On Why Limits are Important or Why I Miss Vine


I miss Vine. I probably miss it more than a person should miss a short lived social media platform that’s sole purpose was six second video loops. I guess I should clarify that I don’t miss the platform so much. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the app itself. I miss the creativity people found within the constraints.

Vine seemed to come out of nowhere and landed with a thud. People, including myself, were just like “What are we going to do with only six seconds?” At first most people did the predictable thing of recording of whatever was around them. Then people started to feel the edges and push against them. You would see loops that linked the end to the beginning. People started editing using selective pausing. Clever videos started to emerge and particular people started to shine through who really understood the medium.

Even though Vine was getting pretty good in in 2014, Snapchat started to gain more traction, Instagram introduced video (nine seconds!), and I think that combination sort of spelled the end of Vine. Even though there are numerous other platforms that can do everything Vine did and then some, not having those constraints hurt the final product.

Good comedy is hard. It’s not difficult to see this. Having done comedy for several years now, I can say that if pressed for criticism for a sketch or scene it’s usually some form of, “should have been shorter.” (Looking at you SNL) Length in and of itself does not a funny scene make, but distilling what the funny is down to its core and presenting that usually is a better result that extraneous exposition. One of my favorite quotes comes from ol’ Bill Shakespeare, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

This is why almost all comedy produced by big Viners after Vine shuttered I don’t find particularly funny anymore. I don’t think the creators are inherently any less funny, but with YouTube or Instagram now being the target platforms, you don’t have any constraints in timing. This leads to sketches hammering a joke too many times, or scenes with loads of unneeded setup. I’m aware, with YouTube, longer videos are incentivized with advertisers, but it often loses all the funny in the process.

This is my long-winded way of saying, constraining yourself, even if artificially and being creative in that space is often a good way to get great results. Also, that I really miss Vine. If you would excuse me, I’m going to go and watch Vine compilation videos on YouTube and toast to a forgotten creative goldmine.

New and Improved Killer Tofu!


Welcome to the new and improved Killer Tofu! Yes, there is a little visual sprucing up. The old logo is back (I love that logo) and the site has a little more minimalist flair. It also works fantastically on mobile and tablets now, too. That is not the big news though. The back end is now changed! The part you don’t see a.k.a. everyone’s favorite part. I am proud of it, so strap in for a technical explanation on how things are different now.

To start off, I am now running my site off a VM (Virtual Machine) controlled entirely by me. That means I can choose what is updated, when, and have complete control of the customization. It’s far more work, but the result, for me at least, is better. I have the VM hosted through Digital Ocean, which I can’t recommend enough. I originally chose them because they would let me run a FreeBSD VM, but abandoned that idea. The VM is currently running Ubuntu 16.10 x64 which is the latest version of Ubuntu as of this writing.

This site runs on WordPress software, which was a choice I made a while ago, but since then has some major drawbacks. The prime downside is that it is written in PHP. PHP is an interpreted language and due to that is slow. When the page loads, the server must compile the page and then serve it to you. A thing I found out a little bit ago though is that Facebook is still written in PHP. Due to that, Facebook has written its own PHP interpreter called HHVM (HipHopVM) and open sourced it for anyone to download and use. This significantly speeds up page load times. This is great, but it also is not 100% compatible with all PHP in the wild. I wanted to have a fallback in case HHVM crashed. In this case I installed PHP 7.0 (newest version of official PHP as of this writing) and have it render the page in the event some code crashes HHVM. HHVM also comes back alive every 60 seconds if the process dies. This all happens automatically.

I changed out the web server portion, too. I originally was running Apache (well, *I* wasn’t, my hosting company was), but I wanted to switch to NGINX. It is supposed to be event driven and have a lower memory footprint, which is great for a smaller VM with not a ton of memory available. That took considerable configuration because I had never used NGINX before this and it has its own configuration styles and files.

In terms of database, this is the least improved, it’s just the latest version of MySQL. The old standby. Nothing much to talk about here. Still works great.

The last cool thing, is that now the site is secured with an SSL certification. Check the little green lock in the corner of your browser. When I was on my previous hosting site it would cost an additional $50/year to get an SSL cert. It’s all tied up in registration fees and all kinds of nonsense. With the web becoming increasingly less secure, any additional hardening of security is needed. This might just be a little, personal website, but I still wanted to secure login info and anything else like that. There is an organization now called Let’s Encrypt which allows anyone with the means to get a *free* SSL cert for their site. It’s awesome. They even developed a tool called Certbot that automates a lot of the process. If you put it as a cronjob it will automatically renew certs for you every 60-90 days and you won’t ever have to worry about replacing dead certs again. This seems mundane, but it’s so tedious, annoying, and expensive usually.

OK, OK. So, you’ve listened to me ramble. It’s just that I’ve been meaning to do this for years now, and to finally have it completed feels amazing. I learned a whole crazy amount and hope to use that for my next venture which is to write my own website CMS style engine to port around. That’s a whole different story though.

Hopefully this will cause me to update this thing more, but as this is my 1000+ time making that remark, I’m not going to hold my breath, and neither should you.

Tubes!

This past weekend I went home and grabbed my old tube TV that I had in most of college. It’s a 27″ Samsung Flat screen. Not flat panel. Just a flat screen.

I fell down the RGB rabbit hole some years back and have never fully emerged. I almost bought a Sony PVM a few times, but never pulled the trigger (yet).

This is my replacement, for now. I bought an RGB to Component converter. I also had to extract the audio so I got another little device that does that. Here is the outcome. It’s so sharp!

Saturn is a powerhouse for 2D games. Rayman never looked so good.
Saturn is a powerhouse for 2D games. Rayman never looked so good.
The contraption
The contraption