inessential by Brent Simmons

March 2001


This article at Low-End Mac asks if OS X means the end of email app diversity on Macs, since Apple bundles an email app with the OS. Well I'll be damned before I switch from my beloved Eudora to that, that thing, which ships with OS X.


In what has become a yearly ritual, I exchanged birthday greetings with Josh Lucas this morning. As my grandfather says: Birthy Hapday!

Sheila has a bunch of fun birthday links for me today.

Thanks, Dave, for the slideshow! And thanks to Melissa, and of course to Al for the note on, and to everyone else who wished me well. Merci beaucoup.


One year ago today was Manilapalooza. People tell me I had a good time, but all I remember is that the devil was there, and he made me drink some infernal potion...



OS X is shipping! Right on.


I don't know about you, but I think Ezri is way cooler than Jadzia. Ezri rules.


Mir's down. Excuse me, I've got something in my eye.

Melissa Simmons: "Oh, you smoke? Really. You had a baby when you were 19 years old? That's... young. You're divorced? Twice? Oh, sure. Hey. You're a Mormon. I see."

Radio tip: how to be 10 minutes ahead of everyone else. Go to the Prefs page, and set the time to do a scan to 50 minutes after the hour. If you then go to your Radio site right after the scan, you'll update 10 minutes before everybody else. Why is that cool? It just makes you seem fast. And it means when other people pick up your channels on the hour, you'll have the news first. "Oh, I could blog this," they'll say, "but it looks like, as usual, John Doe already beat me to it. How does he do it?"

Better still -- it means your scan isn't competing with everybody else's scan which is running every hour on the hour. So your scans run faster.

Here's a picture I dig from Sheila's site. Here's the story (from a year ago this month) it's attached to.

Crazy doodling or is there some logic to it?

I don't like to think of it as going gray, I like to think of it as going blonde.


Here's my Radio-driven weblog: Brent's Mac OS X News. The content of the weblog is mirrored at the bottom of -- scroll all the way down. Radio users can subscribe to the channel: just search for my name on the HotList page. Or use this URL.


Melissa Simmons: "I work for a startup. You know, a startup." (Yes, Melissa is my sister.)

Notice: we'll be taking down the server running ManilaSites.Com sites tonight at 10 p.m for maintenance. It will be down for about an hour.

Update: ManilaSites.Com is back up.

Eric Soroos: jsp proxy responder.

Rumor: Scott Bakula is negotiating for the lead role in the next Star Trek series. Oh boy!

If someone asks you who created the world, you should be honest and tell them the truth. It was Chuck Berry.

Oh nuts, we've been found out. What should I do now? I think: panic.

Sometimes you get lucky and you get on a streak where your dreams are really good dreams.

Remember that awful story about the monarch butterflies in Mexico?

Last night in a dream I was looking outside at the back yard. More than in real life it was a tangle of trees and flowers and vines. I saw a monarch butterfly. Then I saw another one. And a third. I started counting.

Suddenly my eyes focused and I could see there were thousands of monarch butterflys in my back yard.

I turned and called to Sheila: They're here! I was so happy that they'd escaped, they're alright now, and they've come to stay with me and Sheila.

It was a great dream, heart-breaking only now when I'm awake.


Me, I'm fixing bugs today. Watch Frontier News for progress. Or, better yet, subscribe to it. (It's on the Hot List page in Radio.)

MacCentral: Radio tunes Internet publishing to desktop users.

blackholebrain: "You've got mail, you stupid fucking moron."

This Frontier dg thread is cool. Partly because it's users helping users -- but also for the solution. A person wants Tomcat to generate JSP pages behind Frontier. Tomcat's port must remain hidden -- the person doesn't want other people to connect directly to Tomcat. So the solution Ken Dow came up with was to have Frontier call Tomcat via HTTP and return the result.

One of the bummer parts about software development is the boring housekeeping and futzing you have to do sometimes. Yesterday I got my Mac OS X release candidate CD. Cool -- I immediately installed it on three machines, including my development environment. But now, once again, I can't debug. I went down this road when I installed Mac OS X public beta -- so I know there's a solution, I just can't remember what it is. Oh well, I'll find it.

But then I noticed there's an update to CodeWarrior, and a new Carbon SDK and new Universal Interfaces. Ugh. So yet more downloading and installing and futzing. Nuts.

Unfortunately, according to the paperwork that came with the OS X CD, I can't talk about it. But if you look around you'll find lots of sites talking about the release candidate, so you're not missing anything by me not talking about it. And anyway the official release is just days away.

Le chat me regarde. Aujourd'hui le soleil brille.


Sheila's got the scoop on Mir's fall to earth.

It reminds me of my favorite movie of all time, Until the End of the World. "1999 was the year the Indian nuclear satellite went out of control. No one knew where it might land. It soared above the ozone layer like a lethal bird of prey. The whole world was alarmed. Claire couldn't care less."

It also reminds me of Skylab. I remember watching on TV when I was a boy, wondering where it was going to land.

And then there's that old Billy Bragg song: "I saw two shooting stars last night/I wished on them but they were only satellites/Is it wrong to wish on space hardware/I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care."

Radio Bug Fixes 03/18/01.

If you live in the Northwest, stop what you're doing and turn on Fox Sports. The Mariners are leading 2-0 in the first inning (at this writing). They're hitting singles and doubles. Edgar Martinez hit an opposite-field double off the base of the wall. It's a beautiful sunny day in Arizona. Freddy Garcia -- the Chief -- is pitching. Freddy is making the Cubs look like little girls. Leetle gu-wuls.

Update 2:40 p.m.: Mariners go on to lose 6-2. Well that's baseball for ya.

Oliver Wrede: Golden Rules for Newbies to Frontier and Radio UserLand. I like this alot -- it's very cool to see people write perceptively and intelligently about any technology, and it's doubly cool when it's your own products being written about.


Random book recommendation: The Mezzanine is one of my favorite books ever. Fun and funny, and different from anything else you've ever read. When you arrive at the Pearly Gates, you'll be asked if you read it, and if you say no you won't be allowed in.

Sheila has a cool Radio weblog.

Sheila is a volunteer tester for UserLand. Here's what we do -- she downloads Radio, or whatever the product is, and goes through the whole process just like any other user. The difference is that she narrates her thoughts out loud and I watch and listen. It's one way I learn about the product and the docs and so on. I don't help. This way I can see the stumbling blocks.

But here was a funny moment.

At one point she was turning on upstreaming. She remarked that she was afraid of "the cloud" -- it sounded so nebulous, I guess, and she didn't know what it was. So I pointed to a computer sitting about two feet from her mouse hand. She jumped back in her chair. The cloud! Okay, so Sheila's not just any other user. But still these sessions are valuable.

Her Manila weblog was originally a test site -- she tested Manila shortly before shipping. She liked it so much she kept the site.

I don't recall everything that came out of her testing Manila, but here's one thing. She was really confused about the shortcuts generated for pictures. We were doing something like generating a name like "picxxx," where xxx is the msgNum. This way we could have unique names. She really wanted the shortcut to be the same as the title she gave the picture. That's how she expected it to work. So this was one of the last changes we made to Manila before we shipped it in late 1999. And it's a change I'm damn glad we made.

I would give anything to be able to sing like Frankie Valli. That huge range, that sound, tough and vulnerable. If you haven't listened to his version of "Stay" lately, crank it up. You won't believe your ears. The thing to know about the Four Seasons is not only can Frankie sing, but the band rocks.


I was at Microsoft yesterday, at the Hailstorm Design Preview. I'm under nda, so I can't talk about it. When I can, I probably will. It's a story worth following, even if you're not a Microsoft-watcher, because it's a Web story, there are larger themes involved.

In the meantime, Robert Scoble has some reporting about it.

I'm going to write about religion, but I'm not going to say anything controversial, so it's safe to read on. I'm also not going to reveal anything about my personal religious beliefs.

The word agnostic interests me -- it seems to me that the meaning of the word is drifting.

The common meaning is that an agnostic is one who neither affirms nor denies the existence of a deity.

But the word means something different than that -- an agnostic is the opposite of a Gnostic. A Gnostic believes that God is knowable.

An agnostic believes that God is not knowable.

Agnosticism is a statement about knowledge of God, not about God itself.

In other words, an agnostic is not someone who says "I don't know if God exists or not." An agnostic says "It's impossible to know if God exists or not."

That's a much bolder statement than a statement of being unsure. An agnostic is very sure.

There are several subtly different meanings for the word agnostic even at Dictionary.Com. But note the Word History section: "The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning 'without, not,' as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic."

So if you've been calling yourself an agnostic, you might want to double-check. Do you deny the very possibility of knowledge of God? If not, then perhaps you're a skeptic, Deist, or simply undecided.

(I first became interested in this word when reading the later works of the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick -- a modern-day Gnostic. Good stuff, definitely worth reading.)


The Mariners game is televised tonight. Shew. Baseball again. At long last I can breathe.

IRS Records was the greatest record label ever. I miss it.

it's a neat trick how
   if you break up your sentence
like a poem
   it seems more profound
than it is really.
all lower-case
   is also

When I was a boy I thought there was a connection between mica -- which we found along the stream beds in the forest behind my house -- and fingernails. Both were sort of clear; you could split them and peel off a layer.

The science of childhood: like things are connected.

An article at Kuro5hin about having to wear suits: Monkey See - Monkey Do.

Unlike many people, I don't think suits are a priori bad. Look at Humphrey Bogart or your favorite ska band -- cool guys, looking fierce in their suits.

But it makes me think about what I wear to work.

When I'm working on Radio -- which is all cutting edge and P2P-ish and all -- I dress totally in black. I'm going for a relaxed cool, a la Isaac Mizrahi. I say "fabulous" and "chic" alot.

When I'm working in Frontier and Manila -- old friends -- I dress comfortably, in tight leather pants and a sharkskin shirt.

When I'm working on the kernel, my outfit is somewhat metaphoric -- I'm going to the heart of things, stripping away all the layers. So naturally I'm buck naked. Plus I like the feel of the leather chair under my butt.

Of course, right before Sheila comes home I switch to jeans and a T-shirt so she won't think her husband is a freak.


I've got sunshine on a cloudy day.


I like the moment right before sleep, when your stomach feels light like you're swinging on a swingset, and the the in-and-out of your breath is like the back-and-forth of the swing, and finally you jump off to float in the warm air.


Sheila's always had it in for know-it-alls. I never thought about them much as a type until she told me about them. I have it in for know-it-alls too.

They're young, in their teens, 20s, or 30s. They answer every question. They volunteer answers even for questions they haven't been asked. They always act like they know more than everybody else. They never ask any questions -- unless it's a made-up question to prove how deep and original a thinker they are. Or unless the question itself is an attack of some kind, and they don't really care about the answer.

Difficult, shaded moral and ethical questions are always very clear to the know-it-all. They tend to be true believers in something. Lines are always very clear and hard, there's no room for the actual complex anarchy of life in their thinking.

They're intolerant for sure, lacking in empathy, and tend towards cynicism, reserving praise only for the objects of their faith.

Know-it-alls are almost always men, but not always; even if they're women they tend to be condescending to women, who they apparently think are good creatures who just don't know things.



To friends and family who keep asking -- "Have you released yet?" -- the answer is now -- Yes!

Click on the coffee mug. Read, download, have fun.

You have no idea how tired I am. I've been running on fumes for the last few days. I don't know what it looks like from the outside, but from the inside we're just a few guys who work very damn hard.

But now is a critical time too -- we call it follow-through. You don't just release and go to sleep, you listen to the users, work with them, answer questions, refine docs, fix bugs.

It's still work, but it's less stressful than shipping.

I felt like doing a tour of sites run by Manila and/or Radio, to see what's cool here in early March 2001.

This is a totally subjective and pretty random thing -- I know I'm missing some pretty cool sites. You can always post on the dg or send me email. It's likely I'll do more tours in the future. They're fun.

You probably already know about some or most of these sites, but hopefully some of them will be new to you, or worth a second look.

Sheila's Web Site
She's not just my wife, she's a better weblogger than I am. You won't usually find lots of acerbic opinion or links to the latest disasters -- instead, her mission is to find the fun and funny stuff. Mariners links are a bonus.

If you haven't been scobleized yet, you will be. Robert Scoble is a fairly new weblogger who's coming on strong.

Glenn Fleishman, a fellow Seattle-ite, has been there and done that -- and he's a good writer. Real good. Adjectives-escape-me good.

Disturbing Search Requests
Theory: the best sites are either personal sites that cover lots of topics, or collaborative sites that cover a single topic. This is the latter type -- and what a great topic. Worth at least one visit a day. It's my favorite freakshow.

Adam Curry's Weblog
Possessed of one of the all-time great taglines -- "There are no secrets -- Only information you don't yet have" -- this site is one of the earliest joint Manila/Radio productions. Good links from a guy who loves the Web as a medium.

This site is the reason why drugs are illegal. (Oh, I'm so totally just kidding. Mike's a good guy, though his brain is so massive and dense that nothing, not even light, can escape it.)

Dig PHP? You're not alone. This wildly popular Web scripting system is nicely covered by this weblog.

The award for nicest guy on the net may go to the inaptly named Hal B. Rager. Hey, I wish my name was Rager.

This is a Manila site hosting service -- beautifully designed by Bryan Bell, who's also designed a number of UserLand sites and the most popular Manila themes. (The least popular Manila themes were designed by me.) Also check out Design.Weblogger.Com and Linux.Weblogger.Com.

Doc Searls
Click here for clues.

Though infrequently updated, there's lots of good stuff here in the tip archive. Written by a guy who's both clear-headed and a good teacher, it's free of the rah-rah junk you see elsewhere -- instead, it's actually useful and easy to read.

Another site with one topic but many authors, this is my first stop for OS X news. It's one of the first sites I subcribed to in Radio.

web dew
Highly personal good writing every day from Gregg Hartling.

The Village Voice: Teacup Rescue Dogs Vancouver is a pretty nice article about Disturbing Search Requests.

How to get a big head

Back in the '70s I was a boy and I watched Sesame Street and Mister Rogers and Electric Company on public television.

In those days, between shows they would show their logo on the screen. On a black background were the giant letters PBS. My initials are PBS, so Mom would say: that's you. I'd say: that's me, I'm PBS.

It didn't seem strange at all.

I still use PBS as my initials, even though I've always gone by my middle name. (If you look through the source code in Radio or Frontier, you'll see my initials a few times.)

I could just use my middle and last name -- but then my initials are BS, which I like a whole lot less.


Monarch butterflies feared poisoned. Whoever ordered this, I just want five minutes, me and him alone in a room.

David Brown raised Monarch butterflies as a child in Iowa.

A book I've been meaning to get is Nabokov's Butterflies. (I'm a fan of both Nabokov and butterflies.)

Sheila: "I don't think Mary Robinson quite gets it. Why is it good for girls and women that boys and men should feel bad?"


I was watching a news show on network TV last night and someone they were interviewing used the word "shit" and they didn't bleep it out.

I was so surprised.

But then I realized how fucked up it is that it's surprising and rare when on TV they're brave enough to use a word that every 8-year-old uses.

I'm not saying that TV should be coarsened more than it is. It's like it's upside down. There's tons of stuff on TV far, far more offensive than the word "shit." It would be refreshing to allow people on TV to be able to talk like people.

You can see the most hideous acts of real violence, enough to traumatize anybody who isn't already a monster, but no uncensored scenes of girls flashing their boobs on Bourbon Street. Oh please. It's just so weird.

I love TV. But I wish it were better.

It would be great if on Star Trek Worf could say: "They are cowards with no fucking honor."

Or maybe Suze Orman on some money show: "Don't fucking invest in the goddamn bond market, your money will turn to fucking shit."


A word is worth a thousand icons.

Jake: "It's a matter of record that the first words I spoke as a baby were 'peekie' meaning speaker..."

Smiert spionam.

I like the dings and scratches on things -- glasses in the dishwasher, bricks around the fireplace -- surfaces nicked by events so small as to be invisible. Tiny stories.


It's a matter of record that the first words I spoke as a baby were not "ma" or "dad" but "Baskin-Robbins."

Like bad, bad Leroy Brown, I was born on the south side of Chicago, the baddest part of the whole damn town.

Here's how I get respect from people.

I wear a pinky ring on my right hand. People jokingly ask if I'm in the mafia.

I answer seriously and truthfully, no, it's nothing like that, it's just a family thing.

Sometimes they reply with nervous laughter; sometimes they're just nervous.

"...oh, but I've seen the real world, and that's not what this is."

Who said they couldn't hit? Mariners beat Padres yesterday 18-3. 19 hits.

Radio Nirvana: I'm starting to develop patterns in how I personally use Radio.

I leave it running on my Windows 2000 machine. Then take my iBook -- which has a wireless connection via my AirPort -- and access my desktop website remotely. I'm in the kitchen at the moment, but I could go upstairs, or to the living room, or outside, whatever.

And then of course I also run Radio on my iBook, but use it only for editing Manila sites and outlining.

This way I have just one machine doing the news thing. I can access it from anywhere. I don't have to try to synchronize across several machines.

Today someone brought up the notion of Radio passing or not passing the "Mom test."

Well, my Mom builds Web apps, does XML, browser-based content management, all that jazz. So I think she'd be able to use Radio.


I've always loved this paragraph that opens "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway.

"Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai 'Ngàje Ngài,' the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude."

Jamie Moyer, the crafty lefty, is starting for the Mariners today. Go Moyer!

It's good to have baseball on the radio again.

Radio users: OS X Talk has a channel.

MacCentral has a channel too.


I'm surprised all the time that pickles are really just cucumbers.

XMLBastard: "To a degree, XML is now more complex than SGML was. If we continue down this route, XML will become SGML, and in a couple of years, someone will decide to create XML all over again."

Here's my take on what's wrong with the software industry. People take cool things, get them to hold still, and then poop on them.

Note: I am not a responsible and intelligent analyst.

I've often considered emigrating to one of the off-world colonies.

My toenails used to be all just kinda regular and nice, and now they're not so nice.

Shut up.


I picked Kathyrn as the Mole in the second or third episode. I was thinking about the aftermath of Survivor, and how they were all on talk shows, and they were all pretty yucky.

I knew that the Mole would produce at least two people for the talk-show circuit -- the winner, who they couldn't pick, and the Mole, who they could pick.

So, knowing that they had control over at least one of the people, I pictured a guest on Jay Leno wearing a short black skirt. Who did I think they would think would look best in a short black skirt? Kathryn.

I have no idea if my reasoning was on target or not, but I picked right.

What scared me was the Will & Grace effect; I was afraid it might be Jim. But I counted on timing, that the Will & Grace effect hadn't really started kicking in when the producers chose the Mole.

Sheila and I had the misfortune of being in both of the two most recent major earthquakes in the U.S. In 1999 we went to Los Angeles for a weekend. The only time we've ever been there. About an hour after checking into our hotel, a 7.1 hit north of the city. We were on the eight floor (something like that). The building was swaying like crazy.

That's just bad luck. I don't knock on wood nearly enough, or throw salt over my shoulder.

Yesterday's earthquake was just a drill. We practiced getting the word out via the Internet. Of course, had it been more serious, it might have been impossible to get the word out.