April 12, 2010

Please Stand By.

Filed under:
  • General
— 10:57 pm

Well, it looks like I let this site go a year without a real post. Again.

I’m going to bring it back, and in a tradition I’ve carried on since 1998, the first post in a year will be one with no useful content at all. You’re soaking in it.

I’m currently debating what to do with this site. I might write more about what I do in my businesses (running web sites and, lately, iPhone development). Or I might just turn it into a list of links to things I write elsewhere. At any rate, something will happen here soon. I’ll at least update the categories. I just noticed “PalmOS” is still there. How embarrassing.

I’m currently in San Jose for the excellent 360iDev conference. Working on an iPhone app, which will hopefully be published soon. Playing with my new iPad, which is either The Future of Computing or The Death of Creativity as We Know It depending on who you believe. I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with either side.

I will post a full report on 360iDev soon, if nothing else. Stay tuned. In the meantime I’m occasionally on Twitter.

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February 27, 2009

The unrecognizable Internet of 1996?

Filed under:
  • General
— 8:59 pm

In The unrecognizable Internet of 1996, Farhad Manjoo of Slate Magazine gives his impressions of the Web of 1996, although he admittedly wasn’t there. This is amusing in the same way as hearing a modern high-school student talk about the music and fashion of the 1970s, but I thought I should correct some of his misconceptions.

I started thinking about the Web of yesteryear after I got an e-mail from an idly curious Slate colleague: What did people do online back when Slate launched, he wondered? After plunging into the Internet Archive and talking to several people who were watching the Web closely back then, I’ve got an answer: not very much.

David Wertheimer says that’s bullshit, and I agree. In 1996 the web was already so busy that a single person couldn’t keep track of the whole thing, or hope to read everything online. My quotations site was two years old by then, and even in the narrow field of sites about famous quotations it was one of about 200. I couldn’t keep track of all of them. By contrast, when I launched the site in 1994, it was the only one in the category. In early 1995 it was one of three sites in the category, and I regularly talked with the owners of the other two.

Some of Yahoo’s 1996-era front pages have been saved in the Internet Archive. What’s interesting about them is what they lack. First, no e-mail: The first webmail site, Hotmail, launched in July of 1996.

But webmail is not email. People were emailing each other long before Hotmail, using desktop clients like Pegasus and Eudora. They looked pretty much exactly like today’s desktop email clients, except for one thing: there was no spam.

In 1994, a Swarthmore College student named Justin Hall began links.net, one of the very first personal Web sites.

This seems wrong – I set up a personal site in 1994, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t “one of the very first”. I doubt I was one of the first 500.

I’m sure I could find a few other mistakes in this shoddy article, but my point is this: 1996 was when the Web really started to get big. Real media companies like Time Magazine and the New York Times were seeing its potential for the first time, regular people who weren’t computer-obsessed were beginning to outnumber the geeks, and businesses like Amazon.com were just starting to make money online. The dot-com boom had begun, and advertising-powered sites like Slate were starting to make real money. Saying this was “not very much” going on online is like saying that, since there was no TV, no SUVs, and no Wal-mart, there wasn’t much going on during the industrial revolution.

[via Kottke]

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March 12, 2007

SXSW 2007

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  • General
— 1:32 pm

I’m at SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas right now, enjoying the second half of the best conference for web geeks every year.

I’m not going to be writing live about anything, but I will be writing detailed posts about a few of the panels I’ve seen this year. I’m generally too exhausted during the conference, so that will have to happen later.

Laura and I will be here until Wednesday, so if you’re reading this and you’re in Austin, drop me a line!

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May 9, 2006

New JavaScript Book

Filed under:
  • General
— 2:22 am

If you’ve wondered about the light posting here for the past few months, I’ve been busy writing a book. While I always fancy myself able to multitask, writing books seems to consume my time and brain power until I lose track of everything else. If you or your email is one of the things I’ve lost track of, I apologize. I’m much better now.

At any rate, I present Teach Yourself JavaScript in 24 Hours, 4th Edition. This is the biggest rewrite since the original edition of the book in 1999. The previous edition was published in 2002, and JavaScript has come a long way since then. I’m happy to finally have an edition of the book that catches up with the latest developments.

Along with the typical updates, this book has some new material on Ajax, JavaScript libraries, Greasemonkey, and new debugging tools. I’ve also replaced many of the examples, and fixed most of the ones that remain to be modern, unobtrusive scripts. There’s also a chapter called “Unobtrusive Scripting”, an emphasis on web standards, and a near-complete lack of the term DHTML.

I think it turned out pretty well. The new book will be available in July or August. I’ll be posting more about it here before then. I’ll also be redesigning my equally antiquated JavaScript Workshop site before the readers of the new edition arrive and laugh at it.

Now that I have time, I’m going to give my websites some much-needed attention. I will post here frequently with “behind the scenes” looks at the work I do running the sites. Stay tuned.

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January 5, 2006

CES Coverage

Filed under:
  • General
— 4:23 am

Laura and I are at the CES show this week. The exhibits don’t start until tomorrow, but we sat through a few press conferences and Bill Gates’ keynote speech today.

I’ll talk more about CES here soon, and in the meantime we’re posting some detailed articles at The Gadgets Page.

Update: Laura’s also posting a bunch of fitness gadget reviews at Starling Fitness.

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December 31, 2005

2005: A recap

Filed under:
  • General
  • Web Development
— 7:08 pm

As the year ends, it reminds me of what I’ve accomplished in 2005, and what I haven’t accomplished. Here are some highlights:

  • January 1, 2005: Laura and I launched a fitness weblog, Starling Fitness. It’s now quite popular, with 1400-1500 visitors a day, and has built enough of a community that we get comments often.
  • March 3, 2005: Facing unprecedented levels of traffic, I moved most of my sites to a new dual-Xeon server. It handled the beginning-of-the-school-year rush nicely, and hopefully will last another year or so.
  • March 31, 2005: Darren at Problogger published an interview with me, probably the first time I’ve been interviewed.
  • April 12, 2005: I wrote my first WordPress plug-in, View Future Posts. It was well-received and the announcement has over 40 comments. I’ll be releasing an updated version soon.
  • May 17, 2005: I launched a new weblog, Sequenced Notes, focusing on making music with computers and electronics. That one’s mostly for fun, and it still doesn’t have much of a readership, but I’ve enjoyed writing about my musical hobby.
  • May 19, 2005: Google launched their Personalized Google feature, and included my Quotes of the Day as one of the default components. This has brought an extra 100,000+ visitors a month to the site and is now responsible for just over 5% of its total traffic.
  • July 21, 2005: We launched The Quotations Weblog as part of my most popular site, The Quotations Page. Thanks largely to Laura’s regular writing, this weblog now gets about 1200 visitors a day.
  • September 4, 2005: We launched the new WordPress-based version of The Gadgets Page. It’s grown rapidly since then, now seeing about 800 unique visitors a day.
  • November 7, 2005: The Quotations Page had its best traffic day ever, with 124,687 unique visitors. The holidays slow things down, but I expect to beat that record in January.

Now that I list it all out, it’s been a busy year, and I haven’t mentioned the book project that’s kept me busy the last couple of months. I’ve missed out on a few accomplishments—like my goal of posting here once a day—but all in all, 2005 was a pretty good year. I’ll save my 2006 goals for the next post.

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September 4, 2005

The Gadgets Page 2.0

Filed under:
  • General
  • Web Development
— 12:23 am

I launched The Gadgets Page in late 2003. I had high hopes for it at the time, imagining I’d be writing tons of in-depth articles. Instead, the design and the content spent the last year or so stagnating. I’ve decided to make an effort to revive the site:

  • I’ve turned it into a weblog—it was essentially a weblog before, but all of the content was in the form of longer articles, and I rarely have time to write more. Allowing room for shorter links and articles as well as longer ones will let me update the site frequently.
  • The site was running some homebrewed CMS software. It is now running WordPress 1.5. Weblog software didn’t really fit my focus for the site back in 2003, but WordPress has grown since then, and I’ve learned to work with it. This will allow me to focus on writing, not programming.
  • I’ve created a new design for the site. It’s minimal, but it works and it’s a table-free CSS layout, unlike the previous design.
  • Matthew Strebe (of SlashNot) and I wrote all of the earlier content. My wife, Laura, who has been writing like clockwork at Starling Fitness, will be joining us to provide regular posts.
  • Since I’m trying to develop a daily writing habit, I’m setting a goal of writing one post per weekday on The Gadgets Page, starting Monday.

So, I’ve added a gadget weblog to my rapidly growing empire of multiple personalities. I have no intention of competing with Engadget or the other big ones—I can’t even keep up with reading them—but I’m looking forward to writing about gadgets, and I hope the site will evolve a unique voice and audience. Time will tell.

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July 21, 2005

New site: The Quotations Weblog

Filed under:
  • General
  • Web Development
— 8:43 pm

We’ve finally added a weblog to our massively popular quotations site. At The Quotations Weblog my wife Laura and I are writing about quotations and related matters.

The site (The Quotations Page) has actually had a couple of semi-weblogs on it since 1997: A once-regular “quotes of the week” feature and the site updates on the home page. I’ve imported all of those into the new site, and now it will be much easier to post regularly.

This weblog runs the latest WordPress, with a couple of quirks:

  • I’ve crammed WordPress into the site’s existing (table-based HTML 4.0 transitional) layout. The whole site including the weblog will be moving to a CSS-only layout soon.
  • Since this will be an ideal spam target (page rank 7) we’ve required people to sign in to leave comments. Since we have an existing phpBB forum, it detects whether you’ve signed on to the forum and allows you to post without a separate WordPress sign-in.

Here’s something interesting: I launched the weblog yesterday with little fanfare, simply adding “Weblog” to the site’s navigation bar. Yesterday there were approximately 66,000 visitors to the site, and the number of visitors to the weblog was 394. So apparently merely having a weblog isn’t getting this mainstream audience excited, and we’ll actually have to promote the thing…

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May 19, 2005

Personalized Google

Filed under:
  • General
  • Internet
— 8:01 pm

Google has a new personalized home page feature that displays content you choose on a Google search page suitable for use as a home page. You can include things like Google News and BBC news on the page, and your GMail inbox if you have one. A nice JavaScript UI lets you drag the boxes around the page. Here’s the announcement at Google Blog, and a reaction from Jeremy Zawodny at Yahoo, who finds the whole thing eerily familiar.

They seem to be planning full RSS (or Atom?) support, but for now there are only about 10 feeds you can select from. Along with the BBC, Wired News, and Slashdot, I’m very pleased to report that they’ve chosen my Quotes of the Day as one of the feeds. It is using RSS, as you might have guessed, and someone at Google was nice enough to email me to let me know they’re using my feed and warn me that it might bring me some traffic (bring it on!)

As Jeremy pointed out, Google has taken a tiny step toward becoming a “portal” rather than a mere search engine. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

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May 17, 2005

New weblog: Sequenced Notes

Filed under:
  • General
  • Music
  • Web Development
— 10:40 am

 When I’m not working on websites, one of my favorite hobbies is making electronic music with computers and synthesizers. I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to write about making music, but this isn’t the place for it—first of all, I like to keep this weblog somewhat focused on web development and computers, and second, music can be an obsession at times, and it would take over this site for months at a time if I allowed it.

Besides, another of my obsessions is starting new websites.

Sequenced Notes is my new electronic music weblog, where I’ll be writing regularly about synthesizers, sequencers, and other aspects of digital music production. I think it will be fun to write about something a bit more “right brain” than anything else I do, and I’m hoping it will convince me to spend more time actually working on music. It will also be an outlet for another of my hobbies—building my own synthesizers.

I had a bit of fun with this site’s design, which is inspired by the “piano roll” editor used in sequencers. It uses a CSS layout loosely based on the one I did for Starling Fitness. It’s a bold, kind of intentionally geeky look—believe it or not, I toned it down a bit before finalizing the design. I’m particularly happy with the way the top graphic merges seamlessly with the background grid.

The logo font is Jason Kottke’s Silkscreen. I used this font directly for the tagline, and built the logo text in the sequencer grid one giant pixel at a time based on the letters in the font. I’ll probably use Silkscreen column headers in the sidebar too, but I haven’t done that yet.

This site is my first experience using WordPress 1.5, and the source of my earlier post about WP 1.5. I’ll be upgrading my other sites soon.

Let me know what you think, and I hope I have a few readers who are musicians and will find it worth a read. Stay tuned for next week, when I further expand my portfolio of multiple personalities weblogs with an additional unrelated site.

[The name of the site is a pun: "sequenced notes" could describe a weblog, as well as the primary component of electronic music. Get it? No? Congratulations, you're not as much of a nerd as I am.]

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April 18, 2005

The past and future of Homesite

Filed under:
  • General
— 2:52 pm

I’ve been using Homesite as my primary HTML/PHP/JavaScript editor for nearly ten years. I think I bought it in 1995 or 1996. Nick Bradbury was a one-man business at the time and Homesite was advertised on CompuServe. I think it was version 1.0. (I met Nick at SXSW 2004 and enjoyed reminiscing about those days.)

I’ve stayed with Homesite ever since, upgrading to version 2.0, then 2.5, then 3.0, then 4.0, then 5.0, and finally 5.5. Along the way Homesite was acquired by Allaire in 1997, and Allaire was acquired by Macromedia in 2001. Homesite development has been pretty stagnant since the Macromedia acquisition. The product always seemed to take a back seat to Dreamweaver. New versions were few and far between, and often added more bugs than they fixed.

Homesite is a programmer’s text editor for HTML and other web languages. While it has a built-in preview and even a simple WYSIWYG mode, it’s most efficient for people like me who think in HTML (and PHP and JavaScript) and just want convenient access to their code. I’ve never had any patience for visual editors like Dreamweaver. Homesite is just my style.

Despite being a fan, I’ve been planning to switch from Homesite for some time, because it didn’t seem to have a future with Macromedia. Now I’m not sure what to think, because Adobe is acquiring Macromedia. I have a feeling this might be the final nail in Homesite’s coffin, although I’d love to see Adobe take better care of it than Macromedia did.

Luckily for me, Homesite creator Nick Bradbury created another great editor, TopStyle, after leaving Allaire. I’ve always figured I’ll switch to TopStyle eventually, but put it off because I’m comfortable with Homesite, and the CSS emphasis didn’t mean much to me. Now that Homesite’s future is more uncertain than ever and I’m doing all of my design with CSS, it’s probably time to take another good look at TopStyle.

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April 11, 2005

WordPress 1.5 first impressions

Filed under:
  • General
  • Web Development
— 3:28 pm

I’m setting up a new weblog (to be announced shortly) and have been experimenting with the recently-released WordPress 1.5 for the first time. It’s an incremental update from 1.2, but there are some nice new features. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • The Dashboard: This is the new front page of the weblog Administration interface. A sidebar shows a few statistics about your weblog with links to latest posts and comments, and the rest of the page is essentially an RSS aggregator that displays WordPress-related items. I found this clever, but since I already have an RSS reader most of the screen’s contents are redundant. I’d rather see more statistics
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