Wikis, squids and MSN

by Suw on May 11, 2003

By the time July comes, I will be long overdue for a holiday. When I woke this morning it felt as if I’d spent most of last night dreaming about wikis. In case you don’t know, a wiki is a web page which is updatable by any member of the public.

At their best wikis are a great tool for sharing information without requiring everyone to join up to some centralised service provider. Sorting out a blog team for 30-something people would be tedious in the extreme, but with a wiki you can just post the page and hope for the best.

Of course, at their worst wikis are unintelligible gobbledegook of no discernible interest to anyone.

I’ve been thinking of starting a wiki at for the people over at Sweet Addy so that we can keep our info, such as SoulSeek user names, updated. There’s a thread for this on the noticeboard, but it sinks to the bottom every now and again and whenever someone wants to add a comment they have to trawl through pages and pages of dead threads to find it.

That’s the trouble with noticeboards. Sometimes someone posts something interesting but unless you keep bumping it, it gets lost in the murk.

Anyway, last night I spent all night dreaming about sitting in front of a computer setting up a wiki. So, just for a change, today I spent all day sitting in front of a computer typesetting. Again. I was going to work on the new version of the Get Fluent web site, but I really didn’t have the wherewithal so I spent a mindlessly happy day turning perfectly acceptable black text in to slightly snazzier orange text.

It was fun.

That said, although I’ve worked both yesterday and today, I’ve had frequent breaks which, very wisely I think, I’ve spent sitting in front of my computer staring at really very interesting black text on other people’s blogs. Or installing SquidCam.

I have no idea what the relationship is between SquidCam and those weird and overly rubbery denizens of the deep, but I do sincerely hope that the surviving relatives of the colossal squid found not so long ago don’t take exception and come round demanding money. Considering that the giant squid is much smaller than the colossal squid, I foresee scientists running frantically to their thesauri to find a suitable superlative if they ever catch a bigger one.

Just so long as they don’t start calling it ‘dinner’.

So, yes, SquidCam. Video conferencing for those of us foolish enough to consort at a distance with Mac users. MSN, in its wisdom, has produced a Mac version which not only appears to be less than stable, but which is also missing the most useful thing about it – voice chat.

(How confusing is it that chat, which used to be something you did on the phone or face-to-face, has now become something that you do on computers by typing and if you want to discuss chat that doesn’t involve typing but does involve speaking and computers and the internet you now have to prepend the word ‘voice’ otherwise people think you mean the typing type of chat and wonder what on earth the problem is because MSN does that perfectly adequately, surely? *takes deep breath*

As an aside to that, I just looked up ‘prepend’ in my Concise OED, and it wasn’t in there, so I got kinda curious as to whether it’s a real word or not. Did a quick search on Google (where else? My reliance on Google is starting to scare me – do I see the world only through googlegoggles? I think that’s a whole nother blog), and sure enough, ‘prepend’ is a word used by programmers to mean ‘add in front of’ which is pretty much what you would think it would be used to mean.

However, the second page I looked at featured an ill-conceived rant by one Clarke F. Echols who has a real bee in his bonnet about the usage of the word ‘prepend’ as an opposite to ‘append’. It is a word, he righteously tells us, that already has a meaning and that meaning is ‘premeditate’. Apparently words aren’t allowed to have more than one meaning.


We’d better go through the English language with a fine-toothed comb and start thinking up an awful lot of alternatives, then. I mean, I don’t want to start a row (that’s an argument, not a line of something), but I think the precedent has already been set (that is, determined or decided, not a group of objects that belong together) that words can have more than one meaning without confusing everyone. Context is a wonderful thing.

You know, I really can’t stand people who believe that the English language is incapable of evolving and that new words and meanings mustn’t be added to our already richly varied tongue.

I’m such a Pinkerite.)

Now, where was I before I started that little aside? Oh, yes, MSN, and how shit it is if you’re trying to talk to someone on a Mac.

See, the only reason I even use MSN is because all my friends use it. Isn't peer pressure is terrible? But, since becoming an MSN addict, I have been forced to admit that it has its uses, and one of those is saving you lots of money if you want to call abroad. If you have MSN and the person you want to talk to has MSN (plus mic and speakers of course) then you can just use the voice chat option and talk for as long as you like, for free. Good for the phone bill; bad, oh so very, very bad for productivity.

Unless, of course, the person you are trying to talk to has a Mac, in which case you’ll be lucky to get two (typed) words out of them before MSN crashes and obscenities the like of which you can only imagine are growled in the direction of Microbunchofarseholessoft.

Of course, there never can be enough obscenities growled at MS, although it’s a pity that they have no effect.

In an attempt to find a programme that would allow me to voice chat with my Mac-using friend, I downloaded SquidCam, set it up, and tried to get it to work. Which it did after a fashion. I could hear my friend in Australia, he couldn’t hear me. We fiddled with settings. SquidCam cut us off because until you buy the full version you can only use it for a few minutes at a time.

So we reconnected, fiddled with more settings, but still not a peep out of my mic.

“Is it turned on?” J asks.

“Course it is. It doesn’t have an off button,” I type into MSN. Truth be told, the one way conversation kinda suits me – I type more coherently than I talk these days, being so cut off from the world as I am. Most of the time the only words I actually utter are ‘Ow’ and ‘Tisha bwyd/mynd allan/rhywbeth i yfed?’ (Do you want something to eat/to go out/something to drink?), all directed at the cat as she sinks her claws in my butt yet again, seeking attention. (And using that tactic, she usually gets it.)

We fiddle with more settings. SquidCam cuts us off again. We resort to MSN for communication and try to figure out what the problem is. I start clicking things at random in the hope that something will work. Eventually I find this little tickbox… It’s under a heading called ‘microphone’ in my volume settings panel…

It says ‘mute’ and it’s ticked.

Oops. Sorry J. Seems you can turn my mic off after all…

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: