Older blog entries for dorward (starting at number 13)

18 Feb 2005 (updated 18 Feb 2005 at 15:15 UTC) »

Coding Email

A question at PerlMonks led me to produce an explanation as to why you can't track email that I'm quite pleased with. (Later: Even more pleased with it now - its gained the highest reputation one of my nodes has achieved on PerlMonks so far)

Web Caching

Filangy appears to be a tool to log webpages visited, allow bookmarking of specific ones, and search them. Browsers already have most of these features, but this makes the cache persistent and allows better searching.

It looks quite interesting, although more in the "that might be useful to implement locally" sense then wanting to let an anonymous company know about all the webpages I ever visit. I'm still feeling a little burned by Six Apart after their unexpected introduction of fees for Movable Type. At least, since I was using their software, not their services, they couldn't hold my data hostage.

Web Standards

ZDNet have produced a few pages on the future of forms.

As far as I can gather, the W3C thinks people should use XForms on the client side. Meanwhile WHATWG thinks people should use Web Forms instead.

According to ZDNet, The Mozilla team are backing Web Forms, but that doesn't stop there being an official Mozilla XForms project going on too. ZDNet might be wrong though, there is little mention of WHATWG on Mozilla.org. They quote Brendan Eich as saying "XForms is not a Web standard" - but what is a Web Standard anyway?

I can't see myself moving away from HTML 4.01 / XHTML 1.0 forms for the near to medium future. There might be some useful JavaScript coming out of WHATWG, but I doubt I use much without altering it to remove the need to use non-standard attributes.


Tigert moved to a new server and his entire RSS feed found itself dumped on Planet Gnome. This had the useful side effect of reminding me of his notes on configuring a laptop touchpad which I really should get around to trying out on my little machine.

Come to think of it, I should give it a complete overhaul. I need to pick myself a nice undemanding window manager and set up the multimedia keys that float on either side of the power button. KDE and Gnome are a little large for a machine with that little RAM. I could also do with cleaning up the boot process and removing all the stuff I don't need.

Maybe its time to try out the development version of Ubuntu on it? The main thing holding me back from that is the graphics chip - its a weird Via CLE266 that is a bit of a pain to get working with X, so I don't like to change the X server on it.


Advogato seems to do some very interesting stuff to my HTML. I think I'm going to have to do some interesting massage work with Tidy before I import any of it into my CMS (when said CMS is eventually written)


  • JavaScript toy keyboards for security - I'm speechless (and glad I'm not one of Citybank's customers).
  • Sabayon looks like a very nice tool for the sysadmin in a large organisation (it configures standard user profiles - new designer joins? Set up a new user and give them the "designer" desktop profile). When its up to gold release quality it will be another strong plus for the Gnome desktop.
  • F-spot seems to have dramatically increased the frequency of releases. This is good. It might be time to give it another go.
  • Amazon have a trailer for the new H2G2 movie. Its looking quite promising.
  • A dead patent law
17 Feb 2005 (updated 18 Feb 2005 at 14:40 UTC) »


Work on my own CMS is going slowly thanks to a combination of three factors.

  • I'm trying to fight the temptation of just reimplementing the CMS we use at the office
  • I'm focusing more on some Steampunk writing that has managed to grab my attention.
  • My computer keeps having horrible problems which I'm blaming on the graphics card. I got a new graphics card on Tuesday, but that didn't work at all, so I've got to send it back to Dabs.com. Shame their returns system is throwing JavaScript errors at me...


Meanwhile, I've taken a break from the entire Dune Sequence and have been reading dead romance, which is excellent. I'm thinking about writing a little what I've read system which I can plug in to the CMS and thus bore people with lists of books.


Since my last entry my phone line has been installed and ADSL activated (I ended up back with Demon). Would you like to guess where the master phone socket was?

  • In the living room?
  • In the bedroom?
  • In the hall, where there was no socket by just a blank faceplace?
  • or at the back of a cupboard under the fuse box?!

Somebody had fun designing my flat!


  • Napster DRM Bypassed - Virtual loopback cable demonstrates, once again, that DRM is worthless. I'm astonished.
  • Microsoft makes another U-turn. I'm astonished. (OK, no more sarcasm today, I promise)
  • Hula looks like it is going to turn into a respectable calendar server. I'll try it out once the connector for Evolution is available.
  • A parent's primer to computer slang is at least better then paniced overcontroling parents pulling the plug on their children's Internet access for the satanic influences but I'm really glad that the 'leetspeak' community doesn't overlap much with any community I'm a part of.
  • Microsoft, again, rants about interoperability. Opera responds.

gadek: 5 days? You're so lucky! It is eight weeks for me (6 weeks for a phone line, then 2 weeks to get ADSL activated on it). (ETA: 27th Jan now)

A couple of days ago, zeenix mentioned he had overwritten his diary (and I would have responded sooner if not for the lost account issue).

The good news is that I archive the HTML pages I have rawdog generate from RSS et al. This means I have 88MB of HTML from all the feeds I subscribe to going back to last June. So, I thought it would be a fairly trivial operation to recover the lost entries with a splash of Perl.

use strict;
use warnings;
use HTML::Parser;
use HTML::TreeBuilder;
foreach my $file_name (@ARGV) {
        my $tree = HTML::TreeBuilder->new; # empty tree
        my @elements = $tree->find_by_attribute("class", "item feed-6e2302e9");
        # feed-6e2302e9 is the id of elements that a third
        # party scrapes from advogato recent log and provides
        # as an RSS feed to a few people
        # Since it has all Advogato entries in it we need to
        # Parse the HTML to look at the name of the person
        # who wrote it. Advogato puts that in the title of the
        # entry.
        foreach my $node (@elements) {
                my @title = $node->find_by_tag_name('h3');
                if ($title[0]->as_text =~ /zeenix/) {
                        print $node->as_HTML;

It seemed like a good idea, but it looks like the missing entries never made it to my feedparser, perhaps not even onto Advogato. So this is the best I can do.

My account vanished a few days ago, I've been hoping that waiting a few days would see it restored from backup, but then I noticed that I was not alone and that recreating the account would get my data back.

So, here I am with a new account very similar to the old one, but lacking all the certification.

Nutella, what <br> and <nobr> tags? http://w3.org/TR/html4/index/elements.html

That's the problem with non-standard extensions to a language; they aren't standard.

Spatial Nautilus and OS X Finder

Gnome 2.6 final isn't out yet, so I haven't tried Spatial Nautilus out yet, but I have attacked the preferences on my office Mac to turn back on the spatial features of Finder (shouldn't that be iFinder?). I have to confess, it isn't as bad as I expected.

The first thing to note is that I tend towards have large numbers of nested directories, this could very quickly lead to the desktop being cluttered with hundreds of windows. Mac solves this with the Alt key, holding it down while one opens a directory leads to the old window closing a few moments after the new open opens. The visual effect is very cute (as the new window bursts out of the old folder icon). I believe I read that Nautilus is implementing something similar, using the middle mouse button (thank goodness - I hate keyboard + mouse combos), I wonder if there will be equally cute window opening effects?

I was going to comment on what I saw as a failing in Finder - there didn't appear to be any quick way to open the containing directory. The options seemed to be 'going through the menus' or a two key keyboard shortcut. Then I found the option, a 'path' icon that lists all the ancestor directories. I remember reading that Nautilus has something like this in the lower left hand corner, the author of that article complained that it didn't look sufficiently button-like.

This, combined with the alleged speed improvements, might be enough to get me to start running Nautilus full time. Perhaps.

Gnome 2.6

A preview of Gnome 2.6 is out, and I have to admit that its looking cuter with each release. The bulk of the changes focus on Nautilus, which has gone 'spatial', I can't say that the concept thrills me, my favourite file manager of all time (not counting the command line) is still winfile.exe. Its been a long time, but I think the only reason I gave it up becuase the version that came with Windows 95 couldn't cope with long file names. When I started using explorer.exe I made it a point to turn off the "New window whenever I open a folder" option, and to make sure the "Up one level" icon was in place on the toolbar. These days I use the command line for most of my file management, even on Mac OS X.

Template support is equally unthrilling, mainly for the above reasons. On the other hand, it might be worth putting together a bash script (or finally getting around to moving to zsh) and coming up with a nice command line template system.

<code>brain@david:~/someproject> ls ~/.templates/
html.tpl    perl.tpl      xhtml.tpl
brain@david:~/someproject> ls
brain@david:~/someproject> t html index.html
brain@david:~/someproject> ls
plan      index.html</code>

It should be pretty simple, just a tiny bit of cp with tab completion. Its the tab completion that will be tricky, mainly becuase I haven't tried writing anything that uses it before.

Metacity and the window list has got some features that I already enjoy in Openbox. ACME has been merged with keyboard shortcuts in preferences, but my keyboard doesn't have multimedia keys on it anyway (on the other hand, its build very solidly and could stop a truck). The wallpaper selector has been improved (I change my wallpaper about once every couple of months, mainly becuase I hardly ever see it through all the windows I have option, feh is enough for me there), and its now easier to change your keyboard layout (fantastic for people who need to work in multiple charactersets, but useless for me).

The GTK File Selector has had an overhall: yes! yes! yes!. It does rather need it, however I am a little dubious about hiding the text entry widgit by default. I tend to type my paths and use tab completion to get about. Oh well, I'll have to try it to see how it works out.

GEdit is not GVim. 'nuff said. The help browser has been improved, but its the help itself that concerns me. It isn't often that I need to dig into help files, but when I do I all too often see placeholder text. The Epiphany web browser sees some more improvements, I might give it another try. Last time I was sent running back to Mozilla (although I now use Firefox).

Applets see some improvement, games meet SVG (so they should look quote cute now), the archive tool learns about RPM (insert more command line bigotry here), the improved character map might be useful on those rare occasions when I need to deal with accented letters, GPDF has improved (just so long as it can cope with the New Frontier ebooks - so far I haven't found anything except Acrobat that doesn't replace chunks of text with white space),and Gnome now includes Dasher (I'm still waiting for the Palm OS port of Dasher).

Conclusions? I'm likely to have another go at converting Dad to Linux, this time with Gnome 2.6, it is looking even more newbie friendly then ever before, but I'm not likely to use it (as a desktop environment) myself. A new file selector is needed, but I'm not sure that this is the way to go. Now I just have to wait for a release and then try it out (my life is way way too busy right now to spend time installing the beta).

Why aren't you using Linux?

Contractor UK asks Why aren't you using Linux?, and then go on to give a very brief overview of open source software. For some reason they feel the need to quote the names of most pieces of software (my grammer isn't fantastic, but doesn't that suggest slag rather then a proper noun?), and made some mistakes (GIMP is not a media player, it is an image manupulation tool, maybe someone lost the paragraph on GIMP and the begining of the paragraph on mplayer).

Lets take the last section:

Some problems do exist though. Mainly that users have to learn a new operating system from scratch.

Which isn't true, there is a lot of overlap between any WIMP system, so you only have to learn about what has changed. The basics are still the same (click on a file to select it / open it, drag a file to copy / move it, etc).

Also, some rough edges remain due to the system’s relatively young age.

Fair point, but I can't say I've ever found a system without any rough edges.

Certain hardware is not supported and certain commercial software programs are not supported.

The same applies to any OS.

There are also some problems in networking Linux with Windows systems.

Like what? Samba even does Active Directory now.

Its somewhat depressing that a piece of advocacy could have so many errors in it, given the size of the FOSS community I would think that it would be quite easy to get a few eyes to proof read such documents to iron out these niggles. I note that the Advocacy mini-HOWTO doesn't mention anything along these lines. Perhaps it should, I've emailed the maintainer for his thoughts on the matter.

Shakespeare in XML

Marked up Shakespeare, how cute. Now we just need some nice style sheets for them.


Well, using Advogato was a nice idea, but it rather limits what I can include (one entry per day and no headings being the big problem for me). So new plan time! Find a suitable blogging system, using it for blog.dorward.me.uk and then export to Advogato using xmlRPC. In the meantime, Advogato will make a decent place to source the data from using Rawdog.

While we're on the subject, I threw together planet.us-lot.org, since community blog aggregators are all the rage at the moment. Odds are that most of the content what would interest people here will be reproduced here and at my blog anyway.


Keith Devens is annoyed with MySQL for not supporting subqueries, which is does, but only if you use 4.1 or newer. Then you run into the new license which some people dislike. On Friday I hit a similar problem with new features being added; the development system I was working on had a version which supported the OFFSET keyword, but the target system didn't. It was resolved by changing "<code>LIMIT $limit OFFSET $offset</code>" to "<code>LIMIT $offset, $limit</code>", once I tracked down the syntax. It was a tad close to the deadline for my liking though.

Messages The User Doesn't Understand

Wil Wheaton likes watching make output scroll by even though he doesn't understand it. This is a theme I've seen a few times, and I know I like seeing Linux kernel/init messages then an anonymous blob doing a KITT impression.

OK, so I understand most of the messages, but even back when I was a DOS newbie I liked knowing that something real was happening, and if something went wrong - well I could see anything obviously different about the boot process. I could (shock) look in the manual to see what the messages mean. Nowadays I could use Google and probably find a solution in minutes.

Once I tried a Linux distro that used bootsplash (or something like it) to hide all the messages. I got really concerned when a boot took much longer then usual. It later turned out that it was running fsck. On my normal system I would have been able to see that it was running fsck and just been frustraited at the wait, rather then worried.

I don't know where I'm going with this, but its good for thought. Simple isn't always user friendly. Or maybe its lack of progress that's the problem. If you can see a bar moving towards 100% then that's good. If the bar hits the end and then starts again, then what?

OK, time to stop waffle on this subject (point out the related article about the newbie friendly command line) and move on to ...

The Toyota

Received a nice letter from the DVLA today, but lets start from the beginning. Dad recently bought himself a new car, its a nice car, and I could't afford it, or the insurance on it. However, there was a little mistake at the dealership and somehow the car has been registered to David A instead of Mike C. Most likely due to somebody picking the first name out of those listed living at my address (I am looking for a house of my own) instead of taking the name written on the form in front of them. Oh well, it will take some time to get this mess sorted out I think.


8 Mar 2004 (updated 8 Mar 2004 at 13:04 UTC) »

I've finally got my domain back, it currently features a pretty graphic pointing towards my other domain rather then redirecting as I felt like showing of a bit of graphic work I put together in the GIMP (I just learned how to create a nice brushed metal effect). Sadly, the first three visitors were:

  1. Me
  2. IRC Victim "Look, I've got my domain back!"
  3. An evil email address harvesting spam bot

Ho hum. I did plan to do something about my personal site, but that plan went out the window thanks to a job I agreed to do. Oh well, at least I learned a few lessons:

  • Do not agree to do rush jobs
  • Get a proper specification
  • Do not agree to do rush jobs

It has been rather a long time since I updated my Advogato diary, and I note that sometime in the past year and a half it has started to produce RSS feeds. New plan: Blog here and generate bits of my site from this feed. Maybe.

  • Does advogato produce full entry feeds? yes

    Update: blog.dorward.me.uk. Its a first draft. Lots of work needed on the CSS and some on the HTML template. Then I need to look into archiving. Thanks for Rawdog, azz

Wow, just noticed my old entry about installing Gentoo. Except for one week using Fedora, I've been using it ever since.


A new release of Hep is available (0.3.1) and it includes my "delete message" patch, still I promptly get irritated by the time it takes to select large numbers of messages for deletion. Wouldn't it be be easier if you could tick a box and change the state of all messages to "ready to delete"? Then you could just skim the message view and only have to aim the mouse at the checkbox to preserve messages you want to keep.

Patch and screenshot on my shiny new Hep page

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