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Sunday, May 05, 2002

Sigh.  FrontPage Nuked Me Again.

In a recent post I came out publicly for FrontPage.  People will now appreciate the rather untasty crow I'm starting to eat.  I just had another situation where FrontPage was working fine and now it's not.  The problem is lockups on save.  Yup, save.  That's bad.  I know what it is -- my overall FrontPage web construct is corrupted.  But with over 4,000 odd files, there isn't a chance in hell that I'll mess with it.  Who knows what it might do?  Perhaps aliens will arrive if I try and fix it.  My normally excellent ISP is clue free and in denial on this issue.  My new server isn't on line yet.  This bites.  Before I can pick a new product, there needs to be criteria.  This means I have to ask "What do I like about FrontPage?"  Here's the list:

  • FrontPage Explorer.  The FrontPage Explorer lets me move, edit and alter my file structure quickly and easily.  When you build these wacky web applications like my opml renderer you have lots of files.  And directories.  And, if you build rapidly and iterate regularly,  you have to adjust it as you reconceptualize the problem.
  • WYSIWYG Editing.  It works.  Not perfect but it works.
  • Easy and Fast.  What more can you say?
  • MultiFile Editing and Easy Switching Between Files.  FrontPage 2000 wasn't good at this but FrontPage XP actually is with a nice tabbed interface.
  • Paste of Graphics from other Windows Applications.  Painless and fast. 

The next question is "What do I hate?"  Again, here's the list:

  • Lack of HTML validation.  A Radio buddy who uses Opera as his default browser has forced me screaming into admitting that I need to support it.
  • Lack of support for writing and outlining.  I like to write online.  It gives me the security of my files being saved off to a backed up server somewhere.  I do back up but who does it enough?
  • Lack of support for intelligent meta tagging and keywording.  Bizarre to not have this in a web product.  Why can't Word's summarizer insert a summary of an html page into a Description meta tag?
  • Lack of support for page level meta opps like "Show Me All Pages in All Directories Without Titles".  Lovely graphical interface but unusable (IMNSHO) in my not so humble opinion.
  • Absolutely pathetic, inconsistent support for stylesheets.  Just plain blows and FrontPage XP is no better.
  • Lack of support for multi browser qa i.e. toolbar buttons that launch in IE, Netscape, Opera 5 and Opera 6. 
  • It corrupts itself.

So, what's better out there?  A lot of people say Dreamweaver.  For me it doesn't work.  The interface is too Mac like.  If I'm going to use a Windows app then it ought to feel like a Windows app.  And, for me, that means Office as pathetic a statement as that is.

I guess I have to go tool shopping.  Sigh.  I'll probably always use it a bit just like an addict returns to his or her bad habits but I think I need to go to "FrontPage Anonymous" ("I'm Scott, a FrontPage user and I need help...".

comment [] 4:28:25 PM    

Writing a Book versus Writing a Blog Entry or It's Time for MicroWriting!

I'm in the middle of writing 1/3 of a book and I keep stopping and writing blog entries instead.  No, it's not compulsive behavior (perhaps a bit).  But I also wrote two white papers and one SQL tutorial also.  This indicates to me that the issue is not the book material but it's something about the process.  My tool for blogging is Radio.  My tool for the white papers and SQL tutorial was/is FrontPage.  My tool for the book is FrontPage.  So, it's not the question of the tool either.  It's a question of scope (damn I'm a geek).  Here's what I mean.

NOTE: For non developers, here is a stupid, simplified description of scope.  Scope in coding terms talks about how your application perceives variables.  For example a variable with global scope then it can be modified from anywhere in the application.  A variable with local scope might only be available at a procedure or function.

When you write a book your general scope is at the "chapter" level.  But you structure your information at the section and sub section level -- the outline level.  This means that you have both an abstraction issue in thinking about it versus actually doing it.  It's just plain confusing to scroll up, down, etc.  Let's not have the argument about outlining versus structural editing, etc.  This might be what we should do but I need to write a book now, not re-invent Word.  Let's talk about blogging and adapting what works from blogging to writing a book.

Blogging works because the scope is local.  Local scope for writers isn't intimidating or scary.  It's easy.  Think about it: It's a lot easier to work with an article than a research paper.

My Approach:

Simple: Break the book chapters from single chapters to 1 html page per section and then work in those and view it structurally as a collection of urls.


When my portion of this book is done, I'll let people know about it and they can see if the approach worked by the final product.


I forgot to post this and I've since written two new sections much more quickly than I had prior.  My gut feel is that I'm now making about 20% faster progress.  Something to think about.

MicroWriting Works!


comment [] 4:21:42 PM    

OPML Application Fully Back Online!

My opml viewing application at is now fully back online.  I had partially disabled it because of the hosting issues recently.  Now I was able to fully test those changes that are much smarter about network I/O and it's done.  Once again, if you are a PHP geek, look into Snoopy.  It's simple, it's fast and you don't have to rebuild Curl for it.  It even is error aware so that you can catch 404s versus 301s and so on.  Thanks for your patience. 

Thinking About Outages

The more I think about the recent outages in UserLand, the less I mind them.  Sure it's frustrating and perhaps it shouldn't happen but it does.  Mistakes happen.  Never forget that technology is implemented by people and people are imperfect.  The way that I look at it from a customer's perspective is that I vote with my dollars.  When I purchased Radio I was making a conscious choice to support Radio and UserLand.  If I was willing to make that choice a month ago when I barely knew the product then why am I bothered by what are transitory glitches?  Bear in mind that none of us (or damn few) lost any content and that's what counts to me. 

Quite honestly this stuff happens so often to us that we don't even make a big deal of it anymore.  Do you complain to Sprint when you have a PCS error?  For example, EVERY SINGLE TIME I cross the Boston to Cambridge bridge between MIT and Boston (the Mass ave) my call is dropped.  I just shrug and move on.  So do most people.  We tend to notice outages mostly when they are prolonged.  Dave owned up to it and did the right thing.  Think about it: If we were using Radio by Microsoft and blogging to MSN, it would go down for days and they wouldn't admit it well or gracefully.

Spending money is a choice and I choose that my
dollars go to the little guy as much as I can.

comment [] 4:09:34 PM    

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