Mon, 30 Jun 2003

One more note on the Echo/RSS mess

I don't have a horse in this race (I'm not a coder, nor a bidnethman), I'm just an interested observer. At this point, assuming the Echo folks wind up with an implementable spec (something I entirely expect to happen, given the technical caliber of the people involved), the outcome, to me is clear. The installed base insures that all current weblog and aggregator vendors will continue to support RSS (most likely the 0.91/2.0[x] strain) for the forseeable future. Every developer of note in this field has already pledged support for Echo, and (paranoid conspiracy theories aside, and we know who's spreading that FUD), an open format hashed out via a transparent process is going to appeal to a lot of people. I'm going to provide feeds in both formats once this is all settled, and I imagine a lot of pragmatic folks will do the same thing. No big deal.

:: 07:36
:: /tech/computers/web/rants | [+]
::Comments (0)

Mon, 09 Jun 2003


I know I shouldn't complain. Sourceforge provides valuable services to the geek public, for free, but their infrastructure is so broken! Their public CVS servers are almost impossible to access -- sometimes it seems like it's a contest to see how many times you can see the "cvs [login aborted]: recv() from server Connection reset by peer" message in a single day. I use a number of very actively updated programs, so I like to stay in sync with the development (CVS) versions of quite a few of them, and, for any Sourceforge hosted project, this above error message (or something very much like it) is a (painfully) regular sight.

If the instability of SF's infrastructure only affected the 0.01% of people who "need" to keep source trees in sync, that would be one thing. I'd still whine about it, but it certainly isn't something that would affect a measurable portion of even the general computing public. The problem is that, increasingly, even ordinary software projects with a general end-user audience are hosted with Sourceforge, and their file mirroring system is very, very broken. Sourceforge mirrors their content with several organizations, geographically spread around the computing world. This is good, because it distributes the bandwidth load across several large "pipes", rather than requiring Sourceforge to bear the expense of many ungodly huge net connections on its own. For this reason, they don't provide direct links to binaries for hosted projects. Instead, files are distributed via HTTP redirect links to the various mirror sites. Unfortunately, their mirroring process is unreliable and it will often serve up redirect links to mirror sites that have not received the files yet. Many times you'll find yourself presented with a list of 10 mirrors for a new file release, only to get 404 link errors on the first 6 or 7 or 8 links you click. What is the logical end-user response to this? "These open-source projects are always so unpolished. They can't even provide working download links for their software."

But, I know, it's free, and if I can't provide something better I should just shut up. But damn.

:: 21:40
:: /tech/computers/web/rants | [+]
::Comments (0)

Fri, 02 May 2003


What the hell happened to Versiontracker? The new design is awful. It's clearly designed to force searchers into more pageviews (and hence, more adviews) at the expense of usability. All the more reason to use Ben Moore's MacUpdate Sherlock channel.

:: 10:13
:: /tech/computers/web/rants | [+]
::Comments (0)

Sun, 20 Apr 2003


The recent Scheißstürm (is that a real German slang word or am I just fronting? no idea...) illustrates that, for purposes of establishing identity in a long and contentious thread, trackbacks are more useful than comment entries. And don't get me started on those plaintext excerpts again. I suppose trackbacking preëmptively is a good habit to get into, because if one manually sends a ping, at least you get to control what gets excerpted.

:: 18:07
:: /tech/computers/web/rants | [+]
::Comments (0)

Mon, 03 Mar 2003

Spammers are fast SOBs

I posted that Jabber entry Saturday night at about 11:30PM. I included my JID,, in the message, and I know for certain that was the first time that address ever appeared in any searchable form on the Intarweb. It's not an email address, it just looks like one. At 2:09 PM today, about 38 hours later, I got a 419 scam email (you know, "I urgently need help moving 5 million dollars out of the country, blah blah blah...") aimed at that address, but bounced to my postmaster box because it didn't resolve. I imagine the spammers' address harvesters are keying on the and/or update lists. Evil.

:: 19:43
:: /tech/computers/web/rants | [+]
::Comments (0)

Mon, 24 Feb 2003


There's been a minor brouhaha in certain circles over the past week or so about the applicability of good typographical practice on the web. The genesis of the rant seems to be John Gruber's nifty little plugin SmartyPants (for Movable Type and Blosxom 2.x weblogs), which restores some of the typographical niceties (true quote marks instead of inch and foot marks, em dashes, etc.) to weblog entries. Some have complained that these "special characters" break certain pieces of software. Others (rightly, IMO) argue that the "problem" is easy enough to fix in software, and that we ought not have to "ugly up the world" to work around broken tools. I happen to think it's great. I annoyed everyone within earshot of me back in the late 90's, extolling the virtues of QuickDraw GX's advanced layout capabilities, going nuts with automatic ligatures, properly justified text (including quote marks which hung beautifully outside the margins of text blocks, etc.) I despaired when Apple killed the project (in retrospect, it died from a combination of lack of printer drivers and Adobe's deliberate sabotage.) The good news is that all that goodness is available in Quartz (at least in the "enhanced" typefaces like Hœfler Text and Zapfino -- but it's still underutilized.) I digress, though...

Sven-S. Porst (beautiful weblog, btw) writes about 'Special' characters:

Typography has been around for centuries. A lot of experience went into making things in a way that they're easy and pleasant to read. That's why we've got elaborate typefaces, special dashes, ligatures etc. Then, a few decades ago, there came computers – Allegedly smart machines that immediately threw typography back into the stone age. Hooray to monospaces fonts and character sets that are suitable for writing C code! I sense irony here – the bitter kind.


Not only is suggesting to not use them an insult to both the eye and those billions of people who can express themselves in something more subtle than C++, but it also doesn't make sense from a technical point of view.

[Quarter Life Crisis]

Visual appeal is truly part of the "Fahrvergnügen" of the web. There's nothing at all wrong about striving to render readable, beautiful text (I know, I owe a redesign...) that takes advantage of the 400+ years of expertise that professional typographers bring to the table.

:: 10:33
:: /tech/computers/web/rants | [+]
::Comments (0)

Don’t despise your poor relations, they may become suddenly rich one day.
— Josh Billings