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September 17, 2005


"You wait all your life to get your face on a bus, and then two come along at once" - Mike Skinner on telly talking about seeing his Reebok ad.

September 10, 2005

XML Virtual Machines

In all the recent discussion around AJAX issues, it would be a shame to miss this gem from Robert Sayre, commenting on Anil Dash's 2006 trends : "AJAX might be trendy, but it's a PITA. Deploy your corporate or vertical apps on XUL."

You can target XUL for deployment to the Mozilla platform, today. XULRunner now means you can develop and test away in double quick time . Yes, Mozilla is a platform (a XUL visual forms builder could be a game changer on the client, as well saving some folks I know a lot of typing ;). And if you need a thicker-than-that client, then consider the OpenOffice platform.

From the comments, an alternative: "Use OpenLaszlo instead. http://www.openlaszlo.org/"

In Unison

I've been experimenting with Unison on Windows. It's really really good.

Here's the important problem that Unison solves. Given 30Gb of music files on your PC, and 5 Gb of that music on your laptop, how do you sync up the newly bought Kaiser Chiefs and NIN albums from your laptop to the server, sync down Charles Aznavour and The Killers from your server to your laptop, and not end up with a 30Gb+ on both, maybe duplicates, maybe lost files? And without wasting a Saturday morning copying the files back and forth? None of the music players solve this problem and imo apps like iTunes go out of their way to make things difficult for people - Apple seems to think the sum of anyone's needs is getting a computer and an iPod to sync up. Media players are the epitome of software that cannot function above the level of the single device.

Of secondary importance is the fact that Unison can soundly back up and synchronize any data you think is important; like Thunderbird email mboxes or Outlook email PST files, or your entire My Documents folder. I think I'll be evanglising Unison it as a regular back up tool for Windows users I know. Windows owns the mindshare for user-friendliness but when it comes to file management and backups, Linux is easier to work with. In Linux, you have to back up your ~home folder, and maybe some stuff in the /etc folder, adn you're done. On Windows files gets thrown about everywhere; backing things up is hard work, and takes time, assuming you can even figure out what to backup at all. It goes beyond the usual programmer usability mess and descends into on-disk anarchy. I've had bad, very bad experiences with the tools that come with that OS (anyone remember .qic files?). And then there's the registry - the registry is mind-numbingly unsound. Forget the 4 pillars of Longhorn - all MSFT had to do to get me to upgrade was get rid of the Registry.

Nick Carr, referring to an Economist piece, said that customers don't want solutions, they want things, and that softcos are way off beam if they think that can sell in or repackage solutions to consumers in order to offset the revenus loss in enterprise sales. That's true (solutions, off-beam, loss) to a point, and I usually like what Carr has to say, but he's not really considering how difficult it is for users to deal with their media and files today. Right now,the way phones, PVRs, computers, handhelds just don't work together makes life very difficult. And it's only going to get harder as more stuff gets digitized. If you solve data management for customers, I expect they will buy that solution - an EAI cum Data Center solution in a box.


So putting aside the idea of the millions of side-businesses out there for a minute; there are tens of millions of households with an impending data management problem. It's like corporate IT all over again, but this time for the home. Enterprise Application Integration for the rest of us.

Anyway, Unison rocks. Go get it.

Moving host, contact details, outsourcing is bidirectional

After 4 years hosted at UKSolutions, I moved to TextDrive.

Weblog migration was straight forward, except for one gotcha (which in truth was to do with upgrading and not migration). Most of my other online stuff is static and/or dumpable. As Textdrive supports DAV and Subversion, I'll be uploading subversion repositories and calendars this weekend.

It all seems to have gone well.

And then there's DNS. UKSolutions, the registrar for my domains, will let you set wildcard DNS and that sort of thing, but can't by default allow the domain to have an authorative nameserver that isn't theirs. In fairness they hinted they might be able to set that up, but I decided instead to transfer registrars to domainsmadeeasy, and I'll eventually run the DNS records from dnsmadeeasy. The records are frigged for now so that http://dehora.net and http://www.dehora.net will point to TextDrive's server, but mail is still going to the UKSolutions mailserver for the time being. So the site was down for a bit yesterday while the records propagated. Neither registrar are dragging their feet; the transfer was begun the same day.

Contact: If you're trying to contact me by email, there's a chance some of my mail accounts - bill@dehora.net and lists@dehora.net- will go off the air at some point when I change mailservers. Instead try dehora@eircom.net (I have a Gmail account dehora@gmail.com which I never read - don't use that).

No, I'm not moving to the US. So, why the switch? I have nothing but good things to say about UKSolutions. However I live in Dublin, and the Euro/Sterling exchange hurts, and show no sign of hurting less in the future. I never found a suitable Irish ISP in the 4 years I've been here, and had been looking at US options for a while, given the Euro/Dollar rate. But it's not all about the bottom-line, the host has to be up for it (such as intangibles like being able to diagnose issues with a UKSolutions salesperson and overall competence). Now that I found a host in TextDrive that Definitely Gets It, the move made sense. The only pity is they're not domain registrars.

Armchair outsourcing pundits and globalization wonks take note. I just outsourced my IT services to the United States.

September 09, 2005

did you know that Mt3.2 clips the basename to 30 chars by default and if you're not careful an import will trash your permalinks?

In moving hosts, I had to switch the Movable Type (MT) install running this journal. I also upgraded from 3.1 to MT 3.2 in the process.

MT 3.2 has this notion of a basename, which it fixes to 30 chars. The basename alows you to have permalinks_that_look_like_this.html. Basenames seem to be the default permalink generator now; in previously MT used an incrementing number scheme which appeared to be derived from the entry's database key - for all kinds of reasons it's a really bad idea to be using that kind of stuff for Cool URIs. So in earlier versions of MT, you had to configure it to create basenames so you could have these_kind_or_urls.html instead of #number.html. So basenames are an improvement.

Some of us have been using title basenames for a while. And now, if you import data from an old version into 3.2 without expanding the basename length in the settings first, MT will silently trash your urls by truncating them. So what? Rebuild, you say. Well it turns ou that MT as of 3.2 seems to be taking the whole permalinking and Cool URI thing more seriously that it did in the past. If you rebuild and entry with a changed title, the permalink will not change, it reflects the original title.

The solution: blow away your weblog, recreate it, and set the basename length to 250 before running an import. You kept that old export, right?

Also: the 3.2 version of MT no longer has an RSS1.0 feed generator, just Atom 1.0 and RSS2.0.