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On the Open Source Creative Podcast

Last weekend I was honored to be a guest on the Open Source Creative podcast with the one and only Jason van Gumster!

Before recording he made the mistake of telling me to feel free to go off on a tangent. I’m thinking I probably made him regret staying that. :)

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My Tools

I’ve been meaning to write up something more comprehensive about the Free Software tools I use daily to help me work remotely or with distributed teams. I have no idea if this will be interesting or helpful to anyone but my hope is it might in some small way…

In B.C. (Before Coronavirus) time I was already working towards being able to work from anywhere. One of my personal computing goals is to be as computer-agnostic as possible.

I think when computering, most people are focused on the software they’re using and not as much the underlying OS (if anything I’d bet the primary interface to the OS and filesystem for most would be a file manager). They want to use particular programs to get their work done and if the programs are cross-platform the OS just fades into the background. As I believe it should be—just get out of my way and let me get to work! :)

On that note, I wanted to talk about the programs that help me get work done!

(Note: all of these programs/projects are Free/Open Source Software, which is a primary requirement for me, as well as cross-platform.)

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The Upper Berth

“We are not superstitious in our profession, sir,” replied the doctor, “but the sea makes people so.”

The story this week moves the haunted house concept to sea! I started these stories with a haunted room in The Red Room so here is a haunted cabin on a ship.

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The Monkey's Paw

This is a story whose fame precedes it, I believe. So much so that I think I’d be surprised to find someone that hasn’t heard of at least the basic premise of the story: someone is granted three wishes but finds that the wishes don’t quite work out the way they had intended.

This is not a new idea of course, but W.W. Jacobs manages to perfectly capture the horror of being granted these wishes and their unintended consequences. This theme shows up quite often in modern literature, movies, and television shows (to varying effect).

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On the Brighton Road

This is a quite short story by Richard Middleton that I love for its simplicity and brevity. In talking about the story here, I drop a couple of spoilers. If you’ve never read it before scroll down now. Do come back when you’re done, though.

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The Red Room

A little too late I realized that it might be fun to do a daily post of my favorite short ghost stories through October (to honor my favorite month and holiday!). Last year I shared one of my personal favorite stories, “Smee” by A.M. Burrage.

I will do my best to try and get a few good stories out this October. I feel like I could probably at least get one good story every week until Halloween!

Many of these stories are ones I first encountered in what I consider to be the definitive book on the subject: The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories edited by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert. Their introduction is wonderful to read and really provides a fantastic overview of the rich literary history of the ghost story. As they note in the opening paragraph of their introduction:

“Whatever we do with the dead they will not go away. Whether we entomb and isolate them or scatter their ashes, they remain as ghosts in our memories and faced with their continuing presence we have no option but to learn to live with them. Our most effective way of accommodating them is, perhaps, to encapsulate them in stories, either as the vengeful or grateful dead of folklore, as the dull prosaic phantoms of psychical research, or as the less predictable revenants of fiction.” Michael Cox and Robert Gilbert, Introduction - The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories

I am certain to be including other stories from this collection as this particular book has greatly influenced and guided my love of short ghost stories.

This particular story comes from H.G. Wells (he of The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and plenty other pieces of fantastic fiction).

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Setting up jrnl for Journaling

There’s no shortage of posts and news items that tout the benefits of keeping a journal. It seems like everyone loves to tell you about the positive effects it will have on your psyche, mental-health, sex life, and the happiness of your pets.

I’m not sure about all of those but I can see how keeping a journal can help in one very important way: it gets you writing. I am not a professional author (or even an amateur) but this seems like a Good ThingTM in general.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Writing down your thoughts seems like it helps to make so many abstract ideas more concrete. Being able to review the words and getting a bigger picture of the thought process should surely help to organize and arrange things in a way that makes sense (or in other surprising ways perhaps not considered at first).

I can always use help in the writing department, so I’ve decided to start keeping a journal as well. The problem is that I like to keep things as simple and computer-agnostic as possible. So I thought I’d document my approach and rationale to setting up a journaling system that can suit the way I computer.

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New RawTherapee Website

Just over a year ago I started a redesign and rebuild effort for my friends over at https://www.rawtherapee.com. Then life happened.

After a long hiatus I was finally able to spend some time working on it and we finally launched it just a few days ago!

For those not familiar with the project, RawTherapee is a wonderful tool for developing raw photographs. It’s one of the first Free Software raw processing tools I used (prior to that it was the classic UFRaw project as a pre-cursor to bringing the image into GIMP).

I’ve been lucky enough to be friends with the project for years now. We migrated their old forums to discuss.pixls.us way back in October 2015 and I get to chat with them almost daily. They are an incredibly awesome group of people!

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Blackjack Limits

Blackjack. It’s one of the most even odds game you’ll find in a casino short of flipping a coin. Assuming the house rules are favorable, the house edge when playing perfect blackjack strategy is as low as 0.5% (you’ll lose ½ cents for every dollar you bet).

Not the best National Lampoon Vacation movie…
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Displaying a Big HTML Table

tl;dr - To speed up loading a large HTML table on the client, start with the table CSS set to display: none;. Once the document is ready, set it back to display: table;. This reduced my client-side render time from 60 seconds to 6 seconds on a table with ~400,000 cells.

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