Archive for August, 2002


Jaguar + broadband + wireless = busy weekend

It’s going to be a busy weekend. First, the Jaguar release party at the Apple store. I wasn’t going to go, but when I stopped by the store to pick up an AirPort base station, I decided that it looked cool and fun enough, and besides there’ll be free stuff. I’m kinda hoping that Jaguar will be discounted for those of us there, to help alleviate my frustration at being charged full price for what seems to me should be an upgrade price.

And face it. Were I not there, I’d just be at home watching Farscape.

Then I’m scheduled to get cable modem Saturday morning. Woo-hoo! I had really hoped to get DSL instead, but it’s not currently available in our area. So cable modem it is. With a new broadband connection, I’m finally motivated to set up a home network. Being the forward-looking guy that I try to be, I decided to go wireless. For those older machines that don’t support the wireless connectivity, the new AirPort base station has an ethernet port I can use. I’m not really interested in stringing ethernet cable all over the house, but so be it. Hopefully I can minimize that.

And the recently released Perl Exegesis 5, explaining what’ll be happening to regular expressions in Perl 6, will keep me occupied for the rest of the weekend. That is, if I don’t dig into the Visual Studio .net materials that a coworker handed me today. Not sure why he did that, really, I think he’s trying to convert me.

And I suppose that I should finish stripping wallpaper in the soon-to-be nursery. Sigh.


OpenOffice 1.0 on OS X

Hey, there’s an OpenOffice 1.0.1 build for Mac OS X available for download. As a developer build, it is “meant for the adventurous,” but what great news!

It will be interesting to see whether StarOffice is released for OS X, especially if there’s a Quartz implementation as that article suggests.


Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is being released in a month or so. Can’t wait. I love Miyazaki’s work.


Let Users Control Font Size

I’m tired of talking about font size control on the web. I really am. I don’t bother to write about it here, mostly because I need a break from the monotony of rattling off spiel after spiel about font size. Follow me around for a few days and you’ll want to throw yourself off a cliff rather than hear yet another polite-but-insistent rant. Still, I had to point out: Jakob Nielsen is actually saying something that I don’t think is going overboard: Let Users Control Font Size.

You already knew this, of course: it should be easy for users to change the size of the font being displayed. It’s not. Many, many users don’t know how, or even that they can. And of course, those rare few using IE on Windows are screwed if the font size is specified in units like pixels or points. Nielson is calling on Microsoft to allow user preferences to override any font sizes specified in a document.

I went to Nielsen’s site looking for hard data on users and font sizes, to try to convince the Powers That Be at ISEEK that their font sizes are too small. They believe buh-LEAVE! in Nielsen, you see (or perhaps you don’t, depending on how closely you analyze the design). What do I find on the home page but this article. Yay. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really make the argument I want to: the damn font size is too small.

The fact that users can change the displayed font size is beside the point: either they don’t know how, or they can’t. I’ve been using public internet access lately, in libraries, coffee shops, and so on. Quite often, font control is disabled. I don’t know why, but there it is. Something tells me that if buttons were added to the toolbar, and the user could override the size of any font, we’d be better off.

With any luck at all, this will be the last you see me mention this.


Netscape Google

I recently wrote a little web app for online evaluation of college presidents. Went pretty well, we’ve received some decent feedback, but one person consistently could not access the evaluation. I figured maybe it was an old browser that didn’t support 128-bit SSL or something, so asked for the browser name and version. The answer came back: Netscape Google.


Ah … okay. Hm. Netscape Google.

This one had me stumped. Eventually the user just went to someone else’s desk and the evaluation worked fine, but I remained puzzled. Netscape Google. wtf?

A coworker may have answered that question. She reminded me of a problem I had a year or two ago: instead of entering a URL into their browser’s location bar, people would go to a search engine or directory like Google or Yahoo!, enter the URL in the search box, and go to the first site that turned up in the results.

Try it. It works surprisingly well. And many people use the web that way. Really. I see it over and over again.

What we suspect was happening with our “Netscape Google” user was that their browser (who knows whether it was really Netscape) was configured to open to Google when launched. They entered the URL for the evaluation in the search box, but since the only place that URL was ever published was in the letter the evaluators received, Google returned no hits.

We haven’t confirmed this with the user, but it does make sense.

The fact that our logs are riddled with URLs in search queries tells me that this is a fairly pervasive problem, but I still don’t know what to do about it. If nothing else, it reminds me that most people out there think about the Internet in terms very different from those to which I am accustomed. People for whom the Internet is an application that can be installed on their computer (AOL, anyone?). Who think that Google is their browser, or at least a part of it (isn’t it?). If you don’t understand that your browser is not the Web itself, why would you bother to upgrade?

I’m not sure how to climb inside this user’s head. It’s a very alien experience. But I have to do it. Because for every bit of code I write, every navigation scheme that I dream up, Netscape Google is at the other end, actually trying to use it.


Damn CyberPatrol

On my way to work this morning, I stopped at a local coffee shop for a quick cup and took advantage of the internet connection they offer to do some of my morning surfing. But wait!, home of a comic strip I read daily, is blocked by CyberPatrol. Huh? This is a strip that runs daily in hundreds of newspapers, I don’t think it’s a danger to children. Perhaps they’re put off by the word “strip.”

And what’s this? Velcrometer, a weblog that I’ve really come to enjoy reading, is also blocked. Perhaps he used the phrase “screwed by U-Haul” one too many times.

Oops, maybe now I’ll be blocked. Stupid friggin’ useless filtering software.


Rip, Mix, Burn

Rip, Mix, Burn: The Politics of Peer to Peer and Copyright Law.

“Whereas Lessig’s recent work engages with questions of culture and creativity in society, this paper looks at the role of culture and creativity in the law. The paper evaluates the Napster, DeCSS, Felten and Sklyarov litigation in terms of the new social, legal, economic and cultural relations being produced. This involves a deep discussion of law’s economic relations, and the implications of this for litigation strategy. The paper concludes with a critique of recent attempts to define copyright law in terms of first amendment rights and communicative freedom.”


YDL pre-installed on Macs

Yum. Yellow Dog Linux sells Macs with YDL pre-installed, dual boot with OS X.

And I’d like to point out that their URL already had the ampersand encoded as &. Way to go, YDL!


Flash vulnerability

Macromedia Flash player has a security hole that allows remote execution of arbitrary code. Solution: update now.


e-folio released

A year or so ago I mentioned an electronic portfolio project, which has now been released publicly: e-folio MN.

This is really cool. Residents of Minnesota and those enrolled in Minnesota schools can create a web-based portfolio, with all sorts of customizable templates and options, for free. Content areas have been set up for students, teachers, and job seekers, but you’re free to create your own.

As Minnesota schools move to portfolio-based assessment, this is perfect: students can set up portfolios of their work and make them available to teachers, family, colleges… If you’re a college student, use this throughout your college career to show to potential employers or grad schools. Teachers and professors can build portfolios of their work, often necessary for licensure or tenure. Looking for a job? Sell yourself with a customized portfolio. Preparing for a performance review? Document your work here.

Now, as a web developer I have some issues with how some things were done here. I still think there are accessibility improvements to be made. The markup doesn’t validate. It heavily favors IE/Windows. It runs only on Windows servers.

I don’t want this to detract from how very cool this tool is, though. Check it out.

Oh, I should remind you that the terms of service limit this to Minnesota residents and students.

One humorous note. In one of the sample sites, the Career Objectives page used text that I used in a test site I built during the design process. (“I don’t want to produce anything, process anything, produce anything that’s been processed, process anything that’s been produced. Now that I reflect a bit more, I’m thinking that I’d like to get into kickboxing.”) They were obviously amused. Suppose I should tell them that I lifted that line from the movie Say Anything.

Update: I told them. They pulled that line.

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