I should know by now that articles like this one in Information Week that pit the Torvalds camp versus the Stallman camp (assuming that either such clear cut category even exists) are bait but I just can't stop biting on it. What makes me feel like smashing my head against the wall repeatedly until I stop worrying and enjoy ice cream more is how people react to flamebait like this. You really couldn't ask for a more complete example of how differences in semantics outside the context of the person (okay, Stallman can be pretty heavy but he also says and does very funny things that are often overlooked when casting him as Free Software Charlton Heston who runs through the streets screaming about proprietary software being made out of people's ideas or something) that allows for interpretation by would be disciples.
Personally I get pretty tired of arguing the relative merits and disadvantages of the GPL pretty quickly. I regard it as a matter of self defense and tend to just shrug when people take an antagonistic attitude towards it. Maybe that aspect of the GPL is what is so upsetting for some people: it provides an equitable exchange of value (work, reuse, however you'd like to tally things at the end of the day) without handing out credibility with that protection. You don't get anything that you don't give when using the GPL and if that is too much for the giant two year olds to deal with then it really doesn't fucking matter. The FSF will continue on whether or not they're mentioned in trade magazines (sort of the litmus for un-cool if you're asking) and aren't dependent on that sort of attention or notoriety necessarily. The projects under the umbrella of the FSF don't need Charlotte spinning a message stating that they're high quality or even very interesting. No one stays up all night mistyping furiously into some god forsake web forum about the future, the industry, and gcc. It doesn't matter and we can all worry about getting more code written and less about trade shows, huh?
It's late and I'm tired. I am also full of excuses. The complete lack of editing in posts can be largely attributed to the former. I don't have many free hours a day so I need to cram as much life into them as humanly possible. Correcting typos two weeks later is a part of that process. Nope. I'm not buying it either...
I decided to unsubscribe from three podcasts today for causing me to waste time. What I'm talking about specifically is the inclusion of music in what should otherwise be purely tech news and opinion. I do actually subscribe to a couple of music 'casts because they're a little more granular than tech podcasters who find something funny or 'interesting' and plaster it along with three others into what could be a 20 minute cast. Jesus. I'm not going to mention any names because generally the folks responsible have good intentions. The bad bar rock should probably stay at bars though.
Yeah, he was named pretty quickly. If grows up to be one of those throw pillow sized house cats I may regret that decision. He has a cold right now which works out really well given that we should be acclimating the cats to one another without spreading any diseases. Leonard is having a dental crisis right now and cannot eat. Yoon will taking both of them to the veterinarian tomorrow. Two cats who are scarcely unfamiliar with one another and adverse to being sealed up in boxes will be sealed in a car with my sweetie tomorrow. The audio will no doubt be unearthly.
The first photo of the new cat who looks like suspiciously like the old cat only with bigger ears and more white (which is mostly invisible without a flash and all of the crappy contrast adjustment that iPhoto and Gimpshop can do):
Yes, he is that cute. This photo is a little blurry but this is as close as the little fucker gets to still pretty much ever.
Yoon and I finally ventured down to the Denver Dumb Friends League (it's essentially the cowboy Human Society which fits right in here where a thrift store is called ARC and their trucks still fly the official 'Association for Retarded Citizens' banner) this afternoon to pick out the new kitten. He is yet nameless as we found the filler name the pound gave him (Ginseng for chrissakes) more offensive than usual and they were quicker on the draw to remove his picture/available for adoption posting so no pictures as of yet. He will be neutered tomorrow morning and then we can bring him home early evening tomorrow. Now comes the joy of working him in to the only child environment where there is only one incredibly babied and spoiled cat. Farewell sleep and sanity...
Hitting what must be my six or seventh wind of the day I happened upon this article about pan roasting coffee which seems more reasonable than my earlier and immeasurably more horrible idea of buying a gas powered roaster that would surely rust into oblivion in a matter of months. The time scale isn't too bad although I would invariably roast for something closer to the 15 minute mark but the amount of smoke rolling out of that pan is a little intimidating. Has anyone pulled this off before? I'm curious about the mess more than anything. I imagine if I get around to this I will post photos and a full blow by blow of it. This of course assumed that I don't burn the house down or inadvertently huff my body weight in caffeinated fumes.
I'm not a huge fan of web based email as a day to day use sort of thing (meaning that Gmail is more useful a place to divert mail to when I can't check mail for a day or two than anything else) but Freenigma is a Firefox extension that makes some pretty valuable inroads into making the weirdness a little easier to cope with. The more encryption the merrier generally especially when services like Gmail like to employ AI on text to serve advertising. The one crucial feature missing (at least from what I read of the documentation on their site) for me is the ability to simply sign mail instead of encrypting it. Still, this is a huge step up for most web based email although it does necessitate the installation of a piece on a local machine.
This does make me wonder how free mail providers are going to respond to this especially those like Gmail that try to serve advertising based on the text content of mail that passes through the system. How will they react? I'm guessing that encryption won't get super wide use as most people who primarily depend on web clients for mail are already accustomed or unaware that it isn't the most secure way to either send or receive mail or are entirely ignorant of its shortcomings. Tools like the various pieces that use Gmail disk space as storage space are probably more troubling when it comes to cost of storage versus ad revenue.
I'll probably give this a whirl when I'm more situated to actually connect to a network but it's still more a useful implementation that partially heals or at least provides a functional crutch for a bad idea that is tremendously popular and vastly overused. That can't hurt more than it helps.
A lot of folks have been both criticizing and praising the commitment by someone at Dell to raise the bar of service at Dell to something about 'totally fucking blows.' I've been in the unfortunate position of having to deal with both the alleged support that Dell provides and their equally unfortunate hardware. My work environs are lathered several thick with Dell product and I've seen two fairly new workstations fail catastrophically in the two and a half months that I've been there. I don't use my own workstation for anything other than work which means simply running a pretty basic XP install with a help desk software client, a bunch of SSH terminals, and Firefox running on my desktop at any given time. I've also got the usual handful of configured mail clients (even the dreaded and atrocious Eudora that is so often preferred by retirees) but I don't actually use them for anything other than walking users through settings. If this is indeed a valid initiative instead of a stab for some 2.0 credibility they have a whole lot of work to do.
The problem with announcements is that while they take customer complaints into consideration there is nothing said about what input workers will have in this process. The people who actually have to follow and bear the brunt of Dell's policies ought to have a say in this. Simply saying that customer complaints are being taken seriously will spur a few nods from the entrenched tech pundits but until the folks on the phones and doing direct service have some degree of empowerment to actually help instead of passing the buck along to another person then people are still going to dread using the support. Clarity is also pretty important here as in what exactly is going to happen in terms of policy and making those policies available to the general public in clear terms instead of saddling some outsourced phone grunt in a remote call center with reading the PR speak from a binder and dealing with the anger.
I'm guessing that the only people this is really intended to appease are people teetering between making brand choices and stock holders. The only caveat that I can see here is that people who feel compelled to buy their machines through the largest corporate face available to them aren't the most technically apt or are trying to supply functional mediocrity to large organizations. Can they do better? Oh christ yes. Any movement away from the Brazilesque bureaucracy most often associated with Dell support is going to be a move in the right direction but I'd be willing to bet that they won't take it far enough or stick with it for very long.
A month or two ago I bought an Ogio Metro backpack as a replacement for my other messenger-style bag that was all metrosexual and everything but didn't really work well as anything other than a cross body strap to carry my laptop. The problem that I have with most bags intended to transport laptops is that I carry a whole bunch of stuff.
I think the primary mistake that most bag companies make when doing design for laptop bags is that they never consider anything more than the object it is designed to carry. That means that most companies consider the laptop compartment and enough room to carry a magazine sufficient for most people. Unlike the dream consumer that most designers apparently hold in mind when laying out dimensions and shapes of pockets and flaps I occasionally do things like bring along a sweatshirt that I don't intend to wear all day, bring a book larger than a mass market paperback or (gasp!) several of them, and other assorted things that are much larger and more difficult to arrange than one of those stupid ass document folders that are always displayed in the display photographs for bags.
The really great thing about this bag is that it doesn't spend a whole lot of time looking cool or whatever. It functions as a medium-large capacity backpack that also happens to have a laptop pocket. You can fit most things in this bag in addition to your machine and not worry about it a whole lot. The other obvious advantage is that the bag is actually comfortable for more than ten minutes at a stretch. I understand the appeal of messenger bags in terms of accessibility. With a messenger bag you can flip the sucker around your body and get to the main pocket without channeling a contortionist. I usually keep the things I need to get to frequently (phone being the big one) in my pants pockets so this isn't typically an issue for me.
The one problem that I have with most bags is that they have few or only very tiny pockets. The Metro does not suffer from that problem. There are tons of a variously sized pockets on this bad boy and in a high enough number that I don't resent the ones I don't need or simply don't understand. A couple of the outer pockets are also waterproof which is a very nice feature and the other nice feature on top of this is that there are only two of the water resistant type. They're a bitch to open and close with the weird rubbery zipper protection that I assume works to keep water out of the zipper closure. One of them also has the weird cord port on top of it (this fits into the 'don't use' category for me) and seems like a good idea as most audio devices are not well known for their properties of surviving immersion and even the port is well designed to keep water out. There is also a pocket intended for a mouse and power supply which is a good idea. I've seen suspended versions of this but they're usually pretty small and don't actually hold both simultaneously. This one is actually large and not bulky at all so it generally stays out of the way.
The laptop pocket is one of the best parts about this bag. It is sandwiched between thin layers of padding between the largest of the inner compartments and the back of the bag. This is a smaller pocket than most laptop bags feature now which works great for me because it snugly fits my MacBook Pro. It isn't the incredibly tight squeeze that many have complained about because there is actually a small flap at the very bottom of the zipper that lets you crank it down another half of an inch or so. There isn't an insane amount of padding in the laptop pocket but it seems to be sufficient for my needs. I like the smaller pocket because I don't have one of the giganto screens that most manufacturers seem obligated to slap on their machines over the past few years and my laptop doesn't slide around as much as it did when I carried it in the messenger bag. If you're carrying a plasma television with an attached keyboard you're probably in the market for a larger bag.
The other nice part is that the bag is less than $70 and will hold more than your laptop and a banana. It's solidly built although not particularly attractive and doesn't look like a laptop bag which is a bonus if you're schlepping your computer around at night or you live in my neighborhood. While those weird attache looking cases all too often emblazoned with a computer company logo (the bright blue Dell ones are my favorite and when pared with a set of the bright white iPod ear-pods essentially mark you as likely target for mugging) might impress people at a meeting or something I don't personally endorse carrying anything that screams 'I am carrying a laptop' around. That's just me though. This bag is also pretty sturdy though I'm not a huge fan of the quilted thing that one of the outside surfaces has on its outside. It also has a pretty substantial handle on top that supports the full weight of the bag without feeling like it's going to break or tear.
This bag is pretty much perfect for me and looks like it will last a long time. I'm not particularly abusive but I do carry this bag with me every day on multiple bus rides and sometimes stuff it full of clothing or whatever if it looks like rain. It has most of the features that laptop bags use as marketing fodder but doesn't announce that it is intended to carry a laptop. Even the positioning of the pocket at the rear of the bag works towards making it a less obvious tech vessel. Also, if you're a fucking idiot, it comes in camouflage. What more could you really ask for?
Okay. So I added a 'Reviews' category to Team Murder after thinking about some things I've recently wanted to write about and realizing that what I'm out to do is basically review things. I mention a lot of applications during the course of wandering around so I will probably create a couple of different sub-categories to encapsulate them. If you want your stupid product reviewed and your mother insulted feel free to get in touch with me. I'd love to spend less money and I tend to be on the wordy side of things so keep that in mind. Same goes for demo versions of anything that has reduced functionality until I've helped you make your student loan payment. The first will be reviews of a backpack and some screen cleaning supplies I recently bought. I like both of them a lot so it seems worth it to pass on the good points and the shortcomings. Stupid idea? Probably but I'm going to do it anyway.
It's been a really long time since I ate something that messed up my digestive tract quite as badly as what happened late last night and early this morning. The idea of eating anything other than tortilla chips (oddly enough) still makes my stomach feel all swimmy. The bad part is that I actually had to cash in a sick day on being sick. I don't know that I've actually done that ever before -- been sick on a sick day. I avoided computers for most of the day as well since the radiant heat made me feel worse.
Luckily as I sat there considering my tortilla chips and wondering if they were going to turn on me once ingested the mail arrived and I finally laid eyes on Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children which I enjoyed tremendously despite it being a cheesy video game derived anime. What it made me aware of pretty quickly is that no video game will worm its way into my heart quite the way that FFVII did. Since then I've never looked forward to playing every minute of a game (other than the continual attacks that were parodied viciously in Kingdom of Loathing) and been so drawn in to the story line. Yeah, yeah saving the planet gets to be pretty tedious by the end of the game but most of the other aspects were thoroughly engrossing. At the time I had absolutely no internet connection, a 19 inch Curtis Mathes television set rescued from the recesses of someone's attic, and more time than I was accustomed to it being my first semester of returning to college so this game still leaves me with a quasi-religious feeling about it. The bonus material is totally hilarious as it just features scenes from the game with the omnipresent dialog boxes popping up and being translated into English in subtitles. I'd forgotten how much I missed the terrible cartoonish graphics and over abundant dialog that often made no sense after translation.
The absurdity of strong waves of nostalgia being triggered by a video game does not escape me.
This is just a note to let everyone know that I've managed to completely destroy most of my mail. I've still got archives for the more creaky and dusty past but if you mailed me in the last five days or so it is pretty unlikely that I received it. Ironically, I answered a whole bunch of mail right before everything went loopy so I'm sure of your replies got sucked into the phantom zone. If you've got copies in sent mail please ship 'em out again. I'm not going to fuck with mail configuration for a long, long time. Unfortunately my new job is the antithesis of an environment where you can concentrate on a task for more than a couple of minutes. I've made a whole lot of mistakes recently. My apologies for wasting time that doesn't belong to me.
I think that i use this is a pretty good idea as the Digg process seems wasted on copy and paste news stories. Preventing people from stuffing the ballot box is probably why they're so strict about being logged in before you can view anything more than the first page. The problem with this is that I'm not very quick on the draw when it comes to new social networking sites (for the obvious reasons) unless they're potentially useful to me. I didn't realize that i use this would actually be useful until after every huge Mac related news site already posted something about it. So, the registration has been pounded until it broke which is understandable when the server is under the strain of a hojillion bored gawkers but the truly genius aspect that makes what could be a simple functionality outage (ie. you can't register for the time being) into a full fledged cluster fuck is the registration requirement.
See, when you click the magic and non-functioning 'register' button and fill out the requested information i use this sets a cookie that marks you as one who has registered but not validated through the next-to-worthless 'click a link in the email you'll never get' method. What this cookie does is prevent you from seeing much of the site at all. Okay, this is mostly my fault. I did some mail server misconfiguration that caused me to lose a couple of days worth of mail. One of the last pieces of mail that I lost was the confirmation/validation mail from i use this. How do you have that mail resent? I have no fucking idea. So, instead of actually participating in what seems like a fun experiment instead I'm looking at it with a secondary browser (Safari) and wishing that people thought all the way through processes like email-based validation which are lame enough without user fuckups and not having a visible way to recover from said fuckups. The worst part is that just browsing the site becomes a pain in the ass after you opt to register. That doesn't seem like powerful incentive to me but then again I may be the only person in the entire universe that has had a registration email eaten by a spam filter or adm-incompetence, right?
This is probably the most funny thing I've seen yet this week. It is only Monday but don't let that keep you from clicking the shiny, candy-like play button. These spoofs neatly encapsulate all of the frustration of being seen with a Macintosh when many of its most ardent supporters are, well, kind of stupid. Luckily, I'm pretty mean so I manage to ward off most of it. It still bothers me the impression clings or that people assume I might be interested in the newest bits of iPod trivia. Not really and no thanks.
Oops. I managed to overlook the moderation queue practically bursting at the seams all weekend while I sat around watching it rain and missing Yoon. She is in Yurp with her parents so it is just me and the kitten for the next bunch of days. There was actually some very good stuff wedged in the comments along with all the spam (239 pieces of it) so I want to respond to it. Luckily for whoever, I'll be back up and running in a matter of six hours... This life is exciting.
It's weird because it seems like a whole lot of hot air is being blown in fifty different directions about data breaches from large organizations via mobile devices most notably laptops and removable storage. Wired has a very superficial look at it that really bothers me. What is frustrating about this sort of sensationalist crap is that the term 'laziness' is bandied around like the desire to work on things away from your crappy cubical in your crappy office where no one will ever shut up for ten seconds to let you actually complete a thought is some kind of conscious effort to shirk the restrictions of data security and dance naked through Dobie Gillis-land handing out social security numbers and home addresses instead of just trying to get shit done. Maybe it's my own experience with being unable to get anything done that doesn't involve whatever popped up on Digg lately that makes me more sympathetic to folks who have been caught up in these sorts of scandals.
One of the most troublesome aspects of cases like this is that more often than not the companies/organizations in question have no secure method for their workers to access confidential information. Lots of places throw out the VPN option and then just pardon themselves from further considering the question. Secure access sucks in almost every organization and making it workable seems to be the very least of things concerning those waving their hands and making grumbling 'Uh-oh's at the situations. To be really blunt, people are going to take work away from their place of work. That is pretty much a given unless you're some CIA spook or something. Upper management types are going to encourage and/or lie about this sort of information leaving an agency because they're more concerned with getting a few more hours of work out of their data mungers than what might happen to the information should they feed it after midnight.
I think some of the ideas in the article are pretty solid thinking but the problem with all of it is that it is just thinking. Encryption is pretty readily broken and doesn't matter a bit if the files are unencrypted or the machine (assuming that, to do along with the image of the worker drone working on reports somewhere without network connectivity, these are Windows machines we're talking about here) isn't locked when not in use. Plain text files is plain text files. In that particular can of worms also lies another problem: if all of this stuff is centralized and kept under the watchful eye (again, where are my goddamned sarcasm tags) of IT security then where are the worker drones accessing it from? Wirelessly in a coffee place? Sounds really fabulous and great. Their own wireless network at home running on a commodity router with no security? Fucked yet again. The whole thing is largely another disaster (with more expense and training this time) waiting to happen.
All of this said and in far too many words, the laziness is really on the part of sites like Wired splashing a little ink over the problem without really exploring what a complex problem it is. I guess those quotes are good enough without any context at all? I sound like a right wing nutcase (first, we kill all of the journalists) but this sort of half assing is pretty annoying regardless of the source.
John Gruber has a new one about the nextgen switcher phenomenon between Mac OS and Ubuntu that I don't entirely agree with. He does make some good points and manages, as always, to lend some historical perspective to his arguments. I was a pre-10.1 user and had the unfortunate task of not only figuring out how to sanely support its deployment but also how to herd the OS 9-centric masses on a college campus away from the familiar and comforting environs that were rapidly being shuffled off into oblivion.
I think one of the worst mistakes Apple makes is not taking its users terribly seriously. It wobbles around from one idea to the next with little regard for the fact that people have to spend serious fucking dinero on software that gets real work done instead of the lifestyle crap it peddles through every media orifice. This is even worse for those of use riding back into the scene on the Intel-based horseman of the Apocalypse because we're split between two different architectures and the big players (begins with 'A' and ends with 'e') aren't terribly quick on the uptake. Again, you've got a problem between Apple pushing their own stuff that will 'let you create a website' but doesn't help people who have a clue what they're doing in the slightest. I played around with all of the iLife crap enough to realize that I totally hate it and don't care to create anything that saves in its own format (Pages anyone) that no other application can actually comprehend. The only thing that makes this pile of lifestyle crap remotely tempting is the fact that none of the other heavy hitters have come up with Universal versions of their applications yet so you've got the choice between trying to get your work done with silly putty and lincoln logs or you can run the real stuff through the awful slowness and lack of responsiveness that is Rosetta. I'm torn because I'd rather endure the slowness of the Rosetta layer to actually utilize some features that make me feel like I know what I'm doing but cannot deal with my battery life being flushed down the toilet while watching progress bar after progress bar trickle away while both processors are cranked way over 50%. I routinely flee back to one of my Linux boxes just to get some simple word processing done because it is utter crap under OS X right now. That's a pretty miserable spot to be in if you're a hardware/operating systems company. It reminds me of the clones (before they were squashed out of existence) that were substantially cheaper than stock Apple hardware but smoked them in terms of performance.
In any case, I think one of the major problems that Apple is going to run into in the immediate future is exactly what Kottke is talking about that is the center of Gruber's disagreement with him. All of the outside appeal in the world isn't going to matter if the core audience is pissed off. When you can't use the applications that made you preferential to one platform over another the appeal of the platform is going to wear off rapidly. Apple should really be spending their time getting Adobe and other biggies on board in any way possible before trying to pimp yet another way to get your vacation pictures all pretty.
This shittiness is made worse by the current push of emulation so you can run alternate operating systems on your sexy new hardware. Parallels is great for what it is and convinced me to buy a copy but it doesn't pardon the fact that PPC emulation on the Intel machines sucks worse than sucking has ever sucked. While booting XP or a Linux distribution in a window on your desktop while your machine morphs into a heat entity approximate to that of our sun might be kind of amusing it really doesn't help me get anything done. Rosetta needs to be exponentially better or people are going to start migrating to other platforms and the learning curve associated with FOSS software (by the way, that perception is about 89% bullshit) is going to seem less painful when compared with the tedium of waiting for Photoshop to run through a filter more slowly than it did on the trusty old G3. Trust me, that isn't a big selling point.
Speaking of things that report back to their company of origin without telling you or furnishing a way to shut it off Apple is apparently doing the same thing with a script that checks up on whether the widgets running are the most recent version. I'd known about this for a couple of days due to the fact that I run Little Snitch religiously and disable network applications by default. I enabled it pretty much without thinking since the word widget was included in all of the server names. Unlike the Win32 spyware I have yet to see it mess up system performance or render my machine useless but it is annoying nonetheless.
After continuously reading about WGA again and again it's become pretty obvious that MSFT is insane. Read the comments attached to the story and becomes obvious that even if a fair number of the folks leaving them are cranks there are also a bunch of folks who will eventually either be harassed or intimidated into buying new licenses even though they've got a legitimate OEM copy. The dial up issue is especially annoying as people in countries where net access is doled out in minutes are going to eventually install one of the cracks and be done with it. Paying for MSFT to check in each and every time you login to a machine is not a reasonable expectation. This is made especially ironic by the fact that a good number of the people that have written complaints about the issue were actually trying to the "right" thing by installing the piece of shit to begin with.
The worst part is that all this piece of software really does is open MSFT to yet another lawsuit and this one from angry consumers who've actually purchased the OS instead of legislative moves from states or countries. I can just imagine the people who've tried and failed to resolve this problem installing the patches and feeling justified being 'pirates' for the first time. It just keeps getting worse and worse. If you've actually got investments in MSFT now might be a time to pull that money out. When was the last time you saw a dividend anyhow?
This is the kind of thing I'm always hoping to hear about. Granted, my relative exposure to DJ culture is next to zero since I'd rather listen to things without any real performance aspect on my computer than while standing around some club sipping $6 beer with a bunch of 22 year olds. I'm always interested in hearing about things that involve more involvement in technology than simply blowing some of those tall trust fund dollars on a bunch of buying it and aping whatever is circulating on the battle tape circuit.
I'm not sure if I'd even be interesting in attending something that epitomizes the current state of the art but this sounds a helluva lot cooler that what pops into my head when I think of DJs:
For Maclean, who plays raves as well as programmer gatherings, the process is just as much about scripting as good vibe.
"I prefer it when the audience is dancing and doesn't care how we're making the music," he said. "Livecoding places the human right back in the creative process so you can't really call it 'computer-generated' any more. If we don't see programming music software as musical activity, we're missing an opportunity."
This likely warrants more research that I'm presently too lazy to do. Amazing how being awake for twenty consecutive hours will do that to you.
I'm testing yet another piece of software in an attempt to avoid using a text editor (I'm still pretty unhappy generally with the state of text editing in OS X) to post here. This is a test of sorts and I'm trying figure out if it's worth buying a real license or not. I've been doing far too much of that lately. No names for the obvious reasons...
Hey. So even though it is likely that Explosions in the Sky won't be playing your town any time soon (unless your town is either located in TX or Yurp) you can make yourself feel better about the shitty town you live in by downloading their The Rescue EP which is handy to have since the subscription-only release is long gone and despite the fact that they've said they will sell them at shows they're never coming to my shitty town. If you're a fan this might strike you as a little off the beaten path for them but I guess that's kind of the idea. You won't be startled by any means but the slight changes make for music that I can't immediately internalize. That seems like a good direction to head in.
I've spent an inordinate amount of time messing with a couple of scripts. I sucked up a couple of paid hours at work trying to simply edit them and basically gave up because the both the presentation and code read like something generated by a very primitive WYSIWYG editor. The sheer number of tables, nested seven deep in a couple of places, is baffling me. I replaced it with six different elements of CSS which makes me feel a little sorry for the original author. I'm fairly certain that the poor sap who created this atrocity had little experience with either Perl or HTML for doing layout or complex forms. The true nightmare of the equation is maintaining old Perl. Unfortunately, the server that hosts all of this crap allows only Perl so I'm kind of stuck. I don't miss working in Perl at all.