Sunday, May 29, 2005

Rethinking ActiveX, Removing Spontaneous Alerts

As I was toying around a fairly recently patched Windows 2000 box in a testing lab a couple of months ago, I couldn't help noticing the ActiveX dialog alert boxes that kept popping at me, likely from ad banners served by the sites I was visiting. I almost clicked "Yes" on a couple of ones. And I know better. I've many times argued that ActiveX needs to die. I do however appreciate the need for making the whole process of software installation easier.

Here's the problem: Each time you come back to that site, the ActiveX alert shows-up again. "Well don't go back to that site, you big dummy!" you might tell me. Fair enough, but when the site we're talking about is being served by from within an iframe embedded in a site I actually need to visit, I'm still in trouble, this alert is going to keep showing-up despite my repeatedly clicking "No, i do not want to install this piece of software!".

The fundamental problem, in my opinion lies in the spontaneous alerting mechanism: It needs to go away. It gets in the way of my browsing experience. The original idea for its implementation was to convey a clear message to users that some content might be missing from the page they're looking at because they're missing a software component. I may not care about this site, I may not even be looking at it (if it lives in an iframe), i may just be passing through on my way to somewhere else, yet my browsing is repeatedly interrupted as I'm forced to make a decision about installing a piece of software. Many end-users will notice that clicking "Yes" is the surest way to make "the annoying pop-up go away". This is bad. Most Internet Explorer users still don't grasp the potentially dire consequences of their browsing habits.

Microsoft needs to make the spontaneous pop-up go away. Once and for all. If a web page requires an additional software component to be installed on a user's machine for optimal viewing, then it should be up to the page's author to convey this message inside their web document while presenting the user with a "special link / UI widget" they could make the conscious choice to click to then offer the user the type of warning that's currently being thrown at them for simply visiting the site. The basic requirement I'm trying to define is to never interrupt the user's browsing, and make the process of installing a piece of software an opt-in step, a choice consciously made by the user. If the page's author doesn't do a good job of convincing the user to click on the "special software installation link/UI widget", it'll never get installed.

Until then, I'd love to see an industrious Windows developer come-up with an ActiveX control that downloads Firefox, installs it on the user's hard drive, imports all IE favorites, cookies and other applicable settings, sets Firefox as the default browser on the operating system, quits Internet Explorer, and reopens the web page the user was viewing into Firefox. I don't know for a fact that any of this is possible. But if it is, it would give Microsoft an added incentive to truly nail-down the end-user experience surrounding ActiveX. Until they did, their browser would keep losing market share. Checks and balances.

Update: I've more recently seen Windows XP (still not win2k though) show a pull-down notification drawer, which I think is a most definite improvement. I wonder what the behavior is with iframes? I really still wish the process of installing a piece of software on one's operating system was more the result of an opt-in process, rather than a byproduct of stumbling upon a web site. Note that I mentioned "operating system" vs "browser". Internet Explorer being an integral part of the operating system, ActiveX basically gives you access to the operating system, instead of confining developers to a browser's plug-in API.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wanted: Geeks with Skills for Music Industry Replacement

Scott Hildebrand is starting an online community seeking to replace the music industry for both artists and consumers. He's looking for 1 chief architect, 1 UI/UE expert, 1 VP of advertising and about 4 more developers and artists. If you're interested, e-mail him at

Funny: IP Over Voice

This made me laugh. Thanks Steve!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ajax Makes the Uncool Cool Again

It's interesting to see many people file wick under "ajax"-related tags. It definitely helps show one of the features people look most forward to see implemented. Or is Ajax becoming about more than just XmlHttpRequest, JavaScript, XML? How about "Doing Cool Stuff in a Web Browser" ?

We can't help but notice many cool projects surrounding web-standards based application development also being filed under "Ajax". Is it not possible to build valuable web components without using the almighty XmlHttpRequest object? Sure, but that's not the point.

At some point, DHTML was proclaimed dead and uncool. I never was a fan of the term either. It gives HTML too much of a prominent place, almost negating other powerful tools such as XML, CSS, DOM, (Java|ECMA)Script, and hey, why the heck not, XSLT. Then someone came up with "Rich Internet Apps". I abhor this term. Let's keep this one dead, very dead. Forever. Pretty please?

When XmlHttpRequest, the first implementation of which Microsoft introduced in IE5 circa 1999, finally became widely supported by most popular browsers between 2002 and 2004, such as the Gecko dudes and my favorite KHTML Mutant, it opened the doors to far more elegant alternative implementations of Remote Scripting techniques, to the seemingly hackier ones we might have used in the past. Suddenly there was a compelling way to dynamically breathe new life into the contents of a document. This also brought-on a new wave of excitement surrounding building documents that were more than just ... static, inert, passive, a phenomenon not unlike certain trends observed during the dark-ages of ... *gasp* DHTML.

More than a crappy acronym, those dark ages were plagued by a lack of mature standards, exacerbated by the then two big players' eagerness to one-up each-other with "extra features" and inability to sufficiently comply with what little standards there were, in a race to gain developer mind share, all of which culminated to Danny Goodman's valiant 1998 stab at a 1073-pages "Dynamic HTML, The Definitive Reference", the advent of hefty "DHTML Libraries", and nasty hacks included in WYSIWIG web-authoring packages, that sought to work around and/or hide cross-browser compatibility issues.

At some point in the early 2000s, many developers said "to hell with this crap, let's just build clean, accessible, interoperable documents that comply to basic information standards". Meanwhile, standards and concensus matured, browser vendors started getting their act together, and in the last couple of years, have brought us to a point where it is now actually possible to enrich simple "Web Documents" with "Standards-Based Interactive Interface Components", without resorting to too much hackery.

So right now, beyond wild and fancy interface components, XmlHttpRequest is what's polarizing developers' imagination, with the ability to breathe new content into portions of larger documents, a fundamental building block to useful applications, and Ajax is the acronym.

I, for one, welcome our Ajax overlords.


Information, Reloaded.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ernest is Pregnant Again! And Found a House!

So Ernest had a couple of days off, away from the computer apparently. He just popped on AIM to announce the following:
Ernest Millan: 1. Josie is pregnant
Ernest Millan: 2. Found a house
6:55 PM
Ernest Millan: 3. Michelle's Bday party this Sat
Ernest Millan: 4. Went to Pismo Beach
Chris Holland: HOLY F*CK
Ernest Millan: 5. Saw Star Wars last night
Chris Holland: HOLY SH*T HOLY F*CK
Ernest Millan: ='s the best week ever!
Ernest Millan: hehe
Ernest Millan: Super Snootch!
Chris Holland: HOLYHadsfadsf
Chris Holland: OMFG
Chris Holland: HOLYSH*T
Chris Holland: DUDE
Chris Holland: OMFG
Chris Holland: @()#*@()#*@()#*@)(#*@)(#*@)(#*@()#*@()#*@()#*
Ernest Millan: u can say that again!
Chris Holland: ok im so blogging this right the **** now

Holy Googly Batman. Google Does Portal

Yahoo. MSN. Watch your six. Here comes Google.

Ajax-Based DAV Client

I came just across this very interesting project: an Ajax-Driven DAV Implementation. Doesn't quite work in Safari just yet. Works nicely in Firefox though.

Introducing WICK: Web Input Completion Kit

Well folks, the cat's finally out of the bag ... and its name is WICK.

Are you familiar with GMail's cool auto-completion from its Address Book when composing an e-mail? Other web-based e-mail systems such as have tried to duplicate this functionality without quite reaching parity in terms of features and cross-browser compatibility.

As most everybody else was likely too busy with a life beyond coding to bother tackling this challenge, I took it on last year, in the form of a standalone library that should be easy for any developer to include in their site or application. It's now mostly ready for consumption, open-source under a BSD License, and lives at sourceforge under the project name "wick": Web Input Completion Kit.

It needs much work and improvements to move beyond Address Book-related use cases. Which is where I'm hoping skills and enthusiasm from the Open-Source Community will help drive this project further along.

Powermac G5s Demo XBOX 360?

Microsoft's flagship gaming station, brought to you by Apple.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Configuring SJPhone for EarthLink SIP

If you don't already have a free SIP account with SIP proxying, you might consider:
  1. Getting a Free EarthLink Account (you also get free web-based e-mail, and access to nifty tools such as reader and myfavorites)
  2. Turning-on your free online calling by going to so you can send and receive SIP calls at

update July 2006: If you're a PC/Windows user, you might just download the FREE MindSpring Chat sofware. You'll be able to send and receive SIP calls to/from any SIP user with a SIP address.

If, like me, you're a Mac user and/or into doing "more advanced SIP stuff", I highly recommend using SJPhone. SJPhone is free, full-featured, and lets you do conferencing, which is truly insanely cool. SJPhone runs on Mac OS X, Linux, Windows, and even PocketPC.

You can download SJPhone here. Then be sure to follow configuration instructions below.

Note to Windows Users: David Beckemeyer isn't having much luck with SJPhone on Windows XP.

SJPhone Configuration Instructions:
  1. SJPhone Menu ... Preferences ... click Profiles tab
  2. Click New ... Profile Name: earthlink_fonc, select Calls through SIP Proxy
  3. You should now be looking at a window called Profile Options
  4. Initialization tab: Account row: check all boxes. Password row: check all boxes. Caller ID row: uncheck all boxes. Full Address of Record Row: check first 2 boxes
  5. SIP Proxy tab: proxy domain: : 5060. user domain: check [x] Register with proxy. check [x] proxy is strict outbound. Advanced options: uncheck [ ] Use separate registrar (registrar domain should be blank). check [x] unregister contact address only. leave proxy for NAT: blank
  6. General Tab: check [x] accept redirection replies. check [x] Use short headers. i left the rest alone.
  7. I left the DTMF tab alone
  8. STUN Tab: check [x] Use discovered address in SIP. Server Address: : 3478. I left advanced options alone
  9. Click OK. you should be back on your Profiles list. Make sure earthlink_fonc is still selected and click the "Initialize ..." button
  10. Account: your earthlink username (before the @sign). Password: your earthlink password. Full Address of Record: . Check [x] Save service information permanently
  11. If you're on OS X and have a USB or bluetooth headset such as the Motorola HS810, go back to the SJPhone --> Preferences Menu, click the Audio tab and select appropriate input and output devices. It works very well.
Troubleshooting TIP: The status box should say: "earthlink_fonc: ready to call". If it doesn't say that, you might have accidentally activated one of the other SJPhone profiles, such as the PC-to-PC one. Just go back to the SJPhone menu --> Preferences --> Profiles tab. Double-click earthlink_fonc, which should now say "in use". Click OK.

Troubleshooting TIP: contributed by Mir Islam: Under Call Options tab in the Outgoing Calls section you may need to choose the default IP address that your machine is using. I have multiple interfaces with IP addresses and SJPhone by default chose the one associated with the ethernet device, even though it was not active. My wireless connection over airport is usually the active one. So I chose that and afterwards SJPhone worked fine for me !

To place a call just enter the person's sip address in the URL bar, and hit "Dial", example: Click the "Conference" button to turn-on the ability to send and receive multiple calls at the same time. To send another call while already on a call, just type a new SIP address in the URL bar, and hit "Dial". If someone calls you while you're already on a call, you can just click "Answer", and they'll be conferenced-in. It's that easy.

from Technorati.

Sample BSD License

On my continued learning path of open-source, OSI has a very handy sample BSD License for our perusal.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Good Developer Browser Extensions

A co-worker points me to his favorite list of Firefox browser extensions, I figured I'd pass it on:
Live HTTP Headers -
Add & Edit Cookies -
MeasureIt 0.2.5 -
User Agent Switcher -
Thanks Bell :D

GPL Explained

Raj tonight explained to me some finer points of GPL and why it was created. He's got a very informative post about GPL.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Phillip Torrone: Sony Playstation 3 Review

Ceci n'est pas, but hey:
valmont: ptorrone:
[11:51pm] GTroy: pt: have you seen that?
[11:51pm] ptorrone: yep!
[11:51pm] ptorrone: it looks promising
[11:52pm] ptorrone: sony might just "win" the console market, but it'll be a tough fight and we all get better everything
[11:53pm] ptorrone: i posted a couple links here
[11:53pm] ptorrone:
[11:53pm] GTroy: grazi
[11:53pm] valmont: ooooo

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hermosa Beach Gets Fiber to the Home

What's the best way to get your incumbent telco to bring you out of the broadband stone-age? Address the issue yourself by installing a citywide WiFi network that'll be subsidized by local businesses and advertisers, offering a free service to residents, while bringing-in extra revenues for your city. Put together a business model other cities could easily follow.

That's pretty much where Michael Keegan took us when he spearheaded this project before motion to complete it beyond its current 30% city coverage was recently stuck in a deadlocked council. We're not giving-up. A strong, cost-effective broadband internet connectivity infrastructure is an asset every city official should actively pursue for residents. Phone and cable companies are digging our streets to protect their monopolies of tomorrow, as they retain complete control over our connectivity. Having a city-owned WiFi network gives us taxpaying residents a measure of fair leverage, enabling us to opt for a more basic form of internet connectivity, should packages offered by incumbents not make much financial sense.

So here's the scoop:
Verizon moves to install fiber to the premises (5/12) - After navigating parts of Hermosa Beach with Mayor J.R Reviczky and Public Works Director Rick Morgan, Verizon will move forward and begin the process of installing 34 equipment cabinets around town to accommodate its Fiber to the Premises project. Last month, the council unanimously approved a request to install the above-ground boxes that will house the system.
City gives Fiber to the Premises project a shot (5/5) - With the help of Verizon, Hermosa Beach will be the next city to experience a new state-of-the-art Internet network that will provide both residents and businesses with access to the Web at a speed dramatically faster than cable. Last week, the Hermosa Beach City Council unanimously approved a request to install between 30 to 35 above-ground boxes that will house the system. The council still has yet to approve the actual locations, 34 in all, where the boxes will go.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Happy 13th!

Happy 13th!
Happy 13th!,
originally uploaded by chrisholland.
Auspiciously yours ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Google Acquires

Hey this is sweet, i just got this e-mail from Mad props to these geeks!

Big news, dodgeball fans! On May 11th, was acquired by Google!

I'm sure a lot of you have some questions about what this means for you and the future of dodgeball, so we put together a quick Q&A. Let us know if you have any other questions!

Q: Why did dodgeball sell to Google?
A: As a two-person team, Alex and I have taken dodgeball about a far as we can alone. Since we finished grad school (ITP @ NYU), we've been trying to figure out how to grow dodgeball and make it a better service along the way. We talked to a lot of different angel investors and venture capitalists, but no one really "got" what we were doing - that is until we met Google.

The people at Google think like us. They looked at us in a "You're two guys doing some pretty cool stuff, why not let us help you out and let's see what you can do with it" type of way. We liked that. Plus, Alex and I are both Google superfans and the people we've met so far are smart, cool and excited about what they're working on.

Q: What does the acquisition mean to dodgeball? What's going to change?
A: Now that we're part of Google, we'll have more resources available to us. That means Alex and I can get back to building new features. We have a lot of ideas that we've wanted to work on for a long time and we're excited that we will now have the time and resources to actually follow-through with them. There's some cool stuff in the works - stay tuned.

Q: What does the acquisition mean to dodgeball users?
A: We've adopted Google's Privacy Policy ( and Terms of Service ( as our own. You should have received a notice about these new terms. If you disagree with the terms or decide that you don't want to be a part of the new post-Google dodgeball, please delete your account (

While you can delete your account at any time, if you do so in the next 14 days, your account will be deleted immediately and the information in your profile will not be transferred over to Google.

Q: Will you still be at The Magician / Floyd / 12" / 288 / Lit / Boat / Barramundi / Bleecker Street Bar six nights a week?
A: Of course. Where else would we be? Swing by sometime and meet us for a drink!

Q: Anything else?
A: Do we have time to for a few shoutouts? would not be around today if it wasn't for the support of friends and family along the way. Special shoutouts to Tom Ainslie, Ken Allard, Pam Bennett, Melissa Camero, Eric Deschamps, Chris Gage, The Happy Corp Global, Rob Hudak, Aaron Ingram, Doug Jaeger, Andy Krucoff, Ken Rabe, James Robinson, Ilana Rosengarten, Clay Shirky, Matt Spangler, Chris Sung, Meghan Trainor, Shawn Van Every and everyone else who's added content, fixed bugs, and spread the word.

Thanks again everyone, and please send any questions / feedback / comments to contact {at[!

- The Management (aka Dens + Alex)

DNS Melting Point?

Om Malik just published a thought-provoking article on the current state of DNS and the challenges it faces. I hear he's got another article brewing, elaborating on "pharming", DNS cache poisoning. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Microsoft Gets Into Bio-Engineering?

Bill Gates: I shall call her ... Mini Scoble. I mean, okay, mad props to this wonderful kid. But did this 9-year-old wizz really come-up with the following quote on her own?:
Arfa: Microsoft has changed the way people think about computers. Microsoft has laid down the foundations for next-generation computing and is the founder in terms of providing user-friendly software--thereby increasing the number of novice users. I like the way Microsoft participates in other-than-mainstream activities, such as academic research, charities, scholarships and connecting the disconnected by providing technology support to underserved people. Microsoft develops a lot of software that allows people to realize their potential. This is exactly what my experience is with Microsoft. I have a passion for software, and Microsoft provides me a true platform.

Wasting Bits?

Live Bookmarks are cool, mostly?