January 31, 2004

In this World

The new film from Michael Winterbottom, In this World, is a gripping tale of human smuggling. It took me a while to realise it was fiction, the way the film is shot is more like a documentary.

Posted by .M. at 07:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2004

God save the Sniffer

http://www.webreference.com/tools/browser/javascript.html. Did they have Javascript Sniffers around in God's day? This little beauty just saved me again. Here's a classic example of why the Web is doomed. I'm typing away when I decide to go to my own website, last modified a year or so ago, and all of a sudden I'm getting broken links. Yup, something's changed in the system and it wasn't me. Sure enough, it turns out to be not one bug but two.

1) Apple's new Safari browser has a Flash plug-in which interprets relative links differently to the rest. On every other browser, relative links embedded within a Flash movie are taken as relative to the web page where the flash movie run from. Now Safari's Flash player (admittedly still in beta) takes the link relevent to the path of the flash movie component itself.

It's not that the code was great or anything but this is something that was last thought about years ago. You'd think that would be the end of it. Well, it would have been the end of it if the master FLA file wasn't still handy to the guy who wrote this back then. If he hadn't been that would have been a pain to have to re-write a graphical nav bar. I probably never would have bothered.

2) The bloddy sniffer code. So not only are links going off in different directions depending on what computer you look at my page with but now I'm getting this really annoying behavior on my corporate site (yup this is sooo corporate). What it's doing is going to a page and then re-directing to a basic site map page. There's an error there which says that your browser is not standards-compliant which is not only untrue but embarassing because what it's really saying is that Michela can't keep up.

So anyway, instead of going for a walk, having a drink or doing something else normal, I'm looking at the dogs breakfast javascript code which stands for my "standard header code" on the site. This site heralds from the dim dark days of 2001 when everyone was too busy trying to make money to learn how to write web pages. The folks who I commissioned to re-fresh my web site went under during the process. Not directly due to me but I hope I was a contributing factor. I asked for it to be standards-compliant as much as was reasonably possible. It only worked on one version of one browser - Internet Explorer.

Anyway, it got build eventually but the use of IPATH meant that there is a fork in the page code so that if a non-compliant browser hits the site, then presto, you get the site map. The only thing is, and if you're still reading this then I feel sorry for you, that time moves on. Browsers update and now before I know it there's a whole new world of other browser names out there that I've heard of, perhaps even used, but only just today do I realise that all my pages still have this bloody little line of logic which says that if you're not coming in via a Microsoft or Netscape product then you're not going to the graphical site.

Not exactly earth shattering but annoying. The kind of little detail that keeps web people from going offline and leading normal lives because there's systems of hypertext to tend. Seasonal code re-writes and winter filing. Thank Christ for the sniffer though. Without all that high tech browserspotting available for free download, maintained by selfless people down there in the system somewhere, I may have had to get in there and get dirty myself. Gah!

So at some point soon my site will be tediously amended to recognise the existence of new web browsers and it will suddenly become a whole lot less annoying to some people.

Posted by .M. at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

The Fog of War

Errol Morris' new film, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, is a documentary that rolls around in your head for a long time after. I wrote down the eleven and I think I'm going to have to dwell on them for a while. Information warmongers take note:

  1. Empathasise with your enemy
  2. Rationality will not save us
  3. There is something beyond one's self
  4. Maximise efficiency
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war
  6. Get the data
  7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong
  8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
  9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
  10. Never say never
  11. You can't change human nature
Posted by .M. at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Enterprise IA roadmap

Louis Rosenfeld has published a useful enterprise IA roadmap to propose how formal and flexible information system activities can be grouped together. I particularly like the way he suggests parallel "guerrilla" IA using weblogs and wikis to complement and nurture knowledge management.

It is a perspective I share as someone who is often asked to help sort out enterprise "technical" issues which turn out to be more about social issues and a flagrant disgard for knowledge management.

Posted by .M. at 05:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vendor lock-in catch-22 case study

Migrating away from Microsoft products is a catch-22 for many organisations and strategies are often counter-intuitive. A report on London's Newham Council on The Register, How to help MS, harm OSS by not buying Microsoft is a great illustration of this.

NOT spending several hundred thousand pounds and upgrading their Microsoft Exchange Server licenses actively works AGAINST plans to move to Linux desktops...

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OSS CMS winner - Plone

Last year, Plone was the surprise winner of a competition held by O'Reilly Network and OSDir for readers to nominate their favourite open source software content management system.

Given the slow but steady take-up of Python, and Zope in particular, this product may be just what a lot of organisations are looking for - a CMS with full workflow capabilities that can be used as a replacement for expensive proprietary CMS products.

Posted by .M. at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Don't spit

Walking past gloomy grey Victoria Station in London this morning I overheard a soundbite between some police and an irate railway steward who had apparently just been spat on by a hostile commuter.

"What we do is we get the DNA from the guy who spat. Come this way..."

As she was led off, presumedly to have her spit scraped, I couldn't help thinking of the possibilities. No spitting more in the streets. No more chewing gum. Next time there is gum on your shoe, post it to the cops to be analysed.

Posted by .M. at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Characteristics of a new authoritarianism

The Human Rights Council of Australia has published a thought-provoking paper, AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY: Challenging the Rise of Contemporary Authoritarianism. The eloquent and well researched piece describes "the Government's methodology for driving the political changes arousing our concern."

The following "key characteristics" lifted from the paper ring disturbingly true about the UK government as well, especially in relation to its relationship with the non-government sector. Trust me, I'm a contractor.

  1. Creating a political climate dominated by fear, insecurity and division.
  2. De-legitimating dissent (including, for example, through the demonisation of those putting alternative positions)
  3. Limiting the capacity of “other voices” (including, for example, by restricting functional capacity [resources] and their public standing)
  4. Controlling access to and the use of information.
  5. Co-opting or even coercing potential dissenters (including, for example, through exploiting increasing financial dependence and the use of contractual provisions).

Posted by .M. at 06:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Direct Democracy

There seems to be a renewed and vigorous attempt underway in both the UK and Australia to get some form of credible political opposition going. Getting rid of the current turkeys may be a good idea but I don't seem to be alone in wondering whether the democratic system in either country has any real chance of getting any better without major upgrades.

I'd never paid much attention to talk about direct democracy but now I'm quite fascinated about the budget required to keep thoughts like this out of the popular mindset and away from mainstream media, especially in the wake of war.

As I browse around sites promoting direct democracy initiatives world-wide, and greater civilian responsibility in how countries are run, I can't help noticing that a widely cited "Americans for Representative Democracy" website (http://www.afrd.org/) is down.

Posted by .M. at 06:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kindy Royale

Another film comp entry, this time a 30 second clip for Gaijin magazine. It was fun in sunny Sydney making Kindy Royale with my nephews, already well versed in the ancient art of battling.

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January 10, 2004

The State of Perl

In 1994, after leaving university I decided to teach myself a new programming language. We had been taught various languages at university already but I was intrigued by the Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister (Perl). Ten years on and I guess I'm still a Perl programmer. Very rarely, admittedly. I'm trying to avoid contact with computers (ha!), let alone development, but it's still my fave swiss-army soft.

The tireless community around Perl is still at it. A recent essay on The State of Perl [Jan. 09, 2004] sets out a vision for a language and philosophy that still seems pretty fresh to me.

"Why do we use Perl every day? Because Perl scales to solve both small and large problems. Unlike languages like C, C++, and Java, Perl allows us to write small, trivial programs quickly and easily, without sacrificing the ability to build large applications and systems. The skills and tools we use on large projects are also available when we write small programs.

Perl's success ... is not predicated on some other language's failure. Perl's success hinges upon helping you get your job done." There's more than one way to do it.

Posted by .M. at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Anatomically Correct Oscar

Dear oh dear. In all the "extensive" media coverage I missed this one. It appears that some other women out there harbour aspirations to be half decent directors. Pretty bold. Maybe they're terrorists.


Copyright 2002 Guerrilla Girls Inc.

Here's some trivia. No woman has ever won the Best Director Oscar. Only two women have ever been nominated for the award. That's the same number of women listed in The Guardian's recently published article "Top 40 World's best directors" (Lynne Ramsay and Samia Makhmalbaf). This story is far more interesting IMHO but guess which piece ended up getting syndicated all the way to the Sydney Morning Herald. That's right, no anatomically correct Oscar. What's the story there?




Posted by .M. at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack