neale is currently certified at Journeyer level.

Name: Neale Pickett
Member since: 2001-02-19 17:40:25
Last Login: N/A

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I hack at the periphery of free software, contributing patches and small utilities here and there. I also have a few smallish packages of my own construction. I run a little server,, whose charter is to help kids learn to program. I guess this makes me a teacher of sorts.


Recent blog entries by neale

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29 Jul 2002 (updated 29 Jul 2002 at 17:46 UTC) »

I wonder if a Public Television/Radio model would work for LWN. They've obviously proven to the world that they have a valuable service to offer, and many people are willing to pay for it.

It's a pity usenet isn't more popular.


Lots of activity all of a sudden on virgule-dev. It looks like I dropped it prematurely. On the other hand, some of my work has undoubtedly made it into Advogato, so I still feel like it was a net productive diversion.

graduate school

My sister was just accepted to graduate school to study cognitive psychology. I think there's a lesson for me here. I just said "I wanna go to graduate school for computers" and didn't get in. My sister said "I'm interested in studying cognitive psychology" and started talking to professors who were studying that, then narrowed down her choices to the professors who expressed an interest in her, and only after all this did she apply.

As a result of this realization, I'm trying to decide what I'm really interested in. One of my initial thoughts is that I sure do enjoy learning new languages, and that even though I'm still endeavoring to really grasp it, ML strikes me as the Right Thing. My new plan is to finish up The Little Schemer, write everything in Guile for a month or two, then get cozy with a good book on ML. My goal is to install the Hello Project and start hacking it. At that point, I'm hoping it will be pretty clear to me whether or not I'm really interested in doing graduate work in ML, and I presume I'll have a good idea about what people I should contact, at what universities.


I finally understand comments Raph made a year or two ago about SMTP needing a successor. I have a fairly decent (but very simplistic) trust-based email filter: a whitelist constructed from my address book. Wouldn't it be cool if in addition to that, I could query some of those peeople about incoming email? For instance, what if my procmail recipie could automatically ask a question like "What do you know about" Better yet, bob's email could carry with it a certification from alice that bob is a good guy. I already trust alice, so I could put bob's mail in a "probably not spam" box.

This isn't a terribly difficult concept. I'm surprised it hasn't already been implemented on a wide scale. It's been in PGP for decades.


I've been doing a lot of reading lately. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever undergone such a surge in voluntary reading. And to think, it was all begun by reading the Harry Potter series. I suppose it just took reading something that made reading fun, and the realization that I'm not required to read things in which I have no interest.

The best book I've read in this recent literary explosion has got to be Civilization before Greece and Rome by H.W.F. Saggs. It's just a history book, but the subject matter fascinates me. Right now I'm reading about the government of ancient Egypt, and I keep drawing parallels between their bureaucracy and various bureaucracies today. If nothing else it's encouraging to know that the good old days really weren't all they're cracked up to be.

Another thought-provoking and fun read was Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. If you liked the movie "Deep Impact" but felt like it could have done with more science and more exploration of the before and after on earth, this book is for you.

Powell's Bookstore would be a good place to visit if you're trying to find an alternative to Amazon. This store has been around for quite some time in Portland. In the Pacific Northwest it is generally agreed that Powell's is the best place to go for books, especially technical books. That they're privately owned is a plus in my book, as well.

20 Dec 2001 (updated 20 Dec 2001 at 17:26 UTC) »

Got married recently, and I haven't had much time for hacking. Actually, I haven't had as much time as I'd like for hacking in quite a while now. But then I guess I'll never be able to go back to those 2-day stretches I pulled when I was 14.

Recently I've gotten into Make and AWK. I used those two to create my new photo album software (source code available, but it's not for everyone), and a suite of Makefiles to build directory listings in my web space every night.

I have this dream of finding some project I can really contribute to, but I'm becoming increasingly aware that this will never happen. What I seem to be best at is contributing useful bits and pieces to projects (maradns is the latest), and then moving on. Which is okay, but it sure makes it hard to keep track of the hundreds of little hacks I've done.

This Sklyarov stuff is keeping me pretty busy. I hope they let him go soon, so I can get back to my normal life.

28 Jun 2001 (updated 20 Dec 2001 at 17:30 UTC) »
drc's post about the reworked advogato stuff convinced me to finally learn enough about CSS to make bordered boxes. You can do it, but finding out how isn't easy. The best way appears to be creating an element with table-cell display attributes, like this:

span.cert {
    display: table-cell;
    background-color: inherit;
    padding: 0;
    margin: 0;
    border: 2px;

Of course, Gecko is the only rendering engine that gets this right (although Opera does pretty well). Konqueror draws it correctly but then fills background over the text. IE does some weird word-wrapping. Looks good in w3-mode though.

So you can get advogato-like output using CSS, but it's not well-supported yet.

If you'd like to see the resultant output, check out thunk.

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