Aint Dead

Thursday, 5 June 2003, 4:37 pm

Things have been very quiet here for a few weeks. I’m still here, I’ve just been a little, um, focused on preparations for the Sable Rose show this weekend. If you’re interested, we’ll be in Musgrave park for BMF on both days. Pop in and say hello.

iThink iLife iHas iPotential

I’m toying with integrating some of the .Mac facilities a little more with this page. Unfortunately at the moment Apple’s attitude is that you can have their point-and-click pages, or your own, and not mix the two. I’ll sort out a more organised way of handling that, but meanwhile, here are some photos taken by Robyn of our bushwalk on 12th April 2003.

Everybody needs friends.

Tuesday, 29 April 2003, 5:05 pm

After stumbling across the FOAF project via Kasia’s blog, I decided to dip my toe in the RDF pond. My head is now spinning, which may have something to do with being called out last night to work from 10:00pm to 3:00am.

The idea behind the FOAF project is to institute a shadow web embedded in the human-readable web that describes people, and eventually networks of people. More-or-less. As I said, I was up very late last night. Anyway, I’ve gone nuts and built an appropriate description file, also attached to the little smiley faces over in the left hand column. Share and enjoy.

Speaking of friends, today is my fourteenth wedding anniversary, which means more than fourteen years spent with my very best friend of all. This is a Very Good Thing.

8:39 pm

I (briefly) considered finally getting organised and putting together my Geek Code. Going back and looking at it after all these years, though, it is definitely a joke that has had its day in the sun, and should gracefully retire.

On a different line of thought, a discussion (mea culpa, I cannot recall where I saw it) on the privacy issues related to FOAF reminded me of Scott McNealy’s comments in 1999 which will be doubly true now. Thanks to Google caches, Usenet archives, mailing lists, shoddy security at commercial web sites, and a thousand other opportunities to put data on somebody else’s computer, anyone who uses the net will leave a trail of breadcrumbs. The more use you get out of the medium, the more snippets of information about you will be floating around “out there”. Blogs and other vanity sites increase the volume of stuff that you leave behind, as I discovered via the WayBack Machine. About the only thing that’s not out there is the truth.

I’ve had a rough, unformed and incomplete thought about this. It seems to me that a well constructed personal site, with accurate and well defined ways of distributing personal meta-data, may be a way of controlling what information is released and retained. It would be very nice to be able to create and control a description which I can pass references to. If BigBadCorp.com wants my email address, mother’s maiden name, and my shoe size, let them have the address of where they can find it. I get to keep control of the meta-data, and I get some chance of influencing how and where it gets cached external to my data stores. Thinking is in progress…

My Mind

Monday, 28 April 2003, 7:57 pm

Generally I’m not a big fan of the various outlining tools. Most of them are either a bit rigid for my taste, or over elaborate. I like being able to just jot down a rough outline or mindmap. Just recently, though, I stumbled across My Mind, and was blown away. It’s kind of like the BBedit of outliners, and best of all it’s completely free.

Some parts of the user interface are a tad clunky and not initially very obvious (the toolbar icons are in serious need of somebody with graphic design skills to fancy up), but the tool itself is a joy. Each document is a simple hierarchical list, with full drag-and-drop capabilities. You can add a more-or-less arbitary number of columns to the display. A single mouse click paints the hierarchy as a mindmap which is almost indefinitely malleable, and which in turn can be exported in several handy portable formats. This one is a definite keeper.

More on <object>

Monday, 14 April 2003 6:53 pm

Mark Pilgrim has discovered what I did a few months ago: MSIE completely breaks the handling of <object> embedding of images (and anything else for that matter). The references he has dug up on the matter, and the large number of comments on his findings, make for interesting reading. The compliance test he found is a particularly handy tool, and I’m pleased to see that Safari handles most of the tests very well.

Kaboom! II

Friday, 11 April 2003 7:38 am

Well, this sucks, again. Once again my Palm IIIx has snow-crashed. It only took half an hour or so to recover last time, but the pain in the butt is discovering it at the start of the day. I feel like half my memories have been cauterised.

I bought a new backpack a few weeks ago after my satchel finally fell apart. After several hours standing stunned by the variety — and price — of good packs, I bouqht a cheap interim one to tide me over while I did more thinking. What I need is something with lots of easily accessible gadget pouches, room for folders, and a big space for shoving amorphous stuff. I may need some sort of camera or laptop bag.

The trouble with this bag is that the side pockets where I’ve put gadgets are a bit big and loose. This may be why the Palm is borken — some intermittent physical flaw that only shows up when the case is stressed. I might need a padded or rigid protective case. Or a milspec backpack designed by NASA, made from kevlar and titanium and designed to survive orbital re-entry.

Or maybe a laptop. For the last dozen years I’ve not favoured laptops for myself. Partially this was price — until recently consistently about 30% more than an equivalent desktop — partially because of indifferent display quality. And primarily because they were a ridiculous overkill. The reason for the Palm in the first place was as a simple way to carry around snippets of information that were needed on both my home desktop and while I was away, without the hassle of manual transcription inherent to any solution involving paper.

My requirements have evolved somewhat, and their would be some advantage — or at least added convenience — in being able to lug around more sophisticated types of data. This is all idle speculation at this point anyway, as there is exactly zero chance of me considering any big-ticket purchases for at least 6 months.

Downtime.

Thursday, 10 April 2003, 10:49 am

I’ve been knocked off my pedestal by some low-grade, low-down, rotten dirty scoundrel of a viral infection. Not enough to leave me prostrate and hallucinating like a victim of Jungle Fever in a bad 1950’s movie set in Darkest Africa. Just enough to make it difficult to do anything sensible and useful. I’ve done coding in the past when I get this dopey. I then have to spend a few days fixing the bone-heaed mistakes I've made. So, instead of doing something useful and sensible, I’ll catch up on some bits and pieces that have been lying around on my desk.

To start with, John Gruber has written a zinger of an article, specifically debunking Dvorak’s persistent predictions that Apple will switch to an Intel CPU, but more generally showing why any such speculation is silly:

John C. Dvorak’s modus operandi is to instigate. He is a button-pusher, seldom if ever trying to inform, preferring instead to inflame. And he’s pretty good at that.

A few people have pointed to Jeremy’s blog, and I will too. The overall design of the site is lovely (and likely to inspire a reworking through the magic of CSS of my site), he pops up some great photos of what he sees around Tokyo, and he’s given the world some nice little logos to mark W3C compliance. I have put two of them over in the left hand column of the main page, butI won’t go nuts and push them into all the interior pages. Highly recommended.

Something else that has been making the rounds is Tim Bray’s clarification (“Why XML doesn’t suck”) on his earlier article. If you have any interest at all in XML, both of these articles are extremely interesting, and may prove to be an important milestone in the progress of XML and related technologies.

Falling into the category of bizarre-but-apparently-true is this stunning gallery of itsy-bitsy graffiti burnt into the silicon of computer chips. I find it pleasing to think that at the microscopic level, hidden away entirely from view, the Maker has Left His Mark. I hope this means that somewhere in Norway is a fiord with a tiny signature hidden away inside a glacier.

As I’m writing this, I’m really struck by how much I use the little Google field in the top right of the Safari window. As a piece of user interface design, it was an inspired decision. Unobtrusive, elegant, and functional. It really epitomises the Apple mantra of It Just Works, and I think Robyn will really like it once I give her Safari to play with, ie once it comes out of beta testing.

Via Mirabilis.ca, a particularly wonderful variation on the theme of blog, comes this article about the discovery of some 5000 year old swords in Turkey. Since my copy of Records of the Medieval Sword has just arrived, swords are on my mind a bit this week. I will sit down soon and write a summary of suitable swords for Sable Rose purposes shortly, based on Oakeshott’s typeology. The striking thing, to me, about the Arslantepe swords is how little the blade shape has changed since. Even the hilts are similar to later examples. In all, these blades are a very clear and graphic demonstration of form following function Mirabilis.ca specialises in reports of things of wonder, and cannot be recommended highly enough.

A lot of people in Australia have picked up on the report in Whirlpool and elsewhere of Richard Alston’s $4 million Website. This site is apalling on any number of levels, but is emblematic of the complete lack of understanding of technology on the part of Alston’s department. Quite apart from the fact that the site is broken in many ways, and studded with wildly invalid coding, the pricetag suggests that the project was run the way many Australian government IT projects are run: two years of planning, analysis, design, meetings, memoranda, palace coups and tears-before-bedtime, followed by a few months of hurried hacking which completely disregards most of the analysis and design. I know, I’ve been involved in too many such projects.

Finally, in the very-cool-for-old-hackers category, comes this list of HelloWorld examples in a few score different languages. Poking through the list is a real walk down memory lane:

hello  
     f  w "Hello World!",! 

Finished!

Saturday, 5 April 2003, 11:59 AM

After four months of intermittent hand sewing, hand quilting, and pushing-needles-through-all-my-fingers, I have finished the fifteenth century Jack. Photos and details at 11. All that I need to do now is pop a livery badge on the breast, and knock up a pourpoint to wear under it to stop my hose falling down. May I say at this point: WooHoo!

Iconic

Saturday, 5 April 2003, 9:49 am

I read in the paper this morning that Ridley has flown in to go to Russell’s wedding and play a bit of cricket in Russ’s back yard with Shane and his mates. This is somehow uniquely Australian, and strangely cheering.

I was also struck, recently, to read about the deployment into Iraq of Poultry Chemical Confirmation Devices. It’s not just the fact that somebody came up with that name, or dubbed their deployment Operation KFC, that tickles me. In my mind is a vision of thousands of chickens, with little combat boots, sunglasses and helmets, marching in ordered ranks across the sand under a blazing desert sand. “Cry Havoc! and let slip the chooks of war!”

Wilkommen.

Thursday, 3 April 2003, 11:33 pm

Cabaret ticket

It’s Friday!

Friday, 28 March 2003, 5:49 pm

A potpourri of things that have caught my eye over the last week or so. Firstly, this via William Gibson’s journal:

HEARD ON SKY NEWS

“Umm Qasr is a town similar to Southampton”, UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons yesterday. “He’s either never been to Southampton, or he’s never been to Umm Qasr”, said one British soldier, informed of this while on patrol in Umm Qasr. Another added: “There’s no beer, no prostitutes, and people are shooting at us. It’s more like Portsmouth.”

Continuing to not talk about the ongoing conflict in Iraq, a number of people have pointed to the wonderful maps available online. Thinking of maps, Maporama, despite having a name that just had to have been thought up by an advertising executive, offers some quite remarkable services, including the ability to pinpoint where I usually go for coffee at lunchtime during the week.

I really don’t want to talk about the war, but it is hard to stop thinking about it. Jason Kottke has a particularly sensible summation, beyond which nothing needs to be said:

“Summing up, Bush bad, war bad, this war not so bad even though bad Bush reasons also bad.”

although this clarification on Thou Shalt Not Kill from the original author comes at a good time.

Kaboom!

Wednesday, 26 March 2003, 4:20 pm

Well this sucks in a major way. I just pulled out my Palm to catch up on some organisational stuff, and found it had died big time. It was sitting their infinitely flashing up its boot screen, then going blank.

Pressing the power button or hitting the reset switch did nothing but produce an ominous prompt to hit the ‘up’ button to erase all data, or any other to cancel. Taking the blue pill just returned me to snow crash hell. Taking the red pill did get things going again, although all data has indeed been erased. A veritable tabula rasa.

Since the almost-new batteries are now almost flat, I suspect I’ve been crashed all day, or even overnight, since my last synch. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can get back to where I was…

Just don’t mention…

Friday, 21 March 2003, 2:13 pm

Since the running around I had today finished a little early than anticipated, I’ll jot some thoughts down. As is everyone else with access to a computer. Kel's response was the most appropriate to date:

WAR… HUH*grunting noise*… Good God yall… What is it good for?… Absolutely NOTHIN*whiney voice*… say it again now…

Perhaps the most interesting spot on the blogosphere, at this exact moment, is Where Is Raed?. Live, and apparently unfiltered, from Baghdad. The journal that Kevin Sites is doing could be interesting, but he seems to have gone off-line since Tuesday.

Everyone is saying something, so I’m going to chime in here as well, for the record, and for the interest and edification of whoever might come past. The saddest thing I have heard, amidst all the sound and fury —and don’t forget what Shakespeare said about that — was the death of Eric Abrahams. That name won’t mean a great deal to most people, but he was one of the last ANZACS. He died, aged 104, just a few hours after the war “officially” began. Mr. Abrahams did not fight in any wars after WWI, and you couldn’t really say that his wartime experiences shaped or controlled his life. What is important is that by dint of his respected position over the last few years of his life, he was able to say with complete authority that war is the worst expression of the nature of human-kind. Many times, in many ways, he repeated his message from the young men who were slaughtered at the beginning of the last century: any solution is better than war.

I am most certainly not in favour of this war. The fact that this war is happening at all is an expression of fundamental incompetence of many diplomats and national leaders over the past century. There was a certain historical inevitability that could forecast this conflict. Nonetheless, this does not provide an excuse for the countries prosecuting this war — there would have been other ways of handling the problem, including not doing a half-baked job in 1991, not installing puppet governments in the middle of the last century, and not dragging the Ottoman empire into a war at the beginning of the last century. Further analysis and debate, and anti-war protest, is pointless now. A tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

On an altogether more cheery note, some random finds. The Tyranny of Email is a great article about distraction and workplace practices for programmers in particular, but applicable to anyone who has to do brain-work. The article also has a number of very important things to say about how to use — and more importantly, not use — email. An email message regarding childhood is making the rounds. While most of what it says is only relevant to affluent folk in the USA, and by extension Australia, it provides food for thought. Paul Graham’s extended rant, Why Nerds Are Unpopular, has similar cultural biases, and a lot of what he has to say about the effects of the school system are strongly based on the US system, but it’s worth reading anyway.

A theme that I am starting to see well thought through and articulated within the fairly narrow community of reasonably well-off and technically literate bloggers is a reaction against anti-elitism. What’s wrong with being elitist? If you’re really good at something, why not celebrate it, glory in it? It’s ok to laud elite sportsmen — the only place where the word is not verboten — so why not laud elite artists, writers, computer programmers, basket weavers and scientists?

Here endeth the rant. I’ll now test whether sitecopy is going to work for me. If it does, I’ll probably whack a little AppleScript front end around it so I can push this out with a single mouseclick. Thinking is in progress.

3:01 pm

Woot! It worked! Thanks Jorge!

War.

Tuesday, 18 March 2003, 8:40 pm

Blah. Who needs it.

Switch.

Friday, 14 March 2003, 7:09 pm

I switched to the Platypus. You should too. Raging Platypus — you know it’s right

[platypus bill banner]

Mmm. Too many things going on. Perhaps it is time to reread Gorin No Sho. Woot! Just found it at MemoWare, so I will stuff it in my Palm. Watch out world!

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