May 09, 2002
Email Warfare The art of office e-mail war by David Miller : Ah the joys of corporate email politics. Email is quick, easy, and it offers the sender nearly immediate access to anyone on a corporate network. Miller goes through a variety of different strategies for manipulating e-mail, some of which are quite amusing. Personally, I haven't really been a part of the more nefarious strategies, though I often use email's obvious strategic value. We don't have BCC where I work, so that leaves out some of your average backstabbing stories. One thing I've found useful, though, is that CCing my bosses while requesting something from someone else will almost always yield faster results than if I didn't CC them. When people see the boss's name attached, they know they better get things done quickly and efficiently. This, of course, leads to my boss getting upwards of 500 emails a day, so I try and use this only when I need it... [Thankee James]
Posted by Mark at 01:09 PM
January 11, 2002
In the beginning... In the Beginning was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson: An intelligent essay dealing with the trials and tribulations of computer Operating Systems. Of course one of the big problems he discusses is Metaphor Shear (which is basically the point at which a metaphor fails), which is ironic because he uses quite a few metaphors himself in the essay. One of the best is when he relates the Hole Hawg (an incredibly powerful drill that with drill through just about anything, but also incredibly dangerous because it has no limitations or cheap safeguards to protect the user from themself.) with the Linux operating system. The essay is a great read, and goes into much more than just Operating Systems. Highly recommended.

If you like Stephenson's fiction, you might also want to check out The Great Simolean Caper, an interesting story set in the not to distant future. It shares some common ground with Stephensons other work (namely, Snow Crash) and is quite an enjoyable read. Its also a bit scary, because it brings up quite a few security and privacy concerns. With the advent of digital cable and set-top boxes, companies are starting to track what you are watching on television, whether you like it or not. I've seen the data myself, and I think the advertising industry is going to go wild when these numbers start piling up (the data I saw showed enormous spikes and troughs roughly coinciding with commercials). The sneaky set-top boxes in Stephenson's Caper might seem unlikely, but we're really not too far away from that right now...
Posted by Mark at 03:27 PM
November 14, 2001
Opera 6.0 beta Opera 6.0 for Windows Beta 1 was released yesterday. I fell in love with Opera 5.x; it became my favourite browser for a number of reasons. With Opera 6.0, I was looking forward to a host of new and exciting features. To be perfectly honest, I don't see much to get excited about. The most noticeable feature is the ability for users to choose between single or multiple document interface (SDI/MDI); this is pretty much irrelevant to existing Opera users like myself, but I suppose it could be an important step in converting users accustomed to competing browsers. The other "big" change is the completely new default user interface, which I despise (fortunately, Opera has the ability to customize the interface:) There are a bunch of other nifty enhancements (and bug fixes), but nothing approaches the big innovative leaps that Opera 5.x made. There are also a few rendering bugs that I suppose will be worked out before the official release. Still, I highly recommend you take the Opera plunge if you haven't already; download the whopping 3.2 mb installation file here.
Posted by Mark at 11:03 AM
June 26, 2001
12:15, Press Return Insert Clint Mansell techno music here
Techno-Thriller, by Ian Frazier : An interesting little parody of computers in movies. I always found it funny that every computer in a movie has its very own unique graphical interface and hardware that is able to process even the most complex calculations in about 3 seconds - complete with comprehensive pie charts and bar graphs. An excerpt:
KEYS: Click-click-click. Click ... click ...

Shot of the fingers moving over the keyboard. Extreme close-up of right index finger moving slowly, slowly, to the Enter key. It pauses above the Enter key for several seconds. Then it hits the key.

Burst of loud, suspenseful music. Sudden close-up shot of computer screen. Flashing, in greenish computer type on the screen, the words ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION
My favourite part of the screenplay is one scene towards the end: "Scene 55: Shot of Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts embracing." There are only two lines of dialogue in the screenplay. Brilliant. [via Ned Blog]
Posted by Mark at 09:19 AM
June 08, 2001
Disjointed, Freakish Reflections™ on Web Browsers Mozilla 0.9.1 was released today, to much fanfare. Even the Slashdotters are praising the latest release, which marks a monumental leap forward over Mozilla 0.9. After downloading it myself and playing with it, I've been very pleased, though I still have a few small gripes (right clicking on the menus should work damnit!). Otherwise it seems like a much leaner, cleaner, faster and more stable build. Great work, Mozilla developers; I'm looking foward to a 1.0 release soon. However, with the news that Netscape is going away, I don't know if any browser will be able to put a dent in Microsoft's stranglehold, which is a shame, because Mozilla is a really great browser. Right now, I'm going to continue using Opera 5.11, because that is the best browser I've ever used - its only dowside is that I can't really use it to post on Blogger or 4degreez.

Some of my previous thoughts on Browsers: Also worth noting is this article and this article by Joel Spolsky illustrating what Netscape did wrong with version 6. Mozilla has come a long way though, and I think by the time 1.0 comes out, there will be little to complain about.

Update: 4:45 p.m. ET
After using Mozilla 0.9.1 all day, I can say that while it has improved greatly over previous versions, it still has a ways to go before it can really compete with IE. I ran into a few bugs and it crashed a couple of times, so its not quite the rock solid browser I was looking for. It doesn't even come close to Opera, which is still my browser of choice. But then, 0.9.1 isn't a finished product, so I still think its coming along well and that the finished product could be worth it.
Posted by Mark at 09:27 AM
May 31, 2001
The Weakest Links No. I would never, ever do such a thing. Trust in me, loyal patrons (all 3 of you). Rest assured, this post has nothing to do with the annoying gameshow of the same title. It has to do with links and usability. Apparently, someone thought up 23 ways to weaken Web site links, from the obvious (broken, wrong) to the subtle (miscolored, unexpected) to the unfairly accused (embedded, wrapped). Its an interesting read, though its funny to note that weblogging, by its very nature, seems to break some of these rules. Especially those pesky memepoolers! [via webmutant]
Posted by Mark at 12:03 AM
May 04, 2001
The sky is falling Its been falling for quite some time now, and some think it won't stop until the internet is dead. Why did it fall, and why does it continue to fall? Could it be the numerous business perversions of the english language? Perhaps dot-com communism is to blame. Its more likely, though, that this industry fallout is indicative of simple growing pains:
"What is happening now happens with every new explosion of technology. When the sky has finished falling, it will leave behind an industry with far fewer, but much healthier players. And then things will get better than they ever were."
Automobiles, television, and video games all underwant similar pains in their infancy, then grew beyond control. Soon enough, we will find that the internet is growing vigorously, even if we have to pay for some things we used to get for free... [via evhead, arts & letters]
Posted by Mark at 02:40 PM
April 30, 2001
Imitation Meme Heromachine is another nice little avatar maker (remember that whole storTrooper craze a while back?) that is themed more towards fantasy and superheros. Once again, its a lot of fun and I made myself a rather bland one, but it'd be pretty easy to make a really wierd one. [Thanks Drifter, via the 4degreez boards.]
Posted by Mark at 01:43 PM