Thursday, November 30, 2006

NaBloPoMo Ends - All Out Of Clever Headlines

So there you have it - 40 odd posts later and National Blog Posting Month has come to an end.

Did I learn anything by doing it? A few simple things:

1. Don't expect things to arrive in your head fully fleshed out. Just plant a little sapling there in the editor and let it grow. You don't have to have it all figured out before sitting down. Further, just because you create a post doesn't mean you have to post it. Sometimes things develop better when you let them stew.

2. It ain't so easy. Not so easy to come up with even semi-interesting stuff every day. Bloggers with several quality posts a day have my respect - but I think they're either employed by their blogging or are serious slackers at work.

3. It is mentally and physically impossible for me to consider consistently blogging on one specific topic area. This is a multi-headed beast that I can't tame. Why should I even try?

4. Traffic just about doubled for the month (but remember, doubling almost nothing leaves you with barely something). Was that all due to the NaBloPoMo Randomizer? Some of it to be sure, but not all of it. Frequent posting definitely helps build traffic if that's your thing. Comment frequency increased slightly as well (from sloth-like all the way up to a snail's pace).

5. While I like writing the odd rant, and posts about blogger navel-gazing far and away get the most comments, I have to say that posts that share knowledge (like a tutorial or the solution to some problem) or even posts that share other sources of knowledge feel the most satisfying to me. It always feels better when I contribute something to the mystical ether other than just my opinion.


Will the post-a-day behaviour continue? I think so, for the most part. There's a certain satisfaction that comes in crafting something - anything. And for me anyway, there's always something new I'm playing with, learning about or willing to opine about.

Rock on NaBloPoMo. You taught me something. :)

Well it's definitely not Miller Time...

Okay... FlickrTime (but the page says FlickerTime) is a neat use of flash. Not terribly useful, but neat nonetheless.

Only one complaint though. The poor choice of font for the title on that page might lead your co-workers to believe it's "F*#ker Time".

:)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thinking Skills vs. Doing Skills

Commenting on Scoble's post about the apparent shift to commercial skills-based education in Universities where he questions the role of a university. Mike over at Searching, Searching, Searching comments and asks:

Don’t we need the skills to THINK through the problem?

I wonder whether a mix of the two is not the best solution. Of course it depends on what it is your studying. Not everyone in university is studying in areas that involve rapidly changing information.

That being said, here's my experience:

I earned a university degree in structural engineering, and have been a practising professional engineer for almost 10 years.

After graduating, I worked full time in construction for about a year and a half (which I have on and off since I was 16) and finally found a structural engineering position.

I also teach a structural design course and a construction methods course at a local college part time. So I have seen both the University and College side of things.

I found that my university training, while giving me the theoretical background and 'thinking' tools, left me at the bottom rung when it came to real-life, real-world experience. It was my construction experience which saved me in this regard, not the degree. This practical experience coupled with the education gives you a leg up on others when it comes to solving problems and providing quality design work in my opinion.

I think that while Universities should concentrate on developing the 'thinking', they shouldn't forget about the actual 'doing' either. They could use a shot of practicality in my view (Co-op programs are a great start but only available in some programs.).

Likewise, I think Colleges should put some more emphasis on developing the 'thinking' skills. I try to impart those in the courses I teach, but make no mistake, it's all about delivering the goods, in the right quantity, in the allotted time. I make time to discuss the why's and not only the how's, but I can't necessarily say the same for other instructors.

Clearly universities and colleges could both do with a little change.

Inkscape - Simple Tutorial On Creating A Button

While noodling around a little more with Inkscape, I thought about doing up a quick example just to give an idea of how simple it is to do neat things with it. So here I'm going to create a nice blue 'rubberized' looking button with an inlaid green glassy-type button. What we'll get at the end is this:


First I started by creating a simple blue filled rectangle without any visible outline like this:

Then, by double-clicking the rectangle and Ctrl-dragging the adjustment grips I created rounded corners:


I then selected the shape and hit Ctrl-D to create a duplicate of the object. I then changed the fill colour of the duplicate to be a light blue. Also, I applied an opaque to fully transparent gradient over the left end of this light-blue rectangle. This is done by selecting the object, clicking the gradient tool and adjusting the gradient grips to suit your taste. Here's the result so far. Obviously, the lower object is the one with the lightened colour and gradient adjustment:


Putting the light blue object directly over the original rounded rectangle gives you this:


Not bad so far. Now for the green inlaid button. First I created a simple green-filled shape with the Star button, making some adjustments to the shape controls. I chose to hide the outline of the object as well. Here's what I came up with for a shape. You could use just about anything you want for a starting shape:



At this stage, I duplicated the shape you see above and moved it to the side. I then created an outline with the Bezier curve tool. I'm going to use this shape to generate a 'shine' on the green button. Here's the green shape, it's duplicate and the path I'm going to use:


I then selected the star on the right along with the path-shape and used the Path->Intersection command to generate a resulting object as shown below:


Then I selected the resulting partial star shape and adjusted its fill colour to be a very light green. I also adjusted the overall opacity of this shape to be about 50%. Here's the adjusted object:

Overlaying the lighter shape on top of the darker one gives a nice button with kinda of a shine to it:


In this next step, I took the full star object (the dark one), duplicated it, and moved it over the right. On this duplicate, I turned off the fill, turned on the outline, set the outline thickness to something like 3 and then applied a gradient on the outline itself. The gradient went from a dark blue on the upper left to a light blue on the lower right. It's tough to explain in words - better that you see the result here:

The outline itself is created this way to make the final green button look inlaid into the rubber. You could probably create this outline directly on the darker green star object without creating a duplicate. But separating it makes it easier to see what I did. Now overlaying the gradient outline on top of the shape gives this:

Now all that's left to do is plunk this button on top of the blue button we created in the first three steps and we've got our final inlaid button!

I am no graphic designer by any stretch, but it's really not that hard to create attractive graphic objects with Inkscape. The gradient features along with transparency can really open up some possibilities. Once you create something you like you can re-use those concepts to create other things (like that dark-green, light-green concept to create a glassy effect). You see that all over the place. It's easy to do and can yield quite nice effects.

I hope you found this somewhat useful. If you've got any suggestions on how to do it better, quicker or more efficiently, please let me know in the comments. I'm still an Inkscape newbie and always looking for good pointers.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Now that's Damn Interesting...

There are still gems out there on the global interweb. I just found one today via a Digg story ( Do humans explode in the vacuum of space?). It's called Damn Interesting, and it's .. er .. damn interesting!

Don't be fooled by the gruesome subject matter of the example I cited. There are sections relating to History, Nature, Mysteries, Alternative Energy and Medical Science among other things.

Do you know what the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is? Maybe you were just thinking about it the other day? :)

...definitely going in my list of bookmarks.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tablet Woes + GIMP = Frustration

I haven't had a chance to edit many photos lately - too busy fooling around with Inkscape and trying to write a blog post every day in November I guess ;)

However I finally made some time and brought up the GIMP (the Linux equivalent to Photoshop for all intents and purposes). I quickly found out that my Graphire3 tablet wasn't being recognized or at least recognized properly. I figured it was a result of my upgrade to Ubuntu Edgy Eft a while back or maybe my installation of Beryl threw my settings for a loop, and set about to correct the problem.

Well, it's 3 days later and still no luck. I've read, re-read and re-re-read several message threads about the subject on ubuntuforums.org and I must have edited my xorg.conf file six ways from Sunday - and yet still nothing.

Actually, 'nothing' is not really the correct term. The pointer moves, but only over a limited rectangular portion of the screen. And to make matters worse, the device is not recognized as an 'extended input device' in the GIMP which means pressure sensitivity is not enabled. If you've ever used one of these tablets for photo editing, you'd know that pressure sensitivity is what makes it infinitely better than a mouse for photo editing.

Anyhoo, rest assured that I will fix the problem come hell or high water. And when I do I will undoubtedly post about it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Flushed Away, Snack Bar Ripoff, and Inept Parenting

We went out to see a matinee flick this afternoon. The intent was to see Happy Feet but when we got there we saw that it was rated PG. Rather than waste 30 bucks to have to pull my almost-five year old out of their mid-way through the picture, we opted to see Flushed Away instead. It was G-Rated and the characters looked similar to the last Wallace & Grommit flick we saw (and similar to those in Chicken Run) both of which I liked. So we had made our choice.

Three main comments on the outing:

1. I absolutely loved the movie. It was like the vast majority of kiddy movies these days in that it had a good action packed story with enough grown-up references thrown in to keep the parents entertained. Incidentally, Curious George is the only film I've paid money for in recent memory that didn't do this - although I still loved that one too. Flushed Away was unique in that it had a real UK bent to it. It seemed more aimed at the UK/European market than the US. Refreshing really. The humour was top notch, very clever and witty. Even the odd bit of toilet humour (literally) was done with intelligence. The top bad guy was a large frog (with a penchant for Royal Family memorabilia) and his cousin's band of French Ninjas (frogs as well) was absolutely priceless. Very very much fun. I highly recommend it. I will definitely purchase it when it comes out, possibly more for me than for my daughter. :)

2. While this is nothing new, I have to say that paying over 12 bucks for a regular Coke, small popcorn and small bottle of water is absolute highway robbery. You can rest assured that come winter, the coat pockets and my wife's purse will be stocked with the requisite snacks and bottled water before we arrive at the theatre. I felt raped walking away from that snack counter.

3. Listen people. If you're going to wait in line at the snack bar with several offspring in tow, then either take control of them, or get some help. I had a 3 year old behind me inexplicably grab the seat of my pants (!) A quick turn around yielded only a meek and embarrassed smile from the parent supposedly in control of this pack. No apology was made of course. To further exacerbate the situation, after 10 minutes of standing in line I finally found myself at the counter with 4 strange kids wriggling around right beside me (two on each side). My wife and daughter were already in the theatre waiting for Daddy to make the snack run. Now don't get me wrong, I know kids are excited when they're at the movies, but I have a thing about instilling some instruction in my daughter about respecting people's space. You wait in line, you wait your turn. You don't go jumping around, bumping into people and pushing your way up beside someone in front. Maybe it's just me, but I see this behaviour all the time. If you met me you'd know I'm all for having fun (I'm the Dad sitting playing dolly's with his daughter in the Doctor's waiting room, or supplying just enough ticklish touch to generate fits of 4 year old belly-laughter in the shoe store), but I also hold sacred the job of defining what's right and wrong, both by instruction and by example. Why do so many others fail to do the same?


So there you have it: great movie, ridiculous prices and inept parenting skills. We ran the gamut this afternoon.

If there are any parents out there who've seen Happy Feet, please let me know if you liked it and what it was like. While our almost-five year old daughter is not exactly shielded from the realities of life, I'd like not to spend 30 bucks and have her traumatized. That can wait until she's 7. :)


 

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Beryl - Quinn Storm Interview - Huh?

I've heard mention several times in several different places that Quinn Storm (the lead developer of Beryl - a composition manager for Linux recently forked off of the Compiz project) was female. In fact, the TLLTS boys were supposed to interview "her" this past Wednesday but scheduling problems nixed that.

While doing a search on all things Beryl, I came across this video with an interview of Quinn at a conference in Mountainview CA.

In the words of Austin Powers, "That's a man Baby!". The power of the pronoun.

Linux podcasters (and I think Leo Laporte did it once too) - explain yourselves...  :)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Listening Habits

As I've written about a couple of times in the past, I'm hooked on podcasts and there doesn't seem to be any let-up in sight. I burn mp3 CD-RW's and they fuel my 50 minute commute each way to and from work. I probably end up listening to about 3-5 hours of podcasts a week. Right now I'm fairly satisfied with the podcasts I'm subscribed to, but there are a whole whack of them out there. So there are likely quite a few that I would love but just haven't heard of.

I thought I'd share my listening habits with you, and by all means give me your comments and recommendations on shows that you think I might like, but don't currently know about. My interests wax and wane like the moon so some podcasts will arrive on my list and others might depart from time to time. So there's usually always a space for new things.
 
Here's a list of the podcasts that are currently making regular rounds in my car's mp3-cd deck (in alphabetical order):

43 Folders
60 Minutes Podcast
7th Son (Podcast Novel)
Diggnation
Digital Photography Tips from the Top Floor
Floss Weekly (Free, Libre And Open Source Software)
Gillmor Gang
Inside The Net (now called "Net @ Night")
KFI (The Tech Guy)
Linux Reality
Lug Radio (a Linux Podcast from the UK)
Matt's Today in History
The Bitterest Pill
The Digital Story (A Photography Podcast)
The Linux Action Show!
The Linux Link Tech Show
The LottaLinuxLinks Podcast
This Week In Tech
Web Design Podcast from Boagworld

And a few that are in my aggregator's subscription list but are not quite 'regular' releases:

Digital Flotsam
Morning Coffee Notes
RanchoCast
ReelReviewsRadio

Have you got some suggestions? What are *you* listening to?



Thursday, November 23, 2006

Handy Tip - Avoid Being an Idiot..



Here's a handy tip for any newbies to the Blogger-in-beta engine: Don't be an idiot like Yours Truly.

I just realized that you need to put commas between your post tags. And if you do something like ..er.. I dunno.. use like.. uhh.. SPACES instead of COMMAS, it will take each term you entered and skooch 'em all up into one long post tag.

Live and learn I guess. If you spot any retarded looking post labels on past posts, it's just me. I'll fix 'em when I can.

Raising My Game

It is becoming apparent to me that I've got to raise my game.

While I have enough trouble managing my own (pitifully uninteresting) personal schedule, I'm bound and determined to do a better job with my progeny. Does it warrant a trip to Office Depot for the ubiquitous fridge-mounted whiteboard calendar? I'm beginning to think so.

If it's not Pizza Day, it's Pyjama Day, or Hot Dog Day, or Gym Day, or our turn for Snack Day, or a Field Trip... Just once I'd like to remember some important school date (and any date that is important to my daughter is important to me folks) more than 12 hours before it's upon us.

I'm honestly not sure if I was born with the scheduling gene, it just comes to me with such forced difficulty that it just *can't* be natural to me.

And while I've got my priorities straight enough to not *really* get flustered with myself when I send her to school with a full lunch on a 'Pizza Day', I also want to imprint the message that 'yes, preparedness is a good thing'.

Although we have set very practical limits on the amount of extra-curricular activities (there *has* to be time for just plain fun after all), winter enrollment in skating already done, and swimming and possibly early spring gymnastics are on the horizon. In other words, the schedule will not be getting any more empty in the coming months and years.

Clearly I have to raise my game.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More Inkscape Fun...

Participating in the logo discussion for the LinuxReality podcast over the past couple of weeks got me using Inkscape again. (BTW, Chess ended up going with one of the puzzle piece logos I submitted - check out the site banner over there. It was great fun discussing and coming up with that logo.)

Inkscape really is a full featured vector-based editing program. Being vector based, it lets you do a lot of things that you just can't do in a bitmap editor like Photoshop, The GIMP or Paintshop Pro. One of the things I've been playing with since trying to come up with logo ideas is using hand doodles, my scanner, and Inkscape to experiment and have some fun. Here I'll illustrate the basic process I've been monkeying around with.

First I scan the post-it note into bitmap form (in my case .jpg):


I then import the jpg file into Inkscape. Once it's in there I select it and then choose Path->Trace Bitmap. This gives a dialog with 5 different methods of creating a vector object from a bitmap. In this case I used the 'Image Brightness' method and got a fairly faithful vector representation of the original sketch. It creates a path of nodes making up the shape of my sketch.

Then I selected the resulting path object and used the Simplify Tool (Ctrl-L) which well ...er... simplifies it. It rounds corners and makes it slightly more organic looking. You can repeatedly apply Ctrl-L and watch the effects. The image below shows the effect of only one Simplify application.

After simplifying I created a rectangle matching the background colour of my blog and placed it under the simplified path object.


Of course there are a ton of other neat things you can do with Inkscape (and a ton of better sketches you could work with) but it does illustrate some of the flexibility and fun of using a vector based application like Inkscape. And it's currently available for both Linux and Windows (with a native Mac version coming very soon apparently as well), so everyone can join in the fun.

DSL Modem Trouble - Any Clues?

For the last couple of days I've been having a problem with my ADSL modem. Maybe somebody out there can give me some tips on fixing it. Here is a description of the symptoms:

I left the modem powered off all day yesterday. When I got home I turned on the modem and the PC and booted up. Everything works fine - for about 1-2 hours. Upon turning on the modem the ADSL light blinks slowly, then quickly and then stays on steady once it has synched. This is the normal behaviour.

The problem is that after about 1 or 2 hours the modem starts to lose sync. It appears to lose the connection and then the ADSL light goes through it's slow-blink, fast-blink routine and reconnects. It then seems to achieve connectivity for about 2 minutes and then loses it again and reconnects. It repeats this on and off every couple of minutes. Occasionally it isn't able to reconnect at all unless I power down and then power up the modem.

I've tried powering off the modem for a minute or so and reconnecting but this only serves to give me about 5 minutes of connection time before it goes into the 2 minute intermittent connectivity behaviour again.

Very frustrating. I've not had any other problems with this modem.

The only other clue might be the power outage we had a couple of days back. Could this have damaged the modem somehow?

Any help would be very much appreciated. I'm afraid to call my ISP support line since I think as soon as I tell them I'm running Linux they'll tell me they don't support it and won't help me out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Innocent and Not Yet Assimilated

It was a typically 'not quite as lazy as I'd like' Sunday morning. My daughter on the bed, watching TV and waiting for Daddy to get showered-up so we could be on our way to Grandma's. She's watching Backyardigans or something similar. Suddenly, she calls out "Daddy, something's wrong with the TV...". I peek my head into the room and ask her what the problem is. She says, 'My show keeps stopping and then ... see? There it goes again Daddy!'.

What my daughter was experiencing was a broadcast TV commercial.

Normally she's always watching TreehouseTV, CBC or PBS. None of the three show any commercials in the middle of their shows and even then, only network promotional commercials between programs (or whatever it is you call it when network advertise their own programming). In other words, my daughter hasn't seen any (or at least very very few) 'Barbie', 'Polly Pocket', 'My Little Pony', or thankfully 'Bratz' commercials in her first 4.5 years of life. That particular morning we had it tuned to CBS or NBC or some such. I explained that it was a commercial, that I thought it was annoying and she'd be better off if I switched the channel. She offered no argument. ;)

One benefit of this has been the fact that we can routinely peruse the toy aisles at the local department store without cries of "I want this" or "Please please please get me that". Sure, it won't last much longer, but I'm enjoying it while I can.

Of course my daughter already has at least a dozen Barbies (mostly gifts or fruits of my mother-in-law's penchant for Saturday morning garage sales) and she's quite familiar with all the big franchised products when we pass them in the aisle. But there isn't that intense desire for specific toys yet. If there is a desire, it is not yet strong enough to warrant whining about it - thankfully.

I had simply forgotten about the intensely focused marketing that happens on regular broadcast TV during children's programming. So long ago are the days when I drooled over Smash-Up-Derby, Stretch Armstrong or the latest and greatest Tyco-TRX racetrack setup (I was the proud owner of a Super-Duper Double Looper no less!).

I look back at those days fondly, but I have no sense (nostalgic or otherwise) that my daughter is missing anything. There's still plenty of time for her to be coaxed into buying and begging the latest and greatest things by the great advertising machine that is modern media.

For now, she is not yet assimilated. And that, is a truly wonderful thing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

NaBloPoMo Disaster Avoided.. Phew...

Yikes! Power went out tonight at 7:50pm in the middle of little one's bedtime story. After about an hour of 'fun with flashlights' we decide to get her over to my parents (10 minutes away and fully powered). Getting back here at 10:15pm I thought for sure the problem would be fixed. I arrive back to find total and complete darkness.

Suddenly I realize that a cold morning shower is NOT the top concern. My mind scatters as I try to comprehend the fact that I won't be able to make my NaBloPoMo post for today!!! Am I really going to find myself in the same boat as OmegaMom?? Is this the end for our unlikely hero? (me).

I set my watch alarm for 23:45. Fifteen minutes should be plenty of time to save my blogging soul should they get the problem fixed in time. I resign myself to sleep and was just dozing off when, at 10:52 technology springs back to life all around me. Yay!!

Running around to turn off all the lights left on (it isn't going to be ME to blame for frying the recently fixed system with a power surge) I finally kick the kettle to life and sit myself in front of the keyboard.

Disaster avoided. And perhaps more importantly, no worry about searching for a posting topic! :)

Good night.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Taoist Monks, Blood, Snow-Shoes - Ahh Stress...

In this age of hyperactive personal productivity, telecommuting, and the always-on 24/7 work week, there is a lot of talk about stress and how to deal with it.

Instead of giving you the latest Feng Shui-43 Folder-Taoist monk idealogy (you can get that just about *anywhere* on the net these days!) I thought it'd be interesting to give you an alternate view of stress.

From where I come from (an engineering background), stress is a force applied over an area. It's more popular nickname might be 'pressure'. When you fill up your tire with air you measure the pressure in 'psi'. That's 'pounds per square inch' - a force distributed over an area. Pretty basic huh?

What's better is when you realize how fundamental the idea of stress (or pressure) really is:

Stress = Force / Area

Ever walk in deep snow? If you've got your normal winter boots on, you'll quickly find yourself sinking in up to your knees . How is it that when you put on a pair of snow shoes you can walk on top of that snow? Stress baby! More precisely the reduction of it. The force (your body weight) hasn't changed, but the area you spread that force over has increased. So if stress is a force divided by an area, by increasing the area you're reducing the stress! Snow of course can only take so much stress before it compresses/collapses/fails, so by wearing big wide snow shoes you increase the area, reduce the stress and don't fail or crush the snow (as much as you normally would).

How about a more simple, involving example:

Step 1: Take a nice sharp pencil.

Step 2: Jab it at your arm.

Step 3: Remove said pencil - swear like a trucker - and mop up any blood.

Step 4: Next, take the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle.

Step 5: Jab it at your arm.

Step 6: Smile and notice that you're not swearing like a trucker, nor mopping up blood.

Why is it that the sharp pencil hurts so much while the blunt wooden spoon handle does not?

Assuming you applied the same jabbing force in each case, the contact area of the pencil is much much smaller than that of the wooden spoon handle and hence the stress applied by the pencil is much much higher than that applied by the blunt spoon handle. The larger the contact area, the lower the stress.

This basic concept of stress is put to use all around us everyday. Building footings are designed with this concept of stress at their core (think concrete snow-shoes people!). Bridges, buildings, cars, airplanes, machinery and a multitude of other things rely on the basic principle of stress in much of their design.

So when you think of stress, don't just think of Taoist monks and aromatherapy. Think of blood, pencils and snow-shoes as well. :)


P.S. Wow. I actually put an equation into a blog post. I've really got to get out more. ;)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Loosing the Battle Against Old Age

I consider myself a fairly 'with it' kinda guy. I think I'm fairly adept at staying in tune with what's going on with those several years my junior. Sometimes it gets a bit wacky (for instance I love to throw the odd urban slang term into conversations just to surprise people... it's the shiznit. Da bomb so to speak.).

Of course if you met me you'd quickly realize I'm about as far away from urban street culture as they come. But being aware of all stuff youthful (and not necessarily engaging in it) has always been subliminally high on my priority list. I think it stems from a fear of growing old, or perhaps more accurately a fear of becoming a 'curmudgeon'.

But alas, at times I find myself inexorably drawn down that path. In the recent past I have noticed my disdain for retail clerks who don't know what to do when the price for something is $8.34 and I hand them a 10-er along with 35 cents. I've been told repeatedly that I must have mistaken the price, and have to explain that I do it so I can get back a Toonie (Canuck-speak for our two-dollar coin) and the one cent is my gift to them :).

In the last few months however my focus has shifted to grammar and spelling skills. I'm a fan of Digg.com. I find some of the stories interesting and many times I find the comments even more entertaining. But I am absolutely astonished at the frequency of incorrect spelling and grammar on that site. And it's not the only one.

Okay. I can forgive to's for too's in blog postings till the cow's come home. The ubiquitous 'teh' for 'the' almost goes unnoticed. But "they're/their/there" mix-ups are really starting to grate on my nerves. And reading about how somebody is about to "loose the game" get's me grinding my teeth (something I haven't done since the age of seven!).

I could go on and on. But I won't because I'm hoping that you dear reader, know exactly what I'm talking about. Now am I immune to it? Likely not. You will find the odd mistake in my posts. I don't use spell checking anywhere (I feel it's a cop-out) and when I'm unsure about a word's spelling, a quick Google search with the "define:" keyword usually comes to the rescue, not only giving me a good chance at confirming a spelling, but also enlightening me to some useful synonyms as well.

Put bluntly, I am NOT a grammar expert. I throw sentences together like a monkey throws poo, but at least I *try* to have aim. A lot of the stuff I read looks like the person wasn't even trying at all. Where is the pride in your work people? Whether it's a comment on Digg or a blog post, don't for a minute think that it will get missed. In this little sphere of text-based technology your writing skills can define you, or defame you. Please people, just take 15 seconds to read over what you type before hitting that 'submit button'.

Now doesn't this read like the ranting of a closet curmudgeon? Next thing you know I'll be prefacing every post with "Back in the day.....". Hmmph.

Word to your mutha.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Virtues of Virtualization

Despite my utter happiness at running Linux at home, there are still a couple of windows-only apps that I sometimes need to run. They're work related and as much as I try to avoid it, there are times when I need to run them. Right now I am forced to reboot into XP to use those apps every once in a blue moon. I think I may have found a better solution (other than not running them at all).

Today at work (on my XP-Pro machine) I took a stab at downloading the free VMWare Player and also downloaded an Ubuntu Dapper 'virtual appliance' image (there are lots of free images on the site). Within minutes of finishing the downloads I was running Linux inside the player and suffice it to say I was quite impressed!

Doing a little more searching I came across a link to a page describing how to get XP running on a virtual machine on a Linux box. While I didn't have time to do a heck of a lot of reading up on it (I *was* at work after all) it seems that the open-source QEMU virtual machine can do it and by setting up a Samba share you can even facilitate the movement of files back and forth into and out of the virtual session.

Now I know even less about Samba than I do about virtual machines, so when I do get the chance to set it up here at home it may take a while to get it into a usable state for me. But as always (and many times to my detriment), I'm up to the challenge.

Yet another technical challenge awaits. Does it ever end? :)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Great Luck For You and Your Friends....BAHHHH!!

After more than 6 years of complaining, why is it that people in my office still send me frickin' chain letter emails. Does this mean harsh email replies in red, 48 point bold font demanding that they "never send me this sh*# again" don't actually work? I guess so.

Anybody got any better solutions?

PS - DON'T forward this info to 10 friends and you'll have great luck!!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

They Always Know

If you're a father...no wait.. a parent... no... actually anybody at all who wants to read a powerful blog post - then read this one.

From sticky note to Inkscape


A week or so ago I posted about using Inkscape to submit some logo ideas for the LinuxReality podcast. I've been noodling around with it over the last week or so and I'm mesmorized at how easy it is to do really neat looking things with it.

One of the things I submitted involved a guy leaning against something. I scratched out an idea at work on a yellow sticky note to store the idea. When I got home it was dead easy to scan it in and import the bitmap image into Inkscape where I easily traced it and added some gradients and outlines. It's by no means perfect but it's dead easy.

Incidentally the pencil drawing packs much more character than the vector art does don't you think?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Long term housekeeping

One of the first things I intend to start doing is going back and tagging or labeling my past posts to impart some badly needed categorization. It'll take some time since it looks like I've got to back and edit each one (unless someone's got a great timesaving tip for me!). But I'll be keeping it simple with pretty standard tags like 'photography', 'linux', 'family', etc... Keep an eye out for those labels. You might actually find something useful! :)

Update: I just found you can apply labels to posts in a similar way to Gmail, just ticking off posts and applying labels to them while building up a label list. Nice! Maybe this won't take so long after all. Apologies if anyone gets duplicate posts in their aggregator along the way.

beta.blogger.woohoo.com baby!

Woohoo!!! I finally found the time to back up my blog (using HTTrack) and you, dear reader, have the privilege of reading the very first post I've written since switching to the new Blogger Beta!

Do I notice a huge difference? Well, not yet (it's only been about 2 minutes since it switched), but you will hopefully find a tag...er 'label' or two to this post. Something that Blogger(tm) bloggers were ashamedly not yet able to do easily.

After backing up my blog, I logged into beta.blogger.com and in two simple steps transferred my blog over. It took about 5 minutes for the email to arrive notifying me of the successful switch. I know OmegaMom was unsuccessful at making the switch a week or so ago, maybe she should try again.

So over the next little while I'll see how much improved this new engine actually is.

Onward and upwards!

Damn you Doc Searls...

Damn you Doc Searls!

How dare you point me to a website clearly saying things like:

"Your photos. Your words. Put them together and tell your story."

and then that site has the unmitigated gall to follow up with:

"Unlimited storage. No Ads. For a free account sign up now."

Furthermore I was positively incensed to read a Terms of Service and Privacy Policy that were entirely too clear and understandable for the average person .

I mean, where in the hell do they get off doing stuff like this?? Uploading and downloading my own hi-res images and controlling who has access to them? Entirely too functional. Fooey!

Damn you Doc Searls! Don't you know I have enough interesting things on my plate? Don't you know I have actual work to do? Damn you and your insufferably valuable recommendations. Damn you and your sunsets...


Phew! Now that that's all out of my system watch for some Tabblo links in upcoming blogposts... ;)









60 Years of Heroes

Time magazine has listed Linus Torvalds in it's 60 Years of Heroes. Yep. He's right there in the 'Rebels & Leaders' list along side such people as Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher.

One of my immediate thoughts was that Richard M. Stallman is equally deserving of being on this list, but is far too politically unpleasant a character to include.

One of the best comments on the Digg discussion thread surrounding this article was by gaijin who wrote:

"It seems to me that Torvalds had an idea that grew into a vision, whereas, Stallman had a vision that spawned many ideas. I'm just glad that the computer world has both of them and that they both have had the commitment and drive to push their visions forward... Now let's lobby Time to give Richard his props. "


I agree.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Don't forget the important part..

Listening to the latest Gillmor Gang I had to smile when Doc said he enjoyed the most recent Reboot conference more than the last one because it was less of the same old faces. It sounds like more than a few of the gang members are growing weary of the Web 2.0 onrush.

Geez, just when Kent was able to get within striking distance of the web conference circuit it starts going out of style! :)

Of course Jason thinks it's all about the money - you can't fault him for being consistent. Doc and Hugh don't agree. I sure hope they're right. In all this rush to capitalize on the content (us) users generate the 'user' doesn't seem to have any vested interest in the whole money-making movement.

Sure it's interesting to read and hear about the first 100 startups scrambling to get acquired, but it doesn't take long to pass right through 'comical' and onto 'boredom'.

The important bit of this whole online environment is the two-way nature of what is being built. Open communication, access to, and the freedom of information is the really empowering thing. The stories of companies capitalizing on it is the glamourous part, but by no means the heart of the issue.

In 10 years time we'll call it Bubble 2.0 or whatever other annoying buzzword we want to apply, but the progress we make as a society as a result of all this technology will be the truly important part.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Another Post about Posting

At the risk of being a little too "meta" in my posting, one result of trying to post every day in November is thinking a lot about what to post and perhaps thinking even more about how I do that. Phew..

If I'm lucky, something will cross my path that immediately signals itself as a potential blog post. More often than not though, I sit in front of my editor blankly waiting for something to trickle down through my fingertips. Something that continually frustrates me is that my mind is constantly zipping back and forth between entirely different things. I'm notoriously scatterbrained in my interests (hence the title of my blog). So one day it might be tech-related, another time photo related, or writing related or family related or... well, you get the picture.

I do jot down notes on occasion but far less often that I'd like to. I marvel sometimes at bloggers who consistently write quality posts on a single focused topic. Is it that they have bucket loads of material just waiting in the wings? Or do they generate things on a daily basis? Even more, do they have varied interests like I do and just choose not to post on those 'other' things?

I'm going to shift over to the new Blogger engine in the next little while (after I back up this monstrosity - thanks Omegamom for the info) and suffice it to say, the new post labeling (categories to most folks) feature will be put to good use. It will go some way to alleviate the guilt I feel about people reading a good post about Linux one day and then coming back to find a post about parenting or photography the next. I'm sure the format of this blog has not lent itself well to building subscriptions. Maybe that will change. Maybe not.

Anyway, if you'd like to share your posting methodology, do so in the comments to this post or blog about it yourself and link back here so I can find it.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Black Sheep of The Family....

Here I am trying to find something halfway interesting to write about each and every day of November, and my brother-in-law finally posted again to his blog after an absence of 1 year and 9 days!!

What shocks me the most is that he was able to remember the password. :)

I'm not sure if any of you out there has a family member that blogs. My brother in law is the only one in my family and he is by all accounts not a 'techie' and views his blog more as a low maintenance web site. I'm sure he doesn't have a clue what RSS or a feed aggregator is. But still, he remembered that password and sat down to pound away a post for posterity.

As I posted about before I'm kinda glad people I know aren't reading what I write. Part of that might come from the fact that most members of my family would never consider sitting down and writing anything at all, never mind a little tidbit each and every day.

Do you have writers or bloggers in your family? Does it make things easier for you in terms of what you post about and who's reading it?

PS - If you're so inclined, check out my brother-in-law's blog post and leave a comment if you like. You never know how a comment or two can get someone started. Maybe then he won't wait another year and nine days to post again. ;)


Friday, November 10, 2006

Kent's Close Encounters

Kent Newsome has a great post about being at the same location as the Web 2.0 conference and meeting some of the people he's blogged about in the past.

While sadly Kent seems to be a little bored with blogging lately I wonder if meeting all of those people will affect what (or who) he writes about. And perhaps more importantly how he writes it. Is it a shot to claim it will affect his blogging? I don't think so.

It's easy for us to lay into someone in a blog post. I don't do it very often but I've done it. And I know way back in my head somewhere is the assumption that I will never meet that person. It doesn't mean I start name-calling and attacking but it *does* give me a little too much freedom to write things. Honestly, I think it would be difficult for me to be anything but nice writing about someone after having a favourable personal conversation with them. But I think that's a good thing.

Letting personal interaction affect your writing might not make for an exciting blogosphere if you're a fan of the hit and run blog post. But if you're aim is to turn the whole thing into a conversation, then encounters like Kent had are vital to achieving it.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Linux Reality and Open Source Vector Graphics Applications

I've been participating in an ongoing thread over in the LinuxReality forums lately. LR is a great weekly podcast by Chess Griffin which is aimed at the new linux user (like me). Recently Chess was pondering for a change in the logo graphic that he's currently using and there are a few people posting some ideas for discussion there. If you want to read the thread you can check it out here.

Anyway, as part of that discussion someone brought Xara Xtreme to my attention. This is a vector graphics application recently ported to Linux. I dabble with Inkscape now and again and love it. Xara has been around for 10 years in the Windows space and is supposed to be even more powerful than Inkscape.

I'm no graphics expert as it is, and I'm likely using about 10% of what Inkscape can do so Xara would likely be overkill for me. I thought it was worth mentioning since I'd never heard of it before and anyone out there with a penchant for graphic design might find it quite useful.

Also note that they sell versions to the Windows market but are providing the Linux version as open source, for free.

Remember, I've never tried it myself, but if you try it or already use it, your opinions would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Negative Influences

So this is where it starts. Today was the first day that our daughter ever did anything remotely wrong at school since it started back in September. Now mind you she's not yet 5, so anything she would possibly do is way off on the 'minor' end of things. Turns out she said something slightly cross at someone and the teacher thought it such a break from character for her that it beared mentioning.

No big deal of course. But the bigger deal was that it was prefaced with something that maybe a lot of first time parents dread hearing: 'I think she might be a little too easily swayed by other's bad behaviour.'. After chatting about it with my daughter later on it turns out that she was copying what another slightly older new arrival in her class was doing and saying. Over the last week and a half, our daughter has regaled us with tales of this 'new' girl's penchant for getting in trouble. Y'know, rolling around on the floor, not listening to the teacher, even having to call her mom to pick her up on one occasion.

Ahh.. negative influences. Something you can't avoid, and something you thought might actually escape your dearest little darling. No such luck it seems.

I remember getting a report card back in 6th grade and being *deeply* offended that it contained a comment that read simply: "Richard has a tendency to keep up with the Jones's.". Upon getting that tidbit deciphered by my mom, I was hurt. It offended me that my teacher of all people did not think I could make good and bad decisions all on my own. You laugh, but it did offend me. My pride in making independent decisions for myself meant a lot to me. Perhaps my teacher was right at the time. I'm not sure. But hurt it did.

The question is now, how to foster and grow that independence in our daughter. The core idea of knowing right from wrong is critical. Making mistakes and bad decisions is part of life, but making them on your own is important.

I remember my mom saying a few years back that a little cheeky talk back is a good thing. It shows you've got the confidence to speak your mind and not blindly follow, letting someone else make the decisions for you. I agree except that it's key to develop that sense of balance where she knows when to listen and obey (like in a crowded parking lot) and when to forge out on her own.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Shoe Laces, Deli Meats and Typewriter Ribbon Oh My!

Sometimes I think that maybe there is a finite amount of good information from which to cull from the blogosphere. A while back I noted that I had unsubscribed from BoingBoing (among others). Partly it was the overwhelming volume of posts and partly it was that more and more of the posts were just too 'out there', just plain non-useful or simply not for my tastes.

I'm hoping that one of my longtime favourite subscriptions Lifehacker hasn't taken up the cause. It has me worried with the recent DIY Cassette Tape Wallet post. Call me crazy, but I personally see no value lifehacking-wise in this specific project. I'm afraid of finding posts that beckon me to 'Look at this desk blotter weaved entirely out of old Typewriter Ribbons! ' or bear witness to  'A hipster PDA created solely from shoe laces and deli meat!'.

Surely I'm wrong. But you never know.

PS - if you do see either of those items appear in your feed reader, remember where you read it first... ;)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Command Line Calendars on Linux (& Cygwin!)

One thing that never ceases to amaze me since switching to Linux at home is how useful and efficient the command line can be. The 'cal' command is another great example of this. (Also note that the cal command works in Cygwin too, provided you've installed the util-linux package.)

If you need a quick glance at the calendar for the current month, just type 'cal' at the command line and you get a neat little calendar highlighting the current day as shown below:



But say you want to see the calendar for a future or past month. Again, very efficiently you just type 'cal mm yyyy' where xx is the month and yyyy is the year. Just like this:



Also useful is the -y switch which will display a complete calendar for the current year:


And of course you can see the complete calendar for any year you want by preceding the -y switch with the year itself like so:


So there you have it. A little useful tip for displaying calendars at the Linux (or Cygwin) command line. There are of course many other options. So check out the man page for the cal utility by typing: 'man cal' and tinker away!

The real power of C++

Came across a great quote attributed to Bjarne Stroustrup (the inventor of C++) while reading the Python Tutor mailing list today:

"C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot;
C++ makes it  harder, but when you do,
it blows away your whole leg."


Who said computer science guys can't be creative...


M-Day Approacheth...run for your lives!!

M-Day (Migration Day) approacheth! Sez here that the day I can migrate this blog to the new Blogger engine is fast approaching. It's been a little while coming (I blogged about the initial announcement back in August), but I have been happy to wait.

Almost the sole reason for migration (for me and lots of others) will be the addition of categories (or 'labels' or whatever). Of course there are the titters from bloggers who've had this feature from Day One, but no matter. My posting topics run the gamut and giving people a way to sort through the chaff for their specific wheat of choice will be mucho apreciĆ³. Ahh you've just got to love the Babel Fish don'tcha!







Sunday, November 05, 2006

Given a Choice...

Given a choice, I'd take:

  1. Cloth seats over Leather
  2. Coke over Pepsi
  3. Happiness over Longevity
  4. Gnome over KDE
  5. GMail over MS-Outlook
  6. MS-Excel over Google Spreadsheets
  7. Google Reader over Bloglines
  8. Love over Money
  9. Horton the Elephant over Caillou
  10. A car over an SUV
  11. A Whopper over a Big Mac
  12. Links over Gestures
  13. Podcasts over Satellite Radio
  14. A Tooth ache over an Ear ache
  15. Briefs over Boxers
  16. Peanut Butter over Jam
  17. Oranges over Bananas
  18. Plasticine over Play-doh
  19. Reading over Watching
  20. Freedom over Safety

We face choices every day, what are some that you would make?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Post About (Not) Crossing the Line

Ever since I started blogging, one of the most tempting things for me has also been one of the most scary things. I'm talking about exposing personal things. Now I'm no social butterfly, far from it. But once someone is allowed into the 'inner circle' of my life, I am willing to share just about anything. My problem is that there are about 3 people in this world that are inside of that circle at the moment and one of them is me. You the reader are right now closer to this circle than 99% of other people in my life - aren't you proud.

This causes a dilemma for me. I sometimes desperately need an outlet for personal things. It honestly aches not to be able to share some things. The blog is a tempting outlet. However logic takes hold quickly at this point and the permanence of a blog post is more than enough to squash any attempt at truly sharing.

Is the fear unfounded? I guess of course it depends on what it is I'd like to share. But for now the best I can do is dance around the issues with cleverly worded but ultimately ambiguous concepts (as I've clearly done in this post). So much for trying.

I both admire and shake my head at those bloggers who have no fear in laying it all out bare on the page. Sometimes I wish I had no personal stake in what I write here. It would be wonderfully liberating.

I've read Stephen King's book " On Writing" several times (usually re-reading snippets here and there for inspiration) and it's awe-inspiring how much of his personal life he is willing to expose to the reader. Maybe so much has happened in his life that he can pick and choose the interesting bits out for public display. I simply don't have that kind of pool to draw from and I don't have that kind of courage. In the context of blogging I'm not sure if that would be courage or stupidity.

I've thought about anonymously blogging those parts of my life. I'd get them out of my head, but would that really matter if I didn't take ownership of them?

As sad as this sounds, this is likely the most personal post I've ever written here. I dare not get any closer to that line. It's relatively easy right now because no one I know personally has ever read this blog (I'm secretly hoping that RSS *never* catches on in this respect). But rest assured one day someone will (all it takes is a google search of my name) and this post along with all the others will be there for all to read and judge. Hopefully all the tech related posts will turn them off before they ever get to the 2 or 3 juicy bits (I'm SO overestimating the juicy-ness of said bits) ;)

I've always approached my posting with an eye on what future readers (maybe prospective employers) would think. That is limiting. Is that true for all of you? Do you have really important posts that will never see the light of day? Maybe we start a secret society of anonymous bloggers whose posts are there for all to see, but whose ownership is only known by the members.

Sounds kinda silly, but not entirely ridiculous.

What are your thoughts? How close do you get to that line? Have you ever crossed it? (maybe there is no line for you).

Postscript: I thought this post might be somewhat cathartic for me. Reviewing it, that doesn't seem to be so. But I'll hit the publish button anyway. You only live once - at least that's what they tell me.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Some more on the MS-Novell announcement

While reaction to the Microsoft-Novell partnership reverberates, most of the discussion and interpretation I've read ranges from neutral to doomsday. For a quality analysis of it (and interesting comments as well), check out Bruce Perens piece here.

Reading all this stuff, and given my previous post about Richard Stallman on the The Linux Link Tech Show, you have to remain appreciative of RMS and the GPL no matter what you think of him personally.

Unless of course you're not in favour of Free and Open-Source Software. Which is entirely possible as well I guess.

Some interesting reading on related issues if you're interested on getting more up to speed on things (as I am):

The Software Patent Debate

The SCO-Linux Controversies

What is a software license?


You'll notice all three of the above links are to Wikipedia pages. They are not meant to swing your opinion, just fill in some info if you're so inclined. Of course if you're familiar with all of that stuff (or this post has bored you stiff -- why you still here?) you'll likely be bored by all three. ;)








Did ya know? XP has command line completion too...

One thing I've come to value in the Linux command line interface is Command Line Tab Completion. This is a feature where you type a portion of a command and hit the TAB key which then tries to complete the line. It saves a boatload of typing and appears in numerous places across the Linux desktop (even in File->Open dialog boxes).

Did you know that Windows XP has a similar feature at it's command line prompt? I have to use XP here at work and I honestly didn't know that! Trying to 'cd' to a folder name with multiple spaces was a pain. Just hit Tab and it will cycle through available options. I'm not sure if it's quite as capable as the Linux implementation, but it could save you a lot of typing nonetheless.

Creative Assassination

Did you know that I am currently the 11th Google result for the search term 'renaissance man'? And that's 11th out of 17,300,000 results baby! But alas, 11th puts me at the top of the * second* page. And like anybody who's anybody would know, if you're not on the first page you're nowhere.

Kinda reminds me of Ricky Bobby.. "If you're not first, you're last". :)

My tinkertoy site metrics lead me to believe that Googling 'renaissance man' is probably far and away the reason most people find themselves on my blog - it sure ain't the critically acclaimed content! But I wonder what the traffic would be like if I bumped up a notch into the top 10 google results for that search?

Hmmm. It appears that the 1994 movie by the same name (starring Danny DeVito no less) has two results in the top 10 - one for IMDB and one for Amazon. They can afford to lose one of them don't ya think? I love Danny DeVito but c'mon, I mean it's a 12 year old movie! - and I'm sure you can understand why I provide no links there!

So I'm officially soliciting answers on how to creatively eliminate one of those top ten results. Anybody got any interesting suggestions?

And don't tell me I have to consistently create quality content - that just won't cut it with me. ;)

Mark your calendars..

Ok. So take note: Microsoft is entering into a partnership with Novell. The extents and function of which is unclear at this point. There are already doomsayers calling it the end of Linux, while others hail it as a new dawn.

Does the Gillmor Gang have a show suggestion box? I don't think so.

I'm not sure what it means but I'll bet a plate of Sushi that you won't see Suse/Vista dual boot machines in your local Best Buy anytime soon ;)

I'll rate this post a two-point-five.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Robert Scoble is a Traffic Whore!

But at least he admits it! :)

Sorry for that, but hey it's not every day you can write a post title like that and back it up!

Now back to my regularly scheduled uninspired blog titling... ;)



Stallman is Annoying (and Important)

After my commute in this morning I'm about halfway through last night's interview with Richard Stallman on The Linux Link Tech Show. Stallman is every bit as irritating and interesting as he was the last time he was on the show ( Episode 79 - April 13, 2005). The funny thing is, I agree with much (not all) of what RMS espouses in terms of software and technology, but his confrontational, unfriendly demeanour always leaves me gritting my teeth.

Hats off to the TLLTS guys for remaining courteous in the face of being repeatedly cutoff with what were many times demeaning responses. It takes a significantly sized set of cojones to avoid losing your cool. Although I'm only halfway through I haven't heard Linc pipe up at all. I won't be surprised if he doesn't. I'm not sure he would be able to hold his tongue ;).

Stallman is unwavering in his commitment to free (as in speech) software. And while he would like to see everyone using free software he's not about to sacrifice one bit of that freedom to expand the user base. He was critical of Eric Raymond's view that sacrificing that freedom (in the form of using properly licensed proprietary multimedia codecs in Linux distros) in order to bring Linux more fully onto the mainstream desktop is not only ok, but vital. Stallman of course stated that he was interested in maintaining and supporting freedom, popularity be damned.

Are Stallman's views realistic and pragmatic? No. Are they important? Yes.

While it's all well and good that you and I run some combination of free software and proprietary muckety-muck (true freedom after all let's us do what *we* want - even if it's proprietary), it's also important to have somebody anchoring things down at the 'freedom' end of the scale. There are plenty of people willing to sell you software and hardware that will lock down functionality and limit your freedom (er.. IPod .. cough cough), it's good to have something balancing (and fighting) that at the other end.

Richard Stallman's views, attitude and demeanour are definitely annoying but very important at the same time.

Update: I listened to the rest on the way home tonight... Linc Fessenden did not disappoint!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Google your potential employer..never mind employee..

Dave Winer posts a Want Ad today a snippet of which states: "...My track record is well-known...".

I am waiting for the stream of cautionary tales to flood the blogosphere.. ;)







Posting or Dying..


OmegaMom has bitten the bullet and is going to attempt to write a blog post every day for the month of November as part of NaBloPoMo (geez, and you thought 'blog' was an ugly word). It's kind of similar to NaNoWriMo (think about writing a novel in a month). I've been intrigued for a few years about NaNoWriMo and at one time came very close to entering. But alas, my well developed FOF kicked in and it never materialized. The BloPoMo idea significantly lowers the barrier to entry. So what the hey, I'll give it a shot.

Tabbed Editing in Vim

Another quick Vim tip:

Did you know that you can use multiple tabs in both Vim and GVim? Well you can:

To create a new tab, enter the following in command mode:

:tabnew


To cycle through tabs, enter the following in command mode:

gt


There's such a huge amount of stuff to learn about Vi/Vim/GVim. I'm chipping away at it and actually I'm enjoying using the editor. I am trying to use it for most of my writing/posting lately in order to get more familiar with it and it's working. My learning style has always been very light on memorization and heavy on learning by doing. Seems to work well in this case since the Vi command set is so bloody big and I only really need to learn a subset for my purposes - I think everybody probably only learns a subset ;)