Chatter #10: March 19, 2001

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM



A belated "Happy New Year" to one and all!

Chaos At The Chaos Project (and guestbook)

After a longish lapse, I'm back on the move. Actually, it was shorter than most of the previous dry spells I've been through. What brought me out of it was the collapse in web advertising revenue. Apparently advertisers are no longer interested in banner advertising, you see, which has caused something of a crash in online businesswhich was crashing anyway, of course. But you probably know all that.

Anyway, I've been using a free service called "" to provide my site guestbook. Three additional specialized guestbooks formed the core of The Chaos Project. Plus I used a free counter from the same source. The services weren't perfect— has an annoying tendency to crash—but they worked well enough.

But a few weeks ago wrote to tell me that the free Site Mechanics service was being discontinued, and that I'd have to start paying for it as of April 1st. I didn't really care about that; I'd looked at SiteMechanics once, out of curiousity, and it stayed activated because I was lazy and didn't care. Little did I know that the other shoe was about to drop...

It dropped when they wrote a few days later to tell me that they were discontinuing the free guestbook services as well. They invited me to send them money by April 1st or lose my books—which would be a disaster. Not only would the guestbook be lost, but The Chaos Project had hundreds of entries, all of them irreplaceable. But still, how could I be comfortable paying for a service that was still offered for free elsewhere?

While I dithered about what to do, the final insult landed in my IN box: MyComputer was discontinuing their free counter service, as well. Again, I was told to pay up or get out. I decided that they could bite me.

So the rush was on. Not only did I have to find a free replacement service, but I had to capture ALL of the entries in all four old guestbooks and find a way to make them still available online.

Finding a free replacement service was something I wanted to be careful about. There were dozens (hell, hundreds) of free services available, but almost all of them included banner ads—and if they depended on banner ads for funding, there was a good chance that they'd go under within weeks or months anyway. This transfer was going to be a lot of work, and I didn't want to have to do it again and again.

Fortunately I was able to find, which not only offered a better-looking set of free guestbooks, but didn't even use banner ads! Working quickly I set up a new guestbook and Chaos Project, and cut the links to the MyComputer books. The new books were pretty easy to format; I'm getting better and better at working with HTML (I've been working on an intranet site for work, which has been fun and educational).

And now I had to archive the old material. I'd captured all of the HTML from the MyComputer books, but setting up archives was going to be a bit difficult; their original format was a bit funky, since all of the text was squeezed into a fairly narrow column on the right. I wanted to create archives that would be much easier to read, print, and use. Among other things, that meant I'd have to number every entry, so that a GM could use the lists as tables and roll on them. Also, I had to keep every contributor's name and email address associated with their contributions—people have posted some great stuff to the site, and credit is the least I can give them.

Basically it came down to this: I converted the captured HTML into something useable—those jerks at had screwed up the HTML with tons of javascript, so that it was impossible to open the captured pages. I had to open each file in WordPad and trim off all of the excess code. Then I opened the trimmed file in Internet Explorer and saved the result as text. The file that this produced was fairly clean and useable.

Then I opened up FrontPage Express (and old WYSISYG HTML editor) and set up the archives as tables—but with columns for the actual text that were much wider in proportion to the name/address fields. I then started on a several-day marathon of copying each name and email address from WordPad, switching to FrontPage, pasting the text in the appropriate place, switching back to WordPad, copying the text for that entry, switching back and pasting, ad infinitum.

The problem was that my system started to crash more and more often as the files got bigger and bigger. Entering the row numbers was particularly hard; I'd enter five numbers, then look up and notice that none of them were showing on the screen. After five or ten seconds they'd either show up or the system would crash. The whole thing became ridiculous.

Finally I gave up trying to do any editing in FrontPage Express; the tables were wigging out, changing width wildly every time I entered a single character (if I wrote a five letter word, the width would change back and forth five times—s l o w l y .

So after I pasted everything I saved each file, then went into WordPad and edited the numbering into the HTML by hand. It worked pretty well, I think, but you can check for yourself in the archives.

Here's the funny thing (941 words without a punchline? I must be sick!): somewhere along the way while I was doing all of this donkey-work, I discovered that I was no longer burned out. I was having fun again. And I still am. Yahoo!

The Quiz

Which is why I just put up the RuneQuest Quiz last night. Speaking of which, please feel free to send your own suggestions for quiz questions to me. I have another 20 questions in the wings (I thought that the maximum limit was 30 questions, not 10), but I'd like to rotate quizes fairly often.

Net Failure?

By the way, has anyone else noticed that broken banner ad links seem to be causing a lot of sites to become broken too? It almost seems as if the sites have been set up so that they can't work if the banners don't work. As an opponent of commercialism on the web from way back, I'm mildly pleased by all this. And of course I'm happy that banners have been completely eliminated from my own site, even by proxy.


I did make one small investment in the site recently; I spent $29 on upgrading my FTP software to RFTP Pro, the commercial version of the freeware package I've been using for a long time. The one drawback of the freeware version is that you can't sort files one your host by type when you want to grab a set of all your files, and the transfer mode either screws up all of your graphics or all of your HTML. I'd found a lame way around that—download everything twice into seperate folders, once using text mode and once with binary mode, and then sorting and copying all the appropriate files of a type into (and over) the other folder—but it was a pain. Imagine my disappointment when I found that even the professional version of the software didn't allow sorting by type! But then to my amazement I discovered a "Smart Transfer" setting. With that turned on, the software used the correct transfer mode for each type of file every time! Cool.

My Life

So much to tell...where to begin? Well, on April 21st Teri and I will be getting married. It's going to be rather a large affair; we've been planning it for a year now. I think we'll both be relieved when it's over. :)

But we still have to figure out where to go for our honeymoon. We were planning to go to New Orlean's French Quarter for a week, but we've had to change our plans because...we're expecting!! Yup, with any luck in October we're going to have a really Big Day, knock on wood. I'm still a little in shock. I'll do my best to raise him or her as a gamer and science-fiction fan, of course. :)

Anything else has to sound like an anticlimax after that, of course, so I'll leave it at that.


As I mentioned, I plan to put up new quizzes regularly—or if not regularly, at least once in a while. I'm also thinking of adding a free poll (Alxnet provides those as well), although I'm still thinking about what questions to ask. For example: Ducks: 1) Love 'Em, 2) Leave 'Em, or 3) Eat 'Em? :)

But there would be serious questions too, and I'd mostly try to avoid Glorantha. If anyone has any suggestions for poll questions, do drop me a line.

Other stuff...well, I'm starting to wonder if I should start an online game. Someone recently wrote asking me about one, and since haven't been able to get much gaming in (I'm so far from everybody now), maybe I should try supplementing my game-deficit with something like WebRPG. Anyone interested?

There was something else, but I forget what it was. Oh well. More later, and this time it won't be anywhere NEAR as long before I write again...I hope.

Until then! >Peter

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[email protected] Copyright 2001 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 14, 2001. version 1.0