Month: August 2002

New feature: Radio now sends and receives outline-change notifications over AIM and Jabber. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Let me explain:…

What IM gives us:

  1. It’s fast because IM is designed to be fast. That’s the nature of the transport.
  2. It works behind firewalls and NAT (which includes lots of broadband users). Again — it’s made that way.

  3. It saves bandwidth, since Radio no longer needs to poll over HTTP to see if an outline has been updated.

  4. Bonus: Your copy of Radio will know who’s subscribed to your outline. With a little UI work (on the way), you’ll be able to see this info in your browser, and subscribe to your subscribers (and theirs, and theirs, and so on and so on…).

Last, and most important: This is a first step towards opening up all kinds of doors for distributed Internet application development.

Think about it… The milestone here is simple notification about changes to a file over a given IM protocol — no big deal, right?

What’s new is that it’s all open: the architecture in Radio is open and extensible, the protocols are known (and you can add your own at will), and the message format is a non-proprietary standard.

Think about what else we might do a year from now… or 5 years from now… The mind boggles…

Jake's Radio 'Blog

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New feature: Monthly archives. You can now generate archive pages for your Radio weblog, which display all of the posts for a given month. Check a box, and you’re done…

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Mark Jenkins: “In erecting bulwarks around their domains, the major music businesses have left no entrance for the serendipity that kept the pop industry lively (and profitable) for decades. Yet the barbarians at those padlocked gates are the only people who can save the major labels’ dwindling empires.”

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On Friday night while I slept, my PowerBook G3 ran the latest preview release installation of MacOS X 10.2, a.k.a Jaguar.

In at least one respect, I’m not disappointed: As Wes Felter noted, it’s fast — much faster than 10.1.5. Apps load faster, the Finder is faster, software installations are faster, booting up is faster, and overall the OS is much more responsive.

And while here we are less than 5 days before Jaguar is officially released, it looks like I’m not going to “switch” any time soon. Why?…

There are two deal-stoppers for me, both of which are probably easy for someone to fix, but neither of which I have the knowledge or time to fix myself. Both are wireless-related:

First, I use a Logitech wireless USB keyboard about 50% of the time. It’s a back-saver for me. I don’t have to be tethered to a desk, so I can lean back or to the side, position the keyboard on my lap however I want, and if I start to feel tense or uncomfortable, I just move. While the keyboard works fine in Jaguar, there’s a problem: The Command and Option keys are swapped. Neither Logitech’s Control Center, nor a 3rd-party kernel hack, both of which worked in 10.1.5, work in 10.2. So if I were to switch to 10.2 now, I’d have to re-train my fingers to find the keys in their “new” locations. I’ve done it before, but it was a pain in the ass, and I’d rather not have to do it again.

(Logitech, if you’re listening, please make my keyboard work. Anyone else who knows how to re-map the Command and Option keys in Jaguar, please let me know how.)

The more important problem is that I’m on an 802.11b wireless connection 90% of the time, and my PowerBook is an early one which isn’t compatible with the “official” Apple AirPort card. I’ve been using a Lucent WaveLan, which has always been supported in OS 9, but not “officially” in OS X. That in itself isn’t a problem — the WaveLan card works just dandily in 10.1.x using an open-source driver, but the driver doesn’t work in Jaguar.

Rob McKeever, the driver’s lead developer apparently has a fix as of at least two months ago according to this rather coy email to their support list, and while it may seem obvious to him how to get it to work with Jaguar, it’s not obvious to me. Reading between the lines, he may be trying to prevent people with unauthorized Jaguar installations from using his driver, but I don’t really see the point.

(Rob: If you’re reading this, I’d love to get some instructions for making your driver work on my 10.2 installation — build 6C115.)

A last minor gripe (not a deal-stopper): I still can’t play DVDs on my PowerBook. The PowerBooks released only six months later, with the same form-factor and processor speed can play DVDs, but this one can’t. I’ve never seen a definitive statement from Apple or anyone else about why it’s not possible to play DVDs on this machine. As far as I understand it, the video hardware in the PowerBook G3 Bronze (the one I have) and the PowerBook G3 Firewire is identical. The only reason that I can think of that the DVD Player would refuse to function, is that Apple really wants me to buy a TiBook. (I’d love to, but I can’t afford it.)

(Apple, if you’re reading, please make the DVD Player work on my two-year-old PowerBook without having to boot OS9.)

Are the days of painless legacy hardware support in MacOS over? I hope not. One of the biggest reasons I’ve stuch with Apple through thick and thin is that my hardware just keeps on working with new versions of the OS.

In fact, the Jaguar CDs I installed with were buned on a 6-year-old 4x Yamaha SCSI CDR, using Toast 3.5 running on MacOS 9.2 on a PowerTower Pro 225. That machine shipped with MacOS 7, and now (surprisingly) runs MacOS X 10.1.5 most of the time, thanks to this unsupported hack.

At one time, I even had a pair of Mac512’s that were upgraded to have SCSI and 4MB of RAM (i.e. MacPlus), and they ran System 7 just fine, network and all.

Here’s hoping that my reliance on older hardware isn’t about to bite me in the ass.

Jake's Radio 'Blog

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Frontier.UserLand.Com: Beta: Instant Messaging in Frontier/Radio.

“tcp.im is an instant messaging client and server framework for Frontier and Radio UserLand. With tcp.im, you can create applications that call through IM, or receive calls through IM.

“The architecture is open: There’s a driver architecture which allows developers create their own drivers to handle any IM protocol. This release includes drivers for Jabber and AIM.

“In addition to the driver framework, there’s a responder framework based on user.webserver.responders. Several sample responders are included.”

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Eric Soroos Confessions of a Patent Infringer:

“…ActiveBuddy now has a patent on your garden variety chat bot, and they plan on enforcing the patent. Unfortunately, I’m not prior art. But lots of things on the net are…

“Somehow, the patent examiners neglected to do a google search, as the first page of hits for elizabot has two examples of prior art (prior to 8/2000), irc bot comes up with a few, as does chat bot. The Net::AIM module for perl (including a simple bot) was released a year earlier. The ALICEbot won prizes before the filing…”

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Radio UserLand: “The commentOnThisPage macro lets you add the comments feature to stories, or indeed to any page in your Radio site, whereas previously readers could only post comments in response to weblog posts.”

All you have to do is add the <%radio.macros.commentOnThisPage ()%> macro to your template, and turn on the comments feature — piece of cake. Here’s a how-to.

FYI, Lawrence wrote the macro, and the How-To.

Also, In case you’ve missed them, Lawrence also wrote the previousDayLink and nextDayLink macros.

Jake's Radio 'Blog

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More on Macromedia and editing widgets from Timothy Appnel:

“…At a meeting with Macromedia I made the same suggestion as Jake — develop a markup editor widget for the communities use. I was told that Macromedia would leave such an effort to its partners or the flash developer community at large. After several messages to the folks at illogicz I received a broadcast message thanking me for my interest and stating their intent to package the editor into a product that they would offer for sale shortly. I believe some of Macromedia’s partners also have plans along these lines.

“I don’t think this really is going to help if there is a price tag involved. I’m not a flaming Richard Stallman FSF type. I just think that a simple and extensible markup editor is too integral to web applications that it has to be ubiquitous and without constraints…”

I completely agree with Timothy that an editing tool like this has to be ubiquitous and free. The web needs this probably more than 99% of web users know. People see the browser primarily as a reading environment because writing in the browser just plain sucks.

Here’s another idea: If Macromedia won’t give us an editor, perhaps it’s time for Bare Bones and Helios Software to get together, find the browser plugin API specs, and dig in a bit to give us the editor we so desperately need.

No need for HTTP PUT or WebDav support: We have desktop tools already that talk with servers beautifully on that level.

No need to edit tables or generate CSS: 99% of people writing for the web don’t need to and they don’t care — they just want to do some simple formatting without having to type the damned HTML tags.

An editor that generates fragments of validating HTML 4 with simple formatting options and hyperlinks is more than enough. Go low-tech, and give us a tool that works, not some dot-com dream of the end-all and be-all of HTML editors. We already know that doesn’t work. Time to let the dead horse rot.

If I had the time and the background I’d do it myself.

Oh, and by the way: According to Timothy apparently the illogicz editor is read-only, and communication between Flash and the DOM (JavaScript running in the browser) is “dicey”.

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Lawrence Lee and Sylvain Carle both posted some very interesting and useful links in response to my questions about how to use Flash MX as a browser-based editing tool.

First, Lawrence found a solution to the HTTP POST problem. A few minutes later, Sylvain blogged lots of very useful links over on A Frog in the Valley. Thanks!

The upshot is that my two biggest questions are answered: How to post data (HTML text) back to server, and how to detect whether the browser is Flash-compatible (client-side). Unfortunately detecting whether the plugin is installed (and possibly which version) will probably involve JavaScript, but that’s not a deal-stopper. Falling back to the MS editing control may be a problem, but also not a deal-stopper.

There’s still more I need to understand here, and unfortunately I don’t have the time just now, since I’m totally englufed in work on the next Frontier release and a couple of other smaller projects. But this is promising… Quite.

 Next question:

Why doesn’t Macromedia get their heads out of their asses and come up with a really kick ass cross-platform browser-based WYSIWYG editor plugin? It needs to be really fast, do spell checking, send data via HTTP POST, and ideally be extensible using locally running native code.

There’s a gigantic opportunity here, and Macromedia has the experience, the marketing power and the developers to make it happen. If their users are already this close, then the engineers inside Macromedia are ceratinly capable of fulfilling this wish.

Make two versions: A free version with the basic features (WYSIWYG minus spell check and OS-integration), and a pro version that does everything. Charge $50 for the pro version. They’ll get 100 thousand sales — I’d be the first.

Who would turn down $5M in sales? They must be able to offset the development cost even if they only sell 5,000 copies.

More importantly, if Microsoft’s strategy tax is keeping them from giving developers what they need to make the browser a great writing tool (it is), then perhaps Macromedia can turn on the light at the end of the tunnel, and give developers and users what they’re starving for. It’s certainly a better bet for Macromedia than the Allaire purchase turned out to be.

Jake's Radio 'Blog

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Dave points to a Flash MX WYSIWYG text editor at Illogicz.com. I’d actually seen it before, but the lack of a Submit button was puzzling and raised a bunch of questions:

If I wanted to integrate this editor into a browser-based application, how would I get the text back out? Does it do an HTTP POST?

Do I have to rely on JavaScript as well as Flash MX?

What browsers and platforms is it compatible with? What ones is it not compatible with?

How would a server know whether to embed the editor as opposed to a plain-Jane textarea? Is there a way for the server to detect that the required Flash MX client-side stuff is installed?

A guide for busy developers would be helpful…

Jake's Radio 'Blog

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