Archives for January 2007

Contact us (not really)

It's really beginning to tick me off the number of times I have some issue with a (usually large) company who have a "Contact Us" section whose sole function is to reduce, to as close to zero as possible, the chance that you ever will be able to.

CNN have started spamming me and neither their email, nor their site offer a way to get them to stop.

CNN, you suck!

24/01/2007 13:40 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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I didn't elect him so...

...what do I have to do to stop George Bush further fucking up my world? With no better idea I signed a 'Global Internet Peace March' petition.

This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Americans will march on Washington DC to demand peace and justice in Iraq and the Middle East. We can be there too, raising a global voice of solidarity -- through our own worldwide virtual march. Time is short, so add your voice and join the march today!

While it seems like a good cause and their petition is largely about stopping Bush Jong il's latest stupidity which is nothing I have a problem with I have to say that nothing else has made me feel as lazy, decadent, or weak as becoming an armchair demonstrator.

24/01/2007 09:05 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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CSSEdit is the business

A few weeks ago I was mired in trying to fix something in a CSS file and by chance I came across a mention of a program called CSSEdit from MacRabbit Software. I confess that the website put me off a little, it was a little too... well I'm not sure but it didn't immediately grab me, however I was feeling pain and I decided to download it anyway.

I'm very glad I did. It couldn't have been more than an hour after I started using it that I went back to register it and I've been using it for all my CSS needs since then. What CSSEdit does, in a nutshell, is to give you a live preview (using WebKit I think) of a page and download & override (with a local file if it's your own app, e.g. working with Rails) the stylesheet or sheets which can be edited using a smart, auto-completing, text editor as well as a comprehensive set of inspectors.

The highlights for me are that it acts as a CSS reference auto-filling much of what you normally type in. But also giving you structured inspectors with an "unchanged" feature that lets you revert a change back to nothing without editing. This alone makes it much easier for someone like me to tinker with the properties trying to figure out how to get the effect I am looking for (e.g. experimenting with floating, margins, and padding).

The X-Ray feature is nice but not as good as Firebugs inspector or XyleScope's advanced inspectors, however it gets the job done and I think developer Jan has some improvements on the way.

But CSSEdit also gives me something that I was never able to manage on my own. The group feature, it's priceless! It uses comments to organise styles into nested folders and will move styles around the file appropriately. This makes comprehending the stylesheet so much easier.

What I love most about CSSEdit is that it has allowed me to up my game in terms of designing my own pages. Where before I felt completely helpless now I feel I can at least begin to emulate some of the things that I see and like in other peoples web apps.

One area where CSSEdit needs to work better is in it's relationship with Rails development mode. In development mode Rails automatically tacks a session id to the end of URLs to ensure that caching doesn't take place and you always see the latest version of your styles, Javascript, templates, etc... This is a great Rails feature. Unfortunately it also plays havoc with CSSEdit's matching of a stylesheet name to an overridden stylesheet so that it works, sometimes. It's not a huge problem as a reload typically brings it back into alignment, but it could be smoother and I hope Jan will find a way to address it.

All-in-all if, like me, you're not a CSS wizard I'd heartily recommend giving CSSEdit a try. $30 is a steal for this app.

22/01/2007 12:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

End of an empire at last?

The one good thing that I think may come out of the Afghanistan & Iraq twin-debacle is that I am now hearing some open debate about Britains role in international affairs and some sense that we are not the worlds policemen and nor should we be. I'm hesitantly going to call this progress.

I think a lot of people hark back to the second world war and, because our intervention at that juncture in history seems so pivotal (in what way it was pivotal seems to me irrelevant to the point, I think it's more important to consider how it seems to people), conclude that we must keep poking our noses into every piece of mucky foreign business to avoid world social collapse.

To my mind the evidence does not support this point of view and that, when you look past the propaganda, interventions are closely related to the economic interests (expressed in open terms or in terms of political or strategic importance) of the intervening party and often fuelled by the underhandedness of the governments involved.

Whether or not people subscribe to my thesis I am encouraged by more open debate about what has, in the past, seemed to me to be a given. Perhaps the next time our government and tabloids bay for the blood of some foreign party more people might be prepared to dissent and ask "Cui bono?"

13/01/2007 14:50 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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FuseFS is the business

Okay they may be evil and they may hate me but I can forgive Google a lot (today at least) for helping to bring FuseFS to MacOSX. The ability to do:

sshfs ~/mnts/domain -oping_diskarb,volname=Domain

and have a disk icon for my remote Unix host pop up in Finder, cd into it from iTerm. Very cool.

I built MacFUSE using the HOWTO instructions with a small variation in that I already get gettext and glib2 via ports. I installed the ports version of pkg-config (the version that you build into /usr/local won't find your port installed libraries).

One more thing I needed to do was remove the -arch ppc instructions when building sshfs. This is because my ports installed glib2 was not universal causing linker errors.

To be sure it wasn't entirely smooth. The first time the kext got loaded the entire MacOSX GUI hung (while each Fuse filesystem lives in userspace the kernel extension has a longer reach). I also had one Finder hang which required a couple of attempts to get the Finder relaunched. But, as they say, this is quite an early release.

All in all though MacFUSE is great.

13/01/2007 00:07 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Give it a rest

Please - universe- let all the sterile ranting about "will the iPhone this" or "the iPhone doesn't that stop." It's more boring than all the "will there be an iPhone" chatter before MacWorld.

12/01/2007 18:18 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:


John Perry Barlow writes:

"I am happy because we are happy. Much contentment arises from a sense of family, community, and connectedness."


12/01/2007 11:08 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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The invisible search

One of the perpetual bugbears i have with Safari is that I, when I use ?-F to find, I can never actually see where the results are on the page. It highlights them but in such a tepid way that I find it impossible to pick out on a dense page.

Does anyone have any tricks for improving this? (No "Use browser X" suggestions please, I have 'em all).

11/01/2007 10:32 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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I've never met a Microsoft product I liked

Okay it's not quite true... I quite liked OneNote. However Om Malik writes (about Gates' presentation at CES):

Microsoft’s vision does look quite tasty. Tasty enough, that this time it might actually happen.

Frankly I don't relish a future dictated by Microsoft - a company that is singularly unable to produce anything really functional, tasteful, or pleasant to use. Apple isn't perfect but Microsoft's products are terrible. Just look at Vista, here's what Information Weeks John C. Welch had to say:

Microsoft still can't manage to make something simple and easy to use. Vista reeks of committee and design by massive consensus, while OS X shines from an intense focus on doing things in a simple, clear fashion and design for the user, not the programmer.

and this is a product they've been working on for SIX YEARS. Think about it, if Microsoft didn't have the monopoly muscle to force Vista on system builders (and ability to end-of-line Windows XP) do you really think Vista would be a going concern?

08/01/2007 20:53 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Pimp my fire

Chris' latest project 'Play with Fire' is now available.

As a flaming hot ball of fire, you can burn and melt blocks of many different materials, and soar high above the world – before slamming down and exploding in a blast of intense heat. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can stop you. The hotter you become, the higher you can jump. The hotter you become, the more you can burn!


The controls are intuitive, and simplicity themselves: you move with the arrow keys, jump with Shift, and slam down at your current location with Ctrl. The challenge of the game lies in puzzle-solving, not interface mastery.


Play With Fire is, as a result, an unusual combination of a rigorous and theoretical approach to game design--along with a firm intention to create an easily graspable, intuitive game capable of appealing to a broad audience.

If you're looking for something fun & different it could be worth your while to take a look!

05/01/2007 19:38 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

All that's left are negatives

Interesting article from the BPS research digest on left/right survey bias:

Our bias for the left-hand side of space could be distorting large-scale surveys. Past research has shown that when people are asked to bisect a horizontal line down the centre, most will cross the line too far to the left. This leftward bias is thought to stem from the right hemisphere – it plays a dominant role in allocating our attention and is also responsible for processing the left-hand side of space. It may also be related to a cultural tendency to read from left to right. Now Andrea Loftus and colleagues have reported this spatial bias could be distorting survey results.

You should definitely read this if you are doing any surveys using scales like strongly disagree <---> strongly agree.

01/01/2007 15:42 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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What does "Don't be evil" mean?

Been reading scattered pieces on the Google are they evil/hypocritcal meme. Google say their motto is:

"Don't be evil."

This doesn't mean "be good" or "do good" or "make sure good things happen." As a motto it's pithy but actionably weak. If we consider another phrase, attributed to Edmund Burke, we can see why.

"It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph."

We can see that evil does not only spring from the actions we take, but also from the actions we omit (and presumably most likely from our omissions to do good). Anyone who has observed any significant amount of human politics understands that often the most powerful forces act indirectly. Where they wish to do harm they do not do so themselves but allow others to do it for them, their omission is not to stand in their way.

Hence, Google's motto is meaningless.

01/01/2007 14:13 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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C&C goes OpenID

I followed Simon Willison's instructions and, after creating an account with MyOpenID, Curiouser and Curiouser is now OpenID-compliant. This means that, in future, I can login to any open-id site with my blog url: I've tested it and it seems to work.

Some interesting points. A site using Open-ID can request additional information about you (which you can decline in whole or in part) and, at least with MyOpenID, you can maintain different profiles.

This is identity management that will work for geeks today and, I guess, after some Typepad/WordPress gloss it will work for everyone soon. Identity2.0 is, I guess, here.

01/01/2007 11:28 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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