Fri, March 09, 2007

Check Your Computer for 2007 Daylight Saving Time

As you are no doubt aware, the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended daylight saving time (DST) in the U.S. by four weeks. Starting in 2007, DST begins on the second Sunday in March instead of in April and ends the first Sunday in November. Canada adopted the same rules as the U.S.

While there are a number of sites that describe how to update your computer with the revised DST rules – I used the TZEdit.exe application on some older Windows boxes as described here – I found few that tell you how to check whether or not your computer is properly updated.

Since the JavaScript date object allows access to a computer’s time zone information, it should be possible to determine whether or not a computer is properly configured just by viewing a web page. After you have updated your computer with the new DST rules, you need to restart your browser to test it.

The line below indicates whether or not your computer is set up properly:

Sat, November 25, 2006

Continuing the Journey

Look at that — a new post and a new theme. When I began work on the lamppost theme last year, I also had an idea of doing a Dawn Treader theme. It’s been frustratingly slow to develop. According to the file timestamps on my computer, it appears I first started working on it on March 31, 2006. It’s been an off-and-on process since then, mostly of five or ten minutes at a time with long gaps in between. I finally decided it was time to let it go. So, in the best “it’s good enough, but will likely be changed again soon” spirit of the web, here it is.

I enjoyed the playfulness of the animated snowflakes in the previous theme and wanted to try another animated theme. I experimented with various animations of the waves, but they all conspired to make me seasick (like Eustace) and most had prohibitively large file sizes. In the end, I’m close to the picture as it is described in the book, with just a hint that it is about to come to life—a slight ripple in the pennant at the top of the mast. I hope you enjoy it.

It was a picture of a ship—a ship sailing nearly straight towards you. Her prow was gilded and shaped like the head of a dragon with a wide open mouth. She had only one mast and one large, square sail which was a rich purple. The sides of the ship—what you could see of them where the gilded wings of the dragon ended—were green. She had just run up to the top of one glorious wave, and the nearer slope of that wave came down towards you, with streaks and bubbles on it….

“The question is,” said Edmund, “whether it doesn’t make things worse, looking at a Narnian ship when you can’t get there.”

“Even looking is better than nothing,” said Lucy. “And she is such a very Narnian ship.”

“It’s a rotten picture,” said Eustace. “Why do you like it?”

“Well, for one thing,” said Lucy, “I like it because the ship looks as if it was really moving. And the water looks as if it was really wet. And the waves look as if they were really going up and down.”

Of course Eustace knew lots of answers to this, but he didn’t say anything. The reason was that at that very moment he looked at the waves and saw that they did look very much indeed as if they were going up and down….

The things in the picture were moving… Down went the prow of the ship into the wave and up went a great shock of spray. And then up went the wave behind her, and her stern and her deck became visible for the first time, and then disappeared as the next wave came to meet her and her bows went up again…. Lucy felt all her hair whipping round her face as it does on a windy day. And this was a windy day; but the wind was blowing out of the picture towards them. And suddenly with the wind came the noises—the swishing of waves and the slap of water against the ship’s sides and the creaking and the over-all high, steady roar of air and water. But it was the smell, the wild, briny smell, which really convinced Lucy that she was not dreaming.


— from The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis.

Wed, August 17, 2005

Savor the flavor

After watching and helping me scoop grounds into the basket to make my morning cup of coffee, my son exclaims “Daddy, I know how they make coffee — they get some dirt and they put it in a machine and then it comes out and it’s coffee.” I sit down and carefully explain to him how coffee is grown, picked, sorted, roasted and then ground. I grab some coffee beans and remind him that he has watched me grind them before. He runs out of the kitchen and proclaims “Mommy, it may taste like dirt but it’s really from the coffee bean.”

Sat, July 02, 2005

An Iconographer? Me? 2.0

Once again it is time for the Icon Writing Workshop. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks and have already been immersing myself in icons. Today we open with prayer and then will begin tracing the prototype.

I’m just the tiniest bit more confident than last year. At least I know what to expect. I’m excited and realize I’m very much a beginner. I spoke with master iconographer Xenia Pokrovsky a few days ago and she likened it to learning to play the piano. You don’t start out playing some complicated piece, but work up to it, learning a bit at a time. You start to memorize some of it. You have to practice the scales and chords so that playing the notes becomes part of you. Practice, practice, practice. You learn dynamics and improve your ability to flow through the piece. And someday, you know it.

I was delighted to see several prayers included in our workshop materials. Below is one that is a variation on the one that Fr. David prayed for me last year.

A Prayer Before Beginning an Icon

Oh Divine Lord of all that exists, Thou has illumined the Apostle and Evangelist Luke with Thy Holy Spirit, thereby enabling him to represent Thy most Holy Mother, the One who held Thee in her arms and said: The Grace of Him Who has been born of me is spread through the world.

Enlighten and direct my soul, my heart and my spirit. Guide the hands of Thine unworthy servant Timothy so that I may worthily and perfectly portray Thine Icon, that of Thy Mother, and all the Saints, for the glory, joy and adornment of Thy Holy Church.

Forgive my sins and the sins of those who will venerate these icons and who, kneeling devoutly before them, give homage to those they represent. Protect them from all evil and instruct them with good counsel. This I ask through the intervention of Thy most Holy Mother, the Apostle Luke, and all the Saints. AMEN.

Sat, June 18, 2005

Open Source Your Library

I was recently looking at Jon Udell’s library lookup bookmarklet generator and trying it with some local libraries. This got me thinking about web-based library catalogs: it is frustrating that there are so many different systems with widely varying capabilities and that the local Kinlaw library’s system apparently does not allow ISBN lookup. (If somebody can figure this out, I’d love to hear about it.)

Aside: In “Nobody expects the spontaneous integration” Jon notes how easy it can be to connect two websites and thereby create new and better services, and yet people don’t expect that nor do they design to make it easy. Having worked with bookmarklets for many of years, I know how painful it can be to create useful integrations. Thankfully, this is changing. For example, it is amazing to see the ways people are inserting new data into Google Maps, despite Google doing little to provide for this initially. Housing Maps combines Google Maps and housing information from Craigs List to make it easier to find a place to rent. Chicago Crime displays information about reported crime in Chicago on a map.

What if libraries designed their systems for integration with other web services? Do the many different systems provide a great benefit? Or is that wasted duplicate effort? It seems that a library catalog system would be a logical open source project. I mean, how hard could it be? All you’d need is a fairly simple database and web app. Then I started researching it and it seems it might be a little more complicated than I first suspected.

The OSS for Libraries site provides a wealth of information about open source projects related to libraries. From there I was delighted to find several fairly mature open source projects for full fledged library systems. I was primarily interested in what I believe are called OPACs (Online Public Access Catalogs) but discovered that many of these systems also provide Circulation Desk features and various reporting capabilities.

  • I found Koha first and it seemed the most impressive. It was developed in New Zealand and is in use by a number of large libraries with multiple branches. It certainly would benefit from some user interface work, but that’s a typical problem for open source projects (and library OPAC systems in general if you ask me). I believe it uses Linux, MySql, and Perl. It is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

  • OpenBiblio was also impressive and offers similar features. It uses PHP and MySql. It is available under the GPL.

  • PHPMyLibrary seems a bit behind the other projects, but has a clear roadmap for improvements. From what I gather, MARC format is the standard for library interchange and it is working to improve its support for the format. I didn’t play with this one as much.

  • Finally, the PHPMyLibrary site pointed me to the Emilda project. I found this one somewhat clunky to use, because it seems to emphasize somewhat inscrutable graphics in the interface. It was developed in Finland and is in use by several school libraries there. It was recently open sourced under the GPL.

My love for libraries started at a young age. I’m increasingly fascinated by libraries and the activities involved with organizing the collections, managing the circulation, and preserving rare works. I think it would be fun to work on converting a library that is using a commercial system to an open source project. It would also be fun to help with improving these systems. Using and improving open source projects seems an obvious way for libraries to cut costs while potentially providing better services.

To think that I started this research because I simply wanted to be able to find out if a book was available in a local library. Of course better than finding out that a local library has the book would be for the book to be available online. I’ve been happy to see more libraries making their rare collections available online. This improves access as well as protecting and preserving. It would be nice if this could be done for more libraries’ collections. Given that many works just sit on the shelves, it would be terrific to find a way to virtually check them out from anywhere in the world.

Fri, June 17, 2005

Book Meme

I see Basil will do about anything to entice me to blog again, even infecting me with a meme. Apparently it worked.

  1. Total number of books I’ve owned

    I have absolutely no idea. If I counted the books I purchased for college alone, it is a sizable number. A rough extrapolation of the books on the shelves in my office is around 400. I’m sure I could double that with the books that are around the rest of the house. And I’ve got a whole slew of books that are still at my parents’. Perhaps a better answer is “enough for a small library", although it would be a somewhat limited library of mostly user interaction design/computer programming, orthodox theology, and science fiction books.

  2. Last book I bought

    I think the last book I purchased was from our church bookstore, which is somewhat surprising as I buy many books online. I think it was either The Soul, the Body and Death by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo or Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers by Mark Gruber. I gave both books to BrBourbon. The last book I purchased for myself was also The Soul, the Body and Death. It was so good I figured BrBourbon needed a copy. The next book I purchase is likely to be DHTML Utopia: Modern Web Design Using JavaScript & DOM by Stuart Langridge. Ignoring the silly title, this looks to be a terrific book about using JavaScript in modern web design.

  3. Last book I read

    I just reread The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams in preparation for the movie, but that doesn’t really count since I’ve read it several times before. Before that I think the last book I completed was Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale by Sam Posey, a fabulous book and yet another perfect gift from my sister. She says she didn’t know it was on my wish list and just thought of me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to any model railroaders, armchair or otherwise. I also recently finished Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American an autobiography by Jean-Robert Cadet. Provided insight into the Haitian culture and was somewhat disturbing. I speed read most of Journey Back to Eden before giving it away. At times very beautiful, it provided a look at the Copts through Western eyes.

    Technically, the last book I read, I read aloud to the kids. We’ve been reading the books in the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The last one we finished was By the Shores of Silver Lake. We’re working on The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle now.

    As is normal for me, I’m currently reading several books. Here’s the main ones:

    • The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness by Virginia Postrel – Has application to my computer work and makes me consider how the aesthetics of Orthodox worship impact me. Hopefully I will write more about this in the future.
    • The Soul, the Body and Death by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo – Very good. It’s taking me a long time to get through this one because it is so rich.
    • Father Arseny 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father translated by Vera Bouteneff – I just realized I haven’t read the Spiritual Father section.
  4. Five books that mean a lot to me

    1. The Bible
    2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis – I couldn’t pick just one, but if I had to it would probably be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or The Silver Chair, or The Last Battle, or… never mind.
    3. Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective by Daniel Clendenin and The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware – Combined these books started me on a journey into the Eastern Orthodox Church.
    4. About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design by Alan Cooper
    5. The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène Du Bois
  5. People I will infect with this meme

    BrBourbon, Moose and Chris.

I’d suggest that a better Book Meme would include the last book you received as a gift and the last book you gave as a gift. It appears I answered those as well.

Mon, October 04, 2004

Pressing on

For those of you keeping score at home, I’ve (finally!) switched over to using WordPress 1.2 for my blog. I had previously been using an ancient and heavily revised version of b2, the precursor to WordPress. The transition was more painful than I anticipated, especially since the WordPress installation docs indicate that b2 should import just fine. Oh well, it’s done now.

I tried to be really careful, so hopefully you haven’t noticed any major changes around here. In fact, that was my design goal: make it work and look just like the old version.

The site now uses CSS for layout, with a gaggle of hacks to fix the less capable browsers. If you’re using an old and broken browser like Netscape 4—you really should get Mozilla or Firefox—you’ll now get just basic styling, which should be much better than all that crashing. Using a two column table for layout was cake compared to this. If Douglas Bowman hadn’t provided his Liquid Bleach I don’t think I’d have attempted it. Many thanks, Doug!

Let me know if you see anything that’s broken.

Tue, July 20, 2004

Microsoft pays Lindows $20 Million

Microsoft and Lindows have settled their trademark dispute. According to the settlement, and a change that was already in progress due to international lawsuits, Lindows will transition to the name Linspire and cease using the Lindows trademark. Microsoft will pay Lindows $20 million.

Linspire sells “a full-featured operating system … that offers you the power, stability and cost-savings of Linux with the ease of a windows environment,” according to their website. The more companies that are working to enhance the usability of the Linux desktop the better in my book. I’m wishing the best to Linspire with their new name. I hope it does well.

Tue, June 29, 2004

Holocaust survivors hid in caves

National Geographic Adventure magazine features an amazing story about a group of Ukrainian Jews that survived for a year and a half underground. Living in a cave for any length of time is dangerous due to the risk of hypothermia, air and water contamination, malnutrition, and of course getting lost in the dark. It’s surprising how the families handled it and adapted to it. The Ukrainian American Youth Caver Exchange Foundation also has pictures of the cave, called Priest’s Grotto, that was their home for the majority of the time.

Can you imagine living in darkness for almost a year?

They had few candles, so light was limited to three short periods each day. After enough time spent wandering in the dark, they memorized the feel of the cave floor on their bare feet. It was like directions in braille.

Mon, June 07, 2004

Thank you, President Reagan

Although it was not unexpected, the news of the death of President Reagan has saddened and energized me more than I expected. Certainly the greatest President of my lifetime, Reagan brought confidence and pride back to the United States. He faced all challenges with principled values, good humor, and optimism. He never doubted the greatness of this country.

I’m a conservative in large part because of Reagan. His optimistic outlook filled the 80s. He inspired us to dream and to hope for a bright future. By taking on the Evil Empire, he brought us to a better world. Thank you, Mr. President. Memory Eternal.

Fri, May 28, 2004

Living on Netscape Time

With recent development schedules and the many projects I’m trying to do outside work, I feel like I’m once again living on Netscape Time. It’s at once exhilarating and exhausting. One wonders whether Netscape would still be around as a dominate force if it had kept up its frantic release cycle. I remember those early years of the Web and the ever-present excitement during the Browser Wars. Mozilla generates similar enthusiasm and executes nearly as quickly, but has a huge installed base to challenge.

Early Netscape developers used the phrase “We’re Doomed!” as a way to get beyond the paralyzing enormity of their tasks. (Jamie Zawinski’s diary entries from the Netscape dorm during the development of 1.0 provide color commentary for the use of the phrase.) If you hear me saying “We’re Doomed!” it means I’m afraid there’s no possible way we can:

  1. Get done on time.
  2. Get done with acceptable quality.

And yet we’re going to do it anyway and get it done well. I hope. That probably sounds insane to those of you who have never done software development.


Put another way, like many webloggers, I have NADD.

Sun, March 21, 2004

Fascination

  1. St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church — I attended the pan-orthodox Sunday of Orthodoxy services here. Wow! It’s wonderful to be called to prayer by the bells.

  2. Eastern Standard Tribe — I read this article a while ago and recent work experience has me wishing that our distributed team was part of the tribe. There’s just too few typical hours of overlap between the Orient, Middle East, Europe, and Us.

  3. Exposé window-switching feature for Mac OS X — When I first saw Apple’s Steve Jobs demonstrating this I found it beautiful, brilliant, and stunningly useful, and I immediately wanted it for Windows. I rarely have fewer than 6 windows open and frequently far more than that. I’ve heard of some “clones” for Windows, but haven’t tried them yet:

    15b05474182425c8424fc38e530afaa3
  4. 7 Zip — A free and open source compression/archiving tool that supports a slew of formats including 7z, ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB.

  5. Scanning the Stanford library using a Book-scanning Robot — I wish all books were available online.

    “When you’re turning pages by hand, you can do maybe 150 to 200 pages per hour. It’s slow. But the robot can easily do 600 to 1,200 pages per hour without damaging the books. And it’s rigorously consistent — the page is always flat, the image is always good, and software conversion allows you to index the text so you can search it.”


    “A technician lays the book onto a special cradle inside the machine and air jets gently fluff up pages on the right side. A robotic arm swings over the book and sucks up one page with a special vacuum, and pulls the page over. Two more robotic arms then swing over and flatten out the pages with clear plastic clamps.

    “Meanwhile, a high-resolution digital camera snaps away, taking color digital pictures of the pages. A computer automatically crops and cleans up the digital image until the book is done. The result: a DVD with digital images of every page.”

  6. Plucker e-book reader — Looks to be a nice free and open source tool to let Palm devices view web pages and e-books.

  7. Posters for GUI Obituaries — Where has the metal trash can gone? The component icon comparisons and the screen shots of multiple operating systems (and versions) are also worth a look.

  8. The making of a LEGO brick — Fun and educational. I like that.

Sat, January 31, 2004

Where’s the boat?

QJ: “Daddy, where’s the boat?”
Me: “The boat?”
QJ: “The T.V. boat.”
Me: “Oh, the remote?”
QJ: “Yes, the ’mote.”

Wed, January 14, 2004

Just write, right?

The hardest part is getting started again after a break. With a new year comes a new office location and with it a longer drive each day. I feel like I’m not adjusting well to it at all. Moving various computer hardware and other things seem to have caught up to me and given me what seems to be never-ending back pain. Or maybe it’s just that the new office chair doesn’t like me. I really need to get the keyboard tray set up, too.

One of the things I most miss from my old office is the view of the trains. I’ve been a fan of trains for as long as I can remember. My old office window looked out on the busy double-track Norfolk Southern mainline. It got so I recognized particular trains: there’s the one taking coal down to the powerplant and returning with the empties; there’s the one headed down to Nicholasville. And of course, watching railroad track maintenance is engrossing, especially the tampers and ballast spreaders.

As with all change and loss, the adjustment period takes some time. I hope that it’s better after a few weeks.

Thu, November 06, 2003

Running multiple versions of IE simultaneously

Webmasters and designers of the web rejoice: a way has been found to run multiple versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer on one windows partition simultaneously. No longer do you need multiple machines, partitions, or vmware. Just grab the relevant dlls and files and add a blank text file named IEXPLORE.exe.local to the directory.

The technique was discovered by Joe Maddalone when he examined the files Microsoft included in the developer’s edition of IE6 that was released in response to the Eolas lawsuit. He was surprised by the limited number of files and the fact that it ran side by side with his existing version if IE. Adapting the technique, he was able to run IE5.01, IE5.5 SP2, and IE6 all at the same time. There’s a few problems, such as using the favorites menu crashing the browser and that the about menu reports the wrong version, but I’ve used this to have both IE5.5 and IE6 running on Windows XP. I also used IE5.0 and IE5.5 on Windows NT 4. I noticed a few oddities when loading the same test page in multiple browsers. They apparently share the cache, so they don’t always show the appropriate page.

This is great news [via LCKY]! I look forward to seeing refinements of this technique. Personally I’d like to be able to use this to run not only different versions of IE, but IE with different versions of the Microsoft and Sun Java VMs. I don’t know if that will be possible. For those that need to test CSS and DHTML, this will be very helpful.

Thu, October 23, 2003

Keeneland in the Fall

A couple weeks ago I got the chance to go to the Keeneland race track for the afternoon. Although I’ve lived in Kentucky for years, I’ve never gone to watch the horse races. It was always on my list of things that’d be nice to do, but that wouldn’t happen until the more important things got done. Management at work decided that going to the track was a good team building exercise (gotta love it!), so there I was. It was an absolutely beautiful fall day, the leaves were really showing their colors, and it wasn’t cool enough that you needed a jacket. Perfect.

We parked in the grass lot right off of Versailles road across from the airport and walked into the track. Some more experienced coworkers showed us newbies the routine: watch the horses when they walk out for display, place your bets, walk down to the track and watch the race, get a little snack or people watch, repeat. The horses were quite beautiful and races are always thrilling, especially as the horses pound by the cheering crowd. Since my primary horse racing experience to this point had been watching the horse race — the Kentucky Derby — I was a bit surprised that they didn’t do a full circuit of the track. The starting gate was placed on the far side of the track based on the length of the race measured in furlongs.

It was an enjoyable experience, although also somewhat boring. I didn’t lose more money than the entrance fee, since I wasn’t betting. It was a good thing, too. Every horse I “picked” to win was coming in fourth or worse.

More exciting to me was walking out to the car just in time to see Air Force One coming in for a landing. It’s an impressive plane anyway, but to see it coming in to land on the short runway and making a quick stop right across from us was a terrific end to a fun afternoon.

Fri, October 03, 2003

Frost!

Woohoo! The first good frost of the year has arrived. Goodbye allergies.

Fri, September 12, 2003

Blog backlog

I’ve either been too busy or too tired to write recently. (I wonder if anyone noticed.) Taking a break from work was good. Taking a break from blogging is also good, except that now I have many things I want to write about. Stay tuned…

At least I blog more frequently than mpt (What’s up? We miss you, mpt.)

Tue, August 05, 2003

Kentucky Highway Markers

Kentucky has somewhere around 1,750 roadside markers that commemorate various historical events, places, and people throughout Kentucky. Last year I pointed you to Signs of History, a site that is working to get a picture of every marker in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Unfortunately, the site is incomplete, somewhat inconsistent, and varies widely in quality. As a labor of love worked on by volunteers in their spare time, it’s a nice resource I can appreciate, but I’ve wished for something more polished.

Today I found Roadside History: A Guide to Kentucky Highway Markers, a similar site that apparently lists all the Kentucky signs and is so beautifully indexed and organized that I fully expect it to disappear any day now. It says it’s being funded by a grant and is a site to test the database for the Kentucky Historical Society. The Kentucky Historical Society, which coordinates the Kentucky Historical Highway Marker Program, says “Later this year … a searchable list of historical highway markers will be added to the Kentucky Historical Society website.” I hope that Roadside History is a preview of the “searchable list” they’re talking about.

If only the sites would work together to have a complete database of all the markers as well as pictures of them and the places they mark, it’d be fabulous. I hope they also provide stable links to each of the markers so they can be referenced easily.

Thu, July 17, 2003

Take me back

I created Google Cache and Internet Archive Wayback Machine bookmarklets in case you need to find a page that has disappeared or is unavailable. Find the bookmarklets in the search engines section of my bookmarklets page. Enjoy.

Oddly, this reminds me that I need to add the Back to the Future DVD set to my wish list.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Memory Eternal!

Mon, July 14, 2003

CSS Cursors

I’ve been working on a testcase for Mozilla bug 163174 to help improve the various pointer styles available in Mozilla. For tests and examples of pretty much every known CSS2 and CSS3 cursor style, see my CSS cursor testcase. It’s nice that Mozilla 1.4 unexpectedly supports a number of “proprietary” cursor styles, but it would be less necesary if they’d just fix bug 38447. Indeed, the discussion in bug 189719 that added the zoom in and zoom out styles said as much.

Mon, June 30, 2003

I’m back

Did you miss me? Having my hosting site cracked wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d had better backups. Oh well, it looks like everything is restored now—it may be even better than before. The Internet archive is a terrific and worthy project, but having my most recent updates in the cache feature of Google was priceless. Watch for more changes coming soon.

Fri, June 20, 2003

GIF free

As of today the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is no longer patent-encumbered in the USA. The patent for LZW compression that Unisys owned has expired in the USA, but the patent is still in force in other countries until 2004. Use of the PNG file format instead of GIF is still recommended for static images. It offers superior compression, better image quality, and alpha transparency. And it’s patent free.

Wed, June 18, 2003

View-source magic

Ever been surprised when someone you find absolutely brilliant doesn’t know something extremely basic that you thought everybody in the field knew? I felt that way when I saw Jon Udell making a big deal about the view-source protocol:

Don Box notices a cool IE feature. The view-source: protocol is supported. I tried it and it worked. Even cooler, I wasn’t in IE at the time, I was in Firebird. I guess we should call it a browser feature :-)

I’ve been using the view-source: prefix to view the source of URLs since Netscape 3! I’m fairly certain that Netscape invented it, so spinning it as an IE feature kind of rubs me the wrong way. I am glad that most browsers support it. I have a view source web development bookmarklet that makes it even more convenient. Until Mozilla came along, using view-source: or saving the page was about the only way you could view JavaScript .js files in the browser. If you tried to open the URL for one in Netscape 4 you’d just get a blank window. Using the view-source protocol also makes it easy to experiment with how different query strings affect the source of a page.

Sun, June 15, 2003

The bathroom effect

An article from The Salt Lake Tribune describes the new Pixar headquarters: “Pixar resembles the coolest community college you ever attended.… The semi-controlled chaos of the work environment, like the building’s design, is guided by the Pixar philosophy that good things come from creative people bouncing ideas off each other.… They are geeks with the neatest playground in the movie business.”

Leaving creative idea bouncing to chance wasn’t sufficient for Pixar CEO Steve Jobs. To help encourage interaction between the 700 employees, he wanted there to be a single bathroom in the building.

Here’s the “bathroom effect” theory, as Greenberg explains it: “If you have bathrooms that are scattered throughout the building, you use the bathroom nearest to where you’re sitting. If there was one bathroom, all kinds of people would come together and talk with one another all the time — you’d meet different people if you were waiting in line. It would enhance communication, and you’d be talking about things outside of work.”

Mercifully for the bladders of Pixar’s caffeine-addicted staffers, the central atrium has eight restrooms on two floors — four men’s and four women’s (with the silhouettes of “Toy Story’s” Woody and Bo-Peep at the entrances). The atrium also boasts Cafe Luxo (named for the swing-arm lamp that starred in Pixar’s first short), break rooms with an unusual number of toasters, the mailroom, conference rooms, pool and foosball tables, and an open area for the occasional concert or lecture.

via Peter Lindberg’s weblog. Also see his post about the Disney Process.

Fri, June 13, 2003

Word of the day: mondegreen

Mondegreen, n., the misunderstanding of a word or phrase that gives it a new meaning. This occurs frequently with song lyrics.

A few examples: during catechism, some of us misheard the phrase “Cant (or Chant) as you can, not as you can’t” as “Can’t as you can, not as you can’t”. I found it encouraging when thinking about fasting—do what you can. I was amused to see that the latter half of the phrase “blessed art thou amongst women” was misheard by Irish boys as “a monk’s swimmin’”. My mom tells me that the hymn “Lead on, O King Eternal” was often sung “Lead on, O kinky turtle” as her class hymn in college.

Wed, June 11, 2003

Interactive CSS

Simon Willison describes using bookmarklets to experiment with CSS and to do a site redesign in minutes. The bookmarklets he used are from the astoundingly useful Web Development bookmarklets collection written by Jesse Ruderman. Very nice. I only managed to get the test styles bookmarklet working with recent versions of Mozilla and Mozilla Firebird. Netscape 7.02 didn’t seem to work.

Tue, June 10, 2003

Palm Acquiring Handspring

Wow, when Handspring was started in 1998 by Palm founders Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky, I’d have predicted it would be the other way around. According to the press release, Palm and Handspring are joining together “to create a stronger competitor in handheld computing and communication solutions.”

Apparently times are tough in the Palm device market. I was sad to hear that HandEra discontinued the HandEra 330 and TRGPro products. I think the 330 was one of the cooler Palm devices.

Perhaps the old devices will go up in value. William Gibson—yes, of Neuromancer fame—mentioned that a character in one of his futuristic stories uses the Apple Cube and then noted that the Cube retains value years after being discontinued. I know my Palm IIIxe is still going strong, but then I have to admit it isn’t as insanely great as the Cube.

Fri, June 06, 2003

Word of the day: cingulum

Gotta love our international testing group members who use English as a second language. They logged bugs about a “cingulum” when everybody locally used “gap”. This was a problem where a paragraph break on a web page caused an object to be pushed down that was supposed to be aligned at the top of the window. I’m intrigued by the worldview difference expressed in the two words: Cingulum identifies the problem as a marking while gap points to the absence of something. I’m probably making much of something that is just a translation accident. In art you are trained to think in terms of positive and negative space. Cingulum describes the empty space in positive terms, as if it is part of the design. The use of the negative word gap reinforces that it is the problem.

Wed, June 04, 2003

JavaScript rocks

The JavaScript programming language—the language I work with most often—is simply terrific, a sentiment that was reinforced after recently programming a simple applet in Java. I love that JavaScript is available on practically any computer by virtue of being a part of modern web browsers. Unfortunately, few people recognize the value of it. Douglas Crockford does. I found his article JavaScript: The World’s Most Misunderstood Programming Language quite enjoyable and helpful.

Encoding and escaping unicode characters

In working on a web-based application that needs to support unicode and other DBCS encodings, I created a simple bookmarklet that converts a string into HTML entities. You can find it on the bottom of my bookmarklets page if you happen to need it.

On a somewhat related note, I keep forgetting to write about the reasonably successful conclusion of my quest to find a way to URL encode UTF8 characters for Netscape 4.x and Internet Explorer 5.0. Several people wrote excellent comments and even kindly sent me example code for reproducing the JavaScript encodeURIComponent() function on those browsers that don’t support it natively. Thanks for the help!

Sat, May 31, 2003

I may have to learn Python…

…because I keep finding more and more interesting open source projects that are using it.

I’ve been fascinated by the Chandler Personal Information Manager (PIM) being developed by the Open Source Applications Foundation and have been following its progress since I first heard about it in this post on Mitch Kapor’s weblog. We all want a better email program. Chandler is working to make one that lets you manage and organize messages (and other data) the way you want to. It has been said that it will have the spirit of Lotus Agenda, but will use a graphical and web-like interface.

I also found the Pyzzle game development engine, which allows you to create Myst- and Riven-like slideshow games. It supposedly also has support for objects, embedded movies, text overlays like the books, and custom pointers. Looks like fun.

I guess I better get started learning Python.

Thu, May 29, 2003

One man can make a difference

I was amused and enthused to accidentally find that there’s a whole car hacker culture on the web devoted to making Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) car replicas. Check out the Knight Replicas web site for building tips, discussion forums, links to parts suppliers, and information about the Knight Rider Television show. Of the parts suppliers, Mark’s Custom Kits was by far the most interesting—despite the terrible web design—and seemed to have the best quality parts. I was fascinated by their description of restoring a car from the tv show. The Convertible Project also looks fun—what a beautiful car!

Back in the Fabulous 80’s, KITT was the coolest car ever. KITT could talk, drive himself, and do killer stunts. The trademark glowing red “eye” and crazy instrument panel were totally awesome.

What blows me away is that many of KITT’s capabilities are a reality now or very close. They’re also more and more affordable. Voice recognition is old hat and GPS guidance systems are available now. Moble phones are available everywhere, and video call functions are coming along. Self-driving cars aren’t quite here, but there’s been much more research into it. How quickly science fiction becomes everyday fact.

I’ve had schematics for KITT for years now. Perhaps someday I’ll build him. I can dream anyway. It’s good to recapture some of that boyhood wonder.

It appears that Thursday is blog day this month. Ah, well. Blog as you can, not as you can’t, right?

Thu, May 22, 2003

A flat tax…. for Russia?

At 13% for everyone, Russia’s flat tax sounds like a bargin.

Thu, May 15, 2003

Funny Money

The anticipated new design for the $20 bill has been revealed. It uses a subtle background color with blue, peach, and green. I’m not convinced that it will make it any more difficult to counterfeit. The design seems tolerable—at least it isn’t hideous monopoly colors—but I’ll refrain from additional comment until I see one in person.

Tue, April 22, 2003

Wilmore Newletter Archives

The Wilmore Newsletter is getting updated reasonably frequently now. Yay! It’s frustrating that the past issues archive keeps getting removed. Of course the archive should include the recent issues as well.

Wed, March 05, 2003

Pick more colors

EasyRGB’s Color Harmonizer makes it easy to find color complements and harmonies. It uses the full RGB palette to find the colors, so it’s not web-safe or even web-smart. Still very useful, even if you have a good eye for design. This would be visually stunning and powerful if combined with the moreCrayons tool I mentioned earlier.

Mon, February 24, 2003

Pick a color

Kirk Franklin created the nifty MoreCrayons tool to help web designers more easily visualize the color palette. He recently made fixes so it works with Mozilla as well as other DHTML browsers. I found it a bit surprising that he suggests a 4,096-color Web-Smart palette instead of the traditional 216-color Web-Safe. The color depth available on even 3-year old computer systems is generally better than 256-color, so it probably is past time to be worrying about that limited palette.

Wed, February 19, 2003

Ice, ice, baby

The bluegrass region got slammed with a terrible ice storm on Sunday and we’re still recovering. Tree branches are broken all over the place and power lines are snapped or sagging. A radio announcement today said that nearby Woodford county still had 90% of its homes without power. Fayette county (Lexington) still has somewhere around thirty thousand homes without power, which is an improvement from the sixty thousand, but still far too many. We know too many friends and neighbors who are still without it. Thankfully, we only lost power for a couple hours on Sunday.

Mon, January 20, 2003

Update for HomeSite 5

Macromedia has released a free update for HomeSite 5.0. After the update, you’ll have HomeSite 5.2. Read the Release Notes for more information about the bug fixes and behavior changes in 5.2. It says that Netscape 6.2 and/or Mozilla 1.0 can now be fully used as the internal browser in Homesite and that missing file:// path problems when using Mozilla as an external browser have been resolved.

Fri, January 10, 2003

Safari debugging

I got a chance to play with Safari and tested out a few different sites. I started to feel like I was flying blind. Where’s the JavaScript console? Where’s any notification of JavaScript errors for that matter? If Safari is going to claim to be “like Gecko” it needs to work like it. In one case the contents of a DHTML page that works fine in Mozilla just didn’t appear and I had no information about what was failing. Frustrating.

I was also bothered by it not recognizing the view-source: prefix to show the source of any URL until I found the Activity window. The Activity window shows all the URLs loaded with a particular page and you can double-click them to view them individually. Nice. Still, the View Source bookmarklet has worked in basically every browser for years so it would be nice to support.

I found a site describing a Safari Enhancer that “enables several hidden features of the Safari webbrowser beta.” The screenshots show a Debug menu with a View DOM tree item, the ability to change the browser identity of Safari, a minimum font size option, and ways to import bookmarks in various formats. Sounds helpful. Too bad I don’t have a mac to play with all the time.

Thu, January 09, 2003

Snapping Back to Google

I’ve been playing around with trying to implement a JavaScript version of SnapBack like in Safari. I thought I’d try it first as a bookmarklet since the JavaScript History object already provides some of what’s needed.

With JavaScript you can easily jump back to the previous Google page in history. Here’s a bookmarklet to do just that: BackToGoogle. This is limited, but may be a nice shortcut. The feature in Safari has the advantage that the SnapBack button only appears when it would be useful. Safari also resets the location of the SnapBack if you use a bookmark or type a URL. In the case of this bookmarklet, it always goes back to the previous Google entry in the history.

I believe I may have found a bug in Mozilla in writing this. According to the documentation, history.go(location) should load the nearest history entry whose URL contains location as a substring (the most recently visited). Mozilla appears to be loading the first history entry that has that substring (the first one visited). Or so it seemed.

I’ve done some more experimenting with this including working with the UniversalBrowserRead privilege so I can use the history array, but that has not helped. What I’d like to be able to do is traverse the history looking at the referrers. If an item has no referrer then it would likely be a nice location to jump back to. (Or potentially the page right after it if it has a query string; it would be more likely to be a search results page.) Unfortunately, I see no way to get the referrers from JavaScript other than for the current page. I wonder if the browser’s history mechanism actually keeps track of the referrer or if it just contains the list of URLs loaded in the window.

Wed, December 04, 2002

Down and out

Unfortunately, towards the end of thanksgiving day, our baby started vomiting. We suffered a long sleepless night in the hotel with two sick children. By the time we made it home the next day, my wife and all of the kids were sick. I seemed to have avoided the vomiting bug (wash hands often!), but ended up with head and chest congestion and basically felt terrible. I’m still not back to normal. Yuck.

Thanksgiving

We spent a lovely Thanksgiving day in Ohio and enjoyed time with extended family that we infrequently get to see. Getting to meet all the new (and not so new) babies was great fun.

One of the things that I was surprisingly thankful for this year was google. Everybody’s favorite search engine continues to amaze. Let me explain: For as long as I can remember and I’m told long before I was even around, our family has sung a German hymn as a prayer at the major celebrations and gatherings of the family. This is a tribute to my mom’’s grandparents who brought the hymn with them when they came to the United States from Switzerland. I’m told that there was a memorable moment in my mom’s life when the normal family prayers switched from being said in Swiss German to English. In any case, this hymn has been a part of our lives and gatherings for a long time.

Unfortunately, as the grandparents and great aunts and uncles have fallen asleep in the Lord, fewer and fewer of us know the tune and words sufficiently well to do other than sing the chorus and sort of hum along. Google to the rescue. A quick search and we have the text and music to Gott ist die Liebe. Now we can at least hum along with the music. Even better, Google gave us a quick translation of God is (the) love, which gave those of us who’d studied German in high school and college an acceptable starting point for making one that better fit the music.

Some of the family seemed to remember seeing a translation of this hymn as God loves me dearly. So we sang the first verse in German and then in English as “God loves me dearly, he sets me free; God loves me dearly, he loves even me. Let me say it again: God loves me dearly, God loves me dearly, he loves even me.” What a gift to praise God in two languages and to honor our heritage.

Looking for it again today, it appears that this is hymn 175 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal, but there doesn’t appear to be a complete copy of the text of the hymn online. I did find a partial version:

God loves me dearly, grants me salvation;
God loves me dearly, loves even me.

Refrain:
Therefore I’ll say again: God loves me dearly,
God loves me dearly, loves even me.

I was in bondage, sin, death, and darkness;
God’s love was working to make me free.

He sent forth Jesus, that true Redeemer;
He sent forth Jesus and set me free.

Jesus, my Savior, Himself did offer;
Jesus, my Savior, paid all I owed.

Now I will praise You, O Love Eternal,
Now I will praise You all my life long!

Mon, November 18, 2002

Blue is Better

book coverEven if I didn’t work for big blue, I’d want to read Lou Gerstner’s new book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround. I’m sure it will be fascinating to read Gerserner’s thoughts as he directed and resurrected IBM. A New York Times article emphasizes how swiftly and decisively Gerstner impacted IBM:

Within the first 100 days, he made the important decisions to keep the company together, reduce costs sharply and change the way I.B.M. did business, overhauling sales, marketing, procurement and internal systems.

He writes that the choice to keep the company together, reversing the course set by his predecessor and endorsed by the board, was “the most important decision I ever made - not just at I.B.M., but in my entire career.” He based it on strategic analysis and instinct - and listening to customers….

By the mid-1990’s, I.B.M.’s technical leadership had noticed the Internet, and took the view that the coming “networked world” would lead the way to the post-PC era, undermining Microsoft’s grip on the industry. “Desktop leadership might have been nice to have,” Mr. Gerstner writes, “but it was no longer strategically vital.”

Fri, November 15, 2002

Always skip the flash intro

I’m of the opinion that almost 100% of the Flash I encounter on web sites is a waste of time. It’s bad enough that a good portion of it is merely gratuitous, but it is frequently abused by advertisers to create blinking ads that you can’t easily stop. I therefore have the flash plugin completely disabled. Imagine how the IMAX web site reinforced my opinion of flash when it opened as an empty page. Because Kovu had mentioned that Star Wars II was coming to IMAX theaters, I bothered to re-enable the plugin to be greeted by a dull flash intro and then the site launched in a popup window. Great! Why do people do this? Did they assume that the flash intro was so cool that I’d want to keep playing with it while I browsed their site? It’s truly a shame; the site works nicely if you skip directly to the real IMAX site. I just don’t get it.

Perhaps someday Mozilla or Phoenix will have the ability to block flash on a per site basis (Bug 94035).

Mon, November 04, 2002

Ignore the man behind the curtain

It appears that something got “upgraded” while running and temporarily hosed my blog. Looks like everything is working again now. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Fri, October 11, 2002

Lego cool

Lego bricks are cool, but combine them with the art of M.C. Escher, and you get something awesome. [sighted on jwz’s blog]

Fri, October 04, 2002

Enabling the disabled

High-Tech Tools Lower Barriers for Disabled says an article in the October issue of HR Magazine. It makes the point that technology continues to improve the job possibilities for the disabled. As assistive technologies such as voice recognition and alternative input devices go mainstream, the cost of these products has dropped dramatically. The article explains:

“The more other companies move toward [the paperless office], the more it opens the workplace up to people with mobility impairments,” says Glenn Higgins, an insurance company vice president and medical director, who cannot manually operate a keyboard or a mouse. He uses a speech recognition system on his office PC as well as a breath-activated device to control his electric wheelchair.

“There are many wonderful assistive-technology gizmos now available that ease access and increase productivity,” Higgins adds, “but the first step is to be flexible and open enough to consider using these tools to expose the workplace to talent that has heretofore been untapped….”

“The disabled workforce represents the greatest opportunity for employers,” says Sears Recruitment Director Bill Donahue. “A large percentage of people with disabilities are unemployed, but no one will give them a chance.” That’s a mistake, because disabled workers are “loyal and committed to being there every day,” he says.

The article goes on to describe various assistive technologies and assess how much it really costs to employ workers with disablements. This was particularly fascinating to me because a co-worker was injured in a bicycle accident that yielded a serious, but thankfully temporary, disability. He was able to continue working effecively, even while recovering, with the help of various assistive technologies. He was thankful that the building and his work area had already been designed to accomodate those in a wheelchair. We should be careful to help those with disabilities; we may be one of them someday.

Thu, September 26, 2002

Saints and Feasts of the day

Basil asked me for some ideas about how to write a bookmarklet to find today’s saints and feasts on the Orthodox Church in America website. I gave him a few suggestions and then wrote a bookmarklet so he could “check his work”. I simplified and improved the Saints of a Day bookmarklet after he posted about it in his blog. The major change was to make it more robust. It does some minimal input checking and makes sure that the numbers the user entered are zero padded if necessary.

I also created what may be a more helpful bookmarklet: it gets Today’s Readings (also from the OCA website). This gives you the scripture readings and hymns for the day and conveniently provides a link to the synaxarion for the day.

Tue, September 24, 2002

The joys of unicode, UTF-8, and form internationalization

I’ve been working on a web app that uses UTF-8 encoding and have been surprised at how little information is available about how to do internationalization that works with all browsers. (A.J. Flavell’s “FORM submission and i18n” article and related charset issues site were quite helpful.) Consider this my small contribution. Here’s the scenario for my app: users can enter a search string and it will search a database for matching entries. The search form includes a few other contols so there are a number of variations and potentially 20 named fields. I only want to show the relevant name/value pairs on the URL if possible. If I submit the form with the GET method, all fields are shown on the URL, even if their values are null, which is fairly ugly. I could use a POST, but then the URL can’t be sent to others and generate the same result. The search is also an idempotent transaction (it is just retrieving data and has no side-effects), so I’d prefer to use GET.

When I submit the form, the search field is properly encoded according to RFC 2279 (which obsoletes RFC 2044). That means that non-US-ASCII characters are converted into a %nn format, where n is a hexadecimal digit. For example, α would be converted into %CE%B1. Since I want control of the resulting URL, I thought I’d use JavaScript’s location.href to set the URL explicitly. I then ran into the problem of how to properly URL-encode the strings. I’d used the JavaScript escape() function in the past to fix up ASCII characters that are not URL safe, but escape() does not handle unicode characters well. In IE, unicode characters are suported, but the function generates a %unnnn format which is not well understood by servers. It would give %u03B1 for the previous example. What to do?

I found the encodeURI() and encodeURIComponent() functions that are new to IE5.5, Netscape 6+, and Mozilla. Thankfully, they do exactly what I want. Now I just need to figure what to do with older browsers such as IE5 and Netscape 4 (forgetting them is not yet an option). I wonder if anyone has written JavaScript code that does this encoding. I suppose I could submit the form and just live with the long URL.

I just happened to think that all my mozilla and IE5.5 bookmarklets should probably be converted to using encodeURIComponent() instead of escape(). That would allow searching for non-ASCII characters.

Mon, September 02, 2002

Washing on the web

This sounds like a great April Fools day joke created by people making fun of SOAP: IBM and USA Technologies announced Friday that they will Web-enable 9,000 washing machines and dryers at U.S. colleges and universities. Called e-Suds, the systems will allow students to check for machine availability on a web site. They can pay by swiping an id or credit card or calling on a cell phone. Students can choose to have the machine add soap and fabric softener. When their wash is done, they can be notified by e-mail. Laundromat owners can also use the web interface to monitor machine status, check water temperature and fiters, and watch usage patterns. Cashless vending should also help reduce the $500 million annual losses attributed to vandalism.

A Reuters story about the machines says “A company that owns laundry machines in colleges in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky will install the machines during the autumn term.” I wonder if Asbury will be getting them.

Thu, August 29, 2002

Extremists, meet the blog

Jon Udell: “What mainly fascinates me about this moment in history is the role of the blog. We’ve turned a corner, I think, in terms of pluralism. Authentic voices on all sides of all debates are heard directly. The world is profoundly more transparent. Given the irreducible and growing complexity of everything, this is a necessary and wonderful thing. I feel lucky to be a part of it!”

Wed, August 28, 2002

Can we talk?

I recently discovered that Ray Ozzie is experimenting with blogging. In case you haven’t heard of him, he was the creator and developer of Lotus Notes. He founded Groove networks in 1997 to take groupware in a new, more secure, and decentralized direction. Because of his years of experience, he’s got terrific insights into how users behave in collaborative environments, particularly with regard to security.

He predicts: “If we continue on the current trajectory, e-mail will become the place where you receive stuff from people you don’t know, and Groove and other collaborative environments will be where you work with people you know.” This is already true for me. I already do a great deal of productive work interaction through instant messaging and IRC. E-mail has become a tool for archiving information, exchanging less-pressing thoughts, and spam.

The architecture of our collaborative environment matters a great deal in our productivity and the quality of the conversation, he says. Blogs improve the signal-to-noise ratio by creating distributed conversation threads that naturally omit the spammers and flamers because nobody links to them. If you have a blog, you can participate in the conversation. The conversation can be guided as blogs link between each other. Civilized public discourse can return: blogs allow everyone to have the power of their own press.

Speaking of blog architecture, a number of folks are working on the BlogMD Initiative. The name made me think of medical blogs, but in actuality they are talking about ways to improve the metadata (MD, you see) exposed about blogs. There are other similiar projects: BlogChalking wants bloggers to add geographic and demographic information to their blogs. They’re off to a good start with thousands of people adding blogchalk meta tags, but the data isn’t completely reliable due to formatting issues (Some people use a postal abbreviation, such as TX, instead of the full state name, Texas). BlogMD seems to be focused on data that is typically available on blog web pages, such as last update time and URL. Having a way to access this consistently and programmatically for all blogs would be helpful. And I’m sure there’s other metadata that would be useful.

I’ve got to run to vespers at church, but I also want to mention there is a privacy concern with some metadata, particularly the demographic data available when blogchalking. Many times we read stories in the newspaper and have no idea about the demographics of the author or editor. This hasn’t particularly harmed newspapers. How much metadata should be available?

Mon, August 19, 2002

Doing what’s best for customers

Microsoft will be no longer offering free downloads of their TrueType core fonts for the web. The folks at Typographica asked them why they were removed and got the Microsoft spin, I mean explanation. These font downloads have been offered for five years and were a great resource for older systems. I will particularly miss the very nice descriptions of the development of the fonts, although it appears some of the information is still available. Those descriptions were part of what sparked my interest in typography.

Since almost every recent Windows and Macintosh system has Internet Explorer and these fonts installed, this will not have great impact on the majority platforms. Could it be that Microsoft removed the fonts because many Linux users needed them in order to have readable screen fonts? Hmmm.

Update: Apparently slashdot ran this font story on Sunday. Reader comments indicate that the fonts are available on sourceforge.

Wed, July 31, 2002

Getting the message

Doc Searls suggests that AOL should open the protocol to AOL Instant Messenger or adopt the Jabber protocol. He writes:

AOL Instant Messenger is a client-only lock-in that will be undermined totally once the Jabber protocol (or some other IM protocol) ubiquitizes into the same grade of Internet infrastructure as SMTP and POP3 provide for mail service and HTTP provides for Web service.

I agree that it is inevitable that instant messaging protocols will eventually be opened. It would be the best for AOL to open up all their protocols as it would give them an immediate advantage and help them become the standard.

Opening just the AOL client protocol is missing the point (and it has already been mostly reverse-engineered as well as licensed twice). Much more interesting and useful is to open the protocol that AOL uses to communicate between servers. To be able to bridge instant messaging systems at the server level opens up a whole world of possibilities. It would allow variation in clients while still supporting interoperability. It would allow differences in protocol that might not be included in the standard, such as different encryption formats or additional features. An extensible protocol could allow some of this, although adding new data encryption techniques after the fact while maintaining interoperability would likely be difficult or impossible. Opening the server protocol would also allow more secure, inside-the-firewall servers that have their own unique features and configurations, such as message logging (a legal requirement in some industries).

Blatant plug for the company: Lotus Sametime already offers many of these “fit for business” requirements as well as AOL Instant Messenger compability.

Fri, July 26, 2002

Freedom of the press and open source

Via a circuitous route I stumbled across Doc Searls’s commentary “Cheap Talk: Why Open Source and silence don’t mix” It summarizes the wisdom of The Cluetrain Manifesto:

  1. Markets are conversations
  2. Talk is cheap
  3. Silence is fatal

Open source implicitly trusts and relies the conversations that comprise its markets. This is what makes open source fundamentally different than closed source. Not only can you do more with it (and to it) because everything about it is exposed, but it trusts you enough to disclose all of itself to you….

Open source [is] burning down Development as Usual. Why? Is it just because open source has more Goodness than closed source? No…. Open source has no secrets. It is inherently disclosing. And disclosures start conversations – and then do nothing to stop them.

So here’s the clue we’re talking about here: Outside the secret-keepers themselves, there is no demand for secrecy. No market for it. And since markets are conversations, you can’t use secrecy to make a market. Only to prevent one.

I’ve been thinking about this for days since I first read it and had to wade through my browser cache to find it again. Open source is about freedom and relies on rights similar to freedom of the press. Software patents and threats of software patents are dangerous. Having worked with the Mozilla project for years now, I still find it refreshing that they have nothing to hide. The project is developed in the open. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Thu, July 25, 2002

IBM and Palm team up

I love my Palm IIIxe and work for IBM, so the story in Wired about Palm and IBM joining forces to develop business applications caught my eye. This seems a natural partnership. IBM has offered IBM branded versions of Palm devices for some time.

Fri, July 19, 2002

Caring for the little ones

We have two gerbils, Point and Click. They are great fun to watch and play with. Yesterday my eldest was playing with them and Click escaped on a little adventure and roamed around the house. Sadly, the little one somehow injured herself and lost a part of her tail. The tip of a gerbil’s tail is designed so it will easily shed if caught by a predator. More sickening than the bloody bone left after the injury was that she chewed it off. She seems to be getting along fine now with her shorter tail. We’ll keep an eye on her. Point is comforting her, too.

Tue, July 09, 2002

Chasing ChaseCringely.org

It appears that the Chase Cringely project website that I mentioned earlier is finally up. It’s just a shame that nobody paid any attention to content or usable design. Because they’re using TWiki to run the site, it looks like they are more interested in a Buck Rogers character than in saving others like Chase. Why is it that most open source projects seem to be hostile to outside help even though that’s what they are trying to get?

I’m interested in the MonitorPad suggestion, particularly the idea that it could be combined with a regular baby monitor. As we have been thinking about getting a baby monitor, I can say that we’d definitely consider something like the MonitorPad.

Wed, June 26, 2002

Logo… no, not the language

Cool. Looking for a logo? Logotype’s database of 50,000 logos from all over the world may help you find it.

Tue, June 25, 2002

John Patrick

IBM’s internet guru has recently started a blog and has various other websites. He also wrote the book Net Attitude. Dave Winer says he reads John’s blog everytime it is updated.

Thu, June 20, 2002

Always be the best

Google searches itself to get new ideas. The story hints at the power of intranets to help a company communicate and the importance of research and development. I hope Google just keeps getting better and better.

Sat, June 01, 2002

Leggo my Lego

I took a few days off after the birth of Teresa to care for her, my wife, and boys. Playing with Lego bricks with the boys, entirely from memory and with basic Lego bricks and plates I built a pretty good version of my favorite Lego set of all time, the Galaxy Explorer. (I found that very groovy site with building instructions for almost every Lego set created prior to 1999 just tonight. Lego Fans are awesome!) It’s been gnawing at me for a while now, but why aren’t there more great Lego sets? With few standouts, Lego sets are now mostly about branding or odd-shaped and useless pieces. It used to be that Lego sets were about the bricks and a child’s imagination. Since I built a reasonably solid and functional hinge out of three bricks, I know that many specialty pieces are not that important. I have to agree with Allan Bedford: Lego has lost its focus.

Fri, May 31, 2002

It’s a girl!

I’m thrilled to announce the birth of my daughter, Teresa Marie. God grant her many years. She was 8 lbs 1 oz and 21 inches long. Her brothers are not quite sure what to make of her, but are glad to see her and happy to hold her anyway. You can take a look at the hospital photo of her.

So now you know why there have been no updates for a week.

She’s named primarily for St Thérèse of Lisieux (called the Little Flower) and for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was influenced by and took her name from Thérèse. I highly recommend the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul. I’m amazed by the fervency she had for loving God. Her words are simple, yet profound. As a parent, I am challenged by how her parents so obviously raised her well, indeed raised her to be a saint.

Wed, May 22, 2002

Copyrights: 14 + 14 = Good

Opening briefs were filed May 20, 2002 in Eldred v. Ashcroft. The case is a constitutional challenge of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended existing and future copyrights by 20 years. For an excellent analysis of this case and the history of copyright read Is Life Plus Seventy Too Much?

Copyright in the United States was based on the common law system to forbid copying and was not based on author’s rights. The founders saw copyright as a way to secure benefits for the public from the works of authors and not as a way to reward authors. Copyright was intended to create a system that would foster creativity and learning and would promote the distribution of works by protecting the author. Therefore, the original copyright system was 14 years plus an optional extension of 14 years if the author was still alive. With CTEA that has been extended to the life of the author plus 70 years.
Create like it's 1790

I found the Internet Archive Amicus brief particularly compelling. They emphasize the number of projects working to prepare out-of-copyright works for digital distribution. From the brief: “For the second time in history the collection of all recorded information is within our grasp. Digital technology allows us the opportunity to build a ‘universal’ library that dwarfs the collections of the Alexandria Library and even our modern Library of Congress.”

Mon, May 20, 2002

Yikes

Vice President Chenney warns that additional terror attacks are “almost a certainty.” I agree with Blake Ross: this is not the time to play the blame game about September 11. We’re all in this together. Jef Raskin explains how the next terror attacks may be worse if terrorists use a small remote-controlled airplane with a deadly payload. Sadly, I’m sure this is but one of the many ways we are vulnerable. God help us.

Sat, May 18, 2002

Blogdex

Blogdex from MIT’s media lab provides a fascinatingly quick look at the top stories in the world of blogs. How would you know the importance of purple carrots without it?

Fri, May 10, 2002

A way to enhance blogs

Link to an article and it will return the favor (used to link to http://www.disenchanted.com / dis / linkback.html ). This is a good idea that helps to reinforce the natural grouping, community-building, and conversational aspects of blogs. I expect to see it copied widely. [Hat tip to Jon Udell]

Update: Back in 2002 when this article was originally published, using the technique was a good idea. Unfortunately, spammer scum have now made the technique completely useless. They made this essentially throw away article the far and away most popular blog entry in October and December 2005, so I have renamed and edited it to hopefully make it less popular with the bad robots. In this case the permalink isn’t. Deal with it.

Spammers, since we have never published the places that you (supposedly) came from (I know the technical term, but am avoiding it) your efforts were completely wasted. Go do something worthwhile.

Thu, May 09, 2002

Barn raising, internet style

Robert X. Cringely writes about some fascinating ideas. In his latest article, he describes a new and powerful form of collaboration that is impossible without the internet. Cringely recently lost his son Chase to SIDS and wants to prevent other babies from suffering the same fate. I was skeptical when I read his original proposal to create baby monitoring techno-jammies. I was also stunned by the number of babies that die from SIDS each year. And as a parent, I can imagine how hard it would be to have your son die while lying on your lap. I look forward to reading more about the project and watching the barn go up.

Tue, April 23, 2002

Street kids learn to web surf in 8 minutes

I found a prequel article from BBC News that provides an additional detail about the computer setup the experiment used: MSN was apparently the home page.

Fri, April 19, 2002

Kids can learn anything

In a fascinating experiment, slum kids in India teach themselves to surf the web and use paint software but ask “What’s a computer?” I’m not sure what I find more interesting, the kiosk and hardware setup (including video cameras and screen recording software) or the fact that kids taught themselves to do this. Use of a touch pad probably contributed to the ease of learning. (A touch screen might be even better.) I originally saw this story on slashdot and can’t stop thinking about it.

Why should we talk about being computer-literate but not bicycle-literate? If you can use something should you need to know all the names for its parts? If you do, I suspect a majority of the population isn’t car-literate. This reminds me of a friend who said he encouraged his mom to call the CPU of her computer a “box”.

Thu, April 18, 2002

Out of toilet paper?

Fear not! Designer Don Norman is developing a solution. Who would have thought that people are driven to tear paper from the larger roll when given a choice between two?

After reading any of Don Norman’s writings (I highly recommend The Design of Everyday Things), you look at the world in a different light. He makes you wonder why we put up with horrible—or worse, dangerous—design. Once you’ve used something with good design, it’s frustrating to go back to an inferior product. Thankfully, when you’re sensitized to good design you’re less likely to make that change.

Wed, April 17, 2002

Gimme some of that Open Source Religion

This is your father’s IBM, only smarter.

Mon, April 15, 2002

I really should test this

Because I’m feeling brave, or perhaps because I’ve been testing Mozilla so much that I don’t feel like doing more, I’ve decided to go ahead and launch my blog. At the same time, I revised my site’s home page and added a site map. I can already tell that the site map needs a few more levels of detail, but I’m tired and should be finishing my taxes anyway. Ick.

Fri, April 12, 2002

Hello, web!

Motivated by Matthew Thomas’s challenge and inspired by David Hyatt’s excellent start, I’ve finally gotten around to starting a blog. This will undoubtably be an eclectic blog—just look at my varying interests. This is my test message. Watch this page.

And greetings!