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Peter Molnar

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Peter Molnar
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Hongcun bridge closeup

As mentioned before, I don't think there's a chance to take an image if the bridge only. However, if you're early and patient enough, an opportunity might present itself when only people who actually fit the settings are on the path.

I know the framing is a bit off, but there were people standing on both edge of the bridge, and it was either to cut the reflection, or to break the scene.

Sat, 26 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Hongcun bridge

I firmly believe that it is now impossible to take a picture of the bridge in Hongcun without people already occupying it to take a selfie. Or a lot of selfie. And one more selfie.

This was taken 07:05 local time, about an hour after sunrise and before the tourists were allowed in, meaning these people all slept inside Hongcun as well.

Fri, 25 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Sunrine in Hongcun

Just the sun rising above Hongcun with misty mountains in the background. Nothing special apart from the idyllic and near perfect conditions to feel how China probably was a few hundred years ago.

Thu, 24 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Sunrise at the Moon Lake in Hongcun

The Moon Lake is in the middle of Hongcun and is the "belly" of the water system running across the town like veins. It has fisn, snails, shellfish, and a lot of special plants that filter and clean the water.

We tried to get out here early as possible, but we still weren't the first, even though the sun has just rose up when this picture was taken.

Wed, 23 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Empty morning in Hongcun

Want empty streets in Hongcun? Sleep inside the town, because it's loked from visitors till 7am. And get up around 5am. If you do so, you'll meet adorable cats loudly welcoming you and a crispy morning, with unique street views.

Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Saturday night in Hongcun

If you go somewhere for a week or a bit more it's inevitable to have a Saturday night included. Saturday night at any heavily tourist populated are can be bad, but Hongcun was a lovely suprise: it was lit with lampions, everything was open till 22:00 at which point everyone went to sleep.

We've slept in an actual mountain monastery, so we knew it's different when the place has a history and you're staying at an old place. The unexpected part was that our accommodation, well within Hongcun, was immaculate: clean, interesting, with lovely people running it. And for Saturday, it even included a baby corgie.

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Couple in the sunset in Hongcun

There were so many people staring into their phone, or taking selfies - except them. This young couple took a photo of the place, and not a selfie.

Sun, 20 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Sunset in Hongcun

Hongcun ( 宏村 ) is a small, old village in Anhui province - and it's location of the opening scenes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This fact made Hongcun one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in China. I saw images from before the movie, from the '90s, and there were absolutely no sign of the level of decoration anywhere, let alone the hurds of humans cross the bridge the same direction Li Mu Bai did.

Hongcun has a very unique water - and plumbing system. The South Lake in this photo it's essentially the storage tank of city-wide hydrophonics with biological cleaning.

Sat, 19 Oct 2019 22:30:00 +0100


Working on the Emerald Valley

Swarms of tourists are usually bad in a scenic area, but at least in this very case, it shows how well the Emerald Valley is maintained.

Sat, 07 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0100


The greens of the Emerald Valley

There is a good reason why the Emerald (or Jade) Valley is called like that: there are hundreds of different shades of greens all around, including the ponds themselves.

Fri, 06 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Emerald Valley

China has a system to rank scenic areas, which takes capacity, beauty, historical importance etc. into account. The AAAAA spots, like Huangshan, are the nicest, largest, most crowded places in China, because everyone hears about them. Regardless of this they are usually still worthy of visiting.

The AAAA category, on the other hand, are lesser known, quieter places, which still have a lot to offer. The Emerald (or Jade) Valley is one of these. It was delevoped soon after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, because it was one of the filming locations, but in the 20 years since the movie, the area certainly had a drop in the mass of tourists. Despite all of that, it was still impossible to get pictures without people in it, so in 2019, in China, I gave up: I started taking my photos by calculating with the humans in the landscape and tried to make the best of it.

I took this picture with a fairly hollow depth of field, just to try something different out in landscapes. I have mixed feelings about the outcome, but considering I selected and uploaded it, I lean towards the positive.

Thu, 05 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Huangshan - stairs and tourists

Our 2019 visit to China was the first time ever that even with patient waiting it was impossible to get a view of the scenery without people. So I kept the people. At least they make the steepness of Huangshan is visible.

Sat, 31 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Huangshan scenery 4

The deeper you go into the rear valley, the wilder, the more alien the landscape becomes in Huangshan.

Fri, 30 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Huangshan scenery 3

These mountains with the flowers and the spectacular pines are worthy of being the topic of so many chinese landscape paintings.

Thu, 29 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Huangshan scenery 2

A view of the rear valley from the scenic route of Huangshan.

Wed, 28 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Huangshan scenery 1

A view of the front valley from the scenic route of Huangshan.

Tue, 27 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Huangshan Panorama 2

It's nearly impossible to properly capture landscape with "deep shadows and brilliant highlights", but I tried to do my best. Non-HDR, multi picture panorama put together with Huggin.

Mon, 26 Aug 2019 21:00:00 +0100


Huangshan Panorama 1

Huangshan is a unique place. It's also vast, surprisingly long to walk, and even after the Golden Week it's still packed with people. Regardless of that it's beautiful.

Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Tangkoucun 汤口村

Tangkoucun ( 汤口村 ) is the small town at the feet of Huangshan mountains - this is where the bus to the scenic area takes you to. If you get here in dark, it's certainly not one of the most welcoming looking places, but it gets a lot nicer in light.

Wed, 21 Aug 2019 15:30:00 +0100


Greens of West Lake

The West Lake itself is a big, open water, but around it, especially in the corners, there are wonderful, smaller areas, filled with lush greens, and sprouting lotus.

Wed, 14 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Hangzhou West Lake at night

The West Lake in Hangzhou is probably one of the most visited tourist spots in the whole of China. Apparently it's true beauty only appears when there's mist and fog around - having had a clear night when we were there, it seems fairly true. Without the mystical cover, it's a merely large, although very nice lake with a bright, and modern view.

Tue, 13 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Bamboo Pattern

Taken at Yunxi Zhujing, Hangzou.

Mon, 12 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Bamboo Lined Path

Yunxi Zhujing is one of the less visited, smaller attractions of Hangzhou. It's easy and possible to get there by bus from the West Lake, and it's a nice escape from the swarm of tourists at the big highlights around.

Fri, 09 Aug 2019 09:00:00 +0100


Rebuilding my home server on a tight budget

If you have an unlimited budget don't read on: get 2x4TB 2.5" SSDs and stick them in an old ThinkPad. I still believe it's the perfect home server.

Hardware

Unfortunately I don't have unlimited budget, rather a particularly limited one. I also I had to put a system together that fits in a very tight space - England and it's teeny flats - and has at least 4TB, reliable storage.

I had some spare parts: a 250GB 2.5" LiteON SSD, an ancient 64GB 2.5" Samsung 470 SSD, 8, 4, and 2 GB DDRIII SODIMMS, but that 4TB meant I need to think in 3.5" drives, 2 of them at least, to have a real ZFS mirror.

Considering my as-less-as-possible wallet for this at first I caved in: I bought a QNAP NAS. I believed their rather convincing marketing about how advanced these things are. Well, they are not, at least the consumer ones aren't. I couldn't even find a way to display the raw S.M.A.R.T. state of the drive, let alone ZFS features. After a long read it turned out that all those nice features are enterprise-only. I ended up returning it the next day.

Back to the drawing board.

Places like mini-itx.com and pcpartpicker are absolutely invaluable tools when it comes to designing a computer from parts, but unfortunately they don't include old models, or arcane, hard to come by parts.

The main issue was the lack of space: all the shelves I could place it on were only 30cm deep. A long time ago I gave a Lian-Li house a go, but it ended up so cramped inside that I had to give up back then. Also: the thinner the better. I couldn't believe nobody ever done a 1U house that fits 2x3.5" drives - I know it's possible, so there should be something out there!

Then I finally found it. It exists, and it's called inWin IW-RF100S1

inwin-iw-rf100s
inWin IW-RF100S rack case

A 1U chassis with 1/3 of the normal depth which can take a mini-ITX motherboard, 2x3.5" drives AND 2x2.5" drives and has a built in PSU! I've been looking for a case like this for about 4 years now.

Choosing drives was simple: a WD Red 4TB2 and a Seagate Ironwolf 4TB3- different brand, different batch, so there can't be same batch => fails the same time problems.

Finding a motherboard on the other hand turned tricky and resulted in compromises. My original minimum requirements were at least 4xSATA, if Intel, then AES-NI support in the CPU, <25W TDP (so passive cooling would be enough), HDMI (I have no VGA connector capable display at home any more) and ECC RAM support.

There are nice Supermicro and ASRock Rack server boards with ECC support, but they only got VGA. They are also pricey and usually without CPU, so I'd need to hunt down a super rare and rather expensive Intel Xeon E3-1235LV5 for that 25W TDP. It's an insanely good CPU, but the motherboard and this processor would push the setup with and extra £500 at least, more likely with and extra £800, so I dropped the ECC RAM requirement. Yes, I know, my ZFS will be destroyed and my bloodline will be cursed.

In the end I settled with and ASRock J42054. It has 10 W TDP, passive cooling, and fits the remaining requirements.

Notes and finds

The fans that come with the inWin are LOUD. 10+k rpm, proper server level, vacuum cleaner loudness. I bought a Geli silent fan, but if I replaced the originals, it became disturbing because the metal railing for the fans disrupt the airflow. I put it ~2cm further away with a double sided tape and it's now working fine. The fan makes an average 8°C difference, but even with completely passive cooling, the CPUs, running at max were ~50°C max.

The PSU fan is surprisingly quiet despite it's size. No need for hacks.

I added a tiny layer of foam under the drive trays, so no wobble possible at all.

I also added some tiny rubber legs to the case, but I'm leaning towards buying some anti-resonance domes.

The whole setup fits under an ordinary bookshelf.

Cost

Total: £421.49

Operating system

ZFS vs linux: the drama keeps rollin'

As my previous system was, my laptop system, and my main server system is Debian, I obviously installed Debian initially. The difference, in this case was, that wanted to stick to Stable and not faff around with Unstable at all.

I've been having disappointing experiences with the linux community for years now, starting with pulseaudio, that lead into systemd, but I managed to overcome this. Every single time I tried FreeBSD I got burnt on something, so I wasn't keen to compromise my main backup system again.

Until...

Until I started reading of the next beauty of the linux kernel community who I now believe is repeating the errors of anyone on the topic of the food chain - namely about how a feature deprecation broke ZFS on Linux (ZoL).

My tolerance for ZFS is pretty non-existant. Sun explicitly did not want their code to work on Linux, so why would we do extra work to get their code to work properly?

- Greg Kroah-Hartman5

That is really not the community I believed linux was. It used to be the underdog, the one that always found a way to make things work on it, even if it was via reverse engineering close source.

This, on it's own may not have been a breaking point, but something extra happened. After building that mirror ZoL pool on Linux I eventually decided to try FreeNAS and I tried to import the pool. Except I couldn't.

The Linux hate is strong today. zpool feature "org.zfsonlinux:userobj_accounting (User/Group object accounting.)". They added Linux-only features to zpool - and made them active by default when creating pools with no special argument. WTF! #zfs

- Martin Cracauer6

ZoL enabled a few extra features by default which is not supported in any other ZFS implementation yet, so if you want to mount a pool, you can only do it read-only and even then it needs some trickery.

ZFS is a brilliant filesystem and is one of the key, bare minimum requirements for my storage. It's more important than the operating system on top of it.

Enter FreeNAS

So I installed FreeNAS, rebuilt the mirror (with 4TB, the whole linux-FreeNAS dance took nearly a full 24 hours of copying data here, then there), and started getting familiar with the FreeNAS interface.

I have to admit that I like it. The new web GUI of FreeNAS 11 is clear, simple, and offers a lot of neat utility: cloud sync (so I can back up my cloud things on my NAS, not the other way around), alerting, even collectd is on by default.

The plugins and jails are very nice, the virtual machines support is decent, so if I do ever have to run Debian again, I could.

The disk layout I ended up with:

For now, I'm happy.

Notes and finds

Closure

I've learnt a lot from this experience. Nothing in my former system was telling me there's something wrong with one of the drives apart from ZFS - smart still says the disk is healthy. Trust ZFS.

The FreeNAS GUI is nice and might even work for non-IT/non-sysadmin people. If you have a spouse who should have access to these as well, it's a highly appreciated factor.

Linux may have lived long enough to start becoming the villain.


  1. https://www.ipc.in-win.com/IW-RF100S

  2. https://www.wd.com/products/internal-storage/wd-red.html#WD40EFRX

  3. https://www.seagate.com/gb/en/internal-hard-drives/hdd/ironwolf/

  4. https://www.asrock.com/MB/Intel/J4205-ITX/index.us.asp

  5. https://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=154714516832389&w=2

  6. https://twitter.com/MartinCracauer/status/1007399058355445760

Fri, 21 Jun 2019 18:00:00 +0100


The tea house building of Dojo Stara Wies

On my attempt to re-create a photo I mistakenly shoot as video - and therefore only have it in a small resolution1 - I got up early on my second day during our visit to Stara Wieś as well.

No rain, no sleet, lovely sunshine. And cold. And wavy water surfaces. As a result I wasn't able to re-shot the image, but at least I found another perspective to show the surroundings of the tea house.


  1. https://petermolnar.net/dawn-at-dojo-stara-wies/

Fri, 03 May 2019 21:00:00 +0100


The sauna building and the tea house of Dojo Stara Wies

Along the previous picture, this is another perspective on tea house and the sauna building at Dojo Stara Wieś, with a lot of sunshine at a dazzlingly cold morning.

Wed, 01 May 2019 21:00:00 +0100


Panorama of Dojo Stara Wies

Before saying goodbye to Stara Wieś, I wanted to make an image of the whole little village. This should have been made either earlier in the morning, or much later, at sunset, but when you go there to train, one can't simply run and leave the class to take a panorama; especially when the classes are up in the big building on the left, at the top of the hill.

Mon, 29 Apr 2019 20:00:00 +0100


Snowy panorama of Dojo Stara Wies

When you expect the same weather one year apart on the same spot in Central Europe, it usually doesn't work. I deliberately got up 5am to make use of the incredible water surfaces next to the houses at Dojo Stara Wieś, only to realize that this time my companions are sleet, cold, and grey misery.

The truth is, the place is still beautiful, even if you're shivering in your bones.

Sat, 27 Apr 2019 19:00:00 +0100


Snowy morning between the houses at Dojo Stara Wies

Same morning as the previous image1 about the lovely dojo at Stara Wieś, with it's curving roads across the fantasy Japanese village.


  1. https://petermolnar.net/stara-wies-dojo-snowy-rooftops

Thu, 25 Apr 2019 21:00:00 +0100


Experiences with the Pa-Kua International League

Note: this is not an official statement in any form; it's merely my own, personal view and opinion on Pa-Kua.

Eons ago I did ITF Taekwondo, followed by a some no-name branch of karate, then ITF Taekwondo again, then years of medieval re-enactment with swords and archery, then a few months of Yang style Tai-Chi, including the martial aspect and their broad sword.

I did the Tai-Chi for the shortest time, but left a forceful impression on me - mainly due to my teacher, Johnny Burke1, because it felt whole; it radiated out into my everyday life. Karate was rather mindless, Taekwondo was way too competition oriented, re-enactment was fun for a while, but soulless, especially after knight fights became a thing. Unfortunately Johnny left Mei Quan, and I left London and Tai-Chi.

In 2017, as a company summer program, someone organised oriental archery for us. This lead me to Pa-Kua2 and their traditional Chinese archery. There is a Hungarian man, Lajos Kassai3, who also made his own research in the 80s, in order to revive ancient Hungarian horseback archery, and to create a version of the recurve bow they used to use. I met people following his teachings and it shows vast similarities to the archery Pa-Kua teaches. Around 20094 China started to popularise folk archery as well - there are now people writing about and practising reprised Manchurian archery5, which also shares common techniques. While it's not the same, I have no doubts that of the archery of Pa-Kua works, and that is a Chinese style archery.

Soon I joined their martial art classes as well; occasionally acrobatics and weapons.

There are countless wushu movies out there indicating there is, or there used to be, more to kung fu than movements: acupressure points, healing, philosophy, sometimes religion, and so on, but it seems like during their way out of China, many of these aspects fell off, and the world is now left with fighting styles without their foundation. There are exceptions - such as the aforementioned Mei Quan Academy of Tai-Chi in London, or, in my opinion, the Pa-Kua International League. I've mentioned archery, martial art, and weapons, but it also teaches Chinese medicine, massage, acupressure, acrobatics, etc., so unlike a traditional dojo, it offers a lot more.

pakua-logo
The logo of Pa-Kua International League

FAQ

Is Pa-Kua a Chinese martial art?

Pa-Kua split it's teachings into disciplines. Some of these are based on traditional Chinese knowledge (energy, reflexology); others are infusions of mainly Chinese and other far Asian practice (acrobatics, edged weapons, martial art, sintony, cosmodynamics); yet others are mainly results of historical reconstruction (archery); whereas some are completely modern, for modern times (rhythm).

The main influence of martial arts discipline - based on the actual elements being taught and some personal research - is certainly Chinese, but not strictly one specific Chinese style.

I saw videos calling Pa-Kua fake.

During the past decade some people embraced the idiotic stand that MMA is the only efficient martial art. MMA is training gladiators.

Traditional martial arts was meant to be a way to kill fast and efficiently. They changed since, especially internal styles. Would Pa-Kua be efficient against MMA? No, it probably won't. It's not the goal. It's not a hard, competition style; you should be comparing it to Xingyi, Bagua, Tai-Chi, and the other, mainly internal styles instead.

The goal is to practise, to find your balance, learn to control one's self in every aspect, both physically and mentally.

Going a bit further: the authenticity of a martial art is a whole spectrum of turmoil. A lot of Chinese styles were nearly wiped out first in the 17th century, then in the mid 20th century. People tried to keep them alive, some of them by passing it strictly within a family - this resulted in hundreds, if not thousands of streams of a formerly organised styles6. It's not that surprising not to be able to find someone based on a pinyin version of a Chinese name on Google, but it doesn't mean they never existed. Many villages in rural China only got electricity 10-15 years ago, let alone the monasteries in the mountains, and I seriously doubt historical paperwork was digitised at all. (I've been to villages and monasteries like this.) This problem goes way beyond this by the way; finding translated Chinese knowledge is a massive pain, let alone origin stories in a world where history is quite flexible.

The best option you have it go decide for yourself. Go; meet some actually high belts; talk to them, train with them. See what and how they teach, and decide for yourself.

I've heard that Pa-Kua is just a pyramid scheme.

When it comes to belts and ranks, it's an organisation.

The international school needs funding, and knowledge needs people who can dedicate their lives to teaching and research. Since there is no membership fee, all the activities that are controlled by the school - progress with belts, intensive courses, etc - are paid directly to the school who distributes it they way they want to. It's not that different to non-profit organisations.

Local practices are completely in the hands of the leading instructor/master. You pay them directly, they rent/own the building, etc. That is just like and standard dojo.

Pa-Kua has Japanese uniform, so it can't be Chinese!

If you judge a school based on their clothing, you're doing it wrong.

Buying Chinese silk robes was a hard stunt anywhere before aliexpress, so I'm not going to blame anyone for utilising something more widely available - the karate gi.

Pa-Kua teaches katana, so it can't be Chinese!

Everyone knows that the katana is a Japanese weapon. What people don't know is that China had a lot of very similar weapons in the family of dao swords: changdao, dadao, zhanmadao, wodao, etc7.

chinese-long-sabers
Chinese Long Sabers according to Qing regulations 1766 - image by Peter Dekker

Yes, for practical reasons, Pa-Kua utilizes katana-like blades8; the historical similarities between weapons allows it do so. The differences between these weapons are tiny, and katanas and bokens are far more accessible - and cheaper -, than, for example, a wodao.

As you progress, the weapons practice will soon incorporate knife(s), spear, baguadao, jian, etc. as well.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I did European medieval re-enactment for years, and my main weapon was one handed straight sword. Boosted by this I took a jian course at Pa-Kua and I have to admit, it's a ridiculously different weapon, and it's extremely hard to handle. There are good reasons why it's at higher levels. The katana-like weapons are much more straightforward to learn - not to master, just to learn -, which is probably the reason why the school decided to start with those.

Is it true that you can buy (black) belts in Pa-Kua?

If you've done some kind of martial you've been conditioned to identify a belt with a certain degree of capability, and that to achieve a belt, you need to pass a physical exam, with clearly defined requirements.

Here, the belts are mainly theory-indicators. They show what can safely be taught to its wearer and what things the wearer knows in theory already. It's completely normal if a green or grey belt Pa-Kua practitioner has never done a full contact fight.

You can achieve these belts through intensive courses. These are face to face trainings with multiple masters in a dense timeframe. You will most probably lack practice, but the theoretical knowledge will be there.

So the short answer: no, you can't simply buy belts, but you might be allowed to participate in intensive training to learn faster.

I'm not convinced.

If you're looking for something extremely orthodox, rigid, and stict the school is probably not for you. Similarly, if you want to fight, beat people, do hard contact, train with ex-soldiers, it's probably also not the place.

I met a few of the regional leaders, and they definitely have a wide and interesting knowledge. To access this knowledge, you need to pay. This may not be the ideal, imagined way of learning, but it's always been like this, and making money from teaching is never easy9.

Summary

The Pa-Kua International League is not simply another martial art dojo: it offers a broad knowledge that used to accompany martial arts.

Did it start out as a fake? I’ll never know. But in that 40 years since it's establishment it grew, and today there's a lot of proficiency within the school.

It's not strictly Chinese and has other far Asian influences.

It's expensive compared to other schools, and there are ways to progress mainly on theoretical knowledge, but you always get something for your tuition fee.

Belt colour doesn't indicate the same thing as in most Westernised martial arts.

The martial arts discipline is an internal style. Do not expect contact fights early on.

Every single high ranking member I met was talented and had a lot to offer. However, their main focus may not be martial arts, due to the split across disciplines, so don't judge anyone just by their martial arts skill. There are, and always were, scholar monks as well.

I'd encourage to try the whole spectrum of Pa-Kua: taste every discipline and get the full picture. Only after that decide if it's for you or not.

If you disagree, agree, want to discuss, have questions, spotted a mistake, feel free to get in touch with me; contact options are at the bottom of the page.


  1. https://schoolofeverything.com/teacher/johnnyburke

  2. https://pakua.com

  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lajos_Kassai

  4. http://www.chinaarchery.org/archives/94

  5. http://www.manchuarchery.org/photographs

  6. http://thelastmasters.com/a-few-thoughts-on-emei-mountain-kung-fu/

  7. http://www.ancientpages.com/2018/09/19/deeper-look-into-chinese-swords-throughout-the-history-of-the-dynasties/

  8. https://medium.com/@osergionauta/pa-kua-e-o-estudo-dos-sabres-chineses-e79b1baca413

  9. http://time.com/4587078/kung-fu-martial-arts-hakka-hong-kong-preserve/

Wed, 24 Apr 2019 14:00:00 +0100


Snowy rooftops of the living accommodations at Dojo Stara Wies

A year later to our previous visit1 we repeated our Spring Retreat with Pa-Kua2 to the magnificent dojo at Stara Wieś. On the contrary to last year's glorious ~23°C, the first morning was gloomy, with sleet and snow. At least it was different...


  1. https://petermolnar.net/dawn-at-dojo-stara-wies/

  2. https://www.pakuauk.com/

Tue, 23 Apr 2019 21:00:00 +0000


Gopher? Gopher.

"BBS The Documentary" from Jason Scott1 showed me a world I never touched, never experienced - Eastern Europe and dial up in the 80s... we didn't even have a phone line until the early 90s at home. So I eagerly started digging on how to set up a BBS, to at least get a minor feel from the time of WarGames2, only to realize, I'd most probably need to write the whole thing from scratch. Not that is wouldn't be fun, but it wouldn't be enough fun.

Soon I forgot about it, until about week ago an unusual entry popped up on Hacker News3: We must revive Gopherspace4 - from 2017.

The basis of the entry describes how ugly the web has become with all the tracking, ads, attention driven social media, an puts it in constast with the purity of Gopher. HTTP and HTML are absolutely fantastic pieces of engineering - but indeed they became bloated and abused. Gopher on the other hand, is time travel, to a time when a global network was completely new.

After reading a bit about the Gopher protocol5, I have to say: of course it's pure, it needs to be compared with HTTP 1.0 and HTML 1, because it never got a 2.0. It certainly has that oldschool feeling of following links around, finding bottomless servers that has been sitting around for 20+ years with content.

I wanted to contribute to this tiny community of literally just hundreds of servers around the world.

The Python script6 I generate my website with uses markdown source content files and Pandoc7 creates nice HTML out of them. Apparently it can also create 80 columns wrapped plain text just as easily. Setting up pygopherd8 is pretty straightforward as well.

The only difference from the docs you might find in case of pygopherd is that the gophermap files don't need the i in front of ordinary text content.

An example snippet:

petermolnar.net's gopherhole - phlog, if you prefer


1article    /category/article   petermolnar.net 70
1journal    /category/journal   petermolnar.net 70
1note   /category/note  petermolnar.net 70
1photo  /category/photo petermolnar.net 70

will look like:

gopher-01
lynx browser rendering the gopherfile above

or

article - petermolnar.net


0A journey to the underworld that is RDF        /web-of-the-machines/index.txt  petermolnar.net 70
I got into an argument on Twitter - it made me realize I don’t know
enough about RDF to argue about it. Afterwards I tried out a lot of
different ways to drew my own conclusions on RDF(a), microdata, JSON-LD,
vocabularies, schema.org, etc. In short: this one does not spark joy.
Irdf-it-does-not-spark-joy      /web-of-the-machines/rdf-it-does-not-spark-joy.jpg      petermolnar.net 70
Igsdtt_microdata_error_01       /web-of-the-machines/gsdtt_microdata_error_01.png       petermolnar.net 70
Igsdtt_microdata_error_02       /web-of-the-machines/gsdtt_microdata_error_02.png       petermolnar.net 70
Igsdtt_rdfa_error_01    /web-of-the-machines/gsdtt_rdfa_error_01.png    petermolnar.net 70
Igsdtt_rdfa_error_02    /web-of-the-machines/gsdtt_rdfa_error_02.png    petermolnar.net 70

0How to add themes to your website with manual and CSS prefers-color-scheme support     /os-theme-switcher-css-with-fallback/index.txt  petermolnar.net 70
prefers-color-scheme is a new CSS media query feature, which propagates
your OS level color preference. While it’s very nice, it’s way too new
gopher-02
lynx rendering my articles gophermap from the snippet above

There are good guides out there for setting up gopher content9, there is really no need for one more, but if you do have any questions, feel free to get in touch.


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJgRHYw9-fU&list=PLgE-9Sxs2IBVgJkY-1ZMj0tIFxsJ-vOkv

  2. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086567/

  3. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19178885

  4. https://box.matto.nl/revivegopher.html

  5. https://www.minnpost.com/business/2016/08/rise-and-fall-gopher-protocol/

  6. http://github.com/petermolnar/nasg

  7. http://pandoc.org/

  8. https://github.com/jgoerzen/pygopherd

  9. https://davebucklin.com/play/2018/03/31/how-to-gopher.html

Tue, 26 Feb 2019 22:00:00 +0000


A journey to the underworld that is RDF

rdf-it-does-not-spark-joy
working with RDF - this one does not spark joy

I want to say it all started with a rather offensive tweet1, but it wouldn't be true. No, it all started with my curiosity to please the Google Structured Data testing tool2. Last year, in August, I added microdata3 to my website - it was more or less straightforward to do so.

Except it was ugly, and, after half a year, I'm certain to say, quite useless. I got no pretty Google cards - maybe because I refuse to do AMP4, maybe because I'm not important enough, who knows. But by the time I was reaching this conclusion, that aforementioned tweet happened, and I got caught up in Semantic Hell, also known as arguing about RDF.

The first time I heard about the Semantic Web collided with the dawn of the web 2.0 hype, so it wasn't hard to dismiss it when so much was happening. I was rather new to the whole web thing, and most of the academic discussions were not even available in Hungarian.

In that thread, it pointed was out to me that what I have on my site is microdata, not RDFa - I genuinely thought they are more or less interchangeable: both can use the same vocabulary, so it shouldn't really matter which HTML properties I use, should it? Well, it does, but I believe the basis for my confusion can be found in the microdata description: it was an initiative to make RDF simple enough for people making websites.

If you're just as confused as I was, in my own words:

With all this now known, I tried to turn mark up my content as microformats v1, microformats v2, and RDFa.

I already had errors with microdata...

gsdtt_microdata_error_01
Interesting, it has some problems...
gsdtt_microdata_error_02
it says URL for org is missing... it's there. Line 13.

...but those errors then became ever more peculiar problems with RDFa...

gsdtt_rdfa_error_01
Undefined type, eh?
gsdtt_rdfa_error_02
wat

... while microformats v1 was parsed without any glitches. Sidenote: microformats (v1 and v2), unlike the previous things, are extra HTML class data, and v1 is still parsed by most search engines.

At this point I gave up on RDFa and moved over to test JSON-LD.

It's surprisingly easy to represent data in JSON-LD with schema.org context (vocabulary, why on earth was vocabulary renamed to context?! Oh. Because we're in hell.). There's a long entry about why JSON-LD happened6 and it has a lot of reasonable points.

What it forgets to talk about is that JSON-LD is an invisible duplication of what is either already or what should be in HTML. It's a decent way to store data, to exchange data, but not to present it to someone on the other end of the cable.

The most common JSON-LD vocabulary, Schema.org has it's own interesting world of problems. It wants to be a single point of entry, one gigantic vocabulary, for anything web, a humongous task and noble goal. However, it's still lacking a lot of definitions (ever tried to represent a resume with it?), it has weird quirks ('follows' on a Person can only be another Person, it can't be a Brand, a WebSite, or a simple URL) and it's driven heavily by Google (most people working on it are working at Google).

I ended up with compromises.

<html lang="en"  prefix="og: http://ogp.me/ns# article: http://ogp.me/ns/article#">
<head>
    <title>A piece of Powerscourt Waterfall - petermolnar.net</title>
<!-- JSON-LD as alternative -->
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/json" title="a-piece-of-powerscourt-waterfall JSON-LD" href="https://petermolnar.net/a-piece-of-powerscourt-waterfall/index.json" />
<!-- Open Graph vocabulary RDFa -->
    <meta property="og:title" content="A piece of Powerscourt Waterfall" />
    <meta property="og:type" content="article" />
    <meta property="og:url" content="https://petermolnar.net/a-piece-of-powerscourt-waterfall/" />
    <meta property="og:description" content="" />
    <meta property="article:published_time" content="2017-11-09T18:00:00+00:00" />
    <meta property="article:modified_time" content="2019-01-05T11:52:47.543053+00:00" />
    <meta property="article:author" content="Peter Molnar (mail@petermolnar.net)" />
    <meta property="og:image" content="https://petermolnar.net/a-piece-of-powerscourt-waterfall/a-piece-of-powerscourt-waterfall_b.jpg" />
    <meta property="og:image:type" content="image/jpeg" />
    <meta property="og:image:width" content="1280" />
    <meta property="og:image:height" content="847" />
<!-- the rest of meta and header elements -->
<!-- followed by the content, with microformats v1 and v2 markup -->

HTML provides an interesting functionality, the rel=alternate. This is meant to be the representation of the same data, but in another format. The most common use is links to RSS and Atom feeds.

I don't know if Google will consume the JSON-LD alternate format, but it's there, and anyone can easily use it.

As for RDFa, I turned to meta elements. Unlike with JSON-LD, I decided to use the extremely simple vocabulary of Open Graph - at least Facebook is known to consume that.

The tragedy of this whole story: HTML5 has so many tags that is should be possible to do structured data without any need for any of the things above.

My content is now:

This way it's simple, but compatible enough for most cases.

Footnotes

Out of the blue, Maria from 3WhiteHats pinged me with an article of their on how to do structured data on your site7 - it's useful, and it's good, especially the troubleshooting at the bottom of the entry.


  1. http://web.archive.org/web/20190211232147/https:/twitter.com/csarven/status/1091314310465421312

  2. https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool

  3. https://github.com/petermolnar/nasg/commit/9c749f4591333744588bdf183b22ba638babcb20

  4. https://www.ampproject.org/

  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20190203123749/https://twitter.com/RubenVerborgh/status/1092029740364587008

  6. http://manu.sporny.org/2014/json-ld-origins-2/

  7. https://www.3whitehats.co.nz/knowledge/guide-to-structured-data-seo/

Sun, 10 Feb 2019 20:10:00 +0000


Influential reads online: finds about the old Web

How the Blog Broke the Web

Back then, we didn’t have platforms or feeds or social networks or… blogs.

We had homepages.

The backgrounds were grey. The font, Times New Roman. Links could be any color as long as it was medium blue. The cool kids didn’t have parallax scrolling… but they did have horizontal rule GIFs.

https://stackingthebricks.com/how-blogs-broke-the-web/

This little piece stirred a maelstrom in my head, because it's damn right.

The argument goes by this: before streams or feeds - chronological ordering - websites had their own library system, invented and maintained by the site owner. This resulted in genuinely unique sites, not just on a theme level, but on a fundamental layer, as a reflection of how their creators were thinking.

That said, there are, of course, valid uses for chronological ordering, but for some content, maintaining a table of contents could make a much better structure. Unfortunately making content machine-readable by hand is painful.

It would be interesting to see a reprise of home page builders. Not a by-default-a-blog, but an oldschool website builder, but with up to date features in the background.

Why Do All Websites Look the Same?

The internet suffers from a lack of imagination, so I asked my students to redesign it

https://medium.com/s/story/on-the-visual-weariness-of-the-web-8af1c969ce73

It ties in to the first one: most sites look the same, and that's not how it's supposed to be.

It contains wonderful ideas on how a certain websites could look and be completely unique, and, in my opinion, personal homepages should consider putting energy and time (and a lot of swearing) into making their online home truly their own as well.

The Slow Web (plus: the modern experience of film-watching)

[W]e need a Slow Internet Movement along the lines of Slow Food and Slow Cinema, if we're really going to take advantage of the archival nature of the Web.

http://www.rebeccablood.net/archive/2010/06/a_slow_web.html

I missed out on the golden days of the blogsphere. Not being a native English speaker, being occupied with a community around 2007, and a couple of other reasons contributed to this factor, so when I stumbled upon Rebecca's site, I got reminded how wonderfully packed personal websites used to be with text content. It's a joyful find, with things dating back to 1999, and with a plethora of now completely dead links.

As for this very entry: yes. We do need a slow web, one, where content is generated not for quick fame and likes, but for the love of the topic.

404 Page Not Found - The internet feeds on its own dying dreams

For with the collapse of the high-modernist ideology of style—what is as unique and unmistakable as your own fingerprints, as incomparable as your own body [e.g. MySpace, Geocities pages] . . . the producers of culture [big Internet companies] have nowhere to turn but to the past: the imitation of dead styles [glitter graphics, Geocities], speech through all the masks and voices stored up in the imaginary museum of a now global culture [the whole internet].

https://thebaffler.com/salvos/404-page-not-found-wagner

A recent find - this is an article from 2019. A devastating, sour summary, and a frightening reflection on an 1991 essay, describing how recycled nostalgia eats the very thing itself. It also taught me the phrase and the movemenet of vaporwave.

Every single time I try to revive or revisit something I missed out on in the past - BBS systems, for example - I find that they were, in fact, incredibly hard to deal with. They required deep understanding, you had to build a serious amount of things yourself, and it took a long time. While some aspects of this are wonderful - you'll certainly learn it for example -, from another perspective, it's impossible to get people involved if there isn't a simple way to start these days.

Recycling old things is not inherently bad, but in case of the internet, there isn't a simple way to use them without overshadowing the original.

why i’ll never delete my LiveJournal

In truth, I like who I was on the Internet better when I was young and brash though I know not how to do that anymore (and wouldn’t want the burden of it, honestly). My LJ is a space I guard in defense of my younger, wilder, more whimsical self. To alter or destroy this place would mean losing a version of me with an honesty I can no longer afford.

https://medium.com/@emroselarse/why-ill-never-delete-my-livejournal-3ef54bd904af

I never thought I'll find an article that summarizes feelings and drifting thoughts on what is now lost from the internet. Being online in the early 2000s meant to retreat from the world, it was another plane - it was not a connected world yet, but a text-based reality, away from the people you know in your physical existence.

It even touches an extremely important aspect: we need to be reminded how we used to be, and an unchanged, or archived version of our ancient journals or websites websites is a good start.

Patient Zero of the selfie age: Why JenniCam abandoned her digital life

"I keep JenniCam alive not because I want to be watched, but because I simply don’t mind being watched."

http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/news-story/539cd1b26016fcee1a51cfca3895a7b5

In 1996, I was in elementary school, in Hungary, my English was enough to understand 2 stupid dogs1 and some of The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest2.

So when I bump into articles talking about a certain Aussie who set up a non-stop webcam in 1996 about her life, it feels like a lightning strike about things I never heard of.

I'm not completely certain why I wanted to add this to the entry. Maybe it's because it feels like history is just sort of repeating itself, but is becoming more smoke and mirrors with each iteration; maybe to recognise that the early internet already pioneered most things that became mainstream(ish) 20 years later.

jennicam
Before Insta fame, there was Jenni

Be more, or less, like Jenni? That is something to decide for everyone for themselves.


  1. https://web.archive.org/web/19990508175315/http://cartoonnetwork.com/doc/2stupiddogs/index.html

  2. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115226/

Fri, 18 Jan 2019 13:00:00 +0000


Antico Borgo in Galtelli

Galtelli, the old capital of Sardinia has extremely narrow and quite steep streets, with adorable places to stay at; this is one of them.

Thu, 10 Jan 2019 18:00:00 +0000


Dune di Piscinas

One of the nicest little beaches on Sardinia, which we got to by a little walk, across the dunes.

Wed, 09 Jan 2019 18:00:00 +0000


Drought

Spikes, dry dirt, heat - although it's a bit of an illusion. This was next to a stream, on an area which only gets wet during spring, but it was right next to fresh water.

Tue, 08 Jan 2019 18:00:00 +0000


Gorropu Gorge

Gorropu Gorge is gigantic, peaceful, quiet, and quite steep to get to when walking. There are signs up at the top of the hill before starting to descent that it's no a light walk, and I have to admit, it's a decent climb down and then up, but it's worth it.

Due to the size of the gorge, it's hard to show and represent it in photos, so I decided for trying to capture the colours that surround you when touring through it.

Mon, 07 Jan 2019 18:00:00 +0000


That is not a snake

That piece of driftwood genuinely scared me when I spotted it through the rocks. The moment you move or zoom closer, the illusion disappears.

Sun, 06 Jan 2019 18:00:00 +0000


Reptile

This little fellow was staring at me after a rain at Sardinia, in a small forest of olive trees, covering ancient ruins of disturbingly sharply designed sacred wells1.


  1. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/well-of-santa-cristina

Sat, 05 Jan 2019 18:00:00 +0000


Not Ireland

This is a deceptive image: from all I know, this should be in Ireland. Reality says this is on the semi-island of Sardinia, below Tharros.

Fri, 04 Jan 2019 18:00:00 +0000


Mine, abandoned

There are a couple of abandoned mines in Sardinia - this one was turned into a museum, which would have required hours and guided tour to see inside. We were not that interested to inside, but the view certainly had stereotypical lost wild west feeling to it.

Thu, 03 Jan 2019 23:09:00 +0000


Page created: Wed, Nov 13, 2019 - 09:05 AM GMT