Software development can be extremely frustrating, and it might be true that the computer only does what you tell it to do, but these days a lot of people, besides yourself, are telling the computer what to do, a fact that complicates matters “somewhat” (understatement of the year).
The following experience documents a case, where I was sure that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and you could argue that I didn’t, I just didn’t know any better, but thanks to the community I solved the problem.
I’ve recently begun doing some PHP programming, and I like it a lot, mostly because of all the wonderful community. it’s my gut feeling that I find answers to my questions much faster when I have PHP related questions, compared to .NET questions.
So I was experimenting with generating some XML code from PHP, but when I gave the URL to the W3C validator, it told me that the XML wasn’t well-formed, and that it was the header that was the problem.
I couldn’t see anything wrong, until I took a closer look. There was a mysterious space prefixed the output when I did a View/Source, a space that I for sure knew I didn’t echo. Hmm…
I tried several things, including flushing the output, but nothing helped.
Then it dawned on me: it’s very likely that someone else has had this problem, and if they did, for sure they would have the generosity to share it, so Google to rescue.
It turns out that PHP is quite sensitive if you, by accident, leave prefixed or sufficed blank spaces outside the starting and ending php tags.
So I went through my PHP files, luckily I only have two, made sure there were no leading or trailing blanks og lines, and I get well-formed XML now.
This is a rather annoying bug in, or should I say feature of, PHP, and it exists in both PHP4 and PHP5.
Once again the community came through, without it I’d still be drawing blanks.
And I love the drawing on the memento site, it doesn’t get geekier, and I think I’ll remember to strip leading and trailing blanks now.
I’m still looking for a modern development environment for PHP development (e.g. sourcecode debugging). PHPEclipse, a plug-in for the Eclipse development environment, should provide a relatively modern development environment, even though it’s not up to the standards set by Microsoft VisualStudio, that I’m so accustomed to, Microsoft has spoiled me.
“Advarsel”: Dette er jo et politisk indlæg – oh well, nu er valgkampen jo ovre, så man kan jo tillade sig at tale politik igen 😉
Jeg føler mig hensat til fiktionens verden, takket være et brev jeg modtog lørdag:
[…] Erhvervsvirksomheder med mindst én ansat og offentlige institutioner skal betale medielicens […]
[…] Hvis adressen skal tilmeldes, kan i indsende dette brev i den vedlagte svarkuvert. […]
Dette er et udsnit af det rent Kafkaske brev som jeg har modtaget fra DR.
Og det slutter:
[…] Hvis denne adresse for nylig er blevet tilmeldt til medielicens, beder vi jer se bort fra dette brev og undskylder ulejligheden […]
Hvad mon der sker hvis man ikke reagerer på dette, og undlader at returnere brevet, som man bliver “opfordret til”?
Jeg mener ikke at jeg er pligtig til at betale erhvervs medielicens, da jeg betaler privat, og da mit firma kun har en adresse, fordi man ikke kan undlade at have en. Herudover har mit firma ikke udbetalt løn til den eneste ansatte, yours truly, i over 1,5 år.
Der er dog næppe tvivl om at jeg, ifølge loven, er pligtig til at betale erhvervsmedielicens, men jeg orker, helt ærligt, ikke at undersøge om jeg er pligtig til at betale den – for DR Licens har ikke fremsendt reglerne, dem skal man selv finde på Internettet. Jeg har tænkt mig bare at afvente, og “se hvad der sker”.
Noget helt andet er, at jeg ikke mener at det p.t., giver mening at tale om mobiltelefoner som licenspligtige, da man, i praksis, kun kan bruge dem til at hente indhold fra DR, hvis man f.eks. tegner et 3tv abonnement.
Jeg antager at jeg har modtaget dette brev fra DR, enten fordi de sender det til alle ikke registrerede erhvervsvirksomheder – nogle skal jo betale for det skandaløse, og helt unødvendige, mediehus – eller også er det fordi jeg er blevet 3 kunde.
Jeg tror på det første er tilfældet, da brevet er påført et KOB id og en virksomhedstype (ApS).
En ting er sikker, KOB har tjent rigtig gode penge på at agere mellemmænd i denne sag, og fantastisk timing, brevet kom efter valget.
Jo kreativiteten er i højsædet hos etaten.
Tak medielicens, og navnet er K, Joseph K., eller var det Dent, Arthur Dent?
Welcome to ICT Mythbusters Episode Two – this time we’ll be investigating the myth that Microsoft is just copying Apple. The post is indeed subtitled “Attack of the Clones”, but bear with me, I have to take a detour to the world of digital typography, before returning to the real topic, so if you’re the impatient type (pun intended), just proceed to the end of the article.
Among Apple Macintosh faithfuls, it’s considered common knowledge that Microsoft, with Windows, just made a bad copy of the Apple Macintosh, but who’s copying who?
What triggered me to revisit this myth, that I’ve covered in detail before, was the screening of the great documentary, Helvetica, that I went to yesterday.
In the Helvetica movie Apple Computers was very much the supporting actor, and Apple was indeed mentioned in the credits. More prominently one of the Gurus of Type design, Erik Spiekermann, stated, as a fact, that Microsoft Windows was nothing more than a clone of the Apple Macintosh.
Spiekermann’s statement sounded just like the Apple marketing hype, and the fact that it was being stated by a very influential person in the industry, triggered me.
Firstly: I was somewhat surprised to hear this in a documentary about type. There’s no doubt that all the graphic designers interviewed for the documentary were already using Apple hardware, but I found it strange that Spiekermann’s statement didn’t end up on the cutting floor.
Show some love for the Mac
First there’s no doubt that Microsoft, and Bill Gates always has been great fans of the Apple Macintosh, as the clip below documents:
To create a new standard, it takes something that is just not a little bit different, it takes something that is really new, and really captures people’s imagination, and the Macintosh, of all the machines I’ve seen, is the only one that meets that standard
Case closed: Bill Gates just admitted that Windows is nothing more than a cloned stormtrooper.
Now wait a minute…As you might notice the clip is quite old, and at that time Microsoft was working on creating one of the key selling points, even to this date, for Apple hardware, the Excel spreadsheet.
Excel was originally developed for the Macintosh, and it wasn’t released for Windows until the the dying moments of the 1980ies. In fact, Microsoft has done more for the proliferation of the Apple Macintosh than any other software manufacturer, and you could argue that the commitment to the Macintosh platform that Microsoft guaranteed at the famous MacWorld keynote in 1997, was a pivotal turning point. Steve Jobs even declared:
We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to loose. […] The era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft, as far as I’m concerned that is over.
And then Jobs went on to establish the fact that Apple and Microsoft, together, is the standard with a combined market share of 100%. Whatever Apple and Microsoft does is the standard.
Well I’m sure the $150 million investment by Microsoft, and the televised image of Bill Gates in the background, had something to do with it, but Steve Jobs was just saying exactly what the stockholders and board-members wanted to hear.
What’s your type?
The market for Apple Macintosh was very much created by the fact, that the Macintosh Computer was the first desktop computer capable of doing print quality design, this revolutionised publishing.
Really it wasn’t so much Apple’s technology that helped create this market, as it was the PostScript technology developed by Adobe.
Until PostScript, all fonts used by desktop computers were so called bit-map fonts, it meant that the fonts were digitised to a specific resolution, and they looked horrible if you tried to scale them to a different point size than the one that was provided with the operating system.
Another problem with the bit-map fonts was that they required a lot of storage, laser-printers use a resolution of 300 DPI (dots per inch), a point in typography is 1/72 of an inch, meaning that 12 point X roughly requires 50 x 50 pixels = 2.500 pixels, and you needed that matrix for all 256 possible characters in the character sets used until the 90ies, a rough calculation yields 640.000 pixels, in bytes that is 80.000, meaing that you’d need approximately 80KB to represent a 300DPI bit-map font. Multiply that by several factors, because the italic and bold versions need their own representation as well, and that should once again be multiplied by the number of fonts installed.
Today this doesn’t sound like much, but remember that the first Macintosh came with only 128KB of RAM, and NO harddrive. In those days a Linotype typesetter had a resolution that was a factor 16 higher, so Houston we have a problem.
Mathematics to the rescue
The PostScript technology used mathematics to describe the fonts (quadric BézÃer curves), making them scalable to all sizes, and a special “hinting” algorithm that reduced the processing power needed when rendering the types.
The technology is known as Adobe Type 1. Adobe had also secured licensing deals with Linotype, the dominant player in the type-foundry business, and owner of a huge share of the mainstream fonts.
The fact that that you could do close to print quality proofs on the desktop, and then simply send the PostScript files to the Linotype typesetter, for print quality, and be confident that the result would look the same as the proof, was nothing short of a revolution.
Fight the power – TrueType this
So heavenly bliss, we had scalable fonts of “infinite” quality, and thanks to the software Adobe Type Manager (ATM), type 1 fonts also worked on the screen, delivering the holy grail of desktop publishing, true WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).
So what was the problem with this? The problem was the exorbitant licensing fees that you had to pay Adobe to use the technology and Linotype for the use of their copyrighted fonts.
One of my favourite parts of the Helvetica documentary, is in the scene where we’re taken to the “holiest of holy”, deep below the HQ of Linotype, where they keep the original Hass designs for Helvetica, it’s their “precious”.
Another problem with Adobes technology was that it was very processor intensive, making the screen rendering of the fonts quite slow. Anyone that has ever used ATM on early 90ies hardware will know what I’m taking about.
So Apple was developing a competing technology, TrueType, and later Microsoft and Apple worked together to create an alternative to type 1. Microsofts work included the introduction of replacements for the predominant fonts of the day, Helvetica became Arial, Times Roman became Times New Roman and Courier became Courier New.
Microsoft has contributed a number of major enhancements to TrueType, mainly ClearType, which is an anti-aliasing technology to improve the readability of screen fonts. The technology, which is bundled with Microsoft Reader, has failed to make to much of an impact, but anti-aliasing of screen fonts is the standard today.
Back to the real topic – who’s stealing from who
Oh well, this was a long talk about type, fonts and technology, and proof that the competition between Microsoft and Apple mostly takes place in the minds of the faithfuls (devotees?) of the “Church of Steve Jobs”.
Why is it that neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs really want to talk about copying, well it’s because Windows AND Mac OS both are clones.
The work that is the foundation of all graphical user interfaces was done at the Palo Alto Research Center of XEROX, but XEROX being a hardware company, also developed hardware, and the XEROX Documenter or XEROX 8010 Star that really was the first modern computer.
The Star was introduced on April 27th in 1981, several months earlier than the IBM PC. The Macintosh, Windows and GEM shipped 4 years later.
Despite the fact that it wasn’t until the introduction of the NeXT computer, that the mainstream computer industry delivered anything remotely akin to the Star, XEROX failed to make the Star a mass-market product
Attack of the clones! MYTH BUSTED!
Today most people are oblivious of the fact that the Imperial clones were ordered by the agents of the Empire, the ICT equivalents of Count Dooku and Palpatine: Apple and Microsoft. The praise for creating the fantastic tools we have in our hands today should go the XEROX, the Palo Alto Research Center and the amazing people that worked there, for instance Alan Kay, whom Steve Jobs often quotes.
The picture of the real myth busters, Adam Savage and Jamie Heyneman, actually is a banner add, but I make ABSOLUTELY no money from it, if you click it and make a purchase, all proceeds go to the Jamie, Adam and of course Café Press. I hope this will settle any copyright issues with them.
The picture of Erik Spiekermann above, is a still from the Helvetica film, and it is copied from the official site of the Helvetica film. The picture is copyright Gary Hustwit, but I consider my use here to be fair use.
The picture of the XEROX 8010 Star is copied from the wonderful DigiBarn website. The picture is copyright DigiBarn, but since it is under a CC-NA-SA license, I can use it – the wave of the future!
The MYTH BUSTED picture was copied from the webiste of MARIJNBOSCH.COM, there’s no copyright notice on the site, and I consider my use here to be fair use.
Apple means business with their promise to open up the iPhone and iPod touch platform to developers with the launch of the iPhone Dev Center, and it looks quite impressive, even though it’s mainly information on how to develop web-applications, and links to already existing information for Mac OS X.
Below is a quote from the mail I just received from ADC:
Available to all ADC Members, the iPhone Dev Center is your complete source for technical information, resources, and expert advice on how to design, code and optimize web applications for iPhone and iPod touch. Take advantage of the iPhone Reference Library, web development guidelines, and sample code to build or optimize your web application. Through ADC on iTunes, you can watch iPhone experts discuss everything from user interface design to optimizing your web applications and content for iPhone.
Once your app is ready, or if you have an existing web app, submit it for possible listing on the Apple web apps page. Log in now and access all the resources of the iPhone Dev Center today.
Unfortunately I don’t think Apple is going to make the platform available to other hardware manufacturers, which is typical Apple, but wouldn’t it be great with Mono ported to the iPhone and iPod touch? And I’m confident that Mono and even Silverlight/Moonlight will be ported to the iPhone platform.
Another brilliant touch (pun intended ;-)), is that the developer resources only is available to registered ADC users, something that the open source communities would barf at, but Apple will get away with it, as usually, and I think that the open source communities should take lessons from Apple.
I think ADC will receive a huge influx of registered users because of this, and it’s a direct path to marketing of the WWDC, which will see an unprecedented surge in attendance next year, which I predict will force Apple into move towards two WWDCs every year, one for mobile and non-mobile devices.
This is yet another brilliant move by Apple – and is that a Steve Jobs version of “the monkey dance” I see on the horizon? Developers, Developers, Developers!
After a while being away from Drupal CMS, and struggling with a, IMHO, buggy version 5.0 earlier this year, I’ve come back to visit this old friend, and I’m very happy to be back.
Firstly: I must say that the current version 5.3 of Drupal is rock solid, and that I have renewed confidence in Drupal.
My revisiting Drupal has, in part, been sparked by a rather depressing talk on the Drupal Denmark mailing list. The community seemed to be withering away, and I was sad to hear that.
Personally I’m back from a long break from ICT work, and I think that I did a fair share of volunteer work, while we were trying to set up the group last year.
Another reason I’m back, is that I have a number of web-projects coming up, and I’ve long considered making Drupal the foundation of a majority of my future web projects, you might not notice, since my projects, most likely, won’t look much like Drupal.
In 2000 I investigated the possibility of issuing a CD with Beneath Contempt, called Digital Comeback 2000, with copyrighted covers-tracks, but that was too cumbersome and expensive, so I gave up on it, and the cover-tracks aren’t available on Last.fm either – it would only result it us getting promptly banned, but all the tracks has been made available in FULL and as FREE downloads. N-Joy. Be advised it’s guaranteed to be in GLORIOUS LO-FI.
But it’s quite ridiculous that I can’t make the number one hit by Beneath Contempt, a spoof on Pippi Longstockings called Hippie Longhair, available due to the copyright rules. If you know Danish, and even if you don’t, just follow the link, and make your own version instead – the ultimate in DIY.
“These” limitations will eventual disappear, but only because we now are beginning to make music available for free.
Great Label Manager
As expected the process of uploading material to Last.fm is smooth. The material has to be submitted at 128K MP3 files, and you have to bundle your uploads into releases (e.g. albums). I found it easiest to package your release into a single ZIP file, and then upload it as one release.
After you’ve uploaded the file, Last.fm validates it and I did of couse have some hidden resource forks, that I could iron out, and you’re given the opportunity to change to artist and title of the tracks. The info is read directly from the MP3 file, so remember to have it tagged before uploading it, I had no problems with the process, and considering how much time I just spend uploading pictures to a Share Point Server, this was really easy and productive.
Last.fm also offers to upload the material for you, you just have to send them the CD and they’ll take care of it for you – great customer service.
Last.fm also offers integrated promotion tools, buing of including banner ads, co-marketing deals etc. It’s really quite impressive, and it looks very easy to use.
The traditional music publishers should take note, “Houston: YOU have a problem!”
ps. Trouble in “paradise”
And then I ran into one of the “limitations” of Last.fm’s Label manager.
I tried to upload the works of another of our “artists”, Oh No, and that name was already taken by, no other, than the brother of Madlib, so now my label and the content is put in an automatic moderation queue, quite understandable, let’s see how that works, and I’m not allowed to manage my label for the next three days, while the account is being scrutinised by the Last.fm staff.
I expect no problems, despite the controversial name of the label and the LO-FI, in mono, no less.
What I expect is than we’ll be told to find another name for the “artist” when publishing on Last.fm, or keep “Oh No” away from Last.fm, which would be a “shame” ;-).
I think the policy of Last.fm makes good sense, but the ambiguty of artist names, especially short and cathcy ones like “Oh No”, is a major problem, and Last.fm could be better at handling that.
Today I realised that it’s been a year since the wonderful blogforum2, and I knew that I’d have heard about it if there was going to be a blogforum this year, but feeling the urge, I went looking for the usual suspects, and it so happened that I stumbled upon The Copenhagen Project – a recent brain child of Jeppe Kabell and the “notorious” Thomas Madsen-Mygdal – and if Thomas is involved you better listen up:
We are building a catalog of media building bricks in order to reinvent the services we use to understand and keep up to date with what happens in the world.
(notice that I changed “building bricks” to “building blocks” – I find that more correct).
Their ideas seems to be related to a lot of the ideas that I have, for instance regarding collective intelligence, and how to put the computer to more use when sharing knowledge.
They also picked up on a great crowd-sourcing idea – which I’ve been considering myself, and it’s simply to tag posts with a magic tag – in this case tcp2007 – and they should show up on the reactions page automagically – Gentlemen: start tagging 😉 (let’s see if that actually works).
I’ll be following The Copenhagen Project closely in the future, now if they only had a Jaiku channel – hint hint ;-)?
So what about the blogforum?
I suppose that someone has to organise the blogforum if it’s going to happen again, I’m not much of an organiser – but I’ll sure lend a hand if someone picks it up, because it was nothing short of inspirering, and it made me blog up a storm.
Blogforum2 had some spin offs, one was a survey, BlogTjek 07, that got press from big media, the other is the Blogfond – an attempt at creating a foundation to support the blog community (and then I just discovered that the board is considering pulling the plug – if we do, let’s at least have a party ;-)).
Friday I went to the Science Fair – dubbed Science After Dark – that was held at Copenhagen City Hall Square (Københavns Rådhusplads), and I enjoyed it very much. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when I read that there would be live electronic music, I knew that I was going.
The first thing i noticed was that attendance, despite the location, was disappointingly low. I feel that it was because the venue looked quite uninviting, due to the fence, and the rather closed looking pavilions.
I also got the feeling that the PR for the Science Fair had been less than satisfactory.
ConDio – Controlling Audio
Anyway, the first thing that grasped my eye was the ConDio, Controlling Audio. The ConDio is a device with which you can control the playback of sound, simply by moving physical bricks around on a table surface. The ConDio uses pattern recognition to determine the position of the different blocks, which translates into a specific function, for instance one brick changes the track that is being played, others applies filters.
It’s remarkably simple, efficient and intuitive to control a computer in this fashion, and it was a real crowd puller.
The ConDio has been developed by the medialogy branch of the University of Aalborg, and It was really great talking to the students that were responsible for the project. They were really feeding from the enthusiasm of the people that were looking at it.
I’m really envious that the students of today get to play with technology like this, to quote Haladjjan, the founder of Violet (manufacturer of the Nabaztag intelligent WiFi bunny):
â€œle début de lâ€™internet a été une aimable kermesseâ€¦ Maintenant les choses sérieuses commencentâ€ – (translation: â€œthe beginning of the Internet has been a friendly festivalâ€¦Now the serious stuff beginsâ€.
What a great time in history to be alive in.
Kim Bach – The failed scientist
I also enjoyed visiting the Bio Chemistry tent, where I had a discussion about how to bring science to the public (“videnskabs formidling”). The scientist in charge asked me it I’ve heard about Jens Martin Knudsen – and the regular reader would know that I just posted a tribute to him – we need more like him – since he was able to bring across complicated matters in lay-mans terms – we also discussed the great Richard Dawkins.
What I really hope is that someone could take up the reins from Jens Martin Knudsen, because we need those positive role-models from the scientific community to teach us the importance of understanding our world.
I also had a chance to redeem myself. I label my self a “failed scientist”. I’m really a product of the inspiration of the space program and the lunar missions, and when I was a kid, I desperately wanted to become a scientist – but “something” happened along the way – and it’s too complicated to talk about here – but I basically got fed up with boring educational system.
But it does seem like I have some basic scientific intuition, and I got some high marks from “the teacher” for thinking like a scientist, when I was observing the strange creature the Daphnia.
It was also interesting talking to the students from the Nano technology line. They’re looking into how to produce solar arrays that are less harsh on the environment, it turns out that you can use fruit juice from black berries as the base of a solar cell, instead of silicon – amazing.
Bend my circuits
But what I really enjoyed the most, was the tent dedicated to audio, which also included live performances from Dødskuglen, Rumpistol and Bjørn Svin (who I missed).
In the tent some interesting and simple demonstrators were set up, one was a Theremin that was controlled by a plant. You could actually play music by touching the leaves of the plant – very entertaining. Another was a tube with a number of nozzles from which gas could escape, and be lit, if you then played music, the sound-waves would modulate the flames – Daft Punk’s Robot Rock looked quite good “going up in flames”.
Dødskuglen plays with circuit bending, and they had gutted a lot of electronics with audio capabilities, for instance a couple of Furbys, that now looked – and sounded – like mean birds, and when you hooked them up to a keyboard, they were capable of making some wonderful noise.
Dødskuglen has their name from a dome shaped device, that is the center-piece of their show. According to them it’s filled with gutted electronics from Happy Meals and the like – I’m not surprised.
We also got a live demonstration of how to circuit bend – don’t try this at home – you might hit the AC power-supply and die – but if you’re careful, just take a cheap electronic keyboard apart, and try to apply some wire patches live – it was amazing to hear how the standard drum-machine suddenly went into a completely different state, and sounded completely different, only to return to it’s standard loop after being reset.
Kim Bach – The failed musician
After Dødskuglen, Rumpistol took the stage, and he’s using his computer in combination with analogue synthesisers to produce great electronica.
Besides being a failed scientist, I also consider myself a failed musician, but with the simple technology being showcased here, that is so much more fun and intuitive to control than a traditional instrument, I might be able to express myself – I know that I have some music in my head – maybe I can finally make some music – I know that I want a copy of the guitar simulator for the Nintendo DS called Jam Sessions.
A child’s mind
There’s a strange unifying synergy between science and music. When doing science and music, you really need to have a child’s mind, and like to play. That’s something I still, I’d say increasingly, possess – so I might still become a scientist/musician. It’s also noteworthy that a number of my heroes for instance RMS (Richard Stallman) and N (Peter Naur), actually play music themselves.
I went home after having had a great time, with renewed faith in our educational system, it seems to be producing playful scientists – I wished someone had told me that science was about playing, when I was a student.
I hope that Science After Dark will become a recurring event.
Show your <3 for science – make some NOIIIIISSSSSEEEEE!!!
I did, however, hear some rumours the Science After Dark has been frowned upon from the established scientific community. Come down from your ivory towers, Science is FUN and NOISY. Show your <3 for Science – make some NOIIIIISSSSSEEEEE!!!
Last.fm has just come up with another useful feature: personalised recommendations in you inbox, and unlike iTunes weekly mail, the Last.fm recommendations e-mail actually contains recommendations that are useful to me.
What I really like, is that I get recommendations for live acts, I might never miss a live act, I’d love to see in the future, due to this.
Last.fm is the “Mother of Big Brothers”, and they own you, but I like it, and it will mean that I go to see more live acts, and that is really one of things I love the most.
So I thought that Linux was ready for prime time, but not just yet – it was hurting my productivity too much :-(. I need some help setting my system up, and will attempt to get that when I soon will attend LinuxParty in Roskilde.
Performance of the applications is really great though, and I hit on one of the biggest obstacles, non-functioning DVD playback due to patent issues – really amazing that the International anti-thrust organisations haven’t looked into that :-(.
I hope to return to the Linux world soon, Ubuntu keeps improving
But the future really lies in simpler technology, and “the puck” is moving elsewhere than the monolithic computer. My mobile is increasingly my primary Internet access terminal, and Apple might just have got it right with the iPhone. The iPhone is actually much more Linux than people realise, it’s powered by FreeBSD and contains source code form from several open source projects, most noticeably KHTML which is the basis for the Safari browser.