Letters from Somnolescent July 29, 2020

7/29 – Giving Up the Gun

by bulb

Last month’s recap was a bit of a laugh and an admission that we just didn’t have much desire to interact with the outside world. The world of MSN Messenger and IRC and chunky CRTs and old websites was more appealing to us, and I was on a self-imposed tech timeout after spending May fighting with Linux. (It still fucking sucks as a desktop OS and you know it.)

Not that we weren’t active, of course; things were drawn, sites were built, I write once more–all the good stuff you expect from us. I’ll try not to ramble, there’s much to get through.

A site? About Neopets? Never

Caby's Neopets Shrine
Brightvale pride

Gotta love impulse projects–Caby’s been meaning to dig up her old Neopets art for a while now, and given a certain itch to get back to having fun with site building, now seemed like the perfect time. Enter her Neopets shrine. It’s got her history with the site, bios for her Neopets, and of course, lots and lots of adorable Caby art, both new and old, much of which has never been seen in full quality before. (Damn art gallery and their 2003 file format requirements…)

The group's Neopetsonas
I always feed borb the weird shit first to make sure it’s safe.

In other site news…

mari’s Gopher Repository is Complete!

May, along with Somnolescent’s Gopher server itself, saw the return of my old Gopher Information Repository. Last year, I left it in an embarrassing state, and although May found it looking much better, I still hadn’t finished it. Indeed, I took a total tech sabbatical for June, leading to a few smaller projects piling up, one being finishing this section of my site.

mari's Gopher Repository
Before, I just wanted to do a page on gophermaps. Now? Now, things are a bit better fleshed out.

Good news is, it’s now totally feature-complete. Not to say it can’t still be expanded, of course, but all the pages exist now and they go into far greater depth than even the old Information Repository intended to. (Documenting UMN gopherd‘s .cap and .link system of customizing menus, server and DNS setup, and technical documents relating to Gopher+ and URI schemes are just a few bits of what’s on offer.) Come visit the much-easier-on-the-keyboard mari’s Gopher Repository and get your fill of highly organized document retrieval if you’re into that sorta thing like we seem to be.

Extensible Eurasian Lynx

A long time in the making, dcb’s overhauled his site again. Fitting with all the retro web goodness we’ve been indulging in (more on that in a moment), this one’s written in good ol’ XHTML 1.0 Strict and designed to evoke the waning era of the internet. Very appealing look, and good colors too.

dcb's new XHTML site

Far from being just a visual makeover, this one’s actually a total reorganization, making finding all of his photos, software, and projects of various stripes much easier. He’s also been putting more a focus on his general interests; check his music page for a nice variety of blissy, shoegazey recommendations and soundtracks.

The Great Somnolescent Retablening

I found it rather dismaying trying out our sites on the eMachines box, only to discover they don’t work because I built them with much newer technology than the browsers commonly used on XP can support. Therefore, following Caby’s lead, and with the new goal of targeting RetroZilla, I rebuilt somnolescent.net, Letters From Somnolescent, and my personal site from the ground up using tables for layouts instead, among other tweaks for optimal old browser enjoyment.

Letters from Somnolescent in Retrozilla

While there’s certainly visual tweaks that occurred in the Retablening, the changes were largely under-the-hood. I’m satisfied with what came of it. If you’re the type to be scared of loading anything without heavy encryption and a VPN, get HTTPS Everywhere and quit complaining. Otherwise, bask in the cleartext glory with your favorite retro browser of choice.

Friends of Somnol (and IRC!)

Not to say the update didn’t come with any additional content. In the interests of expanding out Somnolescent’s interactions with the greater community, we’ve introduced the Friends of Somnolescent page, at the moment featuring three folks who’ve linked to us and who run pretty neat ships of their own. Check ’em out.

#somnol on SlashNET
Don’t bother trying to join that other room up there, you’ll just get banned immediately. Not by us, by the software. Bless restricted access.

On that same note, while we’ve had a private IRC room on SlashNET for a little while now, ever since I joined all the Foonetic refugees moving to it in the wake of said network’s collapse (RIP Foonetic), we only recently got the idea of making a second room available to the public. Enter #somnol. You’ll need an IRC client to connect, but thankfully not much setup is involved. See our new IRC page for further details.

The WordPress Theme Archive

And completing the trifecta of old internet ephemera, WordPress themes! I’ve always found it a little funny the way old WordPress themes get good and buried within a few years. Seriously, looking up anything WordPress-related on Google just gives you an avalanche of shitty current year content mills and opportunistic web hosts. Makes troubleshooting a pain, and makes finding non-2020 themes a nightmare. And why specifically would you want to find old WordPress themes? Couldn’t be that new themes are all bloated to hell and look the same. Definitely not.

With dcb’s help, the entirety of the former WordPress.net Theme Gallery have been scraped and thrown into my downloads folder to be categorized. More relevantly for you, a bunch of them have already been posted in what I’m calling the WordPress Theme Archive, with more to come. At the moment, I’m currently working on reworking the old Districts (!) generation Legacy AutoSite plugin for gallery purposes, given how much of a pain working the HTML by hand is, and how inflexible AutoSite .NET is for this exact purpose.

The WordPress Theme Archive
I didn’t feel like taking another screenshot, so here’s one from my blog from when I was testing in RetroZilla.

There’s a lot of work to be done here, but this is looking promising.

And on the writing front!

“Back to the Sunrise”

The smile faded. “Oh, come now. What good would bullying you alone even do?”

“Oh, you seemed so…sure of it at the time.” Every time I glared off to the side, I found the giant eyes gazing back at me shifting in color—deep purple edged blue from acid green, never with pupils. Six billion hapless souls on this godforsaken planet, and the righteous space alien chose me over them all. “I’m here for two months, and that’s my housewarming gift, that’s how much you care about me. I have a panic attack in my sleep, and then you force me to humiliate myself in front of a little kid. That’s how much you care about me. Leave me alone.”

I was hoping to have more on Pennyverse for you all, but alas, a surprise project from an old Quake friend has been taking up my time instead. (That’ll be in the next recap, so stay tuned.) In case you missed it, I finally broke ground on the whole Pennyverse thing again this year with a bit of a sequel to “Sebastian vs. the Guardian”, that being “Back to the Sunrise”. Despite my nerves refusing to die completely, I don’t mind this one when I actually read it. I think that’s a good sign.

“Scent Trail”

He took a minute to regain his bearings before taking the container out from his backpack. Upon closer inspection, it didn’t look as unique as he would’ve expected given the lengths someone… or something went to hide it. He could probably find similar artifacts being sold by old, dusted furbearers at a local market, though probably without the smell. A lift of its lid however, told a different story. A long, tusk-shaped orange-red colored gemstone was the best way he could describe it. It was roughly shaped, sharp in parts, and he swore he saw a glow emanate from its core.

And pleasantly surprising, borb actually got a little story of her own done! It involves a lad of hers from way back, Sophius Brink the thylacine, out in the desert stealing shinies from a cave. It’s called “Scent Trail”. Been trying to encourage her to do much of anything with her OCs, and hopefully now that Art Fight’s on its way out, we can get some more good work out of her.

Decommissioning the filebase

Really, in news that has no relevance to you but a little to the group, I made the decision to shutter the Somnolescent filebase I started back in January and reclaim the drive that it was using. No one was really using it other than me, it was never perfect in operation (I’ve had a few scares where I thought the drive failed because it got bumped, thus stopping it from being read, plus ext4 is fucking junk in the first place), and the drive’s LED is obnoxiously bright at night. Cammy’s gotta sleep too,,,

Of course, the Raspberry Pi the filebase used is going nowhere, and neither is the Gopherhole also being run on it. If anything, the Pi’s now opened up to a wider variety of uses; I’ve got ZNC running on it now for staying logged into IRC on multiple machines, for example, and it might be host to an IRC daemon of its own someday. The drive itself is now wiped (data’s safe, all good) and using a file system for sane people.

Art happenings

It being July, Caby and borb once again waded through the dysfunctional mess that was Art Fight to murder people with their tablet pens. Here’s their favorite pieces as of late!

"Jake and Moss" by borb
Jake and Moss” by borb (July 17)
"Jay and Audure" by Caby
Jay and Audure” by Caby (July 10)

And with Art Fight on its way out, we transition into Pennyverse Month. Yes, our long-neglected group world finally gets back to business next month! I promise it won’t all be soap opera material, I just tend to write that for it. Much to do. Also, what’s that I hear about a new world ripe for exploration on the horizon…?

About bulb

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

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