Archive for September 2002

Sunday, September 29, 2002


I wrote a little Perl script that generates an RSS Feed for ATPM. The best way to view it is with NetNewsWire.
NetNewsWire Showing ATPM's RSS Feed

Generator and Search Objects in Java

Lambda the Ultimate links to a paper by Lloyd Allison about continuation-style programming in Java.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Think Before You Scrape

I’ve been using NetNewsWire for a while now. It seems like a great idea, but I just don’t find it all that useful—kind of like the Google tool in Watson. Sometimes the browser’s more flexible interface is a win. I have the same gut feeling about Steven Frank’s Emila prototype (though I’ve not used it).

Jaguar Install CD

Daring Fireball explains, through a script, why the readme on the Jaguar install CD isn’t readable on OS 9. It would be funny if it didn’t seem so plausible. Plug: You can fix files that lack type and creator codes with my free File Adopter utility. It’s the only one I know of that uses Internet Config rather than an internal list of favorites to map from extensions back to HFS metadata. I’m more concerned that when I try to boot either of two Wall Street PowerBook G3s from the Jaguar install CD they just hang there with a blank screen (backlight off). Software Update doesn’t detect any firmware updates that they are lacking, and 10.1 installed fine. Update: Oddly enough, I was able to re-install 10.1.3, and when I ran the Jaguar installer from there it worked.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002


Checking out my RDF file in NetNewsWire, it’s clear that Movable Type isn’t preserving any of the HTML tags. Why?

Jaguar Info Windows

Ken Bereskin claims that Jaguar makes everyone happy by supporting old-style Get Info windows as well as NeXT-style Get Info inspectors. Let’s see: if I select two files and type Command-I without holding down Option, do I get one info window for each? Nope, I get a single window with info for “2 items.” Oops.

Trying to make everyone happy never seems to work. We have hidden filename extensions with complicated rules, a hybrid Finder that refuses to stick to spatial mode, and the option to trade fuzzy text for poorly spaced text. In each of these cases, Apple gives the appearance of catering to the “classic” Mac users without really giving them what they want.

I try not to be too critical of Apple, but (to paraphrase Alan Kay) they have the only OS worth critiquing.


Julian Missig posted some thoughts about iChat’s interface. Brushed metal aside, I think iChat is pretty good. I love sending files over Rendezvous. Now if only it didn’t crash every time I try to use it…

User Reviews

Steven Frank writes about the dangers of VersionTracker user reviews. I’m not sure what the solution is. It’s true that many comments are uninformed, but if you sort through them there is some useful information. I think a little moderation is all that’s needed to bring the comments up to Amazon quality, and increase the difference between VersionTracker and its competitors. If they won’t do that—it’s a lot of work, as Lee Bennett will tell you—then perhaps it would be better to remove the comments all together. Providing support for users is also a lot of work. Since releasing SpamSieve, I feel like I’m spending more time writing e-mails than coding. So I have a lot of respect for companies like Frank’s that pay attention to their customers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Smart Punctuation

My current source of frustration with Movable Type is that smart punctuation doesn’t Just Work. Daring Fireball recommends storing dumb punctuation in the database and using a Movable Type template module to educate it during the rendering process. Certainly this is better than writing the HTML entities by hand, but I think the database should store the truth. That’s the only way to ensure that the output is what the author intended, because every education algorithm gets a few cases wrong. Sure, most of these cases involve inch marks, nested quotations, or deliberate examples of incorrect punctuation, but it’s the principle! I shouldn’t have to think about how the text will be processed on the way out of the database, because that might change. Current solution: make a BBEdit stationery pad with smart quotes, soft wrapping, and the language set to HTML. Generate HTML using the Markup tools to make sure it uses dumb quotes. If I want dumb quotes for an inch mark, hold down Control. Use the Translate tool just before pasting into iCab. Flout Amdahl’s law.

Pink Floyd Interviews

Geoffrey reminded me to check out this site full of Pink Floyd interviews. I love the one where Roger Waters says that OK, Computer has a few good tracks but that Radiohead’s “red” album is beyond him. I don’t get it either.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Valid at Last

I finished configuring the Movably Type templates. It turns out that the unescaped ampersands only appeared in the calls to the JavaScript that pops up the comments window—I wanted to get rid of that anyway. Now everything should validate as HTML 4 Transitional. BBEdit doesn’t like <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="">, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I have to admit that the way you configure Movable Type’s archive filenames is cool. I set the individual posts to be archived in folders by year, month, and day. The filename is based on the title of the post. (Unfortunately, it looks like I’d have to modify Movable Type itself to make it translate spaces into hyphens instead of underscores.) The month archive pages are simply the index files in the numbered month folders. I was able to get Movable Type to generate the appropriate entries in the outline navbar, except that it wants to link to the current page instead of putting it in italics.

HTML Generators

Why can’t Web scripts like Movable Type and converters like Tex4ht generate HTML that validates? I’ve cleaned up the Movable Type template, for the main index page at least. It looks pretty good without CSS now. But the HTML generated by Movable Type itself is still bad: it generates unescaped ampersands in URLs and lots of other junk. Are there any HTML-generating tools that actually generate valid HTML? Short-term solution: remove the footer link that validates the current page.


Last night my sister brought me a copy of the Tess Bethune Switch ad from Entertainment Weekly:

“I used to think it was my fault that Windows didn’t work properly.”

Most people aren’t stupid. They’re just made to feel that way.

Sunday, September 22, 2002


I’m a kind of a late early adopter. New technologies are cool, but I try to make sure they are actually useful (to me). I ignored MP3s until someone finally made a decent player. I continue to ignore XML and XSLT because there’s no Mac environment that does approximately what I want out of the box. YAGNI and DTSTTCPW say that it’s better to tweak my existing custom solutions as the need arises. Hopefully by the time I need the Right thing, the Right thing will be more mature. Thus, it’s not a surprise that I’m also late getting on the blogwagon. I’m not sure how good Movable Type is, but I decided to give it a try. So far it seems to be easy enough to use that I won’t be discouraged from writing entries now and then.