The spiritual geek…

To be honest with you, I don’t feel like a geek. I get called one a lot (in fact la inamorata recently said this very blog was so boring that I should stop doing it), and I act like one a lot (staying up until 1:30am writing recursive directory parsers and mod_rewrite functions in PHP is not the sign of a healthy mind). But still … do I qualify as a real geek? I have no qualifications in anything technical, have little experience other than my employments over the last 5 or 6 years, and certainly wouldn’t be able to stand my ground against “real” geeks in the realm of application programming, processor architecture or the intricacies of Linux.

The other thing that sets me apart from a lot of other geeks is my acceptance of the spiritual side of life. Normally geeks, like lots of other groups, are very logical people. They have to be – if something doesn’t work there’s a reason why it doesn’t work. And if there’s a reason, there is a solution. It might take weeks, months or even years to find the solution, but it’s there. Please avert your eyes from the gross generalisations, I’ll tidy them up when I get time.

So in the area of spirituality, geeks are at a disadvantage. Understanding the spiritual side of life is not a logical thing, it questions, bends or even breaks the rules that would otherwise givern the geeks life. Rules like time, the finite universe, even (depending on which strand of spirituality you follow) evolution itself. In fact, that’s an interesting point – evolution is inherently logical. Person A is more suited to their environment than person B, so person A is the one who (over time) will prosper. It makes sense, it works, we’ve seen evidence of it happening time and time again. But, just occasionally, that logic breaks down – the exception that proves the rule. Let’s take a geeky example – internet browsers. Look at the differences between Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Byt rights the program with a huge multi-national company putting it on 95% of the worlds computers for free should be enough to assure market dominance. And that has been true, until now. We could be experiencing the first rumblings of a whole new era of computer history.

Anyway, back to spirituality. I’m not going to get into specifics and beliefs for several reasons. What I will say is geeks who use their logical, formula-driven brains to come to the conclusion that there is nothing more than the mechanics of what we see around us are missing an important point. After all, any system developer can see beyond their source code to the final functionality of a program. Surely the developers of Terragen must see beyong the clever bits of code to the beautiful images it can create. Maybe the analogy is a bit poor, please accept my apologies for that. However the truth is that what we see, the source code, isn’t the end of the story. At least it isn’t for me.

Validating Anglicans…

As you may have seen on the Wibsite home page the Church of England has a new website. It looks pretty good, from the little I’ve seen of it so far, and seems to include loads of interesting and useful information. But, and this is the point I want to stress, it validates!. That is great news, firstly it means that the site will be more compatible with different browsers and platforms, secondly that it will load quicker, and that it will be easier to update than a badly-formed site. So much kudos to The Institute for Learning and Research Technology who designed the site.

They also alerted me to Plone, an open-source content management system. In a future post I will harp on about the Big CMS Bubble, as it’s a big issue in web development at the moment, but for now I need to be off to try out The GIMP and Scintilla as a (free) replacement for the Macromedia Studio suite of web development programs. Wish me luck.

Open Source Software…

I had a minor problem at work today, namely less that 90mb free hard drive space on my system partition. That, for those that don’t know, is a Bad Thing, and can lead to your computer slowing down dramatically (which is what happened) and even errors because Windows doesn’t have enough room to swing it’s virtual cats. The solution? Simple, repartition, reformat, load Windows XP. I know, I know, I’ve sold my soul to Bill, but when you work on a Windows network there really isn’t a choice.

At home it’s another matter. I won’t pretend that I have a Microsoft-free house, but I’m working on it. And the first part of that is loading Mandrakelinux 10 on a spare machine I have (a Celeron 1300 with 512mb RAM and 20gb hard drive, so it should run OK). No doubt will have to pummel my friendly Linux guy a lot before I have it finally set up, but my hopes are high. I actually had another flavour of Linux on a machine here about a year ago – Debian, I think. That looked good, and I’m hoping for even better things from Mandrake.

For those that don’t know there are a bunch of people all over the world who said “Why should we pay extortianate prices for software, let’s make it ourselves”. And so they did. The result is the wonderful world known as Open Source Software – software that is free to get, free to use, free to modify and free to update. In fact the browser I advertised in my last post is Open Source – meaning that anyone can add features and functions to it. And lot’s of people do, so many, actually, that the Open Source movement now has it’s own:

And before you think that these things are small fry, just look at the statistics: Firefox gaining browser market share in leaps and bounds, and Apache the most popular web server software. In fact the Wibsite wouldn’t be here today without Linux, PHP and MySQL. If you’re interested in trying out a piece of Open Source software this is a good place to start.

Technology convergance…

I had a chat with my dad today about technology. Whenever I see him we generally chat about technology, at the moment even more so because there is a slim chance I might be doing a website for something he is involved with. Fingers crossed for that. However this particular time we were talking about technology convergance, which sounds awfully posh, but it isn’t really.

He was admiring my USB memory stick and I was telling him about the wonderful things they are doing with MP3 players, portble memory and mobile phones. For instance, you can now buy memory chips with albums on for use in your mobile phone. Portable MP3 players can also be used to store files in much the same way I used to carry handfuls of floppy disks around with me a few years ago – or, more recently, handfuls of CD-Rs with 5-20mb data on each of them.

I also saw this picture (from this page, where Andrew Jones is wearing what is now affectionately known in my office as “geek bling” (probably; I know the picture isn’t very clear). Notice he also has a camera (probably a digital camera) in his hands. Technological convergence means that while yesterday he could take some pictures, today he can save those pictures to his portable memory stick, and tomorrow the digital camera will have a 200gb hard drive built in to save millions of picture. By next week he’ll be able to take professional quality photos with his mobile phone, save millions of them on the internal memory, share them with other phones, computers and cameras using WiFi, and upload them to his blog at super-fast speeds.

In fact, it’s taken me so long to write that paragraph that it’s probably possible already. Technology convergence means we’ll be able to pay less to get the same features, spawning a whole new “keeping up with the Joneses” race, and, obviously, making a mint for the technology companies that are clever anough and quick enough to come up with the Killer App. Technology convergence, it’s a wonderful thing. Perhaps one day this will all be possible with tiny implants in our heads.