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User Journal

Journal Journal: Modernised Style Guide for EULAs and other online legalese

Full capitalisation of normal words, underlining, boldface and scare quotes must be limited to one phrase in any two consecutive paragraphs, or two words in any two, three in three, etc. up to a limit where the use of n so emphasised words in m paragraphs, n>m, requires n-m paragraphs either side to be free of such emphasis, and thus requires the document to contain at least n paragraphs, excluding headers.
Any statutory requirement for whole paragraph emphasis must be provided by a margin stripe.
A new version of a document must clearly indicate through appropriate colours where text has been added, changed or deleted, with the old version made visible by hovering over the change indicator.
A timeline slider must be provided to give access to diffs against earlier versions (which the user has accepted).
The user's acceptance on one device must be recognised as acceptance for all devices linked to that account.
The user must be asked to separately indicate acceptance of each significant change.
A button must be provided to allow a user to view or "print" the document in traditional style, i.e. with full capitalisation of parts to be glossed over.
A button must be provided to number the paragraphs with nesting and other supplementation to avoid cascading number changes between versions.
Default full word text is to be no smaller than 11 on 13 and all sub and superscripts no smaller than 8 point, with standard interface options to zoom in or out.
Installers must enforce compliance with these guidelines.

User Journal

Journal Journal: iPad Camera Connection Kit

Ever since last week's announcement, Apple's Tech Specs have made it very clear that a USB camera is going to be an option:

The Camera Connection Kit gives you two ways to import photos and videos from a digital camera. The Camera Connector lets you import your photos and videos to iPad using the camera's USB cable. Or you can use the SD Card Reader to import photos and videos directly from the camera's SD card.

which the rumour sites that think they are all over iPhone OS 3.2 support for video calling seem to have missed.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Silly thought about next Sunday

Posting here because I can't clear my head of a plainly silly idea.

This coming Sunday, January 25th, is the middle of a long weekend and the traditional peak of summer down under.

So why do I keep thinking about getting everybody with unrecoverable old Macs to take them and sledgehammers to some otherwise deserted parking lot, plus my new HD camera to remake an ad?

Yes it has been a quarter of a century, an anniversary everybody seems to be ignoring alongside the inauguration of hope and concern over Steve's health.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Don't ever call submit submit

This really should have been a headline item in HTML 101 but it is surprisingly difficult to find a quick explanation of the non-obvious diagnostics which eventually led me to a relatively simple problem.

When there is a namespace clash in JavaScript, properties outrank methods.

When you name a submit button, that name becomes a property of the containing form. Assuming the containing form tag says name='myformname', the very useful document.myformname.submit() method becomes unreachable.

And the obvious answer, changing the form name, becomes impossible to contemplate when your main client's business-defining intranet is built on middleware which calls every submit button submit so that progress through a process is represented by values of $in{'submit'}.

I've even relatively recently added code which logs $in{'submit'} along with other details of every process that is run so we can learn more about actual usage patterns.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Melbourne Slashdot 10th Anniversary Party 4

I have a long history of translating indicated attendance into actual numbers for functions, but basing it on acceptances from an untested source was always going to be risky.

So I don't know whether I should just celebrate that the eight who made it seemed like a pretty good sample or bemoan the 23 who didn't show out of the 31 who registered.

The obligatory photo evidence is on Flickr!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Touching a raw nerve

While I do think /. moderation includes the kernel of a good idea, specific examples are almost never worthy of meta conversation, at least not until I scored a 50% Insightful, 50% Flamebait which naturally adds up to +2 Flamebait.

Maybe that's what I should have expected for taking pot shots at all sides. Makes it hard not to hit some mod's comfort zone.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Will our collective arrogance never end?

So it is supposed to be news that elephants pass mirror test of self-awareness. What else could anybody not drowning in their own anthropophilic delusions expect? Clearly they ruled the old world, and their hairy cousins a fair chunk of the rest of the north, for quite a while before our kind made it out of Africa. We even forget that eyesight is not near as important to cetaceans and proboscideans as it is to primates, so we can only hope that science will eventually mature enough to look for truly unbiased signs of self-awareness that will help narrow down the few recent characteristics that have facilitated the human infestation.

Pulled up one car back at the lights at an exit from the Monash this morning, I was given a reminder this morning that there are still distinctions to be made between species as a mudlark repeatedly alighted on the door sill of one of the cars in front, then quickly dove towards the driver/passenger window of the car in the other lane, pulling up just enough to land on the other sill, clearly intent on repelling its reflected rivals, but still comical.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Lets not get religious about network neutrality

While in other circumstances I would rather trust the thinking of new tech companies than the telcos, I can't see that network neutrality is the kind of issue that the tech community needs to get into such a flap about.

Even when we were examining broadband futures for our then soon to be unelected government in the mid '90s, the idea was about that some anticipated internet applications would work better with a quality of service differential.

All that seems to have happened in the interim is that the net has proved good enough in practice for almost everything we have thought of to throw at it. That is just the kind of thinking that allows Windoze to maintain traction.

User Journal

Journal Journal: First 60 iTMS puchases = 60 different artists

That probably says a lot about my take in music.

If iTMS carried everything on my wish list, I could have got past 90 before feeling obligated to go to seconds, but as it stands the pattern will have to break in my 7th monthly selection of 10.

While my collection is still dominated numerically by tracks ripped from my own purchased CDs, with iTMS tracks only accounting for 8%, those tracks have now passed 50% of my 5 star rated tracks. (Some purchases are rated 4, and I don't plan to ever buy many single tracks that I would not rate 4 or 5 on my current use of the scale.)

iTMS has also encouraged me to but a new CD or three, including one from Amazon that I would have happily bought for $A16.90 if iTMS had not kept it in limbo but still listed for several months. I'm on the lookout for a couple more when I next pass a big CD retailer.

Compared to what I've invested in vinyl, CDs and even cassette tapes over the years, the $A101.40 to date on iTMS seems miniscule. It even pales beside the cost of an unsatisfactory acquisition of a turntable and related paraphernalia with the intention of digitising some of my old vinyl. Now it looks like working out that there will be so little that matters left which I have not obtained through other legal channels, that I will just let that project collect dust.

Having now assembled a solid proportion of my favourite tracks, I've started to make more creative use of playlists. Unsurprisingly "Signature Songs" is the largest of those new playlists with 30 to date, and that doesn't include another 10 in my "Absolute Favourites" and therefore inelligible for my other sub-genre playlists.

Depending on how long it takes Apple to make real inroads with the recalcitrant labels, and with the to date neglected archival tracks that are now starting to look relevant to long tail distribution models, I expect to one day still have to face harder decisions about sourcing those last handful of must have tracks.

But for now it all sounds plenty good enough.


Journal Journal: Longhorn FUD 1

As much as I would be happier to just ignore it, there is something about the increasing Longhorn hysteria that is reminiscent of the depths Apple slid into in the mid-90s.

There were a succession of enticing technology demos promoted as seeds of totally new architectures, more than a couple of which almost survived deployment then in the process of their ultimate abandonment burnt many fans.

But the ask was always too big, just the same as it has always been with every other monolithic attempt at software over engineering.

The one thing we can count on from Microsoft is that they will eventually bring out something which they will tell us is Longhorn. They are too political to contemplate honest abandonment. But all they will ever deliver will be cherry picked features grafted onto their already long suffering underlying architcture.

Apple needed two things to break the cycle of unleliverable promises and finally produce the most significant new OS since IBM's VM: the only multi-achieving arse-kicker in the industry and a decade of somebody else somewhere else evolving the other half of their answer. (The fact that that "somebody else" was the same "arse kicker" on out placement also served to smooth a few wrinkles.)

One fact of life ignored by believers in seven day solutions is that there is a complexity ceiling which applies to engineering and logistics, beyond which more complexity can only be added by an evolutionary mechanism--variation plus selection. If it were not so serious it would be amusing that those who proclaim complexity as evidence for design are so far off target.

But back to Longhorn. My betting is that there will never be another truly new OS from Microsoft, or at least not while their market share remains significant. They will continue to lie about it and continue to fail to deliver. Intel and AMD all over again, yet even Intel has a more resilient basic culture to fall back on, IBM-style, than the isolates from Seattle.

Of course there is never an easier place to make a dishonest living than on the coat-tails of an empire in decline, so if that's your style don't let me discourage you. Just keep the dollars circulating.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Tick Tock -- a simple evolving network

Earlier this week I decided it was time to announce on NKS Forum the little project that has been keeping me distracted these last 3 months.

That announcement contains some disclaimers on possible browser issues where I am consciously pushing the boundaries, and it is also probably the best place for discussion, although comments are certainly welcome here.

Tick Tock might not be the kind of Class 4 system I prefer to hunt, but it may be a useful step towards doing some useful work in the field of evolving graphs which is increasingly theorised as being fundamental but largely neglected for detailed study because of perceived perceptual obstacles.


Journal Journal: Countable and uncountable infinities 8

This may not strictly be a "note for nowhere else" but I am test running it here first because of the frequency with which assertions turn up on /. about the likes of the works of Shakespeare turning up in the digits of pi.

The importance is that even world renouned mathematicians get this wrong way to often. I just finally started reading Roger Penrose's Shadows and quickly found him confounding the number of algorithms with a countable number (even though he had just made mention of Cantor and "diagonal" in the same breath) in his effort to make a case that there are things human minds can do that are not computable. Meanwhile, in trying to make the opposite case, Wolfram cites the "oracle" argument which contains exactly the same misunderstanding.

While there are a whole lot of technical arguments that can be got into about orders of infinity, there is really only one distinction that matters to our everyday understanding of the world, that between aleph 0, countable infinity, and aleph 1 (and higher) which is uncountable.

I could just make the point that actualities are countable and possibilities are uncountable, but that would be putting the cart before the hourse.

First we need to recognise that any form of infinity is just a mathematical construct. We are not ever going to have to deal with actual infinities, but what is very useful is understanding limiting behaviour as something or other goes towards infinity. It is here that the difference between countable and uncountable infinities matters immensely.

can be put into a one to one correspondence with the natural numbers
cannot be put into a one to one correspondence with the natural numbers

The digits of pi, the keystrokes made by a room full of monkeys, the galaxies, stars, grains of sand, atoms are all countable. Each could be given a number.

Possible texts, possible algrithms, possible macromolecules, possible species, potential humans cannot be given a number. Each is a unique combination of a long sequence of units and every time you add one to the length of the base sequence, you multiply the possibilities by some factor greater than one, often much greater but even that does not matter except in the limit.

So if you struggle to count the possibilities of a small complex system, just making that system slightly larger multiplies those possibilities out of all proportion and counting them becomes orders of magnitude harder.

Even if, as I strongly suspect, our cosmos is but a semen stain on the sheets of some grand cosmological process going on beyond our event horizons, there is no "other earth" anywhere else. There is no other you. There is no other me! Fortunately!!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Nice to be back

Hopefully this means that whatever had been preventing me posting here from my ISP (one of Australia's big 5) has finally gone away.

When such problems persist, it is all too easy to just forget about the possibility of posting anything.

Similarly, I'm becoming more and more aware just how easy it is for one's involvement in once all consuming online communities to just fade away without notice.

That awareness hasn't changed my development objectives, but it has again focused my attention on some of the deep impediments to truly empowering online communities.

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