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Messages - Jimdoria [ switch to compact view ]

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Aw shucks! You're welcome!  :D

Will do (the fingers crossing bit). Can't wait to see it!

I took a look at this. First I have to say I'm mighty impressed. This is a nice bit of coding, and I especially like the drag-and-drop of components into the window.

What follows may not be the kind of feedback you want to hear, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway.

Given that there are lots of programs out there that do what yours does, you might want to give your program a little extra something to make it stand out. I humbly suggest that you make that something real support for styles.

Your app doesn't get styles. Doesn't really get them.  Don't worry, it's in good company. Most WYSIWYG HTML editors don't either.

But in 2008, there's really no need for another HTML editor that generates HTML 3.2, with hard coded formatting attributes embedded in the markup. It's time we all moved on.

What a WYSIWYG editor ought to really do is understand that what I want is well-formed, CSS-compliant HTML, even if I don't know that's what I want. It should understand that when I highlight a paragraph and format it with "Trebuchet MS" I don't  really want a "font face=" tag on that paragraph. What I really want is for the program to: 

1. Create an entry in the stylesheet for me called something like "Normal_TrebuchetMS"
2. Apply that style to the "p" tag on my paragraph
3. Make that style available up in the style dropdown box, so that I can apply it to other paragraphs.

The WYSIWYG program has to understand that on the web today, the stylesheet is not an afterthought but an integral part of the page. It should offer me some control over it; the option to save it as an external file or embed it in the page header, for example. It should let me import or attach an existing stylesheet (as you already do).

But it shouldn't make me monkey around with it too much. It shouldn't just dump me into an "enter CSS here" text box with no guidance, let me fend for myself as best I can, and then basically treat that part of the job as if it never happened. In MS Word, the Style dropdown shows me all the styles used in my document, or those available in the attached template. I can't understand why no WYSIWYG HTML editor does this. Why bother to let me design styles at all if I can't then apply them through the GUI?

The application should handle the creation, application and maintenance of style definitions for me, because that's what computers are good at. And if I'm using a WYSIWYG web editor, that's probably not something I'm good at. Yet it's something I really need to do, even if I don't realize it. And you know what? Even though I personally can code CSS styles by hand without too much trouble, I'd still prefer the program handle it for me, provided it did so in the right way. Hand-coding CSS is not a fun part of the job, any more than hand-coding HTML is. If the program spares me from one tedious chore, why not the other too?

I realize that this is not a trivial task, and that it requires functionality that's not included and would probably be difficult to implement with the default components available to developers. I can understand why a developer wouldn't want to take the uphill path on this. But I have a list as long as my arm of WYSIWYG HTML editors I've tried, and they all pretty much do exactly the same thing. I can't understand why a developer would want to spend their time building yet another Nvu, or another Komposer, or another WebDwarf, or another...  Well, you get the idea.

So I'm sorry if this post comes across as negative. I do like your program and heaven knows it's better than anything I could ever build. But I really feel strongly that until some bright developer realizes that CSS is no longer an optional part of HTML, and makes the effort to embrace all that implies, we're just going see this endless string of the same darn thing over and over when it comes to these kinds of programs.

Living Room / Re: Most useless
« on: April 11, 2008, 10:27 AM »
Oh, the :Cue Cat! Yeah, I've got two of them. There's a cool hardware hack where you wire together two holes on the circuit board and the thing turns into a regular barcode reader. I did this quite recently when I had a project that required barcode scanning. Worked like a charm.

Digital Convergence's death certainly was well deserved. They were a scummy company. Was it really ten years ago? Yipe!

I read the Coding Horror entry when it was posted. He makes some good points.

The company I work for has a polciy: no personal software licenses on their machinery. This means that my software choices come down to:

1. Choosing from the already offerred software suite, which covers the basics such as MS office.

2. Going through a fairly inconvenient process of getting the company to buy a software title I'm interested in. This means getting my manager involved, justifying the purchase to IT, a PO process, etc. There's the justification piece: Do I really need it? Why? How much do I need it? Should we consider a site/group license in case other people will need it? To tell the truth, if it were a title that isn't carried by CDW, I doubt I'd ever get the company to buy it for me. The request would probably just fall into a process balck hole.

3. Download and install a FOSS title that's close to what I want.

Guess which option I choose 99% of the time?

I think another key thing to remember here is that software is software, and open-source and commerical titles are more alike than different. Software that focused on the fun stuff (new features) to the exclusion of the not-fun stuff (bug fixing and docs)? I've seen that plenty in the commercial software world. Developers that just walk away from a product after you've made an investment in their technology? Ditto. After all, isn't that one of the things that SPAWNED open source software? The idea of a hedge against vendors dead-ending a product you rely on?

The thing is, the open source ecosystem is a developer's party. So is the closed-source ecosystem when you come right down to it. (Microsoft has been described as a cult of developers, and I think there's some truth to it.)

Developers don't think it's fun to write docs? Well, guess what, there are plenty of tech writers who DO, but where's the welcome mat for them? "Sure you can contrbute - just go this developer's website, download this suite of developer's applications, learn this developer-only source-control technology and then figure out how to fit what you're working on into its constraints. You'll need to compile binaries form source code, but you know how to do that, right? Well, it's not that hard, just look at these 27 interlocking forum postings and you'll figure it out. So once you're all set up, feel free to contribute!"

One thing commercial dev shops (usually) have going for them is they recognize that there's more to software than writing code. They make developers work with the others in the field who are needed to support their efforts. I don't see this nearly as much in the FOSS world. I think it could happen and is more likely to happen in a community setting, but it's hardly a given there, either.

Living Room / Re: Most useless
« on: April 10, 2008, 12:54 PM »
1. Yes  :)

2. Probably some sweater I never wore.

3. This is a tough one. I'd say it's a toss-up:

Most useless PC thing that I LOVED - Snappy, from Play Inc. It was a totally cool gizmo, but I think I actually used it about 3 times, and never for any real work. Part of that may have been that it never quite delivered on its own marketing hype. Still, I miss Play, Inc. :( Serious Magic, too.

Most useless PC thing that I HATED - iConcepts (Sakar) cordless mouse with keypad. Bought it to use mouse and keypad at the same time, but the product was designed to hide the fact that you couldn't do this until after you'd purchased the thing. Then, when I used the keypad, it also enabled the embedded keypad on my laptop keyboard, rendering the main keyboard unusable. Plus the thing ate batteries, and wouldn't work relably more than a few inches away from it's USB dongle.

Living Room / Re: Do you collect anything?
« on: April 10, 2008, 12:44 PM »
I have the world's largest seashell collection.

You've probably seen part of it. I keep it scattered on beaches all over the planet.

 8) (Steven Wright)

Living Room / Re: So there IS a twilight zone!
« on: April 10, 2008, 12:37 PM »
Wow, followed the link to the ZDNEt blog in the one of the comments, and it gave me a totally new perspective on Net Neutrality. There's more to it than I'd heard about. Makes all the political brouhaha seem kind of silly, since what's really needed is a technical fix.

General Software Discussion / Re: files and folders emulator
« on: April 10, 2008, 11:37 AM »
Actually, Kalos, if I read your original posts correctly, JBOD is not exactly what you want since it assumes all the disks are connected at the same time. It seems like what you want is more like a disk catalog that represents the contents of physically un-attached disks as if they were still attached to the machine.

I used to work for a company that made a product like this back in the Windows 98 days. It added a "catalog" item to My Computer, and the contents of all removable disks remained browsable. If you tried to open one of the files from the virtual catalog, it prompted you to insert the disk on which it was stored.

It was an excellent product, but they were never able to market it and so it died. Remember kids, rule #1 of the software biz is that marketing trumps technology EVERY TIME.

We have a thread here (one of the largest and longest running) about designing the "ultimate" note taking application. I think we might be headed for the same thing on the "ultimate disk cataloging application". I've seen other posts about this topic recently.

It seems like there might be some consensus on what this thing would look like:
  • Virtual library - disk contents should be browsable when disks are not connected.
  • High performance is key
  • Must be able to handle massive catalogs without bogging down (cannot rely on loading the entire catalog into memory.)
  • Integrated into Explorer so there is no new interface to learn
  • Provides smart caching of files written to the virtual library (cahced locally until remote media becomes available?)
  • Can represent disconnected disks either as a single volume or as multiple volumes.
  • Must index compressed archive contents, not just the archive files themselves.

I can say this: some of these technical challenges are not trivial. This kind of program is not something one guy is going to code up in a weekend.

Interesting article, but it seems to me like he's been driniking a bit too much kool-aid.

Case in point: Silverlight. I've no doubt that Silverlight contains all kinds of cool under-the-hood functionality that makes developers drool. In fact one of his complaints about Silverlight is that it's not bare-metal enough ("Let us render pixels").

But he totally misses the point of Silverlight vs. Flash: Not everyone in the world is a developer. Why should you need a CS degree to make animations for the web? Adobe Flash made web animation & simple application development available to people who were not "real" programmers: designers, graphic artists, web page authors, amateur animators, etc. That's one of the big reasons it's become so ubiquitous.

It's clear that as a developer, he's judging MS based on a pretty selective set of criteria - how technically advanced its products are. That's fine, it's a developer's blog - but so much of what is wrong with Microsoft is only partly or not at all technical in nature. In fact, a big part of it is that they act as if everyone (or at least everyone who matters) is a developer.

Check out DENIM:

Free, Java-based, and does exactly what you aksed for in your first post. They talk a lot about pen input, but it works just fine with a mouse too.

DENIM is... a pen-based sketching tool for designing user interfaces... combines many of the benefits of paper-based sketching with existing electronic prototyping tools. It allows designers to quickly sketch an interface using an electronic pad and stylus... preserves the important properties of pencil and paper: a rough drawing can be produced quickly and the medium is flexible. However, unlike a paper sketch, this electronic sketch is interactive and can easily be annotated and modified... 

General Software Discussion / Re: What's the current 'killer app'?
« on: April 02, 2008, 03:39 PM »
My killer app: OneNote 2007.

It's so good that I'm seriously considering upgrading several of my older Win2K machines to XP so they can run it.

Tiddlywiki comes in a close 2nd. It'd probably be first if I didn't have OneNote.

Living Room / Re: Haiku Poetry Messages for Microsoft Errors
« on: April 02, 2008, 03:20 PM »
These are fun! Here are some more for the current times:

Vista will digest
Hard disk space and RAM as well
But not these drivers

Such arcane commands
Understanding will not come
It must be Linux

The familiar
Sadly cannot long persist
Farewell to XP

Beloved domain
But I must have missed the bill

Nice. I'd seen this, or a version of it, somewhere before, with attributions. The "UPLOAD VIRUS" scene I know is from a sci-fi prison movie called "The Fortress."

Another thing I've noticed (I guess in an effort to power all the exploding technology) is that Hollywood computers also seem to run on massively high voltage, not the mild 5V/12VDC found in most common computers.

General Software Discussion / Re: Plain text editor for writers
« on: April 01, 2008, 11:31 AM »
You might want to take a look at SLang - Story Language by Ian Pegler. He's a UK screenwriter/musician who makes several freeware writing tools.

  • Ideal for brain-storming story ideas.
  • Ideal for story writers who don't quite know where they want their story to go.
  • Ideal for writing "whodunnit" stories or "adventure" type stories where there may be alternative "routes".
  • Stores your story as "events" and "themes".
  • Print events/themes out on index cards.
  • Events viewed as separate windows.
  • Artificial Intelligence features.
  • Export whole story to RTF or TXT file.
  • Comes with integrated help and 2 simple examples

LOL - I still have the tS 3.2 CD lying around somewhere. I never did upgrade to 4, etc.

My problem with Caligari was a common one - they'd implement cool new "toys" but they'd seldom go back and fix the broken stuff. What good was radiosity and better IK if I couldn't get the MOUSE to work the way the docs said it was supposed to? Or if importing a mesh had the ability to break features of the program?

I frequently ran into the problem where I'd import a 3D file in one of the supported formats, and about half the tools would not work on it. No visual feedback, no explanation, no error codes or anything - the tools just wouldn't work. Or maybe they'd work, but only partly, not the way they were supposed to. When I posted to the forums, I always got some variation on the response "Well, try it on a native cube. If it works there, then it's not a bug." Bah.

There were lots of things I liked about trueSpace at the time, and I did complete one very nice project with it, but with DAZ3D giving away Carrara & Bryce, and free apps out there like Blender, Anim8or & Wings, I don't think I'd invest any time in trueSpace at this point.

I looked into this myself recently. I finally decided to use the access restrictions on my router rather than blocking logins on the workstation, since the real issue was limiting internet access, and there was no easy solution to setting up time of day restrictions on a stand-alone Windows Machine.

There was one commercial product that could do this. Google "parental control" software and you should find some options. I also found a free application designed to run an internet cafe that let you set up time of day restrictions, length of session restrictions, remote logouts, restricted websites, etc. It's called Dynasoft SurfShop and it's at Looks like it takes some setting up, but should do what you need.

Not to be a fly in the ointment, but I just gotta comment on this:

His life savings is wrapped up in his system and all those files. And it would be a serious problem if the audio quality was lessened... but he doesn't have the capacity to back up all the files at this point.

The technical term for this condition is MASSIVE STUPIDITY.

Your friend has "speakers that won't fit into your car" but he can't be bothered to go to an office supply store and drop $60-$100 on a external USB drive? That would hold 80-120GB of data?

Removable media has never been as cheap, copious, and easy to use as it is right now. There's really no excuse for having one and only one copy of ANY critical file sitting around without a backup. Much less an entire collection of them.

Do your firend the biggest favor you could ever do. Sit him down, and ask him how important the sound quality of his audio files is to him. Then ask him to imagine that the sound quality of every one of those precious files has suddenly dropped to ZERO. Ask him to imagine how he would feel if, after hearing a weird little click from inside his computer, he found that in that fraction of a second his entire music collection was simply GONE, corrupted, hopelessly unrecoverable. It can happen. No, actually IT WILL HAPPEN. Statistically it's just a question of when.

Then offer to go with him to the computer store or the office supplies store and pick out a nice, cheap, large USB hard drive, take it home and help him set it up. Don't leave him by himself until you're sure the backup software has run successfully.

Friends don't let friends compute without backups.

Living Room / Re: When a Brain Scientist Suffers a Stroke
« on: March 25, 2008, 11:12 AM »
Wow, this video was a terrific! Thanks for the pointer. :Thmbsup: She is an excellent speaker & presenter.

Wow, this is a heavy duty list!

QuickTime Pro can do a fair amount of this, and it's not too expensive. You might check it out.

There are a few "stumbling blocks" in your list that I can see:

  • WMV support - this is a Microsoft proprietary format, so you won't find many open source tools that will touch it. Including this essentially limits you to commercial tools.
  • Split and recompile losslessly with no rendering time -  :D Oh wouldn't it be nice if we didn't really have to wait for computers to... compute.
  • Scrub in timeline with frame accuracy - This is kind of the opposite of the above request, although it might not be apparent at first.

Don't know how much you know about this stuff. Not every single frame is encoded in an MPEG video (and many other compressed formats.) There are keyframes every so often, but most of the video is encoded as changes to these keyframes.

So say you have a keyframe every 10 frames, and you cut on an in-betwen frame, like 15. The frame you are cutting doesn't actually have all the video data contained within itself. The program can reconstruct the data for you "behind the scenes" by analyzing frames 10-14 and computing the result, but it can't just "cut the film" at frame 15.

Also, after the cut is made, everthing from Frame 16 to the end now has a different set of keyframes. What was frame 16 is now frame 1. Instead of 16, 26, 36 your keyframes are now 10, 20, 30. So the program has to re-encode everything. Splitting video without re-encoding, especially MPEG video, will produce a broken video stream.

Finally, screen capture programs generally use a special codec that is optimized for screen video, for a couple of reasons. Since most areas of the screen are static, encoding them over and over again is wasteful. So screen captures using a screen codec contain even less data per frame than usual. Also, general purpose video codecs are optimized for camera-shot video, and are "confused" by the sharp edges and rapid, detailed motion of  screen captures. These differences mean you can't just flip from one type of codec to another. Screen codecs produce small files, sharp images and full motion. Re-encoding into a "regular" codec creates gigantic file sizes, pixelation, and motion artifacts in the video stream. You can't just switch codecs in the middle of a video stream either, so there's really no way around this.

So some of the things you are asking for aren't really possible. That's why you haven't found an app that can do them.  :-\

General Software Discussion / Re: Open Source Sorftware Security
« on: March 24, 2008, 03:07 PM »
It's hard to tell from this post exactly what happened to you. Your printer software experienced some registry corruption, and you think Foxit PDF reader is to blame? More to the point, you think Foxit intentionally introduced some bad agent into your system whose purpose was to cause this registry corruption?

I'd be interested to find out how you came to this conclusion. Registry corruption occurs all the time and for a variety of reasons. Generally there's no way to tell how it happened, so if you've found a way to audit registry changes and trace them to individual programs, that would be news in itself!  :)

If you think the damage was caused by a corrupt PDF opened in Foxit, I'd say that's more an issue of where you are getting your PDFs from than a Foxit problem. No software - commercial or open source - is immune to security holes. That's why Adobe and MS release so many patches, and release them so regularly. OSS does the same. The issue is more about keeping current on your applications and using common sense about downloading and opening files.

In some sense (theoretically) OSS should be more secure, because when security holes in OSS are found, they can be patched and released as quickly as the community finds out about them. Exploits in commercial software have to be reported, then the fix may wait for the marketing team and the legal team to weigh in, then it will be scoped into the development schedule and at some point - only if it's economically justifiable, of course - a patch might be issued. Or the decision might be made to roll the fix into the next scheduled release, still X months away and costing Y dollars for the upgrade.

But still - without knowing more it's hard to tell if your conclusions are correct: that this was a deliberate attack on your system, and that Foxit was really the vector for the attack.

P.S. - Printer vendors are not generally known for the high quality of their software.  In my experience, printer software ranges from moderately OK to unbelievably awful. It's typically buggy, intrusive, and rude. Another reason I'd like to know more about the incident.

We're all clueless sometimes. Whenever I'm tempted to be smug, I think about when I have to take my car in to be fixed. The mechanic could be making up the names of car parts and I'd never know. (I suspect I've had a few mechanics who did this.)

And I've been driving a car for decades! :-[ Some of them have probably wondered, as I stood there staring at the engine trying not to look like a total dink, "Geeze, how clueless do you have to be to not know that Ford hasn't made these with a carbeurator since 1985?"

This board is a select group. We like computers. We're interseted in them and curious about how they work. Using them is fun for us, even if it is sometimes frustrating. Not everyone feels this way.

And being in the user experience field, I feel like I need to point out that every "clueless user" story is really a "clueless programmer" story seen from the other side. Some developer(s) was/were too lazy or inexperienced or socially isolated to figure out how to make an interaction work for the person who had to actually use the program they were writing. Hilarity ensues.

Living Room / Re: The MacBook Air is So Thin…
« on: March 18, 2008, 04:05 PM »
It's pointless to gripe about how a fashion model can't quote Heidegger, or gets tired after only an hour of hiking up the mountain, or refuses to go along when you shop at the supermarket.

Those aren't the reasons you're dating a fashion model. It's 'cause she's SEXY, BABAY!  :P

Living Room / Re: Top 10 Most Depressing Quotes from Orwell's 1984
« on: March 18, 2008, 03:27 PM »
The thing I found intersting was coming back and reading 1984 as an adult, and seeing so much more in it that when I had read it in the high school/young adult area of my life.I know political discussions are a verboten topic, but this is a political work, so it's kind of hard to dicsuss without discussing politics. However, while it's always tempting to compare our current political situation to this dystopia or that utopia, there's more to be had from 1984.

Interstingly, pervasive 24x7 surveillance of everyone in society was never part of the 1984 vision. "Animals and proles are free." The vast majority of the populace, the "proles", were not watched nor even terribly harrassed by their government. The class analysis of IngSoc stated that revolution took place only when the middle class incited the proles to violence against the upper class. When this happened, the middle class displaced the upper class as rulers, relegating them back to middle class status, where they would eventually perpetuate the next revolution.

Only the Outer Party was watched in 1984 - the managerial/professional classes. The ruling Inner Party watched them like hawks and oppressed them mercilessly, because they recognized them as the only leginitmate threat to the status quo. The proletariat was happy consuming government-produced beer, gin, pronography and pop culture, and picking up little extras here and there on the black market.

Incidentally, the basis for IngSoc seems to be both Soviet and Burmese. Orwell served in Burma which at the time was a repressive military dictatorship. But IngSoc is really a pastiche of various oppresive regimes, with a wee bit of sci fi thrown in. As for how it relates to our current situation in the west, note that IngSoc owned the means of production as well as the organs of the state. Its power was what we now conisder corporate as well as govenmental. We live in a society where corporate power and governmental power exist separately but side by side, but it would be naive to say this consitutes an impermeable separation of powers, or that there is never an alignment of agendas between those at the top of society. There's hardly a thick, black line separating coprorate and state power. Corporate economies and state economies - and spheres of power - are often of comparable magnitude.

Finally, I always thought it was kind of pointless to discuss 1984 without also bringing Brave New World into the picture. It's a far more beguiling and subtle vision of the future, and far more relevent to the state of the western world today, even though it's the older work. To parapharase Aldous Huxley, the great danger is that freedom will become not illegal, but irrelevant.

Living Room / Re: Timeline Software
« on: March 10, 2008, 08:57 AM »
Looks like I'm late to the party, but oh well.

I hadn't seen Calizo before. Nice tip! I'll have to look into it more.

Another cool timeline to check out:

Web-based, but FOSS. Not really geared to printed timelines but plenty of WOW factor for dynamic ones.

Living Room / Re: Suffering over USB
« on: February 08, 2008, 12:27 PM »
Thanks, mikiem -

You're probably right about the good drive enclosures being better than the cheapies. The one I bought was definitely at the low end of the range, so maybe that's my problem. But which are which? Is $40 enough to spend? It's hard to tell when enclosures generally sell for around $30-$40, but identical units can be had for either $20 or $45 depending on where you buy.

The variation in pricing and the consistently low price points lead me to think that for these products, price is more tied to who's selling it than actual unit quality. (BestBuy's unit is most expensive, but I don't think for a minute the quality of their product is any higher.) I don't recognize any of the brands, either, so I can't tell whether an Apricorn is better than a Vantek is better than a CoolerMaster. (My existing unit is from MacAlly. Since it had the word Mac in the name, I assumed it would be of high quality.  :D ) And I certainly don't want to plunk down 30 or 40 bucks for a unit that might or might not work, when that's a third or a quarter of what I could spend on an all-in-one unit from a company whose name I do know, like Maxtor.

Even if size weren't a consideration (which it is) I've had mixed results with the larger AC powered units too. One external enclosure I had went south very fast. The other has been rock solid. (It's from Acomdata, which sadly doesn't seem to make the smaller 2.5" portable enclosures.)

As for my environement, I'm pretty happy with the solution I came up with - MojoPac is really a no-compromise app as far as I'm concerned - but I appreaciate the input. I want the external drive to run personally licensed software that has no FOSS counterparts yet, like Poser & Flash. (Or at least no FOSS counterparts that are acceptable to me in terms of features & usability. Believe me, I've looked!)

Also, while the price of cards/sticks etc. has really dropped lately, they still can't match magnetic media for capacity & cost per MB. I need dozens of gigabytes for the apps I want to install and run, and solid-state media just can't supply that yet.

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