For the past six months

For the past six months or so, whenever a client has noticed a CSS bug in a site in Netscape 4 browsers, I often mention before I start coding workarounds that the browser “is almost five years old” because I vaguely remember playing with the betas in early 1997. I was curious to when it was officially released, so I went ahead and ponied up some dough at Google to find out

It turns out that the official release date is rapidly approaching, as Netscape 4.0 will turn 5 years old on June 11, 2002.

I’m just throwing an idea out here, but it’s probably something worth publicizing on your sites. Just this week I’ve spent a couple hours coding some redundant CSS to a site that passes the w3c validator, but Netscape 4 browsers refuse to inherit parent styles at various points for no reason.

Now, maybe it hasn’t sunken in yet, but It’s been FIVE YEARS since the browser was released and it’s still a pain the ass to work with today. I know there have been user upgrade drives at glassdog and the webstandards project, but maybe it’s time to do this again? I know the Mozilla party is the next day, I should probably talk to the organizers about perhaps burning an effigy of the 4.0 browser to celebrate the 1.0 release of Mozilla.

I’m becoming increasingly aware that

I’m becoming increasingly aware that the advertising market for the internet is hitting rock bottom. The daily links from MetaFilter often point to news sites, and in the past few weeks the tide has definitely shifted from a minority of newspaper sites having obnoxious pop-up or pop-under ads to a majority. I’m actually surprised now when I can find a news site that doesn’t feature annoying advertising. Banner blindness means giant flash ads or forced advertising breaks in the middle of stories, as the only advertising that anyone notices seems to be the annoying types of ads. The ads themselves have also shifted in content. Gone are the harmless computer company pitches or even the goofy sexist x10 camera ads, as the rock-bottom of the internet advertising world (aside from porn ads of course) is making frequent appearances in my browser: online casino ads. They’re not only legally questionable, they’re gaudy, ugly, and remind me of the mob.

In business, if you need money and don’t have it, and you can’t secure a loan from the bank, you call the mob for an emergency loan you’ll soon regret. Apparently the internet advertising business works the same. When all else fails, advertise for online casinos.

Watching Do the Right Thing,

Watching Do the Right Thing, it’s hard to believe it was just over a decade ago when I first saw it. The MLK quote at the end still seems rather apt today.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destrous community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After a few hours of

After a few hours of tweaking (and losing email, if I don’t get back to something you sent in the last 24hrs, feel free to resend), I have finally got SpamAssassin up and running to filter my email. From the past couple day’s worth of messages, it has caught every spam, and the one false positive it found out of about 200 messages was for something I didn’t want to receive anyway.

I first heard about spamassassin from Bill Rini’s review, and my experiences with it mirror his. It tags spam with a special header and rewrites the subject, making it easy to filter tagged mail into a spam folder, and the remainder of all your email comes through clean. It is incredibly liberating to be able to read new email free of junk, though it sucks that the spam situation is such that people have to write applications like this.

Over the course of the

Over the course of the past two days, I’ve helped Lawrence Lessig create a new site for the Eldred vs. Ashcroft Supreme Court case. This case is a major milestone in what will hopefully be a shift away from limitless control of copyright by publishers and back to copyright’s intended purpose: to protect artists and creators for reasonable periods of time. The once rich public domain is almost a memory as copyright on new creations is commonly held for periods in excess of 140 years total. Check out the site for the case, and if you believe that copyright has gone too far, please spread the word about this case.


How to lose customers: when

How to lose customers: when faced with customers that have cash-in-hand, force unnecessary delays on them.

A couple months ago, we rented a house and moved in. The previous resident was the owner (my brother-in-law) and had cable and DSL service. The day before move-in, I called PacBell to convert over the phone and DSL service into our names. After a 20 minute call, I was informed a new phone number would be working at the place within 2 hours. DSL, however, would take a minimum of two weeks to be activated. Now, I may be biased because it is my profession, but why can’t other vital services at the phone company be turned on and off with the flick of a switch like a phone line? I didn’t want to go with PacBell for DSL service, but since they wired up the old place and I still had the equipment hooked to the wall, I figured it’d be faster than asking an outside provider to provision a new DSL line. Not so, and I ended up waiting about 15 days before DSL service was fully functioning.

Thursday I came home to find an ominous message hanging from the front door. AT&T cable had been checking the neighborhood, and noticed we were getting free cable, which they promptly shut off. The next morning I called to inquire how much it’d be to turn it back on, since it was working 12 hours previous. Instead of a flick of a switch, AT&T said it would be a minimum of two weeks to send someone out to physically do something on the side of the house to get the analog cable lines going again. When a possible install date was discussed, I noticed it was after the first games of the world cup, which would be a major problem in our home. They said there was nothing I could do, so I decided to look elsewhere.

When I lived in LA a few years ago, the neighborhood offered cable tv from three different companies. You could pick the best lineup or the best price, and go with them. Not so in the bay area, as AT&T has a lock on the market, charging $38 monthly for analog cable with 60 channels or so, and $48 monthly for digital cable for a hundred or so channels. I recall spending under $30 a month for cable just a few years ago in LA, but I guess that’s why monopolies are good for business. My only other option was a satellite system, and since we live in a house, it’s not that big of a deal to bolt a small dish onto the roof. After talking to Andre, I decided to look for a Tivo/DSS system like he had, and eventually I found an online retailer offering the entire setup with a new directv subscription for under a hundred bucks. Circuit City used to sell them, but TiVo setup an exclusive deal with BestBuy, who didn’t offer the satellite system any longer. Directv is pretty much the only satellite player, as they bought their rival a few years back.

This experience has taught me not only that I’m impatient when it comes to necessary services like internet access and tv, but that monopolies are everywhere, and I’ve merely traded one cable monopoly for a satellite one. The days of true consumer choice seem to be behind us as merger mania continues.

If I could have any

If I could have any car on earth right now, this would be my first choice.

50 mpg on the highway, a zippy turbo for quickness, and it can even run on soybean oil and old grease. Now that we’re living outside of a mass transit-friendly city, I’m mindful of the gas my car guzzles and more importantly, the area of the world it comes from and effects of such consumption. I’ve been thinking that I’d like to replace my current car with one that gets 50 mpg, but figured with putting that criteria first and foremost, spaciousness and driving pep would suffer. The Golf TDI looks like an amazing piece of engineering that solves all three problems for me (I was actually eyeing the Toyota and Honda hybrids, and the Golf before, but didn’t know they made this high-mileage version until today).

It also reminds me how disappointed I was when congress didn’t approve the increase in fuel efficiency standards a couple months back. Engineers and designers are used to working within constraints, and good ones excel at finding clever solutions to complex problems. In the absence of constraints, it could be argued that the lack of pressure to innovate means that advancement doesn’t happen. Imagine if in five years time, the average mpg of a car in the US was raised to a high number like 35mpg. I know I just came back from the most stimulating conference I’ve ever attended and I’ve still got a post-panel buzz going, but I have no doubts that you’d see some incredible innovation in a short period of time if new limits were imposed on designers. “In the future all our problems will be solved with technology” may just be short-sighted optimism, but for things like this, it really applies.