Writing from March 2003

More Newton fun

I soon stopped reading the NewtonTalk mailing list as the traffic was just too much. But I've just come across a great summary of all the exciting things still being worked on for these devices whose production stopped five years ago. This came via Splorp which came via Steven Frank's description of connecting his Newton to Mac OS X.

In Newton on 3 March 2003. Permalink

Creating a 1980s virtual world

I'm currently reading True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (US, UK) which is based around the story by Vernor Vinge with a lot of mostly cryptography-related essays padding the volume out. One of the best essays however is by Chip Morningstar and recounts the building and running of Habitat, an online multi-player world using Commodore 64 computers whose construction began in 1985. I'd never seen it before, and while the hardware on which the software ran is old the essay is still, I'm sure, remarkably relevant. Not to mention entertaining.

In Misc on 4 March 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

I’m now available in French!

Well, my Introduction to weblog terms for weblog readers is anyway. Christophe Ducamp offered to translate it in order to make it available to a wider audience. Being translated is peculiarly pleasing!

In Movable Type on 6 March 2003. Permalink

Testing font sizes

Update, 10 March 2003: You can ignore this now as I've since changed how font sizes are specified.

A few people have complained recently that the fonts on this site are too small to read without resizing them in their browser. This has puzzled me as I've been unable to replicate the problem on any browser I've tried. So, if you have a moment, please help with my little font size experiment...


In Web Development on 6 March 2003. 5 comments. Permalink

Road geeks

You know how great it is when you stumble across a site that's insanely obsessed by a subject you'd previously thought immune from geekery? And how they're usually poorly designed with awkward fonts and distracting background images? The UK Roads Portal gets a tick in all boxes. But some of the sites it links to escape the awful design, particularly Chris's British Road Directory. "CBRD" contains more than you'd ever need to know about the country's roads, including a Windows-based motorway simulator. The level of glorious geekery can be summed up in the results of a poll titled "Which road is least deserving of its 'M'?"

Surprise surprise - the A6144(M) is winner of the least deserving motorway award! The M67 and M271 are tied, while the A627(M) gets a reprieve, despite its halfway roundabout!


In Misc on 7 March 2003. 3 comments. Permalink

Changing Movable Type archive URLs

I've wanted to change the way Movable Type generates the URLs for Individual archive pages for some time. Although I was pleased with the dated directories, the numbered file was ugly and meaningless (eg, /phil/writing/2003/03/07/000456.php) unlike, for example, Tom's sensibly named files. But I didn't relish manually creating a .htaccess file to redirect users from the old URLs to the new pages.


In Movable Type on 9 March 2003. 4 comments. Permalink

Internet Explorer’s font size strangeness

Last week I asked readers to help me work out why some people found the fonts on this site too small to read. In some, if not all, of the cases where this happened, Internet Explorer was set with the Text Size (under the View menu) set to Small. This reduced the text to an unreadable level when the CSS specified sizes in ems, but only reduced it slightly when specified as percentages.


In Web Development on 10 March 2003. 17 comments. Permalink

Big bag of words

When someone posted the quote below to The Well I feared Greg Costikyan's 'Talk Like a Gamer' article would make me feel terribly high-court-judge-like.


In Misc on 13 March 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Happy birthday Wired

Wired is ten years old. Gary Wolf writes about what things were like ten years ago. But nothing in the article resonates with me. Is it because I was in the UK? (Although 1993 was, coincidentally, the year I first visited the US and San Francisco.) Or because I didn't really get into Wired-type stuff for at least another six months? Or because I didn't discover the magazine for another 11 months? I don't know, but Wolf doesn't make me think "wow, was that only ten years ago!?" or "wow, I'd forgotten things were like that!"

But whatever, despite that, despite everything, happy birthday Wired. Because in a number of ways you changed my life.

In Misc on 14 March 2003. 2 comments. Permalink

New old photos

I've finally got round to sorting out some photos from the past couple of years. There are shots of Madrid, Chamonix, Philadelphia and, my favourites, Walton-on-the-Naze.

In Personal on 17 March 2003. Permalink

"New!" markers in Movable Type

Over on Pepys' Diary it's not unusual for each day's entry to have 20-30 comments posted to it. Because these discussions are currently all displayed by Movable Type there are none of those interface clues common to forum systems that indicate what a user has yet to read, or which entries (or topics, as they'd be on a forum) have the latest comments.


In Movable Type on 18 March 2003. Permalink

Ethical ISAs

Approaching the end of the financial year there are always adverts and articles advising anyone who hasn't yet done so to stash some money in an ISA (everyone in the UK is allowed to save a few thousand pounds per year tax free in one of these bank accounts). If you're planning to do so by 5 April, or plan to do so after, it's worth looking at ethical options. These may not offer quite as much interest as conventional accounts, but at least you're unlikely to be contributing to the kinds of activities that have got us all in this current mess. It's well worth a few quid to be sure your money isn't buying and selling weapons behind your back.


In Misc on 19 March 2003. Permalink

Questioning time

What he said.


In Television on 21 March 2003. 1 comment. Permalink

Do as Cal says

Cal has a great article about writing robust PHP. Specifically, making it less vulnerable to malicious or dumb users, less erratic on different PHP set-ups, and generally much betterer. PHP is so forgiving that coders tend to get extremely sloppy. I know I do; becoming re-acquainted with Perl's rigour after months of PHP was a shock to my system recently. Perhaps error_reporting(E_ALL); should be the first thing PHP coders type, the equivalent of Perl's use strict;?

In Web Development on 25 March 2003. Permalink

That summer feeling

With British Summer Time looming this weekend I wondered whether I'd need to change the timezones of my Movable Type weblogs. I would, after all, now be in UTC+1. But, as Yoz describes quite wonderfully, it's best to leave well alone. Probably.

In Movable Type on 28 March 2003. Permalink