Sunday, November 30, 2003

BBEdit Discovery

(originally posted at

It started when I wanted to create a User Friendly plugin for iComic.

iComic has an "open architecture, supporting plugins written in perl." Neat. So I found one of my plugins in ~/Library/iComic/Plugins and dragged it to TextEdit. No dice, didn't open. Odd, I thought, the plugin should just be perl. So I dragged it to BBEdit, which launched a type of window I hadn't yet seen - the Disk Browser. Come to find out, the plugins are more like application packages.

Disk Browser mode is a two-pane window with file navigation on the top and text editing on the bottom. Looks great for switching back and forth between resources and property lists. Neat.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Debugging Feeds Apps

(originally posted at

Turns out there were three sites that were the problem. One site has a bump php script that yields an XML parser error instead of the expected RSS and two sites had invalid RSS by not specifying the DOCTYPE, thus creating undefined entities.

I've culled them from the database, and hopefully cron will rest easy this evening.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Evolution and RSS Feeds

(originally posted at

While reading an article yesterday about what UserLinux might look like, I learned that Ximian's Evolution now does RSS aggregation on its Summary page. Neat.

As Evolution 1.4 comes standard in the Fedora Core 1 Personal Desktop Installation, I decided to give the feature a whirl. To find it, you have to be at the Summary page and click Tools, then Settings, then select the News Feeds tab. Simple enough.

The most immediate feature lacking was the ability to import OPML files, which is important when you've got a lot of subscriptions... which brings me to the next downfall: the feature doesn't scale well. As evidenced by Ximian's screenshot of the summary page, the formatting and display of the feeds takes up quite a lot of screen real estate. Most RSS aggregation software uses a 2 or 3-pane view for a reason. If I wanted one long list of news feeds, I'd find a way for php to parse opml and collect the news items for display on a webpage.

Which brings me to the third and most important point regarding Evolution and RSS aggregation. RSS is a technology more closely tied to browsing than to e-mail. So why isn't RSS aggregation built into the browser?

Web Services

(originally posted at
  • Google AdSense
  • Amazon Web Services
I've signed up for both of these services and will be exploring what they have to offer over the course of the next several weeks. I'm looking for Amazon to supersede the functionality of AllConsuming.

So far, Google AdSense has been wonderfully straight-forward and simple to use. After signing up you're re-directed to a page that helps you pick a color and layout scheme and generates the code for you to paste into your website. Once that's done, you simply wait until Google crawls your site and associates links suitable to your content.

On the MT front, I'll be looking at the blogroll plugin which would do away with the blogrolling account... as well as considering writing a custom plugin to link MT with PhpWiki either automatically or via a custom tag such as <$MTWikiLink$>.

Monday, November 17, 2003


(originally posted at
I skimmed Gillmor's column and it reminded me of an idea I had for a next-gen automobile cockpit UI. The car would receive speed limit data as it travels and the speedometer would glow green if you were obeying the speed limit or red if you were over the speed limit. A lot of the data presented by roadside signs could be broadcast directly to the car and displayed according to the driver's preference.

The future won't come fast enough.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Removing Smilies from iChat AV

(originally posted at

This one comes courtesy of dkp, but since he's being stubborn about posting to his blog, it has to appear here.

Find the file SmileyTable.plist nested way down in your /System/Library folder and rename it to SmileyTable.plist.bak

This will prevent iChat AV from rendering the smilies with images and will instead render them using text.

Because your change affects the entire system, you'll need to go into the Terminal and use sudo to mv the file. To undo the change, simply apply the instructions in reverse.


Thursday, November 13, 2003


(originally posted at

Based on ~stevenf's post RSS to Web, I've finally gotten around to building a page of the feeds I read daily.

In the comments section of his post, to which I've posted, I found a link to Feed on Feeds, a fully-featured php/mysql aggregator application. In fact, it was so fully-featured, I wasn't comfortable using it for a public feeds page!

However, I was also able to find in his comments a link to Magpie RSS, a php-rss parser. With it and Feed on Feeds, I was able to hack together a rudimentary page to be updated hourly by cron.

Not too shabby for half a day's work, though I'm just told by Brent that the CSS isn't rendering properly in IE. Now there's a surprise. Gah.

Update: IE now renders it decently, at the expense of the other browsers - but the compromise was minimal. Also; I'd be remiss to not mention the other inspiration for the site, and that's Brendyn Alexander's RSS roll for the #joiito IRC channel.


(originally posted at

This is a quick article on what happens when you sit users down with operating systems they aren't familiar with. Naturally, the Windows user doesn't fully understand the power of the underpinnings of OS X.

This is in the same vein as the Ars article on Panther, but it touches on more of the little things that makes Panther awesome.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

New Front-End, New Back-End

(originally posted at

Well, not entirely.

The front-end is new, the back-end isn't quite ready yet, but you can check it out here. I've gotten PhpWiki up and running, now I just need to hack it into submission.

I've mixed feelings about the new design. I disliked having everything hidden, but it looks a bit busy with everything showing. We'll see how it weathers the test of time.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Ars does Panther

(originally posted at

This is a fantastic, in-depth look at Apple's OS X 10.3 (Panther).

The most interesting bits to me were...
  • packaging/marketing of 10.1 v. 10.2 v. 10.3
  • the mini-widget set
  • the brushed-metal usage guidelines
  • nested tab-area views
  • OS upgrades make the system faster*
  • the history of window management
  • hitting tab while in expose-mode
* - really fascinating, this bit was. Especially in light of my recent hardware inadequacies. In the world of Windows and Linux, we've come to expect a performance hit with each new version if the hardware stayed the same. That OS X has turned that around completely is something that I quite simply took for granted.

Fedora Core 1

(originally posted at

Downloading this was a pain. I eventually gave up on all the US mirrors and found a server in the UK that was blazingly fast.

Installation went largely without a hitch. The first time I tried to install, I skipped the disc verification. This crashed the installer program and I needed to reboot. The second time I tried to install, I went through the disc verification process and everything proceeded smoothly.

I noticed that beside looking prettier, the installer still couldn't find my ThinkPad (A21p) monitor. That didn't stop it from loading suitable drivers enabling 1600x1200 full-color display. Also curious was in the Personal Desktop installation, samba isn't selected by default.

During the final stages of installation, I chose eth1 (my orinocco card) as my default connection. This was a mistake, though not a drastic one. During the first boot of the new installation the network wasn't located because the pcmcia drivers hadn't been loaded yet!

Once I booted into Fedora, everything was going, well, not smoothly. Rather choppily in fact. Turns out 128 isn't the magic RAM number. Not surprising, I suppose. I checked and RAM looked dirt cheap. Of course, the kind of RAM I need for the ThinkPad (144-pin, 64-bit SDRAM in SODIMM form running at 100mhz) tops out at 256mb per SODIMM - which means I can only have 512 total. What's more, IBM wants $150 per SODIMM. Three hundred bucks is a good chunk of what a decent new laptop would cost. So I'm faced with the question of when to upgrade versus when to buy-new. CDW has similar SODIMMs for just under a hundred, so I may just get one to see if it speeds things up.

Apart from that unpleasantness, I was pleased to find Evolution 1.4 to provide suitable enhancement over whatever version came with RedHat 9. With my previous experience, setting up Firebird and NewsMonster was a snap.

We'll see how an infusion of RAM helps the situation. As I've just told Scotty, Fedora is almost enough to get me to switch from OSX - but not quite.

Spam and MT Plugins

(originally posted at

In my last post, I received my first blog comment-spam!

I've been hearing about the current spam epidemic in the blogosphere, but as I don't ping any of the major sites and don't really advertise myself (yet), I haven't had many hits and consequently, not much spam. In fact, I wasn't quite sure at first - based on the content - whether it was really spam or someone just being an idiot. It was solicitous in nature, pointing to an angelfire webpage, posted with a fake email address from what looks to be a modem pool IP. So it's spam.

This gave me the perfect excuse to mess around with MT plugins. I quite easily found and installed Jay Allen's MT-Blacklist plugin. Installation was as easy as extracting the files from the archive, moving them to the right places, giving them the proper permissions and downloading the latest spammer list. I did find a quick bug in the CGI that I emailed Jay about - he inadvertently left a localized link in the documentation.

Recent plugin success aside, I've not found many other MT plugins that would easily replicate the functionality I'd gain using phpwiki, so I'm going to continue exploring that option as a back-end for this technical log.

As for the spam itself, I've decided to keep it for posterity. However, if keeping it means more spam, I'll nuke it in a nanosecond.

Saturday, November 08, 2003


(originally posted at

It took a short while, but I've finally gotten PhpWiki up and running on my laptop under Panther.

The pre-requisites were PHP and MySQL, which were easy enough via installable packages.

Once I got phpwiki installed - which was as simple as dragging the folder into my ~/Sites directory - things got a little trickier. Launching index.php in my browser yielded nothing at all.

This gave me a good opportunity to check out Apple's latest version of Console - a log viewer. They seem to have added a tree-view pane to quickly jump between logs. My httpd/error_log showed quite a few errors, luckily all but one were from the same bug.

As I found out searching through phpwiki's known bugs, newer versionf of PHP have deprecated call-time pass-by-references - so the code in a few of phpwiki's .php files needed to be slightly altered. Annoying, but no big deal.

The next error was a bad function call to dba_open, which I later found referenced in TFM. Turns out some installations get this by default if they don't pre-configure database support. I had wanted to test out phpwiki with flat-files first, but it wasn't really important so I created my database, installed the schema, and updated my index.php. Voila, it worked.

All that and a cat sleeping in my lap. Sometimes life is good. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get some time to mess raound and see what phpwiki can do.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Webalizer Fix

(originally posted at

I've recently noticed that my Webalizer results have been drastically skewed due to the MT back-end and how much I've been using it. I've altered the Webalizer config to ignore blog* for both this site and ninjafish.

Update: I've added a link to my webalizer results in the Site Info side panel. I'm also playing with MT's entry Excerpt for Scotty to see how it displays in my feed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Finishing the Site

(originally posted at

Tonight I fleshed out the rest of the MT templates. I fixed the CSS on the individual entries, the comment popups, comment preview, comment error, master archive index (which is now linked in the side panel), category indexes, and date-based indexes. Phew.

So that should do it, you won't have to be afraid to leave comments now. Tomorrow I'll do the same for ninjafish.

NewsMonster on Linux

(originally posted at

Well, it works. I needed to install java and manually register the plugin with Mozilla, but it works. The good news is that it works, and it's pretty damn cool. The bad news is that the java plugin slows the launching of Mozilla way down.

What's worse is that registering the java plugin causes Firebird not to launch at all. This tek-tips thread explains the problem and gives a quick solution - don't register the java plugin with Firebird. I think the issue may be that I registered the plugin with Firebird in the same way I did with Mozilla. I'll look into the proper way of registering it.

NewsMonster itself is great. It's got the familiar 3-pane interface and has the neat "website filters" feature - which grabs headlines and thumbnailed screenshots of non-RSS-enabled sites like CNN. The news items themselves are rendered with a standard stylesheet, but the right-click context menu is that of Mozilla, which allows me to open links in a new tab right from the aggregator. Very cool, exactly what I was looking for. It also allowed me to import my .opml from NetNewsWire, however it didn't leave my folders in tact. But again, it's slow but I think the biggest issue is that I'm running RedHat 9 on an 800mhz laptop with 128mb of ram - so things are bound to be slow.

Update: Turns out I was registering the wrong Java plugin with Firebird. The Java plugin and the Firebird browser need to be compiled with the same version of gcc - in my case, 3.2. Using Firebird makes NewsMonster a bit quicker, but overall it's still crawling along (which again, is probably just the system). I can't wait until Apple and Mozilla get their problems sorted out so I can start using this software day-to-day.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

NewsMonster, Mozilla Woes

(originally posted at

Wow, this one's a doozy.

It all started when I wanted a quick and easy news aggregator for Linux. Mozilla comes standard, so NewsMonster seemed a logical fit. I've always thought that rss/rdf news aggregation was a natural extension of browsing. After using NetNewsWire for quite a while, I've decided that switching back and forth between aggregator and browser was a bit tedious. I even went so far as to submit a feature request to Apple for aggregator functionality in Safari (yeah, right).

Yet I digress, NewsMonster didn't work. This, I later found to be my own fault in not checking dependencies before installing - so NewsMonster may still be an option under Linux. Before finding that out, however, I decided to try installing Mozilla + NewsMonster under OSX. Hey, cross-platform is cross-platform, right?

Well, it didn't work either, for an entirely different and much more diabolical reason. What I missed was that NewsMonster requires Java 1.4, which comes standard in Panther. I checked Mozilla's about:plugins, and it told me I was only using 1.3.1. What gives?

Heading on over to mozdev, I thought I might find a way to upgrade to a new Java plugin. A quick search yielded the plugin support matrix, where I discovered an open bug on the plugin issue. The bug has been open for over 6 months - not reassuring in the least.

Turns out, Apple had ported Java 1.3.1 and 1.4.1, but hasn't documented what the Mozilla developers need to implement support for 1.4.1. So Mozilla stands on OS X, at version 1.5, with Java lingering at 1.3.1. Harsh.

What's a geek to do? Well, as luck would have it, the NewsMonster developer (Kevin Burton/burtonator) hangs out in #joiito - but with my luck, he wasn't online at the time. I was, however, able to find his screenname on a newsmonster-list post and we had a quick chat where he acknowledged Apple's complicity in the Mozilla issue. He's a nice guy and surprisingly accessible.

So until this all gets fixed, the OSX browser/aggregator remains unattainable.

Widescreen NetNewsWire Hack

(originally posted at

I've just implemented this hack which will move the preview pane of NetNewsWire to the right, giving it a widescreen effect. This just makes sense for widescreen LCD's.

I found this via The Tao of Mac, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite technical web spaces. The author uses a wiki to blog, which is something for me to look into.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Canceling EMusic

(originally posted at

I just cancelled my EMusic account. Basically, the company was bought out and they decided all-you-can-download accounts weren't helping their bottom line. I received an email notifying me that for the low, low price of $10/mo I could have up to 40 downloads per month, with a bump to 300 downloads for $50/mo.

Ah, thank you, I haven't laughed that hard since I was a little girl.

So over the past few weeks I've bled EMusic dry, downloading as much of the good stuff as I could. I fleshed out my collection from the Emperor Norton label, also beefing up my selection of jazz.

MBOX, MSF, Mozilla and Evolution

(originally posted at

It seems that all I needed was to sleep on it and then research the .msf issue. This link proved invaluable, as it bridged the knowledge gap I was suffering.

Turns out, .msf are mail summary files and that Mozilla does indeed still use the .mbox format. It simply doesn't append the .mbox extension to the end of the files it uses. For some reason, this was tripping me up in the Evolution-import process yesterday. Today it's not. Lovely.

Evolution only allows one import at a time, which, quite disappointingly mimics Outlook's limitations. The next challenge will be to figure out NewsMonster's issues, as my linux-on-the-desktop experiment continues.

Fink 0.6.1

(originally posted at

Fink 0.6.1 is now available with Panther support. I've got it installed and am now installing gimp to test out the integration with Apple's X11.

Mail Blues

(originally posted at

Well, I'm giving up for the night. Wrapping things up...

I started with .pst files on cd (well under the 2gb limit) and the goal was to import the .pst files into Evolution. The first obstacle was that Evolution simply wouldn't import the files. My prior post listed the options given to me by Ximian's support center and a quick google search - and they basically told me to get Mozilla or Netscape. That route had problems as well and I had to scrounge to find a Windows box with Outlook still on it.

Then began the arduous process of re-importing my .pst files one-by-one, because importing multiple files would've been too intelligent for some Redmond engineers to handle. Sigh. Once they were all imported into Outlook, I got to import the folders and messages into Mozilla - which intelligently enough, imported them all at once. Unfortunately, that's where Mozilla's intelligence ended. Instead of the .mbox format of previous versions, the latest version (1.5) stored the mail in .msf format - which Evolution can't import. Yuck.

So tomorrow I'll be reverting to an earlier version of Mozilla and starting the process all over again - simply because Microsoft hasn't learned its lesson regarding proprietary data formats, and the world hasn't learned its lesson regarding Microsoft. I need to research this new .msf format and find out why in the world Mozilla made the switch.

Interestingly enough, Apple's uses the .mbox format. If i were switching from that, it'd be easy.

Website Syndication

(originally posted at

A little late on this particular bandwagon, but I've finally signed up over at A new side panel has been added for my "techroll" - that is, the technical sites that I frequent and subscribe to via NetNewsWire.

Blogrolling has some nice include options - I'm using javascript, but that may change if this site ever goes php. I was also able to populate my first blogroll with an exported .opml file from NetNewsWire.

I've also installed NewsMonster on my linux-on-the-desktop box, err, laptop... though it doesn't appear to be working quite yet. I'll dig a little deeper later. Right now my mail filter process is just about done and I'm itching to see if I can get this stuff into Evolution.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Mail Fun(k)

(originally posted at

The goal was simple, import my old Outlook .pst files into Ximian Evolution. It's a sort of Outlook clone, y'see. This should be simple, nay?

Evolution itself wouldn't import the .pst files, so I hit google in search of an answer. Word on the net says Netscape or Mozilla can handle these imports. No sweat, I say, Mozilla comes standard with RH and I'm all up-to-date with my patches. Let 'er rip. Nope. Won't work either. So I download Netscape - which believe it or not is up to version 7.1 now. Besides needing to use a login to launch the app, it won't import the .pst either. Egads.

It seems there's no way to import a .pst into Evolution without quite a hassle. There's LibPST, but that seems like quite a hack and was last updated about a year ago. My other options restrict me to using a Windows machine - and they are Outport or Mozilla for windows. Why on earth Mozilla for Windows would allow you to import .pst's and Mozilla for linux would not, is beyond me.

Luckily, I brought two projects to entertain myself with tonight. The mail can wait, the really fun stuff is .opml, RSS feeds and php. Woo.