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When I was a kid I was always puzzled by the expression “you’ll live to regret this”. It’s the kind of curse reserved for mustachioed villains in aviator caps, which makes it odd enough, but the thought that I’d live to regret something always struck me as a non-threat. Regret didn’t seem like a real big problem to my six-year-old brain as I munched on my corn flakes — it was something typically lasting about five minutes after breaking a vase, whereas death was an infinitely more potent intimidator.

“So I’ll live to regret it? No killing or maiming? One day I’ll just look back and think ‘well damn, those were a regrettable bunch of circumstances’ and your vengeance will be had?”

Bad guys. I tell ya, they don’t make ‘em like they used to.


Two emails, the first at 9:37…

Greetings. Just stumbled across yer blog and was wondering if you are the same Chris Clark who once lived in Park Slop, wrote the Market Bytes column and shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

If not, forget I said anything.

The second, three minutes later…

Uh…never mind. You may think it’s good to be decaffeinated but I shouldn’t be allowed to send messages before my ninth cup. Sorry to bug ya.

Well, he was right about the shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, but the rest of it makes no sense to me.

For crying out loud

Check out the ridiculous hubbub at Matt’s place after a throng of Mac fanatics descended upon him in response to John’s article, riling up the Windows fanatics in the audience. Now examine the dialogs in question:

Windows and Mac “replace” dialogs, such as they are

Now consider some simple truths:

  1. Both could do to word themselves more specifically to the situation at hand: ‘moving’, ‘copying’, and ‘replacing’ are not interchangeable terms to human beings.
  2. The common computer user does not read dialog boxes… and if they do, reading doesn’t guarantee comprehension.
  3. It was foolhardy of Matt to assume that a button labeled ‘Replace’ meant ‘Merge’, even if Windows has conditioned him to believe this is the expected behavior.
  4. Neither default behavior (entire-folder replacement or file-by-file copy-and-replace) is better than the other. Arguing otherwise is a dead end, they are merely different.
  5. Old habits die hard.
  6. It is patently ridiculous that a destructive operation such as this cannot be undone on the Mac.
  7. Zealots on either side of the fence are, at the best of times, underinformed morons who need to check their facts before they hit the comment form.


For the first time in my life I’ve joined a gym: specifically Zest. Despite the fact that friends, girlfriends, family, and workmates have always raved about their workouts and how much fun they have at the gym, it never caught on until now. I’ve never been particularly unhappy with my body —I’d say I’ve been lazy but lucky— but I appreciate there are only so many years you can push the “I’m tall and I have a high metabolism” card before you lose the proportions you took for granted in high school. To look at your father, your uncles, and your grandfathers and see right into your future is a real kick in the pants.

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize this was as much socially-motivated as health: with all my old friends starting new jobs and new stages in their lives, contact is obviously going to become harder to maintain. Hitting the gym four times a week with the same group of guys and girls is guaranteed contact with some of my best buddies — something I couldn’t ensure whilst sitting in front of a computer terminal. At the same time as we chat and catch up on gossip, we get exercise and/or a good half hour in a hot spa. As an added bonus, Lee is a qualified personal trainer; it pretty much guarantees results when one of your best friends is writing you an appraisal and generating a custom workout for you. Poor bastard. Oh well, I guess I’ve always been the first port of call for computer troubles… now he gets his time in the fitness department.

Man my arms hurt, though.

History repeating

Remember back to the days when Internet Explorer was rising to prominence? They were the days when we obstreperous Netscape lovers would code our sites with a bird-flipping “Looks best in Netscape Navigator” badge placed prominently on our then–all-the-rage Flash intro pages… despite the sad fact that our preferred browser was on its way out the door, and we’d become IE coders soon.

It happened again when IE reached its peak at the turn of the century, on pages all around the web where obstinate or lazy programmers ‘recommended’ Internet Explorer for viewing their sites. Quite often this recommendation amounted to absolutely nothing —the site looked and operated perfectly in any other browser on the market— and the badge simply told you the developer didn’t even test in another browser; the “I can satisfy 97% of the market with this design, what do those other 3% expect of me?” mentality that caused such stagnation in our sphere. It wasn’t proactive, it wasn’t rebellious, it was just crap.

And now, finally, it’s come back around. That 97% is dropping steadily, the Get Firefox badges are out in full force, and that class of web designer that doesn’t give a damn about the status quo is all but ignoring Internet Explorer’s rendering of his sites. On a bad day, I’m one of them. Client sites are still hacked out the wazoo, obviously, but I sincerely doubt decaf has ever rendered ‘properly’ in Internet Explorer at all. With a few more personal projects in the pipeline, I can’t see that attitude changing.

My thinking, warped and selfish as it may be, is that an Internet Explorer user who sees a site as being ‘broken’ in his browser has all the more reason to cross over. “More features”, “more secure”, and “extensible” aren’t compelling enough arguments to the user who just doesn’t care (and I know a lot of them, sadly), but the difference between a broken web and a beautiful web just might be. And thankfully, the technically ignorant of the world always ask the advice of the technically savvy — and the savvy are uniting on this one.

Mail call

Many moons ago, trapped on a hellish thirteen-hour Amtrak train ride from god-knows-where to who-cares-now with limited power, no WiFi, and no book, I started playing with an old friend of mine: CSS. The sheet itself was for NetNewsWire; on a whim I’d decided to whip up a style to make feed items resemble email messages a la Apple Mail, and I liked what I saw.

The Mail stylesheet has ‘From’, ‘Subject’, ‘Date’, ‘To’, and ‘Reply-To’ headers at the top of entry item, just like a mail message

Of course, it’s difficult to be self-congratulatory when you’re copying someone else’s layout wholesale, but I liked the idea of giving a feed’s author some prominence —that the text was coming from a person rather than from a web site— and little things like color-coded blockquotes tickled my fancy. A plain-Jane stylesheet with no presumptions about turning a news item into a large and boisterous web experience, I liked it because it put the reading first… it wasn’t there as an experiment in making things purty.

Thus, I present it to you. Download it now.

Release notes for version one of said stylesheet:


God bless the Web Standards Project, and god bless Dave Hyatt for tackling Acid2.

I have finally completed the implementation of the CSS properties min-width, max-width, min-height and max-height in WebCore. Safari 2.0 (and Safari 1.3) both support these properties on everything but positioned elements. It figures then that the use of these properties on the Acid2 test would occur on positioned elements (thanks Hixie!).

Although we won’t see these Acid2 revisions to WebCore for quite some time (heck, probably not until Mac OS X 10.5) I’m glad to hear that 10.3.9 and 10.4 will both support the min-height property. When you ache for something like this, it’s good to know it’s only a couple of weeks away.


I like iPhoto. I find it to be particularly useful. But, like most of the applications I invest myself too heavily in, there are a lot of things about it that chafe me. Keyword handling is one such thing: it was ugly but functional in iPhoto 4 and below, now it’s slightly less ugly, slightly more functional, and slightly less usable in iPhoto 5. I have a lot of keywords —one for every person in every photo I take, and one for every city it’s taken in (so sue me, I like metadata)— so the keyword interface is unusually important to me.

But I’m way off track, and it’s only the second paragraph already.

Have you ever shared your photos with a friend? Assuming you both use iPhoto and are on the same network, it’s a simple enough game: go through their shared collection, grab what you want, stick it in your collection. As the only Mac user amongst my close friends I’m not all that familiar with the process, but it happens nonetheless. We use a slightly different exchange vector: an external hard drive circulating the group accumulating photos, movies, and music like a giant, sticky ball rolling over the city picking up everything it touches. It’s not instantaneous, by any means, but you’re always pleasantly surprised by the crap it’s picked up in its travels; and you should never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of backup tapes.

No matter what the mode of transport, though, there is a certain peril in swapping your snaps with friends. Ever tried sharing photos of an event you were both attending? A birthday? A concert? A world trip? Chances are the timestamps on your photos are slightly off. Or, if your friend is incompetent, the timestamps could be several years off because he never set the time and date on his digital camera. Introducing these photos into your iPhoto collection is a real pain in the ass; five minutes of off chronology can mean the difference between Tommy blowing out his candles and Uncle Rob throwing up on Aunt Maude’s blouse. These are events I’d rather have in order, and thankfully Joe Maller’s iPhoto AppleScripts come to the rescue. Calculate time difference, select peccant photographs, execute AppleScript: all better.

Now if there were only a way to divine the exact moment of snappage on a collection of photos I had digitized from negative, I’d die a happy man.


Miss you still

Avoid imitations

There has been a movement during the last few years —if movement is the right word for such a phenomenon— for the men known in the nineties as Sensitive New Age Guys to apply to themselves a new label: the Metrosexual. There is, of course, plenty to read on the matter going back more than a decade, and Answers may help you out (having eclipsed Wikipedia in its usefulness), but I really must protest the overzealous application of said label. Take, for instance, the dudes I see out in Subiaco, or at the gym: the emo-cum-metro poseurs. Narcissistic, yes. Dandy, no.

Today’s lesson:

It’s a cruel twist of fate that the things people were once teased for (glasses, effeminacy, torn clothing) are now the height of fashion, but honestly, girls, if you’re not smart enough to avoid a big, flashing bulb above a man’s head that says ‘date rapist’ then what do you expect?

Egos are inflated and ready for launch

Curiosity got the better of me, as it is prone to doing to unfortunate cats, and bade me investigate the meanings behind the names of two of the University of Western Australia’s mail servers, Tartarus and Cyllene. As it turns out, Tartarus is the deepest, dankest region of Hades… a place of punishment for sinners and prison to the Titans, among others. Cyllene is the mountain birthplace of Hermes, messenger of the gods.

As if you couldn’t guess, Tartarus handles student mail; Cyllene is for staff. Pricks.


The technology sector as a whole is pretty well-known for its tendency towards neologisms. It’s fun to make up words… it makes you feel like an artist in an otherwise dry field.

The funny thing is, we’re forced into it. Nobody wants to pull a stupid string of unpronounceable letterforms out of their ass for their new website, nobody wants to cram together and midcapitalize several ordinary words for their new product (except Java developers), or leave out every second vowel and swap letters for numbers (except the tragically l33t). Nobody wants to prefix all their software with an ‘i’ or suffix it with an ‘X’… not really even Apple, people just want a cool name.

Unfortunately, all the cool names are taken because the trademark police are a pain in the ass, and domain squatters have managed to automate the process of registering every imaginable combination of dictionary words already. Welcome to the web. Invent a word and stake your claim.

Back in the white earbuds

So I finally replaced my stolen iPod with a 1GB iPod shuffle after altogether too much hassle with QBE’s dyslexic staff (I don’t know how else to explain their ability to turn $3100 worth of stolen equipment into a $1300 cheque) and a great deal of indecision as to which model to settle on. I have been variably ecstatic and frustrated with my decision ever since.

Decreased size and weight is obviously a big, big plus

The enforced scarcity of interface the shuffle proffers makes the experience very much like radio —well, radio with a skip function— because you’re no longer really in control of the lineup. I have, at various times, cheered the shuffle’s choice of long-lost and rarely-heard songs from younger days and cursed its inability to play exactly what I want when I want it to. Admittedly, I could construct intricate playlists or make better use of iTunes’ star-rating system (I don’t, of course; I might have to start), but the quick‘n’sure satisfaction of immediate fancy is definitely gone.

So too, owners of full-size iPods aren’t particularly worried if half their space is occupied by music they don’t listen to, but with a tiny device that deprives you of the godlike control of its bigger brother it is quality —not quantity— that has become the pressing issue. After a single day of use I went through my iTunes library and deleted almost 4GB of albums that were only there for completeness’ sake: albums I had absolutely no desire to hear but kept in the library in case anybody else wanted Simply Red’s Greatest Hits. When those tracks are given a very real chance of ending up in my skull thanks to the magic of Autofill, I think it’s time to rid myself of them.

Funnily enough, the choice of ‘play through’ or ‘shuffle’ is completely redundant when you’re using Autofill (you want to randomize the random?), but becomes very useful when you serve chaos with a side of order. My preferred method, similar to Matt’s, is to manually clear the shuffle, disable “Replace songs when Autofilling”, drag my desired tracks on board, then Autofill to plug up the remaining space. It helps me (for example’s sake) familiarize myself with the new Garbage album through repeated listenings, something I’d lose track of if I left it to fortuity.

In all, I’m over the moon about its size, weight, and the shuffle function (my 3G iPod didn’t have the top-level shuffle of its younger siblings, and I was always acutely aware of how much of a battery drain constant shuffling was with a hard-disk based player), but the lack of pure, unadulterated control is sorely missed… for now. I guess I’d better get used to the idea of giving chance a chance.

A cornered market

Russell Crowe, of all people, has apparently spilled the beans about the Australian iTunes Music Store’s launch scheduled for the 28th of this month. I’d be more excited, but with a price tag of $1.80 per song (roughly translating to US$1.40) it’s a little hard.

Forgive me, I’m still a little hazy on Apple’s international pricing policies… like the price of the bottom-of-the-line Mac Mini at A$799 (US$620) compared to the home-soil price of US$499. It can’t be a function of distance, since Apple’s Taiwan manufacturing plant is closer to Australia than any part of the United States, but I’m assured by the media that ‘tax issues’ are to blame.

Of course, the real news is that Australian iPod owners finally have a legal vector of music acquisition… what with CD-ripping being illegal here ’n all. I do wonder if Apple will put Crowe’s balls in a vise over his disregard for the NDA, though. I can just see the crowds of people logging on to buy his mediocre brand of crud-rock.