Forty-eight Year Old Computer Nerd
As a physicist I have had to use computers as part of my work. That includes programming them. Most of my work has been done in Fortran, but I have also programmed in C, and I like to use python for most of the small programing jobs that I still do.
I am the tech support person at my house. I have three teenagers, but when the wireless router goes out or the cable modem acts up, I am the one who has to fix it. I work with a bunch of physicists, but I am the one that they gets asked all of the computer questions. We had a new guy join the office, and we started discussing how many and what kind of computers that we had at home. He was pretty competitive, but I won out with a combination of linux servers and my own domain, procario.org.
One of the signs of a computer nerd getting old is his/hers inability to pick up a new text editor. It is partly muscle memory, but it is also just being stuck in rut. I decided to learn Vim, VI Improved. I had been an emacs user since 1984. I had gone through a succession of editors in about 10 years before learning emacs. Now it was twenty years and I was still using the same thing. I did succeed learning Vim so I am still mentally flexible, but now I cannot remember emacs.
I do not have time to keep up with all of the very latest trends, but I still ahead of my family and friends, so I have decided to post a few things I have been picking up lately.
I have had a digital camera for a few years and I recently got a new Nikon D50 which I have really enjoyed. It takes pretty good pictures, but I still find that many could use some touching up. I use Picasa from Google to both manage my photos and to make small corrections like redeye fixes, cropping, color correction, and fill lighting. There are much fancier programs like Photoshop and the GIMP, but these have big learning curves. Picasa is very straightforward and solves 95% of my problems.
I have started checking out the various photo sharing websites. My daughter used webshots.com so I tried it. I found the upload procedure to be quite tedious. It requires your to select a category from a drop-down menu. This is clearly intended to facilitate others finding photos on topics that interest them, but I found it annoying since the categories I was using were quite far down the list. Webshots shows nicely sized slideshows and the full size image is available. Yahoo Photos has a much nicer upload procedure, but the photos displayed a limited to 480×320.
I have now settled on flickr.com for photo sharing. It has a very flexible and intuitive interface for creating and editing titles, captions, comments, and tags. To change a title you just click on the displayed title and start editing. There is no need to open a new webpage. There appears to be a limit of 1024 pixels on the maximum dimension and there is a 20 MB upload limit for the free account.
I have used three services for printing photos, walmart.com, costco.com, and snapfish.com. I found that snapfish.com worked well. The uploads were smooth, the photos could be cropped, and paper matched to the format of digital photos is available. walmart.com and costco.com had the advantage of picking up prints at a local store.
Flickr is considered to be a Web 2.0 website. Web 2.0 is characterized by two main features, ajax technology which makes websites much more responsive and user interaction. Much of the fun of flickr is looking at others photos, leaving comments on photos, joining groups based on topics. other websites using these features are digg.com, reddit.com, and del.icio.us. Digg and reddit are social news sites. Users submit stories and users vote to rasie the ratings of the ones that they like. Both sites have a high proprotion of technical users so the stories have a technical slant, but politics, humor, and entertainment also crop up. I have found weird but interesting and useful things on these sites that I cannot manage finding in any other way.
This has generated a new need. How do I remember these sites? They do not fit naturally into any of my bookmark categories, so I started uysing del.icio.us a social bookmarking site. Turns out that .us is a top level domain just like .com, .org, or .edu. It was originally reserved for state and local governments. When I found various goofy rabbit related pages for my daughter, I could bookmark them at del.icio.us and tag them as rabbit. I can also search other peoples bookmarks for tag that interst me. I can tag pages with multiple tags so I have a greater chance of finding them. The was an article that was featured on reddit.com about building a personal video recorder using a Mac mini. I tagged it with mac, tv, and pvr. Searching on any of those tags would bring the bookmark for that article.