January 2003 Archives
The milestone has me pretty tied up. I'm workin' on a post that covers my recent adventures in text editing on Linux and another with some follow-up on my space/mars program post. As soon as I get free from Mozilla 1.3 you can expect to see those posts and hopefully more activity overall. 'Till then, wish me luck.
Two of my favorite people are sick with what sounds like a nasty bacterial infection. You're in my thoughts and I hope you get well soon.
In the last few days I've seen no less than three (one, two, three) mentions of Mozilla's lack of a nice deployment tool. What I want to know is why are none of these people actually working on Mozilla's CCK. The code is waiting. And the "well, mozilla.org doesn't make daily binaries" excuse doesn't hold water. There was lots of development and excitement before mozilla.org started making nightly Seamonkey builds and the lack of nightly binaries of Bugzilla certainly hasn't stunted its use or the growth of its developer base. This is open source. The code is waiting.
The infamous Blake Ross is blogging again. He leaps back on the scene with a wonderful post wishing me death and professing his newfound love of all things Mac :) If you're one of the many 2 people that just haven't felt right with the world since Blake stopped blogging then be sure to check it out. Oh, and so you don't have to memorize that difficult URL, I've added him back to the blogroll.
Now that Mike Lee is back from vacation, I'm hoping that he'll be able to continue with his mozBlog for Phoenix effort. mozBlog, for those of you who don't know, is a very useful blogging tool that can be installed into the Mozilla browser. It lives in the bottom portion of the browser window, hidden from view until it's needed. The best thing about this Mozilla add-on is that you can blog while reading a webpage in your browser. It makes blogging about a particular webpage so much easier. My praise doesn't do it justice so to see for yourself just head over to mozblog.mozdev.org and install it.
update: No. Phoenix isn't dead.
Maddog. comments on "one of the finest instances of user interface design ever". My wife and I both looked at this. My comment was something like, "Wow. What a great piece of design". Deanna's comment was, "Men are gross."
On a barely related note, did Google push its now very popular Google News redesign to Mozilla users for testing before the rest of the world got to see it?
There's lots of buzz this weekend as some interesting statements coming out of NASA make their way into the writings of a few enthusiastic space and astronomy reporters. The general idea is that George Bush wants to make a Kennedyesque statement about putting an American on Mars and NASA is investigating nuclear propulsion which could cut the trip from six or seven months down to two months.
The juicy bit is from NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe (who replaced Daniel Golden when Bush was selected) who said "We're talking about doing something on a very aggressive schedule to not only develop the capabilities for nuclear propulsion and power generation but to have a mission using the new technology within this decade". That sounds an awful lot like a manned mission to mars and much sooner than I was expecting given some of the initial cuts to NASA's budget and programs under the first Bush budget.
I've been fascinated with Mars and an enthusiastic supporter of a manned mission since ALH 84001 and Pathfinder. I wasn't alone in developing an intense curiosity because of those events but I think that the media's over-reporting of the uncertainties around ALH 84001 and the two failed missions (Climate Orbiter and Polar Lander/DS2) did a lot to dampen that initial interest.
If you stuck around and continued to pay close attention to the bigger picture, the under-reported discoveries, and the successful missions, then you're probably still as enthusiastic as you were watching those first pictures from the Pathfinder and Sojourner cameras hitting your TV and the Web.
For those of you that didn't keep up with the news of the last few years, here's an update. The Mars Global Surveyor satellite is in its sixth year of mapping the Martian surface from a height of about 450 km (completing a full orbit once every two hours), taking pictures of clouds, dust devils, and more. The 2001 Mars Odyssey satellite is in its second year of orbit around Mars, mapping chemical elements and minerals, analyzing the radiation environment and searching for water. It will also provide a communications relay for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers. If you haven't seen any of the amazing hi-res images coming from THEMIS then you should take a look at the collection (high-speed connection recommended). Some of my favorites are pic1,pic2,pic3,pic4,pic5,pic6, pic7, pic8, pic9, and pic10.
And if that wasn't enough to pique your curiosity again then take a look at the upcoming NASA Mars Exploration Rover Missions scheduled for two launches this summer and touch down of a pair of rovers (image1, image2) on the Martian surface about one year from now. Check out the great animations. These rovers are robotic geologists able to travel nearly half a km carrying high-resolution color stereo panoramic cameras and infrared spectrometers. They have hammers and grinders and x-ray,alpha particle, and Moessbauer spectrometers ready to do some serious geologic investigations. And even closer at hand (by a month or so) than NASA's next mission is the ESA's Mars Express Mission scheduled to put the Mars Express spacecraft (image) in orbit and the Beagle 2 lander (image) on the surface late this year. The ESA orbiter will do all kinds of mapping from photo-geology and high-resolution mineralogy to permafrost and atmospheric measures. The lander will conduct detailed rock and soil analysis.
Just as the NASA and ESA crafts touch down and start sending sending back science word will arrive of the Stardust spacecraft's encounter with Comet Wilde 2 where the craft will gather comet dust and particles in an Aerogel foam and return the exotic payload to Earth 2 years later. And don't forget that a few months later, next summer, the Cassini-Huygens orbiter (image) and lander (image) will arrive at Saturn to begin some amazing science at one of the most intriguing and beautiful systems orbiting our Sun.
Will humans be conducting science on mars in a decade? I don't know. It seems unlikely given the current US economic climate (NYTimes subscription required). I'd cheer the day but while we're all waiting we've got some really exciting projects already underway. 2003 and 2004 promise to be as eventful and exciting as anything Mars enthusiasts have seen so far.
Shelley Powers at Burningbird has implemented something that I find very cool. I'm just now investigating TrackBack in the new MovableType blogging system that Jason put together for me but this BackTrack takes it one step further and in a direction that seems very useful. Things are getting downright conversational.
If you've been reading this blog for a while you may have read about my desire to switch from using MicroSoft Windows on my primary machine. Well, I did finally switch when RedHat released 8.0. After more than 3 months of using RedHat 8 I've decided to post some thoughts. Everyone that matters has already done a review so if you've had your fill I understand.
- I have been installing and using different versions of linux for nearly as long as I've been testing Mozilla. RedHat 8 was the first painless linux install I've had. It recognized all of my hardware without a single problem. This machine is a Dell C840 laptop with DVD/CDRW, wireless card, dock, all kinds of new hardware opportunities for an installer to not work. I couldn't have been more pleased.
- I was leaving Windows 2000 so I wanted a desktop that felt that good. The Bluecurve theme, the uniform icons in the "start" menu, the software update notification, all of that was minimally sufficient to hold me. Overall it's still not as slick as even the older Windows desktops but it's good enough. My main beef was not being able to easily customize the "start" menu. Adding, removing or rearranging the items on that menu must be made easier.
- The performance of the system hasn't been a problem like it was for me on previous systems. I suppose having a P4 with 1 GB of RAM helps that out a lot. I might not be at all this comfortable if I was on hardware from a couple of years ago.
- While Nautilus and Mozilla are quite competent and there was no surprise about that, the multitude of other solid (and free) apps that came with RH8 definitely were a pleasant surprise. On Windows I had spent a non-trivial amount of money and time finding good utilities and apps. When I moved to RH8 I went right to Google to seek out replacements for my regular tools. First I needed a good graphical FTP client to replace my old faithful BulletProof FTP. Imagine my surprise when I found gFTP already installed and completely up to the task (and $30 cheaper). Next I needed to replace PaintShop Pro. After a couple of days of relearning keyboard shortcuts I was more than at home using the Gimp ($75 less than the product it replaced), another app that came with RH8. And it didn't end there; Gaim, OpenOffice apps, gRip, X-Chat, and other solid GUI utilities and apps have performed quite well. The only app I've yet to find a good replacement for is my text editor, UltraEdit. If anyone knows of something (other than gedit, kate, kedit, nedit, or emacs, all of which I've tried and am not happy with) that compares favorably to UltraEdit please let me know.
- RedHat didn't have to do anything special here but building our software is so much easier on Linux than on Windows. I've set up a build environment on Windows at least a dozen times and even with all that experience it still takes me about three to four hours to get everything (cygwin, msvc++, service packs, processor packs, moz tools, perl, etc.) set up and configured. On linux it was as easy as mkdir, set cvsroot, cvs checkout and then make. That's like 20 seconds on Linux compared to 3 hours on Windows.
I'd be leaving out something else of great importance if I didn't mention the folks that helped me along. Dawn Endico, Myk Melez, Brian Ryner and Stuart Parmenter, thanks for your patience and your help.
Mozilla junk-mail controls kick ass. I said it earlier but I just have to say it again. If you haven't tried this then get the latest Mozilla build and give it a shot. You train the tool by marking mail messages as either "junk" or "not junk". After only minimal training it will start to automatically mark mail as junk for you. When you're satisfied that it's marking mail correctly you can enable moving of junk mail to a junk folder. I've trained with thousands of messages and I'm getting 92-93% of my junk automatically marked and moved to a junk folder and not a single false positive after nearly two months use and thousands of spams killed. It's so nice to open my inbox each morning and watch the total number of messages cut in half (or more) as the filter moves out the spam. This is definitely the biggest convenience feature since pop-up blocking. Mozilla is my online quality of life insurance. Thanks to dmose, sspitzer, bienvenu, jglick and the others that put so much time into this.
OK, I've enabled trackback, cleaned up some of the titles, restored at least part of the blogroll, and removed that silly calendar from the sidebar. I'm not at all pleased with this new template and moving back to the old one would be an uninteresting exercise so now I'm planning on coming up with something new.
I'm off in search of inspiration. Feel free to help point the way by hitting the "Comments" link just below and letting me know of any intersting designs out there in blogdom.
mozillaZine.org (the gracious host of this blog) has migrated me to MovableType from Blogger. I'm just getting into it but so far it seems pretty nice. It looks like there's a mechanism for reader comments so if you're a reader and you have comments then give it a spin. I'll be getting the old template back up, or making a new one, when I get some free time or Kerz gets bored and fixes it for me.
If I had to write a new browser, and I was going to have to touch the layout code in a serious way, I would think about Mozilla alternatives. I think it's awesome that they pretty much have to compare Safari to Chimera and Netscape/Mozilla, because it shows how far we've come from the universal acceptance of IE's hegemony. I think it's fantastic that they chose to include "Gecko" in their user-agent, so that they could get standards-compliant content, because it means that our evangelism efforts in support of such content have been working. I'm thrilled that they're going to be another IE-alternative browser, which will try some techniques Mozilla decided against, because we can see if it really works or not. And I really really hope that Mozilla will learn from Safari/KHTML, because they've done a lot of great work in about a tenth of the code. Kudos, guys, and welcome to the web.
Well, we have the ability to be much more flexible simply because we don't answer to one man: Mr. Happy. Sure our UI isn't as polished or as sleek or as visibly stunning, but we've got potential as well. We're also a real open-source project, not just one that dumps its changes back at the 11th hour because we're mandated to. That means we get the help of everyone on the net not just in testing, but in development and feedback that is crucial to the success of the milestone releases.
I'm finally catching up on all the mozilla blogs and found (over at Hixie's Natural Log) a link to a very entertaining discussion at the w3c's www-style list. I started reading the thread at Shelby Moore's intro post on XBL from a few days before Christmas and I've just quit after reading Shelby's pathetic "am I hot or not" post from about a week ago. If you can't get enough of the word "orthogonal" then you're sure to enjoy.
Update: Well, I thought I had read it all when I got to that "do you like me or not" post. Boy, was I wrong. Somehow I missed a few posts including Shelby's "I hate Mozilla because of people like Ian [Hickson] and Daniel [Glazman]" farwell and fuck you post. Nothing like a "You were so mean I'll just use IE instead" conclusion to add legitimacy to one's argument.
For the second time in as many weeks, Rob Pegoraro at The Washington Post praises Mozilla :)
"I installed the first two programs this summer for curiosity's sake but stuck with them out of satisfaction. OpenOffice opened every Word document, Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation in my e-mail since July without complaint -- while insulating my PC from Office macro viruses. Similarly, Mozilla gave me a Web without pop-up ads, at the price of the rare site-specific glitch; better yet, it's already spawned both a couple of useful upgrades and speedy offshoots, including Phoenix and Chimera."This time he also mentions Chimera and Phoenix. On the heels of the ScreenSavers Mozilla piece, Download.com's listing of Moz in it's best of 2002 software and a nice mention in InternetNews.com this Washington Post mention is a nice reminder that Mozilla is making its way into the mainstream.