If you love something, chmod 777 it

Work | Jun. 2, 2008

My computer friend was having troubles with his girlfriend, and I tried to offer him a bit of advice: in Unix, chmod is used to set permissions for which users can access the file, with 7 granting access to everyone.

…which means I inadvertently made his girlfriend a whore.

I don’t care, I like PHP

Work | May. 21, 2008

I’m a PHP developer, and I am going to out myself as a na├»ve n00b by saying I’ve never had a problem with writing applications for it. Yes, I may even enjoy programming in PHP. This is why I’m linking to an article Jeff at Coding Horror wrote on why PHP Sucks, But It Doesn’t Matter.

The TIOBE community index I linked above? It’s written in PHP. Wikipedia, which is likely to be on the first page of anything you search for these days? Written in PHP. Digg, the social bookmarking service so wildly popular that a front page link can crush the beefiest of webservers? Written in PHP. WordPress, arguably the most popular blogging solution available at the moment? Written in PHP. YouTube, the most widely known video sharing site on the internet? Written in PHP. Facebook, the current billion-dollar zombie-poking social networking darling of venture capitalists everywhere? Written in PHP.

Notice a pattern here?

Architecture astronauts may have a problem with the language, but the fact is PHP is getting the job done. Now Javascript on the other hand — scattered documentation, poor debugging support, the OO-over designing pitfalls. I don’t see how anyone can get anything done with it. Some people can, but not me.

I, um, blame the tools.

Tomorrow: the wheel

Work | Mar. 26, 2008

Just feeling a little pleased with myself. I recently started a programming job that has thus far been woefully short on programming. I haven’t even been given the right tools for the job: BBEdit, Photoshop, Transmit, or any of the other developer accoutrements I’m accustomed to. Like a Mac.

Just to show how nothing ever changes for me, I was given a super-rush last-minute project that needed to be done TODAY. The design spec was a photocopy with a few scribbles. With only the tools that came with my office PC, I was able to code up the project using: WordPad, Paint, and some freeware FTP. And I still got the thing together to demo in under an hour!

Just feeling a little pleased with myself.

Requiem for a Green Monster

Cartoons | Feb. 26, 2008

Betty RossIt was 2001 when my friend Nick and I wrote our first (and only) cartoon about the sardonic, ever-suffering super hero The Sarcastic Hulk. And over the last two years I had been living that cartoon. I’m so damned observant I only needed my friend Lisa to point it out. You tell me if there are any similarities between a certain mild-mannered workaday tool and the jaded giant:

  • Pushover Bruce Banner gets laid off at his dead-end job.
  • Bruce dates a hippie. Their relationship consists mostly of arguing and making out.
  • Mounting failures and everyday frustrations make SH bitter and also kind of a dick.

And most of all…

  • Our hero is sarcastic.

Talk about life imitating art! If only someone had kept writing these I may have had some warning. Oh wait. But what gets me is I didn’t see this situation coming and I wrote it.*

*I will catch endless hell from one Nick Shaheen if I don’t mention that he also wrote the script, and that I’m an ass for taking out all his best jokes. Nick, nobody was going to get a joke about Meredith Baxter-Berney.

I feel fantastic!

Work | Feb. 11, 2008

I can’t remember when I last slept! I had been cooped up in my apartment writing code all night, and when the sun began to shine through my mini-blinds I knew I wasn’t going to get any sleep now, since that’s exactly what happened yesterday morning. So I grabbed my ipod and went for a walk.

I headed down Santa Monica listening to Rebel Rebel when I caught my reflection in a guitar shop window. I’ve been letting my hair grow out, I was bedraggled, hadn’t shaved in days, and hid my eyes behind dark sunglasses. I looked and felt like a rockstar. And as I headed down the sunny side of the street at 8:30 this morning to destinations unknown, the commuter traffic was beginning to pile up. The people who had to go to sleep at a sensible hour, only to drag themselves out of bed to get into their car and sit in traffic on their way to another day at their hateful job. More grist for the mill. And I was out taking a walk, enjoying the morning sunshine. I never felt so free.

When I was working, I had that I couldn’t sleep I couldn’t sleep I couldn’t sleep insomnia gnawing at me, but this time it was different. It wasn’t the insomnia that was bothering me, it was the anxiety about when I had to wake up. Now I don’t have to sleep. I felt like I had finally found my own schedule, and it felt wonderful.

Be careful what you wish for

Work | Jan. 18, 2008
Schedule Completely Broken Down

See my earlier chart

Weekly Schedule Breakdown

Work | Jan. 11, 2008
Weekly Schedule Breakdown

This isn’t me looking for pity. I know that most peoples’ lives are 80% bullshit not of their own doing, but as a person who should by all accounts be in control of his own destiny I thought this would be a clear demonstration of where I mislaid my priorities.

Work Haiku

Work | Dec. 17, 2007

Some Haiku I wrote during this afternoon’s meeting to describe what I do at work:

I fix L.S.D.
work on Reader Management
and sleep through meetings.

“Where are the listings
on laweekly.com?!”

That’s my handiwork!

Come in after 10:00
rewrite that thing with no spec
then leave around 5:00

Listmaster’s a mess
Reader Management is too —
Look how things have changed!

I’m only awake when I’m dreaming

Work | Aug. 17, 2007

And I only sleep when I’m awake. It’s Friday and I had a dream that was more vivid and engaging than anything that has happened to me during this dull, gray week. I only retained this insight for the brief moment after I woke up, before my mind switched off in preparation for going about my rote, insipid tasks. I’m waiting for the tipping point wherein I fully recede into the dream world and leave this grim, featureless shadoworld behind.

So if you see me and I don’t see you back, I’m not being rude, I’m dreaming.

(Also, I’ve been taking in a lot of PKD and shrooms lately …but this is probably incidental.)

Internet on the iPhone: separate but equal?

Work | Jul. 10, 2007

Much has been made of Apple’s lack of support for Flash on the iPhone, with Apple passing on it in favor of open standards, using AJAX, canvas and the HTML 5 spec to achieve the same slick interfaces that have until now only been seen within Adobe’s Flash player.

Apple has famously proclaimed that the web on the iPhone isn’t the mobile internet; not the “watered down internet” — and yet, it’s not quite “the” internet either.

On Apple’s iTunes page, you get a very cool interactive slider listing all of the company’s hot iTunes-related products, all presented using CSS and Ajax. All done in the browser, all done using open technology. Yeah, holy shit is right.

iTunes store on the web

Now take a look at the same page on the iPhone. It’s similar, but it ain’t the same.

iTunes store on iPhone

Since Javascript can detect which browser you’re using, Apple seems to be slightly modifying its web interface to account for the iPhone. But how many web designers are going to get caught up in Apple’s iPhone-led redesign of the web, only to find out that their spiffy new interfaces won’t work on the very device they’re redesigning their websites around?

Sweetened with CocoaAn internet built on open standards, pioneered by Apple would be pretty spectacular, but Apple is going to have to work out these ‘gotchas’ first. Otherwise, I feel this open initiative will go the way of many of Apple’s previous efforts: Cocoa (the other one, but that’s a whole other article), OpenDoc, interactive QuickTime movies, the Pippin game console and other promising technology that Apple left to rot on the vine.

I for one will support Apple’s initiative because I like open standards and I like the idea that when publishing my videos I can “encode once, run anywhere” — on the internet, iTunes, the iPod or an iPhone… pretty much anything starting with a lower-case i.

And in a perfect world, I wouldn’t be the only one. But I don’t see Jobs’s idea of the standards-based open internet catching on. For better or worse, the web is a heterogeneous place, so any kind of consistency is rare indeed. And for all his shrewd maneuvering, Jobs still has a very pie-in-the-sky idea about human nature. Would you expect anything else from an aging hippie? He should already be able to tell that consumers don’t always choose the best products, and quite understandably, people will make choices that immediately benefit themselves.

It made sense for YouTube to re-convert all their videos into the open H.264 codec to get an exclusive spot on Apple’s hottest new product, but would every Tom, Dick and Harry go out of their way to re-encode their entire collection of failed motorcycle stunts, backyard wresting clips and lip-syncing videos, just in support of open standards? My guess is no.

It would be great if we lived in a world where everyone drove a Prius, roommates would wash their dishes, and everything on the internet was open and free for anybody with a good idea, but as a poet once said, “We live in a world where good men are murdered and mediocre hacks thrive.”

It’ll take some very real incentives for Apple to lure web developers away from closed, propriety systems and into an open and free internet, not just because it’s the right thing to do. If I were to offer my two cents, it would be to make the tools for realizing your vision more available, and make them easier to use. Make it easy for people using your software to get results. (I think you used to have an OS that did this back in the mid-’80s.)


Finally, for those of you at home who want to see the web the way the iPhone does, just modify your browser’s user-agent to this string:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/1A543a Safari/419.3

…just resist the temptation to touch the screen.

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