Technology Archives

May 8, 2003

All Your Hardware are Belong to NGSCB

CNet has an intersting article about how Microsoft is going to integrate NGSCB (the technoloy formerly known as palladium) into the Windows GUI. Windows that are secure and have what should be considered confidential will actually have a different look to them. It's a good thing they are letting the themeing stuff simmer for a couple of years so whent hey need it it's well done. Although most Linux windows managers woth using do this already: I can make telnet windows to sun boxes have an openwindows look and feel to them to remind me I sholdn't try wacky linux commands there.

There was one glimmer of hope however...

NGSCB will not be integrated into Longhorn, which is due in 2005, but will instead come out as separate software, [Microsoft: A separate look for security]

Oh good, it won't be completely crammed down our throat, not without our permission.

...Over time, pieces of the technology will be integrated into the coming operating system.

But it's gonna be like the catalytic converter. Optional at first, then mandatory, then "leaded fuel" (aka commercial software not useing NGSCB) will disapper. Maybe if we are lucky it will be more like caffiene free diet coke, widely available at firt but then only avaliable if you know where to get it, but still out there.

Note to self: don't eat fast food after 3pm. Second note to self: don't eat fast food.

June 9, 2003

New Tungsten C

Today I got an early father's day present: a Tungsten C. In fact I am posting from it right now. Cool Beans! Now I just need that new j2me runtime

June 16, 2003

The Follies of IDE Selection by Checklist

Back on the issue of IDE bloat. Sometimes corperations pick IDEs by commitee. And that leads to the check list syndrome. Group A requires Feature A and Groups B, C, D ad infinatum. Add in another common feature of "corperate standards" where development "needs" to standardize on one IDE. So what usually winds up getting picked is the IDE that can meet the biggest check list. In the interest of not losing revenue the IDE developers try to fill all of thoese check list items as is inhumanely possible. But the problem is that the IDEs become a Jack of all Trades, and are sadly the master of none. More often than not what winds up getting picking is an IDE that no one is happy with. But it was done in a very egalitarian fashion, meaning that everyone's equally screwed in that case.

Situations like these remind me of the early days at my current job. We initally had some big fuzzy discussions about coding practices and build environments and one of the things that came up was IDEs. One person with alot of clout (that immediatly eliminates me) insisted we all use Visual Cafe because it integrated with WebLogic. At the job I had just before this one I tried to use what was a current copy of Cafe for a week. I had liked it before, but then again this was after not using it for two years while I was experementing with Linux in College (don't we all experement with stuff in college? Since I didn't experement with drugs I had to experement with something...). Anyway, I quit rather quickly because of it's horrible JDK 1.2 integration. That, and it crashed alot. I voluntered that information but it was freely ignored. Weblogic Integration was the most importaint thing (perforce integration was second) and thus the standard was Cafe (I didn't use it, I stuck with NetBeans).

This was before WebGain crashed and burned. In the year since I had abandonded it Cafe hadn't seen any major changes (despite the new major version number since WebGain bought it). A year and half later I walk into a phone confrenece where he's whining about Cafe crashing again and about what a piece of crap it was. I had to have a chuckle to myself because that's exactly what I had told him over a year earlier. It was still a piece of crap, but the piece of crap integrated with WLS.

Moral of the story? Trust experience over a marketing checklist.

June 23, 2003

Yahoo Using Google News Tricks?

Found this on My Yahoo, but Get a load of this juxtaposition:


No, the photo on the left is not the Late Mayor, but Jacko! Too bad for the late Mayor Jackson he's upstaged by some wierdo. The real question I have though is who's to blame? Yahoo? Reuters? Was there no human associating those photos?

July 7, 2003

How Would You Like Your Three Panes?

Diego is considering going to a different three pane layot for the next release of Clever Cactus (a java based PIM/Mail application). The old school of three paned navigation was useherd in by Netscape Communicator's e-mail program, and Outlook and Outlook Express lead the charge. It is now such a common idiom that almost all off-line rss aggrigators use the old school three pane navigation of channels on left, news item summary on the top right, and the full news items on the bottom left. The new trend seems to be to left middle right three panes. FeedDeamon defaults to three column, and the betas of Outlook from the new Office Betas start out in three column view. Diego is considering going that rout for Clever Cactus and has spent Another weblog entry hashing over more of the detals. However I am of the opinion that three column navigation won't fly. Why?

The most importiant issue in my eye is the issue of the center point. Like a fine piece of art, the content in a gui window should draw our eye to the most relevent or used area. The middle (actual middle or precieved middle) of the window should contain the most used window in the applicaiton. In the three column layout that is going to be the level 2 navigation, not the content pane that is going to be banished to the right side of the pane. Which for western readers the right side is the side most likely to be ignored. (Theater and broadway musicals use this fact to great effect). But there are other areas where we are trained to focus on the middle column of a three column layout. Look at most weblogs out there, most either put perifiery information to the left or the right of the main entry, and some put the info on both the left and the right, even Diego's own weblog uses three columns and places the most relevent content in the middle. Most (all?) modern software IDEs follow this ideal as well: the main editing pane tends to be in the middle while all of the auxiluary informational panes are scattered around the left, right, bottom, and top. It's BorderLayout to the extreme.

Another issue is that a usable three column layout requres a lot of horizontal real estate. We don't all have 16:9 apple cinema layouts so we have to deal with the 4:3 layout of most monitors. And not veryone likes to run every application maximized. About the only application I maximize is NetBeans, and that is because there is usually a lot of non-linier information I need accessible at once. Everything tends to take up about half to three quarters of the horizontal space with the widest content pane taking up about a half of the real sceen space. All the windows also take up 75% to 90% of the vertical space. By adding more horizontal exclusive space it requries me to widen my window.

It also adds more un-needed information to the window. I don't need to see all 30 options on the second level of navication, I am almost exclusively intereted in the top few from that stack. And the few time I do need that space in outlook (usually when I am seraching manually) I tend to make the preview pane much shorter. But as long as the current item is focused in the level 2 navigation I can minimize the needed space to use that level.

Finally it's been tried before. NeXT tried it first and moved it to early builds of the Aqua interfaces and there moans and moans of how hard it was to use. Part of it may have been resistance to new stuff in the new MacOS but if you look at all of the other UIs apple has done since basically none of them do what the NeXT finder did. Russ posted a bunch of GUI links to modern mac applications put out by apple and none of them do a three column layout left to right. All of the main content panes are large and take up the center point. In places where this represents a third level of navigation either the first pane is not shown or it is done where the panes are top left, bottom left, and center-right.

If any new direction in Clever Cactus should be taken perhaps it should be the TL-BL-CR format, with multi-line rows (like quicken or palm's versa mail) containing the second level navigation items. Three column just dosen't float my boat.

August 19, 2003

SCO Group Sheds Light on Code Theft Case

Well, SCO finally showed some of the infringing code to the public according to some info from Slashdot. Amazingly enough there is a quie concise summation of the origin of the code in the comments of the article:

So to sum it up: SCO sued IBM, because HP comitted a patch copied by SGI from an old Bell Labs Unix, which was released under a BSD license by SCO. Seems like Sun are the only ones not involved. That's probably the reason they bought one of those Unix licenses from SCO, just to be part of the picture. [Slashdot Comment]

All of our reasons for why they didn't want to show the code are now true: the theft claims are all bunk!

November 17, 2003

Weblog Polling

Just last week I got this month's issue of the ACM's Queue Magazine. This month's focus is Instant Messaging and one of the articles was an op-ed/advert for IBM's Community Tools. One of the most interesting tools I though was PollCast, which is basically IM polling. Reading the use scenarios was fascinating, but then I got to thinking... (dangerous, I know) could something like this be done for Weblogging? Quickly I came to the conclusion that yes it could.

Adding polls and responses to polls is something that could totally be done within weblogging, and in fact could be considered an extension to popular syndication formats such as Atom and embedded in weblog software and possibly readers. At a low level there would be some extra elements in the entry element of a weblog post in Atom or via other entry characteristics that tell the user agent that a poll is part of the weblog entry. In these would be essential items such as the question, the allowed set of answers (along with a current summary of the results), possubly extra data such as the allowed timeframe to vote within, and (most importantly) URIs for an API call to do trackback/backtalk like pings to the poll. The last piece is what I believe is the most novel part of this concept: To vote in the poll you would have to have a weblog entry of your own voting for an answer in the poll. Another URI could be to list the specific votes like a trackback list, so users can explain their votes if they fell the need. And this adds something totally missing from current web polls: transparent accounting and traceability. Anyone with a polling enhanced aggregator can examine the poll results themselves and even tally the votes themselves.

The poll sponsor side could be as simple as a typical weblog entry with two added features. For the HTML rendering of the entry the normal entry would be followed or prefaced by a nice rendering of the poll question and progress, along with links to the votes themselves like a "comments" page. An auto-discovery link would also be present for polling enabled clients or smart JavaScript bookmarks like Moveable Type creates. This is so the viewer can vote immediately if they have a ballot/blog. For the syndication feed there would need to be the aforementioned elements describing the poll in addition to the other elements that are part of a normal entry.

The real complexity of this comes in the sponsor implementation itself. The sponsor would need to be aware of the voting trackback links and would need to store the information and know to update the syndication and html pages. For blog systems where everything is dynamically generated then this isn't quite the same issue, bot for static hybrids they would need to trip some re-generation codes, however clever use of IFrames could fix that.

As for the poll ballot sites, this is where more flexibility exists. But for the transparency to work there would need to be some indication of how they voted. One possible HTML rendering could show the poll as it would appear on the sponsor site except highlighting the particular ballot entries vote. The could also including a href to the of the poll. Perhaps the same auto-discovery links the sponsor may also be present to allow the viewer to vote themselves without ever having to visit the sponsor site. Similarly the syndication feed would need to include an element indicating what the vote for that ballot was and perhaps the same links back to allow second or third generation voting.

The more I think about this the more complex it gets on the server side, and the more seamless it could seem to the user with the right tools, but there enters the network effect. And I don't have enough exposure to any of the blogging systems or clients to effectively code a proof of concept (not to mention lack of time). But in a perfect world where this existed it could actually be usefull. Perhaps in addition to JDJ, JavaPro, Jolt, and JavaWorld offering awards at JavaOne perhaps there could be the WebLog awards awards, the advantage being that no accusations of secret ballot box stuffing or editorialized awarding occuring snice everyone can see fot themselves the ballots with the haning chads!

April 22, 2004

Still more than 3 ways to loop it...

A discussion on looping in C# misses my favorite approach to looping, of course this only works if order of execution does not matter...

for (int i = foo.Length - 1; i >= 0; i--) {}

The big advantage here is that we are not going up to some unknown number that has to be stored on the side or accessed from a (potentially mutable) field. This saves one value on the register stack

It also works if you are trying to index the first occurance, although going forward and breaking out of the loop seems to work better in those cases.

21 Apr 2004 9:15 pm MDT: Edited to explain what I think is novel about it.

September 12, 2006

Tumms + Ice Cream = Baby Fomula Coupon?

Is it me or has data mining gone too far? Last night I was at Walgreens buying some stuff for my wife and I: Tumms, Ice Cream, and Candy Corn. Well, it looks like they have installed the same automated coupon machines that they have at King Soopers (the local Kroger chain) and lo and behold what comes up on the cupon? Baby formula.

So either they are getting our purchase records from Wal-Mart and offering a discount when I go on a midnight run, or they have figured out that Tumms + Ice Cream means a pregnant lady at home. Just... Bizzare.

September 28, 2006

FireFox 2 has SpellChecking!

Mozilla Firefox has released the RC1 release of their 2.0 product.

Why am I mentioning this? In of all places my blog? A blog I titled "...And They Shall Know Me By My Speling Errors?" Because they have integrated a spelling checker into their text area widget. Short red dots run under any wurd you misspell!

Does this still mean I will make spelling mistakes? Ewe betcha!

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