April 2004

Album Cover: Into the Wild

"I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me...guaranteed."
Eddie Vedder / Guaranteed

A Google Gaggle

April 30, 2004 11:15 AM

Thanks to some very nice people out in the blogosphere, I've managed to get my very own shiny new Google GMail account. I have to admit I was quite jealous when I heard that there were people out there getting to test it out early. I got even more jealous when I found out that power bloggers using the Blogger service were getting invites. So now I have my own account and I feel much better. I'll probably be posting more thoughts here once I've had a chance to use it more. My only complaint so far is that I can't set up a default signature for my messages...but come to think of it, I don't think Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail let you do that either.

On a semi-related note, I read an article over at Wired today titled More Reasons to Love Google. There are some interesting tidbits concerning Google's recent IPO filing, such as the fact that "the exact value of its planned offering is $2,718,281,828 dollars, which some would immediately recognize as the mathematical constant e." I found the idea that Google "faces the risk of losing trademark rights to its name if too many people use 'google' as a verb or 'googling' as a gerund" quite interesting as well.

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Britney at the Beach

April 27, 2004 9:03 PM

This is so messed up.

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First Ten Programs

April 27, 2004 5:41 PM

Slashdot is currently asking "What are the first 10 programs you would install on a Windows machine?"

Given that I've gotten more and more familar with this list as of late, here's my list of the first 10 programs I would (and do) install on a spanking new Windows install, in order:

  1. Mozilla Firefox
  2. WinZip
  3. Mozilla Thunderbird
  4. Winamp 2.x
  5. EditPad Lite
  6. WinMX
  7. Microsoft Office
  8. Adobe Photoshop
  9. AOL Instant Messenger
  10. Lavasoft Ad-aware

It should be noted that WinZip only appears as high as it does because I am used to not having an installer for Mozilla Thunderbird.

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Fun with phpBB, MySQL and vi

April 27, 2004 2:57 AM

I finally got around to upgrading the phpBB discussion forum over at my Coldplay site tonight, and boy what an adventure it was!

The main problem with the forum was that, not only was the version (2.0.6) slightly out of date (the latest, at the time of writing, is 2.0.8), but it had been brought over to MySQL from Microsoft Access using an underhanded hack. My old web host only provided user access to Access, so I didn't have much choice back then. So, needless to say, some things had been lost in the translation, and there were always little quirks that I kind of just learned to deal with.

Tonight I decided I had dealt with them long enough, though, and so I made backups, backed up the backups, and then backed up the backups of the backups just to be sure. I then downloaded the latest tarball from phpBB's website and unleashed it on my server. This is where things started to take a turn for the worse ;)

Not only was I dealing with 14 Megabyte MySQL dumps and transferring them from my local machine to the server, but I made the mistake of opening one of them in Microsoft Visual Studio C++. The program immediately warned me that lines longer than the maximum allowed length (2048 characters, apparently) had been moved to the next line. Great. That totally screwed over my dumped script.

Luckily enough I was able to salvage the script by opening it in EditPad Lite, and after an hour or two of tweaking files locally, uploading and waiting, and then fixing any missed errors in vi, I had an .sql script that MySQL would accept. I could then move on to making minor adjustments to the database (since the schema had changed slightly) and uploading my customized template (.tpl) files to make the forum match the rest of the site.

While the task might have taken me a few hours longer than I had initially hoped, I must say that I picked up some useful vi skills in the process. I actually impressed myself at one point, as I managed to delete the rest of a line, join two lines, enter Insert mode in order to kill an extra space, and then escape the mode to move on to the next line to be fixed. After promising myself in college that I would never, ever use vi, I suppose I am a changed man. I'll still take a good graphical text editor any day of the week, though.

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The Potential of GMail

April 24, 2004 2:20 PM

One of, if not the, hottest topics in the world of technology these days is Google's GMail.

GMail has immense potential to change the way we think of and use email. Why do I say this? Think of the Web about four or five years ago. Back then, people often referred to using search engines like Yahoo! and AltaVista as, simply enough, "searching the Web." Nowadays, people call it "Googling."

Now think about that. That is a huge deal. Imagine if we referred to drinking pop as "Coking" or watching television as "Sonying." Because Google was able to redefine how we search the Web, they left their competitors in the dust and became the de facto standard for finding information on the World Wide Web.

Fast forward to 2004 and we see GMail on the horizon. The service promises storage space vastly superior to its competitors (e.g. Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail), easy and highly advanced email searching capabilities, as well as the portability that any Web-based email service provides. On top of that, it comes with the name-brand recognition and feeling of trust that the Google Web-searching service provides. The only question that remains is, who or what can even dream of stopping GMail?

I believe that three or four years from now the word "GMail" will be to "email" what the word "Googling" is to "searching the Web." You will no longer hear people talking about email; you will simply hear things like "I GMailed you earlier, did you get that?"

With promises of syndication and APIs, it is very resonable to think that blogging and "GMailing" will go hand-in-hand and that third parties will be writing applications that handle GMail functionality (e.g. POP3 and RSS). Such applications could, potentially speaking, eventually overtake applications like Microsoft Exchange that are too tied to one mode of use (whether it be a particular operating system, etc.).

It will be interesting to look back on these thoughts in a few years and see what has come of Google's promising new service. I know that when the flood gates open for registering a GMail account, I'll be one of the first to dive in.

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XPath in PHP: Problems Solved

April 24, 2004 1:28 AM

In my last post I was scrambling to find any semblance of functionality in PHP 5's XPath handling. It seems that because PHP 5 is only in a release candidate state, there aren't very many people who have gotten their hands dirty with the code...especially the XPath code.

Right now, a Google search on the subject returns the usual suspects like Zend and PHPBuilder, but not a whole lot in terms of developer discussion on common practices and techniques. Unfortunately, one of the items in the search results is a presentation slide offering the following code sample:

$xp = new domxpath($dom);
$result = $xp->query("/html/head/title");
print $result[0]->firstChild->data;

It would be nice if these people would actually try their source code before they add it to their presentation. Because the DomXPath class's query() function returns a domNodeList, you can't access the $result variable as an array.

There is some good news to share, though. Most of the problems I mentioned in my last post have been eradicated. It turns out, for some reason or another, PHP 5 doesn't seem to like the format of my Atom XML feed, even though it is a perfectly valid XML feed. All it took was testing against the following XML file to start seeing some of the XPath query results that I was expecting:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<bernie>
 <likes id="1">Porsche</likes>
 <likes id="2">Ferrari</likes>
 <likes id="3">Mercedes Benz</likes>
 <dislikes id="1">Honda</dislikes>
 <dislikes id="2">Ford</dislikes>
</bernie>

With that XML file, which we'll refer to as bernie.xml, I was able to use the following PHP code...

<?
$dom = new DomDocument();
$dom->load("bernie.xml");
$xp = new domxpath($dom);

$results = $xp->query("/bernie/likes");
foreach ($results as $node)
 print($node->textContent."<br />");

$results = $xp->query("//dislikes/..");
foreach ($results as $node)
 print($node->textContent."<br />");
?>

...to generate the following results:

Porsche
Ferrari
Mercedes Benz
Porsche Ferrari Mercedes Benz Honda Ford

The first three lines were generated by the first query, grabbing the textContent of each of the likes nodes and printing them out one-per-line. The last line was generated by the second query, first by finding the parents of every dislikes node in the XML document (in our case there is only one parent found, the bernie node) and then printing the textContent contained within that single node.

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Problems with XPath in PHP 5

April 22, 2004 6:38 PM

I finally got PHP 5 up and running on my Windows machine last night. It wasn't easy, but at least I got it working, which is more than I can say about my last attempt. For some reason whenever I would start up Apache the application would crash. After a bunch of trial and error testing, I eventually came to the conclusion that it had something to do with specifying a doc_root in my php.ini file. All is well that ends well, though, I suppose.

The bad news (there's always bad news when it comes to computers) is that I can't get XPath to work for the life of me. XPath is the sole reason I installed PHP 5 and Apache in the first place, so I'm slightly bummed to say the least. I tried using the sample code from Zend with several XPath queries against my Atom XML feed. The only one that did anything was $titles = $xp->query("*");, which essentially printed out all the nodes in the document.

After several attempts in vain, I scrolled down to the user comments and noticed XPath doesnt seem to work. In a self-reply to that comment, I found a "solution" that I modified to fit my needs as follows:

<?
$xml = simplexml_load_file("atom.xml");
$items = $xml->xpath("/feed/entry");
foreach($items as $item) {
 print $item->title . "<br />";
}
?>

That didn't work either, though, as it returned Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in sample.php on line 4.

So, next I went directly to the source to find out exactly what the xpath method does and how it is used. This led me to trying:

<?
$xml = simplexml_load_file("atom.xml");
$result = $xml->xpath("/feed/entry/title");
while(list( , $node) = each($result)) {
 print($node."<br />");
}
?>

Which, in turn, returned Warning: Variable passed to each() is not an array or object in sample.php on line 4. It should be noted here again, though, if I use a * as the XPath query, I get some results (although somewhat strange) back.

So what did I try next? Nothing. I'm giving up. I'll either wait for some more real-life examples to come out or I'll wait until I gather up enough patience to give it another go. At least next time I won't have to worry about setting up PHP 5 and Apache...it's all sitting there ready to go.

I may, however, play around with libxml2 (which PHP 5 apparently uses for its XML handling) and C++, but that is another story for another day...

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Still Twitching

April 20, 2004 8:35 PM

Give it a rest, already!

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Random Notes

April 19, 2004 11:52 PM

While watching the movie Go this evening I realized that the part of Todd Gaines was played by none other than Timothy Olyphant, the star of HBO's Deadwood.

On a completely different plane, one of my favorite University of Washingon running backs of all time, Corey Dillon, was traded to the world champion New England Patriots today. After wearing the purple and gold for so long, seeing him in the black and orange just didn't seem right. Hopefully his new team will suit him well.

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Sunday Yet Again

April 18, 2004 8:27 PM

For being the day before Monday, I sure feel like my posts are cheeriest on Sundays. It's rather strange.

I have to ask, though, what better way to spend a Sunday than playing Halo and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on Xbox and then watching back-to-back episodes of Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and Deadwood on HBO?

As things stand in my life right now, Friday's got nothing on Sunday.

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Angst Blog

April 18, 2004 2:30 PM

I've never found so much angst and hatred in one place before. I guess I accidentally stepped into one of the "dark, back alleys" of the Web.

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Limited Edition Halo XBox Bundle Part II

April 17, 2004 11:56 PM

So it really was the straw that broke the camel's back. I picked up my limited edition XBox Halo bundle today, and ended up buying Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic later on in the day.

I don't believe I've ever posted about him on here before, but my younger brother Michael is and always has been my personal henchman. I've always been the shy one and he's always been the loud, outgoing one. In junior high and high school when I needed to fundraise on our block, I'd always send him out to do the selling. He'd never fail me – always coming back with way more money than I could have dreamed of getting on my own. When I needed a gift quickly for a girlfriend (present one included) he'd always pull through for me, finding some rare and obscure item with relative ease.

It makes perfect sense, then, that I would come upon this limited edition XBox through his assistance. I believe I told him about the new console earlier this week. I said that it was time I got another XBox (having very unwisely sold my last one on eBay) and I needed to find one of these fairly quickly before they sold out. After calling around on my own for a few hours and realizing that most retailers had never even heard of it, I was worried that even Michael couldn't pull it off. I don't know how I ever doubted him.

Michael ended up calling me early this morning saying he had one of the limited edition consoles reserved for me at a video game story in Puyallup. After he had told me, I think he recognized that I was a little hesitant to make the 45 minute drive down to Puyallup just to buy an XBox that I wasn't totally convinced I should purchase. Not 10 minutes after hanging up with him (after thanking him for the find, of course), he was calling again – this time to report that he had reserved one for me on Rainier Avenue in South Seattle. I was once again impressed. After a few games of 21 and 2-on-2 and a nice lunch with some of my buddies from work, I took the trip down Rainier and picked up my 2nd XBox. This one will be with me for a very long time.

It's nice to have a henchman.

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Adventures with Apache's mod_rewrite

April 16, 2004 12:28 AM

Once again I found myself working on something that apparently no one has ever tried in the past. Since last night I have been reading through document after document online trying to figure out how to do some simple website redirection using Apache's mod_rewrite module.

I've come to the conclusion that either no one has ever had a need for accomplishing what I needed to accomplish, or they were all mod_rewrite geniuses and didn't leave any kind of a bit trail (like that?) behind them. Either way, I was left to my own devices to try and figure out how to get any requests to pleasureunit.com/bernie and all documents below to forward to the bernzilla.com domain. I ended up placing .htaccess files in several directories and swapping out many different variations of domain name-matching regular expressions before I found a solution that did the job:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.pleasureunit.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^bernie/(.+) http://www.bernzilla.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Essentially, the first line turns the RewriteEngine on (obviously); the second line checks for requests to the pleasureunit.com domain (the NC allows for case-insensitivity); and the third line tells the server to return a 301 status code before redirecting to the same path (without the /bernie subdirectory) on bernzilla.com domain.

Now of course, being the troublemaker that I am, once I had finally gotten things working I wanted to do more. I noticed that a Google search on my name returned an outdated reference to /bernie/design.html on the pleasureunit.com domain. This has long since been changed to my web design page at design.php. So, my .htaccess file ends up looking like:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.pleasureunit.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^bernie/(.+) http://www.bernzilla.com/$1 [R=301,L]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.bernzilla.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule design.html$ /design.php [R=301,L]

In this set of conditions and rules, the fourth line denotes that the upcoming rule is only to be imposed on requests to the bernzilla.com domain. The fifth line denotes that the upcoming rule should only be applied in the case that the requested filename isn't found on the server. The final line, which is comprised of the rule, denotes that in the case of the requested, failing file matching design.html, the request should be marked as permanently moved and then redirected to design.php at the root of the domain.

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Projects

April 14, 2004 11:41 PM

I tend to get crazy ideas in my head more often than I do normal ones, but it's only once in a great while that I follow through with one of these ideas. Lately I've been dabbling in little projects here and there, and I'm beginning to see potential for a few of them. For this reason, I've created a projects page on my site so those who are interested in my progress can keep up.

Right now I only have the work I've been doing on my GrayModern port to Firefox listed there, but rest assured that I will be adding more projects as they start to pan out. In the meantime, though, please read about some of the work I've done on the GrayModern theme so far, and even try it out if you're a Firefox user. I'd love to get your feedback.

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By Any Other Name

April 14, 2004 1:02 PM

Jason Kottke has written an interesting piece today on why we should stop calling it "syndication." I especially liked the following:

Hmm. So, people access documents written in a markup language that have been published on a Web server with a software application. If this seems familiar to you, it should. It's called Web browsing and has nothing to do with syndication. RSS readers and newsreaders are just specialized Web browsers, nascent microcontent browsers if you will.

If you're at all interested in the future, the potential, or the ramifications of RSS and Atom, I think you'll enjoy the read.

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Things I Take for Granted

April 13, 2004 5:51 PM

Here's a little list of things I take for granted on a daily basis:

  1. Popup blocking
  2. A steady paycheck
  3. The sobriety of those around me
  4. Normalcy
  5. My CD collection

"Most humans have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted." – Aldous Huxley

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When Software Gets Worse

April 12, 2004 11:38 PM

For some reason AOL has a knack for getting involved with software projects that take more steps backward than they do forward. I've written about the shortcomings of Winamp 5 here before, and doubtless have bashed Netscape browsers many a time, especially version 6.0.

The AOL screw-up of the moment, though, is AOL Instant Messenger 5.5. Ever since I started using AIM many years ago, I've always enjoyed being on the cutting edge of their development – routinely downloading their beta versions long before they were available as stable releases. That trend continued for quite some time, until recently when they made the jump from version 5.2 to 5.5.

One of the most annoying "features" of the new version is the inclusion of video ads at the top of the application. Not only do I have no control over these ads (at least in terms of when they appear, etc.), but if I make the mistake of even hovering over them while they are active my browser is opened up with more information. This has brought my frustration level high above average levels on many occasion. In addition, they have literally taken steps backward in terms of sound management. In version 5.2, I am able to say that I only want to hear a sound when a new incoming message arrives. In 5.5, this is not possible. Their sound setup seems to take the all-or-nothing approach, leaving me out in the cold in terms of customization.

The main reason I've continued to use AIM over the years is that it always seems stable to me. I can't really explain it, but some applications seem like they are "built tough," and others seem flaky. Run any application that was written in Java and you'll quickly understand what I mean. The HotJava Browser is a perfect example. AIM has always held the edge, personally, over MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. Even after jumping on the Trillian bandwagon for a while, I still have to say that AIM takes the cake in terms of perceived stability.

With the frustrating "advancements" of version 5.5, though, I am beginning to think I may have to wait for Google's predicted IM client to get another shot at a clear winner in the world of instant messaging. If it wasn't for ET Planet's AIM Archives I probably wouldn't have been able to regress back to version 5.2 and enjoy AIM in its pre-tarnished state.

It really is a shame when software moves backwards. It is hard to imagine that anyone with a vested interest in the development of a product would ever allow it to regress. Then again, when an application is managed by a company whose future is sketchy at best and whose products consistently fall short of the bar, maybe it isn't so hard to imagine afterall.

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The Shot Heard 'Round the Web

April 12, 2004 1:59 PM

People are reacting to the seemingly hasty demise of Deadwood's Wild Bill Hickok:

Yendi writes:

Okay, face it. The one thing you know about Deadwood is that it's where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back while playing poker. It's certainly the one thing I knew. So I knew it was going to happen on the series. I just figured it'd happen a little bit later.

Thing is, shooting Bill throws everything into chaos. Yeah, we've got lots of characters that we've been following, but only Seth, Alma, and Al have really been solidly focused on. Without Bill, there's a lot of major focus that needs to shift. I would've liked to have seen more of a story for him (his self-destructive poker playing had a ton of potential), but he might work well as a myth and as someone for the others to mourn. Plus, it'll be interesting to see how this affects the Alma/Al/EB claim situation.

Absentkore writes:

I cannot believe they killed the best character in only the fourth f*&%ing episode. #@$%. HBO does some $%&^ed up *&#$, they killed one of the main characters in Oz in like the 6th episode ...... but this is like killing tony soprano. it just doesnt work.

I knew he died, I know about some "old west" history, but episode 4 ? $#@*!

Kate writes:

Arrrgggghhhhh!!!
I looooove Wild Bill! That little $%&#er SHOT him! I told Paul I knew something was going to happen.. Bill sat with his back to the door. NO marshall would ever do that. Still.. $#@^%.. I am so pissed!

The legend lives on...

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Fun with Samba

April 10, 2004 12:27 AM

The past two days I have literally been on the verge of ripping my hair out trying to get my new XP workstation to talk to my Linux box. Since I'm just a shade past newbie when it comes to Linux, I've been reading documentation from the far reaches of the Web and trying desperately to figure out how Samba works. Redhat 9 has all kinds of great graphical interfaces to options for your web server, your samba server settings and shares, etc., but most of the time you end up getting your hands dirty at the command line before you get things working.

The biggest problem I was having was getting my XP machine to recognize shares on my Linux box. I could do whatever I wanted from the Linux end, including viewing web pages served by Apache on XP and all of my XP shares. However, I wasn't able to view any web pages served by my Linux box from Windows, and while I was able to see the Linux box showing up in My Network Places, I couldn't access it.

I'm the kind of guy that likes figuring things out. However, there comes a point where it just isn't fun anymore and I just want things to work. Typically when I run into trouble I'll use Google to find information on the problem, hoping that others have run into it in the past. Once in a blue moon you'll run into one of those problems that seems to have never happened before to anyone else in the world, but for the most part others have been down the same path. In the case of my recent problem, though, information was so diluted and contradictory that it made finding help a complete and total nightmare.

Persistence always seems to pay off in the end, though, and so it did this time around. Getting XP to let me view pages served up by Apache on my Linux machine was fairly straightforward (if working on something for two days can pass for straightforward) – I simply needed to turn off the firewall on Linux so that it would accept web requests from the Windows machine. A firewall is completely unnecessary on the Linux box anyway, since my entire network is behind a firewall as it is.

The tricky (and most frustrating) part was getting Samba working with XP. I suppose I should be thankful, because in the process of struggling with the problem I found some great documentation worth recommending to anyone, and learned a whole heck of a lot about administering shares on Linux. In the end, it all came down to one line in my smb.conf file. For some reason, Redhat 9's default smb.conf contains the following line:

hosts allow = 192.168.1 192.168.2 127.

Granted, the line is originally commented out, but when you're messing with your smb.conf file for as long as I was, you uncomment and re-comment just about as many lines as you can trying to get things working. I eventually ended up with:

hosts allow = 192.168.1 127.

I did this so that any of the local IP addresses on the network would be able to access the share, and so that the Linux box (127.) could access it as well (even though this is a little redundant). The one thing I missed, though, is that my internal IP addresses all look like 192.168.0.x, not 192.168.1.x! All it took was a switch from 1 to 0 and I was up and running...finally!

The moral of the story? Well, I suppose there are a few I could list. Don't ever give up. Eventually, with enough Code Red and determination you can and will figure things out. Also, don't take for granted the fact that you will be about 10 times wiser by the time you have figured things out. You may be missing some hair and your wall may have a few holes in it when all is said and done, but walls are overrated and we're all going to lose our hair some day anyway, right?

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Webjay

April 09, 2004 2:06 PM

After reading an article at Wired today about a new playlist sharing service called Webjay, I quickly added a playlist of songs by my band, Pleasure Unit.

If you're interested in sampling some of our best songs from over the last decade without sifting through all the downloads offered at our site, I'd recommend having a listen. If you do, please leave a comment because I'd love to hear what you think.

Turns out the playlist has an RSS feed associated with it as well, but I'm not quite sure how it is to be used yet. It will be interesting to see how Webjay evolves over time.

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What in Sam Blazes?

April 08, 2004 1:48 PM

Jeffrey Zeldman recently wrote some signs that the apocalypse is nigh. If I were him, I'd be less worried about Bob Dylan and Janet Jackson's boob. I'm personally more concerned about villages that are spontaneously combusting, but maybe that's just me.

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Waiting on Firefox Patch Reviews

April 08, 2004 11:05 AM

Henrik Gemal has written about the frustration of trying to get a review for a Firefox patch:

"...having made a patch and not getting any response is disappointing and discouraging. Am I too impatient?"

In response to his complaint, John Henry wrote:

"Most of the Firefox patches I have submitted have never gotten reviewed (in the 6+ months they've been in Bugzilla now), even one that fixes a known crash...I realize Ben is extremely swamped with work trying to get Firefox 0.9 out the door, but it would be nice if the other module peers could find some time for reviews. Or if Firefox doesn't really welcome outside patches, say so rather than having people waste their time contributing them."

This kind of relates to something I wrote back in February regarding Ben Goodger's general distrust in delegating work. In this case it seems that not enough power has been delegated to those who might be able to review patches and get them checked in.

I certainly feel for both Henrik and John, because I have seen several instances of patches dying on the vine, so to speak. Quite a few times I've seen things get to the point where patches will bitrot several times over, simply because no one has had or found the time to review the patch and get it checked in. I even submitted a patch once that was essentially an update of bitrotted code. My patch eventually bitrotted as well, having never been reviewed nor checked in.

I have a feeling that quite a few of those who decide they want to contribute to the Firefox browser end up leaving with a bad taste in their mouth. Along with very poor documentation for would-be themers and developers, the lack of higher-up support from those who have the power to review patches and check them in is one of the open source project's most visible weaknesses. I wouldn't consider this a complaint, mind you, but rather a fact of life that most contributors will need to accept until power is shared on broader levels – if that ever happens.

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Episode III Release Date

April 06, 2004 11:48 PM

Via Slashdot I found out that the release date has been announced for the as-yet-untitled Star Wars Episode III. The film will open in the U.S. on Thursday, May 19th, 2005, keeping up with the saga's unbroken tradition of opening in the latter half of May. Now if only they'd release the date we should all get in line if we want tickets.

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More Fun with Linux

April 05, 2004 1:27 AM

I remember first getting my feet wet with Linux while doing some work for a local company called Nextvend. I bought a pretty ghetto PC on eBay and immediately replaced Windows ME with Mandrake Linux. Before long I was learning the ins and outs of a command-line driven operating system the hard way (picture me going into directories individually to delete files before deleting the parent folder, rather than using rm -rf dirname).

Nevertheless, I've continued dabbling in Linux ever since, and by now I'd say I fit somewhere in between the intermediate and expert user levels. One of the things I remember struggling with early on was getting PHP, Apache and MySQL installed. I knew that if I wanted to be lazy I could have the Linux install process load those for me, but it always seemed like by the time you had the Linux discs burned (usually 2 or 3) there were new versions out that you were missing out on.

Zoom ahead a few years, and I've become much wiser. I now know about APT, and therefore know that I can, more often than not, type apt-get install php to either install PHP or upgrade it if it already exists on my system. I also know that it isn't too difficult to follow a few directions and get things set up and running pretty efficiently.

Needless to say, at this point I have gotten MySQL, PHP and Apache all running on my Linux box running Red Hat 9, and it wasn't very difficult. The only hiccups along the way were due to APT not knowing about the latest version of libxml and PHP 5 requiring the version it didn't know about. The workaround was to just stick with PHP 4.3.5, which requires a version of libxml that seems to be accepted as stable. Eventually, maybe after an official version of PHP 5 is released, I will upgrade to version 5 so I can play around with some of the features I've blogged about in the past.

If you've never had the chance to play around in Linux, I'd recommend either finding an old computer to install it on, or partitioning your current system so you can do so. It's definitely a whole new experience compared to using Windows or any of the Mac operating systems, if for nothing more than the way the GUI flows. There are so many little things, though, that make it interesting beyond just the user interface. Whenever I use Linux I feel like I really know what I am doing, wheras when I use Windows I'm sometimes made to feel like what I'm really doing is none of my business.

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I Didn't Even Have to Use My AK

April 03, 2004 9:15 PM

Not only did Katie and I enjoy an incredibly sunny day walking through the tulip fields in Mt. Vernon today, but Emeka Okafor's UConn Huskies knocked Duke out of the NCAA tournament today as well. It was a good day.

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Operation 'Artoo' Complete

April 03, 2004 6:35 PM

As I mentioned on Thursday, my new computer arrived and I've been busy getting it all set up with the software I need. The transition from Yoda to R2D2 went absolutely seamlessly, and I've already changed Yoda's OS from Windows XP to Red Hat Linux 9. Besides the fact that my new machine screams in terms of speed, another nice thing that's come out of this is that I've gotten to look at Red Hat 9 and see first-hand just how much progress they've made with their UI since my last experience.

You might remember, at that time I had complained about the availabilty (or lack, I should say) of fonts on Red Hat. I believe I was using Red Hat 8 at that time, so it's nice to see that in only one revision they've managed to get fonts right. Not only does my blog look a heck of a lot better, but most of the websites I've looked at do as well. I am nothing short of impressed. It was also nice to see that Firefox still runs so well on Red Hat, and that the GrayModern theme I've been working on looks good as well (it even functions a little better than the Windows version). I'm currently writing this post using Firefox 0.8 on Linux, as a matter of fact. It seems my prophecy has come true, and Yoda may well indeed "run Red Hat into its old age."

Another major win I accomplished in the last few days was getting Firefox set up as Katie's default browser on both her iBook and R2D2. She's using Thunderbird as her default mail client on R2D2, too, but sticking with Mail on her iBook (running OS X) since it fits pretty seamlessly into the rest of the operating system. Nonetheless, the fact that we've ousted both Internet Explorer and Outlook Express from our lives means that our computers should be a lot happier and a lot safer as time rolls on.

The only unfinished part of my whole evil scheme is to eventually order a new hard drive (probably ~10Gb or so) for Leia, the machine that is currently resting quietly in our basement, and install Red Hat 9 on it so that my mom can use it for checking her email. You know you're a geek when you've got your girlfriend using Mozilla products and your mom checking her email on Red Hat!

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Limited Edition Xbox Halo Bundle

April 02, 2004 11:15 PM

Ever since selling my last Xbox, I've been trying to convince myself that it's time to buy a new one. This may end up being the straw that breaks the camel's back.

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Renting Your Music

April 02, 2004 11:08 AM

According to C|Net, Microsoft's "Janus" may be an iPod killer. Why? Because it would allow subscribers to virtually "rent" their music as opposed to buying it on a per-song basis. Do I think Microsoft may be on to something here? I sure do.

The problem with the iPod model is that even a dollar (or 99 cents) can seem like a lot of money in context. As hip-hop has taken over the mainstream, today's "pop" follows the idea of "here today, gone tomorrow" to a tee. Why would I pay a dollar (or anywhere near a dollar) for a song that I probably won't be as into 3 weeks today when I can pay $10 a month to ensure that I will have access to all of the songs that are considered "hot" on any given day, week, etc.?

When Steve Jobs says that consumers want to own, and not rent their music, he is referring to the traditional model of music consumption. He isn't thinking of the future. The music industry has a lot of changes in store over the next few years, most of which no one can currently predict. I wouldn't be surprised if this new, legal model of renting what's "currently popular" ends up being one of the more monumental of those changes.

I'm a traditionalist when it comes to purchasing music. I may listen to something online to get an idea of whether it is purchase worthy, but in the end I prefer having a shiny disc in my hand as opposed to bits on a hard drive. However, this idea of being able to subscribe to all the music I want access to has me thinking. I can honestly say I would pay around $10 a month to be able to play good music on demand, whenever I darn well pleased.

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R2D2 is Here!

April 01, 2004 6:12 PM

Holy crap. That's all I can really say. Katie called me up at work today and told me that my new computer arrived. My first thought was, "what did I do to deserve such a mean April Fools' joke?" (given that I was told by Gateway not to expect it until a week from today). However, she was quick to assure me that this was no joke – my computer had indeed arrived.

Since I got home tonight I have been shuffling things around in the office to make room for the little guy (good things come in small packages). I've dubbed my new 510X "R2D2," since it's small and silver, and promises to be a reliable, trustworthy little companion for years to come. My mind is still racing trying to think of all the software I need to install (not to mention remove...*cough* AOL *cough*). I haven't even installed Firefox or Thunderbird yet, so I'm writing this post in IE6.

I am so glad that I put the extra money into upgrading the sound system, because the speakers I received today are sweet! Winamp 2.91 was the first piece of software I installed so that I could tune into HitzRadio and hear my new subwoofer bump. Man does it ever sound good!

I could go off right now about how much faster R2D2 is than my old computer, Yoda, but it really isn't very fair at all. This new box is a machine...and I'm not speaking literally! I swear the windows show up before I'm even done with my second mouse click. This day has been a long time coming, and I have to say it was well worth the wait. I am in hog heaven right now, floating on cloud nine, pinching myself, and grinning from ear to ear.

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