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Hack the Planet Archives: August 1998

Monday, August 31, 1998

Since it's back-to-school time, here's a reminder that you can hack your TI calculator. TI used to be behind HP in the hackable-calculator arms race, but they're catching up fast, putting the power of an original Macintosh in the palm of your hand.

Netcraft's list of servers running Betty. Only 13?

Uh oh, users of GNOME's bus sign applet can now send their own messages to the sign.

Sun said an evaluation of Jini would be released in August. Today is the last day in August.

Computer users apparently put up with so much slippage in software release dates that Sun doesn't even have to cover up the slip by changing their Web page. If users expect software to slip, then it will. If users expect most Web pages to be out of date, then they will be.

Sun apparently can't ship Jini (which they won't make any money from) on time, but they did recently announce a $195/year Developer Essentials Program. It includes a "Solaris Operating Environment Desktop"; does that actually include Solaris? Not that it matters to me, since I could get Solaris for $21.

Sunday, August 30, 1998

I built my desk today. It's held together with Velcro.

A new version of IronDoc has been released. IronDoc is a structured storage system that can be used to build object databases and file systems (among other things). If you're a CS stud, read the docs; it was certainly a humbling experience for me. :-)

According to Rob Malda, Internet use causes depression.

Saturday, August 29, 1998

I got a Dilbert Magnetic Crisis Management Kit today while I was shopping for school supplies. Translation: refrigerator magnets.

Some people complain that I have too many Coca-Cola cans stacked up on my desk (really, on all convenient horizontal surfaces). But you can see that jwz is known to keep just as many in his tent of doom, so stop complaining.

Friday, August 28, 1998

The Xybernaut is really geeky. If they only made one with a sunglasses display like Steve Mann wears, I'd want one.

Listen to my Imagine Radio station. It's kind of buggy; you can't tell what song you're listening to.

Thursday, August 27, 1998

A tip for MacOS 8.5 users: The "Use a Network Time Server" option in the Date & Time control panel isn't safe to use on servers. If it can't contact the time server, it puts up a dialog box. Hey Apple: If it's a non-fatal error, I don't want to hear about it on my server!

Speaking of future MacOSes, Mozilla now supports the keychain. I heard that the keychain was coming back, but maybe it'll reappear in 8.6 instead of X.

Some guy named Dave Taylor came by today pushing memberships in the Sierra Club. I wonder... naah, it couldn't be...

EasyDNS looks really slick, but the prices are insane, considering that The Public DNS provides essentially the same service for free.

Think is an outliner and project manager for GNOME. I have to wonder if there's any connection to ThinkTank...

Today's Metropolis downtime: 6:48 PM - 6:57.

Wednesday, August 26, 1998

I just got back from a tenant meeting here at the Metropolis, and anyone who lives somewhere else is really missing out.

A. M. Odlyzko: A modest proposal for preventing Internet congestion (PDF). This is how I want to pay for the Net. The most interesting part is the observation that consumers tend to dislike variable pricing (which results from the application of basic economic principles). I've always wondered why companies don't switch to demand-based pricing in suituations where demand far outstrips supply. Imagine if the price of PowerBook G3s was a function of the length of Apple's current backorder on them; the price would immediately rise to $20,000 but they wouldn't have trouble filling orders.

Apparently, the University of Texas just installed some CacheFlow proxy servers. Does anyone have experiences to share about them? I'd be interested to know whether they're faster than using the NLANR proxy caches on the vBNS.

Today on "As the Penguin Turns", the Linux Standard Base has a new Web site and has changed direction (again). Now they're going to produce a paper standard, a reference implementation, and a test suite. We'll see.

Richard Stallman calls Scriptics "a parasite company" in a TechWeb report from Open Source™ Developer Day.

If you're not afraid of Bonsai and DocBook, there's some action going on with the GNOME Style Guide.

In the Mozilla world, the new disk caching code appears to be going in and the old bookmark and history system has been removed in favor of RDF.

Tuesday, August 25, 1998

Idea: Data Tainting in Frontier.

Balsa is a very nice looking mail client for GNOME.

Today's Metropolis downtimes: 3:52 PM - 4:19 PM, 4:23 PM - 10:00 PM. Six hours.

Monday, August 24, 1998

Welcome to my new site! There isn't much news today, but maybe you'd like to read a manifesto while you're here.

Sun renames the Swing package again: "It has become clear that the JFC/Swing Package name is an item that people feel strongly about." That's an understatement!

Segfault.org, a new Linux news-parody site, was supposed to open today, but their server got crushed.

By my rough calculations, long-distance telephone companies transfer data for about 4MB/$ (at 10c/minute), while a T1 or ADSL connection transfers about 400MB/$. Either long distance is too expensive or Net access is too cheap, or both.

Today's Metropolis downtimes: 4:00 PM - 5:49 PM, 5:50 PM - 6:00 PM. Two hours! (see The High-Bandwidth Blues)

Saturday, August 22, 1998

I went to my local ChumpUSA to play with an iMac today; they're every bit as cute in person as on TV. They were even in stock.

As I played with the iMac, I realized that there really isn't anything you can do with the computer in a store. The purpose of the iMac is using the Internet. But computer stores don't connect their computers to the Net, so basically you have the Finder and Nanosaur. Just by using those applications, how is a customer supposed to decide whether they want an iMac?

Friday, August 21, 1998

Windows NT 5.0b2 has been released; I wonder if it's feature-complete yet. IIS 5.0 supports WebDAV and HTTP compression, two features that I've been watching for a while.

Monday, August 17, 1998

I'm going on vacation, so this site won't be able to officially open until I get back. I also won't be reading my email. Hopefully I'll have some time to think about server-side DOM trees... Or maybe hypertree-based universal user interfaces...

Rant: The High-Bandwidth Blues.

Someone should come up with a way to convert Kaleidoscope themes into Enlightenment/GTK+ themes.

Macromedia takes on WebCollage with Generator. I know from experience that the flexibility of its scripting interface will be critical to its success.

Here's an idea for aspiring Mozilla hackers out there: When a transcoding proxy server includes a Warning header in a response, add an item to the context menu that re-fetches the image or document with a Cache-Control: no transform header. This would provide a much better user interface to quality-degrading proxies like TranSend.

Sunday, August 16, 1998

Forget Java: Jini in Context.

First, books on demand. Now, T-shirts on demand?

VideoScript is a scripting language that has built-in verbs for doing image processing. Since it knows how to difference frames, you could write a Webcam script that only saves interesting images. It supports AppleScript but not Frontier; maybe I'll have to have a little chat with them...

Apparently, Mozilla can generate random passwords for you, and it can keep track of your accounts at different Web sites. You can use the URL about:signons to see all the stored accounts.

Saturday, August 15, 1998

iMac has landed. Oddly enough, you can't buy it from the Apple Store.

I have an EE exam tonight; wish me luck.

HTML 4.0 is so great you can't even write it by hand. Apparently you can't have <P> tags inside <FONT> tags, so if you want your entire document to be in one font, you have to put a <FONT> tag inside each <P> tag.
<sigh/> This site isn't going to come close to validating until I switch to CSS.

The Hungry Programmers don't just make software; they now sell T-shirts.

Today's Mozilla vocabulary word: Shack is an outliner that displays RDF data and can be embedded in HTML documents.

Friday, August 14, 1998

No class today. Must study for exam. Must resist urge to hack.

It's raining in Austin! Rain is good.

There's a Dave Matthews Band concert on the radio tonight. They're my favorite band to hear live.

I don't know what Dave Winer is talking to Garry Trudeau about, but it's probably really funny!
Dave also talks about neurolinguistic programming like the lingua-virus in Snow Crash.

Mozilla's SmartMail is based on HTML, JavaScript, and RDF. There's also a screenshot.

A bunch of privacy features are also getting checked in to Mozilla.

Today's Mozilla vocabulary word: Ender is the codename for HTML editing in textarea form elements.
My Windows NT computer is named Ender.

Thursday, August 13, 1998

I'm slowly hacking my way through the Scripting News source code.

GNOME: BABOON is a component model and compound document framework like OpenDoc and ActiveX.

Wednesday, August 12, 1998

Fight for your right to standards! "Workers of the Web unite--you have nothing to lose but your hacks!" -- Nate Zelnick about the Web Standards Project
They even have great ads!

John C Dvorak: The Software Protection Racket.
Linux Weekly News responds: "Some of us do not intend to get used to it".


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