“I cried because I had no salt, until I met a man who had no entropy.”— Alice and Bob
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?”
I like CSS. I’m thinking seriously of ditching HTML tables in favor of pure CSS page layout. Unfortunately, it feels like almost every site that pushes CSS fills the page with tiny little fonts, and most of them use absurdly wide text columns with no leading. A List Apart uses decent leading and keeps the column width under control, but their “bigger text” stylesheet only produces a significant change if the user has already overridden their browser’s defaults.
Is there a reason I should care what scripting language your site is implemented in this week?
Is there a reason I should care what variable names your script uses this week?
Is there a reason I should care what directory you store your script in this week?
Is there a reason why I should see any implementation details at all, or be forced to try to cut and paste a 494-byte URL when I want to recommend your site to a friend?
And should it be harder to make a sensible URL than a ludicrous one?
I was sitting in a meeting today with my iBook, and a late arrival walked up and asked if we could chat for a bit afterwards. Normally when he needs to talk to me, it’s either to pick my brain on some operational aspect of the service, or see if I’m willing to commit my team to supporting the latest project that’s steam-rollering down on him.
In this case, he wanted to talk about Stickies. Seems he’s been writing a replacement for the current OS X version, and decided that I might have useful input to offer. Something to do with the cascade of 30+ notes covering almost every square inch of my screen, taking full advantage of multiple fonts, text color, note colors, minimization, etc. Also physical post-its attached to flat surfaces on the laptop.