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A speaking cat, imagine that!

I was actually searching for useful stuff for my OS X Panther laptop - like how to:

09:01 PM, 30 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Woohoo - tcl 8.4!

Now that I'm on Aolserver 4 I can ise the funky new tcl comparison syntax and other goodness! (see my previous blog here).

Of course none of my live sites are on AS 4 yet - the next challenge is ssl - time to go look at what oacs code needs to chenge to work with the new improved nsopenssl...

08:32 PM, 30 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Developer Weblog

Just what the world needs, you say, another blog...

Well actually in this case it's designed to give most people LESS information to digest (yay!).

I have started a seperate Developer Blog where i will keep "development related posts" seperate (whatever that means).

Gotta love OpenACS - I decided to start a new blog and it took me, oh, 45 seconds!

You will notice a new tab up the top of this page titled "Dev Blog" which will take you to Mark Aufflick's Developer Weblog. Go on, click it. You know you want to! This blog has it's own seperate RSS feed to keep you RSS feeders happy.

10:22 AM, 30 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

OpenACS on MacOS X Panther (10.3)

Similar to Vinod Kurup's excellent instuctions on installing OpenACS on OSX, I like to use fink for my Un*x goodness on OSX. I started using fink way back on 10.0 - I remember the pain upgrading to 10.1 (or was it 10.2), but since I did a fresh install on 10.3 it was a breeze. It is all so much more polished now.

I am loving being back on OSX - all because it looks like I can get a cheap replacement screen for my original G4 PowerBook from a friend (thanks in advance Rutho).

I decided to go with Postgres 7.4.1 (in retrospect the current OpenACS documentation actually tells Panther users to go with 7.4 instead of 7.3 - Malte as always you are one step ahead). Compiling pg 7.4.1 needs the very latest version of bison which is ahead of both apple and fink, so I had to install bison from source.

With all this manual installing going on, I decided to start an /opt tree, So now I have very clear delineation: /opt is stuff compiled by me, /sw is compiled and/or installed by fink - everything else is from Apple or a standard OSX application/package install.

So my standard ./configure command (as used for both bison and Postgresql) is now:

./configure --with-includes=/sw/include --with-libs=/sw/lib --prefix=/opt

Keeps everything nice and tidy :)

Like Vinod, I decided to manually add --enable-threads to both ./configure lines in fink's .info file /sw/fink/10.3/stable/main/ finkinfo/languages/ for tcl to enable thread support. But instead of sheer laziness (in Vinod's case :P) I actually did it on purpose so that any other fink packages needing tcl (probably plenty) will work ok. Seems like an ok idea to me - but I wouldn't recommend it for anything other than a development machine.

For AolServer 4.0 I used:

./configure --with-tcl=/sw/lib --with-includes=/sw/include --with-libs=/sw/lib --prefix=/opt
so much nicer than the old aolserver 3/ArsDigita configuration files! Note that I have merged everything under /opt - probably better to use the prefix /opt/aolserver .

Note that for some reason, the aolserver sourceforge archive has no tarball for nsrewrite - you have to get it from cvs. Details and other Aolserver 4 installation help is in this OpenACS 5.0 document. Basically, after the above .configure, I did the following to install the required modules:

make install
cd ../nscache
make install
cd ../nsrewrite
make install
cd ../nsoracle
make install
cd ../nspostgres
make install ACS=1 INST=/opt POSTGRES=/opt
cd ../nssha1
make install

I didn't need to edit nssha1.c like Vinod did - the current version only generates a warning which you can ignore.

Ok - AOLServer works now. Time for bed :) GAH - 3:43 am!!

Oops - forgot to install tDom. Unlike in Aolserver 3, we install the tDom library into our system instead of libtdom into the aolserver directory. As per Vinod's instructions, edit the tDOM-0.7.8/unix/CONFIG file by uncommenting the Aolserver 4 section - but modify it to say this instead (again supplying your prefix of choice):

../configure --enable-threads --disable-tdomalloc \
   --prefix=/usr/local/aolserver --with-tcl=/usr/local/lib


make install

If you get "invalid command dom" in your error.log, then aolserver is not finding tdom. Assuming you have installed it, check your LIBRARY_PATH I guess.

09:58 AM, 30 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (2)

Launch of a new Blog

Gotta love OpenACS - I decided to start a new blog to keep my development related posts seperate - and it took me, oh, 45 seconds!

This blog will be where I post "development related" blog entries so that they are easier to find and don't clog up the home page since most people really won't care that I created a new /opt tree on my laptop...

Oh - and so for those of you tracking my blog with RSS, this blog has it's own RSS feed (linked on the right).

09:46 AM, 30 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (2)

Mac OS X Outliners

Having recently re-installed my G4 laptop with Panther, I am setting out to get back my super productive environment (of course having an internal LCD screen that worked might help...)

One big issue is an outliner - the one piece of software that soothes my brain instead of frying it!

I had an ok outliner before, but I can't remember it's name!! It had something to do with strawberry software, and some other name that had trademark issues...

Anyway, while hunting for it I found a few nice bits of software:

    MyMind - outliner and mapper - you can map interesting relationships graphically, and have arbitrary columns, but no concept of a "body" of text per entry...

    Omni Outliner - better than I remember it - this may well be the winner since it fits my outlining paradigm.

Woohoo :D I found my old favourite:
    Shout! My Brain Out - dumb name (due to aformentioned trademark issues), great product. It's been updated more recently than the old version I used to run, and I'm going to have to go license it now that it runs in demo mode, and $USD20 is a bit steep when the incumbant (and slightly more polished) OmniOutliner is $USD29.95
Of course what I really want to do is port the Newton development kit to OS X, but I don't know that the Outliner functionality can be extracted off my MessagePad 2000 into a .pkg :(

12:56 AM, 30 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)


nnovation is a highly sought thing. A simple definition of the word from the American Heritage dictionary is:
The act of introducing something new.
mong other definitions, Websters Revised Unabridged dictionary gives us this botanical meaning of innovation:
A newly formed shoot, or the annually produced addition to the stems of many mosses.
am quite enamoured with this idea—I think that effective innovation in the business community does not always need to be something that has never been done before (otherwise we would all have PhD's)—Instead like the newly formed shoot that comes every spring, we must look for how to produce the same outcome we have always desired (profits, productivity, whatever) with what we have available to us now. What we have available is constantly changing and making effective and innovative use of those things is the main goal.

his Harvard Business School mini case study looks at three developing country business and how they innovate with three main ideas:

  • Know your customers' mindsets—intimately
  • Innovate around—rather than through—the technology
  • Scour the globe for good ideas
  • I
    t's quite short, but an interesting read nonetheless.

10:44 AM, 29 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Mars Rover runs out of flash []

Now I don't feel so bad letting my /var fill up occasionally - the NASA team couldn't contact one of the Mars Rovers for days because their flash memory filled up which made the system constantly reboot. Or something like that.

Also for those of you confused about how to hear a beep in the Marsian atmosphere - I think they mean a network ping...

08:23 PM, 28 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Do You Race? Hell, yeah, I race! []

It's never been done before.

Matt Reilly, or Matthew Reilly as he is known in the U.S., Sydney's own best-selling author, is about to publish a full length action novel, on the Internet, for free.

The sharper readers will remember Stephen King doing a similar "world first" - but he tried to charge money for it (a dollar a chapter or something). A quick google search will show that he never finished (or finished publishing) the book - possibly because noone bought it.

I have raved about Matt's writing in my book reviews (like Contest) - they are fast, furious, and leave tradtional action writers for dead when it comes to pleasing a 21st century blockbuster- raised generation of readers.

To quote the release email (which seems inspired by Apple's Superbowl ad invoking 1984-which incidentally is about to have it's 20th birthday):

Welcome to the future of reading.

On 04.04.04, everything you thought you knew about reading is going to change. Because on April 4, one of the biggest novels of 2004 comes out, but this novel...

HOVER CAR RACER is the first full-length 400-page novel by a major international author to be released on the Internet. Which means it will be available for reading on your computer....for free. The story will be released in 8 cliffhanging parts, each part ranging from 25 to 72 pages, so you can read it at your desk at work during lunchtime, or at school during library period, or you can even print it out and read it on the bus-ride home! Any way you want, just like a book!

You can sign up for his email list, where the first episode will be pre-released. From the catchy date of 04.04.04 you will be able to get further installments on the website You can sign up to the mailing list at that site or Matt's official homepage

08:59 AM, 28 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Bible stories - in Lego! []

The Brick Testament depicts a number of old and new testament Bible stories with Lego blocks and characters. It rates each story with the NSVC ratings (Nudity, Sexual content, Violence, Cursing)!!

The site is created by The Reverend Brendon Powell Smith, who has his own website with the cool URL of - but I'm not sure that he's a genuine reverend, just like Phil Dooley's not a genuine doctor...

10:02 PM, 27 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

McDonalds HotSpots []

I'm not referring to the Hot Apple Pies - which haven't had any hot spots since some lamer sued them for burning his mouth.

McDonalds and BT (British Telecom) have teamed up in the UK to launch wireless hotspots in 500 of their restaurants.

If you get drivethrough I guess you would need to read your email real quick ;)

09:24 PM, 27 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

London Olympics 2012 []

Well bowl me over with a giant sized ferris wheel - London is bidding for the 2012 Olympics! Let me quote from The Economist London Briefing:

The centre of the games would be an Olympic park built in east London, comprising an 80,000-seat stadium, a velodrome and an aquatic centre (which will be built regardless). Tennis matches would be in Wimbledon; archery in the Lord's cricket ground; swimming, cycling and athletics at the Olympic Park; triathlon and road cycling in Hyde Park; baseball and softball in Regents Park; and beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade.

Now apart from the idea of beach volleyball in London, that sounds absoulutely amazing. It would be the next "can't miss" Olympics after Sydney 2000. Even Eton gets a lookin with their new rowing course.

It seems a pity to use Lords for archery though - why not hold cricket as a demonstration sport? It would be yet another gold medal for us to win :)

09:13 PM, 27 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Colons; Semi-colons: What's the big deal?

Some academics, it seems, are getting fed up with them. With quotes such as "People have gone hog-wild with colons." - this article reads more like a page out of than a serious higher education website!

10:56 PM, 14 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Have bullets, will travel

It turns out that a Sudanese man snuck 5 bullets past security at Washington's Dulles airport - a fact that was unnoticed until they were detected at London's Heathrow. (BBC news report here).

Washington airport - who would have thought. Now it's true that five bullets by themselves are not a big deal - even if he had dissasembled them to extract the gunpowder he would have been lucky to set off the smoke detector that is fitted in the toilet because smoking is a safety hazard (that's funny - it wasn't a safety hazard in the 1980s...)

What's a bit scary though, is if there are terrorist groups testing out security methods to find weak points. Maybe this guy could meet up at an airline hub with half a dozen others each with a few pieces of a ceramic pistol...

The Brits were quick to point out that this shows America should be focussing more on ground security and less on ramming sky marshals down everyone's throat. I am inclined to agree - regular sky marshals would mean that there would be at least one gun on every international flight. That concerns me. (more discussion in this article)

In related news, at New York's Kennedy Airport today, an individual later discovered to be a public school teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a setsquare, a slide rule, and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney general John Ashcroft said he believes the man is a member of the notorious al-gebra movement. He is being charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a fearsome cult," Ashcroft said. "They desire average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value.

How the man managed to obtain a slide rule continues to baffle investigators.

10:26 PM, 14 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (1)

What, exactly, is SCO implicating?

Ok, so we all know about the SCO issue well enough by now. I have commented on it a number of times in these pages. But what I, as well as others, have failed to clearly point out, is the usual Linux is not GNU/Linux thing.

I often get annoyed by people who take their high horse on this, thinking "just let the punters think it's all Linux - it's easier for them to understand that way". But now that ambiguity is helping SCO.

You see the only code SCO is complaining about is in the kernel. And as we know, the kernel is just on (very important) piece of the puzzle. We can, though, run almost exactly the same set of software on a different kernel - like *BSD, GNU's own Hurd (running on the Mach microkernel), Apple's opensource Darwin kernel or even non-free kernels like Solaris.

So there really is no reason for the Opensource / GNU movement to be affected by these lawsuits - even if the unthinkable happened and SCO actually won a point or two.

Thank's to Richard Stallman for pointing this out on ZDnet (gee, if you coudln't trust Richard Stallman to point this out - what could you trust!)

07:35 PM, 14 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

HP licenses Apple's iPod technology

According to this press release from Apple (dated January 8th), HP will release an HP branded product based on the iPod. In addition, all HP laptops and desktops will come pre-loaded with iTunes for Windows.

"We explored a range of alternatives to deliver a great digital music experience and concluded Apple's iPod music player and iTunes music service were the best by far." -- Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of HP

Looks like even one of Microsoft's best friends recognises that Apple is lightyears ahead of Microsoft when it comes to personal Audio. Game on!

11:49 PM, 08 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (1)

Linux for Poets []

Nice interview about using linux by a normal person. Well, by a writer anyway. The writers I know are just as far from the norm as computer programmers - just in very different ways!

The interview covers topics like "is using linux hard". My favourite is the following question/answer (excerpts):

Q: Why do you think so many writers use MS Office instead of OpenOffice?

A: They use it because it comes with their $400 Dell specials. Or because they bring it home from work and copy it. ...if you're going to be a welder, you have to know how to use a torch -- for instance -- but for writers, they seem to think they don't need to know how to use the tools of the trade in order to make a living at it. ...

11:45 PM, 08 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Better Linux Virtual Servers []

Linux-VServer takes a different approach to running virual servers than most arrangements - a kernel patch to the host system gives it the concept of "contexts" which is the heart of Linux-VServer.

Essentially, every virtual vserver shares the same kernel as the host system, although they are all full isolated and protected form each other. This means it's no use for testing new kernels (which is on of the main aims of User-Mode linux), but is more efficient for production servers that most of us run.

It makes sense that it's more efficient than User-Mode Linux, and I would guess that it should be faster than VMware as well. (Incidentally I love VMware, and use it on production servers).

Thanks to Guan for the link.

07:07 PM, 07 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (3)

When more can be too much

This article proves by construction that sendmail rewriting rules are Turing-complete.

So THAT's why I hate sendmail configuration! In my mind there are two ways to do configuration files:

  • for simple cases, a .ini type with named groups of name/value pairs (although the .ini format itself sucks)
  • otherwise, use a well know, simple to embed, structured language. The way aolserver uses tcl in it's configuration file is a good example of this (example).

09:51 PM, 06 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Friendly worms

I was just reading about the latest worm that installs a rogue SETI@home client, and it occurred to me that worms could do good as well as harm. I know that it would upset a lot of people, and possibly cause some damage of it's own, but imagine a windows worm that installed the microsoft patch to pluc the specific vulnerability that it exploited. Microsoft could release such a worm every time a vulnerability was discovered.

This would of course only be useful for exploits that allow code to be executed or files to be installed.

People who know me know that I intensly dislike most Microsoft implementations of technology, but I think it is instructive to how we operate as people that if this technology came from, say, the IBM research labs, it would get positive page 2 or 3 IT press reports. If, however, it came from Microsoft, it would get page 1 negative reports - but be implemented anyway.

07:57 PM, 06 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

New Search Engine Technology

Just when it looked like Google had attained an unchallanged monopoly on web searching ideas, a raft of new concepts are garnering press coverage. I like google, I really do. I used it almost exclusively even before it was cool, and when the geeks choice of search engine was still AltaVista (Alta who? I still remember having to go to, but then I'm getting on in my years ;).

My theory is that it is the rise of blogging, rather than spam-like pornographic sites, that are ruining the results from conventional search sites. For example, my referrer logs show that some time this month, a poor hapless internet searcher was searching for "(law and rss )and( not commercial)" which hits my blog entry SCO vs. the World. So this web surfer has gone to roughly 300% more effort than the average person while constructing his or her search string and still they get a less than useful result. I hope they enjoyed my site though!

Not that long ago, you wouldn't have called Google a "conventional search engine" with it's innovative page rank technology, but times move fast, and I guess eventually the pigeons just can't keep up.

I have been playing with a bit which, basically, automatically categorizes the search results into browseable groups of results. Not so exciting, except that the categories themselves are generated from the content of the search results themselves. I am a bit ambivilent about the results so far, I suspect their results would be better if they used google as the underlying index instead of Yahoo, MSN and others.

A different approach is to improve the way you interact with the search results. This is the approach taken by Grokker. Grokker clusters the results, possibly in a similar way to vivisimo but I'm not entirely sure, and then lets you kindof "fly through" the results. It appears to borrow a lot of ideas from Apple's Project X (using their experimental Meta Content Format known as Hot Sauce), which was a new idea in, oh, 1996. Like Project X, it's a nice idea, but I don't see it being a big hit.

A similar concept is behind, but instead of downloading an application, it runs in your browser which is more convenient, and instantly gives it 100 times more chance of surviving. It took me a little while to get used to it, but I quite like it.

Stay tuned for more reports.

02:18 AM, 06 Jan 2004 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)


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