July 24, 1999:
Heading back to Scottsdale. Give me a few days to recover. It's been a hot and difficult trip, with Chicago temperatures often exceeding those in Phoenix!
July 23, 1999:
CMP's Windows Magazine is ceasing publication—on paper, at least, and going to an all-online format. This is happening more and more—makes a magazine guy start looking over his shoulder, heh-heh. Paper is expensive, but it has its uses and its advantages. The problem, as with everything, is making it pay.
July 22, 1999:
The Zip drive in my Chicago machine has seized up on me, forcing me to mostly dismantle the machine, yank the drive, and commit several types of mechanical mayhem on it to get it to upchuck my damned cartridge. The cartridge survived without damage, but the drive is toast. Furthermore, I found that this particular drive (which came with the Compaq DeskPro EN that I have here) lacks something that the more generic blue-front Zip drive I have in Scottsdale has: A little mechanical release on the front plate of the drive. You hook a paper clip behind this little recessed lever and pull, and it pops your cartridge, whether power is applied or not. The Zip drives that are shipped as "stock" with special-order Compaq boxes lack this very important little release feature—probably to save Compaq fifteen cents on their UMC. Yet another reason I'm unlikely to buy another Compaq machine. So make sure when you buy a Zip drive, either as a built-in or add-in, that it has the release lever on the front bezel. Otherwise it'll suck an hour of your life just getting your cartridge back when the drive fails.
July 20, 1999:

I finally figured out how to use multiple splitters on a form in Delphi. It's an excellent example of a component that is almost completely incomprehensible based solely on a reading of its documentation. TSplitter is of almost no value on its own, and really exists to intermediate (and provide a GUI "grab point") between two TControls. The trick is to use TPanel components as "turf" on a form, with splitters adjusting the sizes of the panels, and then use the panels as containers for the actual controls a form needs.

The order you drop things on the form is important as well. Here's the short course: Start with a panel, and set its Align property to AlLeft or AlBottom, depending on whether you want to split the form horizontally or vertically. (Most "Outlook" style UI setups divide vertically first.) Then drop a splitter on the form, and set the splitter's Align property to match that of the first panel. (Typically, AlLeft.) Then drop a second panel in the space to the right of the splitter, and set its Align property to AlClient. This gives you the correct mechanism for vertical adjustment between the two panels. You can then drop a component (like a treeview) on one of the two panels and align it to the panel's client area. Sabé?

The general principle is to set one panel to either side or bottom alignment, drop a splitter beside it, and then set a second panel to take all the rest of the available space by aligning it to the remaining client area. What confuses beginners is that setting a panel to AlClient after another panel is first dropped and aligned to a side or top/bottom takes only what space is left—it doesn't seize the whole client area and hide the first panel. You can then recursively apply the process to either or both of the first pair of panels; dividing them by first dropping a bottom-aligned panel, then a bottom-aligned splitter, and then a client-aligned panel above that. Eventually I'll write this up as a short article in VDM—it's a very useful thing to understand.
July 19, 1999:
One thing that hasn't yet been perfected for any email client to my knowledge is some way of carting one's email database between home and work, or (in a general sense) between any of numerous machines where one might pick up email. I used to use a simple utility called Express Assist to cart my Outlook Express messages home at night, but with Outlook Express 5, Express Assist has ceased to work. (Microsoft radically changed the message storage format for V5 of Outlook Express.) I've been tinkering with exporting from the office (my "home" for email) and importing messages at home, using Outlook Express's import and export functions. Alas, you have to delete all the folder .DBX files before importing, or you end up with two copies of every message that was already in a given folder. People have suggested that I just leave all my email archives on the IMAP server, but you have to understand that some of my email goes back to 1994, and I now have over 80MB worth of mail archives, even after constant efforts to jettison what is no longer even remotely valuable. Server space is way more expensive than home hard drive, so I'll keep looking for the ideal solution. Suggestions always welcome.
July 16, 1999:
I installed Outlook Express 5 (actually, it was installed for me when I installed IE5) and found within it an interesting concept: The About box contains a scrollable list of all the DLLs used in the product, with their version numbers and locations. While not necessarily useful when things go well, this might be a very handy thing to refer to if the system starts to act funny. A good idea, and one I recommend other vendors adopt. (An advanced AboutBox software component with options such as this would be a good thing to have.) Outlook Express 5, by the way, is very good. Microsoft has definitely made all the improvements in the UI that I would have wanted, and the software has been fast and robust so far. Of course, I've used it now for maybe three days…
July 15, 1999:
A reader in Switzerland called my attention to the Dream Company, which offers a number of VCL component for Delphi, including the most ambitious data-aware TreeView component that I've yet seen. It isn't as versatile on the presentation side as TeeMach's TeeTree but it makes up for that in its versatility on the database side. A ListView component sold as part of the same package connects seamlessly to the TreeView and basically hands you an Outlook-style display of data classification hierarchy and data items. They have a separate product providing an "outlook bar" and thus allow you to create apps with the full Outlook UI model, which I like very much. I'll have a review in an upcoming issue of VDM. In the meantime, go take a look: www.dreamcompany.com.
July 14, 1999:
The ever-vigilant Ben Sawyer made me aware of www.alltheweb.com, a mindblower of a Web search site that pretty much plows Alta Vista into the soil. In my early tests, Alltheweb brings in between 15% and 20% more hits for any given search term or phrase. Furthermore, it's fast. I've given it the ultimate complement by making it my "home" page within Netscape, and it's unclear when I'll use Alta Vista again.
July 9, 1999:

There are too few Duntemanns in the world, and now we've lost another one. My godmother, Kathleen M. Duntemann, died last night, and I'm off to Chicago this morning and will be otherwise occupied for a few days. Aunt Kathleen was a fixture in our house since before I can remember, buying me books when all I could do was chew on them, reading to me, singing with me, teaching me my ABCs and doing her best to point her unruly godson in the right direction.

I'm still a little numb, and even though her passing was quick and without suffering, it's impossible to cut loose from someone who stood by her guns and insisted that Adler Planetarium admit me when I was only 5 (the rules said I had to be at least six) by telling me to name the planets for the nice man. I did, and then started in on the major satellites. They let me in. Like my legendary Uncle Louie, she believed in me when nobody else did, and debts like that are eternal.
July 8, 1999:
A report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that even the best of the search engines (Northern Light according to the report) indexes only 16% of the Web. This sounds awful, but it leads to another question: Which 16% does it index? If it's the right 16%, that could be a big plus. My experiments with Northern Light indicate that their coverage is pretty much as random as anybody's, and I continue to use Alta Vista. But egad: Suppose you had a search engine that limited itself to sites that were really pertinent and demonstrably about something? That's what we're shooting for, ultimately, with Aardmarks. It'll take a couple of years, though.
July 7, 1999:
I just received an excellent book on the MP3 music phenomenon: MP3 Power with WinAmp, by Justin Frankel, Dave Greely, and Ben Sawyer. (Muska & Lipman, 1999: ISBN 0-9662889-3-9.) It's got the expected information on installing, configuring, and using WinAmp (Justin Frankel is, after all, the guy who created it) as well as creating MP3 files, burning your own custom CDs, and actually programming plug-ins and manipulating ID3 tags. Well-written and without fluff. If you follow the MP3 scene (as I do) I think you ought to have this one. The publisher's Web site is www.muskalipman.com. The current Wired has a special on MP3, though I think it doesn't rank among their best work. Too much personality, not enough business or tech insight. Is this People Magazine for Nerds now? And if so, do we need that?
July 6, 1999:
About thirty people have sent me email mentioning a Borland job posting looking for developers to work on porting Delphi to Linux! Whew. They finally caught on. Will Microsoft port VB to Linux? Somehow I doubt it. Borland could own that market, and cause an explosion of GUI software in the Linux world. Here's hoping they stick to it. I'll report anything else I find out. I don't have any additional information. One possible thing to watch for is an announcement at their developers' conference later this month in Philadelphia. While I myself won't be there, many of my correspondents will be, and they'll give me the whole story. In the meantime, you can go to the job posting and see for yourself: http://www.inprise.com/about/hr/99083.html
July 5, 1999:
As I install and begin to explore TurboPower Software's Orpheus 3 VCL component library, it's useful to note that TurboPower has always shipped its source code with its libraries. No extra charge. And I mean always, all the way back to their first product in 1984. Has it hurt them? No. And I doubt it's a coincidence that their libraries are perhaps the most stable and reliable of any I've ever used in the 22 years I've been programming in Pascal. One does not have to give away the software for free to reveal source code. And one does not seal one's doom by giving away one's "secrets."
July 2, 1999:
Taking a break for the long weekend. Back on the 5th—and it's useful to say here on the eve of the 4th of July that freedom really is behind the amazingly long-lived prosperity we enjoy today. Dumping monopolies, exclusives, tariffs, and other nonsense—that is, allowing citizens economic freedom—is the most potent economic stimulant ever devised. We have a ways to go—school choice and tort reform being the most urgent needs America has right now—but such things are always easier when people have jobs and don't feel like they're teetering on the precipice.
July 1, 1999:
I ran my IBM 560 laptop off a solar panel today, just to be able to say I knew how. Not only did it run the laptop, it topped off the battery as well—not that sunlight is in short supply down here on July 1, heh-heh.