Archive for August, 2003

Peeling Layers

August 31, 2003

If you don’t read The Onion, then you’re missing out. Actually, you’re a dork and need to press ALT+F4 (Windows) or CMD+W (Mac) tout de suite. The Onion is a consistently hilarious take on current events that has some of the best writers around. Plus, it’s completely free online! Oh, and they feature Red Meat cartoons before they’re available on the author’s site.

Turns out, they’re also making beaucoup argent. Glad to hear it. (We now resume our regularly-scheduled, French-free programming.)

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Apple Site Redesign

August 30, 2003

I’ve been out of town—and thus largely out of touch—for the last week, so I didn’t know that Apple was hiring Jeffrey Zeldman to redesign its site. That’s very nice; I hope it becomes a showcase of excellent design with a full description of the underpinnings. At the worst, it’s going to be better.

Power’s On

August 30, 2003

Today I spent some time at the local Apple store in an attempt to get a new power brick for Thor, my trusty Rev. A PowerBook G4. I succeeded because we could prove that I bought a new power brick back in December 2002 even though I didn’t retain the receipt—or, if I did, it wasn’t handy. Luckily, a brand new $80 power brick has a one-year warranty. The new bricks now feature a three-pronged plug so that Thor is finally grounded (though not for being a bad boy).

This power brick will be treated with the utmost temerity. The first one that broke—the one that arced—was of the flying saucer variety and I used to unroll it like a yo-yo, which was a lot of fun but hard on the connectors. The second one I treated very kindly but wrapped the cord around its holder too tightly, eventually pulling the cord out of the main assembly. Oops. This last one I treated very kindly and wrapped it extra loosely so that it wouldn’t separate. Unfortunately, that didn’t help so I am now going to forego wrapping it at all since I can’t afford to spend another $80 on a power brick. Well, I could afford it but I’ve got better ways to spend my money. If it breaks again, which seems inevitable after try #4, then I’m definitely going to look at third-party power supply vendors since Apple’s bricks are crap.

While there, I lusted over the new 1.8 GHz G5 even though anything less than a Dual 2 is simply unacceptable. 😉 I also investigated a Sony camcorder that was discounted to $499 from $1,199 but it didn’t stack up very well to my current odds-on favorite, the Canon Optura 20. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

Rendezvous

August 29, 2003

Doesn’t this trademark conflict seem odd? Rendezvous is a French word for meeting that has been completely integrated into English. How can it properly be trademarked? Windows can’t, so how is this any different?

Moreover, it sounds like Apple has successfully trademarked the name. How could the USPTO allow Apple to register the trademark if another company actually owned it? I guess I just don’t understand.

Windows Security

August 29, 2003

After the recent Windows security blowup, Richard Forno suggests a security bulletin that Microsoft should release.

I always read the latest Windows security bulletins with a somewhat detached attitude. I’ve never experienced a Windows virus or worm. I’ve got a Windows box at home, but it’s a pretty lightly-used computer. My Windows box at work is situated behind firewalls, proxy servers, and mail servers so that I’m pretty well protected. Plus, I’m not responsible for security on our boxes—we’ve got people for that.

My Mac—currently disabled by a blackout localized to its power supply—is completely unaffected. I didn’t even get any BLASTed emails in the last hoo-ha. Maybe I don’t know many people or maybe the people I know didn’t open worm attachments. I don’t know, but I’ve only gotten a couple of emails from all of these worms and they were at work.

In other words, I largely agree with this guy.

WebForms

August 29, 2003

Speaking of WebForms, they blow. I figured that the company that produced the major disaster known as FrontPage and Word would create a WebForms that was both not bloated and not convoluted. Surprise, surprise: the implementation is both. The alternate way of talking about WebForms that I’ve seen—server-side controls—is indicative of the oddity that it is. Controls are quite the client-side technology and any implementation of controls on the server is wrongheaded. Except that controls aren’t actually implemented on the server, the references to the server-side controls are transformed on the server into client-side representations.

So a call like this <input type="button" id="_buttonPush" value="Push Me" runat="server" /> gets wired to an event handler in the class file or in the code-behind file that gets fired when the button is pushed. Oh, sounds like Flash, right? That’s pretty cool. No, it actually fires off a POST that is automatically interpreted by the ASP.NET receiver, which is always the same page incidentally unless you’re willing to go through some serious gyrations, and routed to the event handler you’ve declared and linked. This is all done to get some fairly marginal benefits, as far as I can tell. It’s very much like <cfform> in this respect since both get you form validation and event handling through weird concoctions of Javascript interpreted on the server side by ASP.NET or ColdFusion.

Frankly, I’d rather write my own code to handle form submissions and I will continue to believe that until I find some unobtainable-otherwise value. I don’t expect that I’ll find any, but I’m going to keep my eyes open. I never found any value to <cfform>, but that’s just me.

WebForms and Guerrilla .NET

August 29, 2003

All that we’ve got left to cover is “Win32/COM Interoperation” and so I figure I’m far enough along to assess the quality of this training (heck, I’ve already completed the instructor evaluations).

This is, without a doubt, the best training I’ve ever been to. The four instructors (Keith Brown, Fritz Onion, Jason Whittington, and Mike Woodring, in order of my personal preference) have all written books—except Jason Whittington—and they’re all quite expert in everything .NET. By and large, they treated all questions as serious and seemed genuinely interested in making sure that the students understood what they were teaching. While this is everything you’d expect in a teacher, most training is taught by training monkeys with little professional experience and no authors. I’m sure they’d like you to learn but their level of learning is pretty low, so you pretty quickly surpass them.

The material is pretty advanced stuff, too. There is so much they covered that went right over my head. But I know that, when the time comes, I’ll be able to consult the training materials and grok the concepts pretty quickly. Plus, I’ve got an excellent foundation on which to build my knowledge. Far too often, when broaching a new subject, I read in a contextual vacuum and so the path to knowledge is far more arduous than it needs to be. By having some context with which to approach a topic, you can deal with the new material comfortably. This course will provide that context for the areas of knowledge with which I am unfamiliar.

I would recommend DevelopMentor courses from my experience with this course alone. I’m sure that the rest meet or exceed the bar set by Guerrilla .NET.

(NOTE: The DevelopMentor people also have made available the book Essential XML Quick Reference for free. Excellent!)

OpenCourseWare

August 29, 2003

Two years ago, I read about MIT open-sourcing its coursework and thought it was a great idea. I went there immediately and saw practically nothing of interest. They’ve apparently been busy these last couple of years. Wired has a great article about how far it’s come and where it’s going. I may just have to look into it to get the computer science education I never had.

[UPDATE: Hmm, the article didn’t give a URL for MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Weird.]

Last Day in Torrance

August 29, 2003

Yesterday’s ASP.NET stuff was most illuminating. I can’t wait to do this stuff for real! Today we’re going over WebForms and events, security, and COM interop. I’m a little skeptical about WebForms, but I’ll give them a shot—they might be better and more useful than ColdFusions’s <cfform> elements. We’ll see.

Need Power

August 28, 2003

Like the East Coast, I am without power for Thor, my PowerBook G4. Yet another power pack burnt out yesterday and so it’s off to the Apple Store to beg and plead for a replacement after purchasing it earlier this year. That makes it my third power pack down the drain since I bought Thor in 2001. My first one actually was arcing and almost caught my carpet on fire—well, it could have if I hadn’t noticed the arcing.

Apple makes great computers, but the power delivery systems suck wind.