A Random Pattern

Archive for the 'code' Category

The OS wars? They are a mess.

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Windows is dead? Apple is a phenomenon. Linux is still fighting off its anti-user attitude problems.

Instant Messaging’s big break?

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

First, news about Gaim
Those of you who use the Gaim client can breath a sigh of relief: The announcement.

A little background: Gaim is a multi-protocol instant-messenger client. That means that you can use one client, and log into AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, MSN Instant Messenger, Jabber, and even IRC servers. It’s a very nice workaround until the day when those networks get over themselves and federate just like email eventually did. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Today we learn the reason that Gaim Pidgin has been stuck in “Beta” for so long. Ultimately, it comes as no surprise that the misguided, mis-managed, and ill-behaved (dare I say – evil) company AOL is behind the long delays. Fortunately, an agreement has finally been worked out, and the excellent developers behind my favorite IM tool can continue the work they really are interested in – making an excellent IM client across all the different IM networks (technically, I believe they are mainly interested in the back-end, not the actual client).

This is breaking news, as far as I can tell, and many things are still being decided and setup. For now, it seems the best thing to do might be to sit back and wait just a little longer. The announcement indicates we’ll have a final release of Pidgin 2.0 soon, and that nothing is changing in that regard. So hang in there, and give a cheer of support for the Pidgin team!

What this might mean for all Instant Messaging Users
I will probably write more on the topic later, but I have a vague suspicion that this is the first step in a potentially big year for Instant Messaging. AOL and Google had agreed to make their clients (AIM and GTalk, respectively) interoperate. This is long overdue, and I hope the agreement with the Pidgin / Finch / libpurple developers is a sign that we’re going to see more interoperability or even federation.

To understand why that is a big deal, let me explain. I actually have my own IM server (Dreamhost allows you to set up a Jabber server when you host a website with them). This means that I don’t have to ask AOL or Yahoo or Microsoft or even Google for permission to IM. I can create my own name on my own server, if I want. It is similar to email, in that you might well have a corporate, business, or school email address instead of having to have “@aol.com” or “@hotmail.com”.

I can also talk with someone on a different domain (or server). That means, once again, that I don’t need some big company’s permission to add a friend. As an example, lets say you and I want to start IMing. I ask what your IM name is, and you tell me it is “prettycoolguy@aim.com”. I frown and respond that I’m at “dontbotherme@yahoo.com”, and ask if you have an MSN or Yahoo account. Pretty soon, we’ve both got 4 different IM clients running on our computers to keep up with our different friends – that’s dumb, inefficient, and frustrating for us customers.

Of course, AOL and the others have a vested interest in keeping things this way, because they want to “lock-in” their users to their own network, and “force” a user to evangelize to his friends (just get a AOL account, then we can chat!). This is insulting and really, abusive to us, the customers of these networks.

Google took first steps out of this morass about two years ago with Google Talk, which works with Jabber (the leading technology that allows federation or running your own server). Let’s hope we see more momentum on that front – and in the meantime, ask me for an IM address or use Google Talk or Pidgin instead of the “lock-in” company clients.

We don’t need to be babysat and insulted anymore. It’s time for the major IM networks to grow up.

Note: There are technical inaccuracies in the above descriptions, but for a large portion of my audience this serves to provide a good “picture” of what is going on. Please feel free to comment with anything you want to clarify. I have many more thoughts on this subject, but will save them for another day. :P

Edit: Not sure how I missed this article from the end of 2006, but it promises big things for GTalk from Google. Also, I’m wondering if we’ll see the integration of the libjingle library from Google into Pidgin – it would certainly make sense if they decided to work on that “in secret” due to the ongoing negotiations. This would be huge, in giving libpurple and Pidgin Voice capabilities! Update 2: looking through developer.pidgin.im, it appears that the libjingle aspect is being moved forward by a different project named Farsight – I like the name.

My Dream App: The “Top 6″ by Judging Criteria

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Here are my predictions for what apps make it to the top 6. First, though, a quick rundown by voting criteria, as objective as I can be. Keep in mind these are all somewhat subjective, though. These are the criteria again, as a reminder:

Judging Criteria:
A) Innovation and Creativity of the Idea
B) Use of OS X and Leopard technologies (see list of technologies at the end of the post)
C) Feasibility of Development
D) Mass-Market Appeal

Innovation and Creativity

This criteria is both easy and tough. Initially I had a very “artsy” view of creative, making this list easy. But as I look over it more, I realize some of the creative ideas, like Cookbook or even Ground Control, could also justifiably make an argument to be higher on the list.

  1. Blossom
  2. Atmosphere
  3. Whistler
  4. Hijack
  5. Portal
  6. Cookbook

Use of OS X and Leopard

This is a tough one, especially since I’m not a Mac developer. Here’s my best shot:

  1. Portal
  2. Ground Control
  3. Hijack
  4. Cookbook
  5. Blossom
  6. Atmosphere

Feasibility of Development

After this round, I don’t think this criteria will play as much of a role.  Almost everything still in the running has already been deemed feasible by the judges.  In a way, the idea of a Dream App is almost to push the limits of feasibility, not stay well within them.  Still, here’s the list, ordered by most feasible to least:

  1. Atmosphere
  2. Cookbook
  3. Hijack
  4. Blossom
  5. Portal
  6. Ground Control

Mass Market Appeal

This is probably the most critical factor, and is probably the main deciding factor or motivation for many voters.  “Would I buy this?” is, I think, a good question to ask yourself before voting.  Don’t ask “would I download this and try it for a few hours?”.  :D  This is also the most subjective list, so here are my opinions:

  1. Whistler
  2. Ground Control
  3. Hijack
  4. Cookbook
  5. Portal
  6. Atmosphere

My Personal Opinions (finally!)

The reason I haven’t shared them yet is that they’re not set in stone, especially not until I read the guest judges’ comments.  Still, I’ve got a pretty firm opinion right now.  That opinion, though, has changed since I first started following MDA, and is likely to change again before the final vote next week.

I was actually surprised when I finished doing the ranking above, so maybe you were too.  The diversity of the applications really shows through, and they all have different areas of strength.  Each of them has a different potential market, as well, which makes the “Mass Market Appeal” that much more difficult to judge.  Compound that with the fickleness of consumers, and we have an almost impossible prediction to make.  Good thing we’re utilizing the “Wisdom of Crowds“.  ;)
Before I go on, voting is likely to start soon for the semi-finals.  There are 9 contestants, and after this voting round 6 will head to the finals.  Next week the final vote will leave us with 3 winners.  After that, MDA developers will form teams and create the 3 winning apps, with (hopefully) plenty of community involvement along the way.


  1. Cookbook: I would buy this before any of the above apps.  It’s a really well-thought out idea, and I think it’d be really successful.  Still, it seems a bit “tame” for what MDA could produce.  I think of it as “proof” that MDA isn’t just for geeks, but for real people.  Plus, think of the market this way: everyone has to eat.  Those that have discretionary income are able to pick and choose what they want to eat when.  Discretionary income is good for selling an app like this.
  2. Hijack: In contrast to what I just mentioned for Cookbook, Hijack is for Forum Junkies.  That happens to include my wife, oddly enough, which is why Hijack initially caught my eye.  This idea is just hands-down a winner, especially if you look at the success of both RSS and the current interest around “social” and “community” type web activities.  I think it’s self-explanatory, someone tell me if I’m wrong and I’ll explain.  :P
  3. Whistler: This was a slow starter, but as the vision became clearer it grew on me.  This seems to me the most marketable of the ideas, one of the funnest and most creative, and after lengthy forum discussion the conclusion was that it would be feasible.  I really like the contestant’s vision, and can really see this being one of those apps used to “sell” the Mac.  Not because it, by itself, is “needed” by anyone, but because it would be a perfect example of how things on the Mac are easy and completely, mind-blowingly awesome.
  4. Portal, Ground Control, Blossom, and Atmosphere are all really close 4th places in my mind.  :(  I wish they could all get developed!

I expect iGTD, Desktop Wars, and Atmosphere or Ground Control to not make the semi-finals.  Reasons?

  • iGTD hasn’t gotten any further development attention, unfortunately.  (However, there’s a strong GTD cult that might keep this one in anyways)
  • Desktop Wars has been mired in controversy and lack of attention (except on voting days).  (Again, there’s a strong contingent of -likely- younger voters that isn’t yet interested in the more practical aspects of the other apps, and would love to download DW.  This is a good time to stress that the winning MDA apps WILL NOT BE FREE, but will cost money.  :) )
  • Atmosphere – this was a hard call, because I like the idea, but it’s simple and not enough people seem to be buying it as “worth” the vote relative to the others.  We’re getting into the hard votes, where good ideas are going to lose out to the very best ideas, on merit and not on anything the contestant has much control over at this point.
  • Ground Control – also a hard call, I really like this app and I like the contestant and his work ethic even more.  The app is a brilliant idea, really strong, but I’m afraid it may be too hard for voters to grasp before they “clicky clicky” their easy vote buttons.  It took me a while to get on board, too.

There you have it, folks.  More opinions to come, if anyone still needs more.  And commentary next week on the finals, too!
Leopard Technologies, according to Apple’s “sneek peak” site:

Here are the other core technologies per the Leopard “sneek peak” site:
-Time Machine (auto file backup – can be hooked up to your app by API so you tell it how to smartly backup your app’s files instead of grabbing everything that changes)
-Mail (main interesting thing here is the universal ToDo list stuff, at least from an MDA perspective)
-iChat (new capabilities of sharing photos, movies, and putting fake backgrounds behind the speaker…)
-Spaces (virtual desktops, I see an explosion of innovation surrounding these. But that might just be dirt on my glasses. cool )
-Dashboard (new stuff is the web-clips ability and the easy widget designer-thing – forgot it’s name)
-Spotlight (new and improved! We hope!!)
-iCal (I don’t remember. But it was cool, I’m sure. wink )
-Accessibility (the Voice, and we all hope maybe more steps towards resolution independence?)
-64-bit (uhm, yeah…)
-Core animation (which is fun to toss around, but I think mainly means it’s easier for developers to flip images and video and what-not around the screen in whatever manner they want. Or something.)

Cool and Useful: an inspiration to us all

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

A new Mac application is coming out, one that does something that sounds really boring: it burns discs (you know, makes CD-Roms).  Go take a look at this video clip – it suddenly makes burning seem a little more fun.

Why do I mention this now, in the midst of the MDA fun?  Because this approach to making applications is one of the most exciting things about the Mac, and the My Dream App competition.  Disco makes something simple, when all previous attempts I’ve seen make it complicated.  Disco makes it cool and fun, when previously it’s been boring and borderline painful.

And the kicker?  One of the guys behind AppZapper and now Disco will be working on one of the winning MDA ideas.  So yeah, that’s how cool the final product is going to be.  Let the fun begin.  :)

MDA – Voter Opinions

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Here are some of the recent blog entries about MDA, as well as posts where some forum members lay out their case for their favorite (and least favorite) apps:

Combination of the Dock and Dashboard – by Justin
The Semis: My Opinion – by microwavedh20
Weighing in: My Picks – by Dillon Krug, former contestant
My Picks for Round 3 – by Devon Shaw
mythrol’s picks and reasoning – err, by mythrol, of course :lol:
what do you get if you cross a guitar tuner with a dictation machine and feed it to a MIDI engine? – by The Doorkeeper
what a computer app should be – by SP3CCYLAD
I’m still holding off on posting my favorites. If you’re here, bored, only because you’re waiting to vote: just come back tomorrow. It looks like voting is delayed until Thursday. Don’t worry, you’ll still get 48 hours to show up and vote.

MDA “Top Ten” (top six, really) lists are in draft stage.  Come back tomorrow!

Rubric 2.04 Theme – quick fixes

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

My download link was down for probably several days.  I didn’t get too many complaints, so … ;)

The download link is fixed now, and I think the theme is strong enough to remove the “this is still new, be wary” warning.

I also discovered that in the process of getting the theme to validate, I fixed one of the more severe IE display problems, so my subscribe widget is back at the top of the sidebar where I want it.  Yay!

The Rubric Theme page has been updated again.

WordPress sandbox on Ubuntu

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

I finally got the WordPress software (that I use to publish this website) installed on my local computer.  It’s in a nice sandbox, so I can turn it on whenever I want.  The issues I ran into were mostly permission-based errors, so I’m going to be learning more about setting and managing permissions.

Full write-up will come later.  The good news is, I can now test changes without subjecting you, my imaginary readers ;), to being the guinea-pigs!

It’s worth noting that command-line-use really makes things easy – if you already know what you’re doing!  If you don’t , welll….. :D

sandboxing WordPress on Ubuntu – when everything DOESN’T go just right

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

So I found what looked like some good instructions for setting up a WordPress (WP) sandbox on your local Ubuntu machine.  Unfortunately, the instructions I found are only good if you DON’T SCREW ANYTHING UP AT ALL.

That includes if, before you found the instructions, you had already tried some other instructions and sort of already maybe done some of the stuff (looks innocently away…)

I would provide helpful tips on how to recover here, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet myself.  What seems to be the key, though, is to get MySQL set up properly, then don’t mess with it and DEFINITELY don’t delete it and try to start over without fully cleaning up.

More to come once I figure out how to recover….

Rubric Theme: navigation fixed and files cleaned up

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Hopefully by the time you read this I will have uploaded the newly cleaned-up Rubric theme. Changes are minor:

  • Vkaryl came to my rescue again and fixed the navigation issue on single post pages, which was due to a few missing styles in the stylesheet.
  • extra images (not related to the theme currently) were removed.
  • sidebar has been added to single post pages.

I’m really happy to have a widgetized Rubric theme.  There’s a lot of work to be done to get my blog set up exactly how I want it, but that’s part of the fun too (at least for a geek like me).  :D

What do you think? Do you like it? Is it too complicated? What information do you want easily available on the front page. I’m all ears. :)

CSS fun, and IE challenges

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

With the fixes I implemented last night, careful inspection later (read: today) reveal that I partially broke my page in IE. Yet another reason that you should be browsing the web in style.Get Firefox! A fix is in progress, and I’ll document it here when I get it actually working.

I also verified that the sidebar on single pages goes right over the footer. I found one suggestion for fixing it, but that didn’t seem to work. Anyone have any ideas?

My fix for navigation links on single posts didn’t fix anything. So back to the drawing board for that too…

Update:  The breakage on IE was worse than I thought, so I’ve moved the subscription block back to the bottom right for now.  Hopefully the fix for that is easy.