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2003-09-28Updates. Slack bastardness. Stuff about books.

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Several things went wrong with updating. Not least of which was the fact that, when I'd more or less completed all of the stuff to do with Poland and the new book section, I was forced to reformat my system to get some hardware working. I backed up everything of importance, apart from the MySQL databases. As I write this, I'm still hoping to borrow back a hardcopy I gave someone, scan and convert it all back into HTML. Disaster.

Whilst reinstalling, I decided to find some more functional replacement for software I was using. A more recent copy of Hook99, Tscuts, DialogMate, PDFCreator and HTML Compress have been added. All freeware, naturally. The first two are convenience 'customisation' or shortcut-creating things. DialogMate is a (25kb!) util which gives instant access to always-on-top and minimise-to-tray functionality. Nothing special there. However, it also minimises windows to floating, translucent icons which take up no room anywhere else. PDFCreator is on trial to see if it can replace JawsToPDF, as I'll be creating a lot of PDFs from educational resources very shortly. HTML Compress looks very nify for selectively crunching code. Smaller page sizes are better for me (more server space) and better for you (the site is quicker to use)... those who want to try to save even more space on frequently downloaded small files should look at StripFile, which removes JPEG & GIF comments which can often take up as much space as the image data. I don't trust it on HTML, though.

Anyway, again at time of writing, I can't get that hardcopy until Saturday. A partial update would make no sense, and I'd have to upload anything anyway, since the whole site is now php. I can't easily update bits 'n' bobs. Catch 22.

Trying to reconstruct this mess, I spent a bit of time on Amazon, and realised just how tangled the skein of book series I read in times past has become. Individual authors such as Iain Banks or William Gibson have written relatively few books, and there feels plenty of time to catch up on those I've yet to read. Series such as Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, or Star Trek, I understand why some give up on in despair. For starters, series by multiple authors are usually inconsistent... it takes persistence (and a measure of trust in others) to find the gems. In fact, it's often incredibly difficult just to find a list of books in order of publishing. The net has improved things there. Series also frequently suffer from continuity glitches and strains of timeline credibility, particularly the longer running ones. Star Trek usually copes quite well, Enterprise aside.

Something I've noticed recently is that a lot of 'name' authors have personal websites. It's nice to see fonts of fictive creativity being humanised; makes them a little less mysterious, but shows many to have diverse interests and to care about their readers.

On a wider scale, I have to disagree with nay-sayers currently decrying the proliferation of blogs. Sure, it becomes a little harder to find quality sources when there are more, but I truly believe this to be the communications explosion promised by the 'net. The sheer quantity of output—much of it refreshingly positive in a world which seems so often cynical—is terrific. I mean that in two sense of the word 'terrific' ... "extraordinarily good" and "intense terror" ... realisation of the scale of populations out there induces mixed feelings. It also will probably see a death of cultural records as we know them; there's simply too much information to track. But hey, living for the moment 'n' all...

So yeah, if any of the set of entries before this appear to have typos or spelling mistakes, bear in mind that they've been scanned and OCR'd from 15 pages of print-out.


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