again the temptation of one dominant player to seize power. Some are saying that Facebook is about to "jump the shark" like MySpace did. But MySpace did so by selling out to the clueless old media company News Corporation. Facebook looks like it's trying to replace the Web entirely, making itself the irresistible target for Chinese and Russian cyberwarriors and Facebook-hating anarcho-hackers.

It's like the old Chinese curse: we live in interesting times...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Writer's Block Strikes Again...

I posted a few comments on the forums at JanNoWriMo — and then I proceeded to not even touch my computer at all until January was over. Why? Writer's block does that to me. Whenever I get blocked, my mind goes into the equivalent of fetal position. I sit in my living room recliner and think random thoughts that have nothing to do with whatever I'm supposed to be doing — or sometimes, like last month, I obsess over what I can't do. Which, in my case, was write enough notes for my '07 NaNoWriMo novel Bad Company that it actually (and finally) developed a coherent plot. Maybe I might even write some of it before NaNoEdMo...

What does it mean when I get writer's block? I don't touch the computer at all. Or any of my video games (Atari, Sega, PlayStation, etc.). I don't do any actual work on what I'm blocked on, even though I'm sometimes completely obsessed with it and even write notes on it in longhand, for whatever good that does me.

Anyway, my latest bout of writer's block is over and done with. Good thing I wasn't blocked for 4 straight months, like when I burned out on the first day of AugNoWriMo '08 and nearly lost NaNoWriMo that year (and even though I did win NaNo '08, the novel was completely unusable)...