Older blog entries for cinamod (starting at number 48)

I have no fewer than 30 mosquito bites on my back. It's times like these that I wish that I were one of those disembodied heads in Futurama.

6 Jun 2005 (updated 6 Jun 2005 at 20:38 UTC) »

First, Apple announces that it's going to transition to using Intel-based chips by 2007.

Then, Debian "Sarge" is released.

/me checks the calendar - not April 1st.

Ok, we now have confirmation of 2 of the 3 signs of the apocalypse. The NOAA reports that hell's present temperature is approximately 0 Kelvin. The FAA is warning you to please beware of flying horsemen. That will be all.

I'd like to thank Steven Garrity for redoing P.G.O.. Most of my criticisms have been addressed. It:

  • Grows and shrinks nicely, within reason
  • Looks ok in MSIE
  • Loads and renders pretty quickly
  • Doesn't resize images unevenly if an img is inside it. The image just overruns its column's border, which I think is preferable.

I also love the look. I'd like to retract my previous "column is too narrow" statement. I think that the width is pretty good, especially since the column can resize intelligently. Thanks Steven.

Havoc: Please re-read, as I'm making 4 distinct arguments. They are:

  1. I don't like the aesthetic, independent of the real estate issue. I still contend that it looks cool for 10 seconds, and then the novelty wears off quickly.
  2. It unnecessarily wastes loads of real estate without conveying useful information or increasing usability. I contend that the majority of wasted space exists not for usability issues, but "hey, floating heads with speech bubbles look cool" issues.
  3. The page is unecessarily heavyweight relative to what information it conveys.
  4. It doesn't work in any browser other than a recent version of Firefox.

I've never argued for text to go across the entire screen. But covering more than 50% of it might be nice. Instead, we're left with large vertical and horizontal dead zones that don't appeal to my sense of style and negatively impact how quickly I read the text. Western languages read left to right, top to bottom. Every carriage return means that the eye has to backtrack and scan down one line. There's probably a happy medium here. I just don't think that what we've got is it.

The most commonly used word processing usage is what Microsoft calls the "Normal" mode, which shows only the editable page area, without any page margins.

Finally, your analogy to newspapers is weak, as they don't include the author's head in its own column. Pick up any paper or online journal - the author's head is almost always top left, and less frequently, top right. They don't devote whole columns to the author's head.

Again, just my $0.02.

23 May 2005 (updated 23 May 2005 at 19:23 UTC) »

[Update: A few people asked me to clarify my objections to the new PGO site]

I appreciate the work being put into a new layout. I must say that as aesthetics go, I prefer the old layout to the new one. IMHO, the speech bubbles look cool for about 10 seconds, but the novelty wears off quickly. But there's no accounting for taste, or my lack thereof. After that, I start caring about things like:

  • Minimizing wasted space. I think that the columned text with large whitespace on either side leads to decreased readability.
  • The increase in time the page takes to download and render, since the new site uses lots of images to achieve the speech bubbles and drop shadows.
  • The page working well in any browser, not just recent versions of Mozilla/Firefox. The new site layout looks like smeg using Mozilla 1.6 and earlier, or Internet Explorer 6 and earlier. This doesn't mean that the page must render identically in every browser, just that it must be reasonably readable in any browser. I'm willing to provide more screenshots if you care to correct the problem. For what it's worth, it does seem to look ok in lynx :)

But, you can't please all the people all of the time. Please take my opinion with a grain of salt.

"Sen. Rick Santorum says he 'meant no offense' by referring to Adolf Hitler while defending the GOP's right to ban judicial filibusters." Senate Democrats should invoke Godwin's law and thus end the debate over judicial nominees and filibusters...

This hubbub comes a scant 2 months after Santorum criticized Senator Byrd's remarks comparing "Hitler's Nazis and the Senate GOP plan to block Democrats from filibustering." In his chastizement, Santorum said that the Nazi references "lessen the credibility of the senator and the decorum of the Senate."

Throughout this whole ordeal, I'm reminded of Doc Holiday's famous quote in "Tombstone" - "my hypocricy knows no bounds." This political gesturing is sickening. Washington has become a circus. If the Senators stopped wearning suits, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between CSPAN and "Jerry Springer" anymore.

To follow up on what Marc said:

AbiWord already has some support for the OASIS OpenDoc standard, but the spec is just so daunting (~700 pages) that it would be really useful to have some nice test documents to work from and PDFs to show how they should look. A lot of people have requested it. If we want to avoid OASIS OpenDoc becoming the next "Esparanto" of file formats (i.e. great in theory, no one uses it in practice; and let's face it - DOC, RTF, and company have one heck of a head-start on OASIS OpenDoc), we need to get good support into all the major producing and consuming apps.

Ideally, we are looking for some OpenDoc test cases that are fairly comprehensive and self-contained. That is, we are looking for these kinds of documents:

  • A test that shows everything you can do with fonts, and not much else.
  • A test that shows everything you can do with paragraphs, and not much else.
  • A test case that shows off tables. Nested tables. Table borders. Background colors and images. That sort of stuff.
  • A test case for headers and footers.
  • A test case for the types of fields you can insert.
  • A test case containing some bitmap images. Try to throw in some text wrapping around images cases and maybe a doc or section with an image as its background.
  • A test case showing off footnotes.
  • A test case for endnotes.
  • A list test case. Show off some different types of bullets, numbering, levels of nesting, etc.
  • A test case for floating text/image frames.
  • A multi-columned document.
  • A document with some different kinds of "breaks" - page breaks, column breaks, forced line break, etc.
  • A document with various metadata properties set.

This is a great way for a user/non-hacker to get involved with AbiWord, and we're be really appreciative of any help you'd provide. This is a highly voted on bug and oft-requested feature. Please follow up with Marc if you're interested. Thanks.

In law class tonight, we got to talking about a hypothetical situation (a hypothetical situation in law class? no, go on...) - one where our job was to roll out an information technology infrastructure to a small "third world" country. In this exercise, there was an established, underdeployed, corrupt government-sponsored telco, to which we could do with as we pleased.

The near-uninamous reaction of the class to immediately privatize the telco seemed specious at best, and quite alarmed me. This was in a class of what I had judged to be effectively socialist Harvard students. Maybe I missed something.

I see this attitude more and more every day in the States. The president is arguing that social Security should be privatized. Affordable, universal health care is not a human right. Philadelphia should not set up municipal wifi, lest Verizon lose a few of their precious monopoly-protected dollars. Of course, intelligent debate and discourse is healthy in a republic, but the list goes on. And lately, I feel this attitude has been snowballing.

I think that many are forgetting the astoundingly high opportunity costs that are involved in entering a market; that economies of scale coupled with legislation and corruption on the macro level favor existing players. Even with the "democracy" of capitalism where we allegedly vote with our dollars, economies of scale and information imbalances all too often work against the individual consumer. There are latent costs everywhere in the system - and from where I'm sitting, they almost always favor the incumbents.

I strongly believe that some things should just work (tm) and should just work (tm) regardless of whether they are economically "practical" or not. Poor kids should have food, education, and health care. Even if they live in a rural town and don't know who their father is. Roads, fire departments, water/sewers, electricity, defense. All this infrastructure should just work. On a macro level. 24/7/365.

In these sorts of situations, individual contributors can't go it alone, and hoping for the goodwill (aka free advertising) of large corporations is a non-starter. Sometimes we need to vote and act with our hearts and minds, and not only with our wallets.

The government has done and continues to do good things. It is supposed to be an infrastructure that we as a society can build on. In no small part, it should be an enabler. It is supposed to do the hard things that we can't do individually, but are collectively achievable. Sometimes we need to do the right thing, even if the right thing isn't the cost-effective thing. To this end, government should sometimes be a check against the "free" market and sometimes a carrot that leads the market to the ends society desires.

Whether or not a government-sponsored telco is the right answer to the above problem, I honestly don't know. I do know that a knee-jerk reaction against government involvement, while sometimes understandable, is often innappropriate. Sorry for venting.

Today, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by John Perry Barlow at Harvard University. Barlow's lecture was a biography that traced a path from his small-town roots to his role at the EFF, taking note of how particular life experiences helped shape his views on internet governance and how unlikely circumstances brought some unlikely people together.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the class' format, Barlow couldn't go into much detail on the more salient problems "IP" faces today in the States, such as the DMCA, CTEA, DRM, and their kin, nor was there much time for follow-on questions. Here's hoping that we cross paths again :)

Luis' observation, of course, is frought with tragic coincidence. Of course, this is the same company that makes MP3 players and also sued to make the sale of MP3 players illegal. The same company that makes a region free DVD player, and also is the largest member of the MPAA that fights against such things.

In my opinion, Sony's manufacturing arm has always cared about consumers and consumer rights. Their media division, however, couldn't give a bugger-all about consumer rights. Just another example of a MegaCorp whose right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

39 older entries...

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!