[This site will look better in browsers that support web standards, but should be legible in all.]

Wednesday, 06/25/03

Today Apple released Webkit, the embeddable core of Safari, to developers. It's available through the ADC member site, though possibly only with a seed key for the moment. This means applications like NetNewsWire will be able to plop in an HTML display as good as Safari's, which will be the beneficiary of updates to Safari's rendering support. It's very good news.

It's 1.0, not a preview, and it looks gorgeous. Developers get access to attractive side benefits like Safari's page cache and cookie storage. Webkit even includes new mechanisms for page retrieval, something which existed in Cocoa prior to today, but which never worked well (lots of people spurned Apple's NSURLhandle for Dan Wood's third-party CURLhandle class).

Tom Yager at Infoworld compares Webkit favorably to Microsoft's options for embedding IE. Along similar lines, he espouses some optimistic pie-in-the-sky about how Apple might make PDF sufficiently fast and ubiquitous in the next OS X release that people wouldn't mind using PDF the way it was originally conceived.

That'd be nice, but I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, Webkit is here today, and it works. I'm going to have to get used to writing its name as "Web kit," which will take some doing. 02:39PM «

My spam problem wasn't as bad as I thought, though as a certain network administrator had predicted barely a week earlier, it was time to get rid of the catch-all on bumppo.net addresses. Previously, if mail arrived not addressed to one of the fairly small number of defined buckets, it would still be accepted and wind up where I could see it. This proved a mistake when galumphing quantities of spam were sent from the made-up addresses mia@bumppo.net, mackenzie@bumppo.net, and jack@bumppo.net; those three accounted for the vast majority of the several thousand bounces I found in my mailbox that morning. (I myself received three of the fraudulent mia@bumppo.net messages.)

Mail sent to any of those three names now falls into oblivion. I'm revising my bayesian filter, and when I'm done, mail to unexpected bumppo.net addresses will bounce. It's a pity, but it's unavoidable considering the quantity of spam being sent to and from bumppo.net addresses. 01:54PM «

Saturday, 06/21/03

I woke up this morning with more than 2300 messages in my inbox from mail subsystems alerting me to the fact that they couldn't deliver the spam they thought I'd sent. Since mid-April I've been getting a few dozen of these per day, but now I seem to be getting about a dozen per minute. I'm not going to be much of an email correspondent until I get this sorted out. 10:14AM «

Friday, 06/20/03

Maciej Ceglowski is organizing a boycott of the new Microsoft search engine crawler. Start with this initial call to arms, then the in-depth defense. The latter has me nearly convinced, but I'm still thinking about it. 09:55AM «

Can anyone explain why gargling with warm salt water helps a sore throat? It's counter-intuitive, but it gets the job done. 09:53AM «

Friday, 06/13/03

Ad for '28 Days Later', and a visual joke I'm afraid

I'd heard of the existence of a summer movie called "28 Days Later", and naturally assumed it to be a sequel to "28 Days", a romantic comedy from 2000 starring Sandra Bullock as an adorable alcoholic who ruins a wedding and bundles herself into rehab to dry out. The sequel would inevitably be another PG-13 affair about how falling off the wagon leads to meeting cute guys.

"28 Days Later" turns out to be some sort of zombie movie by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, but for a week or so, I was seeing ads like this one and thinking, damn, that's one iconoclastic campaign. 01:21PM «

I went out of my way to praise Clay Shirky a few weeks back, even putting him in a category with the unearthly Malcolm Gladwell, and then Shirky went and wrote a piece about the FCC's recent media consolidation giveaway that was just completely daft.

I was so used to seeing Shirky say uniformly clever things (and I'm so attached to the pick-any-two phenomenon, which seems to pop up in nature like Fibonacci numbers), that it took me several days to spot the barmy fraudulence of his equation of broadcast ratings with weblog mindshare.

CNN and Fox News fight what appears to be an epic battle over a difference in audience size that amounts to about 3% of Felicity's viewership, and Felicity got cancelled. Relative numbers aside, the point of their stupid squabble is that people who watch one channel generally don't watch the other.

It's unsupportable, perhaps unforgivable, to suggest that just because weblog readership organizes itself into power-law distributions, readers of Kottke or Reynolds limit themselves to one blog per day like bloody dittoheads. Christ, there's a whole new category of software catering to people who read so much that their web browsers were left gasping in a ditch.

It's also ridiculous to pretend, as only Rupert Murdoch and Clay Shirky even bothered to try, that the medium by which most Americans learn about the world is threatened by, or worth comparing to, a rank upstart self-selected by people who like to read. At least I understand what Murdoch has to gain by the assertion.

I feel bad that I didn't get around to making this point before John Adams, who puts the core idea more succinctly: "Concentration of large audiences is not the issue per se, but barriers to entry and the inability of the new to displace the old." Word. 09:22AM «

Thursday, 06/12/03

Intrepid Camino hacker Mike Pinkerton here praises Rod Lurie's feature debut, Deterrence, unseen by me yet still fondly remembered. When it came out in 1999, Jen and I were puzzled by its guerrilla print-media ad campaign, which appeared to be pitching a fringe political candidate for President. "Doesn't that guy look a lot like Kevin Pollak?" I asked. "Yes, I've never heard of him," she replied, and we made fun of the ad because we couldn't tell which party the guy represented.

Months later, I realized our mistake when I saw the same sketch of Pollak from the ad and read Scott Tobias' capsule review in The Onion - "a spectacularly inept political thriller that unfolds like a production of Fail-Safe by the Max Fischer Players" - a memorable critical outburst, even by Tobias' cranky standards.

Though I haven't seen the movie, Pinkerton's characterization is a puzzling outlier, and not just because he calls it deserving of comparison to Reservoir Dogs -- he also says it's "very relevant to current events (Iraqi aggression, weapons of mass destruction, etc)." Perhaps I've been keeping up with the wrong set of current events. 01:47PM «

Wednesday, 06/11/03

Southwest Airlines does a lot of things right. For a while after 9/11 they seemed like the only US airline making any money, and they did it without being total bastards. I even like the first-come-first-served seating policy, because people who show up eight minutes before the plane leaves usually deserve the seat between the fat guy and the screaming baby. Southwest's frequent flier program, though, was apparently invented by people on an exchange program from one of the going-bankrupt airlines.

Every such system of my acquaintance works like Monopoly money -- you put together enough miles, and you trade some in for a free ticket. The nice person on the phone says, "And will you be paying for this with a credit card?" and you say, "Nope, miles, here's my account number", and you go on your merry way.

Southwest clings to the notion that I won't believe my good fortune unless I have a little token to hold in my hot little hands. I learned a few days ago that when I qualify for a trip, they have to spin their wheels for a few weeks, and then mail me a little Willy Wonka magic ticket.

Of course, I get so much co-branded Southwest Airlines junk mail that if I ever qualified for a free ticket in the past, I ripped it in half and threw it away believing it was yet another preapproved Visa card. The potential for theft or loss is gi-normous. And incredibly, their customer service people claim they've never heard of any airline doing it any differently. 11:04AM «

Friday, 06/06/03

The music in of Pixar's trailer for 2004's "The Incredibles" sounds distinctly like a re-edit (or a very close approximation) of the Propellerheads' frabjous cover of the theme to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", to my thinking John Barry's best.

Composer David Arnold stunk up the music for the last handful of Bond movies, and his meddlesome, ego-ridden production bollixed what could have been a great various-artist compendium of Bond music covers. Alas, with the exceptions of the Propellerheads' opus and Iggy Pop's respectful cover of Louis Armstrong's "We Have All The Time In The World," it's untrammeled crap. Aimee Mann covering Carly Simon should have been a home run; she sounds like she just wanted to get out of the studio.

I'm always glad to hear that OHMSS melody again, but I hope Arnold has nothing to do with The Incredibles. 04:04PM «

Thursday, 06/05/03

Howard Dean is up to something: http://action.deanforamerica.com. They've been dependent on meetup.com to schedule certain campaign appearances and facilitate self-organization among supporters, but they swamped meetup's capabilities and were starting to live and die by its scalability problems. "Action" seem to be a credible stab at something easier to use, and more thoroughly decentralized. It's not every day you see the bar permanently raised for presidential campaigns -- at least, not in a good way. 07:51AM «

Tuesday, 06/03/03

O'Reilly's recent line of "Hacks" books (Google Hacks, Mac OS X Hacks, Amazon Hacks) made sense to me once I got a chance to see one -- they're the adaptation of the company's phenomenally useful "Cookbook" series. The cookbooks take on programming languages, providing hundreds of oft-used code snippets and explaining their context and pitfalls. I bought the first one, Tom Christiansen and Nat Torkington's "Perl Cookbook", the day it came out, and it's the only O'Reilly book I own that's in serious danger of falling apart from overuse.

In light of "Mac OS X Hacks" I was initially puzzled by O'Reilly's release of "Mac OS X Hints", and once again, figured it out when I saw the book in the flesh. Turns out it was published by Pogue Press, an O'Reilly imprint, so is less of a direct competitor to the other title.

"Hints" is a book version of the web site of the same name. The site looks awful, and I've never had a lot of use for it, though in collaboration with Google it's certainly answered a question or two of mine over the years. After perusing the book, I'm surprised to conclude that "Mac OS X Hints" is a better option than "Mac OS X Hacks" for people brand new to OS X, regardless of prior background. Like the web site that bore it, the design is undesirable, but it's got more material, and a much more fundamental focus on getting work done. Just look at their tables of contents: Hacks, Hints (PDF link).

I found one tip in Hints that I'm amazed I never noticed before. Using either the incomparable DragThing or OS X 10.2, you can switch applications from the keyboard (command-tab by default) as an intermediate step of drag and drop. In other words, select something that needs to be dropped on a window in an obscured application, click and hold the object, command-Tab until the target application comes along, and release. Somehow I've been using Mac OS X day in and day out for three years, and never realized I could do that. It probably even worked in OS 9. Sheesh. 05:59PM «

Brad DeLong, via Max Sawicky, discovered a jolly, almost mathematically impossible discontinuity in the administration's consensus employment growth forecast.

This is the Council of Economic Advisors, the Treasury, and the Office of Management and Budget getting together to forecast what payroll employment will look like around the time of the election. They're projecting astonishing job growth, because otherwise they have to project net job losses in Bush's first term. Meanwhile, their own model doesn't account for the plausible consequences to GDP of such implausible growth. To draw a biological analogy, it's like proposing to eat a hamburger every hour for a month, and never poop. 11:30AM «

Bits pushed by Movable Type