August 31, 1999:
software is appearing for Linux now on a regular basis, giving the lie to
the people screaming "open sores!" about free software preventing a commercial
market from developing. The latest announcement I've gotten is for Xess
(perhaps pronounced Excess, though that would be unfortunate in my view),
a spreadsheet written specifically for X11 and Motif. It's only $69, and
now that Sun has purchased Star Office (the kiss of death as I see it) we
need independent vendors to make Linux the peer of Windows in the application
space. For more info, contact the Business Logic Corporation. 519-763-2097.
August 30, 1999:
Scottsdale area code changes from 602 to 480 this Wednesday, and people
are mighty unhappy. (Update your databases for Coriolis and Visual Developer!)
I've heard several explanations for the sudden explosion in area codes,
none of them convincing, but none of them verifiable. Phone companies say
they are running out of numbers, but that's because they're assigning huge
blocks of numbers to regional carriers, many of which are not used. Conspiracy
nuts say the phone companies want us to simply dial ten digits for every
single phone call, so that they can consider all phone calls "long distance"
and charge accordingly. I'm less sure of that, but interestingly, pagers
and cell phones have remained in area code 602. This seems entirely backwards.
I would suggest exiling everything but fixed phones to new area codes, and
requiring ten digits for all pager and mobile calls. This is becoming a
political football in some areas, and I expect calls for regulation in the
August 25, 1999:
to Chicago on family business. Back on the 30th.
August 24, 1999:
funny's going on here. I use Netscape Navigator 4.6 as my usual Web browser.
I have IE5 installed here as well, but I only use it when I come across
some knucklehead's Web site that doesn't load right in Netscape. I have
discovered that if I run IE5, then exit IE and run Navigator, Navigator
won't recognize clicks on hyperlinks. You can load sites from the bookmarks
menu, but you can't click on a link in a site and go somewhere else. This
continues until I reboot the machine, at which point Netscape works fine
again. Anybody else have this happen to them? That IE causes the problem
is plain; I've duplicated the effect several times and it happens consistently.
August 20, 1999:
occurs to me that with the profusion of 24 X 7 high-bandwidth Net connections,
that Internet phone technology starts to make sense. I have a Riparius handset
(which is basically a phone handset with an interface to an amplified sound
card) and keep meaning to try it, now that I'm 24 X 7 both at work and at
home. With the proper software, a computer on a 24 X 7 Net connection becomes
a phone, and can "ring" when someone wants to talk. What puzzles me is that
after being all the rage a couple of years ago, Internet Telephony seems
to have dropped completely off the map. I need to pull out the Riparius
(which itself is a couple of years old) and see if there's some still water
running deeply here. Anybody else have any experience with it? If so, drop
me a note.
August 19, 1999:
bought a thing called NetObjects TopPage, sold by IBM. This is reasonably
good software for Web site creation, but the box rattles most hollowly with
only a jewelcased CD and a license certificate. Surely, guys, for $69.95
you could give me at least a thin little book… The installer commits the
time-honored sin of not putting an icon for the application on the desktop.
This forced me to go find the app and then create a shortcut. Yes, it inserted
itself into my system menu, but so have a thousand other things, and I don't
use the system menu except to execute things I execute only rarely. Shortcuts
are cheap and easywhy not give me one on install? Nuking it is easier
than creating it…especially when the application itself is called nothing
like "TopPage." The application proper is called he40.exe. What I think
we have here is a private labeling by IBM of a NetObjects product not originally
called TopPage. I'd be curious to know what it was, and why IBM might be
hawking it rather than NetObjects. Any clues?
August 18, 1999:
interesting legal complication in the rise of "volunteer" contributions
to directory-type Web sites and Open Source projects occurs when you consider
that, typically, profit-making organizations do not make use of volunteer
labor. Some lawyers are planning class action lawsuits that could lay waste
to such projects, based on violations of minimum wage laws. It's far from
clear that such challenges will succeed, but we have the sort of legal system
that allows lawyers to test the law and wreck havoc wherever they choose
with no risk to themselves. It may come about that only big companies who
have embraced Open Source methodologies will be at risk (HP is doing this
with some of their device drivers) but there's always that "chilling effect"
that tort lawyers bring to everything they touch. Watch this oneit's
the most dangerous thing I've heard of in quite awhile; far more dangerous
than anything connected with Y2K.
August 17, 1999:
been able to raise the Megido Web site for a couple of weeks, and I've come
to wonder if the project is in trouble. (Megido is-or was-a promising effort
to create a Delphi workalike for Linux/GNOME.) Something similar is underway
with the Lazarus project. (http://www.miraclec.com/lazarus/)
Again, it's based on FreePascal 32, but it doesn't have the source code
to an IDE (as Megido does) so they're starting from scratch. As with Megido,
it seems to be the work mostly of Europeans. Delphi has less and less support
in the States, which to me is profoundly depressing.
August 16, 1999:
What will I be doing for Y2K? Staying at home, sitting by my solar-powered ham radio station, and listening to the world as the new millennium sweeps across it from east to west. (We in the west of America get it almost last, so there will be ample time to hear whether the world is indeed caving in, as irresponsible squawkers like Ed Yourdon are warning.) Come midnight we may have some friends over, we will certainly drink some champagne, not to chaos but to the triumph of the human spirit over a great many things.I'm wagering that what problems there are will be minor and temporary, and that come January 2, 2000, we will all go back to work, feeling like something wonderful has happened. The apocalyptics are already looking for the next sign of teleological disruptionthe Singularity, the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012, or the Rapture. (Only the Father knows the day and the hour, boysso shut yer yaps already!) Dare I smile? We have much work to do, and (in my view) millions of years to do it. Love and knowledge. That's what matters. Let us strive to make both infinite, and take forever to do it. The Millennium is only the beginning.
August 12, 1999:
Microsystems sent me a news release announcing that their Free Solaris program
had surpassed 100,000 copies. I've never seen Solaris work and figured I'd
load it on a spare machine here and give it a fair shake. So I replied to
the news release and asked for a review copy. In response, I got the third
degree about whether it was for review or for my own personal use. Excuse
me? Have you guys taken PR 101? (And doesn't the "free" in "Free Solaris"
mean what it usually means?) If you want the press to review your damned
software, send it to the press, and don't flatter yourselves by assuming
that editors are lusting after a third-shelf OS "for your own personal use."
Sigh. These people are fools, and (more to the point) doomed.
August 11, 1999:
Hat went public this morning, going on the market at 12 andby noonreaching
53. It's a good omen for them, and for Linux. It's not that people think
they'll be another Microsoftdo we really need another Microsoft?but
that people think they can take Microsoft down a notch or two, which on
the balance wouldn't be a bad thing. Competition helps everybody. I have
never seen an OS evolve as quickly as Linux, whereas Windows 9x froze solid
in 1995 and hasn't improved in any useful way since.
August 10, 1999:
that more and more people are getting 24 X 7 Internet connections through
cable modems, xDSL, wireless, and so on, I expect that we'll see more and
more "IP trolling" by hackers: Basically Net robots iterating through an
IP block known to belong to a 24 X 7 ISP, noting which IPs are live and
which are not, and perhaps doing some non-destructive sniffing. Very few
consumers have firewalls. Why should they? This is why I shut my machines
down when I'm done with themthe one machine you can't break into is
the one that doesn't have power.
August 9, 1999:
Looks like UCITA passed and was handed to the states, which are accustomed to adopting such things without a great deal of debate. UCITA, if you haven't been following it (and you should) is a mod to the UCC that basically gives software companies the right to take your money and give you nothing in return. Reverse-engineering in any form is now legally actionable. Ohand they now have the legal right to embed a back door in your software so that they can "turn it off" by sending commands to it over the Internet. Which they can do anytime they want, for any reason or no reason at all. What I think UCITA's supporters fail to realizeand most large software companies backed itis that their pet law gives consumers precious little reason to pay for software, and big companies a great many reasons to go with open source solutions.In fact, the last thing you'll want to do now is let software vendors know you have their productleaving you the options of either stealing it, or going with an open source alternative not covered under UCITA. Finally, I don't think UCITA supporters realize the huge red flag they're waving in front of hackers: Companies fought hard for the right to put back-doors in their products, and I'll bet a lot of hackers would love to do it for them, so that the hackers can pop up a window saying, "As of 1/1/2000, SurlySoft Office has moved to an annual subscription model. Please call 1-800-BE-SURLY with credit card information to remit $500 for the next year's use. By the legal provisions of UCITA 1999, we are disabling your copy until we receive payment." It's too late to be careful what you ask for, Ucitans. You just got it.
August 6, 1999: