Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

css + javascript = behaviour

Behaviour: "the missing link for your ajax apps", aka "use CSS selectors to specify elements to add javascript events to". Great! [via O'Reilly Radar]

The one thing that keeps bothering me a bit about AJAX and DHTML applications is that MVC tends to create fairly deep abstractions. Debugging, and, more importantly, maintaining this code, will become more and more difficult since the only way to navigate it efficiently (that I know of) is to use, well, grep, Ctrl+F, and such. Hard to refactor. Hard to analyze. Hard to validate. Full Javascript+DHTML Eclipse module anyone? I mean, one that goes beyond autocomplete. I've got that already. :)

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on June 26, 2005 at 11:58 AM

lemmings!

[via Dare] DHTML Lemmings. Perhaps predictably there are legal questions surrounding it (even if no one has bought that game in years, you'd think that the owner of the copyright would be rushing to buy this thing and put it online...). It's really, really cool. Go check it out.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 24, 2005 at 3:09 PM

atomflow redux

Mark Paschal has just published a cool perl module that continues along the atomflow idea:

To help myself build atomflow style tools, I wrote XML::Atom::Filter, a Perl module to build command line Atom processing tools around the XML::Atom library.
Fantastic!

I've been slowly (ever so slowly) adding bits and pieces to the atomflow tools over the last few months. This is just what I needed to definitely get me off my slumber and pull together another release.

Ideas I want to explore in this space are not only related to more command-line tools (and Mark has some great ideas there in his post!), but also to creating pipes directly from server to server (that the network is the disk drive again) and do straight flows that can be tied together without ever settling down. For command line my thing is Java, but for the web I'd like to try some PHP, which is simple, fast, and flexible enough. Anyway, I'll try to make a couple of hours within the next few days to do this. Not right now. Too busy. Lots going on. :)

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on June 24, 2005 at 12:22 AM

the network is the disk drive

Sean McGrath: "XML is not - repeat NOT - a 'file format' in the sense that most people use the phrase 'file format'."

Here's his article. Of course he's right. XML is a specification for formats, not a file format itself. It has high-level semantics for defining specific semantics.

But, in any case, when so much of the data we consume flows across the network without ever settling in a well-defined filesystem location, the idea of a "file" stops being so important methinks. Even on the desktop side we are thinking more and more in terms of pieces of information, emails, IMs, webpages--not files.

I am reminded of a short-term backup system someone once described to me: every number of hours a backup would be created, then sent out through SMTP to the company's subsidiary in Australia, where another program would pick it up and then, through direct streaming, send it back. At any point in time there were a number of copies flowing through the system--and if something happened and you needed a certain copy for a certain date, all you had to do was wait for the right piece of data to circle back to you, and you were done (there's a case where a super-fast network would actually be a liability). The same could be easily done today through a couple of daemons and webservices running on top of apache--Rather than Sun's "The network is the computer" it would be "The network is the disk drive".

I forget what my point was.

Ah yes: "A keyboard! How quaint!" (That's Scotty speaking for all out there not fully up to date on your Star Trek arcana).

Let us all put the quaint notion of files and formats behind us and think about where that may take us...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 23, 2005 at 1:09 PM

msr's "bittorrent killer"

Kevin Schofield, on the recent brouhaha surrounding Avalanche. Quote:

Um, let me get this straight. In six days, a research project went from some algorithms in a paper to Microsoft's competitive answer to BitTorrent, to "vaporware" to an evil conspiracy."
MS/MSR is getting a bad rap on this one. They've been working on p2p for some time now, it's just that they've never gotten attention for it. Pastry for example is a well-known (at least within the p2p research clique) overlay network project that has been around for more than two years. And their stuff is pretty good, too.

Now that I'm getting an education on certain effects of sensationalist press coverage, I can't say I'm that surprised. At least weblogs help in getting the other side of the story out there...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 23, 2005 at 12:26 PM

anne's consulting practice

Anne now has a new website for her consulting practice. Ethnographer, anthropologist, ui-social-network-wireless-pervasive-computing-thinker-designer (yeah, buzzwordy, but true), all in one. When she's done with your project, she can also explain the social structure of the Incas, which apparently didn't have computers, cellphones, or wore Nikes. My theory is that this is why they couldn't stop the Conquistadores, but she says I'm wrong for some reason I can't quite follow.

Anyway, if you need someone to analyze and improve whatever cutting-edge product you're cooking, she's your woman!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 23, 2005 at 11:52 AM

the AlwaysOn/Technorati 100

Congrats to Russ on his appearance in the AlwaysOn/Technorati 100 list in the 'practitioners' category! Also to "the Scotts" (Feedster), Om, Jon, Rael, Jeremy, Robert, Matt and... well, everyone else on the list -- I'll stop before I just duplicate a list that seems to strangely match my aggregator subscription.

Russ comes first, yes. He's a good friend. Plus I want to be on his good graces for the next Halo match. :)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 22, 2005 at 5:31 PM

24 hour laundry: the view from inside

Well, well, well. :)

There's been a lot of discussion recently about a certain new startup called 24 Hour Laundry. It pretty much got started with this CNET article, then as highlights we've got Om, Mark. Even (perhaps predictably) Slashdot.

24HL, as it happens, is where I work. Remember this?

Yep. It's true. Aaaaaall this time and I didn't say anything. Outrageous! How could I?

Well, that's kinda the point.

You see, we didn't want to make any noise. CNET decided that they wanted to "scoop" a story that didn't exist (and is still not all that exciting at this point). We didn't have anything to do with that article.

Then, in the process of not asking for any press and minding our own business, we get branded a certain way, and told we are doing something wrong by focusing on our product.

What is confusing to me is that some of the comments out there begin with "Well, I don't know what they're doing but [insert your thought about why it's wrong here]".

It is one thing to speculate (which we all do a lot of, don't we) and draw tentative conclusions based on that, but it's another to take those assumptions and then categorically "paint a picture". I know: to a certain degree, these are the rules of the game. But there is a difference between saying "If X is doing W, then here are the problems I see" and saying "X appears to be doing W. They're crazy!" This was partially Russ's point with his great post yesterday. (Update 6/23: Jeff Clavier also makes good points on the topic).

For example, Mark Fletcher said:

[...] But creating a new web service is not rocket science and does not take a lot of time or money. My rule of thumb is that it should take no more than 3 months to go from conception to launch of a new web service. And that's being generous. I'm speaking from experience here. I developed the first version of ONEList over a period of 3 months, and that was while working a full-time job. I developed the first version of Bloglines in 3 months.

In other words: "whatever it is you're doing, you should be able to do it in three months."

Ah, those pesky generalizations--but this is actually an interesting point to bring up. Last year, it took me about 3 months to write the first version of clevercactus share, which didn't just include a website/webservice, but also an identity server, a relay server (to circumvent firewalls) as well as a peer to peer client app that ran on Windows, Mac and Linux.

One person, three months. Webservice, servers, clients, deployment systems, UI/design, architecture, code, even support.

Which proves... absolutely nothing.

You have to fit the strategy to the company and not the other way around. In our case, we're doing something a little different (not better, just different) than the next web service, so we're just trying to keep our heads down until we have something that makes sense.

Of course we want to release as quickly as we can. Of course we know that when we launch there will be dozens of features we wanted to add but didn't have time for. Of course we keep in mind that we can't release a "perfect" product.

We absolutely want to involve users in the product's eventual evolution. We just want to make sure that we have a few things figured out before we start sending out press releases to announce our video-blogging social scooter company.

We appreciate the patience, and the interest (even if in some cases it's a bit misguided!). We are working as hard as we can, as fast as we can, to come up with a good product.

Sounds reasonable? :-)

PS: this may be a good time to add "This is my personal website and blog. The views expressed here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer."

Categories: personal, soft.dev, technology
Posted by diego on June 20, 2005 at 11:17 PM

the apple switch

Now that the details are out, it's a good time to really see what's what. There was some feverish speculation over the weekend regarding the switch, what it meant, and whether Apple really was ditching PowerPC or merely going to ask Intel to produce powerPC chips, or something entirely different. The PPC-by-Intel idea never had legs, in my opinion, because even if Apple could take the IP away from IBM/Freescale (Freescale is the Motorola chip spinoff) Intel wouldn't have been able to get up to speed on actually improving those chips better than IBM without, well, buying IBM microelectronics. The problem for Apple with PowerPCs had less to do with production (although that was a factor too) than with power consumption and the roadmap of PowerPCs going forward. And given that Apple represents some estimated 3% of revenues and 2% of profits for IBM Micro, it was hard to see how they could get them to do Apple needed, particularly since the aggregated yearly market for consoles is going to be some ten times bigger than Apple's.

The news "leak" was clearly done in a professional manner, to "soften up the ground" shall we say. It got everyone in the computer world to focus on Apple for days, before and after the event. Masterstroke, really.

This so-called "secret life" of OSX is a bunch of baloney, I've heard for years that OSX ran on Intel, and it absolutely made sense from a technical perspective, because of its Mach microkernel and BSD core. Keep in mind OSX had already been ported out of Moto's 680x0 to PowerPC (from its previous incarnation as Nextstep).

That, and the universal binary idea (ie., single binary for both PPC and Intel) is an example of why Apple can pull this off. Not only they're the only computer company to have survived major transitions in the past, they have time and again delivered environments that executed previous code with fairly good accuracy. And--these days processors ain't what they used to be in terms of lock-in. Linux is proof enough of the underlying shift that has made this possible: higher performance, which leads to most of app's code being written in high level languages (C/C++/Objective C and up) not to mention the rise of Java and scripting languages.

Additionally, the majority of end-users really care about a few things: web, email, document processing, and maybe games. Then there's specialty apps, like Photoshop, but those will get ported no matter what--and many of those already have Windows+Intel versions, so it's not as if the in-house knowledge doesn't exist. Everything else can run on the emulation environment.

And it is the web, particularly, that has really enabled this transition. Even if data isn't going into the web, it is at least going through the web to a large degree. Local datastores can get converted these days between different formats, which are way more open than they were 10 or even 5 years ago.

The web is, to me, the embodiment of the real shift that's happened in the last five years. We have gone from caring about applications to care about data. And it's a good shift. We aren't done with this transition, but things are definitely going in that direction. Data rules, and the device with which you access it matters less. All of which creates more competition, lower prices, and, one can hope, better quality. Hear, hear!

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 7, 2005 at 5:02 PM

D-day

It's my birthday!

Having a late night coding session right now--been working a lot recently, but things are going great. We've got an internal milestone coming up today at work, and after that I'll try to relax for a bit, and spend some time finishing the corrections for my novel which have been waiting for the right moment to present itself. It should be a good change of pace, at least for a few hours. Plus a good Pint of Guinness. Definitely.

Plus, I'll do some more blogging. I've been slacking on that front. :)

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on June 6, 2005 at 2:19 AM

report: apple to release OSX for abacus, paper

from the fake-as-news dept.

CUPERTINO, CA -- On the heels of rumors of Apple's intention to switch from PowerPC to x86 processors, comes the stunning revelation that the company is looking further ahead to make an even bolder move: a change to what Apple "iCEO" Steve Jobs described as "the shift to neural computing."

Apple enthusiasts who on the Internet had described the port to x86 alternatively as "undisputably moronic" and "the greatest thing since the last Finder update" where stunned to the point silence for several seconds when hearing the latest news.

In its most recent quarterly investor newsletter, Apple had cryptically disclosed it had acquired a controlling share of The Friendly Woodchuck Paper Mills, a Tuskegee, OK-based paper production concern. This move had investors and analysts scratching their heads, until this week's disclosure of Apple's skunkworks project dubbed "iWritePad".

"The iWritePad is going to change the way we think about computing," said an Apple official that wished to remain anonymous. "You get a blank slate on which to scrible free form text, maintain ToDo lists, record your thoughts, even create architectural drawings, using the iPen. It will also come with an iAbacus built in the package for quickly performing mathematical operations. Unlimited storage, and all natural product. Acid free, too."

But is this a brilliant move, or folly?

"The next logical step after moving from PowerPC to x86 would appear to be a switch to 680x0," said an Apple spokesman. "But Apple is all about innovation, so we're skipping steps. And those that say that these are moves in the wrong direction just don't know the meaning of the words 'wrong' or 'direction'. Or of 'word' for that matter."

OSX for iWritePad will include an advanced "iInk-based" "icon" "system" to "navigate" between the different "pages" of the "device". While pricing has not been finalized, the plan is to release the product at $299 per pack, which would include one iPen and 50 "letter" sized "pages".

"300 bucks seems a little bit much to charge for pen and paper," A skeptical analyst remarked, to which the Apple official snikered "Does paper come with shiny blue-white headings and a cute little Apple logo? I think not!"

The Apple official also hinted at something even bigger in the pipeline, an update to their fledging digital music product line, and one which has fueled the company's recent profits. Asked to describe this project, the official refused initially but then added. "I have one word for you: Vinyl."

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 4, 2005 at 7:24 PM

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