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I had an email discussion with Dimitri about Microformats a little while back, trying to understand the purpose of Microformats and what they intend to solve.

At the time, the potential benefit I saw was that it might allow CSS writers to share stylesheets for marking up certain types of content. For example, suppose we standardize the markup for a calendar event (say, using the hCalendar format). Now if I write some seriously sweet CSS that makes calendar events explode off the page, I could send that CSS to you and it would be immediately useful. No need to reformat it to reflect the structure of the HTML used to render your calendar event, assuming you followed the standard.

At the time, I was focused on the fact that according to the microformats about page, microformats are designed for humans first and machines second.

However, the fact that microformats are machine readable lends itself to other potential uses. For example, the Microformats blog recently highlighted a Greasemonkey script that parses out hCalendar events and provides links to import them into a calendar application.

Now while I try to keep an open mind, I find it odd that Microformat proponents are attacking the use of XML on the web.

This is where I find the goals of Microformats to be a bit far reaching. As far as my understanding goes, they present Microformats as a means to have your website be the API, attempting to make technologies such as RSS obsolete. The problem I have with this idea is that data exchange and presentation are often at odds.

For example, suppose I want my presentation to only display calendar events for the current week, but I want users to be able to import calendar events for the month. However, I never want to display a month calendar, for aesthetic reasons. It seems the Microformats method would be for me to have a month’s worth of calendar events on the page, but use CSS to hide those I don’t want displayed. Or, I could allow a query string parameter to specify how many entries to display, but how would I make that parameter discoverable without messing with my presentation (i.e. without placing a link to it)?

Instead, I might choose a standard XML format for calendar entries and provide a auto-discoverable reference to the calendar entries much in the same way that HTML pages add auto-discoverable references to RSS feeds. What’s so wrong with that?

It seems the Microformats user might say that the separate XML feed is not necessary. Why duplicate content? This is a fairly good point worth considering. The goal of Microformats is to provide a information in a machine readable format as well as human readable. Part of fulfilling that goal is to ensure that the presentation degrades well in a normal browser.

For example, a competing approach to avoid duplication of content might be to simply specify a calendar event namespace in an XHTML file and embed that within the markup. The problem with this approach is that many browsers and web authors do not truly support XHTML properly. Thus, tags for alternate namespaces do not show up, violating the Microformats goal of degrading gracefully. Not only that, but most XHTML pages end up as being served as tag soup because they are sent using the mime type text/html. [See Sending XHTML as text/html Considered Harmful].

However, therein lies the problem with Microformats when compared to a non-presentational XML format like RSS. If you recall, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndiication. It’s not just that it is simple to syndicate content, but that (in theory) it is simple to parse such a feed since it relies on strict XML. Parsing HTML is much more difficult to do because of the inconsistencies and all the effort that goes into understanding malformed HTML. Unfortunately, that is exactly what a consumer of Microformats is essentially forced to do, since Microformats are intended to degrade gracefully. Microformats aren’t limited to XHTML and can be placed in valid HTML documents, making it much more difficult to validate a Microformat snippet.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see how the use of Microformats unfold. As Greasemonkey becomes more prevalent, I imagine the popularity of Microformats might also take off. If I misunderstood microformats, be sure to let me know.

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You just have to love modern technology and its power to shrink the Earth. I had a meeting over Skype with Micah in San Francisco from here in Japan with no discernible lag at all and wonderful audio quality. Later, I had an MSN Messenger chat conference about RSS Bandit with Torsten in Germany and Dare in Nigeria. What a small world indeed!

Please excuse me as I go over to Google Earth, zoom out, and use my mouse pointer to spin the globe.

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Rastafarian FlagFor those of you who give a damn, we made it safely to Japan. The trip itself had quite an interesting start in the form of a cab ride to the airport with a, ahem, slightly odd-in-the-head fellow.

It started off innocuously enough as we called a cab to take us to the airport. When the driver called to let us know he was outside, we hurried out looking for the cab, but had difficulty finding it. We then noticed this dark Suburban pull out and the driver gruffly barked that we needed to come over to the other side. Gee, it should have been obvious to look for a dark Suburban, as opposed to, say, a bright yellow or green vehicle.

Nonetheles, he lightened up as he put Akumi’s suitcase in the back. It had a red, yellow, and green striped band around it which he loved. When we stepped in the car, it became apparent why, the back of the front seats were covered in laminated Rastafarian writings, the kind you might pick up in Venice beach. This guy was a Rastafarian. You know, a movement of Jah people.

As we stepped into the vehicle, I noticed some political material as well, such as a picture of Bush and the Saudi Crown Prince hand in hand next to a poem about how the author dreamed he ran into two devils holding hands. Odd to have such religious and political writings all over the back of a cab, but hey, it’s Los Angeles! In any case, once he started playing some Reggae, my trepidations were put at ease as I relaxed to the rasta beat, intent on enjoying the ride.

However, that only lasted a few minutes. He started furiously shuffling through a huge pile of CDs in the midst of driving. He seemed to find what he was looking for without hitting anybody, and started playing some instrumental reggae. At this point, he started singing out loud, filling in the missing words to the music!

Ok, I consider myself a very tolerant and understanding person, but this came across as a bit odd, even for Los Angeles. But hey, they man was feeling it, so we sat back and tried to relax again and enjoy the ride. The only problem was as we pulled onto the freeway, the driver got more and more into the music. He started pounding out the drum beats on the panel between his seat and the shotgun seat. He turned up the music and sang louder, gesticulating wildly with his right hand in the mode of a rapper feeling the flow.

His song selection began with repeating…

Jah Rastafari, he is my sheperd. Jah Rastafari, he is my sheperd…

…transitioning into such favorite classics as…

Why why why why why Why why? We have no social security. We have no social justice. Social inequality. How much longer? Why why why why Why why…

He was briefly interrupted by a phone call in which he had to relay a phone number for a customer in his Jamaican drawl that the customer had trouble understanding. He soon grew impatient and exclaimed, “Do you want me ta drive over tere ta write it down for you?” (imagine Jamaican accent). He then repeated the number and said, “I hope you got it.” *click*.

He soon resumed the show, ending the trip on…

True Love. True Love. True Love. I will love you tenderly. I will love you Sincerely. I will love you gently. A love that is transparent….

At this point, I looked over at Akumi and she had lost it. The entire ride, we fought hard to keep our composure, be respectful, and not laugh. But this was too much and she was nearly in tears. I nearly lost it seeing her lose it, but as I was in his line of sight via the rear view mirror, I struggled with great effort to keep it together. This guy is driving us rapidly down a Los Angeles Freeway and seems a bit loose in the head. I don’t want to piss him off.

What put us over the edge wasn’t just that he was singing. I seriously love Reggae music. The kicker was just how awful he was. I mean, he would give William Hung a run for his money. What a relief to finally exit the cab and plant our feet safely in the airport. As a memento, I secretly recorded a snippet using the voice note recording feature on my cell phone. If I can figure out how to get it off the phone, maybe I’ll share it sometime.

Technorati Tags: japan,tokyo

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Tokyo Tomorrow we head off to Tokyo, Japan for a memorial service to celebrate the life of my wife’s father. We’ve both been very busy with our respective work, plowing ahead head down. It finally feels good to lift our heads above the chaos and exclaim…

Holy Shit! We’re leaving for Japan tomorrow and we haven’t packed!

In any case, we are looking forward (as always) to staying with Akumi’s mother and her wonderful cooking. The geek in me enjoys the technological aspect of visiting Tokyo as much as the food. It’s like visiting the Epcot center only cleaner and the people with the high tech gadgets are real, not animatronic.

If I have the time, I’ll try posting a few pics here and there while in Japan. Ja Mata Ne!

Technorati Tags: japan,tokyo

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For as smart a guy as Joel Spolsky supposedly is, you’d think he’d keep his dumb ass remarks off his blog and between himself and his interns.

In his latest ego-inflating piece of verbal masturbation, Joel insults the internal corporate developer.

Is software really about artistic high notes? “Maybe some stuff is,” you say, “but I work on accounts receivable user interfaces for the medical waste industry.” Fair enough. This is a conversation about software companies, shrinkwrap software, where the company’s success or failure is directly a result of the quality of their code.

Sadly, this doesn’t really apply in non-product software development. Internal, in-house software is rarely important enough to justify hiring rock stars. Nobody hires Dolly Parton to sing at weddings. That’s why the most satisfying careers, if you’re a software developer, are at actual software companies, not doing IT for some bank.

Now, let’s put aside for the moment the arguments on how outstanding internal developers are just as important as outstanding shrink wrap developers. Scott Reynolds does a nice job covering that.

The real question here is just who on god’s green Earth does Joel think makes the recommendation to buy his bug tracking and content management software? It certainly isn’t management or the Linus Torvalds of the world clamoring for FogBugz. Hmmm, call it a hunch, but I would imagine a large proportion of his sales come from internal corporate developers. So how much sense does it make to give them the big middle finger while sitting smugly cloistered away in your ivory tower divorced from reality?

Now I agree with his general point, that if you’re in the business of software, you should hire the best programmers you can get. I don’t think his goal was to alienate corporate developers, but to illustrate one unique aspect of how hiring the best applies to shrink-wrapped software.

Here’s why: duplication of software is free. That means that the cost of programmers is spread out over all the copies of the software you sell. With software, you can improve quality without adding to the incremental cost of each unit sold.

Essentially, design adds value faster than it adds cost.

Where I disagree is his casual dismissal of non-shrink-wrap developers. Hitting the high notes isn’t always about creating emotional appeal with a shrink wrap product. Sometimes it’s solving an engineering problem in such a creative or elegant manner so that millions are saved, or in the case of Apollo 13, lives are saved.

How about this for a principle, For many internal developers, millions of dollars, the entire business, even lives may be at stake (for example, the Shuttle programmers), all resting on the integrity of a single copy of unique software. How is the best any less needed in this scenario?.

I could say more, but I need some sleep. I’ve got a plane to catch.

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Skype My wife usually uses a cheap calling card to call her mother in Japan. Unfortunately, for the last month, every time she would try to call, there would be problems. Today for example, they were having problems routing calls and she kept waking up some man in god only knows what god forsaken country he was in.

I suggested she finally give Skype a try and she’s now downstairs on her iBook chatting with her mom. Since her mom doesn’t have a computer, she’s using the Skype Out service which is still much cheaper than using the phone.

I don’t exactly know why, but I find this use of computers and software so interesting and compelling. Part of it is the simple enjoyment of seeing how technology can foster community and communication. But more personally, it is also the excitement of seeing software and technology that I am excited about that my wife can also enjoy and be excited about. Most of the time my excitement for technology falls on deaf ears.

Hey honey, check this out! These new Visualizers allow me to view the values within a Hashtable while stepping through the debugger. Does’t that just blow your socks off!?

Umm… sure it does honey.

Reach out and Skype someone.

I just read what I wrote up there and it sounds just like a Skype ad. Hey Skype! Pay me! ;)

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IPod DJ MixerWhen this whole “Software Development” fad dies out (and yes, I am using air quotes here with the two fingers), I know what my next calling will be: An IPod DJ!

Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be using this at the next house party I throw. And yes, Kid AND Play are both invited.

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Samsung SSD Too bad these things aren’t out yet. With no moving parts, this thing sips power, less than 5% of the power consumption of current hard disk drives, while blazing at 150 percent of the performance of comparably sized drives.

The downside is that these will start off much smaller than your typical hard-drive and the first ones won’t be available until August. I need a new drive before Tuesday when we leave for Japan.

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Toshiba M200 I’m pretty bummed today as my Tablet PC went on a holiday and refuses to come back. I’m pretty sure it’s a problem with the hard drive as the last event viewer message I saw was a warning that the system detected an imminent hard drive failure. That’s when I started backing everything up.

Hey there buddy, thanks for the heads up, but if you see it coming, can’t you do something about it?

The worse part is that I am getting the warranty runaround and I am not yet sure who is at fault. Toshiba is telling me that my warranty was only good for 90 days because it’s a factory reconditioned system. Well that’s odd because the warranty pamphlet that came with it says that I have a year warranty. Specifically it says…

One (1) Year Limited Warranty ENCORE Notebook Computers

For ENCORE (Remanafactured) Notebook Computers Purchased within the Fifty (50) United States and District of Columbia.

If that weren’t enough, the sticker on the back of the computer says the following:

This Toshiba Computer Product has been reconditioned, and although not new, is warranted by Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. under its standard Limited Warranty, excluding any coverage for external blemishes.

Now let’s see, I bought the computer in Californ-eye-aye, which qualifies as being a member of the Fifty United States. A Tablet PC is a notebook. And it is remanafactured. Now I wonder what leads me to believe I am still covered?

The nice lady in a far off country on the phone for Toshiba told me that some remanafactured PCs come with one year and others come with three months. She says I?m in the three months camp. She says resellers such as Tiger Direct (her example, not mine) sometimes tell customers what they want to hear, and not the truth about the warranty. I wonder if she’s blowing smoke up my rear (an impressive trick) or if indeed, the retailer pulled a fast one on me.

So tomorrow I need to call PC Video Online to find out their version of the warranty story. Worst case scenario, I’ll purchase a new and even better hard drive. Either way, this sucks.

UPDATE: I called PC Video Online and they told me that they are indeed an authorized Toshiba reseller and that they don’ open the boxes they receive from Toshiba. Therefore, they have no responsibility for the warranty materials packaged within.

As Walter (a brilliant lawyer I might add) pointed out in my comments, it does appear that I am entitled to a one year warranty. From various reports around the web and my comments, it seems that hard drive failures in the M200 is quite common. At this point, I don’t necessarily want the same old hard-drive anymore. I just want Toshiba to honor its commitments.

[Listening to: Remind Me - Röyksopp - Melody A.M. (3:39)]

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James
LavelleI’ve been pretty head down lately with work. But I just had to take a short break to blog this sweet funky song. The refrain is too catchy. You can click on the image to the right to sample the CD at Amazon.

I hope to see you soon\ In La La Land.\ Something about those little pills\ unreal\ the thrills\ they yield\ until they kill a million brain cells.

I have a feeling he’s not singing about a particular physical location, but “La La Land” is a common term for Los Angeles. Breathing the air here will have the same effect as the little pills he mentions.

Disclaimer This blog in no way promotes nor condones drug use. It promotes interesting music. Just assume the lyrics are discussing aspirin. Very potent aspirin.

[Listening to: Green Velvet - La La Land - James Lavelle - Fabric Live. 01 (2:39)]

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Zinedine Zidane

You know how in Monopoly you can draw a Community Chest card that says “Bank Error In Your Favor, Collect $200?” We had one of those moments regarding the Real Madrid vs Galaxy game.

The Galaxy put in place a rule that in order to purchase tickets to the Real Madrid game, you had to purchase as many tickets to another Galaxy game. A somewhat sleazy tactic to raise sales, but I wasn’t complaining too much. I figured more soccer is better than less.

So we purchased two tickets to the July 4th game against New England and two tickets to the Real Madrid game. In the mail, we only received one ticket for the Real Madrid game.

So I sent emails and got on the phone to customer support last Friday to no avail. I discovered that we only were charged for one ticket, so I began to worry that we would not be able to pick up another ticket because the game was sold out. Yesterday, I spent an hour or so trying to work my way through customer support to make sure our other ticket would be there at the box office and would be seated next to the first ticket.

When we got there, the will call line was a mess. It seems that everyone who bought via the Galaxy Online website was having problems with their orders. Apparently they were unable to send out all the tickets they intended to and got a lot of orders wrong. The line was held up as they tried to print the tickets from the system while scalpers hovered about offering tickets for $200 a piece.

I wanted to hand the Galaxy my business card and tell them I can help build them a new software system and business process to improve their ticket sales management. ;) Meanwhile, those who purchased from TicketMaster seemed to have no trouble at all.

Sure enough, when we got there, we got a second ticket in a completely different section. However, it turns out that they could only give us a $75.00 ticket in a much nicer section (which I think they comped us). Not pleased with the prospect of my wife sitting alone, I figured we would both check out the section to see if there were empty seats.

It turns out that the ticket was in an ideal location, section 108 row M right near midfield, much better than our original seats. We decided to try it out and we ran into a couple of soccer buddies (one who works for Fox Soccer Channel) and a few empty seats in a prime location in section

  1. Goooooooooooooal!

The game itself was quite entertaining. It was clear that the Galaxy was overmatched, as Real Madrid scored early and with ease on the part of Zidane’s superb play. However, the Galaxy put in a good showing and showed some grit. The highlight though, was Zidane’s amazing control and composure with the ball, not to mention scoring midfield seats.

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Did I ever tell you I really love Flickr? I’m sure I have. Anyways, found this little gem via Roy.

hlopes_aMetallic
Aflag
emblemDSC00055Smartie
lid
\"e\"One
Letter /
D

The interface is also RESTful in that you can append your name to the end of the URL. For example, http://metaatem.net/words/Haacked.

My name above is displayed by adding the following script tag to this blog post:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://metaatem.net/spell.php?picsize=s&string=Haacked”></script>

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Ok, one of you forgot to send me the memo about the MVC application block released by Microsoft. Fess up. Who forgot to send the memo?

Perhaps I missed this because they chose the name “User Interface Process Application Block” (“UIP” for short). A name that means very little to me and would not catch my attention. Not a big deal, but it seems to me that “MVC Application Block” would catch developers attentions more to its real use, unless there really is more to it than just MVC (which I have not yet investigated).

Just recently I was working on a UI that could have benefitted from the MVC pattern. I decided not to roll my own at the moment since I was trying to rapdily prototype the UI. I was implementing this UI in ASP.NET, but with the idea that a WinForms version could also be useful at some point.

Fortunately, Mark Seeman comes to the rescue with this article, “Easy UI Testing - Isolate Your UI Code Before It Invades Your Business Layer”. Mark succinctly outlines how to implement the Application Controller pattern using the UIP and completes the picture with UI agnostic unit tests (using NUnit) of the controller logic. You know how I loves me some unit tests!

Mark, I owe you a beer for highlighting the real potential underneath this hidden gem of an application block.

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Just the other day, I tried viewing a web application I’m developing on my local machine. After navigating to http://localhost/MyWebApp/ I got a blank browser screen. Nada. Zippo. Nothing. Not even the benefit of an error message.

Fortunately, the nice people at SysInternals have graced the development world with their suite of fantastic utilities including TCPView.

I ran TCPView and noticed that Skype.exe was listening on port 80. I shut that down, restarted IIS and sure enough, my local sites were back to their springy selves.

Turns out that the latest version of Skype attempts to listen in on port 80 and 443 by default, in case your firewall blocks all other ports. That’s an interesting feature, and one I’ll probably thank them for some day, but I wish they would have indicated that they were going to attempt this.

To fix this issue, I went to the Tools | Options menu in Skype and selected the Connection and unchecked the box next to “Use port 80 and 443 as alternatives for incoming connections.”

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Chairs Having
SexWarning! This video contains graphic scenes of home furniture having sex. Although the video might be safe for work, the audio portion is not (for those who cannot see the screen). So turn down the volume a bit and check out this funny video.