Ack! I’m Behind on Updates!

Somehow while perusing VersionTracker yesterday, I got distracted by Apple-flavored goodies and missed my second-favorite text editor’s release (no, I don’t mean pico).

SubEthaEdit is now at 2.0. This thing is seriously cool, especially as it lets you do pair programming without sitting at the same computer–you can discover other users and share documents with them ad hoc. For my purposes, it’s fast, color codes well, and supports UTF encodings extremely intelligently. The user interface is just slick, and it doesn’t get in your way. It just works.

Now of course, they’re no longer just giving it away totally for free, but unlike Moveable Type 3’s controversial new licensing scheme, it’s simple: free for personal, non commercial use, and USD 35 for commercial use.

If you have a Mac and a coworker on the same subnet, definitely give it a try. You might try it anyway if you ever work with character sets other than Western Roman.

Honk Da Horn for Camino 0.8b

With every other browser release being trumpeted, I thought I’d take the opportunity to help plug what is still my default browser, Camino.

They’ve released 0.8 beta, and it could use some pounding on to hammer out the last bugs for a final release. It uses the Mozilla 1.7 rendering engine, and it has a Google toolbar to keep up with Safari’s feature set. It still feels like it renders faster, though such measures are inherently subjective. Mainly I like it because the fast open source release cycle means that an annoying bug will usually be gone in a few nightly releases if it really irks me.

There are still some sites that give Safari problems, but most sites are Mozilla-compatible. I don’t see all the browser-widget funsies of Firefox, but it is an order of magnitude faster on the Mac.

I keep all these browsers (and many more) around on my computer, but for daily use I use Camino, switching occasionally to Safari. So thanks to Pinkerton for keeping Camino alive after its original author went to work for a fruit company.

There are so many good browsers on the Mac, it’s hard to choose sometimes, but I keep coming back to Camino. If you’re on a Mac, give it a try. If you’re not, don’t you wish you were?

I Don’t Know Why, It Just Sounded Good

I downloaded the latest update to Apple’s GarageBand to see if it would fix some problems I had importing loops I’d made using Apple’s Soundtrack Loop Utility, part of the AppleLoop SDK (available free). It turns out that I’d had the stuff at too low a bitrate, and it was giving GarageBand fits when it tried to scale it out of tempo.

This figured out, I proceeded to experiment with getting loops to work (there is art, not science, here). The result: one loop successfully converted, a fair amount of sound experimentation, and I once again beg your bandwidth forbearance and kindness to right-click and download if you choose to listen to the result:

It’s Waiting

Dunno what had me in such a dark (yet relaxed) mood, but it sounded good at the time.

Boucher and Doolittle Get Personal Use of Music

The thieving bastards over at the RIAA have been trying to find any way they can to punish everybody except the thieving bastards that are their teen customers for a while now. The thieving bastards (RIAA edition) have tried to make it illegal for you to copy a song you purchased, even for backup, if they put any lame technological roadblock on there, even if it is just a one-letter password. If you even try to get past it, you’ve broken the law. Not because you’re using the thieving bastards‘ intellectual property in an illegal way, but because you defeated their “anti-circumvention device” to do it.

So, if you buy a tune from Napster and try to copy it onto a device they don’t allow, you’ve broken the law, even though the law says you can make a copy in any way you prefer for personal use. (Hey, it’s not like the artist is seeing any recompense from this anyway, that’s why the RIAA are thieving bastards.

So Representative John Doolittle (R-CA) helped pass this stupid legislation and didn’t think much of it until he bought an iPod. Then he realized that the legislation would make it illegal to put music from an encrypted CD onto his beloved iPod, rendering it useless.

So he’s teamed up with Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA), who represents the town of my birth, among others, and offered up H.R. 107, the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act of 2003.

Write your congresscritter and demand that they support this bill. It would not eliminate penalties for piracy, but make it legal for you to make personal copies for your own use. So the RIAA can carry on suing its thieving bastards it calls customers, labels can keep screwing artists (because they’re thieving bastards), and you can enjoy your music on your iPod, your Rio, or on a home-made Edison cylinder machine if you so choose.

Thanks to Reason‘s Hit & Run for the pointer.

Why I Don’t Worry About Indian Programmers TAKIN’ MAH JAHB!

As a little-known proponent of globalization, I’m rarely asked, “Sandy, you work in the Internet biz. Doesn’t it make it odd that you still support free trade, or is it just because your ox has yet to be gored?”

I’m glad you didn’t ask. Despite that, I’m going to answer the question. [sighs, mutterings of “we’re in for a long one”, shuffling of feet]

At the risk of becoming a shadow-blog, I’ll just cite this Tyler Cowen piece on India’s election, as it’s what triggered me to say a few things that have been on my mind about offshoring and globalization in general.

As far as offshoring goes, I’m in a somewhat exposed position: a Web programmer who doesn’t cater to clients who require me to have citizenship and a security clearance. I have been fearful for my job in the last few years, but my fears related more to the downturn in the U.S. economy and less to the threat that somebody with a nice suit and more hair than brains would replace me with an Indian.

I don’t doubt that in the short run many of my colleagues have lost and will lose jobs that are immediately replaced with cheaper Indian workers, in the long run (say the next two to three years) I’m not worried. Those jobs will either come back or new, better ones will be created. However, many jobs during the dot-com boom were the result of “irrational exuberance,” and the $70 to $100K per year HTML jockey jobs are never coming back. I gambled that taking a lower salary with a firm that is profitable would get me more job security, and I won that gamble. Now, I have to make sure my job doesn’t get offshored.

I’m not overly worried about that. Why?

Continue reading

Not Getting It, Nick Berg, RIP, Edition

There are many folks around the Net saying that Nick Berg is the “first casualty of prisoner abuse.” I won’t bother linking to them, as I think you can find a truckload at any political, news, or other opinion site you visit.

I think, however, that they’re missing the point. Nick Berg was kidnapped before the torture photos came out. I’m pretty sure they were going to kill him anyway. Two words come to mind when I read their statement: “convenient excuse.”

The reason that Abu Ghraib and the torture/abuse/whatever that went on there is damaging is not because of the terrorist acts it will stir up. It’s damaging because non-violent muslims will be even less likely to speak up against the Islamicists. When the most prominent alternative to Islamicism is pictured doing horrible things, it’s not worth the criticism that you are Shaitan’s tool for speaking out against the Islamicists.

Nick Berg isn’t the first victim–the first victim was the Iraqi or the Pakistani or the Qatari or the Saudi who either voiced support or failed to condemn the terrorist’s murder of Mr. Berg, thus making it more acceptable to get new recruits.

Terrorists will do what they have always done, and they won’t stop. The only difference is how they are perceived by those they claim to be fighting for. The KKK is held in disgust by the vast majority of whites in America now. In the 1960s the KKK were the terrorists. They didn’t change, white America did.

So remember, poor Nick Berg was already a victim of Islamic terror. Muslim opinion was the victim of Abu Ghraib.

More ‘Semantic’ Code

So Eric Meyer is trumpeting the Blogger redesign. I have a couple of notes.

  1. It seems like this confirms that XHTML+CSS is not for casual professionals or consumers anymore. Either you have to be a hardcore hobbyist or a professional who does virtually nothing else, like Zeldman. They provide pre-selected XHTML-strict templates, but they had to go to a laundry list of luminaries to get them. The days of democratic HTML have given way to gatekeepers, either electronic or human. Fortunately the electronic ones preserve some of the democracy of the original HTML concept.
  2. The very first entry (the announcement itself) shows that semantic code that weighs less than comparable table-based layout is, shall we say, overhyped a bit:

    Hmm….seems kinda familiar…

    <table id="header">
    <tr id="h2">
    <td id="h3">
    <a href="../../" title="Blogger Knowledge">
    <img src="../../images/klogo100.gif" width="422" height="100" alt="Blogger" />
    <font color="#CCCCCC"></font>

    OK, I threw in the font tag just to be mean, but I think you get my point. This is NOT “putting the hacks in a central CSS file.”

Really, all I want out of the XHTML Strict+CSS2 table-free advocates is an admission that the technology is still pretty immature, that there are still really big problems in adopting it as a full-on replacement for HTML, and that in current browsers it isn’t yet possible to completely fulfil the dream that they outline–easier maintenance, lighter weight (images and code), completely semantic code, and being able to use one source (XHTML) as the structured repository for content for several devices (wireless, disabled, standard browsers) simultaneously. I just want an acknowledgement that it costs more to produce and requires compromises, and that different situations may require different compromises–even, gasp, the occasional table for layout.

Really, can it be so much worse than the above example?