Archive for February, 2005

Moving West

This is going to be my last post for several days as I begin the process of moving to San Francisco. I’ve basically lived in the Washington DC area for my entire life (other than living overseas, which for some reason doesn’t really seem to count), so I figured it was time to give the west coast a shot. Besides, Macromedia just moved into a brand new office space, and I was feeling very left out.

I want to thank all my friends and family here in the Washington DC and Northern Virginia area for everything they have done for me over the years, and for the wonderful sendoffs over the weekend. I will come back and visit as often as I can, and hopefully lure you guys out to California to visit frequently, as well. (JavaOne, Flashforward, Macworld, etc!)

I’m really looking forward to starting a new life out in San Francisco. It’s much easier moving coast to coast when you’re not changing jobs, and you already have a lot of friends waiting for you on the other end. And I’m really looking forward to working with everyone at Macromedia in person on a day to day basis, as well. They are a great bunch of people working on some very cool technology, and I’m lucky to be a part of the team.

If you’ve sent me anything within the last few days, or if you send me anything in the next few days, it might be a while before you get a response. This move is going to be a long process, and I can’t tell how connected I’m going to be over the next couple weeks. I promise I’ll get to everything eventually, though.

Signing off for now…

Sony PDAs Going Away Forever

Back in July of last year, I made a post called No
More Sony Clies In the US
about Sony’s decision to only sell their PDAs in
Japan. Well now, according
to Reuters
, they are discontinuing Clies altogether.

"The PDA market is being encroached by cellphones and other mobile devices
that can offer similar functions, making it difficult for PDAs to maintain their
position in the market," a Sony spokeswoman said.

Wow, I remember the very first Clies, and now it’s all over. Anyway,
enough nostalgia. Smart phones are all the rage right now. Personally, I use a Sidekick
II
which I love, and I’d never go back to a standard
PDA. (I do use a Garmin iQue,
too, to find my way, but that’s hardly standard.) Recently, I even started playing
with the Abacus
Wrist PDA
which is a lot of fun. What kinds of PDAs and smart phones are you
guys using these days? Likes and dislikes, pros and cons? Where do you see the
world of mobile heading now that one might declare the end of PDAs?

A New Way to Get Answers

My job requires me to write a lot. And to read a lot, as well. So it’s nice to
have a dictionary handy. I used to use dictionary.com until
I learned from
kottke.org
that
Google switched from using dictionary.com to using answers.com.
To see what I mean, do a search for something like kittens
on Google
, and look up in the right-hand corner. That "definition" link now
points to answers.com rather than dictionary.com. Anyway, I figured if it was good
enough for Google, it must be good enough for me, so I gave it a try, and I like
it much better. The interface is far superior and you get much more information
from several more sources, including Wikipedia,
another favorite resource of mine. And you can hear a pronunciation without subscribing
to Dictionary.com Premium for
$19.95 per year.

The best thing, though, are the additional
tools
answers.com makes available.
Of course you get your standard Firefox search plug-in, but I also downloaded their
1-Click Answers application which basically puts a miniature version of their site
on your desktop. Whenever I need to look up a word or double check spelling, I
can now highlight it, and hit alt+command g (on a Mac) to have 1-Click Answers
jump to the foreground and give me the information I’m looking for. Assuming
it’s not
spyware
,
it’s a great little application to keep running. There’s also an RSS
feed
for daily
highlights, and Answer boxes that
you can put on your site.

Google Movies

This week’s Google announcement is the new "movie" operator. Read all about it
at Google
Blog
. Basically, type "movie:divorce lawyers" and get back Intolerable
Cruelty
(I love that movie). Click on Intolerable
Cruelty
and in 0.02 seconds, see reviews along
with the following disclaimer:

The selection and placement of reviews on this page were determined automatically
by a computer program. No movie critics were harmed or even used in the making
of this page.

This week, it’s probably IMDb (or rather Amazon,
who ownes them) and Rotten Tomatoes (owned
by IGN) who are doing the soul searching.

Apple Updates iPods

Apple has just made some changes to their growing
family of iPods
. You can now
get a 6GB iPod mini for $249, and a 30GB iPod photo for $349. Looks like they have
all their bases covered at this point.

How many people out there don’t have
an iPod. If not, what are you using?

xmlSearch is Always Case Sensitive

The ColdFusion function xmlSearch is always case sensitive, it seems, even if you specified case insensitive in the xmlParse function to create the XML object in the first place. So if you’re parsing an XML document that you don’t have complete control over (like an RSS feed), be careful. If there’s a chance the case could be different than what you’re expecting, make sure you search for both upper and lower case.

Extending Google Maps With JavaScript

If you’re into Google Maps, check out Jon
Udell’s screencast
demonstrating the
Google Maps Route Animation
Bookmarklet
. Remarkable stuff. This project (consisting of a single line of
JavaScript code contained in a single bookmarklet) shows some real creativity,
innovation, and just plain smarts. But it also raises some other interesting possibilities.

Right
now, there’s a trend toward application extensibility, usually through web services,
driven by companies like Amazon, eBay, Google, Flickr, etc. But that’s all "server-side
extensibility". Why not client-side extensibility? Are we witnessing the beginning
of a new trend? I’ve experimented with bookmarkelts before, but it’s
fascinating how this one jacks into the existing JavaScript on the page to add
very cool new functionality to the application practically as though it were native
functionality. It’s admittedly sketchy since Google’s code will likely change someday,
swiftly breaking the bookmarklet. But what if it were based on public, published
API rather than some very clever reverse engineering? As applications become
richer, will they start providing JavaScript and ActionScript APIs to allow third-parties
to build simple client-side extensions? Will we start extending RIAs in the same
way we extend Firefox? Man, I hope so!

UTF8, MySQL 4.1, and CFMX 7.0

I spent a good portion of my day trying to get unicode to work with MySQL 4.1 and CFMX 7.0. As it turns out, it’s actually pretty easy. I had the database tables created correctly. That I learned from earlier versions of MySQL. Just add this to the end of your CREATE TABLE command:

CHARACTER SET utf8;

I even had the connection string right in the data source form in the CFMX administrator:

useUnicode=true&characterEncoding=UTF8

The problem is that the connection string apparently doesn’t go in the “connection string” field. Since I’m using a newer MySQL driver than the one that shipped with CFMX 7 (that supports MySQL 4.x), I discovered that you actually have to append the connection string to the JDBC URL, like this:

jdbc:mysql://localhost:3306/dataBaseName?useUnicode=true&characterEncoding=UTF8

Once I made the change, instant Japanese! I hope this saves someone out there several hours of head scratching.

Google’s Answer to Comment Spam

Eron C. left a comment in response to my post Sorry,
No Trackbacks Today
pointing
me to Google’s
answer to stopping comment spam
. Basically, Google says to automatically
add the attribute rel="nofollow" to any link automatically generated from a URL
entered by a reader (usually through a comment or a trackback). I like this approach,
and I’m glad to see that Google stepped up so quickly and confidentially. The idea
is not to stop the spam itself (as I’ve been trying to do), but to stop its effectiveness
— basically, to remove the incentive.

I’d seen this post on the Google Blog a while back, but
when I followed Eron’s link are re-read the post, I found it had been updated
to include an additional 16 blogging applications that now support Google’s recommendation
for a total of 26 (probably more at this point). Of course, now other search engines
have to sign on, as well. I know it’s hard to believe, but there are actually other
search engines besides Google out there, and according to my access logs, a few
people even use them.

Anyway, I will be implementing Google’s recommended change in the near future,
and I’m wondering how many others have implemented it, as well. I’m speaking specifically
of those who host their own blogging software, and either need to hack the code,
or update to a new version. Also, has anyone heard of other search engines supporting
Google’s recommendation?

IE 7 Announcement: A Retrospective

I think it’s been about three days since Microsoft announced that they will release
a new version of IE. The announcement was so thoroughly blogged and discussed that
I didn’t bother blogging it myself (I was too busy reading what others had written),
but now that the dust has settled, I want to offer my two cents.

First, if you haven’t done so already, you might want to check out the official
Microsoft press release
. If you’re in a hurry, I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s
the most relevant excerpt:

Gates announced Internet Explorer 7.0, designed to add new levels of security
to Windows XP SP2 while maintaining the level of extensibility and compatibility
that customers have come to expect.

Next, read the post
on the IEBlog
. Again, I’ll save you the trouble:

…we listened to customers, analysts, and business partners. We heard a clear
message: "Yes, XP SP2 makes the situation better. We want more, sooner. We
want security on top of the compatibility and extensibility IE gives us, and we
want it on XP. Microsoft, show us your commitment."

What I’m hearing loud and clear here is that Microsoft wants to release a new
version of IE for XP, and they want to focus on security. Now read
the comments left in response to the post on IEBlog. They are far too numerous
to even paraphrase here, and it would probably take you all day to read through
them all, but just read a few at random and the message will be clear, which is
that security updates are fine, but what Microsoft really needs to focus on is
standards compliance and rendering. In other words, "maintaining the level of extensibility
and compatibility that customers have come to expect" is not what customers are
expecting.

Microsoft has put itself in an interesting position. They have publicly announced
that they are listening to their customers, and are committed to giving them what
they want, however they have also indicated that their agenda is not consistent
with what it appears their customers want. I will reserve judgment, but one thing
I will say is that it’s not yet clear to me whether Microsoft has created an
opportunity for themselves with this announcement, or for Firefox.