Planet Drupal

Last Year’s Successful Charity Effort is Making a Difference

Hello, My name is Aaron Winborn, and I was the recipient of the Society for Venturism's charity last year, to receive a future cryonic preservation at the facilities of the Cryonics Institute for when the time comes. I'm indebted to many of you for your contributions, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the peace of mind that this gives me. I still have an albeitedly diminished bucket list of things to do, but I don't stay up fretting over the things I'm incapable of accomplishing, in large part to this assurance. I know the odds are still not in my favor, but at least I have a significantly better chance of revival than if I were buried or cremated.

That said, This past year has been both challenging and a blessing. Challenging because of all the difficulties brought on by having to adjust to the continuing degeneration brought on by Amyotrophic Lateral Schlerosis, ALS, better known in the United States as Lou Gehrig's Disease, or Motor Neuron Disease in other parts of the world. Although I am not yet completely paralyzed, or locked in as they say, I am confined to my wheelchair, and cannot move my hands or arms. My breathing capacity is no longer measurable, and I cannot go for more than thirty seconds without mechanical ventilation before I'm in distress. I am not yet on a vent with a tracheostomy, but we are considering that as the next step to prolong my life. It's a difficult decision to make, however, because of the extraordinary amount of care that I would require around the clock, not to mention the possible loss of a quality of life. It's no wonder that only about ten percent of patients choose a tracheostomy, and only fifty percent of those go on to survive another year.

If that sounds scary to think about, well yes, it is. I could go on with a report of challenges we face, including the utter loss of the ability to speak or to understand spoken language, to the loss of the ability to eat or drink, to the devastation this awful disease has wreaked on my wife and our two young daughters, but I wouldn't be able to do it justice in a few short paragraphs, especially when I want to make sure that I leave space for the good things in my life. So on with the good.

First, I have, after a year or so of giving up reading anything not available on the Internet, have reawakened my love of literature. I've rediscovered the ebook format, and am now devouring about two books a week. Mostly science fiction, but dotted with the occasional contemporary fiction. I'm also still participating in the Drupal community, with a friend who volunteers two hours a week and a tricked up communication device.

Although I have been largely holed up this winter, I still manage to get out every couple of months to see a movie with some friends, and it's been fun sitting at the picture window and watching the girls play in the snow. Oh, how I look forward to the warmer seasons when I'll be able to "walk" the neighborhood again.

I also have been exploring new ways of communicating with my sweetie. Certainly challenging, because of my inability to use the verbal bandwidth, and because so much of her time is taken up as both my primary caregiver and being almost a single parent. On top of that, my day is so broken up and consumed with my caregiving that I find it difficult to even focus on an email that I find myself consolidating my efforts and try to cheat, by counting in my mind a quick CC in an email, or say a mention in a magazine article or a blog post as a valid form of communication. But I know in my heart that doesn't fully count, so I continue to find new ways to let her know how special she is to me.

I am enjoying the simple things in life. I know that's a cliche, but as with all good cliches, there's an element of truth to it. From when our cat decided that my lap is warm and available for napping, to the spontaneous hugs my youngest daughter gives my leg, to watching my older daughter play computer games, to watching my wife's beautiful smile. These are the things that make up life, and I am so excited to have another day of it each morning I awaken.

Stay strong,
Aaron Winborn

This letter first appeared in the latest issue of Long Life magazine: http://www.cryonics.org/images/uploads/magazines/LLV46_N01.pdf

I'm part of the Keynote at Drupal Camp NYC 13

I have been invited to the wonderful opportunity to come speak as part of the keynote address for Drupal Camp NYC 13 this weekend. You should come too, at least if you're in New York, and you have an interest in Drupal, or just want a chance to watch me make a fool out of myself on stage.

I have been invited, presumably, because of my work with the Media project of Drupal. Although I would question their choice, as my work would not have been possible without the work of the giants on whose shoulders I stand, not to mention the work of countless other developers who have and continue to contribute to making the Media project as awesome as it is. I am, as the saying goes, but a drop.

But regardless of my thoughts on the matter, I'm the person they've chosen to come chew your ears for ten minutes on Saturday, July 13, in the evening, following Larry Garfield, one of those giants I mentioned. So please, come to Drupal Camp NYC 13, to experience what it means to be part of the Drupal community, to learn from some of the giants in some of the many offerings available in the sessions over the weekend, to help make history in one of the sprints following the camp, or just to hear an old fool pontificate because the organizers didn't know what they were getting themselves into.

By the way, I've been told that 100% of the proceeds from the camp after expenses will be donated to the Special Needs Trust that has been set up for my family and me, because of my ongoing struggles with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Just one more reason you need to be there. Plus, you'll get to hear me do my Stephen Hawking impersonation with the speech assist device I'll be using. Now if only they could make a speech-writing assist device...

Reddit AMA about ALS and Assistive Technology

ONLINE RIGHT NOW ON REDDIT: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1glbmg/iama_chief_assistive_techno...

On Tuesday, June 18, at one o'clock EDT, I will be on a panel for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit - http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/ - The topic will be ALS and Assistive Technology.

So why should you attend?

First, it's only an hour or so, and it'll look better if more than one or two people show up. Besides, it'll be a great opportunity to spend your lunch hour with me. Being online simply makes it that more simple.

Next, if you have any pressing questions, such as how do you manage to write awesome modules for Drupal when your hands are completely useless, then this is your opportunity!

My qualifications: I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease about two years ago, just before my newborn's first birthday. At first, my arms and hands were weak, so I purchased a magic touch pad and keyboard for the mac. By September, I needed to supplement this with Dragon Dictate (Naturally Speaking on the PC). This combination served me well until last year, when my hands became too weak to control the touch pad, so I began looking at eye gaze solutions.

The first iteration was a custom built eye gaze tracking system built by my father, from an open source concept over at http://www.eyewriter.org/ . It was cumbersome and difficult to calibrate, however, so beyond a couple of proof of concept demonstrations, I didn't really use that much.

Then about July I got a head tracking piece of software for the Mac, which served me well for a few months. However, it was doomed from the start, as my neck strength was already failing.

So in September of last year, I finally got a Tobii PCEye, and used it to control the mouse, while I continued to use Dragon to dictate code and emails to the computer.

Finally, this January, my voice had degraded to such an extent that I gave up struggling to keep training and retraining Dragon, and now use the Tobii, in combination with Dasher, an open source word predictor for use with eye gaze systems, to control all aspects of the computer.

I'm planning to get a stand alone Tobii system next month, which will allow me to speak when I have lost that ability entirely, using my own voice banked with Model Talker, and have also begun a trial using a brain computer interface (BCI) for the possible loss of eye movement in the future.

By far the best thing I have done during the course of this debilitating illness has been to try to stay one step ahead, by training myself to use the next bit of software or hardware before I actually need it. I believe that where medicine has completely failed patients with ALS, technology has taken up the banner, and offers the only hope.

So join me Tuesday at 1:00 for an AMA on Reddit, to have a chance to chat with me live. I'll post the URL here and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/aaronwinborn soon before the session starts.

Monday was my 46th birthday and likely my last. Anything awesome I should try after I die?

First, some background. My name is Aaron Winborn, and I am a developer for Drupal, which is an open source content management system, used to make web sites. I also the father of two young girls, who bring much joy into my life, and married to a beautiful woman. You may have heard of her, her name is Wonder Woman.

Just over two years ago, I was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. In short, that means that my mind will increasingly become trapped in my body as the motor neurons continue to die, and the muscles atrophy and waste away, until my diaphragm dies, bringing me with it.

My hands and arms are already completely paralyzed, and I'm confined to a power wheelchair. My diaphragm strength is largely diminished, and I am using breathing assistance 24/7, and I am at imminent risk for respiratory failure.

Even if I am fortunate enough to survive another year, which is only likely if I opt for a tracheostomy, my chances of surviving much longer become increasingly unlikely, as pneumonia becomes a specter haunting the late stages of ALS. There is no cure for this awful disease. My family gets to take care of all my needs and wipe the drool off my face, until I die, and leave them to pick up the pieces.

But yes, there is a silver lining to this all, such as it is. Kim Suozzi made a similar plea to the Internet a year ago today, and came up with the brilliant idea of freezing her body in the hopes of a distant advanced technology being able to revive her someday. Her body now rests at liquid nitrogen temperatures. http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/uvaqe/today_is_my_23rd_birthd...

I approached the organization responsible for raising the funds to help her out, the Society for Venturism, last November, and they agreed to take on my case as well. http://venturist.info/aaron-winborn-charity.html

But I am actually telling you all this in order to come up with a sort of reverse bucket list.

I've had a full life, with no regrets. I've done some travel, have lived in some cool places, like the Netherlands and London. I've made lots of good friends, and continue to do so. I've contributed to my debt to society, working hard throughout my life, as a teacher, a waiter, an open source software developer. I've worked with a few interesting characters, like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and even lived in a Buddhist monastery before I met the woman of my dreams.

But I'm not ready to hang up my jacket quite yet.

When I was ten, I came up with three things that I wanted to be when I grew up: a teacher, a writer, and an astronaut. I've been two of the things, which is not bad. As an aside, I once told that to some people, and was asked, "Oh, what did you write?" To which I replied, "I didn't say I've written anything."

Joking aside, I'm looking for some grandiose ideas of things to do after I've died, and have hopefully been revived. And by that, I mean the sky's the limit. Don't worry about whether something seems technically feasible. This is your opportunity to think big. Like, go skinny dipping in the methane oceans of Neptune.

I want to do so much more with my life, but it's not in the cards this go around. I've become a spectator in life, living vicariously through my daughters, and relegated to typing with my eyes at fifteen words per minute on a good day.

But I'm not complaining. I awaken each morning as I always have, excited to take on the day. This is just a way to do some more brainstorming, to come up with a list of things to do during the next century, should we be so fortunate.

Stay strong,

Aaron

PS This question was originally banned from the Internet at http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1g7h69/anything_awesome_i_sho...

I'm making a virtual appearance in Portland

I want to thank the good folks at ThinkShout and ZivTech for organizing the Drupal DoGooders Happy Hour to benefit my family and me, as well as giving people attending DrupalCon an opportunity to hang out and have some drinks. Even though I will not be in Portland this week, I plan to be present in spirit, beginning with a virtual appearance there. Join the crew this evening (May 20) at about 4:00 PDT to raise a glass in toast of doing Drupal Good and for a quick Q & A with me beginning about 4:30.

What a long strange trip it's been.

From Sunnyvale in 2007 when I conceived the Embedded Media Field module, to Boston DrupalCon in 2008, where I presented my first State of the Media session, to DC in 2009 where we launched the Media sprint supporting the Media suite of modules, to Chicago 2011 and Denver 2012.

These are the fun times that I recall fondly, doing good with my fellow cohorts. And by doing good, I mean really doing good things. Because where else in the business world can you spontaneously form a group of competitors, build something awesome, and give it freely to the rest of the world?

I'm really going to miss that this year. I mean that even though I continue to contribute to Drupal whatever and whenever I can, I am going to miss seeing you guys this year. There is a magic that happens when you get three or more Drupalers together in the same room. But circumstance has had its way with me these past two years and until we have a DrupalCon "Three Mile Island", I will have to be content with a virtual appearance.

So, join me on Monday evening to see my Stephen Hawking impersonation.

Password Algorithms: What to Do When You've Been Hacked

Last night, I was sent an email from a friend whose email was hacked. I am seeing a lot of that in the past year or 2, so I thought I would share my response to help train folks into better password habits. And seriously, I think that it would be a good practice to install the Password policy module on all your Drupal sites, to help enforce better habits for everyone. That module can be configured to force passwords similar to what I described here, and much more, such as requiring that passwords be periodically changed.

Image CC-BySA from http://gawdoflolz.deviantart.com/art/My-password-322798011

Dear (Friend),

I got those emails, it does look like it's possible that your email was hacked. You did the right thing, by changing your password. However, we need to do a few other things to try to minimize the damage.

1st, it is entirely possible, in fact probable, that they did not actually hack your computer. Identity theft is rampant, and in this interconnected world, does not even require any access to your computer.

That said, it is still possible that your computer has a virus. That would be the 1st thing to check. If you have an antivirus program, you need to ensure that it has been updated. That may require a fee, if you are using a paid antivirus program subscription.

If you do not have an antivirus program, I would highly suggest Avast, which I have been using for years. You can safely use the free version of it, as it is not crippled in any way from the paid version. You can find it at http://avast.com.

After, and only after you have scanned your computer for viruses, then you can get on with the business of securing your accounts against identity theft.

You will need to change your email password yet again, I am sorry to say. Additionally, you will want to change the security questions, which I believe that Yahoo will ask.

Treat the security questions as passwords in themselves, as these are most commonly used to hack in to an email account. That means that you should not use anything resembling what they actually ask for, such as your mother's maiden name or your 1st dog. That can be discovered with Google these days.

Next, a word about passwords. As you may have heard by now, you need to have a password that cannot be guessed. Unfortunately, that is not enough. You also need to have a mix of cases, at least one number, and a special character, such as a punctuation mark. Additionally, you need to have a different password for every account that you have.

I cannot stress that last paragraph enough. It is too easy for a hacker to get into, say an account with a forum, and use that to get into your Wells Fargo account. For instance, to use myself as an example, about 6 years ago, I accidentally broadcasted my password into a chat room, and about 2 weeks later, I got an email from a woman wondering where her Gucci bag was that she had purchased from my eBay account. It turns out that someone in Russia had hacked into my eBay account and listed about 100 fake Gucci bags.

I know that this sounds daunting, but it is necessary. Fortunately, you can use what is called an algorithm to remember your dozens of new passwords that you'll need to create. You can use that to create a new password for any site, and you will always remember it. Additionally, it will be secure for all intents and purposes.

Basically, you will choose a passphrase, modify and, and apply it to any site. For example, and please do not use this example, let say you choose "apple" as your passphrase. We will modify that to have a punctuation mark and a number, so that it will be "@pp1E". Then you would append that to the 1st 4 characters of whatever site that you are creating an account for. For instance, for eBay, your password would be "ebay@pp1E", and your Hotmail account would be "hotm@pp1E". This will make your passwords immune to so-called dictionary attacks, where they try to figure out your password by entering random words from the dictionary.

Much easier to remember, right? And for your financial accounts, I would suggest creating yet another algorithm, as an extra layer of protection.

You can apply this same idea to those security questions that you see everywhere. Basically, you do not want to actually use a real answer, because it is far too easy for a determined hacker to read about that experience in your 1st car that you posted in Facebook. Instead, treat them with the same respect as your passwords. For instance, you might create an algorithm with your grandmother's cat's name that you apply to a site's question for referring to your own pet.

Once you have done this, you should be fairly safe.

Good luck.

As a postscript, and not to deflect responsibility, it is entirely possible that your email was not the one hacked. It may have been a more intelligent hack, where someone hacked into someone else's Facebook account, for example. From there, they may have grabbed the contacts and spoofed an email from it, sending spam and making it look like it came from yours. This is a more insidious form of identity theft that is becoming more common. Still, the best defense is to secure your passwords.

Open Source Software Developer with Terminal Illness Hopes to Opt Out of Death

TLDR: http://venturist.info/aaron-winborn-charity.html

So maybe you've heard about my plight, in which I wrestle Lou Gehrig in this losing battle to stay alive. And I use the phrase "staying alive" loosely, as many would shudder at the thought of becoming locked in with ALS, completely paralyzed, unable to move a muscle other than your eyes.

But that's only half the story. Wait for the punchline.

As if the physical challenges of adapting to new and increasingly debilitating disabilities were not enough, my wife and two young daughters are forced to watch helplessly as the man they knew loses the ability to lift a fork or scratch an itch, who just two years ago was able to lift his infant daughter and run with the 7-year-old. The emotional strain on my family is more than any family should have to bear. Not to mention the financial difficulties, which include big purchases such as a wheelchair van and home modifications, and ultimately round the clock nursing care, all of it exacerbated by the fact that we have had to give up my income both because of the illness and to qualify for disability and Medicaid.

Meet me, Aaron Winborn, software developer and author of Drupal Multimedia, champion of the open source software movement.

Years ago, I worked for the lady of death herself, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the author of On Death and Dying. Of course, I knew that one day I would need to confront death, but like most people, I assumed it would be when I was old, not in the prime of my life. Not that I'm complaining; I have lived a full life, from living in a Buddhist monastery to living overseas, from marrying the woman of my dreams to having two wonderful daughters, from teaching in a radical school to building websites for progressive organizations, from running a flight simulator for the US Navy to working as a puppeteer.

I accept the fact of my inevitable death. But accepting death does not, I believe, mean simply rolling over and letting that old dog bite you. Regardless of the prevalent mindset in society that says that people die and so should you, get over it, I believe that the reality we experience of people living only to a few decades is about to be turned upside down.

Ray Kurzweil spells out a coming technological singularity, in which accelerating technologies reach a critical mass and we reach a post-human world. He boldly predicts this will happen by the year 2045. I figured that if I could make it to 2035, my late 60s, that I would be able to take advantage of whatever medical advances were available and ride the wave to a radically extended lifespan.

ALS dictates otherwise. 50% of everyone diagnosed will die within 2 to 3 years of the onset of the disease. 80% will be gone in 5 years. And only 10% go on to survive a decade, most of them locked in, paralyzed completely, similar to Stephen Hawking. Sadly, my scores put me on the fast track of the 50%, and I am coming up quickly on 3 years.

Enter Kim Suozzi.

On June 10 of last year, her birthday, which is coincidentally my own, Kim Suozzi asked a question to the Internet, "Today is my 23rd birthday and probably my last. Anything awesome I should try before I die?" The answer that she received and acted on would probably be surprising to many.

On January 17, 2013, Kim Suozzi died, and as per her dying wish, was cryonically preserved.

She was a brave person, and I hope to meet her someday.

So yes, there we have it. The point that I am making with all this rambling. I hope to freeze my body after I die, in the hope of future medical technologies advancing to the point where they will be able to revive me.

The good news is that in the scheme of things, it is not too terribly expensive to have yourself cryonically preserved. You should look at it yourself; most people will fund it with a $35K-200K life insurance policy.

The bad news for me is that a life insurance policy is out of the question for me; a terminal illness precludes that as an option. Likewise, due to the financial hardships in store for us, self-funding is also out of the question.

When I learned about Kim Suozzi's plight, I reached out to the organization that set up the charity that ultimately funded her cryopreservation. The Society for Venturism, a non-profit that has raised funds for the eventual cryopreservation of terminally ill patients, agreed to take on my case.

Many of you reading this post have already helped out in so many ways. From volunteering your time and effort to our family, to donating money towards my Special Needs Trust to help provide a cushion for the difficult times ahead.

I am so grateful for all of this. It means so much to me and my family to know that there is such a large and generous community supporting us. I hate to ask for anything more, especially for something that may seem like an extravagance.

But is it really an extravagance?

If I were to ask for $100,000 for an experimental stem cell treatment, I doubt that we would even be having this conversation. No one in their right mind would even consider a potentially life-saving procedure to be an extravagance.

And what is cryonics, but a potentially life-saving procedure?

People choose from among many options for their bodies after death. Some choose to be buried, some choose cremation. Some choose to donate their bodies to science. That last is precisely what happens with cryonics: in addition to helping to answer the obvious question of will future revival from cold storage be possible, many developments in cryonics help modern medicine with the development of better preservation for organ transplantation and blood volume expanders.

Yes, I admit that the chances of it working are slim, but have you looked at the state of stem cell research for ALS lately? Consider that the only FDA approved medication to treat ALS, Rilutek, will on average add 3 months to one's lifespan, and you might begin to see my desperation.

But you should be happy with the life you've had. Why do you want to live forever?

The only reasonable response to that is to ask why do you want to die?

I love life. Every morning, even now with my body half paralyzed, I awaken with a new sense of purpose, excited to take on the day. There is so much I have yet to do. There are books to write, games to create, songs to sing. If I can get the use of my arms and hands again, there are gardens to plant, houses to build, space ships to fly. And oh, the people to love.

So please help me to realize this, my dying wish.

http://venturist.info/aaron-winborn-charity.html

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."

- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Special Needs Trust

This is a difficult post to write. I had been sitting on it for several months, trying to decide best how to convey the emotions I am feeling.

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a stranger if I had been in a car wreck, as I was wearing my neck brace. I replied that I was in a train wreck, and I was distracted by another person before I could finish my thought. He later asked where the train wreck took place, and I apologized for misleading him, and said I should be so lucky.

When I was first diagnosed with ALS last spring, I was overcome with grief, and spent many hours over the next month sobbing and screaming in rage. Eventually, life took over again, and I set all that aside for a while. After all, I still had two young daughters to help raise.

My Family

Most of my initial fears have come to pass. I remember the initial struggles lifting Sabina, just a few short months after her birth, before we even knew that there was anything close to serious going on. By January of last year, I was not even able to pick her up at all. Fortunately, she began crawling soon after, and had figured out how to crawl into my lap when she wanted me to hold her. I am so happy now when she climbs up on my lap to have me read a story to her or to watch a YouTube video.

And Ashlin has been very understanding and helpful through this whole process. As I have been unable to give hugs for several months, she came up with a method where she pulls my arms behind her back. I just about cried the first time that she did that. The last couple of months have been difficult, as I am no longer able to turn the pages of books when I read to her. At first, she went through a period when she didn’t want me to read to her at all. But then she spoke with Gwen about her feelings about it, and now she turns the pages for me.

Sadly, however, I know that the worst is yet to come. I will be visiting with the ALS clinic soon in order to get a power wheelchair. At the same time, we need to expand our bathroom to accommodate it, and put in a ramp in the back. And yet, that transition does not feel particularly big for me. Much more difficult has been the fact that I need artificial ventilation in order to breathe at night already. Or that I am unable to play frisbee anymore.

Aaron Welch with Advomatic recently set up a Special Needs Trust in my name. This unique trust allows us to use funds contributed by outside sources (we are legally not allowed to contribute to it), while protecting my eligibility to receive care-giving assistance through the state. The funds can be used to support my needs beyond what I will eventually receive from Medicare/Medicaid.

Basically, at some point down the road, I will be on disability and eligible for Medicare. The good news is that this happens almost automatically for a patient with ALS, due to some lobbying in the last couple of decades. As my needs increase, however, I will need more care and will need to become eligible for an attendant care program in PA, for which the income and asset allowance is almost nothing.

If and when I choose artificial, invasive ventilation, I will require 24 hour care. At that point, I would also need to be Medicaid eligible. This is where things get extremely challenging financially. For example, with attendant care / Medicaid, not only do I need to be basically destitute, but the state looks back over 5 years, and if they see that I have given any money to anyone in that time frame, they assume that I am trying to scam them, and dock the time, adding several months or more to the time before I would be eligible.

Based solely on the odds, there is a 50% chance that I will die in 1 to 2 years, although it’s a little more complicated than that. There are two predominant flavors of ALS: bulbar onset (the brainstem) and limb onset. Mine is the limb, which makes it only slightly more likely that I may live for another 3 or 4 years instead.

I want to point out that I am doing everything humanly possible to beat those odds. When they talk about the life expectancy of ALS patients, however, they are really talking about the "survivability", which is the point when a patient would require invasive ventilation to survive. Most of the 10% who will go on to live a decade or more have reached this point and are locked-in as well, trapped in their completely paralyzed bodies.

We have done what we can to protect what assets we do have. We have been consulting with an attorney as the information is very complex and we want to protect the future for our children as best as we can. We know that major purchases are down the road, such as medical and communications equipment, home modifications, a wheelchair, and an accessible van, all of which will be in the tens of thousands of dollars. The cost to support a patient with ALS in the later stages can run easily up to $100,000 a year or more. The funds in the Trust can help support me while I am alive. After I die, the funds remaining in the Trust will go to my wife, Gwen, to help raise our children.

For those who wish to contribute, we have set up a bank account for the Trust. We have set up a PayPal account as an option to contribute. For a one time donation, click on the Donate button. To make a recurring monthly donation, you can select the amount you wish and click Subscribe. Alternatively, we can accept checks for the Trust; contact me for more information if interested in sending a check.

One Time Donation

 

Monthly Recurring Donation

I am angry at this stupid disease. I know from my time with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross so many years ago that this is a natural part of the grieving process, and that eventually I will enter the acceptance phase. I even look forward to that.

But my daughters, Ashlin (8 years old) and Sabina (2 years old), will not have the benefit of the acceptance of my death when it happens. I am being robbed of my time with them, of watching them grow up. It is hard enough to know that I will most likely not be around to watch Ashlin graduate. To know that Sabina will most likely not have any more than a fleeting image of her father from early memories makes me cry.

To add insult to the injury, I am quickly losing my ability to participate in their lives, even now, becoming simply a spectator. What I would give to be able to pick up a frisbee and toss it to my daughters.

I want to thank everyone for all your ongoing support and care. This slow-moving train wreck is more than any family should have to endure.

Demo of Drupal's Media: YouTube module

The following transcript is for the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfPKKisE88w :

Hello, my name is Aaron Winborn. I am a developer for Advomatic, the author of Drupal Multimedia, and a contributor and a co-maintainer of several Drupal modules, including the Media suite of modules.

Today, I will demonstrate a new feature of the Media: YouTube module: browsing and searching videos directly from YouTube, in the media browser itself. So first, let’s set up our environment.

We are assuming that you already know how to install Drupal. If not, you can find information at Drupal.org.

So right now we are at the modules administration page. We are interested in the modules under the Media package. You will need to install and enable the File Entity module (version 7.x-2.x), and the same version of the Media module.

We will not enable the included Media Field module; it is there for legacy purposes, and has been deprecated in favor of core’s File Field.

The Media Internet Sources module, included with the Media module, is a dependency of the Media: YouTube module, so we will enable that.

Next will be the Media: YouTube module, also version 7.x-2.x.

Finally, we will install the WYSIWYG module.

Let’s start by configuring WYSIWYG. We do that by going to Configuration > Content Authoring > WYSIWYG profiles. Note that I have also installed and enabled the Admin Menu module and the Admin Menu Toolbar module, which gives us the fancy drop-down menus for administration that you see here.

Now in order to use WYSIWYG, you need to have also installed a third-party WYSIWYG library, such as CKEditor or TinyMCE. You need to follow the instructions with the WYSIWYG module to install that, although it is quite simple actually. You just download and unpack the file into the sites/all/libraries folder. You can see that I am using CKEditor here.

The WYSIWYG module allows us to set up profiles for the various text formats on our site; in this demo, we will edit the Filtered HTML format.

Open up the buttons and plug-ins field set next. Then check the Media Browser check box. That will add the media browser button to our WYSIWYG editor, which we will see soon.

In order to use that however, we need to configure the filter in question. In fact, I believe that if we do not do this step 1st, we will get an error message, complete with a link to the format configuration page.

On this page, we need to check the box next to “Convert Media tags to markup”. That is the answer to the number 1 support question that we get in the Media queue, which is, “Why is there bracketed goobly gook instead of my images?”

So now, as we will see, everything should be working now. So let’s test it.

Here on the create article page, we see a fancy button on the body text area! Let’s click it.

And there we go.

These are thumbnails being pulled directly from YouTube. How about that?

And there is even a ghetto pager, or at least previous/next links.

And you can also search YouTube directly from our browser.

So now we will select a video and submit it. Add a title and save the node. And there we go.

And that’s it really. Well, almost.

There are some more settings, specifically here to control which tabs show up for WYSIWYG. Note that at the time of this demonstration, you will not have this functionality unless you install the patch over at node 1434118.

To complete the demo, we will also do the same for fields. Let’s add a field to hold YouTube videos. We will call it Media, and it will be a file field with a Media file selector widget.

Here, let’s reorder it as well for the demo.

We leave everything at their default settings.

Hold on, I forgot that we need to allow the YouTube URI scheme. And the video file type.

So now we will create a new article, and select the media.

And here we have all the tabs available to our browser, including the new and improved YouTube tab.

And also, let us look at another new feature of the media module: My files!

This has been a long-awaited feature for the Media module as well.

Now here comes the 2nd most asked question in the support queue: “How come there is a link to my file, rather than the file itself?”

Let’s just fix that now.

Now we are in the file type administration page, where we can configure the display for each of our file types. Note that we can also add fields to our files, although we are not going to do that in this demo.

We will jump to the video display...

No, we want to make sure that our large formatter is set up properly for YouTube. And it is, so let’s set up that as the formatter for our Media file field.

And there it is, as a generic file, which is simply a link to the file stream itself. We will change that to rendered file. And then we set the view mode to large.

While we are in there, we can do the same for our teasers. We will just set that to the preview view mode, which by default will display a thumbnail.

Whoops, I forgot to save it. Let’s just do that again.

And there is the video.

And there is the thumbnail.

Well done!

Spammer with a Heart of Gold

I received a most heart warming comment from a spammer the other day. To understand why it has affected me, you might first need a little background. I have been diagnosed with Stephen Hawking’s ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Based on just that fact, and that my lab scores are dead even (and that I do not have access to Mr. Hawking’s money or universal health care) I will most likely die sometime in the next year or two.

I announced my condition to the world through my blog last August, and have had many heartfelt wishes and offerings of support.

And lots of spam.

I use Mollom to protect my blog which is powered by Drupal, and it does a fairly decent job. Still, about 50 instances of spam make it through the filters every month. I have to handpick those out, which is an increasingly difficult task, considering that I have little ability to use my hands anymore.

So this one comment stuck out, beginning as so many do, with concern for my condition, and well-intentioned advice, in this case to seek out Ayurvedic medicine. But then, the poster went on to chastise other spammers on this site, and I quote:

One more thing for some persons who comment here. Don't forget that you are humanbeing. I also come here to place my link here. But when a person is in such a condition and place his feelings here, then how the hell you are posting your links here for business purpose. I am also doing SEO. But not at the cost of humanity. It is the time to help and support him, materially or mentally. If you can't do that please don't at least post here.

It is my sincere request.

This is a good reminder that even as we continue to fight the war against spam, that our combatants are human. Like so many soldiers, they are fighting for money (for “business purpose”). They also create internal justifications for what they do (“I am also doing SEO”).

And that at least one of them has a heart of gold.

Thank you, Dillip.

(Here's a better version of the song.)

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The Society for Venturism has chosen me as the recipient of its charity for this year, to hopefully offer me cryonic preservation when the time comes. And this month, Longecity, an excellent forum for the discussion of issues related to extending the lifespan of humans, has offered up a matching grant of up to a thousand dollars to help out! So help out! Please.