The Fluffshack

Unraveling the world one sock at a time

Splitting my online identity in two: Private vs Professional

I have always been a great believer in openness online. This partly stems from my wish for acceptance and to be liked by others. In order to gather more attention to oneself, you need to expose more of yourself online. If I communicate to the world my likes and dislikes, it is easier to meet people who have similar interests. I have always believed this and continue to.

However, there are some challenges here. For one, you cannot please everyone all the time. The most potent example for me is my recent interest in “new atheism”. I have always had strong feelings about religion, superstition and critical thought, but found a voice for these feelings through the writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and others. This is a subject that very easily offends people.

The problem though, is that my blog, my Twitter account and other places I post content to, have garnered a very mixed audience.
– A part of my following is my family.
– Then there are close and less-close friends.
– Then there are acquaintances and people I know through gaming, mostly WoW
– Then there are several sysadmin/geek types, who follow me out of professional interest.
– Then there are several web20/geek types, who follow me in the web20/social media context.

The content I wish to provide these different groups does not often cross the boundaries of these groups very well.
For example, I know that if I where to post more on my Twitter account about the above mentioned religious stuff, I would soon loose a number of followers from the geek groups.
However, if I post to much on my primary blog and Twitter account about sysadmin stuff, gadgets, geeky things, I will bore to tears most of the first 3 groups.

When it came to the blog, I ran into this dilemma a long time ago. This is how http://www.geekswithblogs.net/jemimus came to be. A blog dedicated to my sysadmin stuff. The early idea was to join this community to gain some exposure.On the site, my blog would be amungst “peers” and fit well in.  However, it soon turned out that the geekswithblogs community consisted mostly of developers of the Microsoft flavour. I was more or less the only sysadmin that posted there regularly.

I also came to grow frustrated with the lack of platform maintenance the owners of the site paid to it. The blogging software there is totally outdated and of course add-supported. Even now I don’t have a way to export all my old blog posts from it, something I feel I will need to do at some point.

But as the social media landscape evolved, only segmenting off the blog content is now no longer enough. As described above, different content for different audiences means I cannot just create a separate blog. If I want to maintain and increase the level of online social interaction based on my professional life and my technical interests, I must create a separate space for these contexts on social media networks also, Twitter and Facebook mainly.

Another good reason is privacy. Perhaps the best reason.
I have had colleagues who wanted to add my on Facebook. This might be a little awkward if your personal  blog and Tweets are turning up there aswell. I made a very deliberate decisions to keep my Facebook page pretty much clear of non-friends. People I didn’t know somehow in RL usually dont survive long on my Facebook page.

I cannot be totally private of course. This very blog is public and will remain so. But its plugged into all kinds of places online. Cross posts to Twitter, imports into all kinds of other social media websites including Facebook, Hyves, etc.

I have though, decided to make the split between my personal life and my private life more defined.

My sysadmin blog, for now still hosted at geekswithblogs, will be re-launched under a new domain, and this time hosted my myself.

http://thefluffyadmin.net

To go along with that, I have created a new Facebook profile, and a new Twitter account.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681541544
https://twitter.com/thefluffysysop

Together, these 3 places will be the core of my Professional and Geek/web2.0/Social media identity.
All my old stuff, which I now term my “personal” stuff, will remain, but I have started making some small changes. I have locked down my personal Facebook profile, the one listed on the sidebar of this site, and more or less brought down the privacy options to “friends only".  I have started removing my full name from several places, so that a Google search on my full name will, in time, not immediately turn up my personal content. There is no way to hide anything I posted over the years of course, and this blog will remain public. The idea is though, that through my professional life and related tech interests, the first place people will eventually run into, will be the professional content.

Twitter is a challenge right now. I would actually like to lock it down also, making it private “friends only”. However, several ways my Twitter feed is consumed by other online services, is rather dependant on it being public. I will have to investigate exactly what the impact will be if I make it private.

I don’t yet know how all of this will work in practice. The intended effect is that I feel more free to speak my mind at the places where it is appropriate, to an audience that is more appropriate. The other effect should be that I will be able to give professional contacts a better place to interact with me, confining them somewhat to my professional side. I know that on Twitter especially, I will have some cleaning and migrating to do.

I will, of course, let you know how this works out over time.

March 30th, 2009 Posted by | Geek, Social Media | no comments

Starting work again

On Wednesday I will start work again, first time in 3 months.
I will start at the "Nederlandsch Octrooi Bureau" as a senior Systems Administrator.

Established in 1888, Nederlandsch Octrooibureau is one of the larger agencies providing specialist advice in the field of intellectual property. The key members of staff are patent agents, trademark agents and lawyers, who act on behalf of clients in applying for, and obtaining, patent, trademark and design rights in The Netherlands and other countries.

They also advise on scope of protection, infringement, nullity, licenses, software protection and copyright. Clients include many Dutch, foreign and multinational organisations engaged in a wide variety of commercial activities and specialist fields. Nederlandsch Octrooibureau has offices in The Hague, Ede and Eindhoven and employs a staff of over 120.

I wont deny I am apprehensive. The last months I was at DHL I felt at the top of my game. I was the most knowledgeable person in the department. People came to me with all kinds of things, and I had my finger in just about everything. After a time on a job, you start to “fit” and you are kinda synced up. The requirements of job are what you know and are familiar with, and the job knows what to expect of you.

When you start somewhere new, you need to find that balance all over again. It makes me feel very unsure of myself. I start to remind myself of all the things I don’t know and all the experience I don’t have. I am embarrassed about some very basic stuff I either never knew or have forgotten. There are so many areas of knowledge I feel I should  know far more of, more areas than are probably realistic to expect of myself.

You would think I would have taken the last 3 months to improve myself in this way, to learn some things to get some study in.
Alas, my complete and utter lack of willpower has won. Combined with feeling overall very depressed and lethargic, I have done not much more than hung around and spent money on things I cant afford. Such things at least made me somewhat happy.

I am also worried about the job I am going into, its a lot smaller scale than I was previously in, and I know I prefer larger environments. I took the job not so much because I wanted to have this job specifically, but because I knew I desperately needed to get back into work, to keep myself sane and occupied. This job was one of several that came along that was interesting. I was rejected from the others so this one remained as the default. I could have waited longer, waited for something with a large company to come along, or datacenter work, I dunno.

As always, its not about the money, which is about the same as what I made for DHL. On the other hand, I see the job, as I see every new job, as an opportunity to learn new stuff, to grow, if I can remain enthusiastic. And that is the problem with my current state of mind. I have no enthusiasm right now, but I know that I may well in a few months time, once I am settling into the job and the routine. So its hard to have good perspective right now. The only thing I know is that I know myself, and a few months into the job, I should be in the “zone” for a while. Its at that time I want to start studying again. 

The plan for now is to stay in the job for as long as it is interesting, which is always the plan of course, and to get myself out of the various debts that I have once and for all. For now, that means staying here, living with my mother and sister for a time longer. I don’t mind that so much right now, though the first irritations are starting to creep up on me. Might come a point where the scales tip and place my financial situation against my wish for freedom and independence. We shall see, I am not there yet.

Another cause of sadness to me is that I will be partially losing the friends I have made online in the wowcast bindpoint chat. I even went as far to create a new WoW character on the US realm they all play on, just to spend some time playing with them. The obvious problem is the time difference, which I was able to overcome the last months by simply staying up and sleeping in. That wont be as easy anymore, and I am afraid I will loose a lot of the contact with them. They have been a good emotional support for me, and have been a bit of much needed company and solace in these weeks following my breakup with Lia, whom I still miss terribly.

I know that is going to be an issue too, when I do move out of here. I know the freedom comes with a price, that of loneliness. I don’t look back on the years before Lia with a lot of joy, they where incredibly empty years for me. A can’t but think a lot of that was wasted, but I knew I would not have been able to do otherwise. For now, I am going to take one day at a time and see where it leads. I have reminded myself that this is basically a reset for me. I have no restrictions really, no responsibilities, nothing holding me down except for the money, which, realistically, should be sorted in 6 months. I am gonna look back again at that time, probably a very different person, again.

nosce te ipsum

March 30th, 2009 Posted by | Work | 2 comments

First Tolkien books arrive! Pics and video

So, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I had ordered a bunch of Tolkien books from Amazon.

None of those have arrived yet, and I am getting a little anxious. However, as I also said, that I was considering getting this collectors edition set, while they where still available.

Well I took the dive, and ordered it from Tolkienlibrary.com

It arrived yesterday, and I am very impressed and very happy!

First, the pictures:

IMG_2696 IMG_2692 IMG_2700 IMG_2687 IMG_2686 IMG_2685 IMG_2701 IMG_2699 IMG_2691 IMG_2684 IMG_2697 IMG_2688 IMG_2694

I am very impressed with the quality. The paper is a bright white and high quality. Illustrations are color printed and the maps are highly detailed, and the detail is not lost as the paper quality is so good. Each book is held in its own container that is tough cardboard.

Here is my unpack or “Haul” video:

(if you cant see the video above, click here for the video on Youtube (click the HD button for high-def) or Facebook)

March 19th, 2009 Posted by | Books, Geek, Video | no comments

Taking the plunge into Middle-earth

Round about 1993, I went on a ski trip as part of my local scout troop. We when to the Czech republic, and had a really amazing time. I was about 13 at the time.

The older members of this troop, guys in their early twenties, one night organized a game on one of the mountains, amungst trees and deep snow. I cant remember what they called it exactly, but it was a simple role-playing game involving Orcs, Elves, Dwarfs, Men, and a curious folk of tiny people they called Hobbits.
I honestly cant recall what race or character I got to play, and what exactly the rules where. I do however recall that I was fascinated by the depth of detail with which they spoke of this world, and how a set of books could be the basis for something one could get so passionate about to create a role-playing game with. I now of course understand these guys where obviously LARPers, and obviously big Tolkien fans.

The concept of “fan-dom” was not alien to me however. I was at the time, a huge “trekkie” and had even brought, as I recall, the Deep Space Nine technical manual with me on the ski trip. It was, however, the first time I realized that there where other worlds around, that people could get as passionate about, as i was about Star Trek.
This was also not the first time I had heard of Tolkien, Middle-earth or Lord of the Rings. Through my Star Trek fan-dom, I had, in fact, already come across a curious song, written and recorded by Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on Star Trek. Nimoy has recorded a number of albums in the 1970’s, and amongst those, a curious song called The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. I remember seeing a clip of the music video of this song on one Star Trek documentary program, and being completely embarrassed about it. It was complete camp. Here is a Youtube version if you really want to see. I can not watch the dancing girls for more than 5 seconds before my brain shuts down.

Anyway, moving in geek-circles, especially later on the internet, one could not help but come across Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. I became aware of what it was, and that it was considered more or less compulsory reading for any serious fantasy fan or geek.
Despite this, I never really got into it.
Around about 2000, my mother bought the Silmarillion. The 1998 edition with art by Ted Nasmith.

The Silmarillion

This was probably due to the first Peter Jackson movie stirring up the first media hype.
It was only then I realized my mother also had Lord of the Rings, a 1980 single-book printing.

The Lord Of The Rings

I cant remember the exact sequence of events, but I ended up buying my own 7-volume 1999 HarperCollins version of it, and the 1998 Collins printing of The Hobbit

IMG_2657 The Hobbit (Collins Modern Classics)

I thought it first useful to start reading the Silmarillion, to understand some of back-story before I got into the other material proper. This was a mistake. The Silmarillion is proper literature from the beginning of the last century, and for someone who had hardly read anything yet, starting there proved to be a bit of a burden. I remember saying that getting through it was about as hard as understanding the bible properly.
I switched gears and read The Hobbit and then proceeded to start on the Lord of the Rings some time later. By this time, the first Jackson movie had already been released, as i remember quite well I was so surprised at the difference in length in the “Council of Elrond” scene. But for some reason, I gave up not long after they set off from Rivendell. I never got back to it.
I have always regretted this. Its been a serious bad mark on my geek-credibility that I am not more versed in Tolkien. The amount of in-jokes alone that you miss online and in games that reference Middle-earth.

Fast-forward to now. I am a huge fan of the movies, and own the three 4-disk extended editions, the soundtracks, etc. During my recent move, where I was forced to pack up all my books, I came across my Lord of the Rings again, which had been sitting for several years on a Shelf in my lodgers room.
Of late, being out of work, I found myself without much to do. Also, I have recently resolved myself to start getting into some serious classical literature. So going back and finally actually reading Lord of the Rings seemed like a good place to start.
My mothers 1972 version is pretty much coming apart now, and this past weekend I went and retrieved the 7-book set that was now in storage at my dads in Belgium.

As of this writing, I am about halfway into “Return of the King”, so almost done.

Completely coincidentally, my mother returned from the UK recently with The Children of Hurin, the hardcover version illustrated by Alan Lee.

The Children of Hurin

I have resolved to finally take the plunge, and really familiarize myself with Middle-earth at large. The last few weeks I have slowly been coming to grips with the vast amount of Middle-earth material out there. Last night, I purchased a large amount of books, that more or less comes up to a complete Middle-earth collection.

First of all, my mother expressed the wish to have a boxed-set containing the 3 Lord of the Rings books, but including the Hobbit. There are several versions out there, but they are not common. I chose the 1999 released 4-book boxed hardcover set by HarperCollins, ISBN 0007105029, featuring illustrations by Alan Lee

http://www.readings.com.au/covers/thumb/0618002251.jpg

To complete my own collection, I knew I needed the complete 12-volume collection “The History of Middle Earth”. This consists of the following books:

 1. The Book of Lost Tales 1 (1983)
2. The Book of Lost Tales 2 (1984)
3. The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
4. The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986)
5. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
6. The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.1) (1988)
7. The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.2) (1989)
8. The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.3) (1990)
9. Sauron Defeated (includes The History of The Lord of the Rings v.4) (1992)
10. Morgoth’s Ring (The Later Silmarillion v.1) (1993)
11. The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion v.2) (1994)
12. The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996)

and

The History of Middle-earth: Index (2002).

There are fewer versions of this to choose from, and amongst those for sale, are the wonderful 3-volume collectors edition tomes, but more or less unaffordable, at around 500 pounds each.

I went for basically the same 3 books, but the non-collectors edition versions of the same publication.

The Complete History of Middle-Earth : Part 1 

The Complete History of Middle-Earth: Part1
Contains the first 5 volumes

 

The Complete History of Middle-Earth: Part 2

The Complete History of Middle-Earth: Part 2
Contains the volumes 6 though 9

The Complete History of Middle-Earth: Pt. 3

The Complete History of Middle-Earth: Part 3
Contains the volumes 10 to 12

Not included in this set (i believe) is the Index to the books released in 2002

The History of Middle-earth: Index

The History of Middle Earth: Index

To round of the collection, I wanted a good color atlas of all the Middle-earth maps. Again there are several to choose from, I went with the 2002 Houghton Mifflin revised addition by Karen Fonstad. I would have preferred the hardcover edition, but it doesn’t appear to be available.

The Atlas of Middle Earth

The Atlas of Middle-Earth (paperback)

And finally, from a lore-perspective, one should have the The Unfinished Tales.

“a collection of stories and essays by J. R. R. Tolkien that were never completed during his lifetime, but were edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and published in 1980.”

Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth

Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth (Paperback)

I ordered this paperback version because its contains the nicest cover.

 

Sometime in the future, I shall need to buy my own, proper, hardcover versions of the Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion and the Children of Hurin. I don’t yet know which version I shall get of those. I love the illustrated versions and anything with Alan Lee is pretty much a done deal for me. However, I may one day fork up the $dollar required for this limited edition box set, if it is still available at the time.

 

#CLP0006 – The J.R.R. Tolkien Deluxe Edition Collection: The Children of Hurin, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – € 400,-

If I want to get that one, I will have to do it in the next year or sooner, as its a 500 volume run only, and I am surprised they are still selling it.

So, I hope with these purchases to have erased my shame in not having familiarized myself with Tolkien long ago 😉
I can, once I have actually read the stuff, and read it again, walk proudly amongst my fellow geek and share the occasional inside quote.

March 7th, 2009 Posted by | Books, Geek | 2 comments

Android XMPP/Jabber xep-0045 support, and the Talkonaut team on why Android sucks

Talkonaut is a pretty cool XMPP/Jabber application for mobile platforms. Its based around a paid Googletalk-to-Voip gateway service developed by Evgeny Korolenko and Ruslan Zalata called Gtalk-to-Voip

I have been using Talkonaut for some time for its Multi-IM support, it will connect not only to Gtalk and other generic Jabber services, but also MSN. This was of course very useful.

Now recently, I have been using a new and in-development chat system called Bindpoint, and have been hanging out in the chat channel dedicated to the Wowcast podcast, on that system. (this is the chat windows you see in my sidebar on the blog, though I correct to it via the Pidgin client).

Recently, the start-up behind Bindpoint, AOEware, created a Jabber bridge. I immediately starting looking for Jabber clients that supported the xep-0045 extensions to Jabber, which is what the Jabber chat-room function is built around, if people so choose to implement it.

Talkonaut is one of the few, if not only mobile client that I am currently aware of, that supports these extensions, and thus supports multi-user Jabber chat rooms.

For a short time, I very happily used Talkonaut in this way, to chat with my friends in the Wowcast Bindpoint channel, on my old HTC Universal Windows mobile 5-based phone.

However, as you know, I recently got myself a G1, which has the Android OS on it.

Now there are a few Jabber clients out there for Android, most notably the built-in IM application that is there mainly to support Gtalk, but also the Meebo multi-IM client is popular. However, Meebo does not support multi-user Jabber chat rooms.

In fact, I have not been able to find a single decent Android multi-IM or Jabber client, that supports the xep-oo45 extentions, at all!

So I decided to mail the Talkonaut team, to see if they had an Android version of their client in development (hoping perhaps, to get into a private beta or some such). I exchanged a few very interesting emails with Ruslan Zalata, and they are reposted below with permission:

———————————–

Hello Robert,
Thanks for using Talkonaut. Unfortunetly Androind is very crappy platform based on Java which prohibits low-lever audio access (no full-duplex), and has no audio codecs. This means, we are unable to implement our main feature – VoIP calling, hence we cannot make any profit from this platform. So, until Google “fixes” these issues, we won’t start porting Talkonaut to Android. Hope you understand our position.

Me and some other guys already addressed these voip related questions on Android devepolment forum, there followed no response from Google. I believe they do afraid of mobile carriers who treat voip as a death pill to their business, and that is really true :-). So, in near fure we don’t expect voip possibilities on Android.
What’s more amazing is that Google removed XMPP/Jabber from basic setup of Android by request form T-Mobile. Seems carriers develop same attitude towards IM messegers as they are “stealing” SMS profit from them.

As for iPhone, i think it’s bit better platform, because of:
1. It is based on real BSD Unix (Darwin), but not Java machine running under Linux like in Android.
2. It was cracked (jail-broken) and you can install any application which can have access to any device feature, including hardware codecs, low-level duplex audio, low-level networking, etc.
We are currently working on version of Talkonaut for jail-broken iPhones both 1.0 and 2.0.
Standard (not jail-broken) iPhone is same sort of crap as Android – they are both fascist systems made to tie up users to some certain set of services/companies. One more platform in this row is BREW from Qualcomm.
In this regards, Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile are two independent platforms which will be first choise for developers in near future. Besides, they are well spread, well documented and have a large scale of third-party libraries developed for them aready.
Regards,
Ruslan.

———————————–

I was impressed by Ruslan’s honesty and I can completely understand their reasons for not pursuing Android at this time.

What I find discouraging is how Google seems to have, in this example, again bowed to the Mobile carriers. The Android OS is suppose to be an open one, and I thought that would mean there would be more or less no restrictions on what could be developed for it.

I also saw that the same limitation is to blame for the lack of any home-brewed video recorders for the G1 (explained here), a seriously lacking feature, as unforgivable to my mind as the Iphone’s lack of copy-paste or background applications.

So despite the openness of the platform, we are still depending on Google and whatever concessions they made with their mobile partners.

In the meantime, I am still looking for an Android client with xep-0045 Jabber support, so I can chat with my Bindpoint friends on the go.

March 2nd, 2009 Posted by | Gadgets, Geek, Tech | 7 comments