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Dave Seidel :: Wavicle
    Holons, nothing but holons.

daily link  Friday, April 25, 2003

« 301  »


My new address is

My new RSS address is

All new material will be posted to the new blog, including the further exciting episodes of my migration from Radio to MovableType. Join me, won't you?

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daily link  Wednesday, April 23, 2003

« Radio to MT: Migrating the data »

This evening I used Bill Kearney's Exporter tool. Exporter is a Radio tool that exports Radio data into into a text format that MT can import. The process is: you install the tool into Radio, run it, FTP the resulting file to the server on which MT is installed, then run MT's import function.

This all worked very smoothly for me, with one hitch. When I write blog entries in Radio, I always use the sequence "<br>\n<br>\n" to separate paragraphs, because I don't like the way that Radio translates blank lines — it uses an unclosed <p> tag. (I don't use the crappy IE WSYIWYG edit control because I use Mozilla instead of IE, so I've gotten into the habit of writing raw HTML when I blog, which I hope will become unnecessary.) Anyway, it seems that the default behavior of MT's import routine is the add a break tag every time there's a newline in the imput text, so I ended up with too much vertical whitespace between paragraphs.

I wrote to Bill, who suggested massaging the file before feeding it to MT, but I read the MT import format spec and saw that they have a per-item setting that controls this behavior ("CONVERT BREAKS"). I added a line to Bill's code to insert "CONVERT BREAKS: 0" for each item, and I got the result I wanted.

I gave Rick's tool a very quick try as well, but it crashed. It would be premature for me to blame his code, since operator error is certainly possible. I may give it another try at some point, but the fact is, the work is already done.

Next steps:
  • See if I can import comments (I know MT can do this, the question is whether I can get the data from
  • Templates: port the one I'm using now, use one that someone else wrote, or write my own? I'm leaning toward porting.
  • Investigate the whole redirection issue, both in RSS and on this site. For the latter, I'm considering writing a Radio macro that, on any given page, would generate JavaScript to redirect (or at least point) the reader to the closest equivalent page on the new site. For example, if someone goes to the page for today's date, the macro would compute the URL for the equivalent archive page on my MT site.

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« Morning notes »

I had a tooth extracted this morning, which was a new experience for me. It was a mature wisdom tooth that had cracked a couple of years ago. It was repaired at the time, but I was warned that it would eventually have to come out. It was pretty quick. Now I'm waiting for the anesthesetic to finish wearing off.

Good news and not-so-good news on the AmphetaDesk front. The good new is that Morbus sent me a new version (2.27) of the XML::Parser:Expat module, and it cut the memory usage on my system from 108MB down to 31MB, which I can live with. Also good news: based on what he told me about his plans for the eventual 1.0 release, it sounds like it will have the features that I'm looking for. The not-so-good news is that he's a busy guy these days, so it may be a while before those features surface. I'd be tempted to pitch in and help, except that (1) I'm not proficient enough with Perl to be immediately effective and (2) I'm just too busy with my own work to make that kind of commitment right now. But I'm willing to be patient. While I wait, I have the option of continuing to use Radio as an aggregator, or I might choose to use (at least for a while) one of the crop of cool new 3PDNAs.

On the Radio-to-MT front, I got comments from Rick ("techno weenie") and Bill Kearney pointing me at tools that they have written to translate Radio data into MT's import format. I'm looking forward to trying them both, and I will report back here on the results. Thanks to both of them.

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daily link  Tuesday, April 22, 2003

« Ongoing »

Another interesting post by Tim Bray, who has rapidly become one of my favorite writers in blogland. So far, I've enjoyed every one of his essays, especially this one, this one, and particularly this one.
RSS Needs Fixing. There are two big problems with RSS that aren't going away and are just going to have to be fixed to avoid a train-wreck, given the way this thing is taking off. They are first, what can go in a <description>, and second, the issue of relative URIs. (Warning: yet another incestuous self-referential post by a blogger about blogging, of interest only to syndication geeks.)... [ongoing]

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« Morning notes »

Hey Don, thanks for the linkage and the nice words. BTW, it's spelled "SOAPscope", without the space. ;-)

On the blog authoring/publishing front, MT is still the front-runner, but the other one that I'm looking at is a spiffy beast called Textpattern. It's younger than MT, and therefore doesn't (yet) have the community and third-party plugin support that MT has, but it's PHP (which I'm more experienced with than Perl), and it had some very nice authoring capabilities, including a cool formatting tool called Textile.

On the aggregator front, still playing with AmphetaDesk. Morbus does a great job supporting his software. I've got a correspondence going with him, maybe it will lead to a solution to the memory issue.

I spent my drive in this morning listening to one of my favorite new CDs, "100th Window" by Massive Attack. What a fine album (yeah, I'm old enough to still call them that).

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daily link  Monday, April 21, 2003

« AmphetaDesk: early impressions »

Initial problem: AD wouldn't read my Radio mySubscriptions.opml file. Solution: after seeing a comment somewhere about Unicode content in mySubscriptions.opml causing a problem for someone, I fired up SlickEdit and discovered two locations in the file where the xmlUrl attribute string was terminated by a low-ASCII character (i.e., in the control character range). Once I had eliminated those, AD slurped it up and went to town.

I don't like the default skin very much, but I quickly discovered Les Orchard's groovy skin, and I'm currently playing with that, very nice. On the negative side, it took over five minutes (after the big initial scan) for the page to render.

My main complaint now (not sure if this is a skin issue or an application design choice) is that I really like the way that Radio allows me to view the current news, and then delete all the items with a single click. Otherwise, it just gets cluttered. Likewise, I like the fact that Radio only shows me the feeds that actually have new content. When I get a little time to investigate, I want to see if I can get these behavior in AD.

The other issue I have is that AD is actually using much more memory than Radio: at this moment, 108MB for AD vs. 22MB for Radio. Not a good sign. I run lots of development tools and do lots of testing on this box, and I don't want to give away that much RAM.

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daily link  Sunday, April 20, 2003

« Spring cleaning »

I've been reasonably satisfied with Radio for quite a while. In fact, I recently renewed my subscription. I've even been dabbling lately in Radio's development environment. But I've been contemplating a change, for various reasons that fit into two broad categories.


I've been having fun playing with UserTalk, I like writing code in an outliner, and I find the idea of an environment built on a hierarchical database very interesting. But UserTalk and the ODB have no applicability independent of the world Radio/Frontier/Manila. I don't use Manila, and I have to plans to use it, so aside from Radio, there's no way for me to leverage any experience or knowledge I might gain in this environment. Dave talks a lot of talk about being locked in the trunk, but I'm starting to feel like I'm in danger of being locked in his trunk. I'd really rather be working with any one of a number of languages that are non-proprietary and widely deployed. I recently installed Movable Type for my daughter's use, and it's looking very attractive. Perl may not be my favorite language, but I have a huge amount of respect for it, not to mention a certain begrudging affection.

In Radio's defense, I like the fact that the RSS aggregator and the authoring environment are (somewhat) integrated. And I'm addicted to using an aggregator that uses a desktop web server to expose its user interface. I run it on my laptop, which travels with me between home and office, I'm always on a LAN, and I like the flexibility of collecting my news feeds in a central place, but being able to access the data from any machine on the network. But Radio is not the only way to achieve these things. And it would be nice to use some software that makes fewer demands on my disk space and CPU cycles.


I have a lot of respect for Dave's work on SOAP, RSS, OPML, etc. He's also pretty good at pissing people off, and he can be very inflexible. Now, he has some very nasty detractors, who in my opinion have far exceeded any of his real or perceived offences, and for whom I have no sympathy whatsoever (I can't even bring myself to link to them, and besides the site is down). But every once in a while, something happens that makes me fed up with the way he communicates. Usually, I cool off after a couple of days. But this time it's enough to push me to a decision point. I'm ready to move on.

Moving On

So I'm going to start making the transition from Radio to Movable Type as my blogging tool. I've already got it running on my hosted site, and I'm looking forward to learning about the plugin architecture and the templating scheme. It will take a while — I need to sort out issues like data import (any good scripts out there to move Radio posts into MT?) and templates (should I port my current templates to MT, or use something else?).

The other decision to make is which aggregator to use. My main requirement is that it must work as a desktop server (i.e., not a native UI, or at least not exclusively), and it would be nice if there was some integration with MT on the authoring side. I'm open to any language, but I'd prefer to have source code, and I prefer an MIT/Apache-style license to GPL. I'm open to suggestions.


Update 1
I downloaded Aggie and AmpetaDesk as the first two candidates for a replacement aggregator.

Update 2 (edited)
I wasn't clear in the "Emotional" section about what aggravated me about the discussion on Sam's blog. It wasn't the CSS argument. It was the incivility. Calling someone an "asshole" is gratuitous and serves no purpose other than to piss people off.

In the meantime, here's my view of CSS: it works quite well if you understand it. There's a learning curve, and I'm certainly pretty low on that curve, but people like Mark are doing a lot to educate us. I believe in the value proposition for CSS, which is to separate content from rendering. The browsers are getting better, and IE is not the only choice. I don't believe that we're locked in the trunk on this one. Sure, we have to deal with browser differences. So what else is new? In the old days, I used to struggle with something like 9 or 10 different DOS/WIndows C compilers to make sure my code would compile on all of them. It was a pain, but doable. These days, I no longer see Windows as my only platform, so I keep my native code very portable and use Java and other languages as well. And I use the browser as my UI platform, so that takes care of the desktop. So I'm doing my best to avoid lock-in.

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daily link  Saturday, April 12, 2003

« Regime Change »

John Kerry made a visit recently to Peterborough, NH (where I live). It has been widely reported that he said "We need a regime change here in the United States." Of course, this created the usual brouhaha, both nationally and locally (several outraged letters in the local paper; sorry, no links). As all of the local letters published so far have been from the pro-Bush point of view, my wife Kathleen felt that she had to respond. Here is the letter she wrote and submitted today.
To the Editor,

I understand that many citizens have been angered by John Kerry's reference to the need for "regime change" in his recent speech in Peterborough. Mr. Kerry did not give birth to that phrase; the meme "regime change begins at home" has been around since at least October 2002 (largely popularized via the website and expresses the sentiments of those who believe that the country needs new leadership — not an entirely new system of government, as some critics of the expression have suggested.

Many citizens are deeply concerned about the motives of a President who repeatedly demonstrates not only a disregard for the convictions of any individual, institution or nation who disagrees with him, but a desire that citizens who dissent from his policies should be silenced, either by law or by intimidation. Many are disturbed by the creeping tendency by both the administration and many citizens to expand the definitions of the word "terrorism" and "treason" to encompass any criticism of executive branch policies. When senior Pentagon officials expressed concern about the President's rush to war, a White House source summarized the official response: "The President considers this nation to be at war, and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason." Another example is John Ashcroft's statement, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists." This rhetorical tactic is similar to the one described by Hermann Goering, as quoted in Gustave Gilbert's Nuremberg Diary: "Naturally, the common people don't want war... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism."

As well as valuing personal safety, there are many citizens who equally value the all-American right to form, hold and express opinions arising from individual conscience and understanding of facts, and to affirm or dissent from the policies of the government, whether the nation is in a state of peace or war. Mr. Bush does not seem to share the latter value, as evidenced by his comment at a May 29, 1999 press conference in Austin TX, regarding a website criticizing his policies: "There ought to be limits to freedom." Indeed, there seems to be a regime change happening already — in the literal sense of the phrase — by the undermining of Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and due process of law, effected in the name of combatting terrorism, via the USA Patriot Act.

During a meeting with Congressional leaders on December 18, 2000, Mr. Bush stated, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." This was not a one-time gaffe. He was quoted in the July 1998 edition of Governing Magazine regarding his experience as governor of Texas, "You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier." The "joke" didn't stop in Y2K; with respect to a controversy with Congress, Mr. Bush was quoted in the July 30, 2001 edition of Newsweek as saying, "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." As far as I'm concerned, these are not very funny jokes, but a terrifying window into Mr. Bush's vision of a more desirable regime.


Kathleen Seidel
Peterborough NH

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« Anger Mismanagement »

Well, the kids and I recently saw the trailer for "Anger Management", and it looked like it might be funny. Because Becca really wanted to see it, I decided to take a chance and break my usual policy of "no Adam Sandler movies", and the whole family went to see it this afternoon.

Well, this is one of those cases where the trailer contains just about every moment that was worth seeing in the movie. I walked out after less than 20 minutes, and Kathleen and the girls left about ten minutes later. What a total piece of crap, and what a waste of Jack Nicholson and John Turturro, among others. Good thing it was a matinee in a small town, so it only cost $22.00 for the four of us. At Boston or New York prices, I would have been the one in need of anger management; as it is I'm still trying to rid myself of of the tainted feeling I got from the movie, and it's been four hours since I left the theater.

(By the way, I still want to see "Punch Drunk Love", but that's only because my interest in Paul Thomas Anderson trumps my disgust with Sandler's lowest-common-denominator approach to making films.)

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daily link  Thursday, April 10, 2003

« Job opening at Mindreef »

Hey, if you're a great UI developer with real experience writing applications with browser-based front ends, my company has a brand new job opening.

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