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Free coloring pages

So I used to have an Etsy store where I sold digital things to download, print, and create art with. Over time it became too much to handle and the fees starting eating into my profits, and the market was rather saturated anyway, so I closed it down. I don't really aim to come back to it, but I've decided that some of the things I had up there I'd like to give away here for free. So, if you're into coloring, I've posted nine different drawings, some of which I used to have for sale, and some of which I never got around to scanning until now. I like drawing flowers, cozy things, and sci-fi scenes, not necessarily together, and they're all in 8.5x11in dimensions ready to be printed. Here's a preview of a few of them that I colored:

Three of the pages I colored myself: two women with flowers, and a sleeping cat

Click here to see them on my Art Page

Making a database-free online RSS reader in PHP

I follow a number of blogs and forums, and I've been looking for a while for a good way to pull the RSS feeds from most of these into one place for easy reading. On my Linux machine, QuiteRSS works really well. I like the features and interface, but I work on multiple computers throughout the day, and at night I read on my phone, so I really wanted one central place to go for checking up on things. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I went looking at the existing options, focusing on self-hosted solutions, because I really didn't want to throw all of that data into another for-profit site that would use my feeds to throw ads at me. And while I can deal with using a private server to install a fully-fledged RSS reader, I didn't really want to bother with logging into another service, then worry about updating it, and seeing that it is still maintained, etc. An RSS reader that stores a username/password combo is just one more security issue to worry about, and means that I'd have to make sure it's not easy to hack and get into. I'm not super concerned about being able to add new feeds on the fly, because I'm usually pretty close to web development tools, or I can wait until I get around to them--it's not the end of the world if I can't add something immediately.

So instead I decided to build my own. The scripts I've put together and modified work without a database because you must edit the file directly in order to add them, so the collection of feed is as secure as your site hosting is, plus there are no SQL calls to worry about. It's viewable anywhere you can run PHP, so there's no bother with logging into anything, and of course that means you can share it all you want just by sending people the link. Since it's all processed server-side, it basically acts like a static site for all intents and purposes, which was exactly what I wanted. There are some small downsides--right now it doesn't support Atom feeds, and there aren't any sorting options, but I'll probably come back to it and add those in the future.

I figured I might not be the only one wanting to do this, so I figured I'd share it here. Under the cut I've put a download link and a short explanation on how it works, so that you can add it to your own site if you like. Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments. Continue reading "Making a database-free online RSS reader in PHP"

Blog is back up! Also some site updates

Currently Feeling: refreshed

Oh how I've missed this thing. Dreamhost has been having connection issues, and it ended up affecting pretty much anything that's dependent on MySQL. Fortunately, I've got backups and was able to re-upload some files, and we're back in business.

In the meantime, I've released some Pixel doll bases for those of you who also like making pixel art. Leave a comment if you use them, since I'd like to see what other come up with!

I also have a fun little toy I've been making. Over at the Melon Land Forums, one of the members, Iceologist, has been hosting a Web Jam event, similar to a game jam, but, obviously, for web pages. I wasn't able to join the first one due to some real life things I had scheduled, but they had some cool entries, which you should wander over and check out. The second one, though, has the "ASCII" theme, so I decided to make an art tool to make ASCII pictures with. I call it:

ASCII Painter

Check it out and have some fun with it! It came together more easily than I thought it would, though I did hit a few snags here and there. It uses jQuery and javascript, along with HTML and CSS. And of course, the GUI is all text only. If you want to keep up with the other entries in the webjam, here's the thread below:

Do I even have a web manifesto?

Currently Feeling: contemplative

These are popular on "web revival" websites these days, and I do love reading them where ever I find them. I guess it makes sense to post my own, but I don't really want to rehash the same talking points everyone else has brought up.

In terms of social networks I'm down to Reddit and Instagram these days, and Instagram may be on its way out. I left Facebook most recently, and never looked back. In terms of friends I had mainly amassed a collection of extended family members, who were getting progressively more and more alt-right, and I couldn't deal with the toxicity (this was about three elections ago, in fact, so I can't imagine how bad it is now). Before that I had tried Twitter, but couldn't really find a niche I felt comfortable with, and then I grew tired of all the toxicity there as well. I've seen the alternative networks like Mastodon, Ello, and the like, but I'm just not really interested right now.

I, too, have missed the old web. And having been a webmaster before, more than anything I missed having my own website. I make so many things that I like to share, and I felt like I didn't have one place to put them all, instead scattering them across different social networks that didn't really belong to me. Fragmenting my projects like that was disconcerting, and as time goes on it seems to become harder and harder to be a follower, as the feeds from social network sites get retooled to become better at selling things to me. They usually start out as a way to connect with others and discover new ideas and art, but eventually that falls away as more people join and the landscape becomes homogenized.

That's what the modern web does. It boils everything down to sameness, in an effort to make the web palatable to advertisers. Back when I was first online, we were excited about things like The long tail, which basically boils down to the idea that the web can be profitable by selling a wide breadth of products, rather than a huge volume. While I object to the idea that the web's primary purpose should be to make money, the idea of the long tail led us to believe that at least the web would exist to serve users, in an effort to reach as many markets as possible. But it seems that the problem with many of the web's biggest participants (Google, Facebook, etc) isn't that they want to make money, but that they want to make all the money. This seems to happen to most market players once they reach a certain size, and it's what drives a lot of anti-consumer business practices.

So what we see now is the web universe slowly getting conglomerated and centralized by the largest players, as the barriers to entry get higher and less accessible to most people. There's an excellent book about this phenomenon and how it's played out in nearly every information-based market in history, that I suggest you check out if you're interested in this sort of thing. The Master Switch, by Tim Wu lays out the history of radio and television, and how both movements started out as indie-type things in which regulations slowly choked out small players with the help of legislation ostensibly meant to "help" the little guy. Did you know setting up a radio network or telephone line used to be a simple affair, often done by hobbyists who wanted to share things with their local communities? You'd need licenses to do both of those things now, or you would run afoul of some very serious federal laws. Wu warns that if history is any indication, the web may end up going the same way.

So, even though it may be an uphill battle, I'm doing my part to keep the hobbyist part of the web alive, by hosting my own site and choosing not to engage with websites that want to monetize me. I hope you'll do the same. There are some really lovely places on the indie web, and I'd really hate to lose them.

Problem fixed

Currently Feeling: grateful

So it seems enabling the security certificate on my site broke the blog styling for a little while. It's been fixed now, but it looks like when adding "https://" to your site's URL, you'll need to modify the base path in the Serendipity admin by going to Configuration>Paths and editing the "URL to Blog" setting to add "https" to the site's address. Just in case anyone else is looking for the same info.

I've been adding little things to the site here and there. There are several new whole pages, as well as more artwork and resources. I've also been tweaking the theme here and there; I've made the main site's font a little bit bigger for those of you who either can't use zoom, or just struggle with the font size in general. I'll still need to deal with the width of the site in mobile devices, so that's on my to-do list next.

I have to reach out and extend some thanks to The Cheapskate's Guide for a lot of help on this thing lately. I've included the site in my links page, and added attribution in a comment where I used some PHP code they provided, but if you're new to webmastering, this article has a wealth of helpful info:

I was looking around for a site counter, but I really wanted to limit the number of third-party widgets I link to, for privacy and speed reasons. Depending on someone else's code, especially for tracking, really limits the amount of control I have over who is grabbing my visitors' data when they drop in, so I didn't want to go sign up for another service that would want to paste ads onto my website (I aim to keep this site completely ad free, forever).

If you'll scroll down through that article, Cheapskate offers a simple PHP hit counter script that you can add to your website for free! I did edit mine a bit so that the formatting is more to my style, but I'm super pleased with it and grateful that I can use a home-grown solution that's completely transparent and pretty simple as well. It's not going to work on static sites that don't have access to PHP (like Neocities and others), but if you've got a little more flexibility with your site, definitely check it out.

Found my old site!

Currently Feeling: excited | grateful

Sooo, I'm a bit of a ditz at times, and it turns out that when I had gone to the Wayback Machine (which I've been spending a lot of time on lately) to look at my old site that got pulled off of Atspace, I was putting in the wrong URL. You'd think I'd remember my own URL, but no, I had forgotten it. Once I managed to dig it up from my records, I was able to use the Wayback Machine Downloader to scrape the whole thing! Oh, I'm so elated! I though most of the crap I put up there was gone, but it looks like almost all of it is still up. This is good, because I was in the process of building my Resources page today, and I wanted to link to all of the old Photoshop brushes I made ages ago, but I was missing a few files here and there. Luckly, I've recovered them all and they are now up for download, plus a few extra packs that I never ended up releasing! Next I'll be uploading the old layouts I designed. I only have screenshots, but the data on there was old at any rate. Some of them, though, I'm rather fond of, and I'm actually considering recreating them for various things. If I ever decide to give the results away, they'll be up here.

If you're interested in looking at the old site, check it out here:

Hello there

Currently Feeling: accomplished

Welp, here we are at the new blog and website. I've been adding stuff whenever I get the chance, and although there's a good amount of stuff to click through at the moment, I've still got a LOT more planned. See, I've been throwing ideas for this website around in my head for a while now, and there's quite a lot I want to do. A big part of the reason for why all this is here, is because I've been pulling away from social media, which has turned out to be a nightmare for privacy and creative expression, and all the different creative pursuits I was detailing there I'd like to place here instead. Only before it was really fragmented--videos stuck on YouTube, gaming stuff on Reddit and Steam, Instagram was for my art and crafts, and music was probably going to end up on Soundcloud. And the pixel art? Well, that really didn't fit anywhere, because all those sites are geared towards large images for big screens.

So eventually it'll all get dumped here, which means I'm going to have a lot of stuff to sort through. Already I'm starting to wonder if my menu structure makes sense for what I'm doing, so I'll probably be changing it a little as my pages get longer, and need moving off to their own areas.

If you'd like to give any feedback, you'll need to be patient. I'll be adding different ways to contact me eventually, but it's not a huge priority at the moment. I may also link to a few other places on the web where you can find me, which come with their own communication options, but not today.

Check back soon!