Archive for July, 2004

Respecting my Elders

My parents are visiting and I’m also about to move from one rented house to another and want my deposit back. For both reasons I spent yesterday cleaning the house – a task only marginally better than writing my thesis and roughly on a par with having my genitalia crushed in a vice.

Why was it so bad?* You wouldn’t ask that if you saw the new life-form that had evolved under our cooker over many an unhygenic millenia. It was composed mainly out of rotting food and mould but several small villages could have been lost in there. When I told it that it had to go it told me to “Respect my Elders” and when I tried to remove it by force it tried to attack me, muttering in ancient tongues long forgotten by all civilised people (possibly Welsh?). I stood no chance and I thought it was going to overpower and consume me, adding a whole 0.0001% to its mass but just as it closed in for the kill it caught sight of the mess behind the fridge and ran away screaming. I’m glad it’s all over….

* Parental advisory: this post contains gross exaggeration, unfunny anthropomorphism and one unfounded slur against Welsh. Those with a sense of humour should probably turn back before it’s too late.

Operation Clean-up initiated

My parents are coming to visit tomorrow night and I would rather the house was a bit tidier before they arrived. In software, (neatly following on from my post yesterday), Ben has announced that the next version of Firefox (the “1.0 Preview release”) will be released mid-August

Open Source and Tribalism

When Mozilla’s market share increases I don’t think “Ah well done, they’ve done well”, I think “Woo! go us!”. The community-driven nature of open source encourages a kind of tribalism and sense of identity even in those people like me who are right on the fringes. I’ve filed a couple of bugs, triaged a bug or two and recommended Mozilla (or Firefox) a couple of times to people. My contribution could hardly be any more minimal but I still feel somehow involved. Kind of similar to football in a way; fans (including me) say “We lost 1-0″ (as opposed to “they lost..”) even if they weren’t at the game.

I feel a bit uneasy about the way Firefox’s market share seems to be rapidly increasing at the moment though. I’m concerned that some of the people installing it are very inexpert users who won’t update to later versions as they become available. IE still has one great feature for such people: Windows Update. I know Microsoft don’t fix bugs in anything like the time frame of but in some kind of worst case scenario where there was a devasting flaw which was being very widely exploited, they could at least act. Mozilla could release a patch but it would rely on people to update themselves (at least on Windows) and as their userbase grows to less expert users that’s impractical.

Of course, the developers are one step ahead of me and Firefox is incorporating an automatic update mechasnism but it’s not fully functional in the latest “technology preview” releases, I just wish they’d got it working before all their recent positive publicity. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to remind the people to whom we’ve previous advocated Firefox to upgrade if any major flaw is widely exploited.

I’m really looking forward to the 1.0 release. Go us!

Scary men on trains

This blog has been very quiet recent. I guess it’s a symptom of my current disease; writing thesis-itis. It’s quite hard to do the background reading required after the high of publishing a paper that I’m quite proud of.

I did take time off to go an visit my girlfriend for her birthday though. I foolishly admitted to her dad, who she is staying with at the moment, that I’m allergic to dogs (and by extension even more so to cats) and within 48 hours of me leaving he’d bought her a “surprise” cat. Inspired! I’m now allergic to my girlfriend, but that is another story. The story that I was intending to tell is set on the train on the way home. I was happily reading a magazine in the window seat when some huge, fat guy came and sat down next to me and started to read a really bad tabloid. Fair enough, I was tired (I usually chat to people on trains it’s a quirk of mine) and he didn’t seem to want to talk so we just ignored each other. He folded his newspaper, took out his train ticket and stared at the top of my head (or a point just above it – I’m not sure) and wrote something on his ticket which he then put away. Weird. Then a bit later he got his ticket out, repeated the staring and wrote some more. I’m not sure what was happening but it was quite unnerving especially when it happened yet again.

Still, he didn’t kill me and eat me so I guess the moral of the story is that if people develop a fascination with the top of your head and start to write notes about it then it isn’t always fatal. Other than than I’m not sure what to conclude.