Monday 31 May 2004

revisiting adobe livemotion

In a response to my recent adobe upgrade policy unacceptable post, designer Patrick Lauke,
who is the designer of one of my most favorite CSS Zen Garden designs, “Door To My Garden” expressed these thoughts:

“i was particularly annoyed about them dropping livemotion. i absolutely despise the user interface of macromedia flash . . . the whole workflow of [Adobe] livemotion seemed a lot more intuitive to me.”

Whoa. Heavy words, Patrick, but I’ll ride with this. I personally view Flash as a formidable and important specialty within web design and development. I do, however, completely agree that Flash has always had interface problems. It’s just not that intuitive. So the learning curve is high, and it takes a special kind of thinking to master it. Adobe LiveMotion always appealed to me because it was extremely intuitive.

“very annoying. for better or worse, i’m now stuck with using macromedia’s tool of the devil, and hating every mind-numbing UI decision along the way.”

I liked LiveMotion. I thought it had legs. Tool of the devil? That’s a bit dramatic, but I have always been disappointed that Adobe didn’t try harder. I know that LiveMotion had many strong evangelists early on, but the software just seemed to get lost after that.

Got an opinion on LiveMotion and Flash? Be a Flash in my comment pan below. You never know what you might illuminate.

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Friday 28 May 2004

adobe upgrade policy unacceptable

In yet another licensing drama it appears that Adobe is refusing to honor registered licenses on non-current product versions. This, despite the fact that it appears as though nothing exists in those end-user licenses that states the license becomes void upon release of a new version.

So if you’ve purchased an Adobe product version via download from Adobe’s site, and a new version has been out for a certain time, and you have a problem with that product, Adobe will not honor your license. You will instead have to upgrade to the newer product version, for a typically healthy upgrade fee.

I purchased Adobe Acrobat 5.0 for its full price of $249.00 U.S. about a year or so ago. I opted for the download rather than add on the more expensive media version which cost 20 bucks more. Today, I had a need to reinstall my product. I went into my account, and found that I was expected to upgrade to the next version if I wanted to continue using the software. For Acrobat, that will cost me an additional $99.99 U.S.

I called and spoke with a courteous and helpful party at Adobe who promised to bring my questions to corporate eyes. She took time with me to answer what questions she could, and even looked with me through the licensing. It will be interesting to hear what, if anything, Adobe corporate has to say in response to this matter.

As I see it, there are several critical problems with any kind of forced upgrade, for any software product:

  1. A licensed, registered product should be available to the licensee. If I have to reinstall that product, and I have a currently legal license for that product, the company has an obligation to support my license.
  2. A product version can be incredibly important in some cases. Often, people prefer a specific version for a given reason. From an educator’s standpoint, if I’m writing a book or tutorial on a product, I may want to include version differences for readers. Without a specific version of something, I’m at a loss to do that if I can’t access earlier versions.
  3. Forced upgrades place hardship on low-income individuals and organizations. Think about libraries, non-profit charitable agencies, low-income schools and underfunded social agencies around the world. Many such agencies have valid reasons to be using version-specific software, such as hardware limitations.

One reason that Adobe claims to pull downloads of past products off of their site has to do with memory. But c’mon! Storage is pretty damned cheap these days.

Maybe Macromedia gets better mileage out of their storage media? It does strike me as curious that Macromedia makes downloads available on all purchased products via their online store. Right now I can download any version of any product I have ever purchased from Macromedia’s store directly from their store.

Commercial entities such as Adobe have a responsibility to honor their clients. Considering that there are more than a few ways to get to products less honorably than handing out thousands of dollars of my hard-earned money, it seems to me that if I act honorably, so should the company with which I’m dealing.

Of course, we do live in a world shaped by Microsoft whose only honor these days seems to come in the form of a robed figure from the U.S. Department of Justice. Maybe I’m just being idealistic and self-righteous. I know, I know, that’s very difficult to imagine.

Should I just shut up, pay my $99.00 for the upgrade, and be done with it?

Too bad there’s no GIMP equivalent for Acrobat.

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Posted by:   site admin | 06:38 | Comments (21)

Thursday 27 May 2004

netscape browser back again?

Old news or for real this time?

Evan Hansen reports on c|net today that AOL will release a new version of the Netscape web browser. The browser will be based on Mozilla 1.7.

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Posted by:   site admin | 03:02 | Comments (8)

Tuesday 25 May 2004

sex, caffeine, & rock n’ roll on the info highway

jacking into the internet

If 14.4 baud modems, Fidonet, and PPP v. SLIP strike you as funny you’ll want to check this out.

I’ve started a new category on the site, called Flashback. In it, I shall post articles, experiments, and other weird things I did on, with, or for the web. All the Flashback entries will be work that is now five (or more) years old.

First up? An article I wrote for the Tucson Weekly (print), Ready to E-merge. I had a column there called Line Noise which covered music and the ‘Net. This was a feature in the Weekly’s musical insert, Big Noise.

It was 1995.

I was a much funnier writer back then. Or, maybe it was the venue. Sexual innuendo and pop-culture references seem to be easier to sell to music publications.


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Monday 24 May 2004


cover of teach yourself movable type book

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Sunday 23 May 2004

mt blacklist tips from the master

Well Jay Allen just proved that there are still true gentlemen roaming the earth. Upon reading my rant about comment spam, he rewrote my blacklist to clean up cruft and made several suggestions about my list in comments which I felt would be helpful to move into a more public spot for readers interested in improving their lists, too. Here are Jay’s tips:

  1. Remove ALL leading periods from domains. By putting them, you are REQUIRING a subdomain, which makes it harder to match obvious spammers.
  2. Remove all /’s from the end of domains. By including them, you are requiring a slash which makes it harder to match obvious spammers.
  3. Don’t add a three-part domain to your blacklist when the two-part domain is obviously a spammer. You have a lot of these and you end up just racing the spammer in creating more free subdomains.
  4. You can use the power of regular expressions far more than I can on the master blacklist. In fact, if you look at my personal blacklist, it’s only got 606 entries on it and I hardly ever get spam.
  5. Submit your spam to the clearinghouse. While you already got the spam, I can at least add it to the master if I know about it. Plus, I will make sure to add the most effective form of the domain and not #1, #2, or #3 above giving you more protection in the future . . . It’s a nice feedback loop, but only if you use it.

So thanks Jay – this is really helpful information and I appreciate all that you’re doing with mt-blacklist.

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Saturday 22 May 2004

death to the comment spammer

Despite the fact that I have the most recent version of Jay Allen’s blacklist, that I have amassed a blacklist of my own that currently totals 1587 entries (as opposed to the 1238 on the official blacklist), I have been so badly attacked by comment spam in the past few days that one flood actually brought the web server currently sits on “to its knees.”

Please help me! If I’m using the tools I’m supposed to be using (with the exception of upgrading to MT 3.0 and implementing comment registration which I will not do) what else can I do to ward off these evil-doers?

Unfortunately has long been the target of spam. I have had the domain for a very long time, so my email is overwhelmed too, but I’ve got some good tools helping me manage that. I have a big site, with lots of posts and lots of open comments. I seem to be a massive target and it’s dragging me down. Deep down. I get so much joy from having this site and even more joy from interacting with the good people who visit that turning off comments is simply not an option. But I need more skills and I need more tools to battle this evil.

I’m currently considering closing all old comments but this goes against the open discourse I’d like to be able to keep alive on older comments – some of the most active discussions on this site take place on older posts. I’ve looked into the CloseComment plug-in, which will swoop in and close comments automatically based on my date configurations. But it appears to have a flaw, and that is I can’t override a given post’s closed or open status manually. So that means my only known alternative would be to close those posts I feel are reasonably tired by hand. That would be almost as time consuming as waiting for MT rebuilds!

Any help you have to offer would be, well, helpful. Right now, I’m debating whether I think comment spammers should be shot on sight or offered a long, slow torturous death for brutally and with no regard for human decency marring the experiences of so many people much less having the power to bring web servers to their knees, thus striking at the very heart of the Internet.

Yes, I’ve decided. Slow and torturous. I am filled with extreme rage toward these nameless people. Until I get the personal happiness of meeting one of you evil spammer filth in the flesh and administering said punishment, I raise my fist to the heavens and I curse you, spammers. I curse you, I curse you, I curse you.

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Posted by:   site admin | 10:36 | Comments (17)

Tuesday 18 May 2004

in the wake of things to come

Items of interest:

  • You can read about all the web celebrities moving over to WordPress at photomatt’s.
  • You can read today’s W3C / Atom meeting minutes. Simon Willison found the document difficult to read, so he created a nice style sheet to apply to make reading the discussion less painful. Main topics of discussion: Is Atom appropriate for the W3C?, How would it fit into the W3C’s infrastructure – working group or activity? Also discussed was expected time to recommendation. No questions were answered but new ones were asked. Like you’re really all so surprised by that.
  • My friends in the eastern United States are being plagued by cicadas. These aren’t the kinder, gentler cicadas we enjoy down here in the desert every summer. O-o-o-oh no. These cicadas will eat your children.

I’ve taken to timing my Movable Type rebuilds and de-spamming procedures. I’ll provide some stats once I’ve got something worthy to report.

Hat tips: Simon Willison, Matt Mullenweg, and someone’s blog I read too early this morning to remember. Got a “Cicadas Ate My Children” story? More gripes on MT, RSS, RDF, Atom and any other two or three letter combo? Deposit in comments, preferably sprinkled with four letter combos to relieve the monotony born of acryonyms and abbreviations.

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Posted by:   site admin | 03:09 | Comments (8)

Saturday 15 May 2004

six apart responds to movable type 3.0 outcry

Anyone in the blogosphere who’s been watching the Movable Type 3.0 Developer Edition saga of the past few days will be happy to know that Six Apart has revised its position regarding licensing and is expanding options for the free version.

Specific points in the revised structure I found interesting:

  • Anyone who has donated 20 dollars or more to Movable Type in the past will be able to apply their full donation to this release of MT 3.0.
  • The Personal Edition will now allow 5 weblogs instead of only 3. There is no nagware in the edition, so how you actually use the Personal Edition is based on honor.
  • You can add 1 new weblog and 1 new author for 10 additional dollars. You may purchase as many of these as you require, of course.

It does appear that Six Apart was admittedly surprised by the response :

One of the most valid comments we heard is that the personal licenses do not work well for many people who are currently using Movable Type. This surprised us because in a survey of 2500 people, a whopping 85% of respondents had 5 of fewer weblogs or authors.” – Mena Trott

While many people remain upset, suspicious, or unfulfilled by the compromises, I applaud Six Apart for responding honestly and openly to the public response. Many people advocated their original position, still, it must have been pretty awful to be on the wrong end of such profound backlash. Six Apart could have said nothing, let the ragers rage on until they tired themselves out, and stuck to their original plan. But they have retained an open dialog and have responded very quickly with a compromise. The desire to remain communicative and community-oriented appears to be very much alive at Six Apart, and that’s reassuring.

In terms of the good folks who wrote in or blogged concerns about the Teach Yourself Movable Type book that Porter Glendinning and I co-authored and which is hitting the shelves just this week, it’s interesting to note this bit:

We would recommend that, if you’re not the type of person who likes to tinker with Movable Type or would require a installation, you hold off until the general release. We won’t be providing installation services for 3.0 (we’ll still install 2.661) during this period to reinforce that this is a period for diehard Movable Type users.

Many thanks to those folks who were concerned for the welfare of our book, it was really awesome to find that a significant number of people were genuinely concerned about our position in all this. For now, I’ll be sticking to the 2.661 release here at, at least for a few months. After that, I’ll be making the decision whether to upgrade, or to move to WordPress, which I’m personally interested in for a number of reasons. WordPress fans, now’s your chance to convince me.

Hat tip: Radio Free Blogistan.

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Posted by:   site admin | 05:03 | Comments (22)

Friday 14 May 2004

momentary lapse of music

Away from the debates now, I’m spinning:

  • Pangea – Mangbetu Girl
  • Porcupine Tree – Heart Attack In A Lay By
  • múm – Please Sing

Got music?

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Posted by:   site admin | 05:16 | Comments (11)

Thursday 13 May 2004

days that change everything

I’ve often joked that being in the interwebnet industry invariably means having days where things radically and abruptly change the course of what it is we’re doing. I’ve had a few days like that in the last 11 years, but today’s news has me spinning and it’s only mid-afternoon.

To begin with, the W3C has made a public statement regarding the syndication format, Atom. As many readers are aware, syndication formats have been in an insane state of flux since their emergence, with so many splintering factions that there are deep holy wars surrounding the concern. Recently, Robert Scoble pointed to WaSP and wondered where we were in all of this. My opinion? There is no standard to advocate yet, and it’s not our holy war. We’re still fighting for people to understand basic concepts in HTML and CSS for crying out loud. No disrespect, Robert, but like any volunteer organization, WaSP has to pick its battles. If Atom comes under the auspices of the W3C, I know we’ll be revisiting the issue.

While the W3C doesn’t have Atom just yet, many people, Tim Berners-Lee among them, are convinced that the W3C can provide the most organized and relevant support as the format moves forward. How this will play out is anyone’s guess, but right now this news is definitely big-time important and web developers and bloggers need to be paying attention.

Six Apart has released Movable Type 3.0, and has stirred up even more controversy than imaginable with their licensing fees and restrictions. One weblogger writes “I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back.” I have to admit I was pretty shocked to see the price tag for this once free for personal use, 35 dollar public license software. Now, they want a lot more of your money, and their free version allows only 1 user and limits the number of blogs you can create to 3.

Ironically, this week is the release of Teach Yourself Movable Type in 24 Hours by Porter Glendinning and me. Needless to say, we’re kind of concerned as to what these developments mean for our book and our readers – it’s a really good book for beginning users, but of course it’s based on pre-3.0 versions. In a bizarre way, we might end up more fortunate for the high pricing of the new Movable Type because people won’t be as quick to upgrade. Of course, they’ll also be looking at completely free and friendly options such as WordPress and Textpattern.

Finally, in far less controversial but still impressive news Digital Web Magazine has lived up to its long-time promise (four years now?) of a full redesign. The results are really quite impressive, and a lot of credit goes out to Nick Finck, the Digital Web team, and the designers and specialists who took time out of their busy days to offer their volunteer services to bring the new site to fruition. So pop the bubbly, and congratulations Digital Web on your fancy new clothes.

Hat tips: Matt May, Matt Mullenweg, and Nick Finck. Please deposit comments, complaints, opinions and excuses in the comment section below. This site not powered by Movable Type 3.0.

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Posted by:   site admin | 02:50 | Comments (15)

Tuesday 11 May 2004

cell phone stupidity (part 1)

It’s not like this is a new gripe. But yesterday I had no less than three encounters with stupid, obnoxious people doing stupid, obnoxious things with cell phones.

Maybe travel accentuates these stupidities, I don’t know. But here are the three things that really confounded me:

  • I’m in Dulles airport waiting for my plane. President Bush is speaking to the nation live, and people are gathered around in the area by the TV to listen. In the midst of this crowd is a middle-aged man with a booming voice talking away on his cell phone, ordering his minions to do this and that. So instead of hearing the president (try to) speak, we’re listening to this loud-mouthed man, completely oblivious to everyone around him.
  • I’m in Denver airport which for those of you who’ve never been is one very very very long airport. My plane lands at gate B2. My connecting flight (naturally) is at gate B61 – the entire opposite end of the concourse. People are rushing to catch connecting flights, most using the moving walkways. Suddenly, like a cat who makes a snap decision that it must be somewhere else in the house right now this guy just stops walking. Why? At that moment he decided he must find his cell phone and make a call. So now he’s stopped, and people are trying to squeeze by him. He fumbles with the phone and it slips out of his hands. At this point, an elderly lady bumps into him and nearly falls. A man reaches out to catch her, which causes a domino effect of people bumping into one another and one small child caught in the melee to get whacked in the head by someone’s backpack. The guy who started all this drama never once looked back, or apologized, or even showed the slightest indication that he was aware of what havoc he’d just caused.
  • I’m in the ladies room doing what ladies do in those rooms. What on earth is with the need to have a phone conversation in a public restroom? I’m seeing this more and more and it’s a deeply disturbing trend. Woman gets into the stall, pulls her panties down to do her thing, and promptly takes out her phone to make a call. So not only does everyone else in the restroom trying to do their thing have to be party to her pee – splattered conversation, but what of the poor person on the other end of the line?

Please, please, unless you’re very ill or dying or in some dire predicament, please don’t ever call me while you’re on the toilet, okay?

Got a cell phone story? Gripe? Suggestion? Park it in the comment section below.

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Posted by:   site admin | 04:48 | Comments (19)

Sunday 9 May 2004

document tree favelet

Now this is a pretty cool story. Eric Meyer and I were training some AOL developers this past week, and we were lamenting the general lack of tools that render document trees of HTML and XHTML pages. There’s Mozilla’s DOM inspector, which is pretty cool, and Dreamweaver MX 2004 offers the Relevant CSS panel which is also pretty cool. But neither are lightweight fly-by-the-page treemakers.

In the back of the room, I heard someone tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard, which can be very distracting to both attendees and instructors. So I made a broad statement that folks should restrict their computing to breaks and lunch. Little did I know that a sneaky developer was back there writing the very tool we lamented not having.

So without further ado, I introduce you to the Document Tree Chart Favelet and apologize for interrupting creativity in action.

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Posted by:   site admin | 03:57 | Comments (15)

Friday 7 May 2004

skew you!

You are very bad children. Because of announcements on the textpattern and wordpress sites and IRC channels, a whole bunch of bloggers decided to use my poll as a mine-is-bigger-than-yours opportunity, totally skewing anything resembling normal results from the general readership here. Of course, I’m not really mad because a nice side benefit is that some new people are reading my site, which always makes this blogger feel happy and cared for.

While I publish the poll mostly for fun, it does serve a certain purpose for me as I try to get an idea of the way site visitors feel about various issues pertaining to the web and life.

So, which do you think is the better option regarding the current poll?

  1. Keep the poll up for another week and see what happens just out of curiosity
  2. Re-run the poll again sometime in the future
  3. Fuggetaboutit

Please deposit your response and any additional thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted by:   site admin | 10:52 | Comments (19)

Sunday 2 May 2004

comments about comments

Comment systems. Some people love them. I’m one of those people, because I think it’s fascinating to read them. Some people hate them. Take Steve Champeon at WaSP for example. He once said something like “Molly, if you even think about opening up comments on the WaSP site, I will slit my wrists and bleed to death first.”

Setting up comment systems is getting easier and easier, thanks to blogging tools of course. Managing comment spam, while no joy, is also easier thanks to good souls on the planet like Jay Allen. Some long-time bloggers such as Eric Meyer are just dipping their toes into commenting. Other bloggers get more comments a day than they know what to do with and are considering closing comments down, or finding better ways of managing them.

Do you find yourself the type of person who loves to comment on blogs? Are you a person who reads blogs but hardly ever comments? (If you are one of those, go ahead and try right now – I dare you).

And what of those of us who offer comments? Are we nuts? Attention-seeking? Maybe we’re just interested in people and conversation. Or maybe you’re like me, perpetually starry eyed about the modern marvels in which we live. I like to imagine that we are creating new tribes via a common bond by offering community through our blogs.

Please share your comment on comments by simply selecting the comment link below.

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Posted by:   site admin | 05:35 | Comments (35)

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