rant boy

April 19th, 2001

lotsa snippets today

cool 1K DHTML API library at Dithered, as discovered via scottandrew. what a frickin braintrust there is amongst bloggers.

it’s bugged me for a while now that the GPL and even the LGPL dump so much restrictive baggage and responsibility on the user of the copylefted work. i wouldn’t mind using SourceForge for a project or two if i didn’t then have to burden the potential users of my code with all the crap on these licenses. it seems to me that with the GPL, the open source community has simply created a counter-establishment license designed to impose controls on intellectual property. maybe i’m naive, but this is my license

how come it is that as soon as you hear “in order to serve you better…”, you know it’s gonna be followed by something that should have been prefaced with “in order to increase our bottom line…”?

word of the day: terpsichorean. i first came across it in the classic cheese shop sketch.


it’s only 28 in hex

April 17th, 2001

well, i’m 40 today. fantastic family, nice house, my own boss, yet i’m only halfway there. who could ask for anything more?

being definitely a technical logjam breaker kind of guy, and most assuredly not an aesthetic design type, i’m glad there is diversity in the world, because the people who have the design talent and are willing to share their knowledge (scott andrew lepera, eric costello are two of exceptional note) help tremendously to fill the gaping holes in my talent. i’ve finally css-ified my business and family sites. no great shakes, but a good sense of accomplishment.

my $&*% frickin frackin cable internet provider has had me down from 10am to 4pm every day for almost 3 weeks now. they’ve got some heinous routing problems (with non-routable 10.x.x.x networks in the middle of the routable cloud) that they are apparently having difficulties setting right. not only that, but they have two of their own servers collectively streaming 100kbits per second of unwanted multicast traffic at me (and everyone else around me) at all times. the problem, of course, is that if i complain too loudly, i’ll be scrutinized to the point that they’ll clue in to the incoming dns, smtp, ftp and http traffic, a slight stretch to their terms of service, and i’ll have to go out and colocate a server for big dough. yeccch.


in the valley of the jolly… ho ho ho…

April 10th, 2001

i used an interesting word the other week – inveigle. i like it when one well-chosen word manages to bring together a complete symphony of concepts and context to express a single idea. somehow, in the catacombs of my mind, my synapses have carefully cross-indexed a whole slew of such words, each to be presented at the tip of my tongue just at the moment when their particular ideal conversational and syntactic conditions come together.

funny, then, that such an obscure word should inveigle itself into conversation again today on an entirely different topic.

there has been a remarkable wave of openness and warmth over the last few months emanating from IBM towards the Linux and open-source communities. the big blue behemoth has become the veritable Jolly Blue Giant of the open-source valley, bringing forth a cornucopia of products and services, embracing openness, standards, hand picked enterprise javabeans and individually quick-frozen servlets for all. IBM even released a Mozilla-based browser for OS/2.

what’s truly remarkable is that it has all been done with nary a peep of suspicion from the open-source crowd. the same often vitriolically cynical anti-establishment crowd that spits daily venom at Microsoft seems to be content bedding down with IBM despite its gargantuan stature and storied history.

looks like a wolf in underdog’s clothing to me. not that i mean to demonize IBM, but that they’ve gotta have a motive in doing this, and it will definitely have to do with the bottom line. somewhere along the line, they’ll want to capitalize on their investment. it’s just a matter of where and when. once the inveigling is successful to the right depth, the tentacles will appear.


what’s old is new again

April 3rd, 2001

Dave Winer pointed today to this article on CNet about Marc Andreesen and Nicholas Negroponte’s involvement in Bang Networks. It seems that they managed to score 18 million in VC funding by convincing the investors that there’s something new or revolutionary in making background connections from a web client to the server and updating the page content without a refresh.

I really had to look at this hard to convince myself it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. Apparently it’s not. They seem to really believe that they’re breaking new ground. Sure, they’re making the connection persistent for push and building some huge marketable network of services onto it, but still, fresh technology it ain’t.

Of course, those who have been using Internet Explorer and any of the various available forms of remote scripting have been doing this for YEARS.

The difference is, I guess, that those Netscape centric folks who have had their Microsoft-filtering shades on are finally with a workable NS6 DOM sparking up a clue that there can be life after a page is rendered.

If Netscape 4.x hadn’t been holding us back all this time, we’d all have been enjoying the benefits of a rich application environment inside a browser for years now.

Welcome to 1998, Marc. Your coffee’s cold.


small world

March 30th, 2001

it’s amazing how small the world is getting. i write this library of javascript code, decide to release it, and within a month or two i’m getting mail from users all over the world who have seen it and found it of use to them. just this past week I have had mail from israel and pakistan – both places i’ll probably never get the chance to visit. remarkable.


in like a lion, out like a lamb

March 27th, 2001

when Microsoft announced their HailStorm initiative last week, it didn’t quite sit right with me. of course, you will know how it irked me from the world domination perspective. you will know how it enlightened me from a Bill/Borg perspective. but there’s been some other intangible just exceeding my grasp…

it came to me as i read Kara Swisher’s article from the Wall Street Journal. it’s this name, HailStorm. Kara says:

The first question that arises about Microsoft ‘s newest Web initiative is this: What’s with the malevolent code name HailStorm? It conjures images of concussions from baseball-size hailstones. After years of trying to prove it isn’t a bully, couldn’t the company have chosen something a bit gentler, like SoftSpringRain?

exactly. Microsoft is one of the slickest marketing machines on the planet. what would possess them to present such a harsh face?
sure, use HailStorm as an internal rallying cry while in development, but for goodness sake rename the thing to something more palatable for release. it doesn’t make sense. these guys don’t make public relations moves without putting a whole lotta thought into it. oddly though, somehow this seems familiar…

well, i’ll tellya what it is. it reminds me of a government who has a hold of a huge majority. the voting public has saddled themselves with them for the foreseeable future. now is the time to make big waves. announce loudly that there will be a new sweeping program introduced next year. toll roads, hospital user fees, fingerprint identification for social programs, or some other such entirely unpalatable dross.

then they sit back and wait for the wailing and gnashing of teeth. the opposition is outraged, the pundits pontificate, the spin-doctors spin. committees are convened, polls taken. the policies are adjusted by the exact amount necessary to assuage the naysayers, no more, no less.

a year later, the policy is implemented, much prettier than its original incarnation. the opposition and the press have saved us from the bullies. the govt gets to boast about its collaboration, openness, yadda yadda. most of us know that what they got is likely exactly what they planned all along, but they get to pull their image out of the dumpster just in time for the next election campaign to start.

same thing happens with management and labour unions. both sides start off with ridiculously polarized demands, never expecting to get a settlement on their original terms. finally they meet in the middle, on terms not far from their real original plans.

mind you, if one side started off on a ridiculously advantageous position and there were no voices to counter it and play the game, the other side would get stuck with the short straw, big-time.

so i guess i’m saying someone’s gotta keep ’em guessing. sure, it’s all a poker game, but we don’t have a chance to redistribute the chips without engaging in the game, calling their bluffs, making some of our own.

i think the blogging community, with its ability to cast multiple radial threads of relevant commentary and rational discussion while also providing coherence by making reticular links to keep the multiplicity of threads unified, can help to provide the critical mass of organized (or at least catalogued) public opinion necessary to get a seat at this game.


you say toe-ron-toe, i say ta-rahna

March 26th, 2001

an odd part of being canadian is that often we define our national identity by its not-being-american-ness. i guess the folks in new zealand have a similarly defined-by-proximity gestalt.

i remember a scene from a ww2 movie, maybe with David Niven, where a british soldier trying to escape the germans is boarding a train. the guy checking his papers hasn’t a clue, since his german, learned from his parents, is impeccable and deceptively local. however, when he’s done, the german sends him off with a “thank you”, to which the britsh guy instinctively replies “you’re welcome” microseconds before his world comes crashing in.

i also remember that when for a short time i thought i might learn to speak nederlands (dutch), i was told that during the war the officials used to have you say the name of the dutch town Scheveningen, since your pronunciation of the “sch” could determine your dutch/deutsch-ness.

well, the closeness of canadian and american speech is pretty hard to define. that’s why many famous actors and news anchors are canadian and most folks wouldn’t know it. even the vernacular is indistinguishable in many cases.

so here’s your border-check. ask them what grade they were in when they were ten years old. instinctively, the canadians will give you a numeral (grade 4), and the americans will give you an ordinal (4th grade). it’s fascinating to watch. it’s even more telling in print, where canadian press style is to put it in roman numerals (grade IV).

you thought this was leading somewhere but it’s not.


the sounds of silence

March 23rd, 2001

i’ve had a lotta hits since Dave blogged me the other day on the HailStorm rant. around the end of that blurb, i ruminated aloud that maybe someone in a position to do something about it already had, maybe not. my assumption was that surely i’m not prescient – this sort of policybuilding had to be underway, and that by musing openly about its possible existence i would attract at least one person to enlighten me.

i take it no news is bad news.