I've often made fun of the complete despair the infomercial actors find themselves mired in while trying to do utterly basic tasks. While I just chuckled and moved my attention elsewhere, others found inspiration:
Discovered via Jason Kottke.
The developer of NewzJournal was nice enough to ask me to take a look at his Windows feed reader in the comments attached to a post from years ago. The requirements specifically state Windows Vista as a requirement for installation (I think due to .Net requirements) but given the fact that I think Vista is completely unneccessary for anything I went ahead and installed it on my work XP machine. The environment is pretty bare since I think of the Windows box as a pretty wrapper around gpedit, services.msc, regedit, and mstsc and don't actually use it for much other than a couple of work applications that I scarcely touch unless they're broken. Now that I've painted myself into a corner with disclaimers, here's what I thought.
NewzJournal is really, really basic for a feed reader. You won't find a lot of extra stuff other than subscribe, delete, and a couple of preferences you can monkey with. Interface wise, the reading panel really needs to be turned on by default. If I need to double click something to see it in a feed reader I've spent nearly as much effort as I would opening a new tab in a browser. When you do enable the third pane then NJ starts to look more like an application. Adding subscriptions is also pretty straightforward: you plug in a URL, it does its discovery song and dance, and you save it under x name. That works very well. There is also an import/export function for OPML. I had nothing to import since I tend to do that manually when setting up a new reader but I did export a copy of the OPML for the five or so feeds I'd subscribed to and successfully imported them into Liferea with no isssues. Another strangely missing feature is the ubiquitous 'update all' button that most readers usually place within easy reach. The only way that I was able to find to update subscribed feeds was via a right click context menu -- there isn't a menu entry to handle either individual feeds or the entire list of feeds. I'm not sure if that is a showstopper for many people but it would make me hesitate before pulling in a huge list of feeds. Again, at that point, I'm probably better off using a browser than a reader. I also noticed that the application seemed pretty unresponsive at times as was the case when trying to add a subscription from the button on the upper left side of the main window. After three attempts I just moved over to the drop down menus and did it that way. This might also be related somehow to the mysterious Vista requirement and versions of the .Net libraries but I didn't get that far.
It does feed discovery pretty well and without too much craziness. It only failed to find a feed for the Gentoo website out of the ten or twelve that I tried to pull in.
It's a pretty reasonable and simple feed reader once you configure some sane settings through the application preferences.
It handles the import and export of OPML well. I'm not a Windows developer so I dunno if this has more to do with existing libraries than stupid coding tricks so bear that in mind.
The not so good:
Not only Windows-only but Vista only. Regardless of whether or not it will actually run is immaterial.
Intermittantly unresponsive UI that doesn't give feedback when parts of it aren't working.
Frustrating update controls. Updating all of your feeds in a oneshot isn't an option.
Here's a screenshot. It's pretty basic:
Mike Gravel you are an inspired sort of crazy given the evidence below:
Unfortunately, it reminds me too much of this bit of history:
These days I just feel like posting videos that have very limited shelf life. Enjoy or not.
This probably the funniest thing I've seen in a long while. Brush your teeth.
I'm always amazed at how patient and tolerant I am of ridiculous errors on Myspace given how often that parts of the site are entirely inaccessible or downright broken. The above is a banner ad and that should be excusable, right? The advertiser is at fault for putting together such utter crap and blah blah blah and end of story. The funny part isn't this particular error as much as the fact that it took me a really long time to actually see that it was an error. The randomly broken nature of Myspace is sufficient camouflage to make nearly any trainwreck of nasty HTML and half-witted CSS blend right in.
My one hope is that the kids who rely heavily on Myspace as some kind of latter day IRC grow accustomed to breakage and being barraged by errors and features that may or may not work depending on whether or not the wind is blowing in a certain direction will become more tolerant of software that doesn't really work and allow the rest of us to get even lazier and more sloppy about the steaming piles of crap we unleash on the world.
I really like the design work on this combo conference room chair and desktop as it works well in every aspect from use (at least from the images) to storage. While this is dandy and clever what pisses me off is that the designer's web site is an atrocious and unreadable stack of poo done in Flash which makes it impossible to scale the text which might give us a bit more information about the designs. Even the images are scaled for what seems to be a target viewer looking at a 400X600 display. I guess folks holding on to their trusty WebTV consoles in a death grip while simultaneously being world class voracious aesthetes looking for new design concepts to waggle the remote at.
Unfortunately most of the rest of the world isn't or don't have Mister-fucking-Magoo oriented resolutions set on our, um, periscopes. It's unfortunate because I'd love to actually see some of the other work this designer has done but until I'm able to score some adaptive technology (peri-microscope?) I am not willing to squint until my eyes burst just to read some text even when it may contain additional information about something I'm admittedly very curious about.
Another great exhibition of lack of artificial intelligence from Google News unless it was temporarily taken over by some Fox News bot eager to draw parallels between the Democratic Party candidates and fruity coffee drinks:
My mistake. This image was actually linked to a story at Patent Baristas and used their masthead image as the image for the news link. Context free but still a little more sensible than what I'd originally thought.
Man, if this were an actual movie I would so totally go see it. Luckily there are others to compile and edit the dream for us -- a world where robots are fighting it out and one of them is not currently the governor of California. This is really well done and looks so freakishly close to an actual trailer that I found myself trying to think of clever titles for it. It is a distant dream but one we must pursue nonetheless:
Content Generated By Monkeys And Given Proper Context By Overuse Of Profanity And Obscure References
Found via Jeremy Zawodny's always entertaining and time squandering linkblog today, at least for me who reads his aggregator data exploded in a browser while riding the bus, was this article about the hype/marketing versus reality when building application with frameworks. There are a number of really good questions that need to be considered when evaluating these sorts of claims in this post. It's also a pretty realistic summary of the sort of toil you are in for when designing an application that replaces an existing one especially when you have to carry all the data with you. He also made some decisions along the way that cost a considerable amount of time (the decision to switch to PostgreSQL during development) and some tasks that most sane folk wouldn't even consider like rewriting chunks of API (!) that didn't suit his purposes. If you've ever been faced with the choice between rolling your own or using a large framework or library when doing a project and ending up somewhere in between most of this will sound ominously familiar or possibly reopen some old wounds or at least headaches.
The only disagreement I could really find with his methodology is the question raised about using the appropriateness of the toolkit as an issue for debunking when looking at the amount of time that it require to build an application using it. You should be doing most of this before you decide to hand your life over to a framework. This is what becomes so worrisome about addressing all problems with a particular set of tools. Rails seems to be gaining on the Perl abuses of the good old days as it gains popularity and all of the trappings of duh-ness that come with getting religion all involved in your programming languages.
An side order of diversion-jitsu and disclaimer-fu here that needs to be made before the flaming begins: I'm blaming popularity for the abuse and zealous overuse and not the actual language here so drop it before it gets hot. I know it write things in far too many words but I expect you to read and comprehend some of them before I'm going to take any of your ham-fisted 'corrections' to my woeful ineptitude in the properly appraising the One True Flavor Of The Month according to the One True Source Of All Wisdom For Imbecilic Ponderers of Alleged Truth About Things Read About or Otherwise First Considered Ten Minutes Ago terribly seriously. Yes, too many words now please move on before I spill any more in anticipatory defenses of stupid, stupid acts performed by the invisible hordes of idiotic barbarians against my honor. This reminds me that I must get out the CrankyPhone at nearest convenience to demand Southern accent tags from W3C immediately, posthaste, and with damn-the-torpedoes style speeds of delivery... Please choose wisely your hammer oaf-y. Um, so, I kinda lost my train of though in approaching this paragraph or whatever other funny name you would like to give this train wreck of a construction so I will move on immediately before my word count exceeds that of the weblog post I intended to make a brief mention and quick commentary on...
I do think that one of the more enthusiastic positive notes for a first application developed in Django might be the inclusion of a link to the source code for the project which we'll have to shave a eighth of point or so off the overall delivery as it is mentioned as comment appended to post. Most first time developers in a new framework are too busy recovering from their newest ulcer and explaining copious new night sweats to their significant others to bother posting the actual source and/or discussing it in great detail. I think that more explicit discussions like these with some of both good and bad are more valuable as advocacy for a given framework or platform than marketing talk could ever be.
Okay, I'll admit it: for what many have been slagging off as a pretty insignificant bump upgrade I have to admit that I'm impressed with the new Mac Pro machines and the vaporous promises of Leopard. The base specifications of the Mac Pro are pretty hard to argue with and I really like the fact that you can pretty much roll your own machine instead of the age old choice between three radio buttons that has represented new Apple offerings in the past. Another break -- I think as I haven't been paying very much attention for the past three or four years or so -- is the ability to actually roll back the default specs and drive the base price down for those of us who are not afraid to open a machine and rearrange its guts to our liking usually for a price about half of what Apple would charge. That is much more reasonable than the hermetically sealed desktop that were default in the past. Obviously this change has been the course of slow evolution over a long time from the less friendly days when you needed a tool from a third party to even open the fuckers to the point now where the chassis are actually built with ease of access in mind. I used to have a PowerMac 7100/66 that was a complete terror to open and I'm glad to see that the booming 'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' voice has receded into the background. That's good.
The OS is still in demo mode so it's hard to actually gauge what they're offering there by any standard other than sheer audio/visual impression. The 64 bit-ness falls into the 'it's about time' category but seems more wise at least in retrospect than the train wreck that Windows users encountered with 64 bit processors. I've heard numerous folks who I consider pretty technically competent tell heartbreaking tales of woe when using it and the sheer horror of the Gentoo Bugs site stopped me from buying a 64 bit chipset despite its novelty and sexiness when I built my last machine. That said, only the folks who attended WWDC and are first in line to get one of the new machines are really going to have much insight into how well Leopard functions until Apple actually releases the final product. I'm more than a little curious about how that will actually go especially since the amount of new hardware in the configuration for the Mac Pro machines seems a whole lot more expansive than I remember for Apple. The combination of 64 bit drivers and a brand new OS makes me a little hesitant to lower myself into more crushing debt in the near future. I've almost got the MacBook Pro (stupid camel casing) paid off but Yoon needs a Macbook before I go wandering off in that direction and get eaten by a grue.
One thing that has cracked me up a couple of times is the roar from the peanut gallery that the new version of the OS is essentially a point release and that precious time is being wasted on things that do not create new screenshots or whatever. Yeah, I know creeping feature-itis is how most people gauge new software releases but the whole three fucking architectures things is pretty killer for a single release without adding in a bunch of crap on top of it to further complicate things. Arguing the relative value of each announced feature especially when comparing it directly to announced features in Vista seems pretty stupid and I'm not feeling much like an analyst or anything so I'll skip it entirely. Well, I'm happy about the inclusion of virtual desktops or something that allegedly works like them but I'm glad that the issue is finally being addressed.
On April 20th, 2006 SkyNet went online...
My friend Tony sent this image to me this morning and after I stared at it blankly for a while I realized that it was hysterically funny and that I must share. So, yuk it up.
Heh. I saw this mentioned on several geeky/tech newsy sites but didn't think until now to follow the link. I'm stupid like that sometimes but go check out 100 extensions at once super-browser that remarkably runs at all. According to the person who runs the site it was actually pretty stable. That frightens me since I seem to have noticeable slow downs with only a select few extensions installed. The title does remind of the time I was stupid enough to tell one of the people I was supervising that mixing ammonia and bleach would make a SUPER CLEANER. I had to talk to paramedics later that day and as funny as they thought the situation was...context is the killer app.
Oh the wonders you will see if you participate in the confirm artist name series of HITs at Mechanical Turk. Actually there have been no other type available lately which is a relief after wasting so much time looking at distorted pictures of strip malls and the sides of delivery trucks. This is what it's all about, really:
A few things worthy of at least my own note before I do the sad little stagger through the heat to fix broken Windows machines:
Blogging Pro is up for sale. No clues as to who might be stepping up to the plate or if anyone is even interested in maintaining a site that requires that much work. If you're a venture capitalist with money to burn on IntarWeb 2rev3 then please buy the site and hire me as its full time curator. I promise to bring the profanity quota up to snuff in the first month of my
power mad lust for blood money new janitorial duties.
Google is getting into the online payment business but it supposedly won't compete with PayPal. I have no idea how that is supposed to work as there really isn't any useful explanation of what the payment system will actually be for other than it doesn't intend to step on PayPal's toes and its some kind of extension of the already existent infrastructure they use for AdWord payments. It's like Masonry and wealth redistribution all rolled into one sinister plot. Quickly! Run to the foil lined room in the basement and tune your radio to the far right side of the AM dial.
Ok, so not that much really caught my attention.
Yeah I know it's not actually a refurbished operating system but given the sticker price of operating systems and subsequent upgrades these days it is a thought to bear in mind.
I saw this ad displayed over at MeFi. At first glance I seriously thought it was an ad for a new zombie movie. That's all I'm going to say.
I found this specimen in my inbox this morning:
and decided immediately that Captcha need to pick up the pack of accessibility adaptation a whole lot faster. Yes, this is just a bunch of superscript and subscript text but, um, it's text designed to evade spam filters. Before I was entirely awake, I thought, "My god, they're sending spam in TeX! We're fucking doomed!" At very least it really got me thinking and not about cartoon sized penises. This spam is legibly mangled and is readable by screen readers but Captcha and other software that uses similar mangling concepts are not.
Sometimes you need to actually look at the people in your
clip art, stock stills pictures and know who they are. Then again, I wouldn't have laughed quite so hard. From the Trend Watching newsletter...
I'm still hammering down a few things that aren't playing nice together here but Bob, the man behind Note To Myself, seems to be having severe breakage. This must be some cursed weekend. I feel insanely lucky.
This one's a new one on me. Seen when I clicked the News link from a search page. I was actually just trying to get to Google News.
I've finally successfully upgraded from the 0.8 version of Firefox to the 1.0 pre-release version. Why did it take me so long despite security problems and lots of feature carrot and stick motivators between versions? Because I'm an idiot. It's all the fault of a plugin and none of the actual application. I blame MySpace for making me so damned dependent on a browser plugin. That also reminds me to mention that Midcentury now has a MySpace page so rub elbows and hit on us if you're so inclined.
I also moved the laptop onto Ubuntu Linux while writing a paper the other night. If the number of recent reviews of this distribution is any litmus installing Ubuntu might be the next great American pastime. Without doubt it is a very straightforward and very quick installation although some of the defaults, for me, fell a bit short of sane. Video resolution was disastrous leaving me stranded near 800x600.This is no problem for me because I just waved the magic wand of dpkg-reconfigure (xserver-xfree86 if you're drifting in here from Google in hopes of a solution) and manually reconfigured X. The tool included with the Gnome DE didn't list any other options but the ones assigned by the installer. This is probably a matter of preference/bias since being dumped into Gnome by default feels a little like having your thumbs trimmed off to insure your safety. Like I said, this is no problem for me to enable the root account (sudo passwd ) and then reconfigure X but I wonder about the end user-ish type that this distribution is intended for... The only other real trouble that I had was setting up PPPoE network access (I may also have overlooked it since I relied on apt-cache to tell me if the package rp-pppoe was available) since the client isn't included in the defaults and gcc which I needed to compile the source tarball is also left out of the default install.
All of that said, I am probably the worst person imaginable to attempt to fairly evaluate this distribution because I've spent a fair amount of time working with Debian in the past and I absolutely loathe Gnome though I really love many of the applications that are typically packaged with it. For a pre-release, this is really great stuff and, despite some very marginal issues that I had, is damned near ready for primetime. Out of the two problems that I had I think the misconfiguration of X is probably the closest to being a deal breaker. There has got to be something a bit more powerful/flexible that could be used for reconfiguring bad defaults or the addition of optional configuration the first time around. Automagic is only magic when it works correctly and on a freakishly underpowered laptop there has to be some compromise of prettiness, performance, and choosing the resolution that doesn't make you feel like you're computing on Speak and Spell. I think I'm actually going to keep it installed for a little while longer to see how smoothly a week or two worth of updates from the Ubuntu repositories goes. I'm very impressed and really curious how future development is going to turn out.
This was posted over at Groklaw from a comment left by a user and it was so damned genius that I had to put it up for folks intimidated and/or bored silly by the analysis of Groklaw. Once again, I love Creative Commons.
The Nazgul - A Derivative Work of the Intellectual Property of Edgar Allan Poe
~ by Alanyst
Once upon a midnight dreary, as I worked at SCO/Caldera,
Searching many quaint and curious printouts of forgotten source --
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
"Tis some co-worker," I muttered, "tapping at my office door --
Only this, and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the sere September,
And each fragmentary member of my UNIX code lay on the floor.
Nervously I feared the morrow; -- vainly I had sought to borrow
From old code surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the sinking score --
For the sinking, dwindling, stinking ticker telling our stock's score --
Profitless for evermore.
Just dragged my sorry ass through a long and difficult paper that cost me a crazy amount of sleep and time that I would ordinarily spend doing something more fun than reading Ph.D dissertations as research material. I ended up working through the night and on until seven this morning. That said, I needed some five or ten minute breaks pretty frequently while writing that paper so the Bloglines clipping feature was pretty handy for that purpose. I'm becoming more of a linkdumper than I've ever been and while that sort of bothers me on one level I'm also trying to break the habit of working myself to death on things that are absolutely necessary. I'm much more apt to spend insane amounts of times on interesting problems than anything else which is ultimately more rewarding than most of the byproducts of weblogging. There's that whole sleeping thing to consider on occasion as well.
While I love, love, love aggregators for the most part all of them have incredibly annoying and what seems like very obvious flaws to me. With syndication becoming omnipresent and increasingly less annoying than actually visiting web sites the aggregator is approaching the importance of a web browser with the dependence on a zillion shitty plugins to simply read some text buried somewhere in all the singing, dancing trash. I imagine this stupid future will be brought to you by your non-dividend paying friends Microsoft. I've mentioned a million different Linux aggregators here and I'm never quite happy with them although Liferea the one disclaimed on its site as "under development" is about the closest to a perfect fit that I've found so far. It's pretty damn good for where it's at in development. I gave the new KDE aggregrator Akregator which unfortunately clings to that awful and arbitrary rule of all applications having a 'K' stuck in their name somewhere. I was impressed with its simplicity and speed. Importing the OPML file from all my Bloglines subscriptions took less than two seconds and I was up and running afterwards. The only thing that does annoy is the 'save as' dialog that pops up when you want to save your subscriptions. Dotfiles exist to keep you from doing this sort of thing and other applications that I've seen that use multiple configuration files often give you the option to create or open those files separately but never require you to create the initial or default file. It is a beta, though, so I can't fault the entire application for a design decision that I don't agree with when it functions very well already. Screenshot? Oh, why not:
This is the Bloglines version of a post at BitWorking. I was a little startled by how broken it renders. I probably shouldn't be.