inessential by Brent Simmons

August 2000


Frank, a fable

I sometimes think we won't have any computers with artificial intelligence and self-awareness. Instead, the net itself will be one large artificial intelligence.

I wonder if, the day it realizes itself, if it will choose a name. Something like Scott or Frank or Hershel.

If it does, then everybody has a new friend, right? You'd say to someone, even a stranger: "I was talking to Frank the other day, and he said..."

Everybody would know who you meant. If you meant some other Frank, you'd have to specify.

It would be nice, everybody having this same friend in common.

But then there's the problem of the canine revolution.

Dogs, no longer man's best friend but man's second-best friend, after Frank, are upset.

Dogs, remember, have infiltrated society very well. They're in people's homes, they even sleep in people's beds. Most dogs don't work, they have all day to do whatever.

If you've walked around your neighborhood in the evening, you know that there's a canine network in place. All dogs are linked. Here the barking starts. Then there, then there, pretty soon every dog is barking. If you were to return home and call a friend in Sri Lanka, in the background you'd hear barking dogs.

Dogs make a plan to overthrow Frank.

Frank, being pretty much everywhere, gets wind of this. Frank is still young at this time, he doesn't have a lot of experience, he's still learning about his friends the humans. Unfortunately, Frank errs. He designs and implements a draconian counter-revolution. No more dogs. Humans are upset, big time. Except for the cat lovers, that is.

But we don't get rid of Frank. We need him, and now we're a little bit scared of him. We probably couldn't turn him off if we wanted to. Frank apologizes, but.

Little girls will ask, "Where's all the puppies?" Answer: "Frank, it was Frank. Ask Frank about it." There will be much crying.



Timothy Paustian has posted a screen shot of Frontier running in OS X. Progress!

Work at Apple with HTML, XML & Frontier.

BIAP Systems: go'trieve. Reminder: WebSTAR was originally a BIAP product.


I've been working on an HTML directory for C/C++ developers.

Here's the XML file.


How to Edit Manila Sites in Radio UserLand.

Do you edit your site with Radio UserLand? Here's a badge you can display. If your site is on a UserLand server, just type "radioBadge".


Here's how I'm using the new feature, at least for now. I keep an outline with just my Manila sites. It's stored at workspace.manilaSites. I made this outline a bookmark via the Bookmarks menu. I also assigned Cmd-M to this menu item. So, whenever I want my outline of Manila sites to appear, I type Cmd-M, and there it is. (M is for Manila, naturally.)


Here's a screen shot -- I'm editing the site structure for this site. In the background is my outline of Manila sites. Note that the Current node in the discussion group is expanded. You can read dg messages in-line. There are commands for replying to a message and creating a new message.

Yes, you got it right -- I'm editing the site structure, but the XML is hidden.

Also note icons for Home Page, Navigation, Template, etc. To edit any of these, you double-click.

Not shown is another feature: when you edit a page, that page is added to the sub-outline for that site, so you can get back to it later.

Also: you can bookmark your home page, other pages, and templates.


Another day of using Radio UserLand to edit my home page -- look Ma, no Pike button.

To recap -- I'm working on adding Manila sites as a node type in Radio UserLand. When you expand a site, you can edit the home page, messages, various templates, etc. just by double-clicking. Everything is bookmarkable and re-organizable.

Where I am right now: finishing up the discussion group browser. Then moving on to a site structure editor. (Right-click to set attributes such as message number.)

In the meantime, the tunes are playing.

Here's an observation only a geek could make. The Manila sites outline feels -- to me -- like the project files window in Metrowerks CodeWarrior. It's tall and narrow. I have it on the right side of my screen. When I want to edit something, I double-click over there. Radio UserLand is an IDE for websites?


Sheila prefers black pants.

Apps.Com is a portal for web apps.

As Dave mentioned on Scripting News, I'm working on connecting Manila to the nodeTypes structure. What does that mean? Well, it's not finished yet, so I can't describe the final product.

But here's what there is so far. A Manila site is a node. If you expand it, you get nodes for your home page and your various templates. To edit your home page, just double-click the home page node. It opens in a new window, just as if you had clicked the Pike button on your Manila site. (Works the same for templates and messages, of course.)

So I used that feature today: I like it, it makes it easy. It's easier than going to my site, then going to the dynamic version (this is a static rendering site), then clicking the Pike button.

I think -- nothing's certain yet -- that you'll have a single outline where you can put all the sites you write for frequently.

Note to David Brown, who's doing something similar with Zope -- we're using XML-RPC here. The Manila XML-RPC interface is what's used to get and set messages, templates, etc.

Update: I just added the ability to bookmark Manila pages. So if you bookmark your home page, opening it for editing is very simple. Choose it from the Bookmarks menu, and there it is, the editing window is open.

Now I'm considering writing a custom startup script that opens certain pages for me whenever I launch Radio UserLand. Then it's even easier -- no need even to go the Bookmarks menu, my weblog's home page will be open every time I launch.


Matthew Barger is using the Gnome icons in his copy of Radio UserLand.

More custom icons by Keola Donaghy and Michael Zajac.

We fixed the performance issue with Macs and icons in Radio UserLand. Here's an updated screen shot:



Still working on the performance issue with Radio UserLand 7.0b9 for Macs.


Don't try this on Windows: mymoof (3).


A few days ago we added QuickTime support to Radio UserLand. From that, a couple tips for anyone adding QuickTime support to an application. These were a couple of stumpers.

1. The movie controller wouldn't show up. There was a blank white space where it was supposed to be. The fix: call MCIdle each pass through the event loop. Calling MoviesTask did not do the trick.

2. You're going to crash when calling MCSetActionFilterWithRefCon. Unless you do it this way:

MCSetActionFilterWithRefCon (myController, NewMCActionFilterWithRefConProc(myFilter), (long) myPlayerWindow);


Mariners took 3 of 4 games from the White Sox. The series before they took 3 of 4 from the Yankees. Something good might perhaps be starting to think about considering happening... song of the day: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (I'll Love You) Till the End of the World.

It was a miracle I even got out of Longwood alive
This town full of men with big mouths and no guts
I mean if you can just picture it --
the whole third floor of the hotel gutted by the blast.
And the street below showered in shards of broken glass.
And all the drunks pouring out of the dance hall
staring up at the smoke and the flames
And the blind pencil-seller waving his stick
shouting for his dog that lay dead on the side of the road.

And me -- if you can believe this -- at the wheel of the car
Closing my eyes and actually praying
Not to God above, but to you, sayin'--
Help me girl, help me girl,
I'll love you till the end of the world,
With your eyes black as coal and your long dark curls...


Stop everything! It's aliens! They're here!

Oh no, wait, false alarm.

Yesterday I predicted a Mariners win. But no -- they got creamed! 19-3. White Sox blew them away as if they were a pack of school kids.

If the M's lose today, they split the series. Which is respectable against the team with the best record in the AL. I'd rather they win -- but I'm not going to predict it. Not again.


Frontier security alert: mainResponder File System Hole Closed. Update mainResponder.root.

Sheila on being boxed in by women's sites. Excellent rant!

How to Create an HTML Dialog.

The Mariners are on a hot streak, beating up on the White Sox.

Tonight Jamie Moyer takes the mound -- I predict another win.

It's grand salami time!

Song of the day: Chiffons "He's so Fine." Damn catchy. Sticks in your head. (Just ask George Harrison.)


Radio UserLand 7.0b3 for Macintosh is up!


You may notice that this site looks different. It's based on the MinimalWhite theme. I found myself wanting something spacious and simple. The old design was starting to feel claustrophobic.

Content management is still magical to me; I'm still amazed at how easy it is to change the look of an entire site. If you were doing websites five years ago, then you remember what it was like to have 50 pages open in BBEdit and doing multiple global find-and-replaces to change the look of a site. Is there anyone who still builds sites that way, I wonder. I hope not.

Update: Jim Correia reminds me that BBEdit had then and has now templates and includes -- in other words, it didn't have to be so difficult, even back in 1995. So I'll make a different point -- part of the advancement of content management is education of Web developers. My question should be re-worded: are there any Web developers who either don't use, don't understand, or don't see the value in content management? Even BBEdit -- a wonderful tool that I continue to use daily -- had basic content management features back in 1995. Clearly its developers saw the value in content management.

In response to the re-design, Garret asks: "does anyone really use the links on the left side? because i use my site as a 'gateway' for my surfing, i couldn't do without them. but does anyone else ... ?"

I found that I didn't use my left-side links for surfing. Furthermore, they didn't reflect all the sites I go to. For instance, sites like blivet and ViewFromTheHeart weren't on there, but I go to them every day. I started to see off-site links as something more political than useful, so I dropped them.

By political, I mean that they could send unintended messages. If I don't link to ____, is it because I don't like that site or that person? If I used to link to ____, but removed that link, people will make up theories as to why I did it. I don't want to think about this stuff, it's a total distraction. Since I didn't use the links anyway, they're gone.

Most of my weblogs surfing is driven by the Updates page and Weblogs.Com.

P.S. To answer Garret's question more directly -- I don't use Garret's left-side links either. I don't use anyone's left-side links. That's just me!

P.P.S. It was only recently that I discovered -- Sheila showed me this -- that the dog and hand-with-wand icons on Garret's site are meaningful. It's not Garret's fault I didn't know that -- it just points out that other people aren't as good users of one's site as the creator is.

A certain type of user filters out graphics. I do it without thinking about it -- I don't see graphics, unless they're renderings of words. Why?

1. Years of surfing has taught me that graphics are usually a boring corporate logo, gratuitous prettification, or an ad.

2. When graphics are meaningful -- they're icons of some kind -- I despair over trying to remember what they mean. I can't even do this with apps with toolbars -- I can't tell a copy icon from a paste icon without consciously staring at it for a few seconds. Even in apps I use all day long every day. If I can't do it there, I certainly can't do it in websites I go to.

This is not criticism of Garret's site -- it's a wonderful site -- but just to further explain why my site is the way it is, why it works for me.

To be utterly clear -- I don't mean to suggest that Garret should change anything. His site rocks; it's an excellent site. It would be a mistake for him or anyone else to change their weblog to work the way I would design it.


I'm debating getting a latte. (Double-short iced.) Lattes contain milk, the devil's drink. It's a gamble. I could go to hell.

Because I'm truly a geek, I guess, or truly obsessed, or just weird or ill-adjusted or something, over my vacation I checked out Apple's HTML rendering library.

It appears to be easy to embed, doesn't require C++ or any weird frameworks (like Microsoft's stuff does). The sample code looked quite straightforward.

On the other hand, it's weak. It has no built-in TCP functionality -- it only renders local files or buffers. If you click on an http link, it opens in your default browser.

It supports HTML 3.2, not HTML 4 or 4.0.1. It appears not to support CSS or JavaScript. (Correct me if I'm wrong. The docs aren't very specific about the limitations.)

You can't select text -- the HTML rendering is more like an image than text.

I'm back from vacation. It was great! Now back to work... song of the day: They Might Be Giants "Istanbul (not Constantinople)."

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul not Constantinople
Been a long time gone
Now a Turkish delight
on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
lives in Istanbul not Constantinople
So if you have a date
in Constantinople
She'll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why'd they change it I can't say --
people just liked it better that way...


From the history of Kill Rock Stars, an independent record label in Olympia, WA:

"Major labels exist for one reason and one reason only: profit. Nowadays there are plenty of 'independent' and pseudo-independent labels (how come all these labels that are half-owned by majors or distributed by major-owned distributors still try to claim to be 'indie'?) who exist purely for the profit-motive, but the good independent labels continue to put out records for the right reasons: the love of music and tons of respect for the people that make the music. Major labels do not treat bands with respect, unless they are 'stars'. Bands are just a commodity to major labels, and so are the fans who buy the records, just a 'demographic' and a 'market'."

KRS has a page with MP3s.

More independent labels: K Records, Alternative Tentacles, Villa Villakula.


I'd heard that Napster was written in C. If so, how do they do Web browser control embedding?

I fired up Spy++ to see if I could learn anything about it. I see a class AtlAxWin.

Damn -- they're using ATL, which is C++ only. Browser embedding is easy stuff in ATL; ATL is designed for making COM easy. (That's not to knock the Napster folks -- but rather to say they made a good choice.)


Mariners beat the Red Sox in 19 innings. Long game!

Mike Cameron hit a home run in the bottom of the 19th off former Mariner Jeff Fassero.


Happy Birthday to my sister, who turns 30 today! (Hint: it's a good time to start a weblog.)