Archives for October 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005

How to win a customer

Well now this is very interesting. This morning I emailed the authors of SnapZ Pro X (which most of the Mac cognoscenti are using to make nice screencam-movies) to tell them why I wasn't planning to register (it's to do with how the program runs, rather than the capture functionality itself). I confess I did so with little hope of a response and little hope that any response would be polite or helpful.

I remember one occasion where I emailed a company with an online MP3 catalogue to say that it would be much easier to browse if they actually had categories and an A-Z rather than just putting a random bunch on each page with a next button. They asked me what the hell I was talking about. I tried to explain why browsing was a good thing and got a response along the lines of "You are an idiot. We are glad you are not a customer!" What a great way to build your business!

So I was a bit surprised this afternoon to get a personal response from David at Ambrosia software which began:

Thank you for the feedback. We often get ideas for ways to best improve our products from customers who've decided not to purchase it.
What a great start. He then went on to describe some of the historical reasons for the way the app works, hinted it might be rethought in an upcoming version, and offered me a reasonable workaround.

Polite, informed, listening, helpful. I think I may register as much as anything to support a company who seems to understand what customer relationship (especially with non-customers) management actually means.

Two thumbs up to Ambrosia Software, Inc!

28/10/2005 16:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Well at least he didn't insult me this time

I really enjoyed Lisp guru Paul Grahams OSCON'05 speech about what business has to learn from Open Source. As always he's a bit snooty but I guess if you're clever enough to make a bundle from Yahoo you've earned the right. It would spoil one of the best jokes if I explained what he means by learning. You'll just have to listen along yourself.

28/10/2005 14:46 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Here's why I haven't used Java in over a year

Why Ruby on Rails?.

28/10/2005 12:41 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Saturday, October 22, 2005

A small step on the way to 1.0

My (well mine, chris2, and DireRed's) second little contribution to Rails got accepted today. Just one little patch among the many pouring into Rails to get it to the magic 1.0 mark. It's quite an incredible effort and I'm happy just to have been some tiny part of it.

22/10/2005 23:59 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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My basal ganglia made me do it!

Fascinating piece of science from MIT which, if confirmed (and I believe it will be because my experience is that I give in when I come across familiar stimuli), goes some way to explaining the problem with bad habits. I've personal experience of thinking I have a habit beat only to find myself back in the grip of it seeming, almost in an instant, to have come full-cirlce. It's a very depressing experience.

Habitual activity–smoking, eating fatty foods, gambling–changes neural activity patterns in a specific region of the brain when habits are formed. These neural patterns created by habit can be changed or altered. But when a stimulus from the old days returns, the dormant pattern can reassert itself, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, putting an individual in a neural state akin to being on autopilot. [Via World of Psychology]
I can't say I find this discovery very comforting. But it does confirm that you should do your best to avoid picking up habits because, as hard as that is, it is surely easier than quitting them. Again my experience is that my successes have involved consciously ridding my life of habit cues. Relapses usually occur around unexpectedly coming across such a cue. For this reason Supermarkets are a real problem.

22/10/2005 15:39 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Not so ancient history

Todd Higgins asks me: Is liveTopics still available? The answer is: yes and no.

Back in August I had dinner with Marc Barrot and he asked me the same question. At that time I gave him an email putting the liveTopics code under the MIT License and gave him my blessing to do what he liked with it. My single caveat was that I didn't want to have to support it.

The complication to this is that, along the way, I have lost the last distribution file. It may be on a backup CD somewhere but I'm not hopeful. I have a few root files of uncertain provenance (works in progress) but nothing else. Maybe Marc himself as a copy, or perhaps Lilia does?

22/10/2005 10:36 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Our continued disgrace

Bill Bonner asks: is the American Imperium is doing the world a favour by cutting it's own throat?

...

Empires can rarely resist the temptation to fight a war...if they think they can get away with something. George W. Bush saw an increase in his poll ratings coming. People love a "war" president, at least until they've lived through a real war. He could hardly wait for an opportunity to put on a flight suit and land on a real U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, ostensibly to rally the troops, but more importantly to rally the lumpenpublic.
...
And now, by putting Saddam on the stand, they offer the old man a chance to make his case. Yes, the nation was a hellhole when he ran the place, but at least it was a hellhole for the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi people, and of the Iraqi people.
...
The best way to win a war, said Sun Tzu, is to let your enemy defeat himself. That is roughly what U.S. forces are doing in Iraq.
...
Among the charges against Saddam is that he killed more than 140 men and teenaged boys in Dujail. His defense will be that the people of Dujail tried to kill him, which of course they did. He might mention that every brutish leader does the same.
...
And on the very day in which Saddam appeared in court, a news item in the International Herald Tribune reported that American planes had destroyed a village in Iraq, after two U.S. soldiers were killed in it. The village harbored insurgents, said the United States More than half the 70 people killed, said eyewitnesses, were innocent bystanders.
...
"Many Iraqis welcomed the fall of Saddam Hussein because he ruined their lives," writes Patrick Cockburn in the Independent.
...
"The billions supposedly spent by the U.S. – much of it Iraqi oil money – produced almost no benefits. The country became a feeding trough for politically well-connected U.S. companies and individuals...Even Iraqis were shocked to find that almost the entire $1.3 billion procurement budget of the defense ministry had disappeared...Much of the Iraqi government exists only on paper. It is more of a racket than an administration. Its officials turn up only on payday. Elaborate bureaucratic procedures exist simply so a bribe has be paid to avoid them.
...
"U.S. generals seemed to pride themselves on their ignorance of local customs," Cockburn, who has spent the last three years on location, continues. During that period, imperial overlords have nearly accomplished what seemed impossible when the war began; they have made Saddam's rule seem to many Iraqis like the "good old days."
...
The Iraqi police general in charge of the serious crimes squad was shot through the head by an American soldier who mistook him for a suicide bomber.
...
Things have gotten so bad in Baghdad that the prostitutes have left, says Cockburn.
...

I've quoted liberally because this was one of those pieces which had bitter clarity ringing from every paragraph. Bonner makes it clear that we are pretty close to the bottom of the barrel in how Iraq is being abused. How long can this continue?

I'd like to think that Blair is ashamed of what he has been party to. Of what he has done in our names by helping to commit such attrocities. Those people who gave Blair a blank cheque should be ashamed of themselves. I'm sick of our leaders and their willfull adventurism, not asked for by us, but paid for by us in money and blood. Their legacy will not be better health, better schooling, or more money in our pockets but Afghanistan, Iraq, Terrorism, and ID Cards. Blair is a war criminal and every bit as much as Saddam Hussein deserves to face a court. That we should allow ourselves to continue to be lead by such people is a disgrace upon us all.

22/10/2005 08:52 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Another little mile-stone

This evening I figured out how to do upstreaming to a Radio RCS server from Ruby. The tricky bits were all the implicit details not covered by the spec. In the end I just threw Ethereal at the problem and watched Radio do it's thing.

At this point I can fully render my weblog archives by day, month, year, or everything and I can now upstream to my blog space.

Remaining tasks include:

  • a theme
  • an editing interface
  • implement tagging (acts_as_taggable to the rescue I expect)
  • implement a calendar
At that point I'll probably call it 1.0 and switch.

At the moment it's designated codename: noradio.

22/10/2005 01:25 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Friday, October 21, 2005

Higher Order Messaging

Last night I read an excellent article by Nat Pryce about implementing Higher Order Messaging (HOM) in Ruby. A HOM is message that contains a message that is applied to a collection and rules for collating and returning the results. It's kind of like Enuermable#collect on steriods.

Here's how to implement this rule by explicitly iterating over the list of claimants using Ruby's for statement:

for claimant in claimants
    if claimant.retired? then
        claimant.receive_benefit 50
    end
end

Here's the same rule implemented with higher-order functions — methods that accept a block:

claimants.select {|e| e.retired?}.each {|e| e.receive_benefit 50}

And finally here's the same rule implemented with higher order messages:

claimants.where.retired?.do.receive_benefit 50

Interesting stuff.

21/10/2005 11:22 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Of course we have something to fear

"By definition, we have something to fear from governments. They're run by human beings, with normal tendencies to use and abuse the tools at their disposal." -- Jean-Louis Gassée

21/10/2005 09:32 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Life after Radio

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth I not only have my entire weblog archive in MySQL with all the entities playing nice (although much of the older HTML needs tidying up somewhat) but also have Rails rendering archive pages to disk which will honour the Radio permalinks. This is actually a fair chunk of the work required for a no-frills weblog.

I guess I may be looking at life after Radio after all...

21/10/2005 00:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Thursday, October 20, 2005

Normal service will be resumed (maybe)

Posting is a little infrequent right now because I'm having some issues with Radio Userland. I've reached the crunch point: finally deciding whether to migrate to Mac and stick with Radio or replace it. I've favoured the last option for a while but not found another package I wanted to migrate to.

Yesterday I made a few baby steps on building a replacement by importing my database of about 2000 posts into MySQL and building a small Rails app around them. Although I am somewhat loathe to build my own tool it would allow me to get what I want:

  • desktop solution
  • renders a static weblog site that can be uploaded to the site where Paolo kindly continues to host it for me
  • supports radio's permalink style
  • have things my way in terms of tags, rss feeds, and so on

I'm not persuaded but while experimenting with a new solution seems less unpleasant than doing the migration I'll probably hack at it until I am certain one way or another.

20/10/2005 10:38 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Look Ma, no NANDS

MacWorld: RamDisks are back.

18/10/2005 10:21 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Monday, October 17, 2005

Why would you do that?

What is it with some MacOSX apps (like iTerm for example) that use Cmd+; as their preferences key instead of (the seemingly default) Cmd+,?

17/10/2005 00:33 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Moleskine is a sign of taste

Apparently I'm not the only one around here who thinks Moleskine notebooks are cool!

16/10/2005 19:54 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tremble mortal for you have seen but 1% of my slides!

I was just browsing a presentation on the web and it seemed to be going on forever and it occurred to me:

Why not put a graphical progress bar in your presentation?
Make it look attractive, but part of the scenery, could be cool... too gimmicky perhaps?

15/10/2005 13:27 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Friday, October 14, 2005

Have I told you recently that I love you?

By the way, lest my recent griping should fool you into thinking I am anything but in love with my PowerBook and MacOSX. Just try approaching the PB without permission and see how far you get.

14/10/2005 12:16 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Putting the Dock in the dock

Okay it's less of an issue now that I have Quicksilver but I am pretty irritated with the way icons disappear off my MacOSX dock. I installed Microsoft Word yesterday, dragged the icon from Applications to the dock and it was fine, click it and up comes Word. It was certainly there yesterday afternoon. This morning when I looked for it the icon had gone!

The principle of learned helplessness is beginning to kick in now. I'm thinking of removing all the icons from my dock so it doesn't compete, mentally, with Quicksilver.

Is there a way to get rid of the dock altogether?

Update: So, more or less as soon as I posted I thought "oh what the heck, let's just get rid of all the dock icons" and proceeded to do just that. In the process I discovered that applications I had removed yesterday had come back! I had weeded out 3-4 apps I don't use often, those icons are in my dock this morning. Great. The stupid thing seems to be rolling back to a previous point. I wonder if it's related to all these Dock.App crashes I see in the log.

14/10/2005 11:09 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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You get the police state you deserve

Paul Craig Roberts writes:
Police states are easier to acquire than Americans appreciate.
Here in Britain I hope we're not as far down the track but I think we kid ourselves if we think there's no risk. Just ask Benyam Mohammed.

14/10/2005 08:53 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Drag'n'Solve

In response to my plea for advice about my KeyNote problem Andy Fragen wrote to tell me about EasyCrop by YellowMug software.

Whilst it won't do the whole job automatically it made it very convenient. I was able to drag the images from KeyNote (recording size and position on the slide) into the EasyCrop drop-zone. Click Cmd-A to get it converted into a JPG of the same dimensions then drop it back into KeyNote and set size and position. All in all it took me about 15 minutes to get the job done.

I'm very grateful once more to Andy who is a source of unfailingly sound & practical advice.

13/10/2005 12:36 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Having a TIFF with KeyNote

I gave a sales pitch yesterday including a 20 minute presentation. It's the first stand-up pitch like this I've done in quite a while and I was pleased that it seemed to go down pretty well with the audience who were engaged and asking questions.

The presentation was written in OmniOutliner Pro using the Beyond Bullet Points methodology, then designed in KeyNote with diagrams created in OmniGraffle Pro v4 and photos from Hemera BizArt and then (because I forgot the VGA adapter for my PowerBook) exported to a QuickTime movie and played on a PC. All-in-all despite the last minute technical glitch everything went very well.

But there's a catch. I have 36 slides of which 26 have photos taken from the BizArt collection. I dragged them directly from the BizArt application into KeyNote rather than exporting them from BizArt and importing them in KeyNote. And here's the catch, dragging them embeds them as full-scale TIFF images which means that when I save the presentation to, say, PowerPoint it ends up being 20mb!

I've looked at the KeyNoteUser site and searched Google but can't find an easy way to get all the images in the KeyNote presentation converted to JPG or PNG to save space. I am now presented with the possibility of having to redo all 26 images manually which I don't fancy at all.

Can anyone think of a clever work-around?

12/10/2005 10:27 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Instant Rails just add water!

Curt Hibbs (he of the excellent one-click Ruby installer for windows) has issued a preview release of his new package Instant Rails:

Instant Rails is a one-stop Rails runtime solution containing Ruby, Rails, Apache, and MySQL, all preconfigured and ready to run. No installer, you simply drop it into the directory of your choice and run it. It does not modify your system environment. See the Release Notes for a complete list of what is included.
The preview is Windows only but releases for other operating systems will follow.

12/10/2005 08:52 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Sunday, October 09, 2005

My kind of Saint

There's nothing better than an old black & white movie to help you build a presentation and The Saint in New York (an RKO picture from 1938 ) is no exception. Loius Haywards rendition of Simon Templar is quite different from the goody two-shoes portrayed by Roger Moore or the boring, tart-with-a-heart, thief of Val Kilmer. Haywards Templar is a smiling killer who'd make a decent villian in most flicks but is satisfied with offing crooks. I like him.

09/10/2005 19:26 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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The twittering of the no-birds

I was reading an article by Mini about management at Microsoft and a quote by Ken Moss, general manager of search at Microsoft, caught my attention:

No Birds

2 1/2 years ago, I was asked to be the technical leader for a new team that would build from scratch a world-class search engine. Google already had a huge lead in quality and market share – and many people within Microsoft said "no way" or "Ken, you’re taking a no-win job" or "MSN doesn’t have the technical skills" or even "you’re going to have to use Linux…" I call these people the "no-birds".

Now, it’s important to distinguish the no-birds from people who are constructively criticizing. No-birds are usually very creative and intelligent people, but their efforts are misguided. All they care about is shooting down ideas. They take pride in talking loudly, getting listened to, and are content measuring their impact based on any change in a plan – even if it’s just making things so confusing that nothing gets done. They secretly are happy when things are screwed up. They are worthless.

This worries me. I talk loudly, I like being listened to, and I like having impact. I often feel that I can be overly negative and critical. It makes me wonder, am I (sometimes) a no-bird?

In my defence I try to admit when I'm wrong about things (which will allow other people to weigh whether they listen to me) and I always try to suggest how I would improve whatever it is we are talking about. Then I try to do it.

Hmmmm. How can you know when you have the balance between criticism and support right?

09/10/2005 09:31 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Give me a lift

Could someone with a working knowledge of German please take a look at the CargoLifter website and tell me what's up in the state of the art in modern airships?

08/10/2005 18:24 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Great Cthulhu pulls out of movie claiming contractual difficulties

So they finally lured the Great Old One out of retirement. You can see he's still got it!

What a pity it's a region 0 DVD and I can't play it. Still that's what free markets are all about.

Update: Allen Engelhardt writes to tell me that region 0 means "play anywhere". Oh well, shows what I know ;-)

08/10/2005 13:05 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Friday, October 07, 2005

Greater than the sum of its parts

I've just realised that my pocketmod fits beautifully in the expandable pocket of my Moleskine pocketbook. Neat.

07/10/2005 10:31 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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I shall now commit a sacrilege

Two Moleskine notebooks just arrived from Mojo. That's good service because I ordered them late on Wednesday and opted for the free shipping.

They came very well packaged in a padded envelope and each in a protective polythene wrapper containing the Notebook, a history of Moleskine, and a postcard

It is in the margins that poems are found
(17 of 18. Collect 'em all?) I'd certainly shop with Mojo again.

The notebooks themselves are very tactile with a satisfying solidness about them. The paper has a lovely feel and smells like books. I can understand why Terry told me he felt it was almost a sacrilege to write on them!

Now I need to go buy a pen that is worthy of such a medium. I can use my Mont Blanc fountain pen with the desk notebook but I'll need something else for the pocketbook. I'm always nervous about carrying the Mont Blanc with me since I am a devil for misplacing pens.

07/10/2005 10:09 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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So it's a graphical web after all

Canvas demo's (for Firefox 1.5 and Safari) are pretty neat (especially the AJAX based live chart). [Via Simon Willison]

07/10/2005 09:44 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Talk to me Cocoa

One of the things I'm trying to work out is the best way to approach writing GUI apps with Ruby. There are a number of options including wxRuby, fxRuby, QTRuby, Ruby/tk, RubyCocoa, and so on. Since I'm really interested in an Aqua interface (for my own benefit) I narrowed the field to wxRuby and RubyCocoa. The latter looks especially promising to me although I'm not making much progress on it.

Today I came across CocoaDialog which might act as a neat stop-gap for some of my needs. It's designed to be called from a script that needs to get user input or present information. So in the same way that you can use ruby-growl to display notifications from a script, you can use CocoaDialog to collect input.

07/10/2005 09:26 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Eugh fresh mouse droppings

Just to make sure I get it I wrote my first mouse dropping this evening to go in my mouseHole. Called got-links (You can find it in the list of mouseHole User Scripts) it's very simple and silly. It just keeps a count of every site and url that you visit and lets you view the counters by going to sites and urls. Simple, neat, and all in lovely Ruby.

06/10/2005 00:50 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sticking my head in the mouse hole

So, as an experiment, I have now setup MouseHole as a login item for my MacOSX account and set it up as a permanent proxy for Safari.

05/10/2005 20:56 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Notebook++

I just ordered two Moleskine notebooks from Mojo. A squared pocket notebook and an accompanying squared large notebook desk book. I'm considering implementing Jerry Brito's tab hack. I guess I'm also going to have to start following all things Moleskine. How does a notebook become a lifestyle?

05/10/2005 18:43 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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You know you're an insomniac when...

Via Lifehacks comes an article on becoming an early riser.

The jist of it is a pretty simple 2 step regime:

  1. set a fixed time to get up and make yourself get up at that exact time every day
  2. Go to bed when you are properly tired i.e. too tired to focus on reading a book. You should be asleep within 5 minutes.
Go read the post if you want to find out more.

05/10/2005 18:24 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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A long jumbly, satisfying, chain of coincidences

This is lovely. Julian Elve contacted me this morning to let me know about a problem with permalinks on my blog (now fixed I hope, thanks Julian). He was trying to link to my post What's on your bookshelf?. Not surprisingly Julian's pile is strategy, strategy, strategy. I don't like to think that hard ;-)

But in catching up on Julians stuff I caught a link to Ed Vielmetti musing about a blogging tool that would allow marginal notes next to his posts. I'm not sure I want that because, for me, marginal notes are thinking spaces whereas I tend to edit and re-edit blog posts into (hopefully) integrated thoughts. But if there was such a tool I'd certainly try it. Maybe transcluding a WriteBoard page for each post (especially if they did implement SynchroEdit) would work?

Anyway, following Ed's train of thoughts led through the Kaizen principle of "seiri" (wuh?) and a fantastic sounding holiday, Discardia, where you throw stuff away and general let go. Interesting stuff.

But we're not done, there is also talk of Moleskine notebooks which lead me to Mojo who sell them in the UK and even have a shop in Richmond, just down the road from me.

Almost better than this though is the introduction to PocketMod which is a fantastic PDA on a sheet of A4. I'm staggered at the beautiful simplicity of this idea. I printed one out and then boggled at the folding instructions.

If you ever want to see a concrete demonstration of the difference between people with spacial thought and those without ask me and Graham to fold one of these things. I was looking at it, mumbling "this is page 1, and this is, no wait". Graham picked it up, fold, fold, tear, fold, fold and handed it to me. Gobsmacked!

So I'm pleased to report that I have fixed my permalinks, learned a little about seiri, thought about when I'll celebrate Discardia (I'm moving soon, that seems like a good omen), begun to lust after a Moleskine notebook, and have a neato PocketMod.

Some mornings life is good :-)

05/10/2005 12:22 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Models Reloaded!

One of the neat things about Rails is that you can open what's called the Developers Console (it's really irb) and interact directly with your ActiveRecord models. One nit is that, when you make changes, you need to exit and restart. Well not any more, thanks to Courtnay for this trick:

$ script/console
Loading development environment.
>> ..do stuff here..

then modify your model code..
then..

>> Dispatcher.reset_application!
models reloaded!

04/10/2005 21:55 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Get yer boards in Sync

WriteBoard is the latest app from 37signals. It's a simple, single page, wiki facility. You create a page and can then share it with other authors. Hrmm... okay. They've just announced you can lock pages to prevent conflicts between author edits. Hrmm... okay. But how about implementing SynchroEdit instead?

04/10/2005 19:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Eat your heart out GreaseMonkey

It's amazing what the MouseHole web proxy can do:

See, here’s some incredible advantages over Greasemonkey and any other competition I’ve encountered. MouseHole allows user scripts to act as full web applications. In this case, the writeboard feeds are watched and applicable IDs and tokens are stored in the script’s own database. [RedHanded]

04/10/2005 19:17 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Hands up Safari!!

I keep hearing people talking about how Safari is dreadful, crap, what have you. I guess that, since I installed Saft, i've not felt that. It looks nice, it seems fast and, if the history and bookmarks leave something to be desired, well there's always version 3. And GreaseMonkey? Who needs it when I have MouseHole? (Check it out, it's very cool).

However, lately, I've been starting to feel that Safari is indeed cursed. One thing it seems prone to do a lot (for a MacOSX app) is crash.

It seems that all my crashes happen at around the same point: between Safari starting and finishing loading a page. If I try and stop it, if I click a link before it's finished, or try to go back before it's finished. Well there seems to be a good chance it will crash.

Again, Saft limits the damage by recovering the lost page addresses (if not any dynamic or form content). But you have to wonder why that feature got implemented. Was it, by any chance, because Safari crashes regularly?

To keep things in proportion this doesn't happen that often, largely because I am learning to be patient and let Safari finish loading a page before doing anything. Also a crash on MacOSX always seems so much less serious than Windows. The app crashes, I report it, then I run it again and all is well. I've not yet seen one crash lead to anything worse.

If I had one wish for MacOSX 1.4.3 it would be a more stable Safari.

04/10/2005 17:36 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

What's on your bookshelf?

I thought it might be interesting, in the future, for me to see how the books I keep within easy reach evolve. Here is what I find myself reaching for most days:

So, what do you keep close at hand?

04/10/2005 12:11 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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All your symbols are belong to us

I've now lost the trail of breadcrumbs which lead me here, but I just read an article by Brad Parker about his efforts to revive the code from one of the MIT Lisp machines. He and a co-conspirator have gotten an emulator running which allows the Lisp machine to boot and talk to the network.

Practical? No. But I find the idea of a Lisp machine (a computer which is Lisp from the hardware upwards) intriguing so it's an interesting slice of history.

If someone came up with a Lisp operating system for PC hardware I'd play with it. I guess a RubyMachine is too much to ask for :-)

04/10/2005 10:43 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Monday, October 03, 2005

People should not be afraid of their governments.

... Governments should be afraid of their people.

It is with great trepidation that I approach the idea of a film version of V for Vendetta which is, for me, a masterpiece by Allan Moore (who also did Watchmen). But, given other posts today, it feels appropriate to be thinking about it now.

I've just watched the trailer and I have to say I'm impressed. The from the people who brought you the Matrix trilogy was a bit worrying but it looked good and suggested they were following the original work quite closely. Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, and John Hurt are assets. The visual style looked, from the brief clips, appropriate with a little update for the 20 odd years since the book was writen. I'd really hate for them to mess this up but I guess at this point, I'm looking forward to it. Too bad it can't be released on Nov 5th!

03/10/2005 22:37 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

The four questions every reader should ask

Terry has just setup his own bookstore which is pretty cool since he mentions a lot of books and his and my taste seem to intersect quite a lot.

In particular How To Read A Book looks very interesting:

Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren’s book on reading methodology never fails to draw a laugh when I take it out in public. Yet it’s one of the most useful, and well-used, books on my bookshelf. This is a practical book, filled with solid, step-by-step instructions to help you read quickly, actively, and effectively...
One for the Amazon wishlist.

It would be neat if Amazon would let you wishlist something with the associate information intact so that they would get their cut when you (or someone else) finally buys it.

03/10/2005 22:11 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Simultaneous editing. Bam!

Lately Ross and the SocialText crew really seem to be knocking it up a notch with their spice weasels and delivering a better web editing experience, fostering first Wikiwyg and now SynchroEdit. Very cool guys, thank you.

03/10/2005 21:44 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (Part I)

Do the police publish statistics for:

  1. Number of people stopped in relation to anti-terrorist laws
  2. Specific criteria used for deciding to stop an individual
  3. Whether detained or not
  4. Outcome: prosecution, detention, NFA
This kind of information is vital for oversight over anti-terrorist measures. I can't find it on the Met website either generally or in the FOI publication scheme. If it's not public, why not?

03/10/2005 21:32 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Leviathan's boys in blue

Via The Two Wolves Weblog comes a version, by the chap himself, of one mans story of being arrested as a suspected terrorist for wearing a jacket, carrying a rucksack, and, well, ..., that's about it.

The Police eventually decided to take No Further Action (NFA): ‘a decision not to proceed with a prosecution’. In a democratic country such as the UK, one would be forgiven for naively thinking that this is the end of the matter. Under the current laws the Police are not only entitled to keep my fingerprints and DNA samples, but apparently, according to my solicitor, they are also entitled to hold on to what they gathered during their investigation: notepads of the arresting officers, photographs, interviewing tapes and any other documents they collected and entered in the Police National Computer (PNC). (Also, at the time of this writing, I still have no letter stating that I'm effectively off the hook and I still haven't been given any of my possessions back.)

Maybe I'm an extremist but, if true, this seems piss poor to me. This war on terrorists (necessary, we are told, because of Chairman Blair's eternal war to create as many terrorists as possible in the Middle East) seems too important to leave in the hands of the Met who, although they didn't prevent July 7th or the follow-up did manage to shoot an innocent Brazillian 6 times in the head. [Note I'm not suggesting they could have stopped July 7th, merely pointing out the limits of what we should expect and be prepared to pay for in Anti-Terrorism.]

What about reparations for this mans lost time? For the distress caused to him and his girlfriend? What about his possessions that they have stolen from him without just cause? What about the damage they have willfully done to his identity and reputation?

How can the police get away with wrongly turning this guys life up and down and then walk away from the incident with an airy No Fucking Accountability?

We're definitely in Quis custodiet ipsos custodes territory now. Who is making the police accountable for the powers they are wielding against us? Who is holding them responsible for their mistakes? Who is demanding they make reparations for the wrongs they cause? Who is challenging them to do better and do no harm?

Well, me, for one.

03/10/2005 16:03 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Out of the bonfire of Iraq

Why does Condi Rice think that democracy would wipe away the hatreds that the US and Israel have created in the Middle East? How does she know that Middle Eastern democracy would not uphold terrorism against Israel and the US? In the US democracy is upholding an illegal war based on deceit. In Israel democracy is upholding genocidal practices against the Palestinians. Does Condi Rice really believe that democracy, a mere political form, insures that people and their governments never behave wrongly, immorally, or violently? [Paul Craig Roberts]

This impassioned piece by Paul Craig Roberts expresses the frustration that I feel with British and American states that are, seemingly, in the grip of insanity and taking on the mantle of an unstoppable force.

Out of the bonfire of Iraq new fires will spread and we made it happen.

I despair.

03/10/2005 10:04 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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