maybe I *do* want the Small Web back …

All I wanted to do was read a post on Winston Rowntree‘s Patreon page, yet something was blocked by uBlock Origin. In trying to find what it was, I found the page was pulling in 91 separate resources from 15 different sites:

Do we really need all that crud? It’s a bunch of trackers and fonts and mystery swf and javascript. It might be all responsive web like, but the more fancy you do, and the more of other people’s “TRUST ME” code you pull in, something’s gonna go wrong.

Flatter: hopefully, not the Dexit of micropayments

Micropayments are a bit like legal weed – only the users want it, and the suppliers and their opponents would rather keep the status quo. Lots of smart people have tried it (remember Peppercoin? Ron Rivest was in on that one) and not many real users have ended up using it.

Flattr, like every other new system, claims to be different from every other system. It’s a patronage system, where users/readers/listeners can click on the Flattr link and divvy up their monthly contribution amongst everyone they liked.

I forget how (or exactly why) I got an invitation, but I finally activated it and credited enough for 6 months’ usage this morning. Now I need to go out and find things to like … and they’re thin on the ground.

Jag kanske inte svenska tillräckligt, but I’m not seeing much that has likeable content. Maybe my user number – in the low 1000s – is a hint, but let’s see how things go by the end of October.  I’m hoping it doesn’t end up like Dexit, the dismal downtown Toronto cashless payment system that never got the inertia (or reliable terminals) needed to survive. One can never tell with these online things; when I signed up with Twitter in early 2007, it was a pretty hopeless system …

implicit markup: easy to read, hard to parse

I don’t usually ponder about other people’s blog postings, but Jeff Atwood’s Responsible Open Source Code Parenting reminded me of some of the old wars that the used to be when I was a markup head. Jeff writes about his frustration that John Gruber’s Markdown text-to-html filter:

  1. hasn’t been updated for some time
  2. doesn’t quite do exactly what Jeff’s users at Stack Overflow want
  3. appears to have any changes in its behaviour from v1.0.1 strenuously vetoed by Gruber himself.

Markdown is nice in that you can write screeds of text, and it does almost exactly what you’d expect. The markup doesn’t get in the way, usually. The difficulty arises when implicit markup (indented lines for quoted text, bulleted lists, highlights) has to give way to explicit (cross-references, code samples). Explicit markup is ugly, but sometimes, you’ve got to do it. Complex intent requires complex modes of communication, and sometimes plain text just hasn’t the bandwidth. [As an aside, there was a hilarious lengthy recurring episode on John Mark Ockerbloom‘s late bookpeople mailing list where a user (mercilessly skewered here)  insisted that they could write a general Gutenberg plain-text converter that would re-create typeset quality in an e-book reader with no explicit markup, and that XML was completely unnecessary and ill-conceived. The un-markup language, called zen markup language (said user had an aversion to the shift key) lives on only in a single website: the home of z.m.l. As for XML, its executive assistant had no comment on the matter.] Looking at Markdown, it looks like Gruber’s moved on from it. He made a 1.0.1 which did what he wanted. The code’s there to change if anyone needs it. I understand his frustration at people wanting to make changes and still call it Markdown; I’d be annoyed if I had text which I thought was in one format suddenly not be accepted, or do something unexpected. Seriously, that’s almost as bad as ‘deprecated‘. [At least Gruber didn’t go on a deletion rampage, like (admittedly smaller-time) erstwhile CHDK stalwart Barney Fife did when he was slighted in a forum. Looks like almost everything he contributed to CHDK has been removed, including some very useful control scripts and explanations.] Personally, when I need to make text to web conversions, I still use txt2html and a bunch of shell and Perl glue to feed to tidy. It’s on its third maintainer, doesn’t do much, but does it simply. And I’m pretty simple that way.

Update: see also On my increasing exasperation with Markdown.

How to select broken URLS from e-mail

(without resorting to, or when posting …)

Some mail clients wrap URLs in a way that breaks their ability to be clicked on. Trying to explain a method to fix this is tiresome, so here’s an animation that explains it:

a_handy_guide_to_fixing_broken_urlsBasically, it helps to select the URL from the end to the start. Once you’ve got all the text, copy it, and paste it into your browser’s location bar.

that’s just great

I’m trying to book tickets for Catherine online at The site does something bad in Firefox, so the helpdesk person said to use Safari (after suggesting “Tools -> Internet Options”, which in my case I have not got), which is supported. So on I go to the site with Safari, and I’m redirected to:

Unsupported Browser Warning. We have detected that the browser you
are using is not able to view some of the more advanced elements of our website, and may prevent you from completing your booking.

Supported Browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 5.5, 6.0 and above (Windows 98 and higher)
  • Netscape 7.2 (Windows 98 and higher)
  • Firefox 1.0 and higher (Windows 98 and higher, Mac OS X)

Yup, so the browser I had been using is supported, but the one they recommended isn’t. After many retries (‘You failed to check Futile Checkbox #36, and therefore must restart your booking’) it finally worked. Took the best part of an hour. The booking is almost as bad as the flying.

in the running

Almost ‘Best of The Year’ time. In the running are:

A Hawk and a Hacksaw – The Way the Wind Blows
A.C. Newman – Souvenir of Canada – EP
Beck – The Information
Calexico – Garden Ruin
Casper & the Cookies – The Optimist’s Club
Colin Meloy – Colin Meloy Sings Shirley Collins
Eels with Strings – Live At Town Hall
Elf Power – Back To The Web
Erynn Marshall – Calico
Faun Fables – The Transit Rider
Grandaddy – Just Like The Fambly Cat
Grant-Lee Phillips – nineteeneighties
Hidden Cameras – Awoo
Joanna Newsom – Ys
Jolie Holland – Springtime Can Kill You
King Biscuit Time – Black Gold
Mayor McCa – Cue Are Es Tea You
Peter Stampfel – The Jig Is Up
Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 РOl̩! Tarantula
Sufjan Stevens – Songs For Christmas – Volume V: Peace
Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche – Outtakes And Extras From The Illinois Album
The Be Good Tanyas – Hello Love
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
The Essex Green – Cannibal Sea
The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics
The Handsome Family – Last Days of Wonder
The Instruments – Cast A Half Shadow
The Sadies – In Concert Vol. 1
The Wailin’ Jennys – Firecracker
Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Thomas Dolby – The Sole Inhabitant
Wendy Arrowsmith – Crying Out
Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Miraculously, all of them fit on my iPod Nano, so they’ll be in heavy rotation over the next week or so while I decide.

very, very old school

Mac OS 7.5.5 Notepad

As I appear to have broken Catherine‘s ability to play Crystal Quest by upgrading her eMac to 10.3.9, I need to find an alternative way to run it. I remember running Basilisk II years ago on a very old Linux box — indeed, my ancient instructions are still here: :: Installing Mac OS 7.5.3 under Basilisk II on Linux, and quite amazingly, are still useful.

I found the following helpful to get it going under OS X:

look out!

I see that my company’s Outlook Web Access does much niftier things on IE than on FireFox:

outlook web access on IE

You don’t get those options of Firefox. Bah

But in true MS dunderhead fashion, when you quit the mail client, it clears all your cookies — including the ones of sessions on other sites. Microsoft, this isn’t DOS; people multitask these days …

gone with the wind

I see that Americas Wind Energy updated their website to replace the site I wrote for them a couple of years back. It’s purty, but:

  • The page URL sometimes inexplicably switches to from
  • The product page for the AWE 52-750 shows a bunch of non-operational turbines.
  • The AWE 52-900 page also has a picture of a parked turbine, and it looks a lot like Tallon Energy’s 52-750 at Pincher Creek.
  • More parked turbines on the 54-900 page, and occasionally a completely different machine is shown.

Oh wait, I get it – it’s a random turbine image for each page. Hmm.

my letter to etymotic

To: Etymotic Research Inc. Customer Support

I recently placed an order with you for accessories for my Isolator ER-6i headphones. I was very disappointed when UPS added an additional brokerage charge of approximately US$27 (plus taxes and duties) to the order. Since the value of the the order was only $43, your courier’s brokerage charge was almost two-thirds the value of the goods ordered.

Please consider using another courier for Canadian orders. USPS/Canada Post’s brokerage charges are much smaller, of the order of $5.

I would also like to note that none of your agents in Toronto seems able to stock these spares. I visited all three of the dealers mentioned on your website:

  • Long & McQuade had no stock, and didn’t seem particularly keen on ordering any for me.
  • Carbon Computers, though very helpful, only had eartips for the ER-6, and didn’t know that they wouldn’t work with the ER-6i.
  • CPUsed sold me an incomplete bag of ER6-14 eartips; only 6 tips for the full price of 10. When they weren’t assuring me that they’d work with the ER-6i, they were trying to sell me a set of Shure E2C headphones, which they said were better.

Up until now, I have been widely recommending your products. Until I know that you’re serious about supporting your Canadian customers, however, I cannot recommend your products to anyone in this country.