It's more than a house. It's an adventure.

Friday, October 31, 2003


Scary Movie 3, that is. Saw it last night. About what you'd expect from Daniel Zucker. One thing that did bother me, though, was Pam Anderson. She's unsettling when I see her on TV. Blown up to movie theater size, she's downright eerie.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Wakka wakka wiki

Oleg has turned former personal business domain into a wkki on personal software practices. It could be argued that this idea is research on its own.

Who even came up with that name? "Wiki"?

Oleg corrected my spelling of "wiki".

Say what?

Does this mean Oleg can only change channels during the actual program? I have TW digital cable and it hasn't happened to me. I surf constantly.

XForms...keep on waiting

A while ago, in my huge anti-IE rant I mentioned XForms and speculated that at some point, XForms would be included in Mozilla. Looks like that isn't going to happen, at least not for a very long time. Activity on the Bugzilla entry for the RFE after a note was posted that XForms is now a proposed recommendation. An interesting look at how things come together in Mozilla. I was getting worried that it's going to be ignored entirely, but it sounds like there are a few people who think it can and should be done.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

XML, XSL and XHTML, oh my!

I've moved into the next stage of my project at work and am now up to my eyeballs in XML and XSL. So far I like what I see. I've already had to get "creative" to work a few things out and it's pretty fun seeing these bits come together. I'm sure there are plenty of ways for me to improve what I've done; for now, I just want to get the logic working, and then I'll clean up once I have a good starting point. This is my first foray into the XML/XSL world and there's nothing like a trial by fire to learn things fast.

OK, so I don't really have anything to say about XHTML in this particular post. I can say, however, that I have at least one page of my application almost entirely code-generated (and not from XML/XSL) and validating perfectly to HTML 4.01 Transitional. I'm not going to be overly picky about which DTD I validate to - I'm more concerned that I do validate. redesign

Dave at Mezzoblue has been working on a redesign of Mozilla's website. He posted a pair of notes about the project. Good reads.

Speaking of Apple..

The iBook now comes with a G4 processor. Twist the knife there guys - I want a laptop, an iBook will be sufficient for my needs, but I just can't buy one right now.

iTunes? iDon't

After hearing the hype about iTunes I took the plunge and downloaded it. I want to at least give it a shot, but there's a small problem.

75% of my music is encoded using Ogg Vorbis.

Now, I have installed the QuickTime plugin to allow QT to play OGG files, the main iTunes app doesn't support them, and therefore I can't bring them into my library.

I'm left with re-ripping my whole collection, or sticking with WinAmp. I'm lazy. I'll have to pass on iTunes for now. Sorry Apple. Please find it your hearts to support a free file format.

A week into Firebird/Thunderbird

Overall, I'm pleased. TB seems to not allow me to view any newsgroup post that I've previously marked read (even switching to View All) and there are little things here and there that are catching me in both apps. Nothing serious.

OTOH, I see on Blogzilla that Sam Rowe has a list of 11 greivances. Some of them I can kind of understand, but for the most part I have to say I don't understand the gripe. Or maybe I just haven't been affected by them enough to be bothered.

Just syndicate!

Spent entirely too much time Monday trying to convince Eric that he should turn on syndication on his blog (assuming he ever starts posting). And explaining how it works in the first place.

Lost work

Somehow in the midst of using Visual InterDev to manage my project files and XMLSpy to edit my XML/XSL files, I lost a day and a half of work yesterday. The file went from 5K of XSL empty file. Pleased I am not. Fortunately I was able to re-create it fairly quickly using Friday's version as a starting point (everything is kept in SourceSafe), but I could have done many other things with that afternoon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Web Design Practices

Saw over on webGraphics that a new site, Web Design Practices has been launched, researching and discussing web design best practices. Having recently been up to my neck in this, and then having it all thrown away by the clients, I'll be watching.


My FB & TB installs couldn't have gone smoother, and I'm basking in the glory of fresh software. The only "glitch" I have right now is that I can't get links opened from TB to open in a new tab in FB. I installed TabBrowser extensions and that hasn't helped.

The Web Developer extension is outstanding. Plenty more to discover in these releases. Overall, I'm beyond thrilled.

Content vs. presentation

I got myself involved in a discussion that's tangentially about content vs. presentation on Ryze and StopDesign has a timely article on the subject. I'm currently working on a new stylesheet for my pages (including this one) and thus far I've managed to change the appearance quite a bit without touching my markup. I think we can and in many cases must keep them separate. And in the process, make the web better for those who need alternate presentation of the sites they browse.

And now they're out

I know what I'm doing tonight. *bird, here I come!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Anxiously waiting

The latest versions of Mozilla Firebird and Mozilla Thunderbird are due out this week. I'm planning to switch over to these, and away from Mozilla, for my daily use. Hurry up, guys!

Monday, October 13, 2003

More on (moronic?) IE

Mike responded to my post last night about the wonderful world of IE. We pretty much agree, but I expected that. The whole situation has me worried though. We're in a Catch-22 here. Developers won't push the limits of what non-IE browsers have to offer (CSS2 and better, real XHTML, etc.) until a significant number of users are using those browsers. And as long as "everything seems to work ok" those users won't leave IE. It's a standoff. Solution? I'm with Mike - the rest of the browser world has to work their asses off while Microsoft lets IE sit and rot.

I can't entirely agree with Mike that Safari is super-important to Apple as a company. But it is important to the Apple community and the web at large. It's a good product from what I've seen of it, but we have Mozilla on the Mac too, and a few others. I gotta say I am somewhat glad that MS dropped MacIE, even though it was superior to WinIE - it really opened the floodgates for browsers on the platform, and everyone's pretty much on equal footing. Those browsers are truly competing with one another, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that competition result in big benefits for the non-Apple crowd - Safari's KHTML code is GPL and will get back into KDE and Konqueror, Mozilla will of course see benefits of any changes on all platforms it runs on. I'd really like to see the Apple community pushing the advancement of the web now. And I think it's possible. The tools are in their hands, and the opportunity is here.

I'm still trying to figure out what this guy is thinking. What really makes IE better? The security holes? How important is designMode (which Mozilla may have a version of, I'm not sure), really?

By a stroke of luck, Eric Meyer, CSS guru, also weighed in on the subject this weekend. Not much I can add to what he wrote. He even got the Eolas thing in, which I still don't fully understand as I haven't been tracking it.

Odd IM conversations

My "I'm asleep" away message on IM is "Getting some much-needed sleep." Mike had this to say about it tonight:

MichaelCAkers: did you know that every night your away message shows up in ichat as "Getting some..."?
MichaelCAkers: lucky bastard
barzok: really?
MichaelCAkers: yup
MichaelCAkers: first time i saw it i was like "Go andy!"
barzok: actually it says "getting some much-needed sleep" but it's just cut off by iChat
MichaelCAkers: then it happend every night for 2 weeks and i knew something was wrong

I'm a little hurt. Something was wrong with that?

Calling all Far Side fans!

A dream come true. The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 is coming. Every Far Side ever, in one package.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Holy war

Mike and Oleg are trying to start a blog war. I'm siding with Mike. vi is the shiznit.

Find what you're looking for?

Seems a lot of my hits are coming from Google searches on lg vx3100 hacking or similar. Sorry to disappoint. How do I even appear in that search? I've never discussed the topic. But if you find anything good, drop me a line!

Mozilla themes

I switched to the Rain theme a few days ago in Mozilla 1.4. I like it a lot more than my previous theme, Pinball. It feels a lot more polished & finished, and the browser feels faster as well. It also blends with my Windows color scheme of Rainy Day.

...And IE shall ruin the web

Some may argue that it already has, and I can't entirely disagree with them. IE (on Windows) has stagnated since version 5.5. The many "web designers" don't even seem to recognize that there are browsers other than IE. Many will choose convoluted routes to accomplish tasks. Lots of server-side code where simple CSS could do the trick. Lots of JavaScript where, again, a little CSS and you're done. And so on.

The poor standards compliance of IE, coupled with its "we're stuck in 2000 and this is the only way to do things" mentality is holding back the entire World Wide Web.

There. I said it. The only thing that IE has made easier for me is event-handling, letting me use window.event.srcElement to grab a reference to the DOM element that fired an event. But I can do that with standards-compliant code too (and will, at some point). Everything else on my current project has been made much more difficult by IE. I find myself coding to DOM-standard methods, then going back to my books to find the IE-blessed way of doing things. Places where CSS could let me take care of layout in a few seconds I have to code terribly clunky HTML (valid, but still clunky). When I started this project, I advised the project manager that things could be done much easier and cleaner in a browser other than IE but the corporate standard is IE, and getting support for anything else is a battle no one wants to fight.

Fortunately, developers are starting to call Microsoft out on this issue. MS is of course trying to cover their butts but the message is clear: if IE were up to date on standards-compliance, the WWW would be far better off. MS brushes this off with "we give our customers what they ask for" but who really is the customer - the person using the browser, or the person who offers his product/service through the browser? Or is it both?

Things will only get worse, or at best stay the same. Microsoft has already promised that no major changes will be made to IE until the release of their next operating system, Longhorn, in 2005 (and if you believe that release date, I have a bridge to sell you). So we're stuck with a choice: keep pushing our code & designs towards W3C standards, giving the people using modern browsers like Mozilla, Opera and Safari all the eye-candy and leaving IE users with a functioning site but that's about it, or holding ourselves back to what IE can handle. There's a third option but it's even uglier - code everything to do a browser sniff and then send the appropriate content & layout that way. I had hoped that by this time we could have evolved past that.

A great example of what IE is keeping us from doing: generated content. I've actually been eyeing this for a while and see huge value in it. Especially on intranets and other sites that serve up a lot of non-web content like Word documents, PDFs, etc. Rather than coding scripts on the server to check the filetype pointed to by a link, or hardcoding an icon into your HTML, let the browser work it out. Save yourself time & memory on the server, save your users download time, and of course take advantage of one of the most appealing benefits of CSS: one change and you've updated your whole site. But IE users can't see this, as it's not compliant with the level of CSS required.

Microsoft should not be in the browser business at all. And I'm not even referring to all the legal battles about whether IE is part of the OS or not. Microsoft, as an organzation, cannot keep pace with change on the WWW. It's too large, too slow, and most importantly, doesn't care (nor needs to). Changes only come about when they're required - to fix the many security problems that plague the browser. And there are plenty that have gone unpatched (note: the page has been taken down in light of a new, apparently large, patch, but the Google cache of the page still lists them, and a regular Google search will turn up plenty of other references). The whole product needs to be scrapped & rewritten from the ground up. That will likely not happen though, for the reasons I just stated. If Microsoft truly cares about its customers, it will quit building browsers altogether and leave the choice to the user.

Another example of Microsoft holding us back: XForms. This is a fairly "theoretical" example but it will become real soon enough. My current project deals a lot with creating DOM nodes on the fly, on the client, especially form elements with data to be sent back to the server for processing. We're working in VBScript running in ASP 3.0 on the server. XForms, when it is a full recommendation, will result in any compliant form sending data to the server in an XML format, as opposed to the name/value pairs used by today's browsers. Why, you may ask, is this important? In my application, data is collected in "groups" and those relationships must be maintained. Perfect for a heirarchical format such as XML - in fact, my server-side code talks to the back-end system in XML. IE sends the form elements to the server in the order they appear in the DOM - top to bottom, left to right. Which would be fine, as I know the position of all these elements, if not for one thing: ASP appears to re-order them. As a result, my formhandler is a nasty kludge.

To be fair, no browser I'm aware of supports XForms. After all, it's not even an W3C Recommendation yet. And clearly it will require some degree of server support as well. But it is in Bugzilla as a requested enhancement for Mozilla. So it's likely to get implemented at some point, and someone will churn out an example of how to work with what's sent back to the server (if nothing else, the implementation the Mozilla team uses to test it will get released to the public). Will we ever see it in IE? Not till 2005. And that's only if we're lucky.

My life would be far easier if all I had to worry about was coding to the standards. That saves me time. When something saves me time, it saves my clients money. Using CSS to do what has to be done in server-side script costs me server resources, which requires I buy a larger server, and that cost gets passed on to my clients too.

Update: I'm told by Jason that "Longhorn has been pushed back to 2006 for sure and maybe 2007. MS is not quoting any release dates for it any more, just that it will not be released in '05"

Sunday, October 05, 2003

New books

Picked up The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master and Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change in the discount aisle at Barnes & Noble this weekend. Just trying to round myself out a little more. They look to be relatively quick reads.

Does 1.0 Matter Anymore?

Steven Garrity asks Does 1.0 Matter Anymore? I tend to agree. When your software is getting updated often, the version number doesn't mean quite as much, except to say "it's the latest." Might Microsoft have started something with their "year" versions, then ME and XP, and now Adobe with CS (Creative Suite)?

Getting closer to topics that Steven mentions, I'm running on Mozilla 1.4 and just reinstalled it for my sister as well. The pre-1.0 Mozillas didn't work out so well for me. I want to jump into Firebird and Thunderbird but I'm holding until 0.7 and 0.3 are released (respectively). I hear good things so far. Trillian (free version) seems to be eternally stuck on v0.74.

"Dribble-ware" definitely seems to be here, in "traditional" software and websites/apps alike.