Letters from Somnolescent May 30, 2020

5/30 – Underground, Dig Holes, Plant Seeds, Grow Old

by bulb

You feel that? That sunshine on your shoulders and that crisp, clean air in your lungs? That’s spring in full bloom, my friend, and that means flowers! Flowers, gardening, growing season, chamomile–wait, what the fuck dug all these holes?

Gopher returns!

In this month’s headline news: Gopher! No, not the burrowing rodent, the old protocol, and more specifically, Somnolescent’s Gopher server! It’s a long story, but in the early 90s, between FTP servers getting people their industrial music fix and Telnet connecting nerds to MUDs, Gopher promised colleges what the World Wide Web would eventually deliver. At least, that’s the line, isn’t it? Really, Web comparisons do both the Gopher and the Web a disservice, so Somnolescent started a camp in both.

About a year ago, technical issues knocked our Gopher offline, and sometime in March, we decided that enough was enough and that the Gopher would rise from its grave come May. And here we are! The server (running Pituophis, our in-house server software courtesy of dcb) has been totally reorganized by project rather than user, which lets us to share all these fun odds and ends for them that just don’t fit anywhere else. So hey, if 8-bit/11khz WAVs, crunchy GIFs, and text files appeal to you as much as they appeal to us, you’ll feel right at home.

gopher.somnolescent.net viewed in Gophie

The Gopher’s homed where it was at gopher.somnolescent.net. If you’d like to browse, you’re best off getting a proper client for browsing. Older versions of Netscape work nicely, as does Lynx–but a recent favorite around here has been Gophie, which is a dedicated Gopher client that runs cross-platform on Java. Slick stuff.

The Gopher Information Repository returns!

And right alongside the Gopher itself, my Gopher Information Repository gets a tuneup. I unveiled that thing early last year, only for it to lie dormant and embarrass me ever since. At long last, with dcb’s help, I’ve brought it up to speed with a ton of new content and some light styling. Still nowhere near complete (there’s still clients to review!), but this is infinitely superior to what was up before, I promise you.

Pituophis returns! (with a friend!)

As mentioned previously, Somnolescent’s Gopher is running on dcb’s Pituophis, which is more accurately a Gopher client/server library written in Python. I was adamant about using it, given the work he’s put into it and that it’s cool to say we’re running our own software, but what I didn’t expect was for dcb to write a damn search function to integrate in it.

A little project of his I admittedly didn’t pay much attention to at first was Gophew, which is a Gopher crawler and search engine. The traditional Gopher search engine is Veronica, which is essentially a cursory metadata search across all of Gopherspace. There’s also Jugtail, which is per-server and a bit more in-depth, but the question of how we’d integrate either into our setup was up in the air.

dcb being the powerful little bastard he is, he took option three and rewrote Gophew to run over top Pituophis. In one script, we have Pituophis serving Gopherhole requests and Gophew intercepting search requests, letting people scan through our entire server from a single selector.


As a bonus, to demonstrate Pituophis’ power as a library, dcb wrote a proof-of-concept client called TreeGopher that, as its name implies, uses a tree view for menus. We’re fans of the tree view around here.


I’m making my point about clients earlier slightly moot, but Somnolescent now runs its own Gopher proxy service on gopherlens.somnolescent.net. Originally, Gopherlens was just a repl.it project powered by Pituophis, but after the Gopher server went up, dcb suggested making it an official part of the setup. I wasn’t able to get it working on the Pi itself, but DreamHost offers Python through Passenger, which has worked out well enough for being a tower of duct tape.

I’d personally still recommend a separate client, but in a pinch, Gopherlens works, and I’d say works better than Floodgap’s proxy, especially given the latter rendering our menus incorrectly at the moment.

Somnocraft definitely does not return

In an old Letters post I made called “Somnoville”, I said this:

I can’t really show off everything in a blog post, obviously, but I’ll have a page up on the main Somnolescent site showing off everything sometime this month.

Well, it wasn’t that month, it was about ten months later, but I finally finished off the Somnoville page, showing off all the builds from our group’s first shared private Minecraft server. We stopped playing that world sometime around August, and the page was similarly left half-finished. Wasn’t really fair, given all the effort we pumped into it, so on some off-time, I finished it up and Caby and mon helped with the rambles.

Caby staring off at town from the lookout
The view from the lighthouse is still terrific.

(I don’t really consider it worth its own section, but while we’re talking old work made new again, I also dug up and recreated the first ever site design I had on my subdomain. I didn’t save the original files, but Caby and the Wayback Machine saved a few, so I did what I could to piece together the rest. Kinda nice to see it back again, in all honesty.)

Blog highlights

Comparatively less happened on the blog front this month, but still worth mentioning:

  • Tools, Toys, and You and I by mariteaux (May 9): “Technology should augment what we already naturally do and open up our world, not replace our old way of being.”
  • Somnolescent Radio: Spring 2020 by everyone (May 17): “As the first one went, each Somnolian has chosen a song dear to them at the moment and written a bit about it. Have a listen.”
  • Incomplete Eclipses and Muffled Screams by borb (May 22): “Was on this site for 6 years and I’m pretty sad to see it crash and burn like a drunk teenager driving their mom’s car, but that’s just the moral of this story. Get too cocky and forceful and suddenly everyone’s mad and one is spamming yiff porn at you.”

Art highlights

Busy month for art though! borb’s been getting back into it, and Caby took on Mermay, one of these month-long art prompt projects–a bit like Inktober but not shit. Here’s their favorites from this month:

"Mermay Day 10 - Celestial" by Caby
“Mermay Day 10 – Celestial” by Caby (May 10)
"Blood Rush" by borb
“Blood Rush” by borb (May 18)

Gosh, busy, busy. I’m never using the word “Gopher” again…unless it’s in reference to Pennyverse! But that’ll have to wait for next month. Keep cool, my friends.

About bulb

Group posts, recaps, and things we all contributed to. Hopefully, our hum-to-English translation is intelligible enough.

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