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December 2001 Archives


December 30, 2001 1:57 AM


Few magazines are as consistently interesting as Webtechniques. The January 2002 issue has some good stuff that will be of interest to webloggers. And Perl geeks might find this site interesting since it's run by the guy who writes all of the Perl articles for Webtechniques, and has a full archive of his articles.



December 28, 2001 8:06 AM


Lots of blogs and other sites that syndicate their content via XML/RSS means that cool things like Klip, from Serence, can exist. There is a beta available for Win98 and Win2K with "cooler OSs soon to be supported." I suspect this app is going to be a big thing in the blogging community. (First seen @ Cogworks)



December 28, 2001 4:40 AM


c|net posted an operating system deathmatch comparing OSX and XP. It was a tie, but the point about the user centricity of OSX kept coming up. XP was found to be MSFT centric because of its ".Net agenda, [and] Passport-pushiness". As far as I am concerned, user centricity wins.

December 28, 2001 3:55 AM


OSopinion has an article about 'How Mozilla Could Help Us Take Back the Web' which has nothing more to say than that Mozilla needs a killer feature for the one point oh release. Of course it does! And it already has a killer feature called standards compliance. The latest milestone build (0.9.7) notes the following new features...

The DOM Inspector is a tool that can be used to inspect and edit the live DOM of any web document or XUL application. The DOM hierarchy can be navigated using a two-paned window that allows for a variety of different views on the document and all nodes within. If you're using the Mozilla installer, be sure to switch from typical, to complete or custom install to install the DOM inspector and JS Debugger.

That last bit about the JS Debugger is a killer feature for the web interface developers of the world. But, for the public at large, a killer feature comes in the form of something like Napster which defines a whole new market, which is NOT the mission of Mozilla. The OSopinion author goes on to say "The only way Mozilla will wrest the Web from the iron grip of that overshadowing blue 'E' is by providing its users with a killer feature that has universal appeal." I argue that the universal appeal is compliance with standards as defined by the W3C.

Also, I have yet to see anyone go about creating a 'killer app' and actually succeed on the level of Navigator or Napster. These were accidents like Silly Putty.



December 26, 2001 5:50 AM


I've been working with JavaScript for several years and was pleasantly surprised to find the new edition (4th) of the O'Reilly JavaScript book on the shelf at Borders. As expected, the book is pretty well organized, and lets you know what calls can be made in what browsers. But, as always, the art of JavaScritpting in the real world is not so predictable.

One resource I have used in the past is the FAQTs JavaScript Knoweledge Base. The thing I like about the site is that it's a question and answer architecture. Sometimes I will find a question similar to my own, and look at the examples that answer my question. This sort of resource allows the application/functionality prototyper (that's me) to get something working in a minimum of time.



December 24, 2001 4:15 AM


Google now has a catalog of catalogs on their site. This is completely opposite to the move, by dotcoms like Amazon and Yahoo, to produce paper catalogs of online material. So, Amazon creates a paper catalog and mails it people, which is then browsed online at Google. This is an odd feedback loop. I wonder if Google will try to get a referral fee if people buy at Amazon based on seeing it in the digitized paper catalog.



December 21, 2001 10:56 AM


The top item at Blogdex today is a map of Springfield (where the Simpson's live).

The project of mapping Springfield will probably be of interest to information architecture, taxonomy and information design geeks due to the fact that there is list of items to be mapped based on anecdotal evidence (like watching the show). This is not unlike architecting a web app after a discovery/JAD session.

It won't be easy. Across the street from The Simpsons's house you will see a highway, an open field or Gerald Ford's house based on the given episode. This is also a problem in web app design/development due to constantly changing requirements and business needs that need to be accommodated in some way. This is on top of the information design issues they face since there is such a massive amount of stuff to be physically mapped.



December 19, 2001 12:41 PM


The definition of what a zoomable interface is seems to change from person to person, but it definitely seems like the core concept is gaining some momentum. Here's an overview (let me know about any significant resources I might have missed)...

ZUI's have been developed in several different forms...

...and have been studied in several ways...

...but I have yet to see a compelling use of the ZUI that was anything more than a demonstration of the concept. Wide spread adoption of metadata will hopefully make a difference and enable the 'semantic web' with zoomable interfaces as the delivery mechanism.



December 17, 2001 10:12 AM


I have never actually met Dave Pindrys in person, but I have known him by the name of Chia for the last several years. We collaborated online on a few projects and I got to know him relatively well. Two weeks ago he was seriously injured in a car accident, and I have to say, in spite of never even seeing his face, I am very sad about what happened. Get well soon Chia.



December 17, 2001 2:58 AM


I receive email thru various distro lists which usually contain links to things I would not ordinarily find on my own. One message pointed to a Russian language site with the Olympic pictograms from the 1936 to the 2000 games.

The 1972 symbols are the ones that I consider to be the 'classic Olympic icons.' They are immediately recognizable as 'Olympic' and distinct in each's portrayal of the given sport, but the styling of the set is never lost in any given image. And the power of that style was strong enough to carry thru the pictograms for the following nine Olympiads (with the 1980 set being the best in my opinion).

Compare this to the international symbols used on clothing for care instructions. This page offers all of the icons, and when you put the mouse cursor over them, you see what they mean. If you haven't seen them before, try to guess what they indicate before you reveal their actual meaning (which is a style of usability study described in Jakob Nielsen's Usability Engineering).



December 14, 2001 11:06 AM


This is something I have no experience with, because it was just released a few days ago. And I can't believe I haven't heard about it from the usual news source or anywhere else. 'Lift' purports to be an add on for Dreamweaver that "changes the way web designers create usable and accessible content."



December 14, 2001 3:39 AM


Sony sells the Playstation as a loss leader, which means it sells the hardware a lower price than what it cost them. They lose money every time someone buys a Playstation. The idea is that the software sales, and lots of them, of games like Tony Hawk Pro Skateboarding will make the money back, and then some. This business model has been around for sometime and has been practiced by Nintendo, Sega, Atari, et al (except 3DO which charged $700 for their 16 bit system back in the early 90's).

So these days, Sony goes thru the trouble of squashing folks who make Playstation emulators. I have commented on this before, as has Zimran at winterspeak dot com from the stance that Sony 'doesn't get it.' The idea is that if Sony allowed emulators to be sold, the user base for the game system would grow, with out having to take a loss on the hardware due to sales of the emulation software. Bleem and Connectix are the two best examples of this emulation dance. Both of which Sony sued, and eventually squashed. Why? The answer begins to reveal MSFT's plans for the Xbox.

December 13, 2001 2:50 AM


Boston.com is carrying a story about the chief FreeBSD geek wanting to work for Apple on OSX. I like this press coverage way more than the stories several years about the 'beleaguered computer maker.'

Anyway, the point made in the story about why OSX might be great is like the old Reese's peanut butter cup commercials where people kept getting their chocolate in someone else's peanut butter, or vice versa. It may seem odd at first, but when you experience it, you will probably like it. The folks at Panic.com are probably more precise in their analysis that OSX "is a floor wax and a desert topping."

The beauty is that I can run Apache and/or Tomcat along with a full and current distribution of Perl (this is the floor wax part) and run Adobe Illustrator at the same time (which is the desert topping).



December 12, 2001 12:18 PM


Info Architecture practitioners (eg, interface designers, creative directors, taxonomists, et al.) will find the current Dilbert story line amusing.



December 12, 2001 11:38 AM


Anyone who has worked in the interactive TV industry knows that patents and the protection of those patents holds the industry back. One company actually has a patent on the tabular display of programming information on a TV screen (among other basic concepts) which makes it hard to get any work done before you can create anything.

Now we are seeing more evidence of the patent protection revenue model with threats by Sonicblue to sue TiVo if a patent licencing deal can't be made.

Just think about the implications for the Internet if MSFT owned a patent for rendering markup languages in a distributed network environment (ie, html on the internet). :^p



December 12, 2001 3:27 AM


As reported all over the place, Google has put 20 years of Usenet on the web. Here's a trip down memory lane featuring me in 1995 complaining about a recent Netscape beta.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

December 11, 2001 10:33 AM


Being a Mac user, and being an Interface Geek as well, Adobe applications are my power tools and to extend that metaphor, Mac OS X is my current source of energy. Unfortunately, the core tool, Photoshop, is still not OSX native. But it looks like that will be changing soon.

MacPlus, a French language OSX website has screen shots of several Adobe apps that are coming to OSX in native code. RAILhead Design has also been posting information about the pending release of Photoshop 7 that is greatly encouraging. I would link directly to a relevant URL, but he's using frames and you will need the navigation frame to get around.



December 11, 2001 9:39 AM


This report at First Monday suggests that it's not what you it's who you know in the tech biz. When it comes to finding a job these days, I suggest that it's both. You need someone to get you in the door for an interview since the all of the doors are shut to outsiders, and when you get there, you better have 'mad skillz', because no one is hiring newbies.

But the report isn't really talking about getting a job, it's about the dynamics of those who already work together. And within that context, I think the report is spot on.



December 9, 2001 9:51 AM


The question of developing web sites for Netscape users is getting to sound a lot like the question about developing applications for Mac users. Why do it?

Fortunately for everyone, and especially folks like me, the answers are more compelling (and heartening) every day. A List Apart has taken on the Netscape question, and O'Reilly continues to offer answers to the Mac question.

But, in spite of any argument one way or the other, always keep in mind one crucial question. Who is your target audience?



December 8, 2001 12:58 PM


The O'Reilly series of technical books is, imho, the best money can buy. When I saw the book for Flash ActionScripting, I thought to myself 'now it's ok to learn that.'

The JavaScript book has just been updated and was written with the help of the inventor of the language. The DHTML book is simply invaluable (even if the first and only edition is getting long in the tooth). If you are a budding web designer and find that you need to mess around coding, do the right thing and go O'Reilly.

They even give freebies on their website, like this article about the DOCTYPE element in HTML that has more control over things than you might think.



December 8, 2001 12:42 PM


Salaries for techies in the post dotbomb era are not declining as quickly as one might think. In fact, as noted by C|Net, 'stabilizing' is the keyword, not 'declining.'

Around here in Northern Virginia, it is hard to drive around and not go by a completely empty tech building. You would (or more precisely I would) expect these places to be crawling with aficionados of O'Reilly books. Hopefully this will all turn itself around in 2002.



December 8, 2001 1:47 AM


Here's a few documents covering the next big thing, Web Services.



December 8, 2001 1:43 AM


The Register has an article about a plugin (a DLL) for Outlook that will allow you to turn off HTML rendering in received email. The potential virus problem that is solved by this plugin is something I've never had to deal with. I'm primarily a Mac (OSX) user and the Outlook clone for the Mac (ie, Entourage) has a nice little feature that will let me see the rendered HTML, but won't make network calls for any included images or JavaScript files. And besides, there are so few Mac viruses out there to begin with. Here's a shot of the preferences item...


In spite of the continuing monopolistic business practices going on at MSFT, the Mac Business Unit there is producing some of the best software available for the platform that is actually user centric.



December 6, 2001 8:49 AM


There's an article over at Tom's Hardware that talks about the game console wars currently being waged. I commented on this the other day, but this article is written by people who get paid to write about stuff like this. So, off you go!



December 6, 2001 8:24 AM


Over the past two years I have found myself doing a lot of web application prototyping. It means a lot of (D)HTML, CSS and JavaScript coding, all with the hope of representing business requirements (in a way that is actually doable on the web). One major issue on every prototype I have worked on is the content within the prototype.

Developers often talk about 'greeking' interfaces and content of sites, which means putting in a bunch of nonsense text where the real content should live (eg, dsfgsdfg sdfgsdfgsdfg sdfgsdfg). After all, Java developers aren't content developers and should not be wasting their time with content, but with how it is stored, processed and transported. This is a barrier to understanding that you have to remove.



December 4, 2001 12:46 PM


KPMG apparently doesn't like it when people link to their site without prior approval. This makes as little sense as Sony scuttling Bleem.

In both cases, the large corporation doesn't like outsiders sending them potential customers (why?). Maybe they haven't read Next yet.



December 4, 2001 9:44 AM


I'm reading 'Next: The Future Just Happened' by Michael Lewis right now and have come across a few interesting one liners. This one I find to be particularly interesting...

Cynicism implies the possibility of idealism.

I'm wondering if this quote is something Lewis likes/wants to believe based on his own idealism, or something he's observed in the people and events he's studied. Within the context of this book, I just don't see it, and when I think of some of the most cynical people I can think of (Don and Mike on WJFK) there might be something there.

Cynicism could be a result of observing the world around us and seeing what 'is' as it relates to what we think it should or should not be. Taken this way, cynicism might not imply the possibility of idealism, but positively reveal it; this works as a mechanism of presenting the 'outsiders' described in his book as heros. I'd suggest Next is a series of examples of how people will use/abuse a given system to their own maximum benefit, which may be a cynical view ;)



December 3, 2001 12:11 PM


Here's a great example of market forces at work. The Dreamcast was abandoned as a hardware platform by its' creator, Sega, and reduced for quick sale. The price was reduced to $50, which makes it affordable to almost anyone, and especially to those who wanted to buy one to fool around with the Linux possibilities.

So, lots of Linux users run out to buy one, and then start to tinker around with the BSD distro available for the system. Well, as luck would NOT have it, the broadband converter for the Dreamcast is no longer in production. Thus they sell for twice the amount of the actual system on Ebay.

Scarcity breeds high prices when volume of market is created by low prices. Perfect!



December 3, 2001 11:06 AM


'Design Not Found is here to help... [display] real-world examples of good and bad contingency design.'

InMyExperience.com is designed to degrade gracefully contingent on browsers and computing platform. Some features, like CSS based navigation degrade gracefully on Netscape. You can still click on links, but you don't see highlighting. This is, however, a lightweight example compared to what DNF is taking on.

December 2, 2001 11:36 AM


Time has spilled the beans on IT which is also known as Ginger, which is now known as Segway. As it turns out, it's the scooter thing that everyone has been guessing that it is.

In the Time article, Kamen says, "it makes no sense at all for people in cities to use a 4,000-lb. piece of metal to haul their 150-lb. asses around town." And he's right, just ask the Dutch who ALL OWN BIKES and actually use them in their every day lives.

Personally, I can't stand Razor foot powered scooters, and I imagine I'll be annoyed by the folks who will be using a Segway (for being rich enough to afford the $3k price tag ;)


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