Archive for October, 2002


OpenOffice beta for Mac available

An X11 public beta of OpenOffice 1.0 for Mac OS X is available for download. Yes!

I have not yet installed this, I’ll have to wait ’til I get home tonight. However, based on some things that I’ve read elsewhere that lead me to believe that people are confused about this, let me say something right now: yes, you need to install XWindows first. This is included with the OpenOffice download, and if the developer build was any indication, it’ll walk you through that. Don’t worry. It’s not hard.

What I don’t know, because I haven’t tried this yet, is whether you’ll need to download the new Jaguar XWindows installer first. That made a huge difference in the developer build.

If an X11 version isn’t your cup of tea, keep your eye on NeoOffice, an OpenOffice port that will run natively on OS X.


This is why I wanted that degree in semiotics, ma!

Jesse Walker alerts us to DARPA‘s new Information Awareness Office — if the name isn’t enough to stir the conspiracy theorist in you, and if their leader John Poindexter doesn’t ring any bells, you gotta at least check out the logo.

Semiotically speaking, this is the most inept administration in years. Either that, or its art department is trying to tell us something.


Back when I worked as a coffee roaster, I was driving around one day with my boss Jeremy and we decided to stop by a recently-opened Dunn Bros Coffee for a cup. Company founder Ed Dunn happened to be there roasting; we chatted with Ed for a half-hour or so before leaving.

“Hmmm,” Jeremy mused as we drove away, “did you notice how he never once mentioned the Illuminati? Don’t you think that odd?”

Upon reflection, maybe I should never have loaned him Foucault’s Pendulum.


Lessig on Eldred

Free the mouse Lawrence Lessig blogs his thoughts on how his arguments before the Supreme Court went.

I mentioned this case to Kiara, but NPR had been doing its job and she already knew about it. Great! She was quite interested, as was I, in the story of the bookmobile. I hadn’t heard of it until Aaron Swartz mentioned it.

And on a related note, in the latest issue of New Architect magazine, Lincoln Stein writes about the Hollings Act, and Bret Fausett writes about how technology is undermining the concept of fair use in copyright by enforcing copyright protection far beyond what the law intends. This is something that Lessig discusses in great detail in The Future of Ideas.


Wired goes all standards-y.

Wired News has unleashed a standards-compliant, XHTML+CSS design. If you’re wondering how, Eric Meyer interviews Douglas Bowman, the “brains and primary driving force” behind the design.

Thanks, Wired, and congratulations.


Writing for the Web

This has been cluttering up my bookmarks for too long, I have to make note of it here or I’ll forget to get back to it: Writing for the Web, Jakob Nielsen on A pretty useful guide that covers, among other things, how writing on the web is different from writing for print.

This is something that I’m going to be spending a lot of time talking about at work over the next year or so, as my team begins more actively working with people to figure out how the web does or does not fit into their business processes. As people make the transition toward the web being the sole delivery mechanism for some documents, it’s taking some effort on my part to explain how the publication standards to which they have become accustomed over the past several decades don’t necessarily apply on the web, or at least need some modification.

Sometimes it’s little things like headers: people often want them centered, because that’s usually what works well in print — or at least that’s what they’re used to. On a web page, though, it often makes more sense to have headlines left-aligned: it’s easier for people to identify headlines that way. Not always, no, it depends on other elements of the page layout and design, but left-aligned headlines are a convention to which many are accustomed, so are a Good Thing.

The really hard part is helping people shed their desire for absolute control over presentation. They want everything to be PDF because they want to control exactly how everything looks. Resisting the urge to scream, “GET OVER IT!”, I instead explain that no, PDFs are good for some things, and we can certainly make PDFs available, but we have to have HTML versions because they allow for much greater flexibility, they’re much more broadly accessible, and are the very foundation of the web. The ability to display HTML documents in many different devices and presentation formats is a feature, not a bug. I honestly think that I have an easier time discussing this with professional designers with a print background than I do the amateur desktop publishers.

What I think I need to do, then, is focus attention on non-presentational aspects of creating web content: how the writing is different, how to write more effectively for the web. Hence my interest in Nielsen’s work and this article in particular.

A couple major hurdles I expect to face:

  • Structuring documents. I don’t know why this is so hard, you’d think that people would be comfortable with the idea of an outline and be able to translate that to the web. But no. They’re not. This makes using markup for structure almost impossible.
  • Omitting needless words. This is difficult for people in academia and government. I work in both worlds. Great.
  • Convincing people that I, a techie, can credibly offer advice on how to write effectively.
  • People not being fooled by this transparent distraction from what they care about: superficial presentation.


Banned in China!

Looks like I’m banned in China, as is my employer. Interesting project: Documentation of Internet Filtering Worldwide.

This is a big part of what bothers me about filtering software. If it can be used to protect children from sites they shouldn’t see, a laudable and necessary goal, what’s to prevent a government from “protecting” citizens from sites that it doesn’t want them to see?

Well, that and filtering doesn’t work: it blocks sites it shouldn’t and fails to block sites that it probably should, thus doing harm to educational opportunity.



MacASP 1.0 is now available. For €299.

Why? I mean, what on earth does this do for us? I suppose it might be helpful to those still running OS 8 or 9, but for far less than €299 you could upgrade to OS X and run Apaceh and PHP. If you have old hardware that can’t support OS X, you can run Linux.

OK, so maybe running a Linux server makes no sense for the “home users and low profit organizations” that are apparently the target market. Too, I suppose MacASP could be useful for those ASP junkies who for some reason are forced to run on old Mac hardware and want the comfort of a familiar environment. Even that doesn’t make much sense, since “MacASP language is NOT compatible with Microsoft ASP”.

I don’t know. I imagine that there’s a small market penetration to be made. I am wholly unfamiliar with the pre-OS X Mac web server market. But heck, even small non-profits running Macs could do better than this.


Slow adoption of Apache 2.0

On ZDNet, “Has Apache peaked?” discusses the slow adoption of Apache 2.0, suggesting that the intended performance benefits in Apache 2.0 just aren’t there, pushing many either to other web servers or to remain on Apache 1.3.x.

It’s tempting to think that Apache 2.0 missed the boat. The vast majority of Web sites running it are hosted brochureware. The improvements in 2.0 are meaningless to them. Sites with higher-end needs are more likely to be running a higher-performance Apache alternative like IIS or Zeus already. And if an Apache site actually needs the performance improvements they would do well to treat the current version like a beta. This is how we all should think of it for now.

I have a different story. I’ve been keeping a close eye on Apache 2.0 and am anxious to use some of its new features, but we haven’t switched at work because mod_perl and PHP are not yet stable on Apache 2. It’s that simple. I suspect that this is why the “vast majority of Web sites running it are hosted brochureware” — not that Apache isn’t ready, but that third-party modules commonly used on complex sites aren’t ready for production. Until then, Apache 1.3.27 makes me quite happy, thankyouverymuch.


Intro to Venkman

Introduction to the JavaScript Debuggera.k.a. Venkman, one of the many reasons to use Mozilla. If you’re used to dealing with debuggers, you probably don’t need this. If you aren’t (like me, I’m ashamed to admit), then it’s worth a read.


OpenOffice and NeoOffice on OS X

I do so wish that I were at the Mac OS X conference going on right now. Here’s a rundown of the Mac OS X OpenOffice porting project: where it’s been, the issues they’ve had to consider, and so on. Interesting. Much of this is stuff that I haven’t considered, probably because I’ve never developed a GUI app for Unix, and don’t have a clear idea of what it takes to port Unix apps to OS X.

And I am so dang excited: sounds like a public beta of the X11 release of OpenOffice for OS X 10.2 will be released soon, like next week. And at the conference, the speaker unveiled an Aqua version of OpenOffice, called NeoOffice. <drool>

« Prev - Next »