“Be warned that being an expert is more than understanding how a system is supposed to work. Expertise is gained by investigating why a system doesn’t work.”— Brian Redman
There’s a story I love to tell, a cautionary tale about an incompetent manager, his ass-covering sysadmins, and the company that they could have destroyed together. At some point I’ll write it up here, but the short version goes like this: “two-thirds of the file servers hadn’t been backed up in six months, and they knew this.”
Lots of folks are busy documenting the bad things about Safari (I sent in about a dozen bugs, and I’ll wait for the next beta before looking again). One good thing I noticed is that it has the appropriate hooks to make OS X’s summarize engine work. Select the text on a page, tell it to summarize, and you get a dynamically condensed version of the text. If the interface weren’t so clunky, it would be really handy for deciding if you really want to read further in someone’s site.
It would be trivial for the developers to add a button to the toolbar that selected the body text, called the summary service, and returned the results in a new window, nicely formatted. Since Safari is more-or-less scriptable, I was able to knock together a quick AppleScript that shows off the idea. Drop it into ~/Library/Scripts and run it on whatever page you’re currently looking at.
So, I just got another notice about a sleazy bastard printing out my photographs and selling them on eBay. Joy. This is the sort of behavior that led me to stop posting large JPEGs a while back.
My blushes. I’ve been hacking in Perl since version 2.0 was released. In some ways, it’s my native programming language. It’s certainly the one I use the most, and the tool I reach for first when I need to solve a problem.
But I haven’t kept up. Until quite recently, I was really still writing Perl3 with some Perl4 features, and regarded many of the Perl5-isms with horror. It felt like the Uh-Oh programmers had crufted up my favorite toy, and it didn’t help that the largest example of the “New Perl” that I had to deal with was massive, sluggish, and an unbelievable memory hog (over 9,000 lines of Perl plus an 8,000 line C++ library, and it uses up 3 Gigabytes of physical memory and 3 dedicated CPUs for its 25-hour runtime (“Hi, Andrew!”)).
So, Microsoft wasn’t shipping Java? Boo-fucking-hoo. Java on the web has been an insecure, browser-crashing nightmare from day one, and applications written in it are poorly integrated into native GUI libraries and sloooooooooow.
Many years ago, a wonderful secret was passed on to me: U&lc was free. The printed magazine is no longer with us (and wasn’t even free at the end, although it was certainly worth its cover price). The web site is a pale shadow of the magazine, but still a good read.
David Brin usually writes interesting stuff (although I was horribly disappointed by his most recent Uplift novel). This article is no exception. Unfortunately, it looks hideous. Not only is the entire thing deliberately set in Helvetica Bold, it has medium-blue text on a light-gray background, no leading, and the lines are fully justified (something that’s rarely appropriate on the web).
For more fun, the text is broken up into pseudo-paragraphs by pairs of
tags, something I haven’t seen done in years. The only nice thing I can say about the article, apart from the content, is that the lines would be a comfortable length for reading if he’d used either a few points of leading or a non-bold font.
So I went to Apple’s support site to search the knowledge base, and couldn’t read a damn thing. My eyes were a bit tired, and the search results were displayed in 9.5pt Arial. Of the many preferences you can set when you log in with your Apple ID, legibility isn’t one of them. Gosh, I wonder what would happen if I searched for “Universal Access?”