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August 2002 Archives


August 29, 2002 2:56 AM


Cory Doctorow has a short story published on Salon today. I haven't read it yet, but plan to based on another story from Doctorow called Eastern Standard Tribe. I've found Doctorow's writing to be a bit heavy on the futurespeak making it less accessible to those of us who aren't hax0rs, english lit majors and/or info tech workers. The evidence is in the linked jargon, but what the hell, it's fun reading.

August 28, 2002 6:45 AM


A year ago today, Mersault*Thinking stopped updating. Back at that time, I was cookoo for cocoa puffs over Info Arch sites, articles, best practices and those who practiced them. This was a good example of the type of stuff I was surfing last year.

August 27, 2002 11:07 AM


If Ben Franklin were around today, he would probably say that those who leave their wireless networks open for all to use deserve to have those networks used in ways they can't predict. If Benedict Arnold were around to be the pest we are taught that he was, he'd likely write an article like the one ridiculed at BoingBoing.

I think the thing that I like about the warchalking meme is that it has legs. More and more of us will be creating open networks out of EFF like zeal or plain ignorance, and the fallout will be interesting to watch. When the day comes that wireless phone network operators, like Sprint PCS wake up and put WiFi access points on all their towers, we'll see the real fun begin. Be happy OSX users that you have IPSec support. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, IPSec.

August 25, 2002 5:05 AM


I'm at the apple store after the Jaguar buying orgy from the other night. there must have been about 600+ people in line to buy Jaguar, and makes me believe that there must have been a few switchers in the crowd.

But who cares, all I want now is this huge 22" inch display I'm looking at tight now.

/me drools.

August 22, 2002 10:27 AM


Ok, so I had to go down to the Adelphia office to pick up a digital cable box. Part of the HBO upgrade I mentioned yesterday is getting the new box (which they wanted to 'install' for $20, which is nuts, so I went to their office). Anyway, I couldn't resist asking the guy behind the counter when cable modem access was coming to my area.

The portly, middle aged, nerd behind me in line made the obligatory comment about 'financial troubles' that I decided was super lame after my conversation with the lady on the phone. The guy behind the counter masked his contempt for the comment he has likely heard zillions of times and told me '6 weeks' and told the Fraggle behind me that 'construction [had] never stopped.'

And I mean it, I feel really bad for anyone working at Adelphia right now because none of the bad press is any of their fault, but they take nasty comments from losers like me all the time. If their service sucks when it does arrive though, serious insanity will ensue.

August 22, 2002 10:17 AM


Unsanity makes these things called 'haxies' for Mac OSX. They are certainly more than a hack in most cases, but not full applications either, so I suppose haxie is cute name to call them. Well, I have an idea for them, an idea that if implemented, I would gladly throw down a Jackson.

I'm a tiBook user, and run most of my life off of that machine, and usually do that in multi-head mode. AOL put this huge ass 22" ViewSonic on my desk and I just plug that into the VGA port, and blammo, there's massive amounts of desktop space, and I use all of it. The tiBook alone is 1152 x 786 and I run the ViewSonic at 1280 x 1024 (I know, I could boost the res, but I like to read from the screen without straining).

The tiBook screen gets reserved for applications that I keep open all day and provide ongoing, and somewhat static, service. This includes Audion (music), Adium (instant massaging), and Terminal which is not really static, but I like having it up at all times. Up at all times you ask? Aren't they like that all the time? Well, no.

ASM is an application switching menu, and I use it for one specific bit of functionality, hiding applications on switch. So, if I have the previously mentioned apps running, and let's say Internet Explorer, Photoshop and BBedit as well, I like to hide other applications when a new one comes to the foreground. It keeps the window clutter to a minimum, which is important, because I usually have about 10 apps open.

Now, here's where it gets good, I exclude Audion, Adium and Terminal (and the Finder) from the hiding-on-switching function. So they remain ever present and visible, and the dock behavior falls in line with the hiding behavior (which you set in ASM). I want to hide the dock when an app comes forward and hides other apps.

I don't want any of the other functionality of ASM, and I don't like the start up bug it has had in every version that I have used. Keyboard Maestro has some of this functionality, but it isn't a PreferencesPane, and runs as an application that installs a daemon, and then you quit the app (bleh). So, Unsanity please step in here, and make a small, OS integrated, targeted hack like you always do. There's $20 in it for you.

August 21, 2002 11:11 AM


Oh man, this is priceless...

The head Sales Guy started grilling my client: how many pages did the site have (in the thousands!), how many users updated it (almost ten!). You could hear the Sales Guy's mental cash register ringing up dollars signs as he went straight for the close: "And what are your editors using to update all those pages: Dreamweaver or Frontpage? Or maybe you built your own homegrown CMS?"

My faithful client didn't miss a beat. "Actually, have you heard of weblogs?" he asked the Sales Guy. You shoulda seen this guy's face fall - it was like he'd been hit by a truck. "Yeah," he admitted, "So you use blogging software?"

It's funny that most articles about weblogs are positive about the pricing and democratic structures. I mean the backlash has already begun IMHO due to lots of folks being too cool for weblogs. But, whatever, I like the idea of saving money by using something that fills your needs that isn't forced down your throat by your company due to a 'strategic partnership.'

I've recommended using blog technology to run a site at my current employ and will do it again in heart beat, because, as the article continues...

"Yeah pretty much," came the answer. "It pretty does most of what I need. There are a couple things you described that I could use, but I can't justify that sort of outlay when blogware hits most of my specs."
[via ia slash]

August 21, 2002 10:00 AM


This deal has been simmering for a long time now, and I'm glad to see they finally got something done about it...
The agreement announced Wednesday calls for AOL Time Warner to assume full ownership of TWE's content assets, including Warner Bros. and Home Box Office, as well as TWE's interests in the WB Network, Comedy Central and Court TV.

All of AOL Time Warner's cable assets, including those now owned by TWE, will be owned by a new subsidiary of AOL Time Warner called Time Warner Cable Inc.

The part about the cable assets is the part that interests me. AOL Time Warner (TW) already has about 4 million cable modem subscribers, but hasn't been very public or aggressive about increasing that number, and I think the resolution of this deal will help remedy that problem. To wit...
In another part of the deal, AT&T agreed to give 's Internet service access to its cable networks. AT&T Broadband and Comcast, which have agreed to merge to form AT&T Comcast, will make AOL High Speed Broadband available on the new entity's systems passing about 10 million homes within two years, and another nine million homes in the future.
I'd be in love if AOL bought out Adelphia's Northern Virginia operation. But I'm not very hopeful about that since Adelphia is carrying massive amounts of debt, and an IPO of this new cable entity will not be able to raise the kind of cash they would need to mitigate that debt risk (the Moody's rating would be in the shitter).

August 21, 2002 7:32 AM


I just got off the phone with Adelphia (I was adding HBO so I could watch The Sopranos and Oz without ingratiating myself on my friend Steve) and asked them about cable modem access in my area. They laid new cable/fibre in my neighborhood recently, so the level of my anticipation is swelling.

For those new to this blog, you should know that I am obsessed with the lack of broadband in the techno-burb that I live in, and stress over how to rectify that situation. So, I asked the nice lady on the phone (as nicely as a jonesing bit pipe addict could) about when I could get the crack, and she said 'not yet' in a cool, friendly way.

I made a smart ass crack about Chapter 11. Her response was that they were 'moving ahead with plans' and kept her friendly tone. Cable tease.

August 20, 2002 9:27 AM


Kartoo showed up in my server logs yesterday, and being the curious sort, I followed the URL, did a search for "in my experience" and was shown a bunch of links to pr0n. In spite of that, it's still an interesting way to show search results. And even though it shows relationships between the results I don't exactly know what that relationship is based on.

August 20, 2002 2:32 AM


About 4 years ago I was a 3-Coke-a-day kind of guy. Then, two things occured to me; there is diabetes in my family, and I was over 180 lbs (which is heavy for me). I didn't change any of my eating habits, but removed Coke from my diet and replaced it with Diet Sprite (another Coke property, so what do they care?). Well, it dawned on me today that I'm 165 lbs for a reason. Who knows though, the substitution of sugar for aspartame will prolly give my cancer instead of diabetes.

August 20, 2002 1:29 AM


Louis Rosenfeld has made an interesting post over at his site...

Not that I'm planning on it, but if I was going to start Argus II, our motto would be "We put the 'I' in 'IT'!" Whether bundled with IT or not, that should be the goal of information architects in the marketplace. And maybe it's time to seriously consider unbundling IA from IT.
What I'm wondering is how this would play out in companies like Sapient where the whole IA part of the project is just that, a part of the project (not a review phase or initial design phase). How would those employing Xtreme Programming be impacted (assuming they bothered to get IA into the project as a priority)?

Back at my last job, IA came in the form of robust discovery sessions and application prototypes occurring in short time frame iterations. How would a decoupling impact the speed at which an application could be prototyped, developed, and CHANGED?

How would a decoupled IA go about getting a user centric feature change implemented in a half-developed system? How and why does Lou's perspective, skills and experience lead him to this idea? I can't help but think I am misunderstanding something.

August 18, 2002 11:52 AM


Anyone visiting this site likely knows kottke.org and prolly knows A List Apart as well. So, I'll take a quick moment and point to Kottke's entry about living in someone else's space and say that it's a good example of what this article at A List Apart is trying to say.

August 16, 2002 11:48 AM


Email addresses of comment posters are now harvesting protected thru MovableType's mechanism. Also, I fixed a JavaScript problem with the link check box at the bottom right (it wasn't as smart as I thought I made it). I'm working on random optimizations, and have come to the conclusion that I want to do an entire redesign.

Anyway, if you get a JavaScript error, or a comment posting barfs on you, let me know.

August 16, 2002 11:39 AM


Got a few/many minutes? If so, go listen to Lawrence Lessig's talk about Free Culture and then have a read thru these articles...

    Too many patents are just as bad for society as too few.
    There are those who view the patent system as the seedbed of capitalism--the place where ideas and new technologies are nurtured. This is a romantic myth. In reality, patents are enormously powerful competitive weapons that are proliferating dangerously, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has all the trappings of a revenue-driven, institutionalized arms merchant.
    ActiveBuddy's Patent Win Riles IM Bot Developers
    New York-based ActiveBuddy has won a crucial patent covering instant messaging bot-making technology, but hobbyists and amateur developers aren't buying the company's claim that it invented the technology.
    Gemstar falls 39% after losing patent-dispute ruling
    Gemstar holds more than 190 patents related to the software running interactive menus that help TV viewers pick what show to watch. Gemstar had booked $114 million in revenue for patent fees it expected to receive.
    U.S. patent debate to pit IP rights vs. competition
    Is the government issuing too many patents, thereby stifling competition and innovation? Or are attempts to lock up the rights to new technologies merely a function of increased investment in research and development during a period of unprecedented innovation and economic risk?
    Unisys/CompuServe GIF Controversy
    "They want everything to be free and let's all be friends. But fortunately, this is not the American way." -- Unisys patent lawyer Mark Starr, on his company's attempts to squeeze dough out of Websites that dare to generate GIF images, The Industry Standard, 25 April 2000 The Standard)
...and now, consider this patent application...
An XML Data Loader which employs the SAX parsing technology, provides an extendible architecture to generate SQL for each type of XML document to be loaded, and leverages multithreading and decoupling of processes to parse an XML file and to update a database. By using object-oriented programming methodologies, the system and method create new instances of the XML data loader for each XML file to be loaded into a database. Thus, many XML data files may be processed and loaded simultaneously, which minimizes system memory requirements, improves system reliability and memory management, and reduces processing time required from the start of processing an XML file to completing its loading into a database. The invention is applicable to other types of markup language documents, as well.


August 15, 2002 9:11 AM


Today hits to 'www.inmyexperience.com' passed the non-www version of the domain name. What's funny about that is I have never advertised the site with the 'www' prefix, ever. IMHO, that prefix is an anachronism (after all there is no ftp.inmyexperience or god forbid gopher.inmyexperience), and I find it pretty amusing that people depend on it so much (or perhaps it's Pavlovian).

The dependance on the 'www' prefix can lead to a certain problem I've seen at many sites. That is that the non-www version of the domain has no DNS record for the web site. So, if you hit the www version of the domain name with a browser, everything is cool, trash that prefix tho, and often, you'll get nothing. Pair.com (my host) is great for the simple reason that they anticipate the user's/customer's needs by adding records for the www and non-www version of your domain name (and they do a bunch of other cool stuff too).

August 14, 2002 9:26 AM


Real finally came out with a Real Player for Mac OSX, but do I really care? Sort of. This (incredible) music video by Royksopp is only available online as a Real Media One file, and of course, there's no way to download the file and keep it locally for network free (read: smooth) play. I wanted to show the video to my wife, at home, but had to attempt a stream thru my modem, which was a disaster (read: choppy playback and many dropped frames). IMHO, the Real Player user experience is weak.

If anyone knows of an MPEG of the video, or a way to get the Real file to download to a local file, please let me know.

August 14, 2002 7:45 AM


To: Cory Doctorow

Heya,

Re: your mail to Cam, Re: wireless AP's and liability, you wrote...

> When you provide bandwidth to others (provided you do so within the AUP of
> your ISP), you are an ISP under the law.

I'm assuming AUP = Acceptable Use Policy, and I think it's dangerous to assume any ISP's acceptable use includes sharing bandwidth/connectivity (you know about the Time Warner crackdown). Are the rest of your comments are based on a 'sharing is cool' policy?

Even is sharing is cool with your ISP, and even if "the Communications Decency Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act indemnify you from liability" this doesn't mean you are protected from being targeted by a 'victim' of someone that might have been using your network to "utter death threats, traffick in child-porn, or illegally trade copyrighted works."

"Targeted" could be as simple as an email, or a cease and desist letter, or any other form of "you are guilty, now prove yourself innocent" situation. I think your vision of a connected humanity ignores the fact that there are a lot of assholes out there and the law is way behind technology.

My advice for normal average joe's with a new Linksys AP? At least turn on the WEP, even if it is weak. It forces people to *try* to get themselves on to your network which does two things; pushes those who want to use an open access point elsewhere (which is probably everyone/anyone) and makes them clearly in the wrong for using your network.

My two cents.

August 13, 2002 7:33 AM


I have to link to this article written by Cory Doctorow about Hollywood and digital tech, because it..

  1. ...answers my Nana's question about why the FCC wants to force TV makers to include digital tuners. (Of course it's money)
  2. ...has a clear Macintosh bias. (Like this site)
  3. ...touches on a lot of points in this First Monday Article. (Which takes it a step further)


August 13, 2002 5:10 AM


Cam notes...
My wireless network at home has been closed and password-protected from Day 1. Not because I don't want my neighbors to use it, but because I don't want my information stolen and my privacy invaded. How soon before spammers park themselves on a street corner and start using your wireless network to relay spam?
Based on what I found (note the WEP status) by war walking thru my neighborhood last night, I'd say "soon Cam, soon."

August 12, 2002 10:00 AM


As noted last week at Mac Net Journal, NetNewsWire is going to be updated soon with 'grouping of feeds' for an aggregation like interface. No doubt it's a step forward for a nice and simple little app I use everyday (and love), but couldn't this aggregation be WAY better?

Now, infrastructure is a huge issue in any distributed and 'many to many' environment. Technology adoption and standardization are other concerns, and is why I don't have great hopes that I'll have more fine tuned semantic grouping of news/blog feeds. Fine tuned you ask? What I mean by that is grouping a bunch of feeds together in NetNewsWire does create some sort of semantic connection. But it's on a macro-semantic scale with sorting based on scale of a website, not the subjects of the containing content. Don't get me wrong, the groups idea is outstanding, but I want more.

What needs ("needs" = "what I want") to happen is to apply standard Dublin Core (DC) meta data to ALL news and blog entries, which means every content/document management software package needs to be updated, and people need to apply the DC elements to their content. The resulting feeds in RSS (preferably full RDF) would include this info and allow applications like NetNewsWire and AmphetaDesk to parse that data and allow the user to sort the info as they see fit.

Nice and easy, right?

August 11, 2002 8:33 AM


The new issue of Wired (got it in the mail yesterday) has a ton of Blog related content in it. There's coverage of the corporate blogs like the one found at MSNBC, as well as a side bar about warchalking which they call a meme, but the blog theme of the mag is pretty meme'y too. AOL What I want to know is when Blogger is going to get gobbled up by AOL (and be popularized) or Newscorp (and be exploited) or Vivendi (and be scuttled) or MSFT (and be insecure somehow).

August 8, 2002 10:03 AM


I don't know if Info Architects are sports fans. In fact, I'd be willing to guess not, but if there's any sports show to make the IA feel at home, it's Pardon The Interruption, better known as PTI. Take a look at the interface when the show comes on and you will have a basic idea about what they will be talking about, what they did talk about and how long they are talking about the current subject.

On top of all this, or serving as a foundation is a simple idea of two guys (complete sports junkies) talking about sports, but in a Sportscenter++ kind of way. And if you take time to compare PTI to Sportscenter you will see a concrete example of Nathan's Venn-like diagram in his Field Theory showing data becoming information and information becoming knowledge and knowledge becoming Wisdom.

Sportscenter is based on Data and Information while PTI is based on Knowledge and Wisdom, and makes it the best sports show on TV.

August 7, 2002 10:17 AM


<rant style="eyebrow: furrowed;">
The new AOL CEO (of the online unit, not the entire company) was interviewed by C|net (ZDnet?) and had a few promising things to say, but I find this part familiar and disappointing...

I love broadband! I'm a techie in that regard--I can't wait for that to be prevalent throughout the world. But we're going to wait. It's not going to happen tomorrow morning. I'll give you an example. I'm fortunate enough to have two homes. In one home in Westchester, I cannot get broadband installed and I've tried very hard. And in the second home, I do have it installed but it took over 100 hours to get it installed.
We are going to wait?!? (By "we", I mean the inclusive we, which includes me, because I work at AOL and Miller is now my boss). How can AOL afford to wait to make strides in broadband rollouts? Slowing subscriber growth is not mitigated by waiting to provide a faster, more compelling, online experience (even if AOL 8.0 looks to be more customer centric than the last several revs ions). In terms of user experience, speed matters, and has mattered for YEARS. Ask anyone.

Part of my frustration is based on the fact that I live 4 miles from the mother ship, and I can't get a broadband connection. Not from AOL or Verizon or Adelphia or anyone (unless I want a $500/month T1 thru Atlantec, but I'm not a business). Who ever gets me the fat bit pipe first, wins. Will it be you ? Or will it be the bankrupt and seemingly corrupt Adelphia who has been laying fiber in my neighborhood recently?
</rant>

August 6, 2002 1:06 AM


A third party search interface for MovableType blogs was updated yesterday. Like the author says, let's hope this search code makes its way into the official distribution, but I'm guessing that might (?) be one of those value-added bits of functionality that may be a premium (read: pay for) service.

Anyway, this will help out on the usability front at this site. Google referrers have been finding monthly/category archive pages on this site instead of the individual archives, and I think has lead users astray. Who wants to scroll all the way thru an entire category of posts to find the one they were interested in? No one.

August 5, 2002 11:49 AM


Blogs are gaining momentum enough to be uncool to the likes of the WebDesign list (I'd link to a thread bashing blogs if I could). But for those who don't wear sun glasses at night, there's a couple new blog services available out there...

BlogTree
If you are reading this blog then you probably already know about Blogtree since it's been linked from just about everywhere. But it bears mentioning again since it's a neat idea and contributes to 'community' aspect of blogging. The basics are that it's a genealogy tool for weblogs (as in, what blogs spawned new blogs).
Tangent.cx
"Tangent.cx is the home of a centralized SOAP-based Web service that aims to make connections between sites all over the web. Tangent will integrate with the content management tool you use to manage your site, and automatically contribute and retrieve content from a central server that will create links between pieces of content based on text searching and your preferences."


August 4, 2002 1:47 AM


I have been playing around with the next version of Mac OSX, code named Jaguar, this weekend. The version I've been using is 6C106 and is a bit behind the golden master version 6C115. I have noticed a few bugs (FruitMenu and ASM are going to need an update), but here's a few bright notes...

Overall performance is much improved. Quartz Extreme is the marketing term for unloading the video tasks to the video card. Most of us are used to the concept in gaming where newer faster video cards are a way of life for making the games playable. What Nvidia does for gaming, Jaguar does for exverything else. Of course, the card you actually have in your machine makes a difference, but I'm delighted to report that a 500mhz tiBook, with its 16 meg card sees a marked improvement, system wide, in performance.

Sherlock is not the 'find' interface anymore. You might think this is a bad thing, but I deplore having to open an application to simply find a file. Command-f (at least in the build I'm using) maps to a simple Finder window with a search interface. Key strokes are not lost as the window opens like they are when Sherlock is opening. So, command-f, start typing and hit return makes for a super fast way to find a file.

Sherlock 3 is pretty cool. But so is Watson, which deserves credit for being ahead of the curve.

The Sharing control panel includes a firewall interface. I consider myself to be a Mac power user who is comfortable with a command line. But, having an ultra simple and straight forward Firewall interface is awesome.

Command-tab is more of a toggle now. It used to be that command-tab'ing would always step you thru the open applications in a linear fashion. BBEdit munkies like myself would have to command-tab-tab-tab, etc until you go to the browser, and do it again to get back to BBEdit. Now, if you command-tab, it selects the app you were in last before stepping forward. This means fewer keystrokes.

August 1, 2002 4:27 AM


In Chris Farnum's article What an IA Should Know About Prototypes for User Testing, the issue of the 'degree of fidelity' is addressed...

Usability practitioners like Barbara Datz-Kauffold and Shawn Lawton Henry are champions for low fidelity --the sketchier the better! Meanwhile, Jack Hakim and Tom Spitzer advocate a medium- to high-fidelity approach that gives users a closer approximation of a finished version. You'll want to make a decision about the right approach for you based on the needs of your project.

I'll add in my two cents and say that the higher the fidelity the better, within the constraint of the cost of the prototype. As in, the more you can make the user forget about the medium of the prototype, and thus the more you can make them focus on what's important, the better. In my experience, clients, customers and users (often, all the same person/people) have a hard time getting around anything in the prototype that doesn't make sense. I have often had to fully immerse the user in the prototype by including relevant and current data in a prototype.

For example, I worked on a prototype of a Bond Trading web application, with full interactivity being emulated thru smoke and mirrors (aka, JavaScript). The client would always make comments about the dummied data I was using and how it didn't make sense. I had to go thru the trouble of getting real and current data to populate the prototype so they could get past the math they were doing in their heads and then get on with the business of evaluating the prototype.

Again, when the user/client was able to 'suspend their disbelief' (a term often used within the scope of watching a movie) due to a high fidelity prototype, they were more apt to comment on the interaction design and usability of the prototype. This point is made is made in Farnum's article, and I'm offering a concrete example.

Unfortunately, the higher the 'fidelity' of the prototype, the more it is going to cost, in terms of time and money (and time is money).

To go thru the effort of creating a prototype that is very similar to the envisioned finished product means you need to get real data, real information, real design and real effort involved. None of that is cheap, and will often dictate how realistic the prototype can be made. I my opinion, prototyping is like buying a computer. Figure out how much cash[time] you have to spend and buy the best thing you can afford.


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