Draco Torre

writing code, writing words, creating magic

Reading and Discussing

Jeff Atwood of stackoverflow.com (a forum for engineers posting questions and answers) shares his ideas on encouraging more reading instead of pushing for conversations in a thoughtful post, “Because Reading is Fundamental” on his blog. His observation is that many blog comments reveal ignorance of the post or wander off-topic. Too many blogs and forums encourage high post counts or push conversations.

I find that the value of conversations has little to do with how much people are talking. I find that too much talking has a negative effect on conversations. Nobody has time to listen to the resulting massive stream of conversation, they end up just waiting for their turn to pile on and talk, too. The best conversations are with people who spend most of their time listening.

iPad Price

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When purchasing a new electronic device, it is wise to consider the advantages of options at a higher price point for expected usage. This year Apple offers a wide array of iPad models with choices of storage options, and due to questionable hardware decisions by Apple, careful consideration is in order. In general, avoid the bottom price point of an iPad model. I also recommend avoiding iPad Air (2013) and the iPad Mini 2 (2013).

Storage Options

For 2014, the lowest priced storage option of each iPad model remained the same at 16GB, but Apple doubled the storage on the larger choices making them more appealing. The 16GB model is aimed at the casual user, an extremely lightweight, casual user. The core system and basic applications consume nearly half of that 16GB leaving a realistic size of 7-9GB (10GB if cramming) available for adding apps and content. Even with storing content in the cloud, 8GB may feel tight for the majority of consumers. (My test iPad 2 uses 6GB with iOS 8 base installtion including default apps.)

Users with 16GB storage trying to update from iOS 7 to 8 over the air discovered a problem. Not enough space to update even after deleting most of their content and apps, as the update consumed 5GB of storage. The solution is to use iTunes to update to iOS 8, but many users rarely connect their iPads to a PC anymore. A smart decision by Apple would have been to inform users with 16GB to connect to iTunes instead of asking them to free more space.

A very lightweight user with limited storage needs should decide between no iPad and larger storage. Spend the extra money for 64GB storage. The improved experience is worth the extra price. If the iPad will be your primary PC, 64GB is the minimum and consider the 128GB storage option.

Static Page Blogging

In July I replaced Wordpress with Octopress, here and at KandyFangs.com. After five months I’m quite happy with the change. I had been using Wordpress since 2009 which replaced my static website. It was nice for blogging, made other pages easier to edit on the fly, and was fairly speedy back in the day. Recently Wordpress has become slow and has attracted the attention of bot attacks consuming more of my time with security. Most of all, though, I wasn’t happy with the slow page loading for a site that’s nearly static. I’m still maintaining a Wordpress at DeesDanceDesign.com, but that may change soon.

Top Reasons I Replaced Wordpress

  1. Way too slow. Pages need to load within a couple seconds for best reader experience.
  2. Frequent attacks targeting Wordpress.
  3. Was spending too much time with updates and security instead of creating content.

My Wordpress Setup

My setup was self-hosted on a shared server impacting my experience compared to Wordpress.com hosting or another server. I tried to keep plugins to a mininum as listed here.

  • All-in-One WP Security is great at setting up a variety of security measures and identifying some threats.
  • Akismet for spam.
  • Jetpack by Wordpress.com for share buttons, form sheet, and stats. Most everything else turned off. Jetpack includes many features found with a Wordpress-hosted site, but may slow your self-hosted site down as it needs to contact Wordpress.com depending on which features are enabled.
  • Hyper Cache for faster repeated page loading. I had also used another cache in the past.

Octopress

Octopress is a content management system that generates static pages which I preview on my development machine before copying to the server. I write posts and pages in markdown which is faster than writing in HTML and easier for a human to read. The downside is no available super-slick manager; some technical skills required including knowledge of using command-line tools. Great for developers, not so nice for everyone else. I also created my own theme, Storyteller, for improved creating and reading of serialized posts.

Static pages load fast, and without a database or multple PHP files, there are fewer attack vectors on the site. No database also means depending on hosted comments, such as Disqus, and hosted forms, such as Wufoo, both which integrate nicely with Octopress.

Overall, I enjoy Octopress and love my speedy sites.

November Projects

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where amateur, or professional, writers aim to write a novel in a month. I’ve never participated, because I’m usually busy writing software. I’m a slow writer, too. As indicated over at the NaNoWriMo site, the goal is to write a 50,000-word (or more) rough draft. This is more novella length than novel, but still a pretty good goal for a month. I imagine having a solid outline ready ahead of time is a good strategy.

Draco Torre Fantasy Novel

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This year I started writng a novel on November 1st without any goals. You might say I’m unofficially participating in NaNoWriMo. If I happen to finish the draft this month, I’ll be surprised, and I’m off to a good start at 10,000 words in 3 days. This is a novel I first attempted a decade ago, but realized I wasn’t ready. Not only did my grammar skills need work, I wasn’t terribly practiced at putting stories down in writing. So, I began participating in FridayFlash in 2009 along with writing other short stories to improve my skills.

At last, I feel ready to write this story. After a decade, I now know this story better than I know myself, thus I may finish the draft sooner than I expect. Finish in November or Decemeber, fine. It’d be nice to finally see it in writing. The novel is based on a character, Draco Torre, which this site is named after. The novel is a fantasy with some creatures similar to those found in Kandy Fangs, but in an older world.

Kandy Fangs: Venom – NINE ﹅ƎИIИ

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I began a new Venom chapter at the end of October following Nine Thyme. Read the first episode to get a sense as to the backward name. As my secondary writing project, I’ll post an episode each weekend if one is ready. My goal is to keep each episode as much as a complete story for single flash fiction enjoyment with the serial connecting the primary tale together with the other chapters in Venom.

Programming Projects

This month, I’ll be casually working on some ideas for future mobile applications. I have a few ideas that I want to test out before committing to. On the side, I’ll make infrequent updates to Draco RegexTest, a regular expression tool.

Dee Count 2.0 Update

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Inventory counting software, Dee Count, updated to version 2.0 to include iPhone compatibility and new features. This redesign requires iOS 8 or later which means no more support for the original iPad. (Sorry.) Now you may categorize items and review totals by category. Each location may have a default category which sets uncategorized items to its category, automatically. Scanning with camera has been improved with preference options for tap-to-count or automatically. Dee Count makes it easier to manage your data including options to reset counts to create comparison quantities for a second trial, delete all items, or clear everything and start over. Importing item details and comparison counts is also easier and more informative. An Undo button reverses count activity of a location including accidental deletes.

If you’re new to Dee Count, check out the quick preview video or review the Dee Count page for more details.

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