Archive for September, 2006

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

12 Lessons for mobile development

All right, the article is actually 12 Lessons for Those Afraid of CSS and Standards, but if I were to write the same list for mobile development, it would be almost identical. -m

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

11 Best Practices for URLs

Article (with a non-best-practice URL) from seomoz. If you’re into this kind of thing, Web 2.0 The Book has an entire chapter on it. Nitpick: Also note how normal folks say URL, not the even-more-geeky URI. -m

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

XHTML Print is final

Another example of a small, useful spec defined in a language humans can actually read and understand. It also seems incredibly useful to be able to print basic things without going through the multi-megabyte printer driver madness that everyone else seems to be going for. -m

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Hack Day cometh

Another cool thing on the way: this Friday is the first public Yahoo! Hack Day. I’ll be out on the lawn for sure. If you’ll be there–look me up. Since the presentations come rapid-fire at the end, here Chad Dickerson has some tips on presenting in 90 seconds. -m

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

Yahoo’s Pop Hook: I like where this is going…

Spotted via Weinberger. Hiawatha Bray of The Boston Globe writes about Yahoo’s continuing foray against DRM, led by David Goldberg. -m

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Recovering after a laptop spill

I just have a feeling I’m going to need this some day. -m

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Shiver me timbers! Python 2.5 be here

Link. -m

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Another iTunes phone arrives, quietly

Check this out. It’s a RAZR V3i, which has a show-stoppingly bad mobile browser built-in. (But overall, it’s still better than the ROKR!) Compared to the huge announcements from Apple earlier this week, this one comes in fairly under the radar. Could this be a trial baloon leading up to an official iPhone?
If this one supports replacing the browser with Opera, this might be a near-term option… -m

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Actual copy about a phone

A Siemens SL65 to be exact:

Like any jewel, you have to slide the two shells of this tiny giant to open it up.

??? Read it again–it makes even less sense the 2nd time. Aside from hyperactive copywriters, can anyone comment on this phone? Steve didn’t deliver my iPhone yet, so I have to look elsewhere… -m

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Microsoft frees 35 standards

I got this link from Eve, and to think, I never even knew there was a The Microsoft Open Specifications Promise irrevocably lets any interested parties implement and use a list of technologies without fear of getting sued (at least sued by Microsoft). It is similar in tone and scope to earlier declarations about the Office XML formats, and the declaration from Sun about UBL. I’m not a lawyer, so if I’ve described this badly, get a real lawyer to explain it. :-P
This is a smart move; since obviously a great deal of work went into producing these standards, I’m sure Microsoft plans to benefit more by growing the “whole market” (in the language of _Crossing the Chasm_) then they would by nickle-and-dime asserting patent rights. They also come out far, far better in public opinion, especially among those most affected by these standards.
There’s another angle worth considering–the defensive. Giving away patent rights carte blanche might at first seem like a funny kind of defense, but here’s how it works: after today, what would happen if BigWebServicesCo started shaking down implementers of WS-Whatever? The attacker would be savagely torn apart in the court of public opinion, that’s what. Submarine patents are dirty business, so for a bigger target, creating an environment more hostile to such bad behavior is a powerful strategy.

Of course, smallish parasitic patent troll companies won’t be deterred much, but then again nothing seems to.

I’m optimistic that this is part of a positive trend. I’ll even refrain from further opinions on the WS-* technologies. :-) -m

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Turning Point

For the first time today, I momentarily wished that jEdit had a particular Emacs key binding, not the other way around. -m

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Mark Birbeck: ‘Ajax makes browser choice irrelevant’

A must-read posting from Mark Birbeck, who knows a few things about XForms and Web Forms 2.0.

He talks about the respective approaches embodied in XForms and Web Forms 2.0, and concludes that the primary difference between them has little to do with simplicity. He goes on to analyze differences in how developers and users view browsers. Go read it, it’s worth it. -m

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Concentré XML Tools

I’ve written before about the xslt2xforms project by Sébastien Cramatte. The project is not only still alive, but expanded into an entire utility kit including a PHP5 framework and forming “a complete xforms/xml toolbox based only on w3c standards”. Check it out on sourceforge. -m

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Disk Usage, Python, and SVG (oh my)

Check out this script. -m

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Should hospitals censor internet access?

Most of the censorship stories you hear on the news involve public libraries, but right now I’m writing this from a hospital, which has free wi-fi. Someone providing a service like this has latitude to do pretty much as they please, including censorship, but is it a good idea?

The system here evidently consists of a monitor observing every HTTP access, either forwarding it on or bouncing to another server, one that seems to be down. That second server, referred to only by numeric IP, has yet to ever actually respond, so trying to load any page with a blocked site requres a lengthy timeout of about two minutes before landing on a browser error page with a URL something like this:

Let’s take a look at what kind of sites this inane system prevents hospital visotors from viewing directly:

  • (“Personal Pages”) — because honestly, who in a maternity ward would ever need to upload pictures of something?
  • (“Dating&Personal”) — because who in a maternity ward would consider posting to a blog?
  • as a (“Portal Site”) — because who, away from home for a few days, might want to check up on news of the world around them?
  • (“Personal Pages”) — thankfully, this dangerous and immoral content too has been shielded from the eyes of maternity ward visitors.

At some point, somebody must have pointed out a flaw in their system–that any named site can also be viewed through a numeric IP. Instead of actually thinking about the problem, they also banned all numeric IPs, even for sites that would otherwise work.
The upside to retarded filtering is that it’s easy to get around. Techniques that work here include using a search engine cached page, Coral Cache (, SSH tunneling, VPN, and adding a new entry to hosts to access the same site under a different name. The access is so slow, however (hmm… in a way another form of censorship) that the strain of the additional measures often leads to timeouts and various other errors.
Fortunately, the filtermasters haven’t caught on to yet, thus allowing this post to appear. I hear that site is pretty subversive.

What’s the net?

  1. It’s obvious their list of sites to filter is woefully generic, not at all adjusted to the environment in which people will be actually using the system. And still, I’d wager they’re paying someone fistfuls of cash to keep updating the generic list.
  2. I can imagine there are a few sites on the internets that wouldn’t be appropriate in this environment.  The majority of well-adjusted adults are perfectly capable of choosing not to visit those sites.
  3. In cases where supervision is needed, it is effective on a one-on-one basis, often parent-to-child. Witness how many ways there are to easily bypass the filters: software, particularly bad software, isn’t clever enough to replace human judgement.
  4. Yay for the mobile web, which allowed me to upload my pictures anyway.