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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.
Permanent link to archive for Thursday, July 20, 2000. Thursday, July 20, 2000

Outlines in XML 

New Frontier verbs, op.outlineToXml and op.xmlToOutline.

("op" stands for "outline processor".)

These verbs serialize and de-serialize outlines, in a new format called outlineDocument.

It's also the format we're using to serialize Scripting News.

We also started an archive of the outlines. Starting today, there's a place to get back issues of Scripting News in outlineDocument format.

Also, if you have comments on the spec, please reply to this discussion group message.

933 Mhz 

My new machine arrived. I'm running it now. So far so good. I haven't yet experienced its fastness. I expect that to happen when I run some scripts. Now it just seems like a new empty machine, I have to get all my software set up.

As we installed the new machine, I said to Bierman, pointing to stacks of CDs that cost thousands of dollars, "I wish I could just throw these in the trash." Not yet, but sooon, I hope.

I also switched to DSL, the T1 is now dangling in space, a safety net in case the DSL is too flaky to use. DSL is slower, but a lot cheaper. It now takes approx 20 seconds for me to save my outline on the server, where it used to take about two.

Another difference, I'm running Windows 2000 on my desktop. Unfortunately ImageReady doesn't work on this OS, there's a new release I still have to get. So don't expect new images on Scripting News until that outage clears.

BTW, it's a Dell. We eventually made contact with them at a professional level. We had been buying from the "wrong part" of Dell, they said. Now we buy from the right part. I still have no idea what that means, except that when there are problems they fix them. That's all I can ask for I guess, except I wanted the same for Scripting News readers, but they had no idea what I was talking about

A very crude benchmark of the performance of the machine, probably only meaningful to Frontier people.

As if that wasn't silly enough, here's another crude test.

Today's song 

Mountain: Mississippi Queen.

A gritty down-home Louisiana hard rocker.

Today's idea 

CD ROM burners at Internet cafes around the world. Napster. Fast net connection. Per-hour fee. Tunes to go.

(Now that I'm on DSL I'm coming up with ideas on how to rent bandwidth. I think there may be such a thing as virtual bandwidth. If the net result is I don't wait for something to happen, I can make DSL work for me. I think this is an important point. For this reason I'm glad I have a slower net connection. It'll make my software better. Yeah I already totally hate it. I'm just saying this to try to make me like it more.)

Today's bug 

Just so you know, we're working on a music player program. It's got a really neat bug. It's possible to play two songs at once. Right now I'm listening to Hey Jude overlayed on 10CC's I'm Not In Love. I've never heard anything like it. I think I like it.

It's even worse than I thought. I had two copies of 10CC running, out of synch with each other. So there were echoes that were hard to pick up. I found this out when I shut down one of the players. There was still a copy playing.

Paul Nakada sent a pointer to The Tactile12000, a "3-D, interactive simulation of a DJ setup - two turntables and a mixer. You can crossfade, backspin, and speed up and slow down music, including full-length WAVE and MP3 songs, on your computer."

Top-Level Tech Links o' the Day 

Edd Dumbill released a new beta of XML-RPC for PHP.

Wes traces the history of Unix with an ironic twist.

Why not take PythonWorks 1.0.1 for a test drive?

Or you could poison their drinking water 

In tomorrow's NY Times, a letter to the editor with an idea that I've heard from a (nameless) former music industry exec.

"Recording companies and publishers could produce virus-laden versions of their copyrighted material for less-than-legitimate distribution sources on the Internet."

It's a good thing it's technically impossible; I believe they would do it if they could.

Napster news 

News.Com: Movie studios sue Scour. "The lawsuit is sure to send waves through Hollywood. High-profile agent Michael Ovitz, who has represented many of the movie industry's top stars and has helped shift the balance of power between actors and studios, is one of the leading investors in Scour."

Christoph Pingel says Rapster really works. Mac only.

NY Times: "Tens of thousands of aspiring rock stars are happily using the technology to give their music away -- and more than a few are beginning to see some payoff."

News.Com interviews RIAA chief Hilary Rosen. "Innovation is certainly here to stay. Peer-to-peer is here to stay. There are lots of interesting uses for it. But I do think that the people who want to commercialize it have an obligation to help develop those business models. I don't think it should always be our obligation to come and hit someone on the head and say, 'Hi, remember us? We're making the stuff that your people want to use your great technology for.'"

TechWeb: Software industry feels threatened by Napster. "Jack Krumholtz, Microsoft's director of federal government affairs and associate general counsel, told a congressional panel that the threat of software piracy and revenue losses as a result of software being swapped via technology like Napster is real and is a concern for Microsoft and the industry at large."

AP: Bertelsmann buys CDNow for $117 Million. "For CDNow, the deal ends a search for a merger partner that began in March when a deal with the direct-sales music club Columbia House fell apart. CDNow has suffered the fate of many Internet companies this spring, seeing its stock tumble to a fraction of its offering price as investor enthusiasm dwindled."

More links on The Napster Weblog.

Is P2P just hype? 

On the decentralization mail list, Lucas Gonze asked if P2P was just hype, or is there any substance to the idea of running a server on your desktop?

I believe there is substance, and explained as follows.

It's the joy of running a server. (Without the pain.)

The first joy is watching the hits come in and wondering who all those people are.

In Napster the hits don't come very fast, it takes a long time for most people to download a song. It's cool because you can really ponder who the person is. And even better, you can ask them! (Napster has integrated chat, most web servers don't, a shame.)

I recognize this as a meditation I used to do with WebSTAR. I'd sit down in front of the server (it was in a different room) and watch the log scroll, wondering who these people are, coming from so far away, or from powerful companies, reading some obscure howto on the Frontier site, or whatever. It's the other side of writing, watching people surf your site. A very small percentage of us have had the oppty to do this, but what a useful meditation it is.

The other cool thing about running a server, that Napster does not address, is the convenience of editing content. On my old Mac server (now long gone) I used to entertain my friends by opening the home page of my site in BBEdit. I'd change a word, press Cmd-S, and then refresh the web browser. "That's easy!" my friend would say, yes, it's almost magical. Instead of 18 steps to update your site, or even 3, it's 1. There's no more convenient way to edit for the Web than to have a server on your machine. Then it's a small matter to have the changes percolate up when you want to disconnect.

We're adapting Pike to that model now.

Open Source sheltered? 

CamWorld reports from the O'Reilly Open Source Convention in Monterey CA. "Surprisingly there is very little extended discussion about Microsoft and their .NET initiative. Part of me chalks this up to it being a very open source kind of crowd who learned a long time ago how to live without Microsoft and their products. Another part of me thinks it's because Microsoft is purposely being very vague about the whole concept and people aren't willing to make any bets on it yet."

Cam, I have a different theory. I offered to come talk about Dot-Net. Never got a response. Something else is going on there. My theory is that Open Source is a world unto itself, like the Mac, or Windows, or CORBA; and not open to ideas that come from outside their community. (See Tim Bray's comment, below.)

There are some great minds behind that firewall, and if it were truly open to new ideas there would be a mission that would tie all the work together in ways with great meaning for users. I had hoped that by now we'd all be working together on such a mission.

Cam, please keep the reports coming, try to go a little deeper if you can, ask questions about the larger world, see if there's an idea for what Open Source will mean to users, not just to developers. And if you don't hear it there, my best advice, based on a lot of years in this business, is to broaden your horizons beyond the limits of the Open Source community.

PS: I'm sure my friends at Microsoft are having a good chuckle about this. All the time we were developing SOAP I was telling them that I hoped to get the Open Source world to come eat their lunch. Ha ha!

PPS: More thoughts in the DG.

Tim Bray's comment on Open Source 

"Open Source may be great but it's not imaginative.

"All OSSers do is take ideas that have already proven to be useful and workable (Unix, Web servers, programmable text editors, SOAP) and re-implement them with a different (arguably better) engineering process.

"For the OSS community, ignoring .NET is a sensible approach because: (a) it's too hard to understand what .NET is, and (b) OSS only reacts to actual software, not vaporous statements of direction, and (c) if it turns out that parts of it work, then someone will get around to rebuilding those parts on OSS lines."

Vive la difference 

The Open Source world seems so far away from the Mac world, where the color of your CPU is a fashion statement.

BTW, there must not be many Mac developers at the Open Source Convention, since MacWorld Expo is going on right now in New York.


Last update: Thursday, July 20, 2000 at 9:58 PM Eastern.

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