Archive for July, 2003


Please make the voices stop.

Every now and then the universe seems to beat me over the head with something until I pay attention.

Years ago, I encountered almost daily references to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for an entire month before I finally picked up a copy — at which point the references abruptly stopped.

A while later I found myself in the same boat with Antonin Gramsci, until I holed myself up in a library and devoured his Notebooks. Nothing like immersing oneself in the thought of an imprisoned Italian Marxist to add flavor to a week spent visiting your girlfriend at college. But it worked: Gramsci stopped haunting me.

Now the same thing seems to be happening with Moleskine. I can only hope that buying and using one of these very, very nice notebooks will have some effect.


Gone for the weekend.

I’ve got a few things in the works here but they’ll have to wait — I’m heading to the lake for the weekend. It’s Kiara’s family’s cabin. I don’t actually like it there much, but watching Owen swim in the lake will be a blast: he loves to be in the water. Gets that from his mom.

We’re celebrating the triple birthday: in a highly unlikely coincidence, Kiara’s father, her brother, and I all have the same birthday. How’s that for uncanny?


Another scene from my life with Kiara.

S: The boy is sleeping, so speak in hushed tones.

K: (rests hand on S’s head)

S: …or communicate in Morse code by tapping on my head.

K: (silence)

S: ???

K: I’m trying to remember if it’s P waves or S waves that pass through your skull when I tap on it.


Contribute 2 Announced

Macromedia has announced Contribute 2, though it has not yet been released. A coworker is doing an exhaustive review and user group test of Contribute for possible use at work, and along the way we’ve noticed some oddities. Version 2 will likely be released before we make a decision. Not sure what effect that will have.

Aside from features like FlashPaper, which looks to be a PDF competitor, it’s not yet clear what’s new. Beyond bug fixes, I’d be interested in something that’s more suited to an environment in which more than one person is using a computer. In Contribute 1, a web site administrator sends a connection key to the site updater(s). The connection key contains the username and password necessary to access and edit the site, and is available for use by anyone with access to that computer. I’m not comfortable with that, and it’s downright unusable in a situation like a computer lab. This and other little niggling details have been discussed on the newsgroups quite a bit, so I’ll be curious to see what Macromedia’s done.

At least there will be a Mac version now.

As to FlashPaper, I’d like to see how accessible it is. Text in Flash files should be accessible to screen readers … some screen readers, at any rate … but I don’t know how structured text is dealt with. I expect it to take a while to approach the sophistication that PDF has, if that’s even a goal.

That reminds me: I must look at Acrobat 6. I have it but haven’t even looked to see what’s new.


Netscape dead.

Here I am, diligently ignoring the announcement that AOL is nixing Netscape. Much too busy.


Enough already with your incessant chatter!

An internal memo from eBay.

It has come to my attention that several employees are talking at their desks during scheduled work hours. I must convey the importance of NOT talking at your desk, or to your desk partner. Talking greatly decreases work productivity, and company morale.

If you need to talk to someone, please schedule a meeting room where you can talk, or use the break rooms. If you are caught talking at your desk, you will be escorted into a meeting room and questioned as to why you are talking, and if it is relevant to your job. If not, you may be subjected to disciplinary actions.

We want you to work hard at eBay, and enjoy your work. Please contact management if you have any questions.

I wasn’t sure whether I should post this, because I’m never quite sure that the “leaked” memos at are for real. Is posting this just rumor-mongering? But then I realized just how very funny this one was, and I don’t care if it’s real. It could be.


Stored procedures in MySQL

This one’s for you, Mike. From chromatic’s wrap-up of OSCON day 3:

Brian Aker, fresh on his new job as Senior Architect at MySQL, shocked the world (or, at least, me) when he announced that he’d embedded Perl in MySQL and was using it for stored procedures a couple of years ago. Of course, it did segfault rather often. Fortunately, it’s highly mature now. In his talk on “Making MySQL Do More”, Brian showed the embedded function API. You can write new functions for MySQL in Perl, Python, PHP, and Java. (Keep asking him about Ruby.) You can link to C libraries; he’s used Image Magick and zlib.

Oh my god.


Missing OSCON

I’m not at OSCON this year, and man am I bummed. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been trying to keep up on what people have been writing. Phil Windley‘s been doing some great session summaries. Jeremy Zawodny, of course, and many over at use perl;. Don’t forget the OSCON wiki and the official page. Only a few people seem to have picked up on the trackback URLs (see the conference grid), which is a damn shame: last year’s trackback page over on was really useful, and by now more people are familiar with the concept. it would help to follow the goings-on.

It’s going to take me a while to sort through everything. Probably just as well, it’ll give me something to do while I’m musing about how I’m going to go next year.


Identity-Based Encryption

I’ve mentioned before that one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of public key encryption is that it’s just too damn hard. Even smart, tech-savvy people take a while to wrap their brains around it, and that’s only if they think it’s worth their time. If people don’t already think that crypto is important (i.e. “I have nothing to hide”), why invest the time and energy in trying to understand it, much less learning to use the software?

Identity-based encryption may help.

IBE greatly simplifies the key management process. When Alice sends a message to Bob, she encrypts the message using Bob’s public key. What’s Bob’s public key? His email address. Note that Bob never had to set up a public key and Alice never needed to look it up. When Bob receives the encrypted message, he contacts a key server to get his private key so he can decrypt the message. He can store this key locally so he can reuse it.

Very cool.

A new company, Voltage Security, is having a go at selling software that uses IBE. See that site for a better write-up of the idea. It looks like they’re still filling out the product line, so it’s a bit early to comment. But how can I not?

  • I’m not clear how those outside a corporate/university environment will get their keys, unless someone sets up fee-based or free key servers. Which is likely.
  • I hope to see software for non-Windows platforms.
  • It would be grand to see open IBE implementations. Hey look: Stanford distributes code!
  • I’m not sure whether this can be used for digital signatures.



Ah, it’s raining. And I’ve got to catch a bus. Nothing like a tall guy standing out in the open in a thunderstorm, holding a metal rod in the air.

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