Copyright ©1997-2011 Glenn Fleishman except as noted otherwise. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact Glenn Fleishman at glenn at glennf.com. Photo © 2008 Laurence Chen; used with permission.
Turning technology from mumbo-jumbo into rich tasty gumbo
I was turned on to easyDNS through TidBITS and Adam Engst, its publisher and my friend. I, like most right-thinking people, have been dissatisfied with Network Solutions since 1994. They have never seemed to master the most basic Web technologies: Web-based interfaces, passwords, self-service, databases, etc. It was beyond me that in 1996, they seemed to manage everything through email that was manually entered into databases. It’s beyond me in 2002 that you can’t seem to get them to perform a single transfer correctly, partly because they rely on a complicated system that involves email.
I’ve tried other domain registrars and been left cold. I won’t mention them because none of them demonstrate the incompetence of Network Solutions, but rather just don’t quite get it right. I’ve read a number of articles lately about how Network Solutions has allegedly tried to delay domain registrar transfers to frustrate users when their renewal fees are up.
easyDNS is a breath of fresh air. Their site is well-designed and easy to use. They immediately want you to create a single Web-based account accessed over SSL that you use to manage all of your contact information, domains, and payment. They also throw in more for a low fee than many registrars, including some limited DNS and mail record settings. You can park with them as well.
Their pricing isn’t cheap, but they appear to deliver. After a few weeks of using them, changing records, dealing with their fast and accurate customer service, and trying to yet again get Network Solutions to update my email address in my GF41 handle on their system, I finally snapped. I checked and it’s a simple procedure to transfer domains to easyDNS. You have to pay for a year in advance (at a discounted rate), but you have that year extended by however long was left on your current registration. This is brilliant on their part.
To transfer a domain, you login into your account, click the button to add domains, select transfer, and enter your domain name. You walk through a simple set of options to choose the new service and settings, and approve it. I set up six transfers, and then used their payment page to pay for all of them at once.
I immediately received third-party transfer agreements that required that I click a URL and enter a password provided in email; this method confirmed my email address was valid without having to send email back from it, which is Network Solutions stupid solution to most problems. The verification of transfer was quick and simple. Shortly after that, I received email from Network Solutions. Of course, their first link in the email was a way to stop the transfer. But the second was a subject line to be pastd in to reply email to confirm the transfer. Yup, that dratted email again.
A couple days have passed, and everything went swimmingly. My domains are transferred. I’m out of the clutches (mostly) of Network Solutions. Sure, I paid $25 per domain to transfer, but now I don’t have to renew most of them for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years. In the meantime, all my settings are accessible via the Web, so if I need to change a nameserver pointer or update contact information, I’m not dependent on a system that’s been more or less broken for eight years.
easyDNS also offers an affiliate program: the link at the head of this article includes my affiliate information. So far, I have received 1,300 points: 100 points equals $1 (or perhaps some other trade-in), which means that as people sign up via my link (which I also have on my home page; do you know how many people ask me for a good domain registrar?), my future fees will be discounted as well.
Mike Daisey’s been a busy chap. Following last year’s successful run of his show (including some touring) 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com, he was offered both a book contract and a chance to perform the show off-Broadway. The show is in previews in New York, and his book is due out any day now! He has hilarious and true stories, and an excellent summary of the dotcom craziness. Amazon.com wasn’t as insane as most dotcom firms (they sold real stuff and had real revenue), but as the company grew up and expanded, nonsense invaded it. That nonsense is damn funny. Mike’s site has more information on all fronts.
I just swapped out the meager (wow) 20 Gb hard drive that came with my G4 Cube with a $160 7200 rpm 80 Gb drive (from APS Technologies). The swap out was easy enough, but the prep was tough. A friend warned me that you can’t use Retrospect for X to restore to an empty hard drive. In fact, you not only have to back up all your files using Retrospect (to capture all the tweaky OS X stuff), but you also have to install 10.1.x on the new drive up to the release version of your backed-up volume.
So I did. I pulled a FireWire 60 Gb drive in from home, make Retrospect backups of my two partitions, rebooted to the FireWire drive, initialized and partitioned the new drive, and installed 10.1 on it. Then ran through the updaters to get up to 10.1.3, and then booted from that new drive to run Retrospect and copy everything else.
Miracle of miracles, after rebooting following the copy, my machine is pretty exactly as I left it. With a 30% faster rotational drive with four times the storage. Thanks, Apple!
Adam Curry points to this page that’s supposed to be an objective analysis of media propaganda about evolution. The article reads like a parody, but I believe it’s true. The author dismisses oceans of information and facts without a logical foundation, but then it gets funny. Apple named its Unix underlayment Darwin. Thus, OS X is godless and possibly Satanic. He starts to get hilarious when he connects typing chmod 666 (change a files status to read and write by user, group, and world) to anti-Christian sentiment.
This fellow misses an obvious explanation, the sort of Occam’s Razor needed to look at this matter: a lot of people just plain don’t care about Christianity or its symbolism, and many don’t create things in response to them. He uses stalking horses like Richard Dawkins who is as religious in his atheism as fundamentalists are in their dogma. I refuse to exclude the possibility of the unknowable, as I doubt that I (or Dawkins) can individually and completely understand the nature of the universe with my own senses and capabilities. I can’t transcend existence so why could I pretend that I comprehend existence?
The article is a hoot to read, though. He mentions that Jobs and Woz sold their first Apple for $666. Yeah, they were probably thumbing their nose at somebody. When you watch the early Monty Python, it is chock full of parody and outright ridicule of clerics and religion. I saw interviews with the cast more recently who couldn’t quite recall why they were so obsessed and angry about it; probably the result of parochial school upbringing.
My co-author and I delivered the electronic files yesterday for Real World Adobe GoLive 6, a 900-page opus for intermediate to advanced users of the program, or those that want to reach that status in life. The last three months have been an increasingly intense focus on the book as we wrote tens of thousands of words, tested features, double-checked our conclusions, and laid out the book. We work as book packagers, creating the entire work from start to finish with input from our publisher, Peachpit Press, which has ultimate responsibility for the title. But we hire a copy editor, indexer, artists, etc., and deliver a final result.
We hooked our star to GoLive a few years ago, and this is the third edition of the book. Do I want to spend so much intellectual energy on a single software product? Yes and no. It’s worthwhile, as we know the program so well, and we’re in the revision stage. In this release, Adobe added substantial database/scripting language integration, so you can write PHP-based queries to MySQL through graphical drag-and-drop (or JSP or ASP, etc.). I learned quite a lot about database management and scripting (including PHP, which I had barely touched before) which will benefit my overall approach to things.
The no part of yes and no is that I’ve put out a lot of energy in a small space. Perhaps I should be writing books a la Cluetrain Manifesto, or even books of broader utility. Still, I do what I can do well, and this was a good deal all around. My co-author, Jeff, is a fine writer and collaborator, and the book is something I’m very proud about. Occasionally, readers email us and tell us how our book did change their life — a new job, a raise, a better Web site — and that’s truly what it’s all about. It’s a living, but at the end of the day, you want to make sure you did something to help people, not just produce prose.
And they keep coming out of the woodwork: Kevin Werbach, the wise editor of Release 1.0, offers his Werblog to the world. Kevin’s writing is quite extraordinary, and what I’ve read of his analysis tells me that he’s looking very clearly at what technology and business combine to offer up, rather than what marketing and PR combine to spin up (or down).
In a story that could have appeared in any regular issue of The Onion, a cover story in the New York Times offers this great headline: So, It’s a Lighthouse. Now, Leave Me Alone. The rest of the story also reads like it’s ripped from The Onion. The guy, the last civilian lighthouse tender, was inadvertently turned into a media star after an NPR piece mentioned him. The lack of real news in the world (???) has led dozens of reporters to his doorstep. The poor guy’s 85 years old! Leave him alone already!
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My friend, colleague, and mentor Pete Lewis of Fortune magazine starts a personal technology blog under Fortune’s auspices. Pete’s a smart, no-crap fellow who is more interested (as I am) with how technology can be used than how it’s hyped. He’s got a bug for good gear, too, though, which I confess to as well.
A physicist who has figured out how to harness light to facilitate time travel isn’t worried about paradoxes. “There would be government laws to control time travel, he believes.” Of course, my first action as ruler of the world would be to go back through time and repeal that law. Oops, I’m channeling Dogbert again. This nutty professor also dismisses the grandfather paradox by explaining that parallel universes would take care of it all. This is the kind of guy who, after he accidentally creates the first black hole on earth, and shortly before we all die, says, I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t be able to control it.
Had breakfast with Doc Searls this morning who is in town meeting with the Linux Journal folks. The Journal is based in the old sea-faring Scandinavian part of town, Ballard. Doc and I talked about his post-Cluetrain revelation that markets aren’t just conversations, but relationships. Bargaining in a bazaar doesn’t necessarily result in a cheaper price. (The New York Times Magazine followed a T-shirt from a charity donation in New York onto someone’s back in Africa, neatly proving this argument last Sunday.)
Doc also passed along the memes of Andre Durand and his notions of identity. These notions are at odds with the centralized externalized Passport and Sun-alliance systems which require us to give our data (all our personal details are not belong to us?) to a repository. Rather, Durand and Doc argue, our identity is not a single thing: it’s divided into stuff about us that is our core representation, and externally overlaid identities which are other people’s ideas of who we are (driver’s license, credit cards, etc.). All of this information should belong to us to allow us to automatically negotiate what details those involved in our transactions get from us, rather than stored monolithically out of our direct control.
I suggested we call this a server bazaar in which servers compete for our attention and our trade.
In addition to the world’s cheesiest casino and thinly veiled illegal DVD copying ads, Yahoo has now reset its customers marketing preferences, requiring us all to opt out again if we’ve ever set up a Yahoo account. (The Register sums it up best and offers a direct link.)
You could see how Yahoo had moved from the Galleria-style supermalls slowly but surely into the outskirts of town, where Fashion Bug competes with Radio Shack for parking. The DVD copying ads made me wince: a desirable babe holding a bunch of DVDs. Sure, sure, the popup ads said, this is for legal duplication only. But Yahoo is taking money from the wrong sorts, the kinds of guys who hang around telephone booths with pagers, meanwhile smoking in their cars, watching everyone who walks by, handing cash around in paper bags.
Windows XP Pro crashed hard on me today, of course during a book deadline in which I need the machine to act not just as a collaborative workgroup WebDAV server (using Adobe’s new AWWS system bundled with GoLive 6), but also to make screen captures to keep my Windows readers happy when we explain how parts of the program work on two platforms.
Boot. Pretty status bar. Freeze. Retry. Safe mode. Bleah. Boot off install CD. Run initial recovery routine. Run chkdsk. Disk checks out. Reboot. Freeze. Bleah. Aiee! Swear words. Anger. Denial.
Then I get smart: I figure, what the hell, I’ll reinstall. The XP Pro install disk, holy cow, it works like it’s supposed to. It recognizes an existing installation. It fixes things. It downloads files. It asks me if I want to upgrade the firmware (using a Net download) of the WMP11 wireless card I have in my machine! Yes! Yes! Yes! 30 minutes later, it reboots, and works exactly like it used to. I’m impressed. I hate that it crashes hard and can’t cope. I love that I’m back at status quo ante.
I saw Mulholland Drive on Saturday and while my brain is still leaking out my ears and while I cannot, two days later, stop the images from trolling the depths of my psyche, I realized that this film has a number of hallmarks of Lynch. Hence, Every David Lynch Movie Has:
Dwarf in an underground area with curtains. (Can’t find him in Blue Velvet.)
A twisted Roy Orbison song.
A woman singing solo for a long time while people watch and emotions play over their faces. (In Blue Velvet, it’s Dean Stockwell, but close enough.)
A dead, typically decaying body shown over and over.
The ability to let you see through an insane person’s eyes more precisely than you’d like.
An authentic character who speaks the truth in a stilted way, but is obviously trustworthy.
A figured covered in dirt.
TidBITS, a normally respectable publication covering weekly events in the Macintosh universe, stooped to tabloid journalism today in its report on the new iTivo, a collaboration between Apple and Tivo. The report includes quite a lot of detail, including a short movie smuggled out. There are numerous problems with this video, including the shoddy quality, the obviously incompatible connectors, and the fact that the prototype is made of cardboard. Shame, shame, shame. I am outraged!
Pigeon fanciers should also be outraged today as Google released details of its search engine technology, which relies on the abuse of thousands of birds fed open space linseed/flax (lin/ax) kernels. I am outraged!
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