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.

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.


  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:

    • iEx — Sounds like a pain to get, apparently doesn’t do the slick graphic movement, and reportedly buggy. Free.
    • WinPLOSION — Looks to be exactly the same as the Mac version. This was known as WinEXPOSÉ for a while. $9.95.
    • Windows Exposer — Also looks like the Mac version. $7.
  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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.