Friday, December 29, 2006

Two for the Heap

Like Simon, I've always kept an eye on Shaun Inman's blog -or if not so much his content, on his designs. His concept of having old posts slowly disappear into nothingness is a really odd, and quite interesting idea. So yeah, another endorsement from me - but the fact that he's currently having a bunch of fun with his new Wii is also close to my heart - in fact, most of his posts kind of mirror what I've been doing since I started my holiday...Yay for Holidays!

No Wii for me today though. I need to go and camp out at the DMV, to obtain my Virginia drivers license - besides the fact that American cops tend to freak out when you show them an ACT drivers license, they charge you through the nose for insurance. (Not the cops, the insurance companies.)

I'm resolved to just live there for the whole day.

If you'd like to share, you can take some sample tests here. Then you could just stand in a queue for an hour or so. Then sit down and do nothing for an hour. Then try to explain to a stuffed animal why your birthday is written the wrong way around on your drivers license.... Then sit down and do nothing for another hour....*sigh*

Call it... Pointless.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Talking Bollocks

Dear Lazyweb,

Is the word 'Bollocks' considered offensive?

I ask because I used it in a new upcoming post for the TOWER Software Blog, and I was wondering if maybe it might be deemed 'inappropriate'...

I used it because I think it's funny, but the extensive wikipedia entry on the word is just outright hilarious...
"In a technological context, the question could be 'Why has the web
developer included a three-minute animated intro to this page?', prompting
the answer: 'Dog's Bollock Syndrome, Mate. Because he can.'"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So long, SOAP

Here's an interesting tie-in to the simplicity debate - Four years after the hype, Google has quietly axed the SOAP Web service API to it's search interface. (full story here) And nobody cares. Why?

The SOAP concept grew out of a great simple idea. The Idea was this:

"wouldn't it be nice to do RPC stuff via XML?

The first iteration of what would become SOAP was pretty straightforward - XMLRPC. Version 1.0 of SOAP built upon that, and was still human readable, and okay. Sometime after that, the big boys like Microsoft, IBM and Sun jumped on board, and proceeded to complexify, 'standardize' and completely bugger the specification about until the final modern iteration of SOAP was so confusing, that only the most zeal-ridden platform zealots were singing it's praises - and even they didn't actually know how the thing worked anymore.

Marketing execs all over the world were so desperate for 'Web Services' that they confused them with 'Web Sites', 'Web Parts', and 'Windows Services'. The only thing spreading faster than misinformation was glossy brochures. The whole thing was deranged.

The original, simple idea was lost in a maelstrom of add-ons and transactional plug-ins and security goo and it all became horrible. Actively trying to build a solution architecture on top of this thing is something that no self-respecting architect would do. Instead, the developer world has slowly gotten over this mondo corporate brainwashing, turned back to the more sensible ideas - REST based XML web services - where you ask a question and get an answer using a URL (kind of like...the Internet!)

I think that today marks the beginning of the end of the end for SOAP, now that the Google SOAP API is finished (not that many folk were using it, anyway...) Whatever good ideas SOAP held at the beginning have been totally wrecked. I mean, the S in SOAP used to stand for SIMPLE. When they stopped using the acronym and tried to make out that it was 'just a name', alarm bells should have gone off all over the world...

Can we all just put it behind us and move on now?

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's an OGG?

If you've ever run across an OGG file, chances are you've probably gone - "What on earth is that?" And then you'd find out that it was an open source, slightly superior music compression format that tends to be used by the more 1337 amongst us. Then, you might have wondered how you could listen to something that had been encoded with it.

Well, if you wanted to use iTunes, you were previously out of luck - or so I thought, until I found the quicktime plugin. This has been around for a while, but now it seems to work great.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Now that's commitment.

I can remember 'certain' students used to find a modicum of ribald hilarity in scrawling the traditional 'dick and balls' on a plastic high school chair, but these kids have completely taken it to a new level.

Tsk, Tsk - Busted by Google Earth - the shame...

(The Google Maps link.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My new favourite movie

Nearly 100 percent of the time, Cable TV in America dishes up the most inane garbage, very rarely worthy of any comment. And yet, sometimes... well, suffice to say that thanks to Encore, I now have a new favourite movie - North Shore, from 1987. How can this be so? Well, because of the following:
  • Awesome Surf Footage,
  • A ridiculous cheesy plot line about a surfer from Arizona (yes, Arizona) who wins a surfing contest in a wave pool, and then decides to go to O'ahu to surf the Pipeline Classic.
  • Cheesy eighties music soundtrack, that includes Journey and Pseudo Echo,
  • Awesome Surf Footage,
  • A truly terrible love story straight out of a Sweet Valley High book.
  • Lots of gratuitous shots of chicks lying on the beach in ugly eighties bikinis,
  • A bunch of 'Bad Ass' Hawaiian locals,
  • Actual cameos from amazing real life surfers like Mark Occhilupo, Laird Hamilton and Gerry Lopez; and
  • Awesome Surf Footage.
I mean, really, could there possibly be anything more you could need in a movie?

I don't think there is...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dante Says...

This is just a reminder to make sure you keep up to date with Harsher Light - Little Headed Simon's tale of a skilled Gothic hero just keeps getting more and more intriguing.

Who is this guy? What are these terrifying sexy angels that are trying to kill people? Can you really use crushed aspirin and smoke to detect evil spirits? Some of these questions may be answered, but you'll have to keep your browser (or your RSS Reader) tuned to

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New York City

I was, I admit, a little ambivalent about making the trip up from DC to New York City. My wife, Ali, was extremely envious of the idea. But, (as a good husband so often finds) , It turns out she was right.

New York is an extremely inspiring place. It's like a thousand ideas colliding all at once.
Everywhere I walked, I was mindful of New York stuff,( even though I grew up about as far away as you can get -in Australia ) - things like the 59th Street Bridge, Madison Square Gardens, 42nd Street, Times Square - Lyrics from the Beastie Boys, those dumpsters from Law and Order episodes, Ben Lee and Grandmaster Flash, and the art-deco style uber buildings that define the megalopolis.

Times Square was particularly amazing at night - If you don't pay attention to where you're going, You'll almost certainly be run over by a cab - but if you don't, you'll probably accidentally buy something - the neon assault of advertisements is a wonder to behold. I didn't get to see the stility building of doom though. Maybe next time...

Seems that if New York wants to make a point, there won't be any mis-interpreting it. It will be writ really large. It's an amazing place to visit. I gotta come back sometime to play, when there's less work on the table...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I need your permission to continue.

I've spent a few days now with Windows Vista (Ultimate). It is the ultimate many things, but I sure hope that it's not the ultimate operating system. In a way it seems to me that Vista is sort of like a really shallow, hot girlfriend - You have to pay her lots of attention, work hard constantly to keep her happy and in return, she looks gorgeous and drives you absolutely insane with her stupidity and nagging...

I'm talking particularly about User Account Control. This one single 'feature' has the potential to make people throw their machines across the room in all their shiny transparent aero glory. Essentially, the way it works is this: anytime you do anything that could possibly affect the configuration of your computer, Windows prompts you to enter your username and password again, to confirm that you really meant for the action to occur.

This may seem like a cool idea. I understand the point. The theory goes that no nasty virus or spyware will ever be able to do anything mean or nasty, without the user knowing. But, it seems to me, that in this case, as in many things, that Microsoft's heart is bigger than it's brain...

Things that trigger a UAC event include: installing software, re-configuring software, starting a program, saving files (to certain locations), connecting anything to the Internet, starting a windows service, opening a management console, renaming certain files - In short, pretty much everything.

You know, configuring my new OS today(as a local administrator), I think I must have typed my username and password over one hundred times. If a malicious or evil program had somehow been one of those 100 times, would I have typed it in? Chances are, I probably would have. Hell, after about the first 5 UAC events, I was ready to give my username and password to any stupid dialog that popped up and asked. I mean, occasionally I found myself just typing it randomly into e-mails, out of habit...

It reminds me of a story Paula was telling about an organization making a password policy so complex, that users were forced to write passwords down on sticky notes and stick them to their monitors. It devalues the whole thing. My password has been commoditized. It's nearly worthless to me.

So, UAC doesn't solve the problem that it was built to solve - it actually makes it worse. If users aren't prepared to get a whole lot looser with their passwords, then they won't be able to install anything, or make windows perform properly. Either way, it will drive users around the twist. (There were some really choice swear-words coming out of my cube today. )

Sure, you can turn UAC off. But in what may be the 'ultimate' irony, if you do, Windows helpfully nags you constantly to turn it back on!