Yesterday, Susan Kitchens started thinking about how ubiquitous the web-based administration control panel has become — these days, we configure our wireless access points, webservers, printers, weblogs, and a whole host of other devices by plugging their addresses into our web browsers. Susan surmised that Cobalt’s Qube may have had one of the first web-based administration interfaces, and got me thinking when she asked if anyone knew of any others that preceded it.

The first thing that came to mind was Webmin, the Unix administration project which launched on October 5, 1997, five months before the first Qube shipped on March 12, 1998. But thinking back further, I swore that I could remember using a similar interface to administer the first version of Oracle’s application server, and a little digging came up with the 1995 manual for Oracle WebServer 1.0, which was released in December 1995 complete with web-based administration. Note that last link, in which the screenshot shows NCSA Mosaic as the browser being used; this is important, since version 2.0 of Mosaic was the first major browser which supported HTML forms (including boxes to type text into, checkboxes, submit buttons, and the like), all elements that most people would concede are necessary components of any web-based administration interface. (Here’s a screenshot of HTML forms in use in Oracle’s WebServer interface.)

NCSA Mosaic 2.0 went into alpha in January of 1994, and didn’t become publicly available until October of 1995. I’d bet that there weren’t many people developing administration interfaces requiring a web browser until that version (or some other browser which supported HTML forms) gained a little traction, so it wouldn’t surprise me too much if Oracle’s December 1995 offering wasn’t one of the first. Can anyone else point to a web-based administration interface that predated Oracle WebServer 1.0?

How strange, and yet so cool! Last night, Shannon, my sister, and I were talking over dinner, and conversation randomly led to us wondering what has happened around the Chernobyl disaster site. Then this morning, I randomly stumbled upon the site of Elena, a Kiev native who decided to take a motorcycle ride through the 2800 square kilometer nuclear exclusion zone that remains. She took a ton of pictures, documenting what can only be called this era’s Pompeii — homes, vehicles, oil tankers, entire factories that are frozen in time at April 26th, 1986. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing for Elena to expose herself to as much radiation as it looks like she did, but the photos that came out of the journey are amazing.

Over at the CJR’s Campaign Desk, Brian Montopoli has an interesting look at how Fox News accepted a decision from the White House which gave the news organization “permission” to make public one of Richard Clarke’s off-the-record interviews. Being the CJR, the piece is written from the perspective of journalistic integrity — essentially, that the accepted standard holds that once a reporter agrees to an off-the-record interview, the only person who can revoke that status is the person being interviewed. Could you imagine if the only hurdle the press had to jump in order to attribute formerly background information was to ask the interviewee’s boss? Fair and balanced, indeed.

Well, that’s certainly one way to handle it! Last week, the county commissioners of Oregon’s Benton County voted to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses today, but under extreme pressure from the state’s attorney general, they’ve taken a unique tack on the issue — the county commissioners have stopped issuing any marriage licenses.

That’s brilliant! It’s a way to guarantee that the county isn’t discriminating, and in addition, a way to expose man-and-woman couples to the treatment that same-sex couples have experienced forever. It’s also a strategy that isn’t explicitly banned by state laws of questionable Constitutionality, so even bigger cities — San Francisco, New York, etc. — could act similarly until the courts work out where this country is going with marriage rights.

Last week, after SxSW, Shannon and I took a short detour to San Antonio to visit my grandmother. After lunch, she surprised me with an awesome gift — a Contax 137 MD camera and a few Zeiss Planar lenses. My grandfather was an avid recreational photographer, and in their retirement, he and my grandmother spent a huge amount of time driving around South Texas taking pictures. Over two decades ago, he gave her the camera as a gift; since then, she’s gotten a few other cameras, and when she realized last year that she’s not interested in taking SLR pictures anymore, she decided to give the camera to me. It’ll never replace the two Contax RTS bodies — fully restored — that my grandmother gave me immediately after my grandfather’s death and were stolen when my apartment was broken into in 1999, but it’s going to be fun to play with SLRs again! (Of course, I guess it means that I’ll have to get film developed again, which is a pain that I haven’t missed one whit since moving to the digital world.)

There are two great columns over at Slate about Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, one of the more interesting cases before the Supreme Court this term. The first is Dahlia Lithwick’s wrap up of the arguments before the Court, and as always, provides a look at the blow-by-blow that took place in oral arguments. The second article is Barbara Babcock’s view of the threat posed by a ruling that upholds Nevada’s law (while lamenting Dudley Hiibel’s role as an unexpected defender of civil rights). Both are worth a read.

Mark Pilgrim is a funny, funny man.

I have to say that I was pretty excited to see SixApart announce their TypeKey comment registration service. Not only is it a great option for Movable Type users who recognize that registration is a potential solution to all the problems with comments on weblogs these days; in the typical SixApart fashion, it also looks like there’s going to be a full-on API for others to use in their applications, if that kinda thing appeals to them.

(And as for the brouhaha that, in typical weblogger fashion, has erupted over TypeKey, I can’t say anything that Adam Gessaman hasn’t already put into words.)

I’m curious — has anyone heard from Apple yet regarding a refund under the iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program? When I last spoke with them, they said that it would be six weeks minimum before Apple started “proactively” calling customers. It’s now been seven weeks, so I’m wondering if any others have heard from Apple before I start calling to bug the company.

What an awesome discussion of the two-spaces-after-a-period convention (gleaned from Anil’s daily links). If you look at my source, you’ll see that my grammar teachers sunk this rule deep into my literary psyche; try as anyone might, I’m unsure if there’ll ever be a way to dig it back out! Nonetheless, it’s a great look into how the convention may have come about, and a good example of how, in this day and age, its use is an issue of belief rather than correctness.

Aaron Swartz and John Gruber have put together Markdown, another simplified text markup syntax. It’s cool, but I’m not too sure what differentiates it from the other simplified markup systems that have been released over the years (i.e., the age-old ReStructuredText, or Dean Allen’s Textile). (John says that the difference is that Markdown is a preprocessor, meaning that Markdown syntax can coexist with regular (X)HTML, and that may be legitimate; I can’t confess to having played enough with the alternatives to be able to recall how they deal with HTML.)

If nothing else, an interesting diversion, and another Movable Type plugin to play with a bit.

Inspired by a comment made by Anil in the what’s-next-for-weblogs panel: the first Usenet post by me that Google Groups appears to have indexed. See, I’ve always been a geek!

(Alas, though, I’m a bit disappointed that my first indexed post wasn’t this one; there’s rarely a day that goes by when I don’t look down and notice the scar on my left palm that was part of that experience.)

What a totally cool notion — a firewall security system that’s based on poking and prodding specific ports in a specific order to cause a known response (e.g., opening up a route through the firewall for administrative control). Of course, any one scheme or recipe could never become commonplace enough to be part of a firewall’s default installation; that would degrade its security by making the recipe well-known (which leads to well-hacked).

(Note that this is geeky enough that you can assume I’m posting it mostly as a bookmark for myself. Thanks go to Cory for indulging my geekiness with this.)

The first SxSW panel of the day for me is the Revolutionary Search Technologies panel, with representatives from Google, Feedster, MRL Ventures, and the University of Texas. The panel focused mainly on the future of search — where it’s going, what the challenges are, and how the technologies of today are trying to anticipate the challenges of tomorrow. I decided to take some notes, if anyone’s interested.

Don Turnbull just announced that the idiotic no-using-the-power-outlets policy in the Austin Convention Center has been cancelled. Apparently, we have Hugh Forrest to thank for this, so thank you, Hugh!

Thanks, Dave…

Something that apparently became important to me on the flight down to Austin: the iPod Out-of-warranty Battery Replacement Program. Grrrrrrrrr.

Sorry ‘bout that, Boy Scouts — you made your bed, and now you’ve gotta lie in it.

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot in the news about the release of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun’s personal papers, and out of it all, NPR’s in-depth pieces have each risen to the top. I spent an extra precious few minutes in the shower yesterday morning so that I could catch the end of one of Nina Totenberg’s segments, and I find that I’m checking in to the NPR website a few times a day to see what else I’ve missed. As is typical of NPR’s coverage, the pieces plunge below the surface of the story, conveying details that don’t make it into the fifteen-second evening news blips or the six column-inch newspaper snippets; I laughed this morning when I learned that Blackmun and the other Justices pass notes up and down the bench (frequently not related whatsoever to the case being argued before them), and that Blackmun fell asleep on the bench at least once. (I also laughed that it was Blackmun’s own papers that ratted out his somnolence!) The well-produced pieces have made the difference between me appreciating the fact that the papers were released to me wanting to stop into the Library of Congress on our next trip down to Washington.

Issue #173 of A List Apart is out, and it’s instantly going into the file-this-forever bookmark list. The Zebra Tables article (about automatically striping your table rows) is fantastic, and the CSS Sprites article throws some interesting image-manipulation concepts into the mix. Both make me happy to have a bit of web wrangling on my plate in the next few weeks.

Another little tidbit on the D-Link DI-514 wireless access point (in the interest of saving other people the time I just wasted): if you’re away from home, trying to access the remote administration site of your AP, and being turned away with the oh-so-cheerful 401 The web site is blocked by administrator, the problem is that you’re typing the hostname of your AP into the address bar of your browser. Try typing the IP address in, instead, and you’ll be all good.

What a dumb little bug!

Fascinating — Avi Rubin, the Johns Hopkins researcher who exposed the security vulnerabilities of the Diebold electronic voting machine by dissecting its source code, was an election judge in Baltimore County yesterday in a precinct that used the voting machines, and has written up his experience. It’s not full of shocking news or exposition of malfeasance, but rather a firsthand look at how electronic voting worked, and where the more practical problems could be come November.

As a pediatrician, something about this strikes me as just plain wrong. I know, I know — when compared to slicing off a little kid’s foreskin, it’s not all that shocking — but still!

Today, for the first time in a long, long time, I did the ol’ accidentally-hit-reply-all thing… and ended up sending a profanity-filled rant to one of my best friends and the director of radiation oncology. Worse still, I had no idea I had done it until said director wrote back to me, pointing out my electronic error.

Lucky for me, the profanities weren’t directed towards the radiation oncologists. The original email just served as the launching point for my rant, and that may be the only thing that saves my bacon. I can’t say that that makes me feel all that much better about dropping the F-bomb — twice — to the woman who runs a dozen radiation protocols at my hospital and who mentors all my learning about the use of radiation in cancer care, though. I’m sure that she’s filed it away in her in-case-I-need-to-use-it folder; God knows I’d do that!

The one-liner summary of the statement released by Baylor’s president today: It very well might have violated University policy for students to have exhibited independent thought, and as a result, they might be punished for it. Sorta serves as a good example of how the supposed echo chambers of today are merely updated versions of those of yesterday…