Friday, July 10, 2009

Choosing a Host: Let's Get Cheap

I know why I avoided Network Solutions' hosting: the price. I have no idea why I chose to bypass OCS, my local ISP, and go after another host. Perhaps OCS wouldn't let me have my own domain on their free hosting plan. Perhaps they were already having business problems by then. OCS aside, I know exactly why I picked Icom. They were the cheapest package I found that published their ad in English. There may have been one cheaper, but it had the look of a man standing on a street corner in a trenchcoat. Wanna buy a watch? It's cheap. So... on February 19th, 2000, I signed up with Icom. It was to cost $49 for setup and $99 per year in hosting fees. Not long later, they sent me my temporary URL. I was now the proud owner of a site that said, "Under Construction." Now all I had to do was buy my domain name and point it. Icom sent me instructions on how to do this. These were something like stereo instructions (shades of Beetlejuice).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Network Solutions: The Dot-Com People

In searching InterNIC, all roads led to Rome, or in this case, to Network Solutions. Network Solutions billed themselves as "the dot-com people." Apparently whatever InterNIC was, it was owned or controlled by Network Solutions, and any fee that I would have to pay must go into their coffers. If Network Solutions' hosting package was any indication of what InterNIC fees would be, I was in for an expensive ride. Their hosting package was about $300 a year, as I recall. Maybe more. And they didn't speak of web space in terms of megabytes or gigabytes, but of pages. For $300 you got a page. If you needed more pages, you bought more. A one-page site for 300 bucks. That's the way I read it. And here I was used to Angelfire, where you could have as many pages as you could build. I could tell by their terms that hosting was one thing and registration was another. I still don't know if my perception about Network Solutions' hosting package was wrong. Maybe by "page" they meant "site." Even so, their package was high.

Who is InterNIC?

I had pretty well decided to have my dot-com, but now came the struggle to understand just what that entailed. There were several entities involved in domain purchase and maintenance, and the services each one offered weren't clear to me. One odd sticking point was "InterNIC fees." No matter who you chose as a registrar, and where you decided to park... no matter who hosted your page... YOU, the domain owner (said the fine print), were responsible for InterNIC fees. Who or what was InterNIC? And how much were these mysterious fees? No-one knew. I tore up the keyboard searching the 'Net for "InterNIC." The more I searched, the less I found ~ and the more confused I became. InterNIC fees began to loom as the strange, unknown quantity. Would these fees break me? Were we talking a dollar a year or fifty dollars a month? With Internet, it could be anything. There just wasn't any frame of reference. Common sense finally prevailed, and I decided that the "fee" was probably a nominal amount, like a tax.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Year 2000 (Y2K)

It was New Year's Eve of the year 2000 and we were all set to experience the greatest freakout of computer bugs in the history of glitches. It was the Milennium Bug. And it was said that the Internet wouldn't survive it. In fact, they said, even our clocks might not survive it. Our microwaves. Our cars. Anything that was guided by computer might come crashing to the ground, at dawn of the year 2000. They said this to a world who had maxed out their credit cards for every new electronic gadget that had come down the pike that decade. And now, they told us, it will all be a dud. And this, because of a lady who never foresaw the day we would need four digits to show the year. Maybe she did foresee it, but in 196?, it must have seemed eons away. And RAM was scarce. Techies and non-techies alike were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, squawking like Chicken Little: The sky is falling, the sky is falling. We won't survive the year 2000. My nieces were spending the night with us, and we were talking about the prospect of life without our newfound toy. (They jostled for elbow room at the computer. They didn't have one yet.) We played computer games and we watched the crowd in Times Square. We listened to predictions. I had my niece poised at the door, ready to run outside at my signal and blow the car horn. (That's what we do out in the boondocks.) Then the countdown started. Ack! At the stroke of midnight, the crowd went wild. I stood at the TV counting down for the ball to drop in Times Square. Outside, my niece did her duty and the horn was blaring. Far off, down in the pasture, fireworks boomed into the air. Our neighbors were celebrating, too.

On TV, all night, all they'd been speculating on was the stroke of midnight, and would every computer fail? After all my work, and on top of the news of the demise of my ArtForum, I was disgusted, as you might well imagine. But... I still had a sense of humor about it. At that moment, I conceived of a great practical joke that I would play on my nieces. No, I'm not the PJ I once was. I've mellowed ~ I have a reputation to maintain. Dignity. Integrity. But I still get a wild hare every now and then. I am a night owl, and the night was young. And I was giddy with champagne. I drank a whole cup. On TV, people were singing and dancing: 'It's the end of the world as we know it... and I feel fine! I feel fine!'

I felt fine! My computer was not smoking. But I was. I started hacking that keyboard. I was Stan with a plan. I was a Paintbrush whiz. I grabbed that Mouse and I painted that rectangle desktop green. Then I selected the color white, switched to text tool, and started typing gibberish. I chose Courier size 10 and I typed data. It didn't matter what data. I typed 000000s. I typed dates. I typed exes. I switched to Symbol and I typed Greek. I knew well what a trashed file looks like. I learned what a magnet does to a floppy disc back when floppies were 8 inches wide and, well ~ floppy. I covered that screen in Greek. In between the gibberish, I typed 2000, 1900, date does not compute. ERROR! ERROR! I typed all kinds of garbage. I switched to red, and changed the font size. I typed more garbage. Then I saved that file and made it into a Wallpaper. (Wallpaper was something I knew how to do. Early on, I'd had 6 months of a computer without Internet and with very little software loaded on it. I had time to learn how to do wallpaper.) Then I started on the folders.

By the year 2000, I had the knack of that drag-and-drop thing. I had Windows down pat. I created a single folder, and I named it dERRORf2000k. Then I dragged every folder on that desktop into that one folder. The one folder that couldn't be moved, I covered up. Shortcuts and Windows icons, I moved, covered with blank folders, or renamed to gibberish, having already learned that you can dump or rename shortcuts without affecting the file itself. I couldn't remove some of the Windows icons, but I could rename them. I renamed them gibberish. The one icon that wouldn't rename, I covered with the single folder I had created. That screen looked a mess! Those girls will freak when they see this screen, I thought. They will not know what to do. By then, I was dead tired, but happy, and I went to bed.

Come morning, I felt like dead meat. I am never much in the morning, and man, was I was sluggish that day! I was dying to see how the girls would react to to my little joke, but I didn't want to spill the beans, so I waited patiently. They never came up. I went downstairs and they were all involved in a movie. It was some long, drawn-out saga. It lasted for hours and hours. They never did come up. In the end, the joke was on me. My practical joke fell as flat as the Y2k Bug. I guess our great scare sounds pretty silly now. You just had to be there.

The Millenium Bug had scurried off to the cobwebs of tech history, and my site, Bugbones, was on the verge of a great new life. Said she.

Oh, the perils of Bugbones.

NOTE: This post was revised after I discovered I'd left out a segment. I've had to backtrack a little, in keeping with the timeline...
(Ref. chronology and y2k terms. I was there, but I just had to refresh my memory.

FTP Configuration Headaches

FTP. If I was going to have to start all over learning something, it might as well be some software of my own. I read everything I could find on FTP and thought I could learn it. So, I bought CuteFTP. I had no domain ~ but I had FTP.

Cute FTP was supposed to be easy. And it probably was, relatively speaking. I had no other FTP to compare it to, unless you count those on-line uploaders provided by Angelfire and Yahoo; but those didn't have to be configured. I shudder to recall the difficulty I had configuring Cute FTP. I don't think it was the fault of the software. Their help manual was thorough, but confusing to me. I had some fear of technology, and for good reason. I never really know what I'm doing when I try to configure things. Wizards ask questions, present choices. If I'd never seen the software, how did I know what to answer? If there is no wizard, it's even worse: a dozen drivers, icons, and executable files to unpack and distribute ~ very puzzling. Consequently, at the end of my struggle to configure any software, the machine usually works worse than when I started ~ or doesn't work at all. Asking around doesn't help. When I was configuring CuteFTP, no-one I knew had ever heard of FTP. I muddled my way through, read the manual a dozen times, and went through a blue-jillion trial-and-error steps. Something didn't click. I don't know what was more confusing, the tilde in the username, my host's directory structure, the proper placement of slashes for directories, or the meticulous instructions on filling in IP numbers. Usually in these battles, if my struggle doesn't lead to complete destruction of my PC, it leads to new knowledge, if not expertise. In the FTP battle, I studied other sites' URLs, looked at their slashes and tildes, dug through my ISP's original installation instructions, and read up on IP numbers. I puzzled through manuals, tried what I thought they said, and failed time and time again. Then, with some sudden revelation, the path was clear and I was "in." The old epic writings speak of wailing, moaning, and the gnashing of teeth. I can tell you I did plenty of it. So much trauma! And yet ten years later, I had practically forgotten ever hosting Bugbones at OCS Online and couldn't remember why I'd bought CuteFTP. My file dates and page links show that by February of 2000 ~ maybe even before ~ I had Bugbones the second up and running on OCS. All of this, I did with the idea of getting my own domain.

Topic: The Annals of Southern Muse.
Timeline: Purchased CuteFTP on May 21, 1999

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Domains, Registrars, and Hosts

I had spent several months reading up on domains and how to get them. I was confused by the various entities involved in getting a domain. I only had a vague comprehension of the differences between a domain, a registrar, a host, and a server. It mattered, because each separate entity had its own set of fees ~ and how much might those be? Each process also brought its own new set of technical difficulties. I discovered that a domain name was one thing ~ you could "park" it free (whatever that meant). Page hosting was another thing entirely, and no matter how much I read, it seemed that I couldn't get around having to pay a monthly fee for it. Free advice was everywhere to be found, and some of the tutorials stated that your local ISP might give you a free page. I checked into it. Sure enough, OCS, my local Internet Service Provider, did offer a free personal web page. Since I was already paying them for Internet service and the page was "free," I thought that hosting might be included in the monthly fee I was already paying. If so, I would only have to buy a domain name. OCS didn't have FTP, but buying FTP software would still be cheaper than a monthly hosting fee.

At this point, I wasn't even sure that OCS would let me hang a domain name on the free page they gave me. Angelfire advertised that you could turn your free page into a domain at any time ~ for a fee. But what was I buying? The terms were confusing. I knew I'd be paying for space that I now got for free. Oh, Angelfire promised I'd get lots of other cool things that I didn't know I needed ~ wouldn't know what to do with when I got them. But the Angelfire web-shell upgrade had left me in a bind. I could barely log in, much less navigate the new directory. Did I want to pay them for that? I now knew that Angelfire wasn't the only host in town. Cheap hosting was everywhere, for as little as five dollars a month. Nearly all hosts required a one-time set-up fee, ranging from fifteen to seventy dollars. I could manage a one-time flat fee. Registering a domain name would cost about ten dollars. Once you had a domain name, you had to "park" it apparently. I wasn't sure what "parking" entailed. Was it free parking, or would I have to put a quarter in the meter ever few hours? (I thought I knew the answer to that!) What was the difference between registering and parking anyhow?

Transition: Bugbones to Southern Muse.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reconstructing the Timeline

I can place the dates of some of these events with pretty good accuracy, with the help of Wikipedia, old e-mails, and the invoice paper trail. MiningCo came into being about 1996. My old PC was built by OCS (a local hack) in 1997, but I got it secondhand a few years later. Late in 1998, I'd discovered Yahoo Mail and Angelfire. Sometime that same year came the Art Forum on MiningCo. Perhaps it was already there, but I found it in '98. My short-lived Bugbones Buzz forum on was in place by January 1999, if not before. Sometime between that little forum and May of 1999, I had scraped up enough to hook up Internet. I was an old hand at email by now, but using the email wizard to configure a local ISP provider's info through Outlook Express was another story. What headaches! (The Perils of Dial-Up Modems and Lost Drivers on Second-Hand Computers will be saved for another post.) Also around May of 1999, MiningCo disappeared and came on the scene.

On May 21, 1999, I bought CuteFTP. I didn't have a domain. When I came across that old receipt, I was puzzled as to why I bought an FTP program before I bought a domain, but it came back to me...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kudos to Philip!

So... kudos to Philip the Guide. We all said it at the time, but I don't know if we were heard. Our praises and gratitude back then could be taken as posturing. We were losing the forum. Everybody got sentimental ~ even gushy. Praise was bandied around right and left to one and all. Philip was praised, but I don't know if he really 'heard' it. It's depressing to be dumped, but to be dumped when the forum was hot on the griddle... Philip was a good guide! I've seen forums come and go. I even tried my own hand at building a forum (it died on the vine). Forums are hard to keep going. It takes a good host (Delphi was great). It needs backing ( was paying their guides). But it really helps to have a good guide. Philip was the man who made the Art Forum what it was. He posted regularly and kept the threads going. If a discussion was going strong, he let it have its head and run its course. If things started lagging, he started a new topic. Yet when I look back, he kept his remarks brief. Just enough to stimulate the conversation, really. He did all this in addition to maintaining The Artist's Exchange's huge directory and writing tons of articles. Kudos to Philip and the old Artist's Exchange Art Forum. On this day, I want to set it in stone.

Topics: Philip the Guide, The Artist's Exchange Art Forum,

Philip DeLoach: Picture This

A bit of information gleaned from Philip's website shows that he was a content provider for the Artists' Exchange at for six years. The Artist's Exchange website was included in an article entitled "29 Must-See Web Sites for Artists" in the October 2000 issue of The Artist's Magazine. That year, the Art Forum was going strong. That was just before the dot-com bubble hit the fan.'s bubble didn't burst completely, but it became mighty thin. Our beloved Art Forum was in the part that evaporated altogether. I've barely touched on forum, and the demise of it really belongs in a later post. But while I'm thinking back on it, and before I get started on another topic, I wanted to give due thanks and praise.

Reference: Philip DeLoach.
Philip's art on RedBubble:

Topics: Miningco. Philip the Guide. Art Forum.

An Aside to the Guide

I was amazed that the guide of the art forum was a southerner, one who had lived in the North Georgia mountains at one time, and had Alabama ties, as well. It isn't important to know a guide's biography, but meeting a friendly face with a familiar story in a sea of tech-talk added a whole new dimension to Internet technology for me. It made the world smaller. So occasionally I e-mailed Philip or sent him an update, and he would do the same. He was perhaps my first on-line human/cyber contact, outside of friends and family. At one time or another, over a several-year period, I corresponded with him and others did too. This was not a case of our taking his forum 'guidance' so personally that we thought we should direct correspondence to him instead of posting on the Forum. It was more in the nature of an 'aside' to the guide. Sometimes a subject might go off topic, so we went outside forum to keep from boring the rest of the crowd. Southern stories, for instance, didn't really belong on Art Forum, but it would be silly to go search out a new forum just to elaborate on a thread or reminisce over old times.

But what started this friendly chit-chatty kind of off-topic conversation was when, early on, I'd made the off-hand remark to Philip, 'Hey, weren't you the same guide who ran an old art forum on MiningCo? I was that person PauperWitch who used to post. We e-mailed once.'

And Philip said (my paraphrase), 'Oh, yeah. I remember. I like your new nickname better.' Because by then I had settled on what would become my true web presence, humble and obscure though that presence may be. I was, by then, Southern Muse.

Topics: Philip the Guide, southern, MiningCo, North Georgia mountains, Annals of Southern Muse.

Philip the Guide: Zizzer Buttons.

So now I knew Philip the Guide was southern. But a couple of other posts made me realize just how much we had in common. One day, for instance, he mentioned zizzer buttons in a post. I quickly tossed him a 'Zizzer buttons? How-on-earth-did-you...? Because I knew of zizzer buttons. Comparing notes, we decided that this must be an Alabama thing. Silly coincidences like that. (I now have a tidbit about zizzer buttons on Southern Muse Journal blog). Another coincidental crossing of our paths was when he told OsoTBear (one of the regulars and a really talented, successful sculptor) about the Weinman Mineral Museum.* "Philip!" I replied. "As I live and breathe! I was at the Weinman Mineral Museum just last week! How did you know about the museum?" Once again, a coincidence. Philip was an old Georgia boy. I knew he had painted a mural of The General, so this shouldn't have come as a surprise. But The General is well known, while the Weinman Mineral Museum is a little off the beaten path. So that was unexpected. My own visit to it was still fresh in my mind.

*The Weinman Mineral Museum closed for renovation and expansion in about 2006 and later reopened as the Tellus Northwest Georgia Science Museum. The URI is
It's bigger than the old Weinman Mineral Museum. The Weinman Museum had some wonderful specimens, mostly natural geological minerals and gemstones from North Georgia and around the world. They also have some nice artifacts and exhibits such as carved urns and other pieces.

Old/transitional URI, still extant as of January 2009:

Topics: Philip the Guide, Art Forum.

Philip the Guide: Mountain Man.

Philip had been hanging around the Art Forum as a guide for several years. I'd learned that he was an artist and a southerner. An offhand post here or there would result in another coincidental crossing of our paths. I began to realize that Philip was not just from the South ~ he was truly Southern. That carries a lot of baggage. Philip wasn't city southern, he was hill-country Southern. There's a persistent theme of legend, myth, familial tradition and poverty that runs deep in the blood of those who come from the mountains. "You can take the man out of the mountain, but you can't take the mountain out of the man." Stray remarks or a certain turn of words gave him away. I tend to lapse into southernisms in my own remarks. A few of the others on Art Forum did, too, and Philip responded in similar fashion. Internet technicians don't take to dialect too well ~ they always scold against its use. Technically speaking But it's all part of a long tradition, and is a casual, fun, friendly kind of banter. It comes as natural to some of us as talking, and is a representation of actual conversation. In fact, dialect has a life of its own, and these slight variations in usage can make all the difference in the world in the connotation of our spoken words. To stifle the use of it is to censor words and ideas, but there are some who would do it. The South is pretty well homogenized now, and ours is the last generation that links to the land. Our parents' generation is the last of those who tilled it. Philip and I both recognized that. So in Philip the Guide, I'd met a friend and a kindred spirit. Not to mention he was a poet!

Topics: Philip the Guide, The Artist's Exchange Art Forum, Southern.

Philip the Guide: a Southerner!

As I said, the pure genius of About's "guide" program was that no-one felt as if they were interacting with customer support. It was more as if you'd happened to sit next to a nice fellow at the corner pub, and struck up an interesting conversation while you finished your beer; or maybe you'd bumped into somebody at the bus stop, and a boring, 30-minute wait turned into an easygoing, casual conversation that made the time go faster. Philip the Guide provided a light and informal exchange that added the needed touch of humor, philosophy, wisdom, and continuity to the discussions. Sure, the conversation might go off topic, or the threads might start to lag, or the occasional troll would pop in and do his dirty work. That's when the guide would step in and perk things up or smooth things over. Our guide had just the right mix of humor and homespun philosophy... a philosophy, in fact, that turned out to be southern., Art Forum, Philip the Guide.

Southern Tech?

An offhand post here or there would result in another bit of information about the Internet and how it works. For instance, one time Philip mentioned that he had painted a mural of The General in Kennesaw, Georgia. I had visited that museum and seen the mural. This made me curious ~ he'd been hanging around the Art Forum for several years by then, and I just thought he was one of those techie guys. I thought he and a bunch of guys had started MiningCo dot-com, and that they all were sitting together in a brick-and-mortar building in California, hacking away like Bill Gates or something. And he explained that such was not the case, he was just a paid guide, a plain old joe and an artist, not a dot-com owner or anything. It was just a new bit of information for me to digest, about how Internet and file-sharing work, and how a dot-com owned by a corporation in New York City has a guide who lives in Smalltown, USA. And not a real tech guy. In fact, another artist. Kind of like me. It's not as if the concept of remote work was new to me. For several years now, my job had been as a local interviewer (North Georgia) for a corporation that was located in Maryland. But finding a "local" (sort of) guide on the Art Forum was just another funny coincidence. It was another bit of data to add to my growing understanding of what the Internet is. What it might become.

New Forum, Old Faces

I was a little puzzled about the new forum with the old faces. One of the old faces was Philip ~ the same Philip who had sent me off on my early quest for scanned images of my art. The first time we crossed paths in a discussion, I asked him about the resemblance of the two forums, and he told me about MiningCo's new name, Like MiningCo, had "guides," and Philip was the guide of the art forum. Most customer support on the Web is a frustrating, robotic interchange of impersonal forms. guides were different. Part of their task was to keep the threads of discussion open, while keeping the forum running smoothly. In other words, they were "customer support," without seeming to be support. When you think about it, it was pure genius, and MiningCo ~ now doing business as ~ had been the first to think of it. Guides put a human face on the cold, impersonal technology of the Internet. Later I would run across articles on About's "guide" program, and found that it was considered an edgy and creative concept among tech gurus; or at least, it was's claim to fame where brand marketing was concerned.

MiningCo,, Philip, and The Artist's Exchange Art Forum.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Artist's Exchange on

When my old link to The Artist's Exchange didn't work, I began to search for other art forums. The art sites I found, once again, were pretty dismal. But I finally came across "The Artist Exchange" again. At first, I was confused. This new Artist's Exchange was on, not MiningCo. It seemed to be an endless maze of links that led to brief, shallow articles. At first I was puzzled and not too impressed. I was about to give a quick pass. Searches for art kept bringing it up, though, and eventually I discovered a link to a forum on there. It had the same name as the other forum and was similar in a lot of ways. This forum, it turned out, was even better than the old one. I found the same same excellent, in-depth discussions; there were just more of them. This new forum enjoyed steady "traffic," a thing I could fully appreciate, having already surfed around in several interesting but rather "slow" forums. And I had tried my hand at starting the little Bugbones Buzz forum at Inside the Web. The new Art Forum had many layers of art resources, discussions and links. Artists were posting on it regularly, on a varied array of art-related topics. This was what I'd been hunting for so long.

MiningCo, The Artist's Exchange, and

Friday, January 23, 2009

Few and Far Between...

I guess I know how I came to lose the art forum. I was alternating between playing with my Bugbones web page, e-mailing and net-surfing. Somewhere along the line I had caved in and gotten Internet at home. Maybe it was that tiresome 20-mile drive... or maybe it was the foot-tapping of waiting while other people used that one-hour timeshare on the library computer; because by now, I wasn't the only one in our burg who knew about Internet. I'd tried the local community college and found the waiting time much less (they had a whole row of computers, sitting idle outside of peak hours). But parking at the college was a whole new ballgame. Sometimes you could barely navigate between the double-parkers. Some days I just gave it up and went home. At some point I slapped down my money, hooked up my modem, and started surfing in the luxury of my own home. One line, no waiting. All mine. Internet in living color to view as I liked on my 8-inch green screen. But sometimes, as Spock said, "having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting." Now I could check my favorite forums daily and surf to my heart's content. But having my own Internet hook-up brought whole new problems. Not only was there familial conflict (I'll get to that); but popping into forums, eagerly awaiting the next bit of wisdom wasn't what it was cracked up to be. Posts were few and far between. And as crazy as it seems, I had, by now, even started my own little forum: the short-lived Bugbones Buzz. What with all this going on, and with having to restrict my 'Net-surfing time, I must have quit checking art forum daily. And right about then, it just disappeared. Along with MiningCo.

MiningCo, The Artist's Exchange Art Forum, and Bugbones.

Bugbones, PauperWitch, and Art Forum

I think I began by posting on the art forum as Bugbones, the same nickname that I had used for e-mail. I don't know if it was the 'uggy' sound of the bug name, or the paranoia of keeping my e-mail private, that made me change the nickname. Maybe it was just because it was tempting to have multiple identities. The Internet let you do that, and who hasn't wanted to be somebody else for a change? It was fun. So I chose 'PauperWitch.' PauperWitch was a throwback to my love of literature. She was a character from a Robert Frost poem that I liked and it sounded really edgy; especially compared to JoeBlow24203, the typical Delphi suggestion. There were no 'wiccan' overtones to my choice and I wasn't dirt poor ~ just felt that way sometimes. So now I was regularly perusing art forum, and posting as PauperWitch, and Philip asked to see photos, and I sent them via HotMail. Not without trouble. Right away I began to learn about file size. I had carefully composed my nice e-mail and began to attach the photos that had been so hard to scan. Hotmail timed out. I didn't know it was a time out. I just knew I would hit send, everything would go blank, and my letter would be gone. Into the Twilight Zone, not into the outbox. Hotmail apologized and maybe they blamed Netscape Navigator... I don't know. I managed to get the photos to Philip and we discussed art back and forth for awhile. Then, since it seemed I could be away from forum for days or weeks and not miss much, I went back to working on my page. One day I went back to forum and found that it, like my e-mail, was now residing in... the Twilight Zone!

MiningCo and the Artist's Exchange Art Forum

One-Sided Conversation

I first mentioned MiningCo when I blogged on Christmas Eve 2008, back when I was discussing scanners, when I mentioned the 'quest,' when Philip asked for photos of my art. Philip was the art forum guide, and I had discovered the art forum through I know that my discovery of MiningCo was early on in my Internet adventures. It was before my Hotmail account and before I borrowed the use of Terri's scanner for a day. In fact, MiningCo was what led me to seek a scanner. I can't say I had foreseen all this, but I can say that the day that ad flickered past and disappeared, I knew I'd lost something important. So I was glad to find them again. And I wasn't disappointed. MiningCo's directory started with 'A,' and 'Art' was included ~ something Yahoo couldn't boast, and still can't to this day. (Why should they. They have 'B,' which apparently stands for Brittney Spears, and does the world have to look further for true enlightenment?) The 'A' in Art led to 'The Artist's Exchange,' a directory of art resources. That, in turn, led to the Art Forum. I posted on Art Forum a time or two as 'Bugbones.' I was intriqued at the thought of discussing art with anyone, anywhere in the world. There were some nice thoughts posted on there, so I jumped right in. Art Forum was nice, it was interesting... it just wasn't hopping. Like many of those early forums, it was in the doldrums. The conversation was kind of one-sided. Someone would post an interesting thought, and I would find it a week or two down the road and reply. But they were by then long gone and might not be back for a week or a month, if at all. The posts were few and far between, but they showed promise. Philip was the guide, and he was pretty good to keep the threads going even then.

MiningCo and The Art Forum (The Artist's Exchange).

Finding MiningCo

MiningCo... I think the way I finally found them was through TV. Theirs was one of the first TV ads I saw for a dot-com ~ and that was after I had 'lost' them by failing to click on their banner ad in time. It's funny that I found them when I did. I had by then become dissatisfied with what I was finding on the Internet. I expected the world's largest library, but the Internet seemed to be one big smiley ~ with chat. (Later I was told that the 'Net itself wasn't at fault, that my gripe was probably with the search engines of the day.) Probably, this is true, and MiningCo was 1999's answer to that. They promised to mine relevant data as one would mine precious ore. MiningCo. A dot-com that would dig through the sludge and find the gems for you! The whole thing was a coincidence. Seeing their eye-catching banner whiz past, losing them, finding them again through TV. Just a funny name, but the tagline seemed promising of great things. MiningCo turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. For, with MiningCo came The Artist's Exchange and Art Forum.

MiningCo and Art Forum.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Searching for MiningCo

I had added the requisite smiley-face sites to Bugbones, but I wanted more. I wanted art sites, good-quality humor sites, education... Yahoo Search just wasn't delivering. Right about then, by an odd coincidence, I stumbled upon Miningco. Miningco was my first real evidence that the Internet might contain access to the great art, intelligent conversation, and educational material that I suspected was out there. (I mean, it was the Information Superhighway, right? not limited to smiley faces.) MiningCo had been around since 1996, but it was about '98 or '99 when I discovered it. At first, I just got a brief glimpse of the name by accident. An ad went whizzing by when I clicked an e-mail in Yahoo. The name intriqued me... whatever it was. Mining Info, Mining Dot-Com, MineCompf? And the banner was not cyan or magenta. Certainly that looked original and promising. I had spied the ad mid-click, but it vanished before I could get a good look. I tried backing up, tried clicking through ad after ad. It was gone. Try as I might, I couldn't recall that odd dot-com name. I searched mine, mining, mining info... (Wanna buy a carbide lamp? I know where you can get one.) I liked-to-never found MiningCo in search. I really had to dig for it. Come to think of it, it is ironic that I was trying to find a search engine through search.

The Perils of Bugbones.
MiningCo and the Art Forum.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Accessories... Gimme, gimme, gimme!

It was kind of hard to add content to an art site without a scanner. I still didn't have one ~ didn't think I could afford one. It's hard to justify every fancy electronic gadget that comes out on the market. Through that "free" dinosaur of mine, I learned the real snare of computer ownership. Accessories. Computers and accessories are like bread and butter, Satan and sinners, women and new shoes. The computer gobbled my spare change like a duck gobbles a june bug. I didn't have a computer, I had my own Little Shop of Horrors. A mechanized monster, with an incessant appetite for RAMs and chips. Growling, "Feed me!" And my wallet was straight out of a comic strip... open it up, and out floats a decrepit moth. Talk about Bugbones. I was broke. So in the absense of scanners and fancy photo-editing programs, I did what every low-rent webmaster was doing in 1999. I turned to search engines. I was gonna find me some links.

The perils of Bugbones.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I, Frankenstein...

He lives! He lives! Bugbones lives! I, Frankenstein, have created this thing. I had conquered the Yahoo sign-up, the Angelfire sign-up, the Hotmail sign-up, the log-in fury. No longer the newbie! begging the definition of "cookie"... struggling with the concept of "upload." I was an old hand. I could use Web Shell. I could use an on-line FTP. No clip-art from a gallery for me! I uploaded my own GIFs. I had gritted my teeth, tackled HTML, and come out of it alive (though somewhat the worse for wear). By Web Monkey's advice, I had simplified my logo design... mastered Paintbrush, drew my bug, tweaked him with freeware, smoothed him with the elegant money-bought LViewPro... This I did amid crashes that threatened the extinction of stone-age dinosaurs (myself and my ancient PC). I had pored over Webmonkey tutorials, scanned my Dummy book, deciphered the Rosetta stone, cracked the code. And by God, I had my webpage, topped with my fine Bugbones GIF, of the coveted transparent background, not to be achieved with mere Paint. Survived the Webshell Upgrade, adopted the WYSIWYG editor, created my Sizzzlinks page of the weird fonts. Wow! What a journey. Now it was time to add content. I didn't think of it in those terms. In 1999 the eternal "Content" wasn't yet the god of the Internet. I wasn't thinking "Content." I just wanted stuff on my page.

The perils of Bugbones.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Algebra and Pizza

It's a sad thing to be geekless in a geek-driven world. I had so many questions. Technical forums were above my head. I learned not to post as a newbie (no need to be the butt of jokes). Sitting back and quietly waiting for the right answer to come up wasn't much help, either. Tech discussions, to me, always looked like those algebra problems Mr. Leonard used to put on the board. "If Train A is going X miles per hour on a zigzag railroad track and Train B is going Y miles per hour in the opposite direction, and the bridge is out at Point C... then who gets to order pizza?" (Mr. Leonard was a schizophrenic. I'm sure of it.) My brother wasn't much help. He thought I knew more about computers than he did. My niece, who seemed to be a whiz on computers, had a slight attention-deficit problem. She could hack away at the keyboard all right, but she rarely slowed down enough to find out what I actually wanted her to do. I wanted doublespacing in my text documents. "Here, look at all these cool fonts I downloaded for you," she would say.

"Uh, thanks," I'd say, "but I really liked Times New Roman better without those little cactus spines." There was another side effect to that particular brand of tech help. At the end, my machine would quite likely be reduced to a pile of rubble. Her professional philosophy pretty much fit in with all those Terms of Use documents you sign daily. "When it breaks, you're up the creek without a paddle and we're not liable. Oh yeah... and your machine will be reduced to a pile of rubble..."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fat Shirley's Tech-Support Hotline... ?

Yes, humor had definite possibilities for a website. And I was already in humor mode. I was still an e-mail newbie. I was in joke-hog heaven! My mind was racing ahead to all the funny things I could write for Bugbones. And I could enlist my brother's help. He was in a funny band. They did skits, they had gigs. (It's what led to him being a woman in Fat Shirley's: A Trailer-Park Opera. That came later.) In fact he was also itching to do a site. He'd already started a small one. I helped. I helped him with opening an e-mail account and logging in and setting up a site. He helped me with which plug went in which socket, what the heck was a USB port, and did I have one? (I didn't) We were the amateur tech-support in our neck of the woods by now. All of our friends came to us. Professional tech support was available, but expensive. They had two answers to every question we asked: (a) we can plug in this disk and reinstall Windows; and (b) we can sell you this new PC ~ it has more megahertz. We did attempt to branch out and network among friends. To each of our questions, they had this response: 'I don't know nothing. All I know is WordPerfect.'

The Perils of Bugbones...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Technology was Devouring My Life

So now Bugbones was officially a cartoon site, a fun site. That might do do for graphic art, fun and frivolous illustrations, and humor. Bugbones, as barren as it was, had been a lot of work. I could still imagine great things for it. In fact, the doing of a site was now a goal in itself. Maybe it was even an obsession. This World-Wide-Web thing was aptly named. It was a giant web and I was caught up in it. I was a hapless fly. Technology was devouring my life. Here I am, ten years later, still struggling to keep up with technology. But I am not alone. I am one fly of over 108 million.* So, in 1999, with Bugbones barely off of the drawing board, I began to conceive of my "real" site. An art site. Not fun art. My art. But could a tired, frustrated non-techie aspire to having two sites? She thought she could. Barely a glimmer of an idea, this second site. A glimmer of light. And I was a moth to it...

The Perils of Bugbones.
Annals of Southern Muse begin.

*As of 2007, according to, there were over 108 million websites, sporting more than 19.2 billion pages, on the World Wide Web. And growing. No, I am not alone. Reference: "WWW FAQs: How many websites are there?" URI <>. Accessed 30 December 2008.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Easter Bunny Ears on John Wesley

By now my brain had switched gears and I was ready to do a humor site. Humor wasn't new to me. I had done my own cartoon strip for my high school paper. In college, I had had a high old time with humorous graphics and illustration, along with my true love, fine art. Not to mention, I'd done my fair share of gluing shoes to the floor, smearing Vaseline on doorknobs, hoisting underwear up the flagpole, and carrying of the roommate's bed out to put on top of the breezeway. Of painting the breaker-box covers with naughty little cartoons in the middle of the night. (It was artfully done.) Of putting Easter-bunny ears and a basket of eggs on the statue of John Wesley. (The dean of students just smiled ~ he was an old friend by then). It hit the morning papers. We had no idea someone had called them. The reporter was highly amused. The college president, much less so. I don't think he ever did get over it. Later he crankily accused us, the art students, of stealing a statue of a little boy with a thorn in his foot. We didn't. Or at least I didn't. That's real vandalism and theft. I don't go in for that. You know, that college president and our dean of students retired the year I graduated. I don't know why.

Bugbones, a fun site. Our new theme.

Oh, the perils of bugbones...

Screechy Modems and 8-inch Screens

I wanted elegantly themed pages of subtle colors and artistic backgrounds and loads of images. But I accepted Webmonkey's advice and designed my Bugbones page to conform to something less than state-of-the-art technology. Users were running obsolete dinosaurs, said Webmonkey. That meant Windows95 and 8-inch monitors and 19kb dial-up modems. If broadband was around, nobody I knew had it. In fact, it was all I could do to understand the definitions of these terms when I ran into them. What's DSL? What's broadband? I tore up my keyboard up trying to get an answer to these questions. I knew what a modem was: the thing inside my PC that made a horrid screechy sound when I clicked the Internet icon. A modem sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard, and if I was lucky, I got a growl and hiss that told me the hookup was complete. It's not a friendly sounding thing. Perhaps we should have taken that growl as an omen that the Internet did not want us. But we ignored the screech and growl and waited the slow, slow wait for our browsers to load. As for my page design... I had no trouble, beyond mere thoughts of rebellion, to restricting my layout to stay within the limitations of dial-up modems and 8-inch screens. That's what I was running. It was all I knew.

The perils of Bugbones.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Changing Page Themes

Before long, I would be plagued with upgraded web shells, bloated templates, faltering dot coms, and vanishing hosts. But enough of that for the moment. Right now, I had my logo and I had a web page to fill. I had taken Webmonkey's advice: Keep it simple. Keep it cartoony. I felt sure that that little monkey knew more than I did. I was hip to it! I was well-read and in-the-know. Not for me, the newbie webmaster's mistake, of fancy, airbrushed graphics. Primary colors, bold outlines! That was the key. But a cartoony logo meant a cartoony site. Somehow, the idea of it didn't fit in with my paintings. I was torn between what I read and what I actually wanted to do. I had to admit, I didn't have the tools to or knowledge to do a fancy art site. So, here I was, rethinking Bugbones. My site would have to have jokes and chatty newsletters. Why not? Everyone else on the Web had them! My limitations as a non-techie were already changing the theme and future content of my website.

Oh, the perils of Bugbones!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dump the Images, They Say...

Judging by what I saw of on-line content, smileys were what people wanted. Charlene wasn't the only one who resented this. Over the years, I found that Web technicians deeply resented the demands of page designers. The Web (they said) is for the presentation of information, of words, of ideas. Not for pictures of your family pet or your Aunt Sally. But, as an artist, I have to say that images are ideas! Images are content! I was trying so hard to conform to what technicians wanted. "Dump the images," they insisted. "Get rid of flashy gimmicks and scrolling marquees! Don't load your page with pictures. Users hate fancy airbrushed backgrounds that are slow to load." Excuse me! My eventual goal was to get my paintings on line. This is not the family pet. My art is not a little white rat! But if it were, who are these scientists to tell me not to love it? Not to express my creativity? I grew angry at technicians who demanded control over my content. Before long I got a frightful lesson in how the arbitrary decisions of nameless, faceless technicians and corporations play a vital role in how you, the user, will interact with the world; how, and whether, your content will be presented.

(Confessions of a fearful geek).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I Drew Smileys Because I Could.

Here was left brain meeting right brain. And they clashed. It's not exactly true that Charlene hated color. She appreciated art and had a better understanding of it than some of my fellow artists. What she resented was the intrusion of pop-culture into a medium that had heretofore been reserved for scholars, librarians, and scientists. Important exchanges of information were being overrun with games, idle chitchat, and SPAM. I can empathize with that. Smileys do abound ~ as do ads for Viagra, ad nauseum. Bugbones "fun stuff" wasn't a world-class contribution to the body of human knowledge. It could only be called cheerful pollution. I was a child to the world of computers. The Internet was a new toy for me. I drew smileys because they were all I could manage at the time. It bespeaks the level of my technical expertise. Windows Paint was all I had. And building a page was my way of tackling the Internet. I did it because... it was there. Why do people climb Mount Everest?

Information? Or Pinball?

Early on in my web-page-editing days, I complained to my friend Charlene about how disappointed I was in the Information Superhighway: how hard it was to create a page, what a difficult time I was having with the art tools. She said to me, glumly, "I don't like this new icon-based Internet." I didn't quite know what she meant. I knew what icons were: small symbols, like red-ball Gifs and little blue mailboxes. You clicked on them and they brought you stuff. True, the Web was overrun with smiley faces... Was this her gripe? a grudge against frivolity? I could empathize with that. The 'Net was supposed to be every scholar's dream, and here it was turning into one big pinball machine. I couldn't get Charlene to commisserate with me over how hard it was to layout a page of my own design and theme, and upload my art. I came to realize that her complaint went deeper than than just a dislike of smileys. It was images she despised! Charlene was used to a text-based Internet. She'd had a taste of early DOS. A black screen. Simple lines of plain text in the old Courier font. Catalog cards all numbered and indexed. She resented the intrusion of color!

(Confessions of a fearful geek).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bugbones, Computer Envy, and Columbo.

What a chore the Bugbones logo was to create! A task that would have been a breeze using colored ink and brush was torture using that MOUSE. My hand nearly froze into a permanent claw. In fact, I made the rare (for me) accessory purchase afterwards, my first in a succession of attempts to find the perfect MOUSE. Where was the intuitive pencil-MOUSE? Where was the Star Trek inspired, user-friendly wizard of a machine that would suck in my drawing, let me punch in a couple of plain-talk commands, find the contours, smooth them, and auto-morph those crude Paintbrushy pixels into the cute little Bugbones that I could see on my paper and envision on my 8-inch screen? Would this ever, ever be the future of technology? For all I knew, it was the current state of technology. Just not here in the big woods. Meanwhile, I'm punching a keyboard that looks like something off of an old Columbo show.
"What is this machine?"
"That's a computer, lieutenant."
"Where do you put the ribbon?"
(Confessions of a fearful geek).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Voila! Bugbones...

So after all that work, was my final Bugbones worth it? The homely creature that metamorphosed from bug-gnawed skeleton, to desert-dried fossil, to goofy little cartoon guy? Well, I have to say, "yes!" Bugbones is me! He's simple, really. Take a bug. Give him startled yellow pop-eyes and crumpled antennas. Toss in some silly little dog-biscuit bones and a plump, round belly. Voila! There you have him. A little sick, maybe, but highly representative of the artist's devilish mind. Through blood, sweat and tears, I drew him ~ my computer-generated masterpiece ~ using a MOUSE and Windows Paintbrush. With LView Pro I tweaked him: softer tones, hints of airbrushing, smoothed edges, and (important to me) a transparent background, achievable only through those deluxe art-editing programs. My original cheesy, jagged, flat little lime-green bug was now a softly curved, pleasantly colored, fairly elegant little guy. Bugbones had style, he had personality. He had guts. And they were splattered all over the windshield. By now, I knew how that bug felt.

Oh, the perils of Bugbones.

Fractals, Straight Lines, and Curves

Yes, something clicked in the brain of the fearful geek. It's funny how that happens. I had recently discovered an on-line game that drew fractals. I had never heard of fractals, but the site had an explanation of the phenomenon of structured growth patterns in nature, and a fun little program that let you play with fractals. Now, just after I'd seen fractals in action, here was a guy saying he used the straight-line tool to draw curves. My brainwaves did an electrical arc. It was a quantum leap for me. I suddenly envisioned how I could use a straight line to draw curves, like the sculptor who takes a block of marble and chips away everything that doesn't look like a horse. I would use the straight line to cut away the part of the curve that isn't needed. I would pull each line out at a tangent from the curve, as the line of a fractal coming out from a central point. I now saw that I could use LView Pro to create the highlights and shadows that I needed on Bugbones, then use Windows Paintbrush to trim and smooth the contours of the main shapes. It was a strange workaround, no doubt, but one that I still use today.

"I'm gonna make some art." she said. LView Pro was a challenge. Their icons were good, especially compared to the generic interface of the standard Windows programs I was used to. You didn't have to sort through dozens of generic labels like "File" and "View." If you wanted a paintbrush, there was a nice icon of a paintbrush. Simple. LView Pro had an excellent tutorial, and most of the tools were self-explanatory. But good art editing software is necessarily complex, and some things just can't be explained in words. A video would have been nice. Masks were impossible for me. Curves, too. (My Bugbones sketch was full of curves.) I had the devil of a time getting my MOUSE to behave. I would start drawing a curve, but couldn't figure out the right succession of clicks to pin the darn thing into place. One wrong click and my excellent curve would simply disappear. When I complained of this, one artist told me that he used the straight-line tool in Paintbrush to draw curves. I took this as a flippant remark. Techies are always throwing out flippant remarks ~ just enough to clue you in to their superior knowledge, but rarely in a way that actually helps you learn a thing. This time, though, something clicked.

But, back to LView Pro...

Confessions of a fearful geek: LView Pro presented another great learning curve. I installed it by myself, with a great deal of cursing. Since I already had a trial version installed, it was hard to make my machine recognize the paid version of LView Pro. I'll say this for Windows: it has the memory of an elephant. Once a registry key is in there, it's in there! You delete it? Windows recalls it. I got on-line at LView's support forum and found that I wasn't the only one who had that gripe. I sorted through copious numbers of rants, whines, and curses and finally found a halfway answer to my question. It took half a dozen tries, but in the end, LView Pro was installed. Time to make some art!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wires, Chips, Woes, and Klingon...

No, of course LView Pro wasn't a Microsoft program. That's not what I meant. But I'd already had a taste of what software manufacturers could do to you, and that was Microsoft. Their hi-tech promises expire overnight. Bill Gates could pull the rug out from under any software company any time he wanted. But my feet were also on that rug. One Microsoft upgrade and my hard-bought PC ~ the obsolete dinosaur ~ was a worthless pile of wires and chips. Half of my gadgets would fail. Oh, sure, most of the software makers would scramble around and come up with a new driver or something. But I was the user who had to figure out what made my gadget quit working, what a driver was, where to find one, which one to download, how to install it (and don't even get me started on installation woes). Finding drivers and fixes took searching and searching, poring over smirky tech-forum posts, trying to figure out who knew what, and reading between the lines of a mish-mash of tech jargon that was as incomprehensible to me as Klingon. nuqneH!

Confessions of a non-techie.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the Klingon word.)