New TiBook

Sigh! A new TiBook with better graphics, faster chip, and more 1MB L3 cache. This is the first time in a long long time I have computer envy. Only three or four months after I received my TiBook, which was nearly the top of the line, a new one has me gaga. I don't ever remember being this way over any PC I ever bought. No, I don't wish I had waited, because my TiBook rocks.
April 28, 2002

UNIX and Mac OS X guide

I finally got my hands on a copy of Mac OS X Unleashed, which is a great resource. Not only does it provide indepth understanding of the Mac side of OS X, but it provides an excellent resource for the UNIX side too. I have had problems getting Perl's CPAN running through the "make" process for some modules. This book seems to give me enough understanding of the foundations to get me through the processes. I have knowledge of UNIX and Linux and each variant has its own twist, which is not a bad thing.

New edesign mag

Last night I stumbled across edesign magazine at the local Barnes and Noble. I have been bemoaning the loss of Web Techniques and other electronic medium magazines. The preview copy that I picked up was a rather solid issue that covered a broad swath topics. The magazine did not hit the cutting edge, but it was the first time I have seen some topics covered in hard print. The magazine pointed to MeFi (including some specific threads in MeFi) and talked with Zeldman and other developers who are in the digital medium for more than just fast cash. This issue touched on the folks that have been and are still passionate about the digital medium and electronic design. It was nice to see Carl Steadman's name in hard print again. I hope these folks can stick around. Now I am waiting for a May/June issue.
April 27, 2002

Bethesda gets a Landmark theater

Wahoo, Bethesda gets a Landmark theater, which means foreign and independant films are going to be with in walking distance. Landmark usually restores historic theaters, but in this instance they have built a new property. That whole area is now hopping on weekend nights.

I am a fan of Landmark. I had many great nights in Landmark theaters in San Francisco and the East Bay. Washington, DC had the Key theater, but even with that I missed the wonderful Landmarks of the Bay Area. Now there is great hope.

April 26, 2002

Joe Clark runs real accesibility test on Flash MX

The accesibility guru, Joe Clark, writes the real Flash MX accesibility story. I know I have been waiting for somebody to actually test MX. Flash is taking the right steps, but it still is not fully there. When it comes to accesibility it is not a part of the way thing for those with disabilities, it either works or does not work.

A good win

Today there was some good new. The contract I work on today was finally awarded to the teamed companies I was working on the proposal for. This means there is the possibility I could be working at the same place for the next 10 years. This is good news.

Intelligent gripes about AOL

WSJ's Kara Swisher, in her last Boom Town Exchange, posts readers comments about AOL. Many of the comments are critical, but it is a good look at how users interact with services. Many of these folks writing in have been AOL users for years. Services is important and keeping a broad user group happy is really tough, as you will see if you read.

XML for org charts and so much more

Thanks to Anil, I came across An open toolkit to facilitate knowledge extraction and document analysis, which contains a solid approach to org charts. I know quite a few folks that sing the "Org Chart Blues" on a daily basis. This is a solid step in the right direction. This document is the work of Gareth Hughes

Things around here have been insanely hot. Our apartment was above 85 degrees all night. Joy could not take it any longer and drove to work at 3:30 to get a/c (she counted 27 stop lights from home to work and only 9 minutes of driving with nearly all of them flashing yellow). I got up for a while, but finally the need for sleep dug in.
April 16, 2002

I am really wishing the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference was a little later in the year, like September. I really want to go to this, but I have no vacation (I currently work for a company that requires you to take vacation to speak at or attend tech conferences. Even taking tech courses requires vacation, although they pay for tech courses). I will be in NoCal later in that week for a very quick fly in and out quasi-work related event.

I am really wishing the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference was a little later in the year, like September. I really want to go to this, but I have no vacation (I currently work for a company that requires you to take vacation to speak at or attend tech conferences. Even taking tech courses requires vacation, although they pay for tech courses). I will be in NoCal later in that week for a very quick fly in and out quasi-work related event.

It is damn hot in the Washington, DC area. Joy just took our one fan to the back of the apartment to get a breeze blowing in the bedroom. Now it is insanely hot in the family room with a hot TiBook in my lap. Time for bed me thinks. (We live in an older building that turns on the central a/c on in mid-May)

Paul gets SCRAPI

Paul is on a streak with his rogue API explaination and Bookwatch. The API discussion is very intriguing. Paul has build an Amazon information scraper to add information to his bookwatch. A great idea. The downside is Amazon is always changing its interface, but the current version of the scraper seems to work well for Paul. This shows what can be done with a machine readable Website.

Related to using the proper URL in the doctype, IE 6 renders table content as centered when wrapping the table with center tag. The article explains when this happens and how to work around the problem. One option is not using centering (either in a div align or in the deprecated center tag). It seems setting the CSS is the best work around. We have found using the center tag to be far more problematic than the div align usage of center. (Yes, we have to support "older" browsers at work).

The WSJ's Thomas Weber has an opion I strongly believe in, Record Companies Should Attempt To Compete for Music Fans' Loyalty. I have a strong belief in competition of the marketplace. Media companies have poor business leaders who do not know how to compete and take advantage of changing parameters of their business environment. When VHS came out movie companies complained that it would take away sales. Solid business minds learned not to cry wolf, but to compete. The record companies have failed in the marketplace and learning to take advantage of a changed marketplace.
April 14, 2002

We went to Altoona, PA for the wedding of friends of ours. The wedding was wonderful and we got to see friends we had not seen in a while.

I really had not spent much time in that part of the country. The drive was like a trip through a model railway set, the ones I used to read about in magazines when I was young. The trip also reminded me of trips through Swiss mountains and Austrian rolling hills.

CompUSA no sale

Need to have an example of not thinking through all the steps when building a Web application? Macwhiz tries to buy a monitor with good money, but bad application does not allow it. Having the credit from CompUSA on a CompUSA card and using to buy from CompUSA does not mean a thing. The buyer wanted it delivered to his office (always a logical option), but had his home address listed on the credit card (another logical option). CompUSA needed him to add his office address to the card (another logical option), but does not offer any mechanism to doing so (somebody will get fired).

When building applications there needs to be processes put into place to handle the needed options. Many times this requires a phone call to people trained in customer service. Not understanding processes before building an application or have ALL parties talking while developing an application will save embarrassment.

You should never start building before drawing a blueprint that takes into account all the options and needs. There is too much experience around to really have this happen with out a conscious decision being made (usually up the food chain) that stopped the options from being developed (if this is not the case they have the wrong developers or not enough time to have the processes worked out). These reasons are very close to why I will never buy from Barnes and Noble on line again. Ever.

Opening an application to the Internet opens the application to real people and real people provide a wide variety of aberrations to the planned uses for any application. Not having the time, resources, or approval to build in processes for easily handling these aberrations or spending time developing the application using user centered design/development skills will sink even the best funded applications. The user is always right and the real users must be a part of the development.

April 13, 2002

Information Architecture of Everyday Things

Jesse now has his The Information Architecture of Everyday Things (presentation from the IA Summit) available. I did not make it to this session, as I was taking in the Scent of Information session. I wished I could have made both. Jesse has a great way of digesting information into their primary elements and showcasing these understandings in easily digestible parcels.

Wired magazine's article on Moby delivers good insight on not only the person, but also the brand. This may be the first article by Wired that I have really liked in a long long time. Moby continually intrigues me with his morphing genre styles. I also like this techical approach and innovation. This article gave me better appreciation of the man and the brand. (There is an indirect comparison to Puff Daddy - or what ever he thinks will sell a record.)
April 9, 2002

USC Annenberg School offers a light personal review of the WSJ redesign. Those of us that use the online version of the Journal on a daily basis have noticed a great jump since the redesign began implementation over a month ago. The site is much quicker and the interface is cleaner. The queries now are very quick again and there is a deep pile of data/information to search through.

Snippets: I have noted the redesign more than once... Nihal ElRayess has shared part of the IA perspective on the main WSJ redesign and the WSJ Company Research redesign parts of the project... The Guardian provided its insight in February (a good piece of researched journalism)... It looks like the WSJ redesign began in at least March 2000... The $28 million spent on the Web reworking (hardware, software, visual, and information architecture) is much less than the $232 million spent on a new printer for the WSJ print version or the $21 million for an advertising campaign to tout the new WSJ... The previous version of the WSJ site was a hand rolled CMS and now have been moved into Vignette... Those interested in the overal WSJ plan will like what is inside the presentation of Richard Zannino, Executive Vice President and CFO of Dow Jones & Company.

An entertaining overview of VoIP or voice over Internet protocols for those unfamiliar with this acronym. I am a little more impressed with the quality of the limited Internet on my mobile phone than I am with VoIP at the moment. This is saying a lot, given the current state of mobile Internet in the U.S. VoIP works fairly well over large bandwidth that has solid quality of service agreements (QoS) with the providers. Internally on a large organization's wide area network (WAN) the quality is not to bad either, but this is not the everyday person either that has this capability.

The Microsoft rants of late have been attributable to horrible networking problems that keep corrupting my mapped drives. The mapped drives to production and development servers work fine for days then blow-up. The server's response was the file was already open, when I was trying to copy over a file on one of the servers. Some days I could not even log on. I can have more than one mapping to a server so to copy to different project drives. Windows 2k says no way Jack. Not only this but setting up passwords for others today for them to log into the dev box, MS popped up an error message stating they had to have changed their password on their first login. That was their first login. Fully patched machines running too. What a poor excuse for an OS. Things have improved by the end of the day, but too much time is wasted on the crappy OS.
April 8, 2002

Great tapas and paella in DC

Okay, this sounds bad, but we had another great meal out tonight at Mar de Plata in a "transitional" neighborhood in DC. The tapas were amazing, much better than the over rated Jaleo, and the paella was the best we have had in the whole DC area. Our dinner guest that chose the restaurant are great company and wise foodies. Mar also has a great Spanish cream sherry for after dinner that accompanies any of the great deserts nicely. The specials looked and smelled fabulous. It is definately a place to return for us.

We just had a fantastic dinner at Grapeseed here in Bethesda. Each course is paired with a half or full glass of wine. The food was wonderful. We started with orders of mussels in white whine, Escargot in Garlic Three Ways over Grilled Bread, and Fricassee of Roasted Wild Mushrooms over Truffled Polenta. Our main cources were risotto with asparagus and wild mushrooms and salmon over crawfish and two potato with a light saffron sauce. This was a good make up birthday dinner for Joy.

We have the Way In is a Linux and UNIX response to the lies Microsoft and Unisys tell. The Microsoft reports rely on "executives" views, which are the folks that believe the marketing hype and tie their organizations to poor solutions to their problems. These are the same folks that want to build information applications with out gathering requirements, much like building a house with out a plan and attempting to put up walls and put in windows then laying the foundation. The world is ridding themselves of these poor souls in tech decision-making positions, but not quite quickly enough to help their organizations. I would hate to see the clueless people believing this marketing fluff after the failures of Microsoft and Unisys putting this site together.
April 6, 2002

Philip Greenspun also provides his Software Engineering of Innovative Web Services course materials online. The Problem set 4 is a wonderful section that covers metadata and its uses. As the overview states:

Teach students the virtues of metadata. More specifically, they learn how to formally represent the requirements of a Web service and then build a computer program to generate the computer programs that implement that service.

I not only found the Edison and the Big Thing, but the New York Times now offers signing up for narrowed news trackers. These e-mail alerts are set to keywords that have a corrolation to the article. This seems to be a nice easy step for user to set the alerts via e-mail. It would be interesting to know how well this service is used and received.
April 2, 2002

Over at CMS Watch there is a wonderful feature about the long pain of implementing a CMS and the steps in the process to make it easier. These steps are very important to keeping the project on track and successful. Not only are these element important for CMS, but they are quite essential for any information application development.

Unisis and Microsoft have spent atleast $25 million of their own money to prove the competition is right and the best option. Anti-UNIX site now broken using Microsoft. After starting their Anti-UNIX site on UNIX servers and running just fine, the dumb duo thought they would switch to the better OS, which has yet to serve anything but "403" server errors. Next up, a severe security problem? Oh wait that security problem just happened on an other server. Microsoft proves smart business folks don't use Microsoft for their external servers.
April 1, 2002

I am hearing yelling and horn honking in the streets of Bethesda this evening. Could it have anything to do with Maryland winning?

A few minor changes here at The comments link has been put on all dynamic pages of the Off the Top section. The only page that had the comment option was the main page (/random/index.php).

The CSS has also been modified to unbold and underline for the underblog links to categories, perma link, and the comments. I have found many users come straight into the categories with out a referring page (meaning they have it book marked). Google dumps users directly into categories, but that is understandable, based on their algorythyms. I had also been hearing from some users that they did not know they could click on the categories. Sorry about the confusion. You can go directly to view the categories used here.

Internet Archive a information mess

The Chron focusses on the lack of organization of the Internet Archive. This would be a dream to organize for some folks I know (or at least I think it would be). The problems at hand for this project rule out library science approach (too much human touch needed) and search engines as their design is not conducive. A great read to get the wheels turning.

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