Apple computing Personal Projects windows

My Terribly Organised Life III:A – Home

The previous MTOL were in 2004 and 2007, and soon I’m going to get over this “I’ve been doing this too long” kick.


Google & Omnifocus, mostly. My email is google-app based, although most of my interface with it is with Mailbox, which allows me to do things like “Tell me about this in a week” or “Bother me with this when I’m on my laptop”. Google Inbox looks like a nice idea, but doesn’t work with Google Apps right now. My Calendar is Google Calendar, and even my contacts are in there. Email is reproduced to a local server, contacts less so, but they sync to most of my devices.

I made my choice between the Apple and Android ecosystems long ago, and I’m generally happy with my choice. There are good reasons to use Android, and some of them better than mine for using iOS, but none that will override the investment in app store things at this point. So I run an iPhone and an iPad.

Documents and notes generally live in Evernote, physical items are scanned with a Doxie scanner and automatically PDF’d and added to a Scans Inbox notebook, those get sorted every so often. Should I be trapped without a GUI, Geeknote is CLI access to evernote.

Files are mostly in Dropbox, which is synced to my desktop, laptop and a home server.

Tasks and Projects are the only major thing remaining without a web interface, because Omnifocus doesn’t have one (Spootnik exists. I’m not impressed, and it appears not to have been touched in a couple of years). It does have accept from email, which I use a lot.

I have a preference for platform agnosticism in my apps, for things that will work on any windows, mac or linux client I’m using, over a web connection if necessary.


Entries generally start in Evernote, Stories in Scrivener, some of them even get finished.


Photo manager is another area lacking. I’ve yet to find a decent photo manager that’s cross-platform, so everything’s still in iPhoto (Well, actually it’s in the beta of the new Photos App for OS X, which is fairly nice). Editing and creation is done in whatever’s most appropriate of Illustrator, Photoshop or Gimp.


For listening to mine, still iTunes. Partly part of the Mac-Ecosystem thing, partly because Smart Playlists are still beyond most of the alternatives. I maintain a spotify subscription, though, and to be honest most of my music listening goes through that.

Recorded in Audacity, edited in Garageband while I’m trying to get to grips with Audition.

Movies & TV

Under the TV is a server running Plex Media Server and a large external hard drive. Everything goes to that, and is watched from wherever I am. Sometimes over the web from a very long way away.


Is a whole other article 🙂


Some people are on Facebook, others Twitter, others Google+, others Ello. Some are even still on Livejournal. I miss exceptionally the days when I could say something somewhere and know that a large percentage of my friendship circle would have seen it. Nowadays a larger friendship circle *might* have seen it if Facebook liked me that day.

Despite how dead RSS is, how everyone hates it, and how it’s not viable in a post-Facebook internet, generally I read everything on Feedly except actual news News, which I read in newspaper form on my iPad, like some kind of throwback to last century.

I like the concept of Reddit, liked it even more when it was Usenet, and still haven’t written an NNTP client for reddit yet. Soon.

Personal Projects

Lets do the time warp again

I am interested in preserving my own history.

One of the reasons Aquarionics is hosted on my own server is because when I started this up – and the site in one form or other would be qualified to drive next year – things like and other blog hosting platforms didn’t exist. No Medium, no Livejournal, even. Later, as these things existed, didn’t move over because I like the idea of always owning where my words are.

This is bollocks, of course. I’ve poured hundreds of thousands of words into Usenet, OpenDiary, Livejournal, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr… A lot of it I couldn’t recover without a fuckton of scraping. Some of it I’d even want to. One of the useful things about Social Networks, as opposed to websites, is that you can generally restrict the people who can easily see what your posting (and when you’re posting it) without requiring every friend to have an account on every other friend’s site, so over the last ten years or so a lot of my less public  words went into friends-locked or custom-grouped posts. Last year I went as far as moving Aquarionics over to be hosted by tumblr, on the basis that I was going to be able to update it more often. After six months where I didn’t, it moved back.

But my digital footprint is part of my memory. It forms an external resource for “When was it exactly when I went to the Nottingham AFP meet and ate cinnamon pancakes” as well as “How long ago did I buy my first smartphone?”

I built Lifestream a while ago based on a similar concept on Jeremy Keith’s site, swallowing my media consumption and output – lastfm, twitter etc. – with an “ajax” interface to view it all. Over the last few years the concept of the code has expanded to attempt to consume every site I use that has an API, and display some of them on a website.  And when I say everything, I mean from my twitter stream to my Steam badges, though my last known location and my email volume. Upcoming modules include whenever I boil the kettle. Obviously not all of this is put publicly on the site. Locations are only given to 100m, not given for the last X hours, and displayed as rough “heat maps” of places I’ve been recently. I’m oversharing, but I’m not entirely crazy.

But for all the things I’ve got, I’m missing loads. Most of it’s bullshit, and the effort of reclaiming it’s more than it is worth (Usenet, primarily). But the two big blocks of things I’m missing are a few years of Opendiary archives before it shut down, and the blog entries on what I’m working on, what tech I’m using, what I’m thinking about for the last four years or so. And those I’m missing because I simply didn’t write any of them.

Personal programming RPG


Every so often, it occurs to me that Dungeons and Dragons models an extremely schizophrenic variant of competence.

“I use Vicious Mockery on the guard”

“Okay, you fire off a stream of insults which [Clatter] hit him square in the psychosis, dealing [Clatter] 19 psychic damage and knocking him prone. Crying, actually”


“Okay, I’d like to track where the goblins went.”

“Roll on Nature?” [Clatter] “The ground is some kind of dark brown stuff. You doubt the existence of trees”.

And then I have days where..

[Clatter] You rewrite the app notification code. All the tests pass. With this and the database optimisations, test is running 55% faster.

[Clatter] You have flooded the kitchen, the water is blue, the washing machine is still locked, and now your socks are wet.

So maybe it’s not so far off.

aqWiki BrowserAngel Larp programming Projects Python

Week One

Daily posts are not interesting, and I’ve got the same problem as Norm, to some degree. I’ve got dozens of projects I’m working on, some of them professionally, so I’m going to try weekly updates, with the hope that with those come progress.


Project S is the company I’ve been working for, for the past year. They have a thing, and I’ll be explaining more about that thing the more public we are about it. The last week I’ve been mostly fixing communication issues with our API server (Beehive) and the Media server (Warehouse). Both are Flask-based python applications backing on to a shared CouchDB cluster, and I’ve been working on getting the transcoding services (Thumbnailing, indexing, that kind of thing) to communicate back to the main systems. It’s uncovered an interesting series of security context issues, and some horrible things around EXIF, where finding out if an image is the same way up it started has become troublesome.

My long running project for the other company continues. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I fear the light, now.

New things? Ansible, this month, and also looking at front-end javascript libraries like KnockoutJS. This year I have learnt a lot about Symfony 1.3. None of it good.


AqWiki Wetired

Over ten years ago, I created AqWiki, a PHP3 based, textile formatted basic wiki system. Originally as a replacement for BrowserAngel’s TCL-based wiki system, it contains structural flaws caused by being written for PHP3, conceptual flaws due to being written by me ten years ago, and security flaws due to being written by me in PHP3 ten years ago. However, one of those flaws is a slightly baroque SQL schema, and so writing an export of it has been hard, and writing an importer for any better wiki software harder still. However, my current saviour is Gollum, which is a git-backed wiki system. So, I have written an exporter for AqWiki to Gollum. It’s not perfect – There are a few formatting inconsistencies, and I need to fix some double-quoting issues – but it’ll get me off my own NiH platform, and into a new and better world.

More usefully, it’s meant digging deeper into gitpython and some more knowledge about how git works internally, which improves my ability to help others get out of git-holes.

Moving My Lampstand

Lampstand is an IRC bot I originally wrote for a channel I was on some time ago. Since then, I’ve taken over as Responsible Adult for the channel, and it’s become somewhere halfway between a utility bot, toy and mascot. It’s also rotting a bit, since the Twisted framework it’s built on never liked IRC much, and I’m using an outdated version. It’s never really needed deep enough development to keep me from working on the live bot, and it’s a toy, but a rewrite of the core is going to involve spreading the parts on the floor a bit and risking oil on the carpet, so I’ve built it a nice Vagrant virtual environment builder, which has the nice side effect of encouraging the people who report bugs and are able to fix them to be able to do so.


Empire Wiki

The empire plot wiki was getting occasional errors, so I bit the bullet and ran an upgrade of Mediawiki on it.

This will teach me to be quite so fucking stupid.

Everything broke, from the custom theme to the database access, the bugs still existed, and the search functionality – using a Lucene backend – was still entirely fucked. So I fixed what I could, ripped out Lucene in favour of the normal mediawiki search (which sucks, but at least was updating) and backed away slowly.

Then backed back in even more slowly when I got more reports of white-outs of death from updating articles. Fuck everything to do with mediawiki, slowly and with corkscrews.


Me and Mr Cooke have been batting around the concepts for a Scifi larp game for a while, and so I decided to put some of my initial thoughts into short textual illustration, which has raised some interest and caused a number of discussions on the metaphysic and how our Sci Fi universe works. Next steps are to turn it from a universe into a larp game, because I don’t have enough of those.

Computer Games

Nothing Molyneux Under The Sun

Sad fact about me: I used to part-run a Black & White fansite.

Before Istic, before Aquarionics, before Aquarion even, I ran Top 5, which was a fansite for the top five games due to come out soon that I was looking forward to, or playing most. As a result, I was invited to be a co-editor of a network affiliated B&W fansite. I spent many hours a week working on it, and while it never reached massive heights of fandom fame, I enjoyed doing it.

I was looking forward to Black & White because it looked like the promise of Populous writ large, graphics of a quality that had never been seen, an air of whimsy that gave it style, and an air of confidence that came with it grace. It remains a game that I love the scope of, the style of, and the aims of. But it wasn’t half as good as Peter Molyneux said it would be.

I didn’t even buy Black & White 2.

I spent days on Theme Park, on Dungeon Keeper, on Populouses one though three. I liked Syndicate, and I even played Genewars. Bullfrog was my gold standard for gameplay, I blamed EA for shuttering it, and I lauded Lionhead (and Murkyfoot, even) for carrying on the legacy. I was facinated by the ideas of Fable, putting a classic adventure game into a full interacting working world, as Molyneux was saying in the interviews, with marraige and pets and trees… But it wasn’t half as good as Peter Molyneux said it would be.

Fable 2 was a step towards the promises, and with more promises made. The adventure would be bigger, and the technology would be there to make everything better. But I didn’t have a console, so I didn’t play it, which was fine, because it wasn’t half as good as Peter Molyneux said it would be.

It was an adventure game, and he kept trying to put the whole world-building stuff into it. That stuff doesn’t really work well on consoles, you need a mouse. But Microsoft weren’t going to fund the Black & White series, and they’d bought Lionhead. The ideas of the seven games in the Black & White series were just going to fall over. So he founded 22Cans, to make 22 games, small games to build the technology for his last great hurrah. They made one: Curiosity, less of a game, more a technology experiment, a social free-to-play experiment, and a piece of commercial art. I liked the idea, and liked the concept of lots of small games to build the tech for the larger one, but it was never going to set the world on fire, it wasn’t a cooperative excitement, it was just a shit massively multiplayer minecraft with a single winner who hardly played it until the end. It wasn’t half as good as Peter Molyneux said it would be.

So I backed Godus, when the kickstarter came out. Because I wanted to see what Molyneux’s Populus design skills could do with twenty years of experience. But because I am less of the idealist than I used to be, I backed the level that would get me the beta, but no more. I watched, and I waited, and I loved that there was an actual design aesthetic. It’s a bit lego-brick for my taste, but so many games just default to trying hard for realism, the gap just looks larger when you fall short. But the aesthetic was low poly-count, and easy access, and… and I think this interface works better with a touchscreen. Fuck.

I’m not a PC-Master-Race guy – I’m typing this on a Mac, and a lot of my gaming is on iPad – but it’s hard to build the new generation of world-founding deformable, all powerful god games when you have to work to the minimum spec of iPad 2. Then there was the endless clicking to collect all the things. For god games you are always part nursemaid, part all-powerful deity, but Godus just gave you the nursemaid for a long time after startup. Nevermind, I decided, this is a beta. They’ll get better.

I didn’t play much of the beta. I played a bit of the next few betas, but less of each one as the iterative design process didn’t do anything about the problems I had. I’ve paid enough to get my money’s worth, I think, I paid £15 to pre-order a sub-par computer game. It’s not half as good as Peter Molyneux said it was going to be.

I watched a bit of the recent video where him and the new designers say what the state of the project is, and they wince whenever he promises anything. They see where it could be, and they love that, but two of the three people in the video are trying to underpromise and overdeliver. Molyneux complains that Kickstarter is a “Destructive Force” that forces developers to promise the moon to deliver a large bolder, but Red Thread are managing it with Dreamfall. Elite’s doing fine, mostly. Double Fine suffered from a bit of the same overpromising problem, but Defense Grid 2, Broken Sword, Solforge and Sir You Are Being Hunted, Tex Murphy all made it. Sunless Sea’s getting great reviews. Project Eternity & Tides of Numenera are coming up, and they are looking good. I’m not sure it’s Kickstarter’s problem, I think its entirely delivering a game that is not half as good as Peter Molyneux said it was going to be.

He’s moved on. He’s announced his new game, The Trial. It’s about high scores, it’s about competiting against your fellow humans. It might even be good, but I’ll wait for the reviews. I suspect it won’t be half as good as Peter Molyneux says its going to be.