Three Monkeys, Three Typewriters, Two Days

April 28, 2003

dmose was right

I should have taken a real vacation back in March instead of the half-assed attempt I made. In the hope that it's not too late, I am taking that vacation now.

Posted by bzbarsky at 10:37 AM

April 27, 2003

Why claimest thou gzip support?

Emacs-w3 does not seem to have built-in support for gunzipping stuff automatically. It calls out to "gunzip -c" to handle it. Sometime I'll look up the Emacs-lisp magic to call that on a buffer and replace the buffer contents with the output. In the meantime, I've taken the cheap way out and disabled the sending of "Accept-encoding: gzip".

Posted by bzbarsky at 11:54 PM

April 24, 2003

Trying a new way to blog

This post brought to you courtesy of mt.el. My thanks to deberg for the link.

Posting works pretty much fine, except for a weird error on the return from the server (the post goes through, though). But retrieving entries is broken. I may take the time to figure out why later, but work calls now...

Update: Well, looks like I needed to tell emacs-w3 to not claim to support gzip... The XML-rpc code was not dealing well with parsing gzipped data. Next step—hook things up so gunzipping can happen properly

Posted by bzbarsky at 3:34 PM

April 19, 2003

And some wonder why people hate computers....

Today I found myself walking home from campus, mentally comparing PDF (editable) versions of tax forms to paper versions. Without exception, the paper ones take a lot less time to read and fill out. The instruction booklets are easily skimmable, unlike PDF. Taking in the whole form at a glance or focusing on a particular part is a matter of minute, instinctive hand movements (compare this to zooming PDFs). There's no comparison between readability of printed text and text on a monitor, of course.

All well and good, but then I got to thinking about other computer programs I've used, not just Acrobat Reader. With the single exception of console video games, I find all of them less usable (from the "easy things should be easy and hard things possible" point of view) than I find a Form 1040 plus instruction booklet.

That's a scary thought to anyone who's ever looked at the 1040 instruction booklet.

At first glance, the comparison is unfair—the paper 1040 relies on skills that it's taken me years (if not decades) to learn. But learning those skills (reading, writing, skimming for content) is something that has incredible breadth of application. The learning that has to happen to make computer programs more usable tends to only be applicable to that one program...

I still haven't figured out what it is about console games that tends to make them so much more intuitive and usable... It makes sense, from a business standpoint -- no one will play a game that's not a pleasure to play. Do game designers carefully analyze the user interaction? Perhaps they could share some tricks with other software authors...

Posted by bzbarsky at 9:32 PM

April 17, 2003

I'll get you, Krull!

In other news, Matt and I spent some time today talking about dimension theory, slowly working though the proof of Krull's Hauptidealsatz. Things are making more sense, slowly... very slowly.

Posted by bzbarsky at 7:28 PM

What's in a name?

I feel compelled to add my useless opinion to the Firebird naming controversy. It's a 3-part deal:

  1. The choice of "Firebird" for the name of a shipping open-source product, given the presence of another shipping open-source product of the same name, is poor.
  2. I am under the (possibly mistaken) impression that while the browser component will be called "Firebird" (just like the network library is called "Necko"), the name of the shipping browser itself is not clear yet (as in, once the Great Splitting is done the browser may well just being called Mozilla; see n.p.m.seamonkey discussion).
  3. The Firebird database developers and sponsors are being done a disservice by people who are sending rude emails in their name. How would you feel if you found out that someone had been going around, walking up to people, saying "Here is a present from <fill in the blank here>," spitting in their faces, and walking away?
Posted by bzbarsky at 7:22 PM

April 12, 2003

URILoader Documentation

Over the last week or two, I've written up a little document on the workings of the URILoader. If you read it and have comments, please let me know—feedback is much appreciated.

Once I've gotten some comments from Darin and Seth Spitzer, I'll likely check this in; at that point the URI will change (so don't bother to bookmark it). I'll update the link in this entry when the document moves, though.

Update: the document has a home on

Posted by bzbarsky at 4:00 PM