paul's habitual errant ramblings (on Fr)idays
2020-04-10: A week ago, I recorded a 5 minute audio segment of some stuff I've been thinking about, but when I started to write it up I stumbled into and kept dropping down a deep technostalgic hole.
fall down along with me:
The recording is just shy of five minutes long, you can also download it in different formats, depending on your needs, if the audio tag above doesn't suit you:
Stuff I mentioned in the audio:
Mumble - "a free, open source, low latency, high quality voice chat application."
Jitsi - "Multi-platform open-source video conferencing"
OpenFire - "real time collaboration (RTC) server licensed under the Open Source Apache License." Extensible XMPP server, with plugins, like a Jitsi-based video meeeting one claled OpenFire Meetings.
Though this is the fourth installment, the last time I recorded and posted a rambling was back almost 8 years ago! In fact, it was 2012-08-03, so 7 years and 8 months, to the day.
Having control of your infrastructure is a longtime thread for me.
For starters - there's the bicycle. That's been my primary and preferred mode of transportation for 30 years. As a kid, I was empowered by the sense of freedom, independence, and self-sufficiency that came with a bike. All these years later, I'm still a fan. You can see just how happy I am on a bike at the top of this interview , thanks to a sweet photo that was taken by Robert Sexton right by the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of the Lucas Valley Populaire in 2015.
Those of you who knew me back in college might remember how at UC Davis I ran my own "pirate" internet radio station - KPVL - with the cheeky tagline of "More broadcasters than listeners". (I say "pirate" because it has not relation to the actual KPVL radio station). But there are earlier remnants and traces of my efforts to exercise control and build my own reality.
I think it was in 1999 that my brother Mike and I started using Redhat (6), then Mandrake Linux 6.5, dual booting on a computer at home and I separately around the same time I got myself an sdf.org account. Though I wasn't sophisticated enough to have a constant internet connection in high school, I was lucky enough to get an account on Robert Chin's laya.com server. The url was - p.laya.com - it's long gone, but luckily, Archive.org has a copy from 2001.
Wow. I just took a look and so much came flooding back.
Here's the thing: April is an anniversary of sorts for me. Back in 1999, it marks my first time breaking anonymity and pseudonimity and using my real name on the internet. I've written about this before under the title of Publisher's block ten years ago - just about half way between now and then. This time, though, let me inline the piece I linked to as proof of the deliberate nature of my lack of anonymity.
An account of my life at 15, as I live it. traces of my awareness of the world, I can look back at later My first attempt at a memoir My goal is to capture my many thoughts emotions, behaviors, incidents, and acquaintances and to arrive only at an exponential number of those, hoping yet being afraid that it might be zero making everything about me: one
I'm glad I can now reflect on the kind of kid I was, thanks to the amazing folks who had the foresight to start archiving all of the web for The Way Back Machine. I used that p.laya.com page as a todo list and notes for myself using a hipster combination of the default file index listing with a FOOTER.html. It was captured in 2001, I was in 17, but some of this was written when I was 15 or 16 (I found contents from November 2000), I make mention to my then freeshell.org account (it's now been ivanov@ since 2012). I link to the source code of a MUD - ftp://ftp.game.org/pub/mud/diku/merc/rom/tartarus/tartarus.tgz - which is a broken link now, but I found a mirror over here: which is amazing, because just a week or two ago, I was hanging out with fellow SciPy 2020 program co-chairs Madicken Munk and Gil Forsyth over video chat after one of our meetings and I was happily reporting about how one of the positive things to come out of the shelter in place for me is that "I've fixed my mutt configuration and started using it again!" - but they both heard "mutt" as "MUD" and got very excited by that prospect. So much so that we all agreed that we'll have to follow up and actually follow through to build a MUD. And I brought up how at some point in high school I was mildly active in a pair of MUDs, and wanted to make my own, but never got around to it.
The last link I left for myself on there points to pinkmonkey.com - a homeschooling resource - which is probably handy for the parents with little ones these days.
Here's the most concrete infrastructure project I can find from then: I collected bookmarks from my friends to share them. The "service" lived at http://p.laya.com/bookmarks - and predates del.icio.us and pinboard. I bet I "advertised" it in my AIM profile.
If you're curious, there's a link to the archive.org copy near the end of this post, but I had this urge to show it to you much closer to its original glory.
Let me set the scene: It's Friday in April, the year is 2020, I'm running Windows 10 on my work laptop in poorly connected home in California, where a pandemic has most of the state's residents staying put at home for the several weeks already, and I decided to make a screenshot using the tool du jour of yesteryear
The timestamp on my bookmark website says I last updated it on: Thu Aug 30 20:14:14 PDT 2001
OldVersion.com tells me that the latest release for Windows that Netscape 4.79 was released in November of that year, and the closest antecedent version available is 4.72 (from February 2000).
I downloaded it and tried fiddling around with the compatibility settings, but without any luck.
Then I tried 4.79, and nope, that didn't work, either. So then I tried Netscape 6.01 - release February 2001.
I happened to have Chrome running at the time because in Firefox I have 1500 tabs open -- fifteen hundred and seven! ;) -- whereas in Chrome it's under 500, so I was trying to tread lightly. How do I know these numbers? For Chrome I found an extension that allows me to copy into the clipboard all open tabs' urls as plain text. It helpfully announces how many such tabs were copied. In Firefox one of the webextension examples gives you a counter.
Do you remember the web without tabs? Time was, you wanted to visit another webpage, you got two option: you navigate away from whatever you're looking at now, or you hit Ctrl-N to make an new window. I think most people used one or a few windows. But you were not gonna be crazy and open more than a dozen windows. I would have, and probably tried but I couldn't. And session saving across crashes or clean exits? Forget it! That what your history and bookmarks are for, grasshopper.
But let's get back to the task at hand: this was the lower right of my screen...
and I decide to start taking screenshots of this journey, click it, and let Windows 10 apply the compatibility settings, and then I'm faced with
the most improbable error message:
I didn't think Chrome had any ancestry shared with the Mosaic super-tree, but whatever - you can't exactly argue with software from 2001, and I have an important screenshot to take...
So now I've quit Chrome, just in case, and going to retry....
Damn, what could it be...I've got the Bloomberg Terminal open, I know portions of it are built on Chromium browser technology (had to look it up if this was officially stated somewhere - it is). Ok, so maybe that's what causing the false positive? I close that, and...
I hardly have anything open anymore ...is it VLC?
nope... Ok, what's left still open... Snipping tool I'm using to capture this epic adventure, a few WSL Debian console windows... the voice recorder that started this post... Task manager and Sysinternals' Process Explorer - where I was checking if perhaps somehow the failed attempt at running what was probably a 16 bit version of Navigator 4.72 was still lingering somewhere... SumatraPDF, Windows Terminal (Preview), gVim, and ...
Oh right - I guess Zotero uses XUL technology. I didn't really think much about it, but Zotero did start off life as a Firefox extension, and the standalone version came out later, makes sense that it would have grabbed a browser when it struck out on its own.
At this point I had already sent Madicken, who works at NCSA where Mosaic, the progenitor of Netscape hails from, the first two images... So I wanted to play with fire a bit....
Now that I've closed Zotero - can I have Firefox 74 open while installing Netscape 6.01?
Rats! same error...
oh yeah! Sweet. The world makes sense again.
Back to the setup.exe...
I scroll through the EULA - and randomly stop on this section:
12. HIGH RISK ACTIVITIES. The Product is not fault-tolerant and is not designed, manufactured or intended for use or resale as on-line control equipment in hazardous environments requiring fail-safe performance, such as in the operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, air traffic control, direct life support machines, or weapons systems, in which the failure of the Product could lead directly to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage ("High Risk Activities").
By the way - here's a good idea I came across a few months ago: throw EULAs (End User License Agreements) into some publicly indexed version control repo (I saw folks using gists for just that sort of thing: here's the Netscape 6.01 EULA.txt)
Let the folks at Redmond host it.
Fine. I click next...
Interesting - there's a "Read Me" button... I do as I'm told, so I click it.
Oh, a README.txt popped up in Notepad.exe - full contents of that are in that same gist as the EULA
but in them, there's a link to the full release notes over atread more