Cheeseburger In A Can

Someone actually tried the now infamous cheeseburger in a can. After reading it, and seeing the pictures of it prepared I can now form a solid conclusion. It must be a complete waste of calories. How the hell can a cheeseburger have a bitter aftertaste? There are so many things in this world that I would eat before that. I’ve tasted dog treats for money before. I’d eat them for free before eating a cheeseburger out of a can.

That post however is quite funny to read.

While on the the topic of strange foods… Has anyone ever noticed how much dog food is bacon flavored? Why can’t they do that for people food? I’d love bacon flavored cereal, etc. Bacon flavored vitamins would also be nice.

Firefox 3 Skinning Progress

So I mentioned the other day that some theme related checkins took place. Here’s some screenshots for Mac/Windows for those interested. You can find some Linux screenshots on Michael Ventnor’s blog I’ve also got a little commentary on implementation thus far.

It should be noted that this stuff isn’t finalized and will definitely be tweaked. In the past things were adjusted until the very last moment, I expect we’ll see the same. Also don’t forget things like the planned keyhole shape aren’t even in place yet.

Navigation Toolbar (Windows XP)
Firefox 3.0b3 Toolbar (Windows XP)

My general thought on this is that Windows XP has thus far been left behind. Linux and Mac OS X look absolutely awesome. Vista doesn’t look to bad, though in general I think the OS design is an ugly turd. For XP, the reload and stop button are particularly what looks the strangest. Both seem to thin and small. It really doesn’t fit the rest of the UI. Home I think actually is actually an improvement. A step away from the “dirty house”. Back/Forward haven’t been updated yet as I mentioned before.

Navigation Toolbar (Mac OS X 10.4)
Firefox 3.0b3 Navigation Toolbar (Mac)

Simply awesome. Enough said. Not even shown is the new tab design which is also better. I’ve got to put together a screenshot post of Mac OS X thus far so others can drool.

Options (Windows XP)
Firefox 3.0b3 Options (Windows XP)

I think this overall is better than the toolbar. I still have a few issues with it. For one the “Main” icon abstractly looks like a switch, but I’m not sure how apparent that is if you didn’t know what it was supposed to be. “Tabs” looks slightly distorted (that’s one tall tab) but otherwise good. I like the concept behind “Content” but I’m not sure I can tell what any of that is. Images is clearly in there, it would be nice if it was more obvious you can control popups from in there. “Applications” seems to work well. I’m really not even sure what “Privacy” is supposed to depict. Anyone know? “Security” and “Advanced” also very nice.

Options (Mac OS X 10.4)
Firefox 3.0b3 Preferences (Mac)

It’s pretty much the same old, nothing to report here. Looks good.

So there you have it. My 5 minute rundown of some icon changes. There will be more, and a lot more polish I’m sure. I’ll try and post a follow up later on and show how it’s changed. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, hopefully this gives you a little taste of the great UI design work being done.

Cheap Tiny PC’s

Paul Stamatiou has a great blog post on the DIY $200 PC. Premise is that for $200 (or possibly less depend on your requirements) you could put together a little PC for some purpose. The core of this being affordable is the new-ish Intel D201GLY2 Motherboard/Processor combo.

The only problem I see with it is the board surprisingly uses an SiS964 Southbridge, which for the moment doesn’t seem to be well supported under Linux from what I can tell. That could make use a little more complicated, though I can see that changing relatively quick. I wouldn’t run a modern version of Windows on something like that, not to mention Windows would cost about as much as the hardware. It is a Celeron, but it’s 64bit.

This means for approximately $200 you can put together a very low power, quiet (could even be fanless) computer/device/server/appliance for whatever purpose you wish. A little work and it would make a great file server. Add a better NIC and you’d have a great firewall. Hook it up with some WiFi and it can easily get on a network from anywhere. There’s a ton of possibilities here. It could be a lot of fun to build something out of it. I’m not sure using something like MythTV will work to well, at least now.

Very cool stuff. I’m interested what people will do with it.

Meta Stupidity Followup

In the past day I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on what others think of this meta stupidity. A few suggested remedies are particularly good and worth a post linking to. My two favorites both from Mozilla hackers are these:

David Baron has a must read blog post. Since the bulk of these older sites are on intranets, why not just allow administrators to enable compatibility mode on intranets? Seems like a perfectly logical solution that doesn’t hold back the web, and allows them to achieve their goals.

Daniel Glazman has another idea that I think is very valid.

  • Microsoft should freeze, and I really mean it, its current IE6/IE7 HTML 4 engines, and drop that META tag idea.

Ditto. That needs to be a very deep and reliable freeze though.

Meta Stupidity

As Robert O’Callahan, John Resig, Anne van Kesteren all point out, this idea of using a meta tag to select a rendering engine is bad. Here are my personal thoughts on the issue. Not as a browser developer but as a web developer.

Essentially the argument by the IE team is this: Rather than fix the problem, lets create a larger problem so the smaller one isn’t very noticeable.

Yea, that’s how I parsed the blog post. For anyone who disagrees, perhaps I interpreted it wrong because they didn’t select the correct parser because they didn’t include the following:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8;FF=3;raccettura=serious;OtherUA=4" />

All joking aside it’s an insane idea guaranteed to set things back.

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Open Source And Recessions

There’s an interesting blog post on Open Source and recessions worth reading. Essentially the question is this: Does a recession have a negative impact on open source?

I’d say the answer is somewhat more complex than a simple yes/no. There are many different types of projects out there with entirely different circumstances. However I suspect a projects impact could be gaged on a few key aspects of it’s operation:

Purpose – The purpose of the project is likely the most critical aspect. For example, I don’t think there would be any significant impact on projects like the Linux kernel which is essential to many products out there including server infrastructure that powers much of the web and many companies computer systems. Then you have consumer products like TiVo, Google Android etc. Because it’s purpose is so broad there are enough people with a financial interest in seeing development continue. WebKit, Mozilla, Apache, are good examples of this. They have broad usage by many. Something specific to a more obscure task would have more trouble due to it’s more limited market.

Development Team – Of course for a project to succeed it needs one or more developers. During a recession one could theorize that many would be less inclined to participate. This may not necessarily so. First of all, quite a bit of open source development is loosely sponsored. Several projects have actual staff, paid employees who write open source code. For example Apple employees people to work on WebKit. Mozilla has staff working on Firefox. There are people paid to work on Linux (Red Hat, IBM, Novell, etc.) and many other open source projects. There are also companies who contribute some code that would be of strategic value to them. There’s also those who are simply willing to sponsor some work they want to see happen. All of which fund developers of larger open source projects. But would developers who aren’t sponsored or employed to code still participate? I theorize most still would as they don’t depend on it for income during good times, presumably a job during a recession wouldn’t generally prohibit participation and more than a job during years of economic growth. There’s also the impact of college students who participate partially for the educational aspect. The early 2000′s was a recession and still showed a fair amount of growth of open source. In fact many of todays stars really started to take shape during that period. For example:

Funding – Somewhat obvious: Funding is key. Who pays the developers (partially the last aspect I discussed)? Who pays for the projects needs (servers, etc.)? Many of the more popular projects (almost all of the above) have either an organization of for-profit company around built around it. That company often sponsors the needs of the project. Unless the needs of that companies product/service is no longer needed during the recession, funding likely remains. That’s partially the first aspect I discussed.

It’s my belief the larger and more popular open source projects would feel a minimal impact during a recession. I think history has shown this, and common sense agrees. They are mostly low development cost, adequately funded (often from diverse sources), stable, and have a broad team of developers. The projects that are in trouble are the ones who have very few or only 1 developer, even worse if they share the same sponsor, even worse if there is little community around the project. Most projects would generally experience a slight slowdown in development the degree would depend on the above. A few may go dormant for a period of time. Thanks to things like GPL licensing, another developer can pick up should there be a market in the open source ecosystem.

Overall I don’t think open source would be nearly as impacted as most businesses during a recession. The model is very different. Open source when successful has a community and many different sponsors. The diversity allows the project to survive even when recession causes some sponsors to need to reduce or eliminate involvement. Open Source also by definition is used to this type of environment. It’s used to developing on a budget, soliciting sponsors to help cover costs, etc.

The interesting thing about recession is that it impacts everyone, but the degree to which someone is impacted varies. For example construction and housing are generally harder hit than other industries. People tend to cut back on new home purchases before they cut back on other things. Each of those industries has computing needs, sometimes met by open source. This all feeds into the open source ecosystem.

I’d suggest that all of the projects I have mentioned here will do ok during a recession. Many with a slowdown, but all will still continue as long as they provide value. A notable situation is Mozilla’s income comes largely from Google which is based on ad revenue. During a recession and bubble bursting this would likely dramatically reduce the revenue brought in. This isn’t being ignored. As the 2006 Financial FAQ states:

First, the cash reserve is of course a form of insurance against the loss of income. We will continue to maintain enough of a reserve to allow us flexibility in making product decisions….

It seems that an open source project with a diverse stream of funding from individuals and companies of various industries, as well as developers in different situations is in the best position to survive.

It’s an interesting topic.

Thunderbird Sync With iPhone/iPod touch

I’ve gotten quite a few emails over the past several months from people who want to know how to sync their iPhone (or iPod touch) with Thunderbird. Quite a few are disappointed to find mozPod doesn’t support these newer devices. It’s not quite my fault as I’ve yet to see any indication that it’s practical to implement.

I should note I do not own either device, but from what I’ve read, it doesn’t matter. Hopefully by 2nd or 3rd generation when I’m on the market Apple will have come to their senses.

The problem is that Apple hasn’t provided a good method for anyone to provide sync with the iPod. Even on older devices it wasn’t pretty, but it was workable. There is no real sync API outside of iSync, which is Mac only and not a public API. Instead what was done is mount the iPod file system and send it your data. While not awesome, this has been workable and provided many Thunderbird users with mobile data.

On the iPhone and iPod touch it’s not even possible to easily mount the filesystem. The best method I’ve heard of is hacking it so you can mount your phone using sshfs with something like FUSE. I know myself and some Linux and Mac users (horray for MacFUSE!) could manage, but I wouldn’t dare try to explain to someone how to do that. From what I’ve read the iPhone manages data using SQLite 3. Therefore it seems possible to use mozStorage to interface with it. Perhaps someone with more experience with mozStorage and db’s generated outside mozStorage would know better about any potential compatibility issues.

Calendar:
/var/root/Library/Calendar/Calendar.sqlitedb

Address BookL
/var/root/Library/AddressBook/AddressBook.sqlitedb
/var/root/Library/AddressBook/AddressBookImages.sqlitedb

Seems to me Apple could turn this into an API pretty easily by re-creating the old iPod style USB storage device mounting and give us access to these files.

In my mind the ideal implementation would be for Apple to just have a iTunes embed a mini web server locally accessible (obviously) and create a REST api to work with all data on the device. That would open up a whole new way of interacting with the device. Essentially you would interact with 127.0.0.1:[port#] and GET/POST your way through the interface. Perfect for Calendar, Address Book, Notes, or whatever else Apple comes up with.

To get a vCard for someone:

  GET /contact/vcard/?last_name=Jones HTTP/1.1
  Host: localhost
  User-Agent: mozPod/0.3

vcard can also be done as xml (ooh DOM parsing for iPhone!), so there’s lots of possibilities.

To add a contact:

  POST /contact/add/ HTTP/1.1
  Host: localhost
  User-Agent: mozPod/0.3
  Content-Length: 450
  Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded

  fname=John&lname=Doe&address=1%20Large%20Road...

Though it would likely make sense to go with a more vcard like naming structure.

For calendar iCalendar or vCalendar would make most sense:

 GET /calendar/ical/?start=1-1-1970&end=1-19-2038 HTTP/1.1
  Host: localhost
  User-Agent: mozPod/0.3

You get the idea. Dead simple access. You could then use something likecurl to manipulate the iPhone’s address book via your existing application. It would be only accessible locally, so it’s as secure as your system. It would actually make things more secure since it would be one less reason for tinkering on the actual device, and it would open up a whole new market of iPod/iPhone software to go with all those accessories that have helped boost Apple’s market share. SyncML is cool, but SyncML is also a beast and reminds me of SOAP, WSDL etc.

Apple Mail And Folder Management

I use Thunderbird on Windows, but from time to time like to fire up Apple Mail when on my Mac.

Why is it Apple Mail on Leopard doesn’t seem to allow me to view a few mailboxes nested under the inbox on an IMAP account? I haven’t tried under POP3, though I’d venture it’s the same limitation.

You would think they would at least show it linear if it couldn’t display it under inbox. Instead what it does is just not show it. Perhaps it’s important for me to be able to presort my inbox to make it manageable.

MacWorld SF 2008

Another year, another great day of news coverage. I’m obsessed with watching it evolve and monitor several sites throughout the keynote. As expected this was a pretty big one. I suspect this year will contain the most product announcements of any year for Apple. They have a lot of products due for a refresh and announcements expected. Even Steve himself said:

All of this in the first two weeks, and we’ve got fifty more weeks to go.

In all the keynotes I’ve followed, this was the most aggressive agenda. 2008 is going to rock for Apple products.

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