March 2006

Album Cover: Abbey Road

"She's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt."
The Beatles / Polythene Pam

Zimmermann Wear

March 29, 2006 11:42 PM

Announcing my new clothing line...

Zimmermann Wear

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As Specified

March 26, 2006 10:26 AM

You might be reading a spec-writer's blog when you read (but don't necessarily understand) things like:

Every variable declaration (e.g., as global variable or a variable bound by let, for, some, or every) has an optional "as Type" clause that allows a query writer to assert that the inferred type of the result of the expression that is bound to the variable has to be a subtype of the asserted (or using our earlier terminology: required) type. If no type assertion is being made, the variable's type will be the same as the inferred type.

or...

Finally, the validate expression (XQuery only) will retype whole subtrees according to their validation semantics. Note that as part of the last call feedback, element construction does not perform implicit validation anymore but provides the option between untyping and preserving the types of contained nodes (but not atomic values). Also, validation got simplified by removing the schema context specification.

And I thought my blog was a bit dry.

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Free Association

March 26, 2006 8:40 AM

While blogging about the FireBug extension for Firefox last week, Blake Ross said:

I have to admit, though, that I'm a little disappointed to give up debug alerts. They're often the most creative and spontaneous part of programming, because rather than something logical like alert("reached"), my fingers always dish out random scraps of subconscious like alert("fried eggs").

I couldn't agree more with Blake's sentiments. I've found the same holds true for me on many accounts. For instance, I very rarely utilize Lorem Ipsum when mocking up a website design, opting instead to free associate via the keyboard to get large chunks of text. Because my mind is so bizarre, it often leads to very interesting things. Much more interesting than "reached," for sure.

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The Old Switcharoo

March 18, 2006 12:51 PM

I don't know why I'm blogging and not watching basketball right now, but I assure you I have the scoreboard up and running in another tab. That makes me less of a geek, right?

Anyway, I'm trying to play catch-up with my feed subscriptions and I just noticed that my favorite web design is no more. Dan Cederholm has redesigned his site, SimpleBits, and it looks great. I don't like it as much as the previous design, but I do like it a lot. One thing I noticed right off the bat is he's gone with a subheader kind of like what I have in place here (at the time of writing). I like the new color scheme a lot and I think the idea of moving some of the sidebar content down to the footer area is a pretty good one.

For fellow fans of the previous design, not to worry. I've actually stolen some of the ideas from that design for a new/old site I'm currently working on. So those innovations won't fall by the wayside. I can't promise they'll improve, though, either. Afterall, Dan is the man and in a league of his own when it comes to solid, inspirational web design.

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Google Desktop Search 3.0

March 18, 2006 12:15 PM

This is eerily similar to the things I was talking about only a few days ago.

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Flickr Related Tag Browser

March 18, 2006 2:48 AM

I came across a nifty Flickr mash-up today called Flickr Related Tag Browser (via Yahoo's Flickr Web Services).

After typing in a tag, several photos with that tag are displayed and then a ring of related tags encircles them. This can go on and on and on.

It's cool to navigate in such a novel way, but don't take my word for it. Check it out.

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Feeling Lucky with Firefox

March 13, 2006 1:05 AM

Given that my home network is composed of computers that are named after Star Wars characters, I sometimes type "chewbacca" or "r2d2" in Firefox's location bar in an attempt to access their local webservers. I've noticed a couple times that from my Linux box this takes me to the Star Wars Databank instead of my local network.

At first I thought, okay, the Mozilla guys integrated a bit of an easter egg that lets you access any Star Wars character's Databank page just by typing that character's name in the location bar. Well, it only took trying Leia to realize that wasn't 100% true. What I did find, though, is that typing any word or phrase into Firefox's location bar is the equivalent of performing an "I'm Feeling Lucky" search over at Google.com.

So if you're ever in a hurry to get to my blog (wishful thinking on my part), you can just type "Bernzilla" in your location bar. Or, if you're looking for a good excuse to eat less and exercise more, just type "Jabba."

I'm sure I'm just slow to catch on and most people knew about this already, but I figured I'd blog about it anyway, just in case.

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WRAT

March 12, 2006 9:15 PM

The Sopranos are back. That's pretty much all I really need to say.

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Brainmarks

March 12, 2006 3:15 PM

There is no denying that data collection and storage has come a long way thanks to computers and the Internet. In recent years, the idea of tagging and bookmarking has revolutionized the way people save data they find online. While some people store all their bookmarks in one place, like del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia or directly in their browser, there are many, I'm sure, who are like me and store pseudo bookmarks in numerous places.

Before the whole "web too oh" thing caught on, I typically saved links in my browser. In recent years, I've dabbled with del.icio.us, I've stored links I want to share with my blog's readers in my B-Sides, I've certainly stored some links to content in the most appropriate places, and I've saved many a feed entry in my Bloglines account for later reading or reference.

Even though I have all these great folksonomy tools available, my organization is still quite a bit unorganized. Why? Well, I think it's because my brain is the best bookmarking tool I have. I don't have to remember any URIs to access information. I don't have to remember any tags either. The second I need something, it's there in my head and ready to go. It doesn't matter if my computer is turned off, if I'm stuck on an airplane seat, if I've just woken up, if I'm in the middle of a meeting...it's information that is available to me any time and any place.

The problem is, when you combine this ease of access with the frustration that can come out of unorganized data, you're still left with frustration. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've been blogging about something, remembered an article or blog post I had read in the past, and then struggled to look for it only to find that it wasn't saved in any of the tools I described previously. Not being able to access the information typically weakened my argument or point in most cases.

So what is the solution to this problem? I don't know. Some people might argue that utilizing a tool like del.icio.us exclusively might solve the problem, but I'm not so sure I can agree with that. For one, there are some things I read that are personal (either professionally, creatively, or just plain personally) that I don't want just anyone to have access to. So maybe use my browser exclusively? Well, right now it isn't straightforward to have access to my browser's bookmarks from anywhere.

The same argument holds for my browser's cache. When I remember that I read something interesting at a link that came from a blog that Robert Scoble linked to, for example, it's really hard for me to figure out how to retrace those steps and find that content. Even if it's cached on my hard drive somewhere (but remember, I don't have access to this anywhere else). Maybe it wasn't interesting enough to bookmark at the time, but now that I've started thinking about something it has become important. My brain may have plenty of useful information, like what colors the page used or maybe even the particular blog template. I may remember I viewed it on Tuesday as well, but just how helpful is this information? Usually my only option at that point is to paraphrase, which I'd rather not do if I can avoid it, especially if I can't link and give credit where it is due.

If what I've been hearing about the Google Drive is true, there may be more options for solving this problem. If my browser allows me to mark any site I read as potentially important (but not necessarily bookmark material), and at the same time gives me all the meta data searching capabilities it can to help me track down information from those potentially important sites, it would eliminate the need for me to be overzealous in my bookmarking habits and also allow me to stay out of my cache (which will typically contain more noise than anything else). If that data ends up on my own Google Drive that is accessible to only me, then maybe I'd be getting somewhere. That of course brings up all the usual privacy concerns, but the gains may outweigh the losses on that one.

Anything that allows me to use my brain to more efficiently find and utilize data is a good thing. I think I've presented more problems than solutions here, but it will certainly be interesting to see how the world of folksonomy changes over the next few years.

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CL2

March 12, 2006 12:58 PM

TechCrunch has screenshots of CL2, or Google's forthcoming calendar service. From the screenshots, it looks like CL2 will be very Gmail-like, and that is a good thing. I definitely share the sentiments of one of the commenters in that it looks to be a 30 Boxes killer for sure. I've been using 30 Boxes for about a month now, and it certainly does the job, but having something integrated with my Gmail that has a familiar interface and that I can easily share with my Gmail contacts sounds very desirable. Gotta love affinity.

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Pearl Jam Redesign

March 01, 2006 10:55 PM

In my experience, most band websites are usually either very over-the-top or very lame. For a very long time, Pearl Jam's website was no exception (as it fell into the latter court). However, I read over at The Sky I Scrape tonight that their website has been redesigned. Oh, and what a redesign it is! Not only is it very aesthetically pleasing, but it validates as XHTML 1.0 and they've even got a feed now (sweeeeeeeeeeeet). On top of all that, they've implemented (and when I say "they," I mean Brad Klausen and Levity and not the band) a pretty cool feature called "Reveal Background" that hides all the website's UI elements and shows only the background image. And as if that wasn't enough, the site's also been implemented using PHP.

Pretty darn cool.

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Know Your Spammers

March 01, 2006 12:45 AM

For well over a year now I've been dealing with comment and referral spam in various forms here at my blog (and at other sites). The referral spam isn't a big deal because I don't link to referrers anywhere on my site (though I used to). The comment spam, however, is annoying and as most bloggers know, the spammers themselves are relentless. Because my blog isn't powered by a widely distributed CMS like Wordpress, I've got a slight advantage in the level of deterrence. That being said, I still get my fair share of comment spam and I've probably had to spend about 20 minutes a week, on average, removing comment spam so as not to give Googlebot a lot of time to come through and index the spam links.

Over the course of the past couple weeks, I've taken the spam a bit more personally and have therefore decided to kick the deterrence up a notch or two. The comment spammers who keep on coming back for more have obviously put a lot of effort into getting to know how the Bernzilla CMS works, so I figure it's the least I can do to put just as much effort into figuring out the methods of their madness. In doing so, I've been able to keep a tally of IP addresses that have come back for seconds (and sometimes thirds or fourths) and have also picked up on some other very obvious (and stupid) traits that make the spammers very easy to identify programmatically. I don't want to give away all the goods here 'cause, afterall, who knows...the lowlifes may just be reading this.

The moral of the story is, know your spammers as well as (if not better than) they know you. If you can dedicate as much time to getting to know your spammers as you do to cleaning up after them, it will pay off in dividends. The very small and seemingly minor stopgaps I have put into place here have paid off over the course of the past few days. We'll see if the trend continues or not. Either way, I've learned a very valuable lesson: when it comes to comment spam, a little intel goes a long way.

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