Monthly Archives: February 2011

Scan of the Day: Dusting Off some Old DCSki Code

DCSki.com, one of my many side projects, traces its roots to the early days of the web. Its technical underpinnings have been uprooted on multiple occasions since the late 90s. In the early days, every page on the site was static. Every link had to be maintained manually. Changing the look and feel of the site required editing hundreds of separate files. Not much fun.

That got old fast. So I soon jumped to a magic technology called “server side includes.” Portions of static pages could include portions of other static pages; this allowed some content to be centralized in one place.

Soon thereafter, I re-coded DCSki in the Perl language. When someone visited a page on the site, some Perl code was executed to dynamically generate content. I was cleaning some old files and came across this printout of some very early DCSki code, written in Perl. A list of news stories was stored in a flat text file, and this Perl parsed through that file to pull out relevant stories and then create HTML on the fly based on them.

From the comments, I can see that I had a cavalier attitude about the code not being Y2K compliant.

As an interpreted language, Perl wasn’t very fast, and I decided to re-code everything in compiled C code. This dramatically sped up the performance of each page. I think 1997 is the last time I programmed in Perl.

But the code didn’t stay in C for long. Open source databases such as MySQL became popular, and the PHP programming language, geared towards web development, took off. I embraced these technologies and continue to use them today. A continuous evolution has moved nearly all content on DCSki from static pages into a dynamic database. This makes everything much easier to maintain and provides additional flexibility.

But, nothing stays the same for long. This summer, I hope to once again remodel DCSki from top to bottom. Perl probably won’t be part of that transformation.

Shot of a Deer

This is one of my favorite photos from the 90s. I thought I had only made one print of this (which hangs on my desk at work), but just discovered another print stashed away, and thankfully perfectly preserved. I developed the film and processed the print myself. My notations on the back of the print show that I used a C-40, M-100, Y-150 filter on the enlarger and exposed the paper for 8.5 seconds at f/5.6. The print was developed on April 9, 1996.

Here’s the story behind the shot: I was camping in Big Meadows Campground at Shenandoah National Park. I was awakened by a strange sound — it sounded like someone blowing air on the tent. With bleary eyes, I unzipped the tent door and saw a deer a few feet away. The deer kept sneezing. (I guess deer can have spring allergies, too.) I grabbed my Minolta Maxxum 5xi and tried to catch the deer in mid-sneeze. I was only able to take one frame before the deer ran off and the moment was over.

I didn’t know whether I had captured the shot until I developed the film. I have to say I like everything about this shot — the gesture, the framing, the depth of field, the grain, the chaotic interplay between flora and fauna.. And wow, I forgot how much I loved pure black and white photography. Desaturating color photos is missing a certain je ne sais quoi, isn’t it? I’m glad I had a chance to work directly with black and white film.

Shots from the Past

I just purchased a scanner, which can scan both prints and film. This provides the ability to bring many of my older photos into the digital age.

It will take me awhile to go through my old photos and negatives, but here’s an assignment from a college photography class I found tucked away. The assignment: to compare three stocks of slide film (apparently — I barely remember it). I clearly aced the assignment, as you can tell from the “check” placed on it by the professor.

The scanner did a pretty good job scanning the slides. That’s Brian, my college roommate, lending a hand in the middle shot. (Belated thanks, Brian!)

But, alas, there’s a sad footnote to all of this. Kodak discontinued Kodachrome and Ektachrome film, and the last place Kodachrome processor in the country developed its last roll on December 30, 2010.