Archive for November, 2002

Tedium

Looking for software to perform a particular function can be tedious sometimes. It’s quite difficult to search for things by function, because the words you might use to describe a complex and specific function are themselves often quite general. Even when you find something that claims to meet your needs, you often have to download and install it before finding out that it’s utter crud and not something you would ever use. I usually end up downloading at least 3 different applications before I find something I can use.

That’s why on the odd occasion that I find a nice piece of software, I keep a hopeful eye out for other software from the same author. I guess that’s what I’m hoping will happen [eventually] with Jujusoft; people might like one application and that will encourage them to experiment with others, which in isolation might not be the sort of thing they would normally look for. It’s a nice theory, anyway.

Freedom from choice

I saw Clive James being interviewed once, and the subject of pay-tv came up. A self-confessed TV addict, he expressed some sadness at the departure of the old model of television viewing, where everyone had the same limited number of stations available [eg: less than 5] to watch. His main concern seemed to be that in spite of the promise of more choice with subscription-based services, the homogeneity of the individual channels comprised (eg 24hr sport/news/cartoon channels) would actuality reduce the quality of the average person’s viewing experience.

Whereas free-to-air television stations will try to mix it up a little and offer something for everyone, pay-tv is delivered as a packages of pre-sorted content. With free-to-air, you might have just finished watching your favourite sport and current affairs program, and then on comes some documentary that you would never normally switch over for, but there it is already starting, and you might go ahead and watch it… And maybe you’ll enjoy it! And maybe it’ll make you think about something which otherwise would never have occurred to you. This is much less likely to happen with pay-tv.

Pay-tv does indeed offer the subscriber more choice in their viewing, but the question remains: Given the choice, how many people will choose to be surprised? How many will choose to learn something new? We are creatures of habit after all.

I was going to make some great point about the internet here, but it seems a bit labored now. Something to do with the sheer amount of choice being a bit daunting sometimes, but I think I have already complained enough about that here anyway. Actually I quite like the internet you know.

Here I am,

one of billions of pages a person might look at… blah blah blah…

Hey, why not look at this instead… I wish I was a talented Flash artist… I wish I had my own parody of Apple’s "switch" commercials … I wish I had written a brilliant comedy series like the UK’s Spaced or Black Books

I drew this log... Does that count for something?Bye bye blog ring

The blog ring I attached myself to recently didn’t really work very well (I don’t think I ever saw both the forward and backward links working properly) so I have removed the links and will probably be excommunicated from the ring shortly.

It wasn’t generating much traffic anyway, and to be honest I think I am not getting personal enough here to be a member of that group. While I will happily write about my thoughts and computer related experiences, I have no intention to share the details of my private life here, unless they are funny or interesting.

Free Advice

If you are a programmer trying to establish yourself as an independent software developer, then clearly this log is going to be of no use to you whatsoever. You just shouldn’t be reading it. You should be off flogging your wares and skills to small businesses with special needs and money to spend. Or maybe you should be subscribing to those sites designed to set up programmers with short-term contracts over the internet. You should not, I repeat not, be screwing about with a web site that hardly anyone will ever see, writing about the amount of useful work you aren’t doing. It’s a little bit sad.

I derived more satisfaction today from sawing a piece of wood in half than from the previous 2 weeks of programming. The simple life beckons. Imagine if there were no such thing as silicon…

Browser bugs

Incompatibility of browsers is very annoying thing. I just realized that a nice inline text box style I created for this page doesn’t look right in Netscape 6.2.

Fig 1.MSIE6 detail – how I want it to look

Fig 2. Netscape 6.2 detail – yuk!

It’s hard to say who’s doing what wrong here. (Well obviously I am doing things in a dodgy way but I cannot think of another way to acheive the same effect). In some cases I think the differences in behaviour between the 2 main browsers can be explained in terms of Netscape being more correct and MS catering to legacy rendering methods that aren’t quite in keeping with CSS standards. Image handling for example.

The problem seems to come down to the difference between inline elements and block elements. A paragraph is a block element, in that it can always be fit neatly within a rectangle. This sentence is an inline element, in that it can exist surrounded by text and can usually be broken across a line. The inline sentence exists withing the block element.

You can read the CSS spec here to see if you agree with my reading of it.

The little boxes in Fig. 1 are a bit of both: They can be neatly encased in a rectangle, but they can also appear inline with text and other objects. Unfortunately there is no obvious way to specify this in CSS1, so it seems that behaviour can be implied, but not dictated. Without the width property defined in the style, MS renders it just like Netscape does (Fig 2). So it seems that adding a width property to an inline element in IE gives it a special property that might be described as inline-block. Is this bad? I would say yes if there was a more correct way of doing it. [It does not conform to the CSS1 spec, which specifies that the width attribute only applies to block and replaced elements] But I really see no other way to achieve this quite reasonable effect (except to use mini inline tables, which seems to me like a terrible solution).

Untitled #61

It helps me think

To write stuff like this.

Wha…? Buh…?

It’s Sunday and a little too warm for me right now. I eat an ice block.

Just looked at my old employer’s (from more than 5 years ago) web site, and tried the latest version of their 3D media player. It’s got edge antialiasing, which is a nice feature, and the ability to render 3d scenes with transparency over the top of a web page. Pretty impressive! [although with the potential to be pretty annoying too]

Duh…?

Not much work done lately… Sometimes you get to this point where there are a bunch of things that need doing, but they are all pretty low priority, and what you really want is something to sink your teeth into. Have achieved some minor cleanup on JujuEdit (or whatever the hell I’m calling it these days, I can’t keep track). Must… avoid… Jujuscript … arg!

What is Jujuscript?

Since I mention it here every now and then, it seems only reasonable that I make a page for it, in case anyone is interested. I think it’s neat, but other programmers look at me like my nose has fallen off when I tell them about it. What they dont realize is that I never went to university (well, except to do half an Arts degree) so I actually find this stuff interesting! People who have done computer science have studied things like compiler design, and probably find it all extremely boring.

What a nerd…

…am I! I find myself feeling sad that computer technology has come so far so fast. Not because of its impact on society or anything, but simply because I really enjoyed those early days as a programmer, feeling like someone with special and slightly mysterious skills. Of course I wasn’t about when punch cards and time sharing were the rage, so at least I can’t get nostalgic about that stuff. Maybe the problem is that I’m not such a nerd anymore, and that’s what I’m getting nostalgic about. I miss getting excited about new technology, but there’s just so much of it around these days that I really cant be bothered. And so much of what’s new is actually just improved. Everything is faster and cheaper, and that’s great and everything, and… oh yawn, it’s just me isn’t it. I’m getting older, sod it. And I can’t afford any fancy new toys right now, which doesn’t help.

Toot!

I am now officially a part of a web ring! Which means that this page can now be found sandwiched between this one and this one on a ring of Australian web logs. Most of the other sites are fairly personal, but hopefully the story of my enterprise-or-lack-thereof may make entertaining reading for the passers by. [Of course it’s really just an evil corporate scheme to gather traffic… bwoo-haha!]

There’s hope yet

for the idea that people may want to read a book on their PCs… I was just kicking around a few sites and feeling like I didn’t want to really look at any online content, but I don’t feel like doing any work either, so what am I going to do instead? How about I peruse Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in Reader!

Sure it’s not as nice as sitting down and reading it in paper form, but I don’t actually own a hard copy, will probably never buy one, and at least my arm doesn’t get sore from holding the book as I lie on my side. I gotta get this damn product to version 1.0!

Formmail

is working again, although I had to throw away the page redirection stuff (for reasons briefly mentioned here ), so that every time someone fills in a form, they will just get a generic page showing their entries. Boring but functional. Try it out and send me some feedback if you like!

Not much news

Have been busy with other things this last week, including flu, so not much to report on the Jujusoft front.

I’ve had at least a couple of nice comments about this log, and for that I am extremely grateful. Although I dont really expect it to be read by a lot of people, it is very nice to know that at least some people might find it interesting.

The main purpose of this log is to keep a record of my activities for my own reference. By making it publically accessible, it obliges me to keep it updated, whereas if it were a private document, it would almost never be updated. I find it much easier to record my thoughts and actions when I have an audience to speak to, be it very small or even imaginary. When writing essays at university I found that the easiest way to do it was as a dialog (ie Socratic dialog), where an imaginary friend asks reasonable questions about the subject matter, and receives [hopefully] intelligent answers. For example:

Badger: When are you going to see some kind of financial return for all the work you are putting into Jujusoft?

Toad: Oh soon, very soon, I should expect!

Badger: Do you have a comprehensive business plan? May I see it?

Toad: Oh, dear me no, I should think not. I don’t go in for all that financial nonsense!

Badger: I notice you have quite a few products in the works… Isn’t this spreading your resources a little thin reducing your chances of actually finishing anything? Perhaps you should concentrate on a single product.

Toad: My dear boy, where would the fun in that be? Now, wouldn’t you like to see my new program for drawing swirly patterns? No? How about a javascript adventure game…

Untitled #55

New Download Page

Has been added, with publically available materials. Why not go visit it and download The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a self executing book.

To Blog…

Attempting to add this site to a web ring for Australian bloggers. Other people’s blogs will often have extra features, such as the ability to leave comments about messages. I currently have neither the inclination nor the software (Movable Type seems to be popular if you have your own server with cgi access and nerves of steel) to provide such functionality… Maybe one day.

Other people…

… also would like to see Gutenberg texts with better formatting. This guy has gone way further than I have in dealing with this problem, attempting to make sense of the highly dubious anti-formatting of Gutenberg texts. GutenMark is a free command line tool for converting from raw text file to ‘nicely’ formatted HTML.

Where’s Google?

For some reason Google seems to continually refuse to index my site! This is really kind of annoying, because it makes me feel invisible. I waste a lot of time maintaining this site, the least I can expect is that it be indexed!

I have manually submitted several times, and each time I seem to get one visit from GoogleBot which reads my robots.txt file and then nicks off again. I have changed this file several times, even resorting to copying other people’s robots files! I mean, I don’t like to make a fuss, but hey… what gives?

Finally…

… I’m getting some work done again and not just spending all my time writing in this log. Mostly cosmetic fixes being made to Reader right now, as well as some foundations being laid for an editable mode (well, actually just repairing some previously broken functionality to allow the possibility of editing). To make Reader stand out as a unique product I may make it possible to write books as well as read them. I know I personally always get turned off trying to start a novel (I can dream!) in something like MS Word, which on screen looks so little like a book or even a manuscript that it’s easy to get discouraged. What if instead of all those menus and toolbars and rulers you simply got true WYSIWYG, where you can practically see the ink hitting the paper? Wouldn’t that give you more respect for your words?

Which of the following screens would you prefer to be staring at while writing your novel? I’m thinking it might be nice to go for a more permanent look when editing a document…

Hey, what's all that crap on the screen? Hey, nice book!