With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

On to Chapter 4: a CSS adventure

2010 December 30 00:56

This has been a great Christmas break so far. It's been great for the usual reasons, seeing family and giving presents and so on. This trip has been fairly unique, however, in that I've actually brought a bunch of stuff to do and I'm actually doing it. A year ago, I divested myself of blogger and set up virtual hosting on which I was going to deploy a blog software that I would run and configure myself. Well I got the hosting part set up, but the blog software has failed to materialize.

I ran pivot for a while, which was reasonably good, but I ended up having the same problem with it that I had with blogger, in that it was too hard to get it to really do what I wanted. I decided to design and write my own blog software, which would be optimized to be simple but configurable. That's taken a while to get going.

I'm writing the software in php and perl. php I know reasonably wel, and this has been an opportunity to get to know perl better. Frankly, the constant switching back and forth between the two language has gotten annoying enough that I might just get sick of it at some point and switch the web front end to perl and have the whole thing be the same language.

Anyway, once the front end works, then I have to format it in some way. I've read about CSS and web standards, and so I want to build the framework so that it has areasonable baseline configuration. I don't want to have stupid flash animations or frames or any crap like that, but I don't want it to look like a 1997 geocities page either. So I'm going to try really hard to build it in a reasonable way. So having gotten the core code framework going in a reasonable fashion, I'm now working on the formatting. What you see on this page is where I am thus far. Not very nice, and the title has a questionable color, but this is a proof-of-concept that the CSS stuff works like it's supposed to. I'm slowly chewing through the reference library that I brought with me:

I have the front-end scripts working displaying the entries. I now have it including CSS definitions. Now I'm going through and using the books to figure out how to use CSS to position the elements, so that I can get a sidebar set up for archive links and navigation and so on.

The other thing that I've been working on is resurrecting an old Christmas present. A few years ago I asked for and got a Frogpad keyboard.

This trip I've gone through all the typing exercises, so I can type all the standard letters. I'm trying to work through the symbols, which is much harder because it involves some of the several shift/modifier keys on it. We'll see, but it's a good start, and maybe I can become actually adept at it this time.

Position Report...not far now!

2010 December 28 09:55

Which is an easy thing to say

My blog software has come along pretty well these last four days of vacation. Things that are current working:

The main thing that I want to get working is month summary indexes. There are a couple of ways to do it, and since that's the main thing that's holding me up right now, I will try to get to that today.

Now...once all the operational stuff is running, then I will start working on getting the presentation to look like something that wasn't written on geocities in 1998. However, I want to get the basics down first, which is coming soon, remarkably. So stay tuned and hang on to your hats.

Torpedoes away!

2010 December 28 01:35

I modified a script in the blog software that updates the individual entry link automagically when I instantiate a new entry. There's nothing to see here; if there were actual content in this blog post, it would appear here. Please move along. :-D

Cars here and car there

2010 December 27 19:16

I worked a bunch on my vintage Beetle last weekend; but I didn't upload the photos and I didn't bring that camera with me. :-( The status is that the heads have been re-torqued, and so I'm putting the engine back together for what I hope is the last time for 75,000 or so miles; it should go that long now with new heads. At that point I'll probably re-build the engine.

HOWEVER (it's always something), I did notice that there were things under and around the oil cooler that were oily that hadn't been before, and the part of the engine deck direclty below it is significantly oilier than then other parts. As long as it's apart, I figure that it might be a good time to pre-emptively replace it. So I bought a new oil cooler with all the proper acoutraments to install on the engine when I get back in town.

I took a couple of interesting pictures here. Before the snow started seriously melting today: his and hers cars in the snow:

I find the way the snow fractured and fell off neat:

Configuration the old-fashioned way

2010 December 27 00:48

I got an Arduino 20x4 LCD display for Christmas from my parents-in-law. I got an Arduino Mega last Christmas, which I didn't use a lot, but I also worked on one at work instead, so I got used to programming that.

My ultimate plan for this is the use the computer as a data-collecting, diagnostic, and perhaps control system for my vintage Beetle. The display will definitely help with that. I'll be able to print out diagnostic information that I can read from inside the car. An arduino, although awesome in concept in what it can do, but its interactivity while deployed is underwhelming. You can hook up LEDs to it that it can blink, but that's usually it.

I opened it yesterday, but all I had time to do then was to solder on the header pins. Today, I got the display wired up and displayed stuff on it. It's cool!

Here's my setup sitting in my lap. From left to right, my laptop running the arduino programming Java tool, which powers and controls the Arduino Mega via USB. Then the Arduino itself, and then the display plugged into a breadboard. The set of wires that connect the Arduino to the display are a little cumbersome. This setup, of course, is just for messing around. In the car, I'll have to replace this wire setup with some sort of ribbon cable.

(sorry about the indifferent focus.)

Here's a clearer shot of the wiring:

And here's a Christmas message to all of you.

Happy Holidays!

Debugging, and soldering in my spare time

2010 December 25 23:28

I got an LCD display for an arduino microcontroller for Christmas.

The first step is to solder the pin header on the edge connectors:

Fortunately, for travel/work reasons, I had my soldering iron along.

Not a bad bit of soldering, considering how little I've done in the past months/years.

Of course, in terms of fine soldering, these solder pads are the size of Texas, so I had a lot of room for error.

The blog software's coming along. I know, I know, it's still ugly, but I have a working scheme for keeping track of image files, and linking stuff together, which works. I got the basic core stuff debugged today. There are a lot of utility scripts to write, but I think the main php file (that displays this page) is getting pretty well debugged. I worked on that a bunch yesterday and today as well.

Forced Convergence.

2010 December 09 08:24

Yeah. I said was going to blog every day for a month. Ahem. It's been four days since I've blogged, and it's only the 9th of the month, which means at this point that I have about a 50% hit rate. Thats' a good batting average, but not a good test average.

My photo critique is tomorrow, so all the assignments for the class have to be done, mounted, and turned in, along with my notebook. I was in the dark room a bunch last night, and I got a lot of prints made. What remains is diminishing; the amount I have to do is getting smaller and converging with the amount of time I have left, which is nice.

So I've managed to not procrastinate my way into a really bad corner. However, lots to do tonight. Then back to a (more) normal schedule.

Oh, and I need to go quick re-take a shot for my final in a few minutes, when the mall will be fairly empty.

Oh yeah, and in September...

2010 December 05 23:52

One thing that that it's too bad I couldn't blog about was that I got my instrument rating in September. So I'm now licensed to fly airplane in clouds and low visibility. The important thing is that makes my trips much less depend on the weather.

I did my flying at MN Aviation in Albert Lea, Minnesot (down where I-35 crosses I-90 in the south central part of the state). They have concentrated courses for doing different ratings. Their course offerings include a 10-day instrument course, so I got my rating between September 3 and September 13.

It's a great experience. I think I got a really good regimen of training, between flying the airplanes and their Frasca 142 simulator.

The current version of my "pilot skill table" is now up. Just for the record, I'll repeat it here. Ratings in green are ones I have. Ratings in yellow I've taken training in. Ratings in blue are ones that I haven't taken any training in but I might someday. Follow the link for a slightly more detailed explanation.

airplane lighter than air rotorcraft glider powered lift weight shift
single engine land single engine sea multi engine land multi engine sea airship balloon helicopter gyroplane
private pilot SEL private pilot SES private pilot MEL private pilot MES private pilot airship private pilot balloon private pilot helicopter private pilot gyroplane private pilot glider private pilot powered lift private pilot weight shift
endorsement: complex airplane endorsement: ground tow
endorsement: high performance airplane endorsement: aerotow
endorsement: tail wheel airplane endorsement: self launch
endorsement: pressurized aircraft
instrument rating: airplane instrument rating: helicopter instrument rating: powered lift
commercial pilot airplane single engine commercial pilot airplane multi engine commercial pilot airship commercial pilot balloon commercial pilot helicopter commercial pilot gyroplane commercial pilot glider commercial pilot powered lift
air transport pilot airplane single engine air transport pilot airplane multi engine air transport pilot: helicopter air transport pilot: powered lift

this time for sure!

2010 December 04 12:28

Whoops--I forgot the "0" in the formatting "%02d" so that the leading zeros in the date were filled in. Now we'll try it again.

(later edit) It works now, with leading zeros (note the date is 04 rather than 4). Neat!

I finally invent (sort of) something that works!

2010 December 04 12:24

Assuming this posts properly, I will have fixed something and used svn to propogate the code changes and made it painless.

I saw a presentation at UHACC a few years ago on the subversion revision system, about how it was a direct replacement for cvs and that it's all that and a bag of chips. I've used it for collaboration on code and as a way of backing up. However, in the context of this blog software, it's the first time I've 1) used it for deployment and 2) it's the first time that I've set up the repository myself. So not majorly earth-shattering but moderately nifty.

So the issue is that all through the fall I was working in fits and starts on the scripts on my laptop, and testing them there, but I hadn't deployed them on the server that holds my actual web page because I didn't want them to have disjoint development. And so although the scripts are still in a very primitive, half-assembled state, the last specific thing I needed to do to take the blog live was to get subversion set up on the server so that I could make changes in one place and they'd show up in the other place easily.

So last night, after I posted, I noticed that the date in the last entry is formatted in a wierd way. This morning I fixed that in the version of the code that's on my laptop, checked in the changes, and now I've checked them out again on the server. I'll instantiate this entry now and then we'll see if the formatting was right.

And then, now that the sun's up, I need to go take a few outside photos for my project for photography class. The project requires a narrative, and one of the shots I want to get is of putting gas in a car. I hope that the shutter doesn't freeze and bog down.

The date is a lie; It is December 3rd.

2010 December 04 4 :43

I just finished an almost-working version of the script that instantiates a new entry file. However, it appears that the system time is set to zulu time, or Greenwich coordinated time. So the date stamp from the web server which is where the scripts are being says it's tomorrow morning. However, I want to stress that it's 20 to mid-night eastern time where I am, so I'm still holding to the schedule of posting every day in December. SO--real time 23:43 December 3.

Keeping Busy

2010 December 02 22:38

This year has been a good one, getting stuff done on the house that we'd put off for years (painting the kitchen, moving the cats litter boxes to the basement) and it's been a good one for other reasons. One is that I'd always wanted to take a photography course, and now I am. Here's me taking over the dining room table in preparation for getting my photography critique prepared for next week (coming right up--eep!):

Oh, and a week or so ago, I got the area between the two cars in the garage cleared out:

which means that I can put the big jack in the center and pull the engine with the car in its normal position in the garage, and the engine has a place to sit that doesnt' require hoisting.

And earlier this week, here it is:

engine out of the car, on its wheeled trolly, ready for dis-assembly.