Monthly Archives: January, 2002


Now, I can think of dozens of fun uses for a CerfCube!
Weblogs are great. I glanced at and picked a blog almost at
random (Frank McPherson’s
PocketPCHow2 log
, in this case) and it led me to something largely
unconnected with PocketPCs but which might be very useful in my work. Fun,


I’ve just come back from a fascinating talk by the illustrator Quentin
Blake. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Quentins (a rare plural,
there) are always worth listening to, but this talk was a particular gem.
His book Words and Pictures is definitely going on my shopping list. There’s a lot more to illustration than simply drawing pictures.

I love the insight that you get from this sort of talk, for the same reason
that I love watching DVDs that have a director’s commentary as one of the
soundtracks. Some people tell me that films aren’t meant to be watched that
way; that you spoil them by over-analysing them. It’s like saying that
scientists who understand botany can’t appreciate flowers.

I disagree. Knowing a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes makes me
realise how much I take for granted, how much more there is to the creative
process than I would pick up as a casual observer. The more levels there
are to life, the more interesting it is. I can still enjoy a Hitchcock
film while knowing about some of the camera tricks he had to use to achieve
the result. I can choose to forget the lower levels. The whole point of art
is that you know it’s an illusion, but you are willing to be taken in by it.
Perhaps, the more aware you are of the mechanics, the more satisfying is the
willing suspense of disbelief?


Sometimes I put things in here just so I know where I can find them later. I’m having to create a lot of presentations at the moment, and I was thinking of Tom Stewart’s Fortune article Friends Don’t Let Friends Use PowerPoint. It’s an oldish article and it took me a little while to find it, but it’s here now! Worth a read if you missed it when it came out, as is the PowerPoint version of the Gettysburg Address which it mentions.

(Often weblogs are really just shared, commented, bookmark lists.)


The biggest problem with the otherwise wonderful
Radio software is finding coherent tutorial documentation for it. But Emmanuel Décarie’s Frontier Newbie Toolbox is the nearest thing I’ve found. Even though it was written some time ago and is about the related product Frontier, much of it is applicable to Radio too.

The Web – the absolute basics

I’ve recently been trying to help a couple of different people get on to the web who have never used it in any form until now. It’s amazing just how easy it is to take certain bits of knowledge for granted in this situation.

So I wrote down my one page guide to The Web – the Absolute Basics in the hope that it might be of use to somebody else and their grandmother.


BBC News: Don Norman likes the new iMac. So do I, having played with it a little bit this week. A lovely bit of design.

Because of this, before the year is out, a very large number of people will have full Unix machines in their living rooms. I would never have believed it 18 months ago.


BBC article:

Passenger ‘stuck’ in lavatory: The woman used the toilet, but pushed the flush button before standing up.

To her horror, she realised that the powerful vacuum action had got her in its grip.

[from Adam Curry’s weblog]


Want a different view of the movies? Try Mr. Cranky’s Reviews.


Der Coffee Pot ist back!


OK. I’ve clicked. I’ve just started to realise quite how cool a piece of software Radio is.

I’ve been pretty impressed so far just using it for reading news and writing weblogs. It’s great for that. And I knew that under the hood there was a lot of power if you wanted to program in the macro language, and I hoped at some point I would have the time to do that.

But you don’t need to delve that deep into the internals to realise the power. It may be THE SIMPLEST way to create a web site. Once Radio is set up and running on your machine, you can just dump text files into a particular directory on your hard disk.

They are rendered into HTML using a default template (which you can customise or replace). Automatically.

They are uploaded onto your web site. Automatically.

Any images etc that you might also want to use or refer to in the pages you just drop into the same directory and they are also uploaded. Automatically.

If you want to change the text of your pages, you just open them in a text editor, edit the text, and hit ‘Save’. That’s it. Everything else happens. Automatically.

And despite all this, there’s a great deal of power and flexibility there if you want it. You can automatically upload different directories on your hard disk to different sites, for example. To start learning how to use some of these nice features, look at this page. (Oh, and another hint if you looking for something on the Radio site – almost everything beyond the absolute basics is contained within the Directory).

It’s not often that I find myself reaching for my wallet to pay so readily for a piece of software. But it just happened. Automatically.


So we now have copy-protected CDs. They don’t play on certain players, and on Windows machines. Interestingly, they may still be copyable on a Mac.


OK, I’ve updated this system to use the new Radio Userland 8.0, which should allow me to maintain it from my Mac OS X machine. Yippee!

It took me a while to get everything moved over from Windows, my FTP connection set up, and my page templates in place, but it’s now basically sorted. The new Radio looks like a very interesting piece of software, and I hope I’ll have some time to play with it more seriously.

Now, I can probably switch my home Windows machine off. It was only really there for two reasons. The first was as a Radio server until this version came along. The second was so that when members of my family call up about problems with their Microsoft software I could follow along at this end and describe the dialog boxes to them. I guess I’ll still need to turn it on for that.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser