Radio UserLand

First thoughts on the new Radio UserLand Weblogging tool.

I use some Open Source software to run this site, called monaural jerk. It does a passably good job, doing most of what I want it to do, and not too many things I hate.

Recently UserLand shipped a new Weblogging tool, called Radio UserLand, which has an awful lot of features and groovy stuff. Since they did a version for Mac OS X, I went ahead and bought it (it’s only $40, but a 30-day trial version is fully functional), and have been playing with it much of this afternoon.

It’s fairly cool, a much deeper product than the software I’m currently using. It has some downsides, too, and I’m figuring out some of those as I go. You can read more of that at my Radio ‘blog.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a Weblog, though, Radio might be the thing for you. It’s affordable, simple, and powerful. Check it out!

Grrrrrr

Allowing remote editing of this Weblog is my next tech project.

I have the software for this Weblog set up in such a way that I can’t add new stories, except from my computer at home. This makes for excellent security, but lousy reporting on the road. Which means I couldn’t post during our NYE trip to LA. (More on that in other postings.)

The software for running my publishing system allows remote editing, I just have it configured differently. Changing that around, while still keeping good security, will be my next tech project, I imagine.

I also don’t like the way it sorts stories from the same day. Days are sorted youngest to oldest, but stories on the same day are oldest to youngest, e.g., the opposite. Going to have to fix that, too…

On to the Next Thing…

I finished the project at work that I was procrastinating on by working on this site. So you’ll probably never hear from me again.

Yesterday afternoon, the marketing analysis I have been working on for the last four weeks stopped being a pile of shit, so I sent it to the people who need to review it.

I have to present / defend it on Monday, so I’m sure I’ll be working over the weekend…and procrastinating on that by writing here. Depending on how the presentation goes there may be more work to do on my MRD, but it won’t be so urgent, or monumental — there’s nothing so intimidating as the blank page.

But I’ve been posting to this thing for the last month, so maybe it’s become a habit. If not, I probably won’t post again until I have another big project I’m avoiding.

Then again, I may end up hacking away on the code that runs this site, so I can add pictures more easily, and things like that. Which would give me another excuse to write.

We’ll see.

Been There, Done That — It’s Better the Second Time

Once upon a time, I worked for Be, of BeOS (semi-) fame. I miss BeOS, but have found an acceptable substitute: Mac OS X.

Once upon a time, I worked for Be Incorporated, of BeOS (semi-) fame. For those who used it, BeOS (an operating system for desktop computers) was unique, and special. But Be is officially no more, and BeOS has been dead for a while.

What made BeOS so useful was a wonderful, responsive graphical interface on top of a powerful, Unix-like environment. The marriage of the two was unique at the time, and the work of some engineers who truly had magic powers.

For a lot of reasons Be didn’t make it, and BeOS died when the company did. It would remain a curiosity of computing history, and a tragedy for those of us who cared, except that some of the ideas live on.

I write this posting on a new Macintosh G4, in a Web browser that is the most beautiful, graceful browser I’ve ever used, OmniWeb. When I click the Save button, the information I’ve typed into a lovely GUI application gets transfered to the web server running a PHP application, which saves the text to a database (MySQL), so that you can read it later.

This relates to BeOS in that all of the software used to run my Weblog application is running on the same machine, running Mac OS X. It’s a lovely graphical interface on top of a true Unix-like environment, which allows the use of both a beautiful Web browser and the Unix-based Web server, PHP, database, and the other Open Source software upon which this site depends.

So, BeOS has died, but some of the most important ideas live on. Mac OS X isn’t for everyone, but for those who give it a whirl and can harness its powers, it’s truly magic.

Keyboard Rant

Why doesn’t anyone make a good USB keyboard for modern Macintoshes?

I recently bought a new Macintosh, my first in three years. The new systems don’t have the old keyboard connector (ADB), just USB connections. They come with a keyboard, and mouse too, but both of them suck.

Oh, they’re pretty enough, but when you use them intensively, day in and day out, the form-over-function flaws start to drive you nuts.

I found a wonderful replacement for the mouse, a Logitech wireless optical mouse, which is easily the nicest mouse I’ve ever used. It’s also beautiful to look at, proving that highly functional does not require ugly. Wish Steve Jobs would learn that lesson.

Which brings me to the keyboard. The Apple Pro Keyboard is, as I said, beautiful to look at, but the actuators are kind of stiff, and the key action is spongy. This means that I’m constantly missing letters and capitalization, because the key doesn’t press correctly to my touch typing. And the combination is causing my hands to hurt, from hitting the keys too hard.

What’s truly awful, though, is that there is no decent third-party replacement for Apple’s keyboard. Oh, there’s dozens, or even hundreds, of USB keyboards, any of which I can use on a Mac. But they all have Alt and Windows keys, and no Option or Command keys, and Alt and Control are in the wrong places. The few that are Mac-specific, with the right keys in the right places, are not very good.

The thing that I don’t understand is that Apple once upon a time made a truly awesome keyboard. The Apple Extended Keyboard (the original, not the “II” version that came out later) is almost universally revered among Mac journalists as the best keyboard they’ve ever used, on any platform.

I’m certainly in agreement with them. I’ve had an Extended for as long as I’ve owned Macs, more than 10 years, taking that one keyboard from an SE with two floppies all the way to my last system, a Beige G3. It took a huge amount of abuse, never gave me any trouble, and the key action is, even after 10 years of heavy use, truly a writer’s delight.

But it’s an ADB keyboard, which means I can’t use it on my new G4, unless I buy an adapter. I don’t really want to do that, because I don’t trust it to be compatible long-term.

Also, Apple did do one thing really right on their Pro keyboard. The addition of Volume Up/Down/Mute and CD Eject keys are a real convenience, and those don’t exist on my 10 year old keyboard. I really want to find a very good modern keyboard that’ll work with modern Macs. So far as I can tell, such a beast does not exist.

If you have recommendations, let me know!

Microsoft Sucks, George Bush Swallows

In a shocking, I say shocking development, the Department of “Justice” has completely capitulated on the Microsoft antitrust trial, giving a convicted monopolist a light slap on the wrist. Just another example of George Bush helping the rich get richer.

In a shocking, I say shocking development, the Department of “Justice” has completely capitulated on the Microsoft antitrust trial, giving a convicted monopolist a light slap on the wrist. Just another example of George Bush helping the rich get richer.

A quick recap of history: in 1998, the DoJ sued Microsoft in federal court for alleged antitrust violations. After months of dubious legal strategy, damning evidence, and ludicrous courtroom behavior, Microsoft was in 2000 convicted by a conservative Federal judge of being a monopoly and abuse of monopoly power. Note the word convicted.

In 2001, seven more Federal judges — a full sitting of the appeals court, most of them conservative appointees also — unanimously upheld the bulk of the conviction. Note the word upheld.

Now, after weeks of “negotiation,” the DoJ and Microsoft have arrived at a “settlement” that is so full of ambiguities and loopholes that it’s not clear that it will have any effect on Microsoft behavior, let alone actually restore balance to the technology industry.

The appeals court ruled that any actions taken against Microsoft (a) must restore competition to the affected market, (b) must deprive Microsoft of the “fruits of its illegal conduct,” and (c) must prevent Microsoft from engaging in similar tactics in the future. The settlement fails on every one of these.

I’ve read a few objections to this position, penned by Microsoft apologists, or Microsoft’s buddies at the DoJ, and none of them hold water:

The proposed settlement is strong, and it really will modify Microsoft’s behavior.

No, it’s not. Ralph Nader (a man I’m not fond of) and James Love have written an open letter which details the deep flaws in the settlement far more eloquently than I can manage. Read that for the details.

And even if the agreement somehow managed to stop Microsoft’s current abuses, there are plenty more new abuses that are not even remotely prevented by the agreement. Read Bob Cringely’s latest column for more on that.

That letter assumes the worst about Microsoft’s behavior, but Microsoft is good, the settlement will have a positive effect.

History suggests this is not correct. Inserting weasel words and then using them to studiously adhere to their interpretation of the agreement while flagrantly ignoring the spirit is exactly what Microsoft did to the last consent decree with the DoJ. Certainly, depending on Microsoft to be “good” is a pretty flawed way to approach handling a convicted and unrepentant monopoly abuser.

This antitrust case is all about Microsoft’s rivals complaining, not about real consumer harm.

If that were really true, I doubt if eight (count ’em, eight) Federal judges would have upheld the conviction. It’s not as though they don’t understand the law.

And if that were really true, what’s up with Microsoft raising the prices on their products? The price of the operating system has been steadily creeping upwards. Windows XP is $10 more than the prior upgrade, and Microsoft is currently moving corporate customers onto new support programs which will cost twice as much as the old programs.

Explain to me how paying more for a product is not “consumer harm.”

But Windows XP delivers more value, that’s why it costs more.

Um, no. Look at other parts of the software industry where there is actual competition. Over time you get more value, and you pay the same or less. I’ve been upgrading Quicken for many years, getting lots more value in every release, and the price to upgrade is the same. Quicken has competitors, so Intuit can’t raise the price. Windows does not have competitors, so Microsoft abuses their monopoly power and raises prices.

Microsoft just wants to protect their freedom to innovate.

Aha ha ha ha ha ha! Aha ha ha ha ha ha! That’s a good one! Aha ha ha ha ha ha!

“Innovation” has nothing to do with it. Microsoft wants to protect their freedom to crush their competitors. Microsoft has never had a reputation for innovation, for good reason. They copy the best ideas from their competitors and put those into Windows in such a way to steer consumers towards other Microsoft initiatives (currently that’s MSN and Passport; if you’ve installed Windows XP, you know exactly what I mean).

But if Microsoft can’t integrate functionality into Windows, then consumers won’t get the benefits of that integration. The integration is the innovation.

Integration of extended functionality into a user’s computing environment is certainly desirable. However, that integration can be done in a way that fosters innovation and competition, or it can be done in an exclusionary way. Guess which way Microsoft has been doing things.

The current settlement proposal recognizes and acknowledges this, and is attempting to change Microsoft’s anti-competitive behavior in this area. But the language is so weak and riddled with holes, it depends on Microsoft to be “good,” something they have repeatedly demonstrated they don’t know how to do.

Final note: I’m not talking here about conspiracy theories in the total capitulation of the DoJ. I think it was a perfectly ordinary case of George Bush making sure that rich people can stay rich, by making the world safe for large corporations to do whatever they want.

But I don’t have strong opinions here at all. ;-)

Another Fine Mess

Now my wife Rochelle is in the mess, too.

OK, so it’s not bad enough I’ve started doing this myself, but now I’ve also set Rochelle up with one of these things. Should be interesting to see what she has to say when I’m not her editor!

Note: You can’t get to Rochelle’s Weblog from outside our home network, yet. Coming soon, if you pester her about it!

Site Details

Technical details of how I run and manage this site, using mostly Open Source technology.

This weblog is managed by the monaural jerk system. It’s a web application built in PHP, and uses the MySQL database as the back end.

The system seems pretty nice, though it doesn’t work quite the way I’d like it to. I’ve actually started writing my own application to manage a weblog, but don’t seem to have enough time to complete it. This’ll do in the meantime.

The server setup is actually pretty interesting. The MySQL database is running on my main system, a Mac running Mac OS X 10.1. Currently the PHP scripts are running under Apache on that same system, but I’ll actually be moving those over to our main web server at some point.

What’s cool is our in-house network makes that separation easy. All I have to do is change a hostname in a config file, and putting the Web front end on one server and the DB back end on the other is child’s play.

I love Open Source software!

Yet Another Waste of Time

Announcing the launch of my personal weblog, for better or worse.

Yes, another weblog. I guess I’ve been wanting to keep some kind of a journal, and provide some kind of ongoing news for friends and family.

From another perspective, I’m doing this because I’m a geek, and I had to install MySQL on my new Mac OS X system, and then once it was installed, I had to do something with it.

Still another way to look at this is I am procrastinating on a project for work, and decided that spending a few dozen hours getting a bunch of software set up, writing, and fiddling, would be a “productive” way to do it.

Anyway, for better or worse, I’ve started a ’blog. We’ll see how well I stick with it.