Life, Technology, and Meteorology

Month: November 2003

Anti-SPAM Act

I thought this was an interesting post, originally linked to on Slashdot. If you’re curious about the effects that the Anti-SPAM Act will have, check it out. Doesn’t look like it will help much at all. Gotta love the power of marketing companies as lobbyists. The only hope (as mentioned by the second comment on the post) is that Congress will notice that it doesn’t help after it is passed and finally pass a law that will stop SPAM. At the very least, they should force spammers to include the text ADV in the email subject header such as the anti-spam laws in California do. This wouldn’t save bandwidth, but it will allow people to have an easy filter added to their mailbox to take out a huge chunk of SPAM.

XRG 0.4.0

Well, after a lot of hard work, XRG 0.4.0 was just released this morning. Check the web site or the Changelog for update details. The last release was very successful and got an incredible response from users. I’m hoping that this release will be the same. I want to thank Philippe Martin his blog posting about XRG. Philippe has given me a lot of great feedback for several of the previous versions. Thanks Philippe!

I’ll post in the next couple of days more stats on the number of downloads, web hits, etc.

Cyber Bullying

Today there was an article in the Detroit Free Press about cyber bullying. Slashdot also had a story linking to the article. It’s amazing to me that these things happen, though I can’t say that I’m surprised. Kids have always done some pretty mean things, and technology now has armed them with new ways to take offense toward their peers.

Junior high and high school were already tough enough without other students taking “spy” photos and composing entire websites to give you a bad reputation. I want to know what gives these students such a strong urge to spend the time to make a website, just to put someone else down. I’d also be interested to find out how widespread this problem really is. It’s one thing to have it happen at a couple of schools, but if it’s turning into a pretty common practice, it’s definitely something to be concerned about.

I’ve always thought of technology as a very good learning tool to have in schools, but it seems that it may have come too far and has started to do more harm than good. I can see cell-to-cell video coming in the near future (see TV service on Sprint), but what new doors of “cyber bullying” will that open?

The Dock in MacOS X

I’m not one usually complains about MacOS X, but today I was thinking more critically about how the Dock works and what functions it provides.

The Dock, as many of you know, has two parts. The application part is where you can define a set of frequently used applications you would like to have easy access to. The application part also shows you which applications are currently running and acts as a quick switcher. Then there is a user part where you can drag your own folders, files, and links. Also, if you minimize a window, it gets sucked into the user section of the doc.

The applications part of the Dock seems to work pretty well. It’s easy to customize which application icons you would like to have in there by default, and the Dock does a good job of showing which applications are open and any application activity (such as a dialog popping up in the background). The user part of the Dock, however, could use some major improvement. First, what relates the two primary purposes of the user section? Why does it hold minimized windows AND shortcuts to frequently used items? Then you have the trash can thrown in there seemingly because Apple didn’t know where else to put it (I’m not sure why the bottom corner of the desktop wasn’t a good place anymore).

The other thing that bugs me is how a folder shortcut acts when it is in the Dock. When you click on it briefly, it will open a Finder window with that directory. Now this makes some sense, but I never use the Dock in this manner. This action seems even less useful now that Finder windows have a sidebar in Panther. If you click and hold on the folder icon in the Dock, it will pop-up a menu with the items of that folder. Now I find this very useful, and it should be the default action of clicking on a Dock folder icon. Waiting for a pop-up to be displayed just makes the action take too long to be useful. I know you can right-click or control-click on the icon to get this action right away, but until I get a two button trackpad on my Powerbook, this is kind of inconvenient as well. I’m sure there are some people who would prefer the current behavior, so there should simply be an option in the Dock Preferences to configure this.

One thing I feel that the Dock is missing is a section to have Dock-only dynamic content. Currently, the only way to add dynamic content to the Dock is to create an application that draws in it’s own Dock icon. This is nice to have, but it could be a lot better. There should be a separate section in the Dock altogether for this type of application, and applications should be able to create multiple Dock icons. This is something that would be especially useful for an application like XRG. It would be great if I could take as many spaces as I wanted in the Dock and draw multiple graphs there instead of in a window.

Any comments from other users out there…maybe issues that I may have overlooked? Let me know in the writeback.

Coding for Work vs Coding as a Hobby

For me, coding at work and coding at home have always been different. When I started my job at Ephibian, I learned a lot about web and database programming, but at home, my personal site never really improved, or changed much at all. My take on it is that when I get home from work, I don’t really feel like doing anything involving web programming or database programming because I’ve been doing that all day.

I’m reminded of something an old friend said back when I knew him in high school. He was very bright when it came to anything having to do with computers. I asked him what profession he was planning on getting into after graduation, and he said he was interested in becoming a doctor. I asked him why not do something like CS, and he claimed that computers were for fun and enjoyment…he didn’t want to ever have computer related stuff turn into work. At the time, I thought he was kind of crazy, now I understand what he meant by that comment.

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy programming. Quite the contrary actually…I love to program in my spare time even though I do it all day at work. But recently I’ve been considering finding a job doing Macintosh-related development after my wife, Katrina, and I move next year. Ever since starting XRG development, I’ve really enjoyed developing for the Mac platform. Objective C is a nice language and Cocoa makes things easy to do. However, I don’t want to give up my hobby of developing Mac freeware/shareware, and I’m concerned if I get a job developing at a Mac software company, I will no longer have the desire to continue developing personal projects such as XRG.

For other developers out there, what do you think? Are there types of coding that you love doing so much that even though you code at work, you still have no problem coming home and coding something in a similar language or for a similar platform?

Caching Pages

As you have probably noticed, this page takes awhile to load. The server I’m running this on is an older Mac running Yellow Dog Linux, so CGI page generation takes awhile. For this reason, I set up some caching pages at That page will update every 10 minutes. I also set up a cache of the RSS feed at which will update every 15 minutes. If you hit any of the links on those pages, the page will not be cached and will instead be loaded from the CGI, but I have a feeling 99% of the hits will be on those two URLs.

XRG 0.4.0 coming soon…

I’m trying to get XRG 0.4.0 ready for release next week. It looks like it’s going to be pretty good, so I’m pretty excited to get it out the door. The release will fix some bugs that XRG had with Panther, adds a battery graph and a few other new features.

Recently, I had some people email me asking how to donate to the XRG project. It was quite a shock, since I’ve always considered XRG my gift back to the open source community. However, it is difficult to turn down free money, so I added a donate button on the web page about a week ago, so we’ll see how that goes.

In case you didn’t notice, I also added a web page to the XRG site for past XRG versions. It’s hard to believe just how far XRG has come in the past year or so. One interesting statistic, the first public release of XRG had around 2,700 lines of code, where 0.4.0 is currently 10,600 lines of code.

First Post!

Alright, let’s give this a go. I’m not much of a blogger, but occasionally I have some things to say. As you can see down in the corner, this is blog uses blosxom to generate the pages. Thanks to Rael Dornfest for putting together an excellent piece of software. Not only has it worked flawlessly, but it only took 15 minutes to set it up.

Originally, I tried out iBlog, which is an incredible piece of software that just won second place in the third round of the O’Reilly Innovators Contest. It’s amazingly easy to get a blog started and start publishing, however I wanted to see what kind of open source solutions were out there. Editing story files on a Linux server isn’t the easiest way to publish, but the price is right. Anyway, I hope to be posting here semi-frequently. If you’re reading this, welcome to my blog!

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