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.
Mon, June 30, 2003
Fri, June 20, 2003
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
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 :-)
Sun, June 15, 2003
A story in today’s (London) Sunday Times points to how bloggers are exposing factual errors, out of context quotes, and generally poor journalism. The author, Sarah Baxter writes If it makes America look bad it must be true, mustn’t it? Some left-leaning media will rush to publish anything, right or wrong, if it meets their anti-war agenda. The story is about an article published June 4 by the Guardian online, headlined “Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil.”. It stated that US deputy defense secretary Wolfowitz had claimed the real motive for the war was that Iraq is ‘swimming’ in oil.
The Wolfowitz story was too good to be true and too good to check. A freelance at The Guardian was so delighted with it that he went to the trouble of translating Wolfowitz from German into English, when he had spoken in English in the first place. And the German story was wrong anyway. No matter: another journalist turned it into the splash.
The story was eventually retracted, but only after having spread elsewhere. It was reported in Russia by Pravda, in Dar al hayat, the Beirut newspaper, on Radio Shi’i and by other Arab media.
Emily Bell, managing editor of Guardian Online, said the mistake had nothing to do with the anti- war stance of the paper or many of its staff: “I don’t know what the politics of my writers or editors are.” But it is hard to resist the conclusion that the fallacy crept in because it fitted a pre-existing mindset about the war.
Gregory Djerejian, 30, is an American blogger (web logger) in London who runs a site called Belgravia Dispatch. A current affairs junkie, he took only minutes to do The Guardian’s job for it. “When I saw the headline, my first reaction was Paul Wolfowitz is too smart to say anything like that, so I did a quick Google search.”
Wolfowitz had in fact drawn a comparison between North Korea, teetering on the edge of economic collapse — which he described as “a major point of leverage” over its weapons programme — and Iraq. “The primary difference … is that we had virtually no economic options in Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil.” At no point did he state or imply that the war was a grab for oil.
A correction was up and running on Belgravia Dispatch hours before The Guardian got around to its own. “I don’t have a political agenda,” said Djerejian, “but I get a little offended by the constant conspiratorial agenda about the Americans.”
My feelings entirely. The National Museum of Baghdad is to reopen this week with almost all of its treasures intact. Yet western academics and commentators rushed to blame the Americans for the worst vandalism since the invasion of the Mongols.
Who knows whether weapons of mass destruction will turn up like the 5,000-year-old Vase of Warka, which was returned by three Iraqis in the back of a car last week? Whether they will or not, it is at least clear to me that Wolfowitz never described such weapons as a “bureaucratic excuse for war”.
Read the Belgravia Dispatch for its assessment of the Guardian article, commentary on the story carried in Pravda, as well as most fascinating of all, the commentary about the Times article and the role meta-bloggers are playing in fact-checking the press.
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.
Fri, June 13, 2003
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
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
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.
Sat, June 07, 2003
Let me get this straight—Mozilla added support for the usability decreasing Marquee tag because a few sites in China used it, but removes support for MNG, the only animated image format that supports alpha transparency and is currently used by Mozilla themes? Yeah, that makes sense. Reading comments in bug 195280 it appears that the current module owner wants to call it quits. No big deal—someone else has offered to take over. There’s also a complaint that at 166K, MNG support is too big, but that seems grounds for improving it, not removing it. Finally, some said that it wasn’t a W3C standard, so it should be gone. Standard or not, it’s being used and supported by a number of apps. The discussion in the bug got pretty heated. As near as I can determine, the only reason it’s being removed is because they said they were going to and had a patch. I’m just cynical enough to believe that this means the next version of Netscape (based on 1.4) won’t have MNG/JNG support, although currently the removal only applies to the trunk. (Netscape 6 and 7 did.) If you disagree with this removal, go vote for bug 18574, now one of the top 20 most voted for bugs in Mozilla.
Fri, June 06, 2003
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
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.
encodeURIComponent() function on those browsers that don’t support it natively. Thanks for the help!