12.31.10

Kodachrome

Posted in History, Life at 2:07 am by

(Generally nostalgic and antiquarian photography bits are left to the realm of Jeff, q.v. twitter and tumblr, but today we make an exception—after all, Kodachrome has a Utah state park and a Paul Simon song named after it.)

So Kodachrome has given us its last image and now is only a thing for the ages. I shot but one roll of Kodachrome, quite by accident; I normally used Ektachrome when shooting slides, and I can’t recall how I ended up with Kodachrome that day in late 1994 or early 1995. Perhaps the store was out of Ektachrome, or I grabbed the wrong package in my haste.

I’m sorry to admit, though, that the roll of Kodachrome was wasted making slides of line-art maps, David Roberts prints I’d brought back from Cairo, and, the horror!, photographs taken with a cheap disposable camera (carried, for whatever reason, to supplement my actual camera stuffed with Ektachrome during that trip to Egypt), including one shot taken through an airplane window! Worse (for me, at the time), because of my mix-up, I missed my presentation date due to the lengthier processing time required for Kodachrome. (It was, however, a mistake I never repeated.)

Still, I felt then the most I’d ever feel like a “serious” photographer and lecturer, using the school library’s rig to mount my camera and shoot the additional slides I needed to fill in gaps in my presentation’s slide lineup. And, as long as Kodachrome holds up, we’ll have those nice bright colors of random bits of Egypt, ready for projection on the nearest screen, and all of the memories they captured and preserve.

Kodachrome

12.30.10

Bothans

Posted in History, Life at 11:35 pm by

I’m not sure why, exactly, but every time I see or hear someone talking about Bothans, I always end up thinking of these two Bothas instead.

Reminder: Year 2011 Bug Contest

Posted in Camino, History at 12:12 am by

This is a late (but not quite as late as last year!) reminder of the “pool” for the 2011 installment of the annual “we break our site for your browser when the new year rolls around” broken browser-sniffing contest (the first 2011 Gecko browsers will be available in about 54 hours from now).

Since perennial contender Yahoo! finally cleaned up its act last year, the 2010 dodo prize went to FCKEditor, the first winner that affected entire swaths of the web rather than just a single website or a collection of an organization’s websites. (FCKEditor is a WYSIWYG text editor implementation for web pages used by many websites and by common web applications/web-based software packages for creating and maintaining websites.)

However, I’m hopeful that, after so many years, this entire contest will soon go the way of the dodo. Between renewed efforts to remove the build date from the Gecko user-agent string, evangelism associated with the many user-agent string changes in Gecko 2.0, and simple exhaustion of the number of possible contenders (after six years, and with the tens place in the year having been filled with a new number last year for the first time since many websites were created), I’m (overly) optimistic that people’s regexps have finally been audited. :P

Still, get your picks in now for both the site/company/piece of the “web software stack” that will break and the reporter of the Tech Evangelism bug who notices said site/company/piece of web software. No actual prizes will be awarded, but both winners will be recognized in a future entry in this journal.

And remember: only you can prevent bad browser-sniffing! :P

12.17.10

Wevah Hardware Day

Posted in Life at 11:49 pm by

For as long as I’ve known Wevah, one of my favorite things has been watching as his ADC hardware discount was nearing expiration and the apparent scramble to decide upon and order a new Mac with the discount.

So sad that this was the last one:(

12.16.10

Camino Tips: Going Flash-Free (and Cheating using Google Chrome)

Posted in Camino, Links at 1:23 am by

(Hey, look at that; Camino Planet is working normally again, which means my posts are appearing again.)

Once again it’s been over a year since the last post in the Camino Tips series, but we’re back with another one.

Recently, going “Flash-free” (and cheating by using Google Chrome when you hit a Flash-only website) has become all the rage on the web; you can do so in Camino, too, with a little help from AppleScript and/or Automator.

Short version:

  1. Uninstall the Flash Player plug-in by moving Flash Player.plugin and flashplayer.xpt from /Library/Internet Plug-ins to some other location.
  2. Install one of the solutions below to facilitate opening the current page in Google Chrome (which ships with its own built-in copy of the Flash plug-in).

Toolbar Script solution

Carlo Gandolfi (aka gand, of FreeSMUG and Portable Camino fame) wrote a short AppleScript that can be used as a toolbar script; if you’re on a page with Flash that you need to be able to view, you can click the toolbar button to open the page in Google Chrome.

For more information about this method and to download the toolbar AppleScript, see Going Flash-Free with Camino on FreeSMUG.

Automator-based Service solution

Philippe Wittenbergh, always mindful of the keyboard accessibility of features and tricks, adapted the toolbar script solution into an Automator-based Service for Mac OS X 10.6 (it can probably be adapted for use with ThisService for users on Mac OS X 10.5); if you’re on a page with Flash that you need to be able to view, you can use the keyboard shortcut you’ve assigned to the Service to open the page in Google Chrome.

For more information about this method and to download the Automator workflow, see Workflow for a nearly Flash-less online life with Camino at ::[Empty Spaces]::.

Thanks to Carlo and Philippe for putting these tools and their instructions together (it’s something I had wanted to do for quite a while now, but, as usual of late, never found the time to do)!

12.02.10

Things I learned last week…

Posted in Life, Travel at 6:09 pm by

Last week I was on <gasp> vacation and was completely offline for the longest period of time since our trip to Norway and Germany in 2008. Even better, I was out in the country (the undeveloped mountains of western North Carolina, to be precise) and (mostly) away from the cities, development, and commercialism. It was nice.

So while I wasn’t learning new and exciting things via Daring Airlinepilot, I did manage to enrich my knowledge in a few areas:

  • Apparently it is possible to win the National Gingerbread House Competition™ without making a gingerbread house at all (tune in to Good Morning America on Christmas Eve to see more if you’re a fan of elaborate food-and-candy structures).
  • There are so-called “Black Friday” crowds even at historic country stores in small communities tucked into out-of-the-way valleys.
  • It’s possible to be in a cabin in the mountains with outside temperatures in the 30s (°F), no heat on, sleeping bag unzipped, and still be sweating all night!
  • My body told me that I’m now too old to be able to sleep on hard ground with only a closed-cell foam pad under my sleeping bag. :(

11.01.10

Resurrecting Camino Planet

Posted in Camino at 2:02 am by

Some of you may have noticed the lack of updates on Camino Planet for the past month and change. In late September, the site stopped updating automatically, and in the process of investigating why it wasn’t updating, it broke entirely.

Over the last week, we’ve repaired most of the breakage (except for the site theme), and it’s now possible to make the site update again, albeit not yet automatically. In order to keep Camino-related posts flowing on Camino Planet, I’ll trigger manual updates as necessary. In particular, I hope to post an update later this week about everything we’ve been doing since the last “regular” update.

Hopefully we’ll have Camino Planet back to normal in the next couple of weeks, but until then, know that it will continue to update, if on a somewhat irregular schedule.

09.27.10

Ode to the Floppy Disk

Posted in Software at 1:23 am by

Late last month John Gruber ran a pair of articles on Daring Fireball addressing the issue of the Apple-Adobe Flash-web standards “battle” that has been playing out in blogs, open letters, websites, and device sales.

What struck me, about the second article in particular, is how much of a case of déjà vu I was having (or, for the more Galactica-minded, “all this has happened before, and all this will happen again”). I was a bit surprised that Gruber had not had the same revelation and/or had not seen fit to broadcast it on Daring Fireball.

Flash is the new floppy disk. iOS devices are the new iMacs.

For those who don’t recall, 3½″ floppy disks were (by the 1990s) the ubiquitous method of file transfer between computers. These small disks held all of 1.44 MB of data (about half the size of a single photo taken with an iPhone 4!) and most software shipped on (or, rather, spanning) multiple floppy disks well into the late 1990s. Never mind that CD-ROM drives shipped on nearly every computer at this point (or that many computers had the ability to burn recordable CDs), the Internet (the web, FTP, and email) and local area networks were available for file transfer, or that many large-capacity portable disk formats existed and were far more suitable for storing and transferring files than floppies. The floppy disk was soldiering on, performing tasks that it had never been designed for and was increasingly unsuitable to handle.

Enter the iMac. It is 1998 and Steve Jobs has made a triumphant return to Apple. The iMac dumps a whole host of legacy technologies that were unsuited for modern computing—SCSI ports, ADB (serial) ports, and, most notably, the floppy disk—in favor of new industry standards like FireWire and USB. Prior to the iMac, a computer without a floppy disk was unthinkable. Beginning with the iMac, that very inconceivable thought had been introduced, and it would eventually trigger the extinction of the ill-suited, obsolete floppy.

A decade later, Flash is one of the ubiquitous technologies on the web, competing with HTML and associated technologies as a method of displaying text, images, and video—and even running applications—on the web. Yet Flash, which originated as a development tool and associated player for web animations, has become unsuitable for many of the round-hole tasks its users have tried to force its square peg to perform. Flash is inaccessible to most of the technologies that make the web searchable, mashable, usable. On Mac OS X, Flash is the number one cause of crashes and Flash performance is atrocious. Because Flash is a plug-in, not part of the browser software used to view websites, browser vendors can’t fix bugs and crashes or make improvements to the Flash software. And if you run an operating system other than Mac OS X or Windows, there’s a chance Flash isn’t available at all, which means Flash-only or highly-Flash-dependent websites are completely unavailable or broken. However, alternatives, such as <canvas>, SVG, HTML5 <video>, and various “web applications” specifications, exist for most of the common (mis)uses of Flash on the web. Most alternatives are implemented, or in the process of being implemented, by multiple browser developers, whose products are available for a wide variety of desktop, workstation, and mobile operating systems.

Despite all of Flash’s flaws and limitations, and in spite of the collection of accessible, performant, web-compatible, and widely-available web technologies,1 a web that doesn’t require Flash remained inconceivable to many. Once again, however, Apple has turned that notion on its head. Millions of users browse the web every day on computing devices that not only don’t have Flash installed, but can’t have Flash installed. Once again, all it took was Apple “think[ing] different” and taking a stand against antiquated technologies, and a whole new world of possibilites has opened up. The unthinkable is happening.

Flash is the new floppy disk, and iOS devices are the new iMacs that will unseat Flash from its high horse and drive it into obscurity.

        

1 It is a bit ridiculous to refer to web technologies as being “web-compatible.” However, as noted above, certain technologies deployed on the web, such as Flash, aren’t compatible with the rest of the web—they can’t be crawled by a search engine, translated by a web translation engine, or have their source displayed by a user’s browser.

09.26.10

If not me…

Posted in Camino, Life at 10:40 pm by

Working as part of an all-volunteer team on a web browser that competes with multiple corporate-funded and -developed browsers can at times be frustrating. Competitors employ dozens (or more) developers to work full-time on their browsers, and they usually have funding to hire more developers when needed (or, at worst case, the ability to reassign someone from another team or product in a pinch). They have marketing budgets, the ear of the press, and the ability to use overtime to get things done.

In contrast, an all-volunteer project by definition relies on the donations of limited free time from interested individuals—free time that could otherwise be used to go to the movies, study for exams, spend time with friends or family, or ride one’s horse through the wilderness. No one can tell a volunteer developer “you have two days to finish this feature” or “you’re going to drop everything else until this bug is fixed” or any of the myriad of managerial commands available to corporate browser developers. Sometimes you can’t fix that bug because real life intervenes, and you and your fellow volunteers can’t implement that great feature idea for a lack of hours in the day (or other similar manpower constraint). Sometimes working on an all-volunteer browser is like going into a fight with both hands and one leg tied behind your back, and that’s often disheartening.

Recently, this thought from Kevin Hoctor (via Michael Tsai) really resonated with me:

What struck me recently and inspired me to keep on the path was a simple question: if not you, then who? Are there any software products out today that I would use instead of my own? No, there are not. And why not? Why do I still like my finance software better than anything else?

In the face of all of those obstacles and limitations, why do I continue to spend my free time helping to build a web browser? Fundamentally, it’s as Hoctor says; Camino is the browser I want to use. I’ve used most of the other Mac browsers out there, and I don’t really like them; some are plagued by a quest for the kitchen sink, some have been hit hard by the “ugly stick,” and some change all the time to match the latest internet fads or whims from above. None match my browsing needs and wants as well as Camino. Sure, some might have feature x that I’d like that Camino doesn’t yet have, but they also have drawbacks that Camino doesn’t, and the overall experience always tilts in favor of Camino. And if I’m not working to create this browsing experience, then who will? Sure, it’s frustrating (and even soul-crushing) at times, but this is a browser, a browsing experience, a trusted tool, that I love.

There are, of course, other reasons why I work on Camino: the great people on our team who’ve become friends over the years, our loyal users and our supportive community, and the desire to ensure a quality alternative browser to the corporate-developed products. But it begins and ends with that same thought expressed by Kevin Hoctor: if I don’t (help) build it, who will?

08.15.10

Camino 2010 Late July-Early August Roundup

Posted in Camino at 1:09 am by

Although it’s been only a little over a month since the last update, it feels like I’ve been heads-down in code and bugs for much longer than that.

In the past month, Stuart Morgan has continued working on the performance issues with the new autocomplete. He also removed some old code in our Keychain implementation and added safety checks to prevent some crazy behavior in situations where there is no document present. Stuart also adapted our work-around for Flash 10 crashing after Exposé to handle the same problem in Flash 10.1; this fix is forthcoming in Camino 2.0.4. In addition, he added null-checks to problematic Gecko macros in our Places integration code, handled a good chunk of the superreview requests, and committed the 10 crash reporter localizations that our localization teams contributed to the Google Breakpad project.

Sean Murphy (of Safe Browsing, tab dragging, and keyboard loop fame) reappeared with a partial patch to get gestures working again in the content area. Stuart sent the patch back for some additional changes, so we’re waiting on Sean to have some time to address the review comments.

I feel like I’ve been attacking things all over the place since the last update. I spent several weeks working on getting Gecko security fixes tested and landed for Camino 2.0.4. I reviewed a couple of Stuart’s patches to our update script, and then Stuart and I deployed a “scary update warning” to users on Mac OS X 10.4, 10.5, and 10.6 who were still using Camino 1.6.x. I also continued working on a fix to stop overzealous unescaping of certain Unicode characters in our location bar, finally ending up, with Stuart’s help, with a version that made both 10.4 and 10.5-and-up happy. I landed a few minor code cleanup fixes and also helped Stuart debug a Keychain issue I had observed and the Flash 10.1 crash. Recently, I began working on replacing the jargon-filled (and non-localizable) certificate error pages with more user-friendly and informative ones, using the framework Sean had created when he implemented our Safe Browsing support (Philippe Wittenbergh is working on the CSS for the new page). Finally, I landed the remaining Camino fixes for 2.0.4 and got the release notes ready for localization.

So, here we stand at mid-August. We’re looking to release Camino 2.0.4 very soon, and, hopefully, Camino 2.1 Alpha 1 not too long after that. Until then, enjoy the remainder of the summer!