inessential by Brent Simmons

November 2000


John VanDyk: the MetaData Plugin is now at 2.0. New feature: full text indexing. Other features.

Windows 2000 has a feature I don't like. Maybe you know how to turn it off?

It hides less-used menu items with double-chevrons. You click to expose the entire menu.

I want to see all my menus all the time.

Is there a setting somewhere? I'd love to turn this feature off on my entire system, but I'll do it app-by-app if I have to.

Update: I figured out how to do it for my Start menu.

1. Choose Start->Settings->Taskbar & Start Menu.

2. In the General panel, un-check the box next to Use Personalized Menus.

3. Click OK.

Now if I can only figure out how to do it for MSIE 5. It hides my favorites from me.

Update 2: Thanks to Christopher Laco, here's how you turn off that feature for MSIE 5's Favorites menu.

1. In IE, choose Internet Options... from the Tools menu.

2. Click the Advanced tab.

3. In the Browsing category, uncheck the box next to Enabled Personalized Favorites Menu.

4. Click OK.

Gosh I can't stand this feature.


Python.Scripting.Com: Adding to a Manila Home Page.

Jason Levine: the Manila altTemplate Plug-in implements multiple templates for Manila sites.


New site: Python.Scripting.Com.

I revised my Mac OS X and Linux directories. I'm still learning, as many of us are, how to make good directories. At first it sounds easy -- but it's not. Making a directory is easy; making a good directory is a little harder.

It's a good idea to read the DMOZ guidelines. Not all of it applies; some of it is specific to DMOZ. But the parts that do apply are valuable.

Here's what I've learned today:

1. It's easy to over-categorize. If you have lots of categories with just a few links per category, consider flattening the directory.

2. Categories named "Resources" (or similar vague terms) are meaningless. Everything's a resource, right? If you have a category named Resources or Misc. or something like that, you probably want to put those items at the top level of the directory.

3. Consider maintenance. For instance, I had a list of software available for Mac OS X. It would be insane to attempt to make that comprehensive and up-to-date. Instead, I just point to the several sites that do attempt to have a comprehensive list of software. In other words, if someone else is maintaining a list that requires lots of maintenance, point to them.

4. Avoid as much as possible repeating the name of the category in the links. Now, sometimes the category name will be a major part of the name of a website, and you can't avoid it. But when you can avoid it, do so.


We moved some Weblogs.Com sites to another server tonight to help spread out the load. For the moved sites a DNS change was required -- so if you're having trouble getting to a particular Weblogs.Com site, it may be that the DNS change is still propagating. It may take a few hours.

Radio UserLand and Firewalls -- a change was made in what happens when you click the Radio UserLand button to edit an object in a Manila site. It should now work for people behind firewalls.


I posted two new directories: Mac OS X and Linux.

Question: does AOLServer do virtual hosting? I've been over the site, done various searches, and am getting mixed signals. What's the answer?


Here's old sample code for a Java outline displayer that runs in a browser. It doesn't understand OPML, but I bet you could teach it.


This paragraph was posted by Python on Linux. It works.

I'm posting via MacPython and xmlrpclib. Cool. It works.




Last night I installed Red Hat Linux 7 -- and was stunned by the improvements to the desktop. The last Linux desktop I'd used was GNOME on Red Hat 6 -- which, like all other Linux desktops I'd used, was just about unusably ugly. The big problem was the jaggy fonts; the second biggest problem was performance.

But now -- for the first time I'm using a Linux desktop that isn't a piece of shit. Wow! I suspect it's XFree86 4 that makes the difference. Fonts are readable; moving and re-sizing windows isn't totally slow. (Yes, I'm running on the same machine that used to run Red Hat 6, so it's a fair comparison.) I will no longer scoff when people say that the Linux desktop has a chance of becoming fairly widely used. It does have a chance. (By "widely used" I don't mean that I think it will threaten Windows.)

Maybe I'll try installing a modern version of Netscape -- the old version (4.76) that was pre-installed just plain sucks. What a total shame. But I don't want to go into that today.

Speaking of Linux -- here's a pet peeve. I often run across comments sort of like this: "Well, Open Source rulez, because we can just clone Microsoft app xyz in a couple days, no big deal."

The merits of Open Source as a development philosophy aside (it has its strengths and weaknesses) -- this is just brain-dead strategy. If the main or only benefit to Open Source is that you can clone Microsoft products on Linux, then screw it. I don't want Microsoft clones on Linux. People who make those comments either miss the point of Open Source entirely, or they get the point, and the point is petty and stupid. I don't know which.

In other words, hey Linux guys, hey, please don't think of Microsoft as your GUI design lab.

To be clear -- I'm talking about user interface. That GNOME, for instance, has a component architecture inspired by Microsoft is cool. SOAP is cool. Etc.

What I'm saying is, I don't want to use an IDE on Linux that's a clone of Visual Studio. I don't want to use an email app that looks like Outlook Express. No friggin' way. Spare me.

Do better.

David Brown writes: "If all that happens is that Open Source clones Microsoft, then Microsoft has already won."

A reader sent me email reminding me of the reason for doing clones of Microsoft apps -- the idea is to make Linux comfortable for people used to Windows. (The reader didn't agree with this sentiment, btw.) I've heard this argument many times. It's just depressing how with all this freedom and opportunity the first thing some people do is don the Microsoft hairshirt. With that attitude, failure is guaranteed.

New LinuxNewbies tip: Samba: Linux Plays Windows NT Server.


New LinuxNewbies tip: Virtual Consoles: One of Linux's Heaven-Sent Features.


Dave on Bootstrapping the Two-Way Web.

David Brown suggests visiting Wolf Haven. Well, I think maybe I will.

Sheila has a bunch of Internation Space Station links. I'd like to visit there, too.


How to Enable the Manila SOAP Interface. You can script Manila with SOAP as well as XML-RPC -- the handlers are the same, but now there are two protocols.

The Manila RPC interface spec has been updated. Here's an overview of the changes.

A new set of sample scripts demonstrates scripting Manila with SOAP.

On TV last night I watched Return of the Wolf, about the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park. I like shows about animals in the wild, and will pretty much enjoy any of them -- but this one is special, better than most. Thumb's up from this reporter.

It's amazing how much culture wolves have -- they have surprisingly complex social structures and customs. They don't even seem like dogs, they're so smart. One of the best parts of Return of the Wolf was what happened when a wolf from another pack tried to join the Druid pack. There's a testing process that normally ends in acceptance or death for the wanna-be. Apparently this is the first time that process has been filmed.

You can't help feeling a little sorry for the coyotes. They've had to look over their shoulder ever since the wolves came back.

But the most important thing -- something I'd imperfectly understood until I watched this show -- is that wolves, when they're running, when they're hunting, are beautiful. It's not every day you get to see beauty on TV. Cuteness, yes, every day; alluring men and women, perhaps, depending on taste; but actual beauty on TV is rare.


Mac OS X Hints calls itself "Your community-built source for OS X hints and information."


Rain. Nuts. I'm not a Northwesterner, even though I've lived here half my life. I find myself dreaming of tropical beaches, colorful drinks, sunny winters, sunny summers.


MacGIMP.Com -- getting the Gimp to run on OS X. (Via OS X Talk.)

ResExcellence: How to Change the Look of the Dock in OS X.

Question: does anyone know of a good but not totally expensive flat panel monitor that displays at 1280 x 1024 that works with Macs? I don't want to spend $2000 on it. It may be that there is no such animal. (Apple has made a mistake, in my opinion -- they have no flat panel between the 15" and the 22" models. The 15" is too small and the 22" is way too expensive.)

Update: Following advice from Garret, I went here, to check out a deal on the Silicon Graphics flat panel. Anybody have experience with this monitor? Thumbs-up, thumbs-down?


Here's a point in favor of OS X as a Manila server: Apache.


In setting up Frontier on our new Cube -- which runs OS X -- I needed to do something similar to what we do with our NT Frontier servers. Those machines save user-uploaded pictures and other static files to a Linux server running Apache, since Apache is so good at serving static files.

The drawback to that arrangement is that there's another box, at least one Linux box, that's part of the mix. We have to set up file-sharing, Apache, virtual domains. Blah blah blah. It's not usually a pain, except, well, when it is a pain.

The beauty of OS X is that Apache's already there. You can give your machine two IP addresses: Frontier listens on one; Apache listens on the other.

That means: no file-sharing connection needed. No separate box for doing static serving. One machine does it all: dynamic Manila sites and static files.

Now, of course you might say: hey Brent, hold up a sec, I can do that on NT Server or Mac OS 9.

But -- I reply -- Apache on NT isn't that great, not compared to Apache on Unix. And if you use IIS instead, you're going to run into IIS's funkiness with locking files -- there will be times Frontier can't write a picture or other file to disk, because IIS won't let it replace an existing file. So this setup isn't so nice on Windows. (And plus, it's Windows, so you get no style points.)

If you're using OS 9, WebSTAR or WebTEN with Frontier -- well, you're paying extra money. (On the other hand, WebSTAR and WebTEN have much to recommend them, and they're worth the money.) More importantly, you're not using a quote-unquote real operating system, for whatever that matters. (As someone who's been running Mac servers since 1995, and who still runs a couple servers running OS 8.x, I can say that it does matter sometimes. Much as I've always hated to admit it.)

Frontier. Apache. Two great tastes that taste great together -- on the same damn box, thank ye very much.

Peter M. Jansson wrote to let me know that AOLServer also runs on Mac OS X. I didn't know that, but hey, right on.

I'll be more specific about why I think being able to run Apache and Frontier on the same box is cool. While some Frontier server managers have the mondo setup -- lots of servers, racks, UPSes, hot-swappable this and that, automated xyz management, industrial strength squirrel detection -- others don't. There are many who have just one machine sitting in a closet somewhere. For those people, a single, easy-to-use box that does both Manila and static serving is a total bonus.

David Brown suggests it might be possible to have Frontier, Apache, and Zope all running on the same machine with just one IP address.

Phil Suh has been running Apache on NT and loving it.


Question for people running Mac OS X:

I need a file-sharing connection from a Cube running OS X to a Linux machine. It seems like I have several options, but I don't know which is most reliable. (Ease-of-setup is a bonus, but reliability is most important.)

So: what do you recommend? I can install additional software on both the Mac Cube and the Linux machine, if needed.

Update: At the moment I'm trying NFS. So far no good, but docs are scant on getting this working in OS X, so it's probably my configuration. Wesley Felter wrote me suggesting Appletalk. (His advice was to install netatalk on the Linux box.) He also suggests scp, but scp won't work for my purposes.

Second update: I can't get NFS working. It should be very simple. However, on the Mac OS X machine I get the error "mount_nfs: /some/path: Protocol not supported." If I do a showmount -e linuxmachine on the Mac OS X machine I do get a list of my one exported share.

So now I'm thinking about another option: using two IP addresses on my Mac OS X box. One IP address for Frontier, the other for Apache. That would eliminate the need for a file-sharing connection: one box could host Manila and static files at the same time.

Does anyone know how to use multiple IP addresses on a Mac OS X box?

Third update: Apple has a page on using multiple IP addresses with Mac OS X. It works. Now to see if I can have Frontier listen on one address and Apache listen on the other. If so -- then hey, this is pretty damn cool, an excellent reason to make OS X your choice of servers for Manila. But first, dinner-time, TV-time, some relaxation. If you're following this drama as it unfolds, you'll have to stay up late.

Bob. 40. Hill. Over the.

Happy Birthday!


New Manila feature: Open Updates Page. If you're running a Frontier server, Manila sites on your server can be listed on the Updates page. It's a way to build flow for your sites -- but it's your choice to turn it on or not. (It's off by default.)

Happy Birthday André!

Dru Jay asks how has Nader "destroyed his good name?" I reply. Then Dru replies. I'm going to leave him with the last word. (That is, unless anyone else wants to contribute to the thread.)

Though we disagree, I should add that I have a great deal of respect for Dru. I enjoy his weblogs Misnomer and BlueGreen, and recommend both highly.

New Manila feature: Hits by Hour.


Security Alert: A security hole in Manila was identified and fixed today. Please update manila.root asap.

Radio UserLand: Static Sites Tool.


Frontier: How to Configure Gems.


This has been one of the thrills of my life.

I watched CNN for about seven hours straight.

I still have hope that my guy will win...

Sheila: "...aliens would land (as one cnn person suggested), dogs and cats would start sleeping with each other..."

No, not dogs and cats sleeping together!

Here's a theory about why the election is close. It's not that America is evenly divided between liberals and conservatives.

It's that Americans have taken a sharp turn toward the middle. A nation of moderates.

The voting is the result of what Sheila called the "coin-toss effect." If you're in the center, Gore's a little to the left, Bush is a little to the right. Which do you vote for? It's a coin toss.

I'm not saying that any one voter flipped a coin. But in large numbers it's as if every voter flipped a coin.

Here's a consequence Nader may not have intended. Me, I'm a liberal, and I give money to environmental organizations and other liberal causes.

In the future, I'll be checking to see if Nader is involved. If so, no money. It's a Nader boycott.

That guy has destroyed his good name among a certain part of his natural constituency. How large that segment is remains to be seen.

Michael Moore: Stop Bush's Theft of the People's Will! While I agree that the Electoral College is out-dated, I guarantee you that had Gore lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College and the presidency, I wouldn't give a shit about the right-ness of that ancient institution. It would be a sore loser who makes a big deal about it now. (In other words, Michael, please, a little class, please.)



Dewey Defeats Truman! This may be the closest race since 1948. Your vote counts.

I'm not reading any weblogs or other news sources today until after I vote. I cherish not knowing what the exit polls are showing, or what the mood is in each camp. I don't want to know what happened in Pennsylvania (etc.) until after I vote.

Sheila and I will be among the last Americans to vote, since we're on the West Coast, since we wait until after work to vote.

Around 7 we'll take the ritual walk to the polls, cast our votes, then come home and turn on CNN. Until then, I don't want to know what's going on.

It's a psychological thing, there's a euphoria associated with voting for your candidate that's much enhanced when you haven't heard the predictions. I treasure that feeling.

Btw, our voting place is in a church. I find that utterly appropriate.

David Brown asked why wait until after work to vote?

Here's why:

When I imagine the history of voting in America, I picture the factory workers, the farmers, all the working people over all the years of American democracy. They had to wait until after work to go vote. I'm with them. Voting during the day is for rich people, the over-privileged, the elite. Etc. It's hokey, but it's a connection to the past, to the traditions of American democracy.

Me and Sheila, we gotta work. Then we go vote.

We went through the voters pamphlet last night. There weren't many tough calls. Sometimes some of the initiatives are difficult, but not this time. In Washington state the process has been simplified -- look for Tim Eyman's name. That's your first clue. If Eyman's name appears, chances are 99.99% that the opposite choice is both moral and practical. (Of course, you still have to read it and decide -- but I've yet to see an Eyman-backed initiative that wasn't hand-crafted in Hell.)

My weblog is one year old today.

Sheila's weblog is one year old too.


Discussion group bug fixes are listed on today's Frontier News.

Here's a site that makes great use of News Items.

Each News Item is a job listing; each has a category (or department, in News Items terms). There are links to each department at the top of the home page, so you can see the job listings in each.

What I like is that, when we designed the feature, we weren't thinking about job listings. But it works, and the people doing the site recognized that and put it to good use. It's not a weblog, but that's okay, nothing says all Manila sites have to be weblogs.

Lately I've been listening to classical music (on the radio no less, so low-tech of me). I don't know that much about classical music, and don't have much in the way of preferences. (Other than a vague dislike for the Romantics, preferring older stuff like Bach or newer stuff like Bartok and Stravinsky. Whatever.)

You'll never hear me say -- Wow, what an ingenious variation on the Sonata form!

Instead, I enjoy it in a low-tech way. What I like is that the range of melodic invention is so much greater than in pop/rock/blues etc. It's constantly surprising, and a constant reminder that there isn't just one or two or 10 ways of doing things, there are thousands. So it's a mental stimulant, a way of getting the neurons to fire in ways they're not used to.

Fear and Loathing at the Ballpark.


Root Updates Last Update Fix.


New Manila feature: Referer stats.

Where do Bush and Gore stand on that most important of issues, baseball?

They agree that grass is better than artifical turf. But note the difference in language:

Gore: "The smell of freshly cut grass and the beautiful patterns cut into the lush lawn surrounding the rich, dark brown dirt infield have been part of the game since its beginnings and always should be."

Bush: "Grass is better to look at."

I'm tempted to agree with John VanDyk about Bush's DUI arrest in 1976. I don't really care what Bush did in 1976. I myself was often in trouble in 1976. (I didn't do my homework; I liked to fight with the other kids and my teachers; I threw stuff and broke stuff.)

However, Bush makes issues out of crime and punishment, he talks about honesty and integrity -- and so the issue is present-day hypocrisy.

I'll also point to Michael Moore's message of the day: Three Strikes and You're Out, Mr. Bush. "...this marks the THIRD arrest -- that we know of -- involving this man who would be President."

It seems to me that Bush would condemn anybody who's been arrested three times -- unless that person is the Ivy League educated son of a prominent northeastern Republican family.

(I also enjoyed Michael Moore's An Open Letter to Governor Bush.)


MacPython 2.0 has been released. Also, here's Python for OS X.

The Unofficial Darwin FAQ. If you want to lift the hood on OS X, this is a good starting place.

Classic Menu -- Apple menu and processes menu for OS X. I'm considering it.

ID3X 1.0b1 is a freeware ID3 info editor for Macs.

Carbon porting tip: if your app is already using Appearance Manager calls that came in with OS 8, then porting to Carbon is easier. Case in point: there was a bug with scrollbars. We were deactivating them using System 7 routines. Which is fine, nothing wrong with that -- except it didn't work right on OS X. (What happened was that they disappeared entirely, never to return.) So substitute DeactivateControl, which came in with Appearance Manager 1.0, and we're in business.

So the lesson is: if some control is being weird, remember the Appearance Manager. A bonus: you can often do in one call what used to take several calls.

There are some books on my shelves I haven't read yet. Last night I started reading Ada by Nabokov. It's one of the fattest books you could ever hope to read -- 626 pages in a hardback edition.

I paid $1.49 for it.

How did I get it so cheap? See, I used to work for Goodwill as a book pricer. My job was sorting through all the books that came in, throwing out the ones in bad shape (most of them), and pricing the remainder. $1.49 was a high price; most books were priced at less than a dollar. So it was me, I set the price at $1.49. It still has the little green Goodwill price sticker inside the front cover that I placed there.

I couldn't just keep books that I wanted; I'd make a mental note of it, then after work go to the books section in the store and try to find it. It usually took a few days between me pricing a book and its appearance on the shelves. But given that there was very little organization in the books section, I'd have to browse the whole thing every day until I found the book I was looking for.

You'd think -- well, how many people shopping at Goodwill are Nabokov fans? What happens is that book collectors and used-book stores send people to Goodwill every day, looking for bargains. (I'm sure they find lots of bargains.) So the book section got regular comb-overs by people other than me. I was lucky to snag Ada; there were plenty of other books I struck out on.

Only now, years later, am I actually getting around to reading it. But I'm glad I have it. So far I like it.


More Manila and mainResponder bug fixes -- see today's Frontier News.

Carbon porting tip: if your app crashes, and you're in the debugger, and you wonder how the hell it ended up at that particular line of code, about half-a-million lines of code away from where it should be -- it's probably because you passed a function pointer instead of a UPP to something like OTInstallNotifier.

NARAL: "Next Tuesday's presidential election could trigger the repeal of Roe v. Wade and an end to legal abortion in the United States. Most of the candidates differ sharply but sincerely on that issue. Only one is flippant enough about this life-or-death matter to say the end of constitutional protection for reproductive freedom is, to put it as bluntly as he does, no big deal. His name is Ralph Nader."

Planned Parenthood: The Facts About Bush. "Russert: Would you fight for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortion? Bush: I would support a constitutional amendment with the exceptions of life, incest and rape."

NY Times: Nader Sees a Bright Side to Bush Victory.

Here's a letter to Ralph Nader from Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "You have called upon us to vote our hopes, not our fears. I find it easy to do so. My hope is that by electing the best environmental President in American history, Al Gore, we can move forward."

CNN: Battleground States.

Today's BookNotes has lots of good election links.

Garrett writes: "bush is the yellow brick road to real electoral recognition for the green party; the best thing to come along in years."

John Lewis writes: "He advocates Consumerism as long as it tastes great and really IS less filling, like the LABEL says it is, it's got his approval." "These people might as well just say, 'Please Nader, leave the race and I'll give you a BJ.'"

It used to be that Ralph Nader was the answer to a '60s trivia question.

"Alex, I'll take 'The '60s' for four hundred."

"This consumer rights champion wrote Unsafe at Any Speed."

"Who is Ralph Nader."

"Correct for four hundred dollars!"