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3. Technology

. . . is fun, probably because I don't do it full-time.

I treat information technology as a medium in which I can express the concepts and structures and solve the human-to-human communication needs that I invent or discover in my work in the areas of music, literature and even more general areas of thought and culture.

In August 1998 I got my first techie job in a long while (see my front page), partly due to the fact that I've gotten so heavily into the Net over the years. My latest cool projects there are to create an interactive self-placement diagnostic Web site using PHP and MySQL, useful for any teaching subject area, and to design a custom CRM/BI database from scratch. But I actually spend the most hours of my life as a hard-core techie when I'm at home working on irishtune.info, writing PHP-MySQL-Javascript. I'm also the technical consultant for the 2000 German Studies Directory database project, which I developed in the late 1990s as a multi-user Access 2000 database to simultaneously run the Personalia and Directory operations. That made me become quite handy with Visual Basic 6.0 and ADO. My first published book, the 1995 Directory of German Studies, was really just a giant programming and data entry project, which made me fairly proficient at FoxPro programming (like Pascal with some SQL elements). In 2000 I began developing Web database applications using ASP, which only means that I've adapted my knowledge of VB, ADO/ADOX, and SQL appropriately. My only previous server-side scripting experience was a brief flirt with Cold Fusion in 1998. I have also dabbled in Java and Perl for use in my dissertation project. But I've especially gotten neat stuff done using the language AWK (see "Free Scripts" below). Much earlier I tinkered with Lisp, Pilot, Logo, and Fortran. I paid more serious attention to the following programming languages (thanks to some coursework at Silicon Valley's Institute of Computer Technology and at De Anza Community College while I was in high school): C, Pascal, Motorola 6502 assembly language and, of course, BASIC (on home-built or home-tweaked versions of these fond old memories: TRS-80, Atari 800, Apple II+, and the 8088-based IBM PC).

HTML and CSS aren't really "languages," but it certainly pays to know them. Web pages I founded and still maintain include:

Back in 1997 I came up with an innovative design for Third-semester Dutch at UW-Madison.

Free awk scripts I wrote to share with you:

Another one of my pro bono publication projects was to create a package of Tex/MusicTex/abc2mtex for Windows back in 1996: Here's the FTP archive where abcwin is stored. This is TeX for 386s packaged with MusicTeX, abc2mtex, fonts, and dvi2win to let non-TeXies get TeX up and running relatively painlessly, so they can take abc tunes and print them out as real music. See and hear an example!

Hardware: I became a PC wonk in my teenage nerd-phase (or am I still in that??), and even ran a PC manufacturing & marketing enterprise out of my dorm room at Berkeley. Over the years I have continued to build systems out of new and spare parts both for myself and for friends. I specialize in low-budget, high-performance system design:

True nerds among you want to know what my current system is: For the first time, I'm the owner of a store-bought desktop system, a Dell Pentium3-500 I bought on the Web in Fall 1999. My last desktop, a Pentium-100 which I sold before my year in Berlin, may have been my last home-built system (the dollar savings of home-built is just not worth my time any more). I'm also dependent on my Compaq laptop, an Armada 4120T, which I drag all over the world and especially all over Madison on my bike. Life with a laptop is quite addictive, I've discovered. And yes, I was able to buy it and still follow my first rule above!

I also make the most of my experience (hey, 29+... years on this planet must be worth something!) by occasionally selling my services as a technical translator. Jump back to the InterEdge section of my front page.