Archive for June, 2002


Cartoonists’ weblogs

An article in the New York Times about cartoonists’ weblogs (mentioning my favorite comic strip, The Norm). It’s interesting to see more and more articles mention weblogs without defining what the word means. (Never mind the ongoing and often pointless debate about how to define weblogs.) Not quite as interesting, though, as seeing how these artists use their comics’ weblogs. And comments like this:

“People somehow do not seem to comprehend that some marginal level of competency as a writer is necessary to the creation of my cartoon. When they see my words without graphics, they are frequently surprised that I am able to form a coherent sentence.”



The past couple days there’s been a thread on the TCPHP mailing list about text editors. Thankfully the discussion steered clear of zealotry. Started out as a discussion of Komodo, which is quite nice but slow and bloated-feeling. I was first excited about Komodo because it was one of the first Mozilla-based products I’d seen. I even bought a license when they started charging.

I have come to realize that, as Matt Sergeant writes, “I change my text editor like I change my pants.” Religious wars about text editors are even more pointless than religious wars about operating systems. I use whatever seems the most appropriate tool at the time.


Another scene from my life with Kiara

S: This car really needs a pterodactyl proximity alert system.

K: What? How about this? (opens moon roof)

S: No, with this visor down to block the sun, I can see the cars in front of us just fine, but…

K: But if a pterodactyl were to come at us from head on…

S: Yeah.

K: …you couldn’t see it until it was too late.

S: Yeah! Exactly!

K: (laughs) You and I live in different worlds.

S: What, you don’t think a pterodactyl is likely to attack?

K: No, it’s just that the visor doesn’t block my field of vision.


S: (finally dawns on him that he’s a foot taller than K and so sees the world very differently). Oh.



mod_survey, an Apache module that creates web-based surveys/questionnaires that are built using an XML notation. Cool. It wouldn’t be that hard to write something that created the XML source files, thus making the whole thing web-based.


PHP on Windows Apache 2.0

PHPGeek: Setting up Apache 2 with PHP on Windows. Also worth a look-see at the documentation on the Apache site.

And dangit, once again I missed the Twin Cities PHP Users Group meeting. That’s — what? — 6 or 8 times in a row now? I start the day with every intention of attending, then completely forget by day’s end. Aargh! OK Sam, repeat after me… July 10, July 10, July 10…


System 6, anyone?

Bremsstrahlung Records‘s web site mimics the Mac OS System 6 interface. Why, I’m still not entirely sure I understand.


Mozilla 1.1 alpha blues

For the most part, I’m glad to see the changes in Mozilla 1.1. I’m glad to see the site navigation bar back, I’m lovin’ the HTML-email-as-plain-text feature (although I wish it were global), but I’m annoyed to see the context menu reorganized again so “Open Link In New Window” is back on top. It’s not so much that I need to relearn a habit, it’s that I sincerely doubt that once people are exposed to tabs they open up windows as often. That should not be on top.


Mozilla 1.1a

I was poking around on Mozilla’s FTP site and came across Mozilla 1.1 Alpha. New things listed in the release notes include viewing HTML email as plain text, “new layout performance enhancements targeted at DHTML,” fast-loading XUL, and image blocking for mail and news.

Viewing HTML mail as plain text will be nice. OK, it’ll be great. And it looks like the site navigation bar is back.


Mozilla DOM Inspector Tutorial

Okay, if grayrest’s Guide to the DOM Inspector doesn’t convince you that Mozilla is one kick-ass tool for web development, I don’t know what will. I’ve already been using the DOM inspector to, well, inspect the DOM, but it does so much more. Change stuff. Tweak CSS. Delete nodes. Grab screen shots of sections of selected elements.



Apache 2 on Win32

I had the opportunity earlier this week to install and tinker with Apache on Windows. Specifically, Apache 2.0.36 on Windows 2000 Professional. A few observations:

  • It was very easy to install, probably because I downloaded a binary version. With version 2.0, they distribute Win32 binaries only as MSI installers, which is fine by me. On Unix I’ll compile from source; on Windows I’ll install a binary. Within maybe 2 minutes, I had Apache up and running.
  • Configuration is very familiar and was a breeze. There are a few changes with the new thread-based model, but that’s pretty straightforward and allows for a lot of control over how the server runs and scales. For most of what you need to do, I noticed very little new or different in the configuration. When you start to fine-tune and optimize your configuration, then there are some changes to be aware of. Many are documented in the article to which I just linked.
  • Apache receives criticism for its lack of GUI configuration tools, but I think that’s undeserved. First, it’s not true. Second, I really think that a system administrator should be able to read text files. Third, the configuration is not nearly as opaque as it might seem at first. Seriously, except for some extreme cases in which you can really frell things up if you’re not paying attention, the text-based configuration files are easy to understand and use.
  • I also needed to get PHP running. I believe that PHP is still experimental on Apache 2, could be wrong. Either way, I didn’t need to run PHP as an Apache module — it was just on a laptop used for a quick demo — so I set it up as CGI. Again, terrifically easy, largely because I chose the installer route instead of manually configuring everything. Interestingly, the installer would have configured IIS for me, but I needed to set up Apache for PHP by hand. This involved copying three lines into the config file. Whoop-dee-doo. Again, a couple minutes and I had it running.
  • While installing PHP, I learned that PHP would run as an ISAPI module on IIS. Cool. Now that Apache runs like a dream on Win32, though, I have to wonder again why people use IIS, especially if all they need is a web server. Start getting into some of the other services that it offers, like SMTP and FTP, and I begin to understand. Forgive me, though, I am of the mindset that it makes most sense to choose tools that are designed to do one thing and do it well, and string those tools together to build more complex services. Maybe it’s a Unix thing.
  • Even a Thinkpad can be a wicked cool little machine. In fact, even before one of our web servers at work suffered a massive hardware hemorrhage on Friday, I was thinking that in all likelihood the laptop was a better machine than some of our servers. Heh. (Luckily I had made a copy of one of our sites in its entirety on this laptop, which was in fact the motivation for installing Apache in the first place. We had offsite tape backups to work from to restore the site, but it was a helluva lot easier to take them off the laptop.) Anyway, the laptop was much fun to play with. I am so close to buying an iBook.

All in all, even though mine was hardly a scientific or even useful test, I’m happy with Apache 2 and impressed with Apache on Windows. Enough to convince me to stress-test it soon. Why, I don’t know, since I am at heart a Unix geek and have no reason to use Apache on Windows. If you have to run Windows, take a serious look at it. For the rest of us lucky ones, I’m waiting almost patiently for mod_perl to be production-quality on Apache 2. Then we’re a go.

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