Car Wheels

How many of you remember that question on the driver’s license test that talks about which way you are supposed to turn your wheels when you park on a hill? Not very many is seems. On the way up the hill in the bus this morning I was watching the cars parked on the side of the street. About two thirds of them didn’t angle their tires at all; of those who did angle their tired, it was split cleanly half and half as to which direction they were turned. What I can’t figure out is, of those one sixth of the people who actually had their tired turned the direction they were supposed to, did they actually know what they were doing or did they just get lucky?

Free tech support

My aunt called me last week. I really like her, but I was never as close to her as some of her other neices and nephews, so I was rather surprised that she called. It turned out she had a computer problem, and that after she called some of those other neices and nephews and they couldn’t help her, she decided to call me. Now, I’m usually fine helping people out with computer problems, but when she started off with "My Internet Explorer is broken…" I knew it wasn’t going to get very far. I tried to explain to her that I haven’t used IE in like five years, and even then I only did it because I didn’t have any other choice. She asked what I use. "Fire what?" (she had never heard of it). I told her to go to mozilla.org, but she couldn’t spell mozilla correctly. "M-O-Z-I-L-L-A" She said she’d look it up. I wonder if she ever really did….

Finding Software II

I just remembered why I started the previous post last week. I’m trying to find a decent free text editor program to use for web development. It basically needs to have the following features:

  • Support for opening multiple documents in a tab like structure
  • Quick startup (on a brand new, but low end) machine

What I would really like:

  • Syntax highlighting and automatic indentation for source files
  • Some way of saving multiple workspaces, so I can easily open up all the files for a certain project and then close that and open up all the files for another project.

What I don’t need/want:

  •  WYSIWYG html editing. I’m just fine doing it by hand
  • Toolbar buttons that insert tags into html source files. I can type ‘<b>’ a lot faster than I can move my mouse up to the toolbar and click on the "bold" button. I consider this feature so useless I was amazed at how many of the text editors I tried insisting on including it.
  • So many other crazy obscure features that the interface is so cluttered that it takes forever to start up and you can never find what you want.

 

The key factor for me is simplicity. I want something clean and small and useful.  Right now I am using a very old text editor called Mini Notetab, which was really great back in its day, but hasn’t been updated since like 1997 (although the fact that it’s still usable eight years later says something about the quality of the original design).

 Now, I know that nobody ever comments on this blog, but I’ve seen the server logs and there are thousands of people who end up here, so if anybody has, uses, or knows of a good free text editor that might be close to what I’m lookig for, please drop me a note in the comment form.

Finding software

 
Three observations about the current state of free (speech or beer) software currently available:
  1. There is a lot of it.
  2. Most of it sucks.
  3. For any given area or program type, there is usually at least one really good free software package out there.
The problem is that even though number three is almost always true-that there usually is a free program that will do what you need somewhere-numbers one and two make it very often near impossible to find that program.  The result is that you have to sort through dozens of stupid or badly written programs before finding a good one that actually does the job you need.
 
One of the great things about the web, but sometimes also one of the worst things about it, is that the publishing entry barrier is essentially zero-meaning that any old fool can put up a website with whatever content or program downloads he wants. In other areas, like that of printed books, there was traditionally (and still is) a middle agent-publishing firms for example-whose job it is to filter out the crap and make sure that only the highest quality content makes it within reach of the consumer. (Now, looking at some of the books currently being published and sold you might not believe this to be true, but if you’d ever seen a sample of the types of manuscripts that end up in these publisher’s submission boxes you wouldn’t complain.) On the internet there isn’t a filtering agent between content creaters and content users, so it’s up to the users to attempt to find the good stuff and avoid the junk. Things like Google’s page rank and other directories and information collections attempt to solve this problem be showing users the "best" content, although it’s sometimes hard to say what exactly the best is.
 
I don’t really remember where I was going when I started this post, but it’s been sitting in my unfinished post bin for two weeks now, so I should probably put it up or something.

Yahoo Spam

I wonder if Yahoo! realizes that the spam filters in Yahoo Mail are so good that they actually filter out the spam that yahoo itself sends to its users?

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