January 2003

January 29, 2003

The Price of Free

Rob pointed me to the story about Opera getting out of the browser business on the Mac platform the other day. My gut reaction to this news was essentially “good-riddance”. Rob pointed out that Apple has taken a very aggressive stance recently with a number of companies which write software for the platform and that this may do more harm than good in the long term. This made me think about the recent insights made by Panic’s Steven Frank and Chimera’s Mike Pinkerton about the impact that Apple’s free, bundled software has had on Audion and Chimera respectively.

Operating system vendors have a fundamental advantage over competitors and the software industry is a tough environment to succeed. Particularly when the established companies can use half-baked copyright and intellectual property laws to sue startups out of existence. However, it’s really hard to feel sorry for Opera. One, their goal is to charge for a product people have been programmed to expect for free. (You can thank Microsoft for opening that can of worms.) Two, they’re trying to compete in a very saturated market. Three, their product sucks. Everytime I’ve checked out the latest release of Opera for the Mac it has disappointed me. From its sketchy standards support to its ghastly user interface.

Opera says it’s up to Apple. Essentially, “you license our browser our we’re not going to make it any more.” I predict Apple’s response will be something to the effect of “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” And as far as the platform is concerned I think its better off without Opera. Now, Chimera on the other hand is a fantastic browser. Pinkerton’s rumblings about quitting its development were met with strong support from the Mac community to extend the browser’s life. And it looks like he will. Which is great for innovation and competition. And it will help show that Mozilla and the Gecko engine still have an edge when it comes to standards support.

As for Apple driving out other competition, sure, it may hurt them in the long run. But Apple’s software is great. And not because it’s cheap or, in some cases, free. It’s because Apple understands the platform and, to an extent, good UI.

January 28, 2003

Sniffle

I am officially nice and sick. Sore throat, sneezy, and constantly exhausted. Gonna try to swing a sick day tomorrow which really won’t amount to much more than working from home. And constant snacking, that is a given.

January 28, 2003

More For Less

There are some great price reductions and upgraded products at Apple this morning.

[Later: Faster processors, two megs of level three cache, all the wireless crap, and the price drops and new screen lineups are all so great. I can’t believe how cheap those giant screens are getting. So much closer to winding up on my desk someday.]

January 27, 2003

Sherlock Update

The iWalt.com Sherlock Channel

We’ve made some nice improvements to our Sherlock channel recently. The new version is capable of searching both the forums and the weblog. Either separately, or in a combined result list. If you’ve already installed the channel in your copy of Sherlock 3 for Mac OS X 10.2, you’ll notice a new icon for “iWalt.com” rather than “iWalt.com Forums”. You can just get rid of the old one.

If you haven’t installed it before, give it a whirl. It’s a blast. =-)

And for those of you who inexplicably don’t use Mac OS X 10.2 and want to search on the web, it’s on the way.

January 26, 2003

Dave Barry

Dave Barry has a weblog. This is excellent. Now he needs an RSS feed. He needs to get off Blogspot and into a real blogging environment. It’s great to see the tools develop to the point where more and more people are diving into the medium though. The more, the merrier.

David Hyatt, meanwhile, has a bunch of ideas on merging browsers with news aggregators. I don’t think the two should become one app, but it would be great to see more cross-over between the environments. I’d love to be able to subscribe to feeds by clicking a link from the blog’s home page for example. And I’d be thrilled if Safari would open new pages from NetNewsWire in new tabs, in the background, a la Chimera.

January 26, 2003

Believe It

I’m done watching the Superbowl now. I just saw the Matrix commerical. So, so, so great. Walt’s two favorite movies of the year. I guarantee it. Now I have to spend the rest of the year avoiding every glimpse of Matrix spoilers.

[Update: The SNL Weekend Update halftime show was pretty great as well.]

[Later: Well I wound up watching most of the whole game. We made BLTs, enjoyed the commercials, shook our heads at the bad calls, and even threw an impromptu Superbowl party with the folks.]

January 24, 2003

All That Jazz

Nani said to go and see Chicago. And we did. Just got back. Liked it. Catherine, Renee, and Richard all put in surprisingly energetic performances. Catherine especially. Queen Latifah and John Reilly were good too. Now I’m tired. Going to bed soon. Zzz…

[Later: There were some great trailers before the movie as well. Big laughs from the audience for Steve Martin’s new movie, Bringing Down the House. And despite the fairly “bleh” attitude I’d been developing (based on nothing really) for Seabiscuit, I was really excited about it by the end of the trailer. The Shawshank/Rudy soundtrack mix is box office gold.]

January 24, 2003

Imageblogger

Imageblogger

I do all my blogging from the NetNewsWire Pro beta these days. When I switched over to NNW Pro and the MetaWeblog API, I made a bunch of improvements to the weblog from front to back. However, there’s one piece of my system that the new structure didn’t cover, the snazzy little image widgets I so often attach to the entries. The Blogizer used to handle this but I wasn’t using its other features anymore and I needed a fresh start.

Enter the Imageblogger. This app is pretty cool. On launch it gets your login information for your weblog CMS and your FTP server, then you select the blog entry you want to attach your image to, choose your image either by drag-and-drop or through an open panel, enter the alt tag text, toggle whether or not the image needs a border, click send, and you’re done. No muss, no fuss.

January 22, 2003

Fishburne 1, Jackson 0

Oh no. Further proof that there is no god. (I’ll give them $9.50 not to make it. Who’s with me?)

Oh yeah. Further proof that there is no spoon. (Less than four months to go.)

January 21, 2003

Monster Makeover

Trump the Monster

The fine folks over at Monster have gone and slapped a new face on the popular job site’s home page. Quite a few faces actually. Apparently it’s a whole campaign called Monster Works which emphasizes the positive experience everyone has while using Monster’s services. It’s all very Switcher-esque. Which is fine. Schwab is doing it too. The campaigns are different enough to not seem like a rip-off. Unlike Microsoft’s phony switch nonsense.

There’s lots of nice-ish stuff about the new Monster home page. The ads are moved to the bottom of the page. The employer and seeker buttons are still big and obvious. (Though maybe becoming a little too big and obvious?) And there’s sort of a general, less-cluttered, feeling. All of which is fine.

For the life of me though, I don’t understand why there’s still no form on the home page to search for jobs. Instead I have to click in to get to that form. And then I don’t even get the form. I get a sales pitch. Granted, the sales pitch is for a free service, but now I have to opt-out of this pitch and click another button. Now I get the form. But that was three clicks. Three clicks plus the annoyance of having to opt-out.

You might think that three clicks and an opt-out isn’t that much to ask for, but jumping through these sorts of hoops is what turn people off your web tools, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

(This completely constructive criticism was brought to you by a loyal and hard-working employee of Monster’s parent company who has absolutely nothing to do with Monster but longs for all web software to be a little more usable. No, a lot more usable.)

[P.S. The answer, by the way, is no. I don’t sleep.]

January 18, 2003

DVD Overhaul, Part Four

We’ve had a huge influx of movies in the DVD section recently. A lot of duplicate discs were showing up, the sloppy functionality of the tool had no leeway for editing the discs an owner had added, and so forth. In short, it was becoming a bit messy in there.

So I spent a while removing duplicates, touching up entries, and overhauling the codebase. Now, it’s possible to view a complete list of all the DVDs in the system, see which ones have been related to their Amazon pages, and (if you own it) jump directly to the edit page.

I’ve got lots of ideas for this section but I’ll never have enough time to do them all. If anyone’s got any suggestions for new or improved features please let me know. Thanks.

January 17, 2003

How To: Make A Bookmark Icon

By quasi-popular demand, we humbly present our half-assed attempt at a guide for how to build one of those slick little icons you see in people’s bookmarks.

January 17, 2003

A Mouse Imprisioned

Reason: Mickey himself speaks out on the Eldred decision. [Via Lessig.]

January 16, 2003

Ico Ico Aye? Nay.

I tried to get into the whole URI icon buzz which seems to have flurried through the Mac community recently. Several weblogs have mentioned that people are finally waking up to Favicons since Safari supports them. When Mozilla started supporting icons in the URI field I finally added one to this site. At the time, I got the impression that Mozilla supported PNG graphics while Microsoft required ICO files. Chimera, inexplicably, doesn’t seem to support PNG icons so this time around I wanted to cover all my bases and include both ICO and PNG icons. Here’s my conclusion: ICO can bite my shiny metal ass.

Using the ICO format seems incredibly complicated, please correct me if I’m wrong: the alpha channel is only 1 bit, you have to place the ICO file in root of your web directory, it must be named favicon.ico, the only Mac browser which only supports ICO is Chimera (why?!) and I can’t even get it to recognize mine, and it’s a royal pain in the ass to even build an ICO file on a Mac.

So I’m sticking with my PNG icon which is beautifully smoothed, is where I want it to be in my file structure, is named what I want it to be named, works in Safari and Mozilla, and is a cinch to produce. Chimera and every other browser which is lagging with mere ICO support just needs to get with the program. Any thoughts?

January 15, 2003

Peace Is Also Patriotic

Times Online: “Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: ‘Peace is also Patriotic’. It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.”

Currently the top link on Blogdex and Daypop. Doc Searls links to more.

[Also: CNET: “You should become familiar with RFID technology because you’ll be hearing much more about it soon. … Imagine: The Gap links your sweater’s RFID tag with the credit card you used to buy it and recognizes you by name when you return. … The privacy threat comes when RFID tags remain active once you leave a store.”]

[Finally: Eldred loses and Mariucci is sacked.]

January 14, 2003

Quick Fixes

Tweaking our CSS code has made the footer visible in Safari but there are still flaws. It’s hard to say whether this is a rendering bug or whether I’m trying to do too much with the CSS. There’s something missing from CSS, something to do with nested DIVs and facilitating column layouts. I don’t know what the solution is but they way it works now makes me want to tear my remaining hair out.

I’ve also got the weblog pinging Weblogs.com again which is something I used to do all the time but haven’t had hooked up for a while.

January 12, 2003

All That’s Fit To Blog

My friend Rob Christensen (that’s a plug for his PageRank) is getting his teeth sunk deeper into this blogging thing. Recent entries include his adoption of an RSS news reader/blog publishing tool, linking to an XPath parser for Flash, and a cool smattering of recent astronomy news. Moreover, his RSS feed now features complete entries and he’s hosting a blog for Mori Dinauer (another shameless plug) which is also worth a read.

Also worth more unabashed plugs are Jessyca Wallace and Brian Poulsen’s blogs. Jessyca’s new design and multitopic format are refreshingly distinctive while Brian’s recent CSS refinements have produced a sharp new structure.

All very nice. Keep it coming!

[Also: Sam Oh points out that his redesigned blog is now built with valid XHTML 1. He’s also got his RSS feed up and running. And, of course, Scott Yager is blogging again too. Yes, everyone is blogging these days.]

January 12, 2003

Even Typing Hurts

I spent today trying to do non-computer related activities. Tabitha hit the road this morning for a three-day conference and left to my own devices the norm is to plant myself in front of the computer and very happily wile away the hours reading, tinkering, learning, and blathering. Today we had none of that. Instead, football was watched, mold was 409ed, dishes were cleaned, trash was hauled out, pictures were hung, videos were returned, stubble was shaved, and the guitar was strummed.

I got a guitar for Christmas if I’ve been to embarrassed to share that with you already. Why should I be embarrassed to own a guitar? I guess I’m the last person I can imagine who would take an interest in owning or learning to play a guitar. But I have and thanks to Santa I now do. So there. I suspect, from my progress thus far, that it will take me approximately the rest of my life to become even remotely proficient with the instrument but what the hell. It’s fun.

Of course, tonight’s self-induced lesson has left me with achy fingertips. Goes with the territory I suppose. The lesson was made possible by OLGA. I learned how to read “tab” formatted music and even managed to struggle through a whole tune. It was a trainwreck but I’ll get it eventually. Just a matter of repetition and focus right? I’d definitely be interested in knowing if anyone has recommendations for other good websites with training materials. Thanks, and wish me luck. =-)

January 11, 2003

All Things Merge Into One

Dennis Mahoney brilliantly spoofs Jason Kottke’s very bad idea. Hilarity ensues.

[Also: The rekindled Fireland burns brighter than ever.]

[Last thing: Has anyone tried to get the Safari Full Screen AppleScript (download) to work successfully? It’s all flawed on my end. Please let me know if you’ve gotten it to work or if it conks out on you as well. Thanks.]

January 11, 2003

iWaltLinks2Safari 1.0

Just briefly, before I pass out, I present an AppleScript which copies the links from the Links section to your copy of Safari. What you need: Mac OS X 10.2.3, Safari (download), GUI Scripting Beta (download), iWaltLinks2Safari (download). You also need to have the Script Menu installed and to place the iWaltLinks2Safari script in your ~/Library/Scripts/ directory. I’ve tested this pretty extensively and it works reliably for me but the standard disclaimers apply. Use at your own risk, backup your bookmarks file if you want to be safe, no responsibility, etc. Enjoy!

January 11, 2003

Bad Vibes In Safari

iWalt.com reader Daniel Muniz points out that the problem I had with my /tmp directory the other day was most likely the result of a nasty bug in the original version of Safari. MacFixIt currently has some details posted regarding this and other bugs. (Read it quick before the report is moved into the premium content archives.) Essentially, the original Safari can damage the symbolic link between the /tmp and /private/tmp directories which can interfere with the normal operation of programs which use them. If your directories are damaged simply run the command “sudo ln -s /private/tmp /tmp” (without the quotes) in the Terminal. This worked for me the other day and was confirmed to be the best solution by MacFixit.

Safari has been updated, presumably to fix these very bugs, so download the update right away if you’re currently running the original Safari. It’s a shame that such damaging bugs would be released (and so widely) but it is beta software after all. Run at your own risk I guess.

January 9, 2003

Bug Smooshing

Thanks go to Nick for spotting and reporting two pesky bugs. The first was a flaw in the way iWalt.com reads our new and improved cookie format. That’s fixed. The second was a very subtle bug with the way the Forums mark messages as being read. That should now fixed as well. In addition, all messages prior to the first of this year are now marked read by default.

Remember, if you come across anything around here which isn’t working as it should please let me know. Thanks.

January 9, 2003

On Safari

Safari

John Gruber has the best write-up I’ve seen so far of the ins, outs, and wherefores of Apple’s new web browser.

David Hyatt, meanwhile, is doing an amazing job of explaining various decisions made in the development of Safari, defending those choices against critics, disclaiming allegations of bad behavior on the part of Apple engineers, and alerting people to fixes, hacks and other noteworthy technical hoo-ha pertaining to Safari’s development.

Also, Mark Pilgrim’s instantaneous review of Safari (which was posted within 10 minutes of the software becoming available) continues to be refined and extended. His Safari report is a wealth of information on CSS bugs many of which have reportedly already been repaired in the next version of Safari.

January 8, 2003

MySQL Snafu

Somehow my local copy of MySQL has become fubared. Has anyone else experienced this? I’m consistently getting an error which reads, “Can’t connect to local MySQL server through socket ‘/tmp/mysql.sock’ (2)”. I’m using Marc Liyanage’s MySQL installation which until this evening was working fine so far as I was aware. Thanks in advance for any light which might be shed.

[Update: I’m starting to think that the /tmp/mysql.sock communication socket was somehow deleted since there’s no file by that name. I’ve tried reinstalling the MySQL package. No dice. Grr.]

[Progress: I think I’m starting to get my mind around what went wrong. Somehow the pointer for /tmp -> /private/tmp was replaced by a /tmp directory. I have no idea what did that but I’d sure like to find out. I’m going to try to figure out how to remove the new directory and restablish the pointer.]

[Fixed: So replacing the directory with a symbolic link (essentially, restoring it to the way it should be) seems to have repaired the problem and enabled MySQL (and probably other apps which use /tmp) to run properly again. What a pain.]

January 7, 2003

MWSF 2003

Macworld Expo SF 2003

What a great Macworld. New PowerBooks (super sized and mini), entry into the browser market with Safari, competition with PowerPoint via Keynote, upgrades to iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD, AirPort with 802.11g, a consumer version of Final Cut, a new X Window System implementation, and so on…

The MPEG-4 stream of the keynote address came through clearer and stronger than ever. It only cut out once or twice and both times toggling the Play/Pause status resolved the problem. I just ran over to Moscone for about 30 minutes, just long enough to weasel my way up to one of the new PowerBooks and try to stuff it down my pants and sneak out before anyone noticed. (I failed.)

I’m so happy that Apple got into the browser market. Safari has a lot of rendering problems and really needs perks like tabbed browsing and more sophisticated cookie control. It’s super fast though, and with its built-in bug reporting feature, it at least seems as though Apple recognizes the daunting task of building a truly standards-compliant browser.

[Later: Ugh. I just made the Safari connection. “They’re anglin’ in Laguna in Cerro Azul / They’re kicking out in Dohini too / I tell you surfing’s mighty wild / It’s getting bigger every day / From Hawaii to the shores of Peru.” Great name.]

January 5, 2003

Niners

Second biggest playoff comeback… ever. Nice. (And now the defense is blowing it.) Nevermind, we win! Man, that was the most exciting last couple of quarters. Shame about all the pushing and shoving after the plays though. Not sure the Niners defense deserved to win as much as the offense did but what do I know. Very exciting conclusion anyway.

Tabitha and I spent our morning trekking through the mud, across farmers’ front-yards, back-yards, and cow pens as we followed a very questionably public trail through the more remote bits of the east bay. Our shoes were muddied, the cows eyed us skeptically, my leg muscle pain acted up again, but we had a good time.

January 3, 2003

Return of the Comics

Hey, you’ll never believe this, but I put up a new comic on the 1st. And there may be more. =-)

January 3, 2003

Prognostications

The rumor mill for this season’s MacWorld Expo announcements is getting into full spin. I love it. Especially the bit about Apple’s application for a patent on enclosures which emit programmable patterns of light. Weird. I can just see the iPods now, rendering the same visualizations as iTunes but through their skin. Wacky. Reminds me of the luminescent nanosites from The Diamond Age.

New versions of iCal and iSync came out this morning. At first, the new iCal was crashing consistently about a minute after launch but now it seems to have calmed down. It’s curious that new iApps would be released prior to the MacWorld Expo keynote.

What else? We’re settling back in here. Taking out the trash, washing the dishes, planning to vacuum soon. Exciting stuff. Oh, check this out, when was the last time your landlady paid you back the interest on your security desposit? Never? Me neither, until now.

Finally, Rachelle asked how to convert AVI video files from Canon digital cameras to other formats. It is possible, and very easy, to do this with QuickTime Player Pro. Just pop open the AVI and choose Export from the File menu. I took a 10 second shot of my desk (AVI, 1.8 MB), removed the sound, exported to QuickTime format (MOV, 2.4 MB) and MPEG-4 (MP4, 1.0 MB) with the default settings. The MPEG-4 is excellent quality at about half the size of the AVI. Pretty nice.

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