Archives » June, 2003

June 30, 2003

Netscape 7.1

Netscape 7.1 has been released. The timing is a little curious, though. Netscape 7.1 claims to be based on Mozilla 1.4, as everyone suspected it would. The rub is that Mozilla 1.4 wasn’t released until today. In fact, as of this writing, Release Candidate 3 is still being advertised on, even though the final version is available on the releases page. Both of them, Netscape 7.1 and Mozilla 1.4 final, report a build date of June 24th, which makes me think they held out on us with Mozilla until Netscape could be released. Simultaneous announcement? That’d be something new. Usually Netscape would come out with a new version a few weeks after the Mozilla it was based on. This time they seem to be right on top of things.

And, of course, this Mozilla 1.4 supposedly marks the final release of Mozilla as we know it. This represents a “stable development path”. From now on they’re going to shift to Firebird development, which will eventually take over and be named Mozilla Browser. Or something like that. The Mozilla organization is pretty opaque to me, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I should stop the hypothesizing, just post “Mozilla 1.4 and Netscape 7.1 are out!” and be done with it.


Browser updates

Mozilla 1.4 and Netscape 7.1 are out!

June 28, 2003

Not an author I

One presumption that the Internet seems to encourage is that anybody can write a book. I mean, just look out there. Cory Doctorow has written one, and he has a few more he’s working on. Jeffrey Zeldman has written a couple, David Weinberger has a couple, Eric Meyer, James Lileks, Doc Searls, the list of Web luminaries who have a title or two under their belts stretches off towards the horizon. It seems like everyone out there manages to knock off a book or two on top of whatever else they’re doing, like it’s just a trip to the supermarket or something. And every now and then I fall for the illusion myself. I’ll say, “Yeah, I’ll get around to writing a book one of these days.” Then I come to my senses and laugh my head off. Writing a book is such a colossal undertaking that the mere thought of it makes me curl up into a ball. The amount of dedication and commitment required would probably reduce me to a quivering mass within the first week. I can barely hold a thought together long enough to dribble out three paragraphs on this weblog. How could I possibly take one thread and weave it coherently through three or four hundred pages? The very sentence, “I’m writing a book,” is one of those phrases that doesn’t make a lick of sense, like saying, “I taught a dog to smoke.” Maybe, in ten or twenty years, if this little experiment of learning by doing that I’m working at pays off, I’ll have developed my writing to a point where it’s conceivable. But now? No. Just no.

Speaking of books (he segued uncomfortably), Jeffrey Zeldman’s new one is out and raining its thunder down on the web world. Brian Alvey has published a twopart interview with the big Z himself, thirteen pages in all. I would put a few quotes here, but if I put one, then I’d had to put another, and another, and another. The whole damn interview is quotable. Just go read it yourself.

June 27, 2003

The Linux Chronicles, Episode XLII

Certain things in nature are cyclical. The sun rises and sets each day. The tides flow in and out. The seasons come and go. And every couple of months I dive back into the world of Linux.

This time I have a purpose. I’m building a new file server for the Resources department to keep all of their GIS and Power Point files on. We have a shared file server now, that everyone uses, and it’s only 9GB. Some of these GIS files are 2-3GB, each. So they can’t be kept on the shared server. Right now one of the ladies is keeping all these files on her workstation’s hard drive, but that’s a recipe for disaster. So they need a new file server, and this is a perfect opportunity to fold Linux into our network.

The setup I’m doing isn’t that complicated – file serving through Samba. All week I’ve been engulfed in Linux textbooks and webpages, trying to learn all the pieces that need to fall together. I was so proud the first time I mounted a hard drive (Ok, you in the back—no chuckling). And I think I have everything together finally to put the server live next week. I’m using a FAT32 partition to store the files, so that I can easily drop the disk into a Windows box if anything goes wrong. And I have pretty low security needs, because security in Linux seems to be the hardest part. I still can’t get my head around Unix-style permissions after dealing with Windows ACLs for so long. And besides, our Windows file server doesn’t have any security on it, so there’s no need for this new box to have it. You may tell me how wrong that is, but I’m sticking to it.

I wrote up everything special that I did, beyond the normal Red Hat install, just so I would remember it all in another couple of months. And since I’m always looking for content to fill this site, I published it as a little tutorial on sharing FAT32 drives through Samba. Hopefully there aren’t too many glaring errors in it.

Setting up a Linux File Server on a Windows Network

Blogger Baby

Blogger has finally released its new version and converted everyone over to it. I had tried to switch while it was still in beta testing, but their handy web sign-up forms said, “You do not have any blogs that need converting.” But now it’s here.

The biggest change is the new slick-looking interface. It’s laid out just like the old version, only a little snazzier looking. The other big news is that it finally works in Mozilla! Yay! No more opening a special IE session just to write. And there’s a title field now, although the titles don’t seem to show up on the public page, just the editor. And the markup it creates is better. It uses <strong> and <em> instead of <b> and <i>. It converts line breaks to <br />, the XHTML version. But, it doesn’t use <p> tags at all, so your entire post is one big paragraph. Not the best maybe, but better. I don’t think I’ll stop using my custom editor, though. I write in that and then copy and paste across to Blogger. I like my paragraphs to actually be paragraphs, not two line breaks.

Other than that, I think most of the Blogger improvements have been on the backend. Archiving, for example, actually works again! No longer do I have to publish my archives separate from my main page, as I’d gotten used to doing. In all, it’s the same Blogger, and it’s still just as simple to use, and it’s still missing more advanced features that Moveable Type has, and I still like it.

June 26, 2003

Dryer Blues

Just in case there’s not enough going on around the house, what with the bathroom and all, our dryer has been wailing like a banshee and chewing up clothes. It’s been doing this for—well, let’s just say a loooong time. This week I finally got the ultimatum: fix it or buy a new one. And since our monthly budget only allows enough each month for groceries or new dryers, but not both, I whipped out the tool belt to find out what’s going wrong. And I found four distinct parts that need replacing. The heating element, which makes sure the clothes get dry in less than four hours (which hasn’t happened in our house for a long time), the front glides, which make sure the drum stays centered and doesn’t chew up clothes, the bushing in the back which, you know, actually needs to be there if you don’t like that pleasant metal-on-metal sound, and the belt, which makes the whole thing go and looked like it was being held together by sheer force of will. So it’s off tomorrow to the friendly local parts store to rebuild a dryer.

Update: 69 bucks for the lot. Not bad!

June 24, 2003

Two screens are better than one

One of the first things that won me over about Windows 98 was the multiple monitor feature. I loved it immediately as soon as I got Win98 five years ago. The ability to extend your desktop, set up two monitors, and actually drag windows back and forth between the two was one of the most innovative advances from Win95. It was a little fussy to set up; some video cards wouldn’t work, and others would only work in certain combinations. But a bit of futzing around and a pile of sundry video cards always hit on the right combo. And once I got it working, I’ve never looked back. I still have multiple monitors at work and at home, and I couldn’t get any work done without them. It’s just ingrained into the way I use the computer.

So imagine my shock when I started playing with Windows XP earlier this year and found that my multiple monitor setup, so nice under 98, just would not work. At. All. I looked in device manager, and the second video card said, “Code 10”. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but a little scouring online confirmed it. Windows XP actually took a step backwards in multiple monitor support. There is a list of about ten video cards that it will support. Everything else, all the other ones 98 supported, are dead. They spit out nothing but Code 10.

Much panicked searing followed. Eventually I found some obscure posts somewhere that suggested a SiS 6326 video card (which I just happened to have half a dozen of) would work, but only if you use the Windows 2000 drivers. And, sure enough, the SiS 6326 is now serving as the second video card both at work and here at home. Why did XP do this? Why does it need the Win2000 driver? Who is ever supposed to find this out on their own? Microsoft baffles again.

June 23, 2003


SitePoint just came out with a new book, titled Designing Without Tables Using CSS. Dave Winer, I’m sure, would disapprove (for those of you who don’t get the joke, Mr. Winer has been one of the most vocal opponents of using CSS and clean markup to lay out web pages). I haven’t read the book myself, but there is a sample chapter available at It looks like a really good read, yet another tool to add to the existing arsenal that includes Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation and Jeffrey Zeldman’s just-released Designing With Web Standards. The word is slowly getting out, major sites are learning the advantages of writing simple HTML and using CSS for the complex stuff, and more and more people are getting with the 21st century. And who knows? Maybe if there’s enough of us walking in, singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out, friends, they may think it’s a movement. And maybe one day even Dave Winer will stop using <font> tags!

He just wants to get married

Jeffrey Zeldman: I just want to get married.

No fan of fans

The biggest bane of my existence here in Tech Support World has got to be the noisy fans. If you’ve worked around a lot of computers, you know the ones. Usually it’s the power supply fan; a little speck of dust or grime has gotten inside the fan bearings, or the blades have gotten a little bit out of alignment. However it happens, the fans start buzzing. Some of them make a racket like the world is ending as soon as you turn them on, then shut up after a minute. Others start out silent and build up to it over the course of a workday. Some of them go at it all day long, others come and go in short bursts. Sometimes you can stick a pen in the grill in the back of the computer, and the blades will realign themselves—for a few days, at least. Other times it’s like a nest of hornets, and the more you poke the angrier it gets. And in all cases, the only solution is to remove a couple dozen screws from the power supply and replace the fan.

I hate it. I absolutely hate it. I cringe every time I hear those dreaded words: “My computer is making this funny noise…” The hate wells up inside of me and threatens to burst. It’s irrational, I know. It’s just a fan; they cost about three dollars and take four minutes to replace. But for some reason that’s one of most loathed tasks around here. Replacing a motherboard? No problem. Reinstalling Windows from scrach? A piece of cake. But when I walk down the hall and hear that buzzing fan, sitting there under the desk and taunting me, I want to put my foot through the box. Maybe I’ve brought it on myself. It seems to be a consequence of buying so many budget-conscious (read: cheap-ass) computer kits over the years. And in the big picture, replacing a fan every couple of years is nothing when you saved a couple hundred dollars on the computer. And the fans are the only parts that seem to go bad. Motherboards, hard drives, video cards, memory sticks, these things last for years and years. But the fans – they never make it. They ridicule me to this day, challenging my manhood and my fitness as a computer tech. “Oh, what’s the matter, you can’t even keep a little fan quiet? I guess somebody’s not quite cut out for the job, is he?”

Maybe it’s silly, and probably I should be glad that my network runs so smooth that I have time and energy to kvtech about fans. But I hate those little buggers. Some days I just want to rip them all out and turn the air conditioning down to 30 degrees.

This is the reason I bowed down at the altar of the MacCube when it came out. Sure, that was one of the sleekest computers I had ever seen, even if it did look like it should be dispensing Kleenex out the top. But there was one thing that drew me to it like no other computer before or since: no fans.