Monthly Archives: May, 2003

Summertime in Cambridge

Definitely summer today.

Zen Garden

[Original Link] Dave Shea’s ‘Zen Garden’ is a wonderful demonstration of the power of CSS. Recommended for anybody who designs web sites. [link from Scripting News]

I’ve just been doing a (much less ambitious) web site. Since it’s been a while since I last did any substantial HTML coding, I’ve been finding it a real joy to use CSS with the realistic expectation that almost all of the intended audience will be able to see the results as I intended.

The Bluetooth truth hurts

[Original Link] David Berlind tells it like it is. Bluetooth is great when it works, but more often than not, it doesn’t. One of the follow-up comments says, “Bluetooth is destined to be the Edsel of IT…”. And another, “…at some point we have to take stock and decide whether it is worthwhile to continue investing in an architecture that has taken so long to deliver so little”. Sad, but true. It works flawlessly for me but only in one specific situation: connecting my Mac to one of the small number of Apple-approved Ericsson phones.

I’ve written about this before: I linked to an osOpinions article and also to a BusinessWeek article, among others. The BW article has now disappeared behind a pay-for-access barrier. So I’m likely to link to them in future about as often as I try linking to my Bluetooth headset.

Push and pull

When you update a blog, many systems have the ability to ‘ping’ another site to tell it that something has changed, typically using the XML-RPC interface.

I wanted to be able to receive these pings and to perform some simple operation as a result; in this case grabbing an file from the associated Movable Type blog. Here is a very simple Python CGI script which does just that, based on Jan-Klaas Kollhof’s neat little xmlrpc server module.

Update: This works with Movable Type – in your weblog config you can specify it as one of the sites to be notified by typing the CGI script’s URL into the ‘Others’ box. However, MT has a bug which gives it a tendency to misinterpret the results and think that the ping has failed when it has in fact succeeded. The call returns two values, and MT assumes that they will be in a specific order when the order is, in fact, irrelevant. To fix this, edit the lib/MT/ file and change:

  my($error, $msg) = $content =~

to say

    my($error) = $content =~  m!flerror.*?<boolean>(d+)</boolean>!s;
    my($msg) = $content =~  m!message.*?<value>(.+?)</value>!s;

at approx line 71.

The joys of Open Source

At Ndiyo we budgeted just £50/month for software for the organisation.

We’ve used almost none of that budget.

Hush PCs

[Original Link] Perhaps the first non-Mac I might have in the sitting room?

As Google Goes, So Goes the Nation

[Original Link] Another good NYT article. This one is about how, as Google becomes the world’s encyclopedia,

“…a high Google ranking can also have a lot of clout in the marketplace of ideas. It seems to confer “ownership” on a particular word or phrase ? deciding, in effect, who gets to define it.

And when it comes to more specialized topics, the rankings give disproportionate weight to opinions of the activists and enthusiasts that may be at odds with the views of the larger public. It’s as if the United Nations General Assembly made all its decisions by referring the question to whichever nation cares most about the issue: the Swiss get to rule on watchmaking, the Japanese on whaling.

Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It

[Original Link] One of the things I find most interesting about the introduction of new technologies is the speed at which social etiquette has to adapt to cope with them. This NY Times article includes an estimate that there are now 3 million blogs out there. Perhaps only a small proportion of them are active, but that’s still quite a number.

Throwing down the gauntlet to Silicon Valley

[Original Link] Jim Fruchterman on ‘Social Enterprise’. Jim’s organisation, Benetech, from their unassuming offices in Palo Alto, is doing some good work in difficult times.

Minitel’s twentieth birthday

[Original Link] I’ve always been fascinated by France’s Minitel system since first seeing a new terminal when on an ‘exchange’ trip just after it was launched in ’83. John Naughton writes:

BBC Online story. Funny how things change: once upon a time, France was the only country in the world with a serious e-commerce and online information infrastructure — via the closed but freely available Minitel system. That was in 1983, the year the Internet was switched on. Then came the Web, and with it the idea that boring old steam-age Minitel was finished. Well, maybe it was, but the Web has yet to deliver the same reliability and micro-billing capability. [Memex 1.1]

The Matrix regurgitated

[Original Link] I thought The Matrix was really rather a good movie. Anything which can hold its own despite having the appalling Keanu Reeves as the main character must have somethng going for it.

But reading this review of the sequel makes me think I’ll give that a miss.

Life beyond the Windows

Realised today that it is well over a year since I used Windows. The Mac has done everything I need, and I use Linux for a few servers, experiments etc that I run. I’ve hardly touched a Windows machine in the last 18 months and I haven’t missed it one bit.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser