So, I Guess I'm a Vampire, Now

Wed 13 December 2023 by R.L. Dane

As anyone who knows me on the Fediverse can tell you, I've been a bit of a light-theme snob. (If you're not sure what I'm referring to, I'm talking about whether text on a screen (computer or otherwise) is chiefly light colors on dark colors (dark theme) or dark colors on light colors (light theme, like a printed page.)

My rationale was always pretty straightforward: growing up, cheap machines (DOS computers, "dummy" terminals) were dark, fancy machines (Macintoshes, UNIX workstations) were light. On a dos machine or a terminal, you were staring at white, amber, green, or (if you were lucky) multi-colored text on a completely back background. Because that's what looked better on cheaper displays.

If you were so lucky as to have access to an early Macintosh or a UNIX machine (like a Sun SPARCstation), instead of seeing this artificial bright text on a black background, you saw a crisp black and white or color display where the background was white and the text was black — just like any newspaper — and in the mid 1980s, that was a big deal.

So, how did I become a vampire? (People who love dark themes on their systems are sometimes called vampires, because, well, it's dark!)

Actually, it starts with music. I've always been a huge fan of synth music: it was the Hot New Thing when I was growing up in the 80s, and my love for it only grew in the early 90s when I was introduced to likes of Jean-Michel Jarre and Giorgio Moroder (and a little later, Vangelis!).

The other day, I was watching a Kerbal Space Program video on YouTube, and the video's author had a really nice synth track on a part of the video. The video's creator was good enough to put both credits and links to the musician on the video, so I found myself hopping over to the musician's channel to listen to "Space Exploration Music."

I was transfixed! Not only was this exactly the kind of synth sound I always liked when I was younger, it had a certain repetitive quality that I absolutely love when doing repetitive tasks, or going through work that requires concentration but not heavy thought.

I was enjoying that instrumental so much that I brought it into the Audacity sound editor in order to repeat the main part of the piece twice for a longer runtime. I was really "vibing" to this song.

As I explored recommended songs based on that one song, I started seeing the term "Synthwave" a lot in the song descriptions. It's not a new term to me — I noticed it a few years ago as an aesthetic style (deep magenta, blues and cyans, faux 3d landscapes, Blade Runner-ish visuals) and also a musical style (80s-ish synths and drum machines). I thought it was interesting before, but it never appealed to me that much — I grew up in the 80s, The real 80s. It wasn't nearly that cool growing up, but I did like the sci-fi throwbacks and the faux-retro vibe.

But this time around, I got hit by the Synthwave/retrowave/vaporwave aesthetic bug pretty hard, to the point that I was listening to a lot of Synthwave on my phone as I was powering through a pretty dull task at work. As my appreciation for the musical genre grew, so did my curiosity for the visual style.

At first, I wasn't that impressed — this is a very 2010s/2020s vision of what the 80s was. The visual style didn't even remind me that much of Blade Runner, which was one of my favorite movies. Still, there was a strange confluence between the musical and visual aesthetic. The combination of both gave me a powerful feeling of being at ease, relaxed, and in the flow at work.
My brain was being hacked by Synthwave!

One of my first exercises was to create 4-color images from some Synthwave pictures I found online. The reason for the 4-color nature of the images is another topic entirely that I'm looking forward to discussing in a later article.

As I spent time in The GIMP editing the images, I got more of that sense of ease and calm viewing the pictures. Something about the neon colors and swooping shapes really drew me in, and I wanted to explore Synthwave environments in computing further.

Well, today, the hacking of my brain was finally completed, and I converted my entire work setup to dark mode: I took my wallpaper and (spending way too much time), I painstakingly converted it in GIMP from a pretty run-of-the-mill photo of a starship to a wild, high-contrast photo of a starship in a streaky, neon starfield illuminated with Synthwave colors.
I carefully constructed a Synthwave profile for my terminal emulators (foot and konsole), so that instead of the prized, high contrast black-on-white text I had championed for years, it was a groovy lilac-on-lavender Synthwave-colored terminal which looked amazing. It was as if the terminal was glowing with an eerie CRT-like light, even though it was the same crisp LCD as always, with no text effects of any kind.

So, yes, I am now a vampire. Thankfully for you, the only deep reds I will be consuming will be with my eyes.

The KGB, the Computer, and Me

Sat 09 December 2023 by R.L. Dane

Last night, I re-watched The KGB, the Computer, and Me, a 1990 episode of NOVΛ chronicling Cliff Stoll's efforts to catch a West German hacker who was using the Lawrence Berkeley Labs' computer systems to hack into military computers in the late 1980s.

I say re-watched, because I …

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FOSS Games, Part II

Thu 07 December 2023 by R.L. Dane

I got a lot of wonderful feedback on my original FOSS Games are actually pretty good! article, and I wanted to share with you all the information that was so kindly shared with me.

Here are some FOSS games highly recommended by the community, although I have not personally played …

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FOSS Games are actually pretty good!

Mon 04 December 2023 by R.L. Dane

There's a lot of talk about gaming in Linux these days, and that's exciting, because it's drawing attention to Linux's capabilities. While the games being spoken of are mostly proprietary (and pretty awful, from a software-freedom perspective), it's good to see people getting interested in Linux, even when for only …

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Web 1.0 is (unironically) going great

Wed 29 November 2023 by R.L. Dane

I resolved never to put a web browser on this machine, which is a Thinkpad X200t from early 2010 with the Libreboot firmware flashed to it, and the wifi card replaced with a FOSS-driver-loving atheros-based card. Ever since I got it in early 2019, it's been my "writing machine," my …

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On the Fediverse and FediFriends

Tue 28 November 2023 by R.L. Dane

You may have seen me mention The Fediverse or "FediFriends" in previous posts. Now, I anticipate that 100% of my readers are already in the Fediverse (or within a rounding error of 100% 😄), but just in case someone doesn't know, the following is a succinct description and discussion of the …

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Using `cal` and plain text to track things, Part II

Mon 27 November 2023 by R.L. Dane

Back in September, I posted about using the output of cal and plain text to track things. Here is the example of that format I listed in the post:

     August 2023    
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
       .  2  3  .  5
 .  7  .  .  .  .  .
 .  .  . 16  .  .  .
 .  .  .  .  . 25  .
 .  .  . 30  .      

2023/08/02 326 45 …
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UNIX is "dead," Part II

Sat 25 November 2023 by R.L. Dane

I was re-reading my original UNIX is dead. Long live UNIX article, and I realized something that helped me better classify the various types of UNIX OSes:

I see OSes like the BSDs as UNIXes, while I view MacOS and many Linux distros (particularly the Gnome-oriented ones, more about that …

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UNIX is dead. Long live UNIX

Sun 12 November 2023 by R.L. Dane

I remember once watching a video of presenter at a Linux conference boldly proclaim, "UNIX is dead."

As someone who worked on UNIX systems for over a decade, and who's played with UNIX variants off and on for three decades, that is a pretty incendiary statement.

With apologies to Sophocles …

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Using `cal` and plain text to track things

Tue 05 September 2023 by R.L. Dane

I know everyone's got their preferred notes app/platform, but I've been using SimpleNote for several years now, and I'm quite fond of it. Not only does it have very usable mobile and cross-platform desktop apps, it also has alternate apps like nvpy (a GUI) and sncli, an excellent command …

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