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April 30, 2002


Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love?
Or was it the hand of fate
That seemed to fit just like a glove?
The moment slipped by
And soon the seeds were sown
The year grew late and neither one
Wanted to remain alone.

I'm listening to too much Floyd these days, I guess. Although some might say there's nothing like too much Floyd :-).


ToI: US Rights Group blames Sangh for Gujarat Riots. A good thing to ask at this time, I think, is: Cui Bono? The only person I see benefiting from this is the Gujarat Chief Minister, because (alas) there'll be many for whom he'll become a defender of the faith. It is also a testament to the political poverty in India that the oppostion is sitting still, and not making this fleabag's life miserable. The message I want to see sent is: if you, a leader in power, and you fuck around with law and order, you are politically finished. But yeah, I know this India. Anything is par for the course :-|.


Space Daily: Attack of the Clones (no, not the darn movie).


April 29, 2002

While Dave talks about streaming movie trailers to Radio users, one (don't know which one) of my subscriptions (I use Radio 7.0.1) has been quietly doing that -- streaming high quality Quicktime trailers to me. Right now it's downloading Strange, though -- I have very few Radio subscriptions, and I still can't figure out which one's doing this. Not that I mind, of course. Update: The Jamby thing was the giveaway: the culprit was Adam Curry and his Movie Trailers Channel. Interesting, since I wasn't subscribed to it (I've subscribed now) for the past week or so. Conclusion: Radio 7 downloads enclosures even from channels you are not currently subscribed to. Not the correct behaviour imho.


Kashmir is not negotiableLooking for information on some bank addresses, I came upon this picture of Kashmir. Noble sentiment, yes. But I have this gut feeling that most Indians would be happy to accept the LoC as an international border provided there is real peace. On the other hand -- I know as long as there is the slightest of doubts in the average Indian's mind about the sincerity of the Pakistani leadership, there will be not an ounce of willingness to compromise. Somehow, I don't think the situation on the Other Side is too different. Fundamentally, there is a chasm of trust, and I think it is too great a chasm to be bridged in our lifetime.


April 28, 2002

This banner has a good way of making its point. Funnily enough, the site is the #1 hit for DMCA on Google, even ahead of the site.

Code is Language -


How do you think about nights? Chances are, you don't. Nighttime is time to spend time at home, at pubs and restaurants and cinemas and concerts. Or maybe escape it all and spend a few moments under the stars with a loved one (or a telescope, or TV, or an all-night codefest). But what if there were no lights to go back to? Roger Ekirch teaches history at VT and is interested in the nights of the pre-industrial era. And, as anyone who has read Isaac Asimov's Nightfall will know, dealing with darkness is not everyone's cup of tea. Guess what? Earth today is not very different from the story's Lagash. But five hundred years ago, Prof. Ekirch's research reveals, there was a world where crime and occult thrived, and where darkened evenings eroded interpersonal barriers, a world with its own entertainments, fears -- and even sleep patterns. Fascinating read.


April 27, 2002

Disney might suck, but there's still a lot the dot-com brigade (rather, the newly desperate cash-seeking dot-com brigade) can learn from old bricks-n-mortar operators like them. Like Disneyland's ticketing options, for example. Consider: today, Yahoo insists you pay separately for Mail, Geocities, and so on. Each is about $5 a month at its cheapest. But there's no way to get a blanket admission to all of Yahoo. All services (level: basic), $14.95 a month? (That's less than AOL, which is justified by the fact that Yahoo does not provide connectivity). CNet (or one of its group companies) is going down the same slope. GameSpot, a CNet Networks Media company, goes pay, too. Still no way of paying for *all* of CNet, you'll note. But as the number of pay sites keep increasing, the strain on my pocketbook will, too. In a month, I might be paying Blogger $3, BlogSpot $1, Slashdot $2.50-5. Other sites I'd be likely to subscribe to would be (heavens forbid) Google, MSNBC/Newsweek, and maybe the Newspaper Today, and almost certainly CNet itself. Are we there to about $20 levels yet? And yet this is a fraction of the sites I visit on a weekly basis. After spending $20 a month on `core' items, I don't know if paying extra for niche items like GameSpot would appear to be good value to me. The only way I'd pay for Gamespot is if it came bundled along with my CNet sub. Other small, indie sites would have to share content/revenue with the Yahoos and CNETs and MSNs of the world. This is very similar to the way current newspaper syndication services operate. Bit of a blow for the notion that the Net was a egalitarian publishing paradise, and the almost contradictory notion that one could set up content on the Net, catch enough `eyeballs', and profit from them.


Blogger's SQL Server database was suffering through a overstuffed transaction log today. Oh well.


(Via Rob) If Darth Vader had a supercomputer, this would be it: The CM-2. Drool drool drool. This so beats the NeXT in coolness.


April 26, 2002

Damn, it's begun again. Germany now, of all places. Bad!


Zoe is a good idea. It would be interesting to see what the next few releases look like.


April 25, 2002

Paraphrasing my /. post here: in the Gates testimony, who's leading who? Could the new found focus on XP Embedded (in the testimony) have something to do with the fact that it doesn't sell very well, as of now? I wonder how QNX, Lineo and the others would feel if/when `XP Embedded for PCs' starts being burnt into Flash RAM of each PC that's sold. Make no mistake, Microsoft could do this, while incidentally giving a black eye to the Free/Open Source communities who will then have additional rounds of reverse engineering to do. (And yes, the FSF's silence on embedded software is becoming an increasing curiosity by the day) And when XP Embedded proper begins to ride the tailwind of PC version, QNX et al will really begin to feel the heat. Remember, if you look at MS's vision for the PC in 3-4 years time, it approaches a TV/stereo-like electronic device more than anything else. So, again: who was leading who in this cross-examination?


Jack Bryar of NewsForge: While reporters for The Register dismissed it as nothing more than ``a long tedious advertisement for Microsoft'', it is just possible that Gates saved his company.


Memepool continues to scoop everyone else on weird sites: NYTimes random login generator. I hope the NYT takes this with a sense of humor.


An aside: why do the content mills (I like that phrase) like the word `consumer' so much? Has the image of couch potatoes slumping before television made them used to the passive `consumer'? A customer by contrast is an active participant in a sale. He haggles, dissects, cribs, drives you wild. I think the content mills have forgotten how to deal with a creature like that, with their increasing dependance on statistical models of `consumer' behavior.


(Via kuro5hin): Frank et al, Viant Corporation: There are many who believe the first step should be to finish the job of eliminating the free competition, to drive piracy back underground,and to make it clear who is in control. In effect, many seem to be saying, ``Let's win the war before designing the peace.'' Clueful essay, but with an attitude like that they'll end up alienating most of their most astute -- and passionate -- customers before they get a chance to broker a peace.


April 24, 2002

Seamus (X-Box) Blackley leaves Microsoft. The XBox was a good idea, one whose potential you can be sure Microsoft will revisit for years to come: it gives them an entry into the living room in a way nothing else will. And if rumors of the Homestation are true, you can bet someone in Redmond has already recognized that. On the other hand -- it is less clear that Microsoft needs to actually manufacture these things. Microsoft, as it found with Hailstorm, is a software company, and it might be within its best interests to make the reference designs and license -- liberally -- among a large number of vendors across the world. This would let it take advantage of PC-style hardware market dynamics and up the ante against Sony, potentially relegating them to be the Apples of the gaming world. In fact, if you look at the recently announced Longhorn hardware specs, it would be refute to say that they are -- partially -- moving on that path already.


(Via USS Clueless) ABC News: Schoolboy Suicide Attacks Dismay Palestinians.


For some reason, copying data via the clipboard from Lotus Notes no longer works on my system :(. I wonder what could have gone wrong.


Note to Apple: In 1996, when Netscape 3 ruled the world and PNG was a newcomer, handling PNG via the Quicktime plugin made sense. In 2002, both IE and Mozilla have made significant advances and can now render PNG natively. So make Quicktime stop grabbing PNG images by default! Quicktime doesn't do this when the a PNG image is displayed inline within a page, but on links like this one.) And yes, I've turned off this behavior in Quicktime's settings, and now IE displays PNGs natively. But Mozilla 0.9.7 continues to show PNGs via Quicktime :(. Update: Re-installing Quicktime solved that one.


XFree86 celebrates its 10th anniversary. X is well designed, but the design assumptions it makes are disastrous for the personal desktop (or laptop) market. Just as Apple created Quartz, the Linux community will have to come up with a standard that at least allows changing color-depth on the fly, and does not suffer from degraded performance on the desktop in the name of `network transparency'. On that point, Directfb may be a good pointer towards the future.


April 23, 2002

Scoble: Am I able to tell you that Bill Gates is lying? Can you?


Cristie Kerr kisses the trophy she received for winning the LPGA Longs Drugs Challenge at the Twelve Bridges Golf Club in Lincoln, Calif., Sunday, April 21, 2002. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) All I wanna know is who designed that darn trophy, and what s/he was thinking at the time. :-)


IE's Powertoys, the less famous sibling of the MS toyshas one tool called Quick Search that's worth its weight in gold. Using this, I can use the address bar to direct searches: `ng sci.crypt' takes me to Google Groups, with sci.crpyt opened. `pl glob' shows me docs for glob, `dc foo' shows me definition for foo. `te foo' and `dp bar' do Teoma and Daypop searches. And so on. Fun. Definitely complements the Google toolbar.


April 22, 2002

I am not sure if I have had too much too drink, but there's something about this page that doesn't look right.


Sam Gentile: (On C#) There's not enough complexity in this language to warrant reading a book on the language itself. All of your questions can be answered by judicious reading of the C# language spec. Yes!


Catherine Raymond: The CBDTPA - A closer look.


Wow. in the one month that ChaosZone has been up, over 24% of my visitors have come on non-Microsoft browsers. Not too bad. 15% are non-MS OS users (Windows 2000 is the leader there with 32%), with Linux at 7% and the Mac at 5%. These are very atypical of what mainstream sites get, of course, but if 24% visitors to a site use a non-Microsoft browser, there's reason for hope. Especially now that Mozilla is reaching the magic v1 figure, complete with native widget support (only for XP and OSX -- boo!), we might get away from a single browser monopoly.


13 die in Gujarat as violence escalates. Is there a good way to contain this chauvinistic barbarism and still maintain a functioning democracy?


April 21, 2002's Google Browse (after Dave's GOB) could be a great game! Rules:
  • Start with an URL. Any URL. The objective of the game is to return to bring this URL back to the top 10 related sites.
  • Choose any URL in the top 10 list. You cannot choose this URL again.
  • Rinse, lather, repeat.
  • The game ends when the first URL returns to the top 10 list (win), or when all the top 10 links have been previously chosen (lose). Of course, the possibility of an indeterminate result is pretty large :)
  • If more than one person is playing, then the one with lesser `hops' wins.
Improve your browsing skills! Impress your friends! :-) More seriously, if someone sets out to graph this (are you listening Rob?), I bet it will throw up some interesting patterns. Would give a whole new meaning to the term `Circle of acquaintances'.


Venkydude: The Innards of the MSN Messenger Wire Protocol. The old IETF Draft is also available.


Joel Spolsky: I've asked a lot of my `power user' friends about this; hardly any of them do any customization other than the bare minimum necessary to make their system behave reasonably.


Oh, btw, the code that powers this front page is available here. With some tweaking of the layouts, it should serve just about anyone who needs to re-render content.


Adobe's Image Optimization Page. Free, and reasonably good for the price. Wish their CreatePDF was available free for casual users too.


I've been thinking about streaming files by SMTP for some time. There are too many firewalls around which don't allow file transfers, and email is a good way of getting your data across simply because the (hopefully willing) recipient has hardly got to do anything to receive the data. (Of course, people who've used Radio upstreaming will scream old hat! here, but not everyone uses Radio (yet! :-)) So SMTP. It could work like this: You would be able to drop a file onto a container on your system tray, and after typing the recipient's name, sit back as the program would split the file and deliver it piece by piece. I wrote up a quick Perl script to show how this might work, it's a command-line tool but shows the flavor of how things could be.


April 20, 2002

The Radio Userland Aggregator page would sure improve if it had either frames or a hierarchial display of stories.


About the only reason I feel apprehensive about Radio is that it's too heavy. I develop for a living. My machines are pretty beefy, but I need most of them to be running at top capacity, with no spare cycles going anywhere. In fact, one of the reasons I like MovableType is that it plugs in nicely into an Apache box, not consuming any resources until I'm actually using it. Sigh -- one can't have everything, can one? :(


I am using Radio 7.1's outliner to document a project I'm working on, and I have only one thing to say: it rocks! Actually, I have used Word's outliner before, and it's very good too, but Word fences you in. There's no way to export your outline to an HTML page, for example. Anyway, I'm gonna keep my Radio 7.1 installer close to me from now on, I can tell you that. (Maybe even buy 8!)


As vector computing falls out of favor in the US (thanks to budget cuts and the growing availability of lower-cost clusters), Japan ups the ante.


April 19, 2002

Alternative explanations for the 0xCAFEBABE magic sequence in all Java .class files.


(Via blogblogbaby) Dunno about gentlemen, but mosquitoes prefer blondes.


From the quirky Google services department: Google Answers.


April 18, 2002

Salon: Sexy specs. 'Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses.'? Well, not this one :-).


Flangy: I'm working on the assumption here, possibly misguided, that women just love going to a bachelor's apartment and seeing a shelf with a bunch of pin-up girly books on it.


(Via Jeb Trowbridge): Given this "knowledge is power" mindset, how do you get people excited about revealing their insights and knowledge in the public domain?. Good question. John Robb can share knowledge and insight because it is in sync with Userland's strategic interests. As a Forrester consultant, he would have found this harder to do (not impossible though). On the other hand, academia and strategic thinkers should take to sharing knowledge via the web like a duck to water -- if nothing else, the web gives them a great sounding board. Inside an organization, it's a completely different story. Organizations which encourage knowledge-sharing emerge stronger, so K-Logs are a natural fit for this environment.


How many sf movie scenarios does *this* remind you of?


April 17, 2002

Run, run, the sequel is coming!


The Register: Sun concentrates tools under ONE Brand.
[Sun Senior Director] Marty Robins told ComputerWire, is "to take all 40,000 Sun employees and get them reading from the same page." Sun, traditionally a company that revolved around hardware, is now turning in earnest to architecture and software, he said.
Till now, Sun as a software company has sucked. The JCP is good, but it moves too slowly to make many developers feel that Sun is really listening. Worse, the people who really innovate -- IBM with SWT, Apache with Log4J -- find themselves ignored for the sake of second-rate APIs which will attain popularity for no other reason than the fact that Sun is backing them.
According to Robins, customers have been asking Sun to take more responsibility for ensuring that the software and services they deploy actually work together. BEA Systems Inc, IBM Corp and other application server vendors have a similar tale to tell. Sun has a very graphic way of describing this phenomenon - "sedimentation".
I have a better word for this. It's called bundling. The very thing the whining brigade at Sun accuses Microsoft of doing. It'll be ironic: as Sun focuses more and more on software, it will realize that there is more to being a software company than writing a bunch of interfaces and releasing that in a market. Any standards committee can do that -- and I'd trust an ISO/ANSI standard over a proprietary Sun standard anyday. Being a software company involves adding value to your products so that your customers' lives are made easier... something which bundling accomplishes, and something which Sun has been 'til now blind to.
Application servers, directory servers, portals and other products that were once classed as middleware are now seen as requirements, and are sedimenting down into the operating system, said Robins.
Hell yes, once upon a time, a TCP/IP stack was a add-on to many OSes. A browser was an add-on until Microsoft changed the rules of that game. What's stopping Sun from creating a killer desktop version of Linux, adding GNOME and Display Postscript, and including StarOffice in it, and selling the whole package for $49.95? The answer is that Sun ('til now) has no fundamental clue about what the customers love about a PC. McNealy can shout 'til he goes blue in the face that customers don't all the complexity associated with a PC, but I think PC use patterns indicate otherwise.


Perlbox: Unix desktop written entirely in Perl! Coool.


April 16, 2002

First there was Modafinil. Now there's Provigil. I don't wanna close my eyes, I don't wanna miss a thing... Oops, forgot I can't sing. Sorry. (Via User #1014)


Holy cow! Digital audio at 10 rupees per song! Very good pricing, although to sweeten the deal they could offer discounts to bulk downloaders. What kills the thing, though, is the licensing morass called Windows Media. Update: Prayag points out that Indian CDs are getting cheaper - Rs 160 ($3.20) and cassettes can cost as little as Rs 80. Looks like discounts on the base Rs 10 price would be a good idea!


Links like these are the reason I read John Robb's weblog regularly: Ant supercolony dominates Europe.


John Robb: Which digital consumer vision wins?


I think Google is indexing the ChaosZone! front page much more frequently now, though its not yet crawled things like my bio and resume. It's always interesting to watch Google update its index -- during this period, rankings within the returned page fluctuate, cached copies differ. It all settles down towards the end, though, and usually for the better.


Via Slashdot: Apache 2 beats IIS at its own game. The interesting thing, of course, is that Apache 2 is BSD based. Just like Rotor, one can quite easily imagine a ASP.NET runtime for Apache. It would really be amazing if .NET could ride Apache's ubiquity and run anywhere that Apache could, but thanks to Microsoft's Windows Strategy Tax mentality, it'll probably never happen. I love Apache, I love .NET, would love to see them together. Too bad.


WashPost: Microsoft Case Puts Familiar Opponents in Unfamiliar Territory.


April 15, 2002

Vancouver Sun: Huge Hydrogen stores found below Earth's crust. Discovery suggests near limitless supply of clean fuel. We need bigger advances in fuel cell and battery technology to make this ubiquitous. Hydrogen in the raw is too dangerous.


Groove 2 cometh. I always thought Groove email facilities could use beefing up -- they are all right for individuals but pretty inadequate for use in a corporate environment that's used to Domino and Exchange. Let's see, will download the preview soon.


Cream. Gotta try this out. See no problems with vim's modal nature, though.


April 14, 2002

I'm in the market looking for some cost-effective terminal based solutions for office work. The idea is to provide a standard, consistent environment for email, web, office productivity software, etc. Let's see if this makes sense. $525 for a headless Sun Ray. Add $275 for a 17" monitor, keyboard and mouse, and you have a terminal for $800. Now add the cost of the Sun Enterprise (say for 25 users) and you end up spending $30k for the kit. That's $1200 per seat, plus the cost of a Solaris administrator. Unless you are an Unix-only shop, you'll also need a Windows 2000 Server (I'm assuming we use Windows 2000) setup (with CALs and Citrix). I won't look at Wyse Winterms because of poor local presence, but their prices are all around the $650 (including CALs) mark for the useful stuff. The server will be a lot cheaper, though, the E250 in the previous case -- but additional software will cost -- Sun bundles lots of software, like StarOffice, with the Sun Rays. Over at DellStore, I can buy a low-end Dimension for $967 -- with Windows XP, Office XP, and a reasonable 20GB hard disk, and 128MB RAM, plus the per seat cost of an antivirus solution (you thought I'd forget that, did you?). Net-net, unless you are a Unix-only shop, or your users have low usability requirements/expectations, sticking with the PC seems to make the best business sense.


Aaah! Office supplies attack!


Lots of posts on Oddpost in the blogging world. Lots of drooling over the user interface, and how they have almost pulled off an Outlook clone using DHTML. Well, as a labour of love, Oddpost is great. As a DHTML demo it is beyond reproach. But. but. but. It still feels like a bad Outlook knockoff. I don't want to pay them $30 to enjoy the droolacious interface (complete with the occasional Javascript error -- especially if you have a nervous mouse finger), I want to pay them for reliable service, a decent interface and IMAPS (it's a netops job, not a development job) After all of that, this interface would be the icing on the cake. Actually, today, I'd pay for Novell's myrealbox if I could (now that's how email ought to be provided!), but those blokes won't take my money :(. has a neat way (warning, IE5+/Win only link) to view recently changed weblogs. Hmm... something like this for would be cool. Price fixing since 1996 caused CD sales slowdown.


April 13, 2002

NYTimes: X10 Nanny-Cam may leave a Home Exposed. The wireless video camera, which is heavily advertised on the Internet, is intended to send its video signal to a nearby base station, allowing it to be viewed on a computer or a television. But its signal can be intercepted from more than a quarter-mile away by off-the-shelf electronic equipment costing less than $250. Uh oh.


Ecstasy? - Ecstasy! The German TV channel VOX had it on air last weekend: a 39y stuntman who suffered from Parkinson's Disease (PD) regained motility after taking Ecstasy (MDMA = 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) pills. (From The Toxicology Weblog.)


ToI: Bangla band Parash Pathar is coming out with a Rabindrasangeet/Rock mix, imaginatively titled `Rabindra rock'. The band is trying out about 20 Tagore songs, with new musical arrangements, sound effects and totally new form of rendition, keeping the original tune intact, for the album which will also include two popular poems rendered in the rock opera form.


[On the web] what people usually do is choose one (or two, or three) passwords, and use those for all their needs. I can remember over twenty five sites that I actively use a password for, for example. And remembering 25 different variants of ^&dskf2@pil7 is a pain. Introducing Passhash.


Dean Takahashi: Captain Xbox. If you liked Showstopper or The Soul of a New Machine, you'll like this one.


If I had to create a desktop CMS, how would I go about it?
  • Pattern it after CityDesk (not Radio). I like browsers, but editing in browsers is an abomination.
  • Use MSDE as the underlying database (Access is okay, of course, but MSDE is much better to use). Of course, if I was targeting non-Win32 environments, something like Berkeley DB would probably do.
  • Embed Python into it, so users have a first class scripting environment, instead of the rather rudimentary CityScript (UserTalk is richer, but I really hate it when each app has to have it's own scripting language). Embedding Perl is fine too, but I feel it's easier to embed Python, and there are (ahem! :-)) readability benefits.
  • Make sure the editing environment is first class, and encourages content-from-presentation separation by adding support for CSS styles etc. This is one area where CityDesk really needs work -- the Article editor. Radio's web based editing tool is okay (what more can you expect from a browser anyway?) but its Outliner is very good indeed -- just the thing you need to write structured text.
  • Yeah, build a good outliner into the darn editing environment.
  • Build a good RDF/RSS reader (patterned after Headline Viewer, except it'd be slightly richer) so that users have a constant source of material to publish.
There, do all that and you have a useful little Radio clone on your hands :-) -- and much easier to use too. Except of course that it's probably worth it to pony up $40 (killer price, that) and use Radio itself, and use Radio's scripting hooks to connect it to Word or something.


ChaosZone! is up again. All hail Murphy. :-)


The Register: FSF ask Lindows: 'Where's the Source?'. Robertson seems dismayed by the FSF's attempt to enforce the GPL. "No wonder there's virtually no healthy Linux companies. No kidding. So now the FSF's to blame for, oh say, Loki's demise? The community seems to attack them when the real focus should be elsewhere." Is this guy for real? DHTML on steroids.


Completed my first really serious exploration of CityDesk. After using a C preprocessor to maintain my website for absolute ages, using a GUI feels good! But the free edition can only manage 50 pages (which is probably enough for me right now), but the Home edition is $79, which makes we wonder if Radio Userland (with its geekish appeal) for $40 isn't a better buy. CityDesk is good, and I'd always recommend it to people who don't inhale XML, but sadly, those who know how can do content management just as well with Radio -- in fact better, and with far more comprehensive scripting support than CityScript can provide. And editing HTML in CityDesk is no great shakes, it's mostly (as with Radio) cut and paste. I'll probably get Radio in the end, unless CityDesk 2 throws up some real surprises.


April 12, 2002

Anil Dash: I wanted my browser to be able to rip, mix, and burn web pages. But those crybaby hypocrites ruined it.


.NET appears so far to be one of the most brilliant and productive development environments ever created. Joel raves about .NET.


(Via Scripting News): IBM, Microsoft plot Net takeover. If it's a patent/royalties war, so be it. I can write webservices without WSDL, I can write webservices without SOAP (XMLRPC is always there). The point is, when the fledgling webservices market takes off, it will have to contend with Java/RMI -- and that is available for royalty free use (though not necessarily royalty free implementation) the last time I checked. There isn't a single pervasive technology out there that's royalty/license fees encumbered (exceptions: Java, GIFs, and MP3 and all of these are effectively free to the end-user because of the way the business models are constructed) and webservices won't be the first. I wouldn't lose sleep over it.


Net4Domains, which hosts, seems to be down for the past 5 hours. First time I'm getting an outage at this level since I signed up.


Chris Hollander:
Hailstorm wasn't a grandious, ground up, company wide vision. Hailstorm was the name of a machine under a desk. XMI is the internal name for a series of apis that describe a handful of services. It's been clear, for months (if not at least a year), that the interfaces weren't enough to bootstrap, and that something "larger" would be required. [...] GXA is that something larger.


Win32 Scripting -- bringing the command line to the Win32 world.


April 11, 2002

Wo! Google Web APIs Beta! Must... Resist... Download... Itch...
(sigh) All right, I give up. :-)


Longhorn Hardware Specs - these give a flavor of where the PC Market is moving. Also, reading this gives excellent insight over who really calls the shots in terms of how PC hardware is built. A quick summary:
  • new APIs for accelerated 2D drawing using Direct3D (son of Chrome? - a clear case of Quartz envy if I ever saw one :-))
  • DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration) for faster MPEG and iDCT encoding
  • a serious implementation of OnNow (``predictable power button behavior'' - heh)
  • added support for smartcards and biometric input devices. From the trustworthy computing dept.
  • Better audio/video streaming and realtime voice/video capabilities
  • This one's interesting -- easier access to connectors, and interfaces that look as good from two feet as they do from ten feet.
  • ``The PC as the preferred mobile device'' -- think tablet PC with Wifi, IPv6, and UPNP discovery (minus the buffer overrruns hopefully).
Bottom Line: Microsoft is betting heavily on Gates' vision for the future, a future he outlined in The Road Ahead. It's a vision where tablet PCs, not cellphones, rule; where the PC has morphed into an entertainment supercenter with an interface that looks good from across the living room and which interacts with zillions of electronic geegaws scattered all around; and with Windows (and descendants) on all of these. It's a good vision for the future, and Microsoft could probably make it happen, but no customer on Earth is going to buy Windows licenses (or even client access licenses) for all the Windows-powered devices he has. Microsoft won the PC OS game by pre-installing the OS. For them to win this round, they'll have to burn Windows onto each device's ROM. The problem is, the manufacturers who will make these devices don't trust Microsoft an inch. Sony et al would much rather go with Symbian, QNX or a Lineo to achieve the same effect -- and they have much more experience in consumer electronics than MS does. Interesting little conundrum there for msft strategy mavens.


I was able to find a good host for Karthik at WebSytz, and now am wondering what other providers might be around. lets you comparison-shop for webspace providers, let's see what I can find. Update: so far, Stormhosts looks good.


More from the Merc: CalTiger to partner with Net2Phone to offer Net telephony in India, with charges as low as Rs 3 a minute. Good! (although given Caltiger's service, I see most businesses staying with Satyam.) Now if we could only call up Europe at a decent rate...


SJ Mercury:
An MP3 digital music player, such as the RioPort, can store 400 hours of compressed music. Within five years, the same $400 player will be capable of storing 12,000 hours of music -- enough capacity to take an entire music collection with you in your car, at the gym or to work. ``Everybody's going to have these things. People are going to pay $400 to get thousands of hours of storage,'' said [Marc] Andreessen.
And there are execs in the music and video industry who still believe that they can hold on to the model of pay-per-view? {shakes head} Pay-per-view may make sense when content is scarce and difficult to obtain or distribute, but with plentiful content and distribution bandwidth, the all-you-can-eat model is a powerful one and appeals to a lot of people -- even those who don't plan to use the service regularly. This is a lesson that Internet Service Providers learnt quickly, and practically no one asks for per-minute connectivity charges today. AOL learnt its lesson, when will the rest of the AOL-TW conglomerate learn?


Via Tomalak: [Gateway] plans to offer free demonstrations on how to legally download songs and burn them onto CDs throughout its Gateway Country retail stores. Williams said that the company is not advocating piracy, but is putting heat on the government to find a balance between consumer demand and copyright protection. Way to go!


Carol the Secretary (from Dilbert): 'Oh, you're not a dating service, eh? Well if I give you money and you send me a guy then it's just semantics.' :-)


Mein sigs.


April 10, 2002

From Slashdot: [CBDTPA] universally rejected. Now's the time to not get complacent, and press ahead for copyright reform.


Scoble on Eclipse (no, not that one).


Via Doc: Ernie (the Attorney?): If Silicon Valley senses anything, it is that they need better lobbyists to prevent things like the CBDTPA. Btw, Lawmeme, on which this article is hosted, is a *great* resource for those interested in the law. Powered by a PHP-based Slash clone (Postnuke?), it's probably one of the best things happening at


I just had Microsoft Security Bulletin MS02-018 ('Cumulative Patch for Internet Information Services') delivered to me in HTML format (normally Microsoft Security is punctillious about delivering these as text). So what's the problem? Apart from increasing the size of the message by almost 2x, the HTML also destroys all line breaks and mangles the PGP signature so thoughtfully put on it :-\. The solution apparently is to go into Microsoft's Profile Center and choose to receive plaintext mails. Catch? You need a Passport and a profile center account. Aaah! Update: They resent a plaintext version of the mail in about 2 hours.


One of my biggest grouses about Linux is that out of the box, the fonts suck (based on experiences with Debian and Red Hat upto 7.1, so this may be a bit out of date). What companies like Red Hat or (especially) Mandrake should do is get together with a company like Bitstream or Adobe and offer a (small) collection of easy to read 'core fonts' for their distro. Of course, I routinely install Microsoft's TrueType core fonts on my Linux boxes, but a collection of good fonts out of the box won't hurt a distro at all and maybe (like the Mac) help develop a distinct identity for it (something that is just not possible, trust me, with a bad Helvetica/Arial knockoff).


Very good display fonts at apostrophiclab.


Found this in my referer logs: ChaosZone in Japanese! Two cheers for the heavily stylesheets based layout, which ensures that the layout still makes sense for stylesheet unsavvy tools.


April 08, 2002

John Udell on Instant Outlining:
I was advocating not just a communication tool, but a way of using it to optimize collaboration. That meant asking people to narrate their work, but also to think carefully about the attention demands they placed on their coworkers, and to label, structure, and layer their communications accordingly. Most people didn't want to do these things, and most people still don't.
And people still wonder why, despite all the spam, all the lost hours, email still survives. There is a market out there for lowest-common-denominator simplicity.


Your one-stop source to all things Google: Ladies and gentlemen, the (unofficial) Google Weblog! Why there isn't a page like this on itself is beyond me.


Oddpost looks cool, but suffers from a major problem. It breaks the model most users have of the web. It tries hard to look like a desktop application, yet buggy Javascript frequently lets it down. Also, while the web may be fast, especially for broadband users, some operations, like fast scrolling, or my ADD-inspired clicking on widgets, remain slow on a browser and fast like a greased monkey on a desktop app like Outlook Express. Still, at the core, Oddpost does offer an inexpensive email service. Maybe what they should be trying to do is build a HTTPMail interface (modeled after Hotmail's integration with Outlook/Outlook Express -- the protocol is not difficult to reverse engineer) so that people with HTTP-only connections can access their mail from anywhere. They already offer POP and IMAP -- this would round out their current offering. (Incidentally, is there any client apart from Outlook Express, that offers Hotmail-style HTTPMail?)


Joe Jennett has some cool OPML mugs, much better than the original one, whose transparency sucked.




April 01, 2002

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