Archive for February, 2005

As Computers Evolve, Our Standards for Computing Don’t

I came across an article the other day by Peter Seebach entitled Where
Does All the Processing Speed Go
that articulates something that really
bothers me. It starts out:

Computers are getting faster all the time, or so they tell us. But, in fact, the
user experience of performance hasn’t improved much over the past 15 years. Peter
looks at where all the processor time and memory are going.

The crux of the article, if you don’t feel like reading it, is that while computers
are constantly getting faster, our experience with them isn’t. Although our experience
may be improving in other ways (aesthetics, features, portability, etc.), the day
to day experience of sitting down and doing something relatively simply can still
seem excruciatingly laborious. I typically use a 1 or a 1.25GHz PowerBook G4 with
a gig of RAM, and my impression is that these are about half the resources I actually
need to give me the experience I really want. I have an IBM ThinkPad next to me
running Windows XP Professional which, in many ways, is faster, but is less consistent
and reliable. Sometimes it just hits me that it’s 2005, probably 20 years since
I got my first computer, and:

  1. Computers still seem slow.
  2. A great deal of software is still unstable.

As the article points out, computers are doing a lot more today than they used
to, which is certainly the case. At this particular moment, I’m running Dreamweaver,
Quicksilver, Xnippets, multiple terminals with connections to multiple servers,
Proteus, vim, Eclipse, NetNewsWire, a VPN client, Stickies, Calculator, Mail, and
Firefox with several tabs. And that’s just in the foreground. In the background,
I’m running JRun and CFMX 7, MySQL, Apache, a firewall, and probably tons of other
stuff I can’t think of right now. I’m very good at maxing out and optimizing my
computer’s resources, however (I’m constantly watching CPU and memory usage), so
even at half or even a quarter the number of processes, it wouldn’t really feel
much faster. The issue is not so much all the applications I’m running as it is
our standards. We simply don’t expect our experience to get much better, and therefore
it doesn’t. We expect features and aesthetics more than we expect performance.
The best experience I’ve had with a computer was spending four years using Linux
as a Java developer. In my opinion, Linux is the fastest, most pleasant OS to use
on a daily basis, but of course, unless all you do is software engineering, it
doesn’t support enough applications to make it feasible for most people (including
me these days).

I’d like to see hardware manufacturers and software engineers start treating performance
as a feature. I’d like to see our standards as computer users go up a notch. As
I sit at my computer all day just about everyday, I’d like to start feeling like
it was 2005 rather than 1985. Am I alone here?

If You’re Having Trouble Starting and Stopping MySQL…

The first thing you want to do, I learned today, is look for a left-over MySQL configuration file from a previous installation. I installed MySQL 4.1 on a brand new server today, and two hours later, I still was not able to get it to run. I kept getting error messages indicating that the mysql.sock and .pid files couldn’t be found. I was just about to give up computers forever and pursue a career as a farmer when I found a mention of /etc/my.cnf which can be used to configure things like the location of your .pid and mysql.sock files. “That can’t be my problem,” thought I, “since I didn’t even create one of those files.” Then it hit me. I checked /etc, and there was the my.cnf file from the default RedHat Enterprise installation of MySQL. Renaming the configuration file and restarted fixed the problem, and made me realize how needlessly I wasted the last two hours of my life.

I really don’t like default installations of things like Apache and MySQL where files are spread all over the file system. When I get my hands on a brand new box, I like to install brand new versions of software, and I like to install them where I like to install them. Anyway, hopefully this post will rescue someone out there from the same fate.

Partial Page Caching with ColdFusion

ColdFusion Jedi Master Ray Camden will be giving a Macrochat on partial page caching
with ColdFusion tomorrow (Wednesday) from 1:00 to 2:00 Eastern. Here’s
the official stuff:

Learn how to write a custom tag that allows for simple caching in ColdFusion MX.
Ray Camden will lead this discussion on creating a CF tag for partial page caching
of information. Ray is the Director of Development for Mindseye, Inc., a Team Macromedia
member, and Macromedia User Group manager.

What You Will Learn

  • Existing ColdFusion Caching (query caching and cfcache)
  • Persistant Scopes
  • The ScopeCache Custom Tag

If you’re interested, you
must register
!

Sorry, No Trackbacks Today

Macromedia weblogs get spammed like you wouldn’t believe. Or if you have a high profile weblog yourself, you actually might believe it. We have several mechanisms in place to prevent spamming (while still making the weblogs easy and friendly to use), but it’s turning into a ridiculous game of cat and mouse where as soon as we patch an opening, spammers start looking for another. We will be putting some pretty heavy duty protection in place in the coming months, but for now, the game continues.

This morning, one of the biggest spam attacks I’ve ever seen was launched against our weblog servers. I refer to it as an “attack” because in addition to leaving huge amounts of spam (which is promptly deleted, so it does the spammers and their clients no good whatsoever), it also serves as a denial of service attack which sets off all kinds of alarms. Anyway, this morning’s attack was bad. It was a sustained and relentless trackback spam attack, so I finally just ended up denying access to the trackback CGI script at the Apache level which ended it instantly. A few minutes later, all the spam was delete, and it was like it never happened. But there won’t be any trackbacks for the rest of the day, and perhaps for the next couple of weeks while I work out a better long-term solution.

A word of advice, not to the spammers out there, but to the people who hire them. At least with Macromedia weblogs, you’re wasting your money. Google’s ranking algorithms take into account the ranking of the sites which link to the site being ranked which means it makes the most sense to spam weblogs with high rankings. The problem is that the higher a site is ranked, the more likely that site is to have anti-spam measures in place, so even when the spam gets through (which is a miniscule percentage of the spam attempts), at least with Macromedia weblogs, it’s promptly deleted. In other words, you’re paying for links that only exist for a few minutes at most — not nearly long enough for them to affect your ranking. So rather than paying for spam, you might consider putting that money into actually creating a decent site that people would actually want to link to.

I’m not naive enough to think I’ll actually change anyone’s mind with this post, however, so the spam game continues.

Get Your Screen Cleaned For Free

Click here to get your screen cleaned for free.

It’s amazing to think that Flash can be used for so many diverse things: Rich
Internet Applications, animations, video, printable documents, live presentations with streaming audio
and video, and things like cats licking the inside of your monitor. Yesterday I
came across
this
Acrobat product tour
done in Flash (click "See how Acrobat 7.0 helps you
work together better"). This is a great example of video integration, and a
generally effective and fun experience.

Not sure where I’m going with all this. Just contemplating the coolness of Flash
this morning.

CFMX 7 in the News

Here are all the mentions of the CFMX 7 launch in the news that I’m aware of:

Props to Macromedia PR for digging up all these articles.

Another Day, Another Google Beta: Google Takes on Maps

I’m not poking fun. I love Google. Besides Macromedia, they are probably my favorite company.
I’d probably play with Google action figures, if they had them. Anyway, here goes
another Google beta: Google Maps.

So far, pretty impressive. I’m sure the mood over at MapQuest is
a little somber today, though they must have seen this coming.

Ask Jeeves to Purchase Bloglines?

Google purchased Blogger, and now the rumor, according to this
InfoWorld article
,
is that Ask Jeeves is going to purchase Bloglines. Although I don’t use it on a
regular basis, I really like Bloglines (I use a local aggregator instead). I haven’t
used or even seen Ask Jeeves in years. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about
that silly little butler until today. A cursory glance this morning suggests
that Ask Jeeves has refactored their search experience to be as much like Google’s
as possible, just like everyone else out there.

Personally, it doesn’t seem like a fantastic fit to me, but business is business.

Macromedia ColdFusion 7.0 Resources

Everyone knows by now that Macromedia announced ColdFusion 7.0 today, so rather
than making an announcement that everyone has already heard, I thought I’d post
a few links to some good ColdFusion 7 resources that I’ve come across today:

New MSN Search Offers RSS

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the new MSN
search
. But did you know it
offers search results in RSS? (I didn’t, until I read about it on Lifehacker.) Do
a quick
search
, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the familiar
orange button that we have all come to love.