inessential by Brent Simmons

April 2003

NetNewsWire and Update Checking

James Duncan Davidson—who I recently had the pleasure of meeting—posted today about NetNewsWire and update checking.

He hits the nail on the head: a headline has three, not two, states: unread, read, and updated.

NetNewsWire isn’t that smart about this. When comparing an incoming headline to an existing headline, if they’re the same but for a word here or there, NetNewsWire will mark it as a new headline. Which is annoying.

Luckily, there’s at least a partial solution. Later versions of RSS include a guid element which identifies a headline. This way you can tell that an incoming headline is the same as a previously-read headline, even if they’re different, because the guid is the same.

NetNewsWire already reads and stores guids, but it doesn’t do anything with them yet. In an upcoming release it will look at guids in deciding if an item is new or just updated.

Unfortunately, not all RSS feeds contain guids. My hope is that more and more they will since they’re so useful, since they make reading news so much better.

Do I care?

So. Apple’s music store.

Me, I like to buy CDs and play them on my stereo. I even like to listen to regular old radio. Does that make me weird?

Same with movies and stuff. I don’t want to watch movies on my computer. If it’s movie time, it’s time to get away from computers.

Am I a stick in the mud? Am I Amish?

I downloaded the new iTunes to check out the new store. No Sex Pistols. Call me skeptical.

(Update: no Specials either.)

Glitches fixed

Papa the cat's faceI think I have all the glitches fixed in this website (and on that were a result of the craziness on the weekend.

You should be able to post comments and bug reports again (etc.). If you find any glitches, please let me know. Thanks!


Sorry for the outage this past weekend... Both and this site were down this weekend, but are back up now.

We’re still dealing with some glitches, but they’ll get ironed out today and tomorrow.

Here’s what happened, as best as I understand it.

Our hosting provider Cornerhost ran into a problem with their provider ServerBeach. ServerBeach shut down several Cornerhost machines apparently without warning.

This knocked us off the air and knocked off lots of other Cornerhost accounts too.

The reason ServerBeach gave was that Cornerhost was in violation of their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) because they sold shell accounts. The Cornerhost folks say the AUP policy must have changed. And so ServerBeach just turned off a bunch of machines.

The solution was to move to RackSpace.

But all this meant that our websites and email and so were down for the weekend. We’re still working on getting everything back up.

Despite this problem, we intend to stay with Cornerhost, who we’ve found to be an excellent hosting company. I don’t think the problem was their fault. I think ServerBeach’s actions were just plain wrong.

For the benefit of Google searches: ServerBeach sucks.

Cornerhost maintains a weblog which tells the story.

It’s possible that some email was missed. So if you sent me email and are expecting a reply, you might want to re-send it Tuesday if you don’t hear from me before then.

And thanks for your patience and understanding.

Won OS X Innovators Contest

NetNewsWire and Spring took first and second place in O’Reilly’s Mac OS X Innovators contest. So cool!

Thanks to O’Reilly for the recognition—it’s much appreciated. And it was great to win along with Robb Beal.

But the main thanks as always go to the people who use NetNewsWire. All your bug reports, feature requests, and support are what make the difference between a so-so app and something better.

The next step is just to continue—fix bugs, add new features. Lots of exciting things are to come.


Congratulations to the Movable Type folks! It all sounds like great news.

I should note that doing hosting is difficult. It has the potential to be a Vietnam for any company whose main thing is software development.

That’s not to meant to be discouraging—I’m just saying that it’s important not to underestimate the amount of person-hours it can take to keep it going. Even with great software (which they definitely have) on a solid platform, weird, difficult surprises are inevitable.

But it’s do-able. And I think it’s the right move for them, and I’m glad they’re doing it.

(By the way—I happen to be working on NetNewsWire’s Movable Type editing support this week, adding new features. If things go well, a public beta will be available later next week. I’m also adding not-on-home-page support for Radio UserLand editing.)

More about Las Vegas

This past weekend was my first trip to Las Vegas. I didn’t know if I’d like it or not.

It would be so easy to have that puritanical teenager ideology and just say—ugh, bleh, it’s all fake.

But I’m a grown-up, so instead I could just try to enjoy it and see if I liked it. And I did.

We stayed at the Paris Hotel, which has scale replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. The casino itself looks like the streets of Paris—but with games! Even the ceiling is painted blue with puffy clouds, like you’re walking around Paris in the late afternoon.

Sure, it’s not Paris. It’s funny, and fake—but gloriously fake.

But get this: Las Vegas is mostly about money. I didn’t know that money could be fun. In Las Vegas, money does tricks. It’s a fluid.

The night before we left I dreamt I was on the casino floor. Everything was the same as it really is—except that all the money glowed a fluorescent turquoise. It was beautiful.

Royal Flush

Sheila and I spent last weekend in Las Vegas.

I’d never gambled before, except for like $1.25 in Atlantic City once.

We were there in Las Vegas for a wedding—my sister got married (in the Bellagio!) to her high school sweetheart.

In amongst all the wedding stuff I found time to play video poker. I didn’t know if I’d enjoy gambling, but I did. Especially video poker. I could hardly sit down without walking away a few minutes later at least $20 up.

One night I got a royal flush. 10-J-Q-K-A, all diamonds. I walked away $70 up from that machine.

When you get a royal flush you have to cash out and just enjoy it for a while. It’s not like you can hope to do better.

In Las Vegas there are games even at the airport. So while we were waiting for our flight I had a few quarters in my pocket and I played them. Won $29.25. Just a last bit of luck before coming home.

But nobody was as lucky as my Mom. She didn’t play any games until we were leaving. So there we were at the airport. She puts a coin in a slot, pushes the button, and wins $30. She cashes out. Just one spin.

Safari and NetNewsWire

I’m using the latest version of Safari (1.0b2, v73).

Here’s a tip for NetNewsWire users: if you want links to open in new tabs in Safari, do this in Safari’s preferences:

1. In the General preferences, at the bottom, click “Open links from applications in the current window.”

2. In the Tabs preferences, click Enabled Tabbed Browsing.

Then, when you’re opening links from within NetNewsWire, each one should open in a new tab in Safari.

Bought Transmit Today

I bought Transmit today. A bargain at $24.95. My favorite feature is the Edit in BBEdit button.

Freak of nature

Here’s what makes me a freak of nature: I have all four of my wisdom teeth. They all grew in fine, and the dentist doesn’t want to remove them.

I got a small filling in one of them today, but no big deal. They stay.

I have 0x20 teeth. The geek in me likes the round number.

NetNewsWire 1.0.2 progress

So, here’s where we are with NetNewsWire 1.0.2:

1. Lots of little bugs have been fixed.

2. The news reader performs better, especially for people who often have lots of unread headlines. Some memory leaks have been fixed.

3. The weblog editor hasn’t been touched much yet.

So I’m working on #3—fixing bugs in the weblog editor and adding support for Radio UserLand and Movable Type options. Then I’ll release a beta.

NetNewsWire 1.0.2 will include only a few new features. Bug fixes and performance fixes are the main thing.

Despite all the great feature requests I get every day, I think this is the right thing to do.

People say that it’s features that bring in the money. And I believe that. New features are exciting and fun, because it’s new things you can do.

But I’m concentrating on bugs for now because:

1. Even if new features means more sales, the first responsibility is to the people who already bought the software.

2. New features may bring in more sales in the short run, but not fixing bugs will kill your product in the long run.

FBI referer

On the referers page for I noticed a strange referer coming from My DNS server doesn’t seem to know what is.

Here’s a screen shot of (part of) my referers page.

The full URL is

You might imagine that I’m very curious as to what’s on that page and why it links to

Update 3 April 9:30 AM PST: Yes, it’s probably a prank. See the comments for more info.


If you sent me email and didn’t get a response, it may be due to your service provider’s use of blacklists.

It happens to me now and again where someone send me email, and I reply, and I get a returned-to-sender email with something like this: reason: 550 Your host is locally blacklisted, contact

The thing is, I use sendmail on my desktop machine. I have it set so it works only from my desktop machine. (And there is of course other security on my LAN.)

I guess this means that somewhere there’s a blacklist that includes localhost

Nuts! I think these blacklists totally suck.

Mariners opening day

It’s Mariners opening day!

Sheila and I already have tickets for a couple games this year. (Sheila’s at least as big a Mariners fan as I am. Probably more.)