Yes, it’s a Taun Taun Friday, Dec 25 2009 


Breakfast at The Coppertop Sunday, Dec 20 2009 

Mason on the tubs… Saturday, Dec 19 2009 

Join the Army Saturday, Dec 12 2009 

ommwriter beta Thursday, Dec 10 2009 

The first thing ommwriter says is "better with headphones".  Since I work late at night I keep the sound off lest I disturb the sleeping ones but I couldn't resist this invitation so I closed the app and scurried around in the dark looking for one of the many pairs of white earbuds squirreled away in our house.  Seven minutes later I once again made myself comfortable at the keyboard, found the headphone jack and fired up ommwriter again.

<p>Ommwriter from Herraiz Soto on Vimeo.</p>

I've used exactly one other Mac application like this before called Write Room.  I loved the idea of Write Room and used it a few times but for some reason never find myself spending as much time with it as I thought I would.  Maybe I just don't write that much…

ommwriter is similar to Write Room in that it takes over the entire screen and forces/allows you to concentrate on writing.  There are significant differences, Write Room is terminal-like with its green-on-black color scheme and nothing else, if there are menus I haven't seen them.  ommwriter on the other hand provides a simple but attractive background, mostly white and a few basic menus; most of which can be guessed as to their function without coaching.

There was however one that I couldn't decipher visually or through trial-and-error and that was the "keyboard sound" menu, indicated by a keyboard-like icon but with numerical options.  I tried switching this a few times, using selected and new text but ultimately had to refer to the (brief) instructional video to determine the effect of the selections.  Once I was aware that it allowed you to select one of several sounds to accompany keystrokes I was excited as for some reason I've always enjoyed typing more on a keyboard that sounds good.

The first thing that I thought I'd want to add to ommwriter was a spellcheck, however now that I am on my fifth paragraph I feel like that would just be another source of interruption and I can see why it was left out.  You should proofread your writing before you publish it anyway, so why disrupt the creative process with spelling checks along the way?  If you misspell a word so much that you can't recognize it later, you probably should have used another word anyway.

When ommwriter suggests that it is better with headphones it is certainly correct.  Between the key-click sounds and the ambient sound/music (I'm digging on track #2 at the moment) the whole experience feels much more "immersive" than Write Room (or any other editor, obviously).

You can re-size the "textbox" that your words fall into and I'm pretty sure this is unnecessary.  I'm certain that someone might request such a feature but features seem to run across the grain of the purpose of an application such as this.  In this vein, my greatest fear is that, once released, the developers of ommwriter will feel the need to satisfy user requests for additional features.  I see from their blog that the ability to save files as .rtf is a popular request, although I have no idea why.

Ever since reading "The Humane Interface" I've been attracted to the idea of an entire operating system designed around a clean, modern text-based interface and using tools like ommwriter and teux deux is resurrecting this interest.  Really this is somewhat related to my attraction to the Litl computer, with its concept of "channels" allowing each task or application to consume the entire screen, one at a time.  

Tonight when I'm trying to fall asleep I think I'll close my eyes and imagine such a system, attempting to include only useful, pleasant functionality to the exclusion of all else.  If I get time in the near future to spend in this lovely writing environment perhaps I'll even share my thoughts; we shall see.

The indoor part of the snow day Wednesday, Dec 9 2009 

The Cowtown Computer Congress » Ionic flyer Wednesday, Dec 9 2009 

Here’s a video with some of the setup. A flyback transformer from an old CRT monitor is providing the HV source.

Healthcare’s effect on innovation Friday, Dec 4 2009 

It occurred to me (through my own experience) that there may be a relationship between the decline of innovation and the increase of healthcare cost in the United States.  As public interest and debate over the healthcare issue picked up this year I’ve given the theory more thought and today posed the question to Paul Graham’s Hacker News, an online community composed of innovators, entrepreneurs and generally smart folks.

So far the results have been interesting and I’ve learned a little bit more about issues of which I was previously unaware.  Take a look for yourself and share your thoughts:

Mac Server Timeshare (Skylab 3000) Friday, Dec 4 2009 

Lately I’ve been intrigued about the idea of hosting my various websites on my own server again.  Some of you will remember “Skylab”, my first self-hosted public webserver* and ever since it was shut down by Charter I’ve pined to once again have my very own island on the internet to conduct experiments without the interference of pesky administrators, management “systems” and the like.

This time around however I’d like to run the site over something a little more “reliable” than my personal, “non-business-class” internet connection so co-location appears to be the way to go.  I’ve also become interested in admin-ing an OS X server box, which led me to the guys at macminicolo.

I won’t turn this into a discussion on the appropriateness of the Mac Mini as a server (Apple apparently deems it satisfactory).

Of course with co-location comes cost and while macminicolo’s rates are reasonable, it’s a habit I’m not willing to take on all by myself at the moment.  Really there is no need to, since while I do want to “run” the site the available capacity it will provide will exceed my needs, at least for the foreseeable future.

So the thought occurred to me to “sublet” the additional capacity as a way to cover the co-location costs.  Nothing new here, running multiple sites on the same box has been de-rigor for many years and serves millions of websites just fine.  What is different is that finding OS X Server hosting is difficult and expensive, so if you have a need (or desire) to host your site on a Mac, even a shared one, you’re going to pay for it.

What I’m offering is Mac OSX Server website hosting at a reasonable rate to a small group of reasonable folks.  I’m looking to find ten individuals who would be happy with a virtual webserver and FTP access for about $10.00 a month (I’m willing to discuss other services as long as they don’t have a negative impact on they rest of the system, introduce security risks or otherwise give me a headache).  Bandwidth will be 200GB/month shared, and if we go over the biggest hog pays the overage fees.

Payments will be made via PayPal (unless you have a better idea) and can be monthly or in bulk.  Unpaid accounts go back “on the block” for the next available bidder.

For my part I’ll provide system administration and a “sane” level of technical support (via email typically) as well as the up-front investment of getting the site off the ground.

What I’m attempting to do is setup a flexible, affordable shared environment for people who want to do interesting things without allot of rules and complexity (think Hostel not Hotel).  This should keep costs low and creativity high.

There are currently eight (8) slots/shares remaining; if you are interested or have questions leave a comment here or contact me directly via email (jason dot gullickson at gmail dot com).

*technically, “skylab” was composed of a number of servers, a ProLiant 200 IIS server as the primary web/app server, a Macintosh SE/30 mail/smtp server and a Beowulf cluster of between 5 and 20 HP Vectra’s.