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The personal blog of Michael Ashby

I’ve Switched To WordPress

Since 2003, when I started this blog, I’ve used MovableType as the Content Management System (CMS) but I’ve decided that it’s time for a change. Beginning today, I’m now using WordPress as my CMS tool for

Why the change? Well, it’s nothing dramatic, or awe inspiring — I simply wanted a change. The grass is always greener on the other side and I’ve been wanting to get my hands dirty with WP for quite some time.

I don’t know if this will mean that I’ll post more often, but at least it’s nice to have some new digs!

Palm OS = Epic F A I L

Saw this on Brighthand today:

“Orange has confirmed that the Samsung smartphone running on the Access Linux Platform, originally planned for later this year, has been cancelled… The Samsung i800 was the first and only device announced that would have run the Access Linux Platform since the operating system’s release in early 2007.”

Let me make sure I have my facts straight.

  1. 2002: Palm, Inc. decides to split into two companies , thus creating PalmSource which was the OS side of the Palm PDA. Later that year, PalmSource releases OS 5 aka Garnet.
  2. 2004: PalmSource announces a new OS called Cobalt which, over time, no one licenses.
  3. 2005: PalmSource is sold to Access who promptly drops Cobalt and instead announces their plans to release a Linux based OS called the ACCESS Linux Platform (ALP). Just rolls of the tongue doesn’t it?
  4. 2007: ALP is “released” to licensees and developers.
  5. 2008: [February] Samsung announces that they will release the i800 on the ALP platform for Orange (UK)
  6. 2008: [July] Orange’s PR firm announces they’ve changed their mind

So if I carry my 1 and drop the sarcasm, then that would mean that it’s been six YEARS since there has been a major update to Palm OS. FFS! Even Microsoft got out an OS in less time than that.

Of course Palm, Inc., which used to be just the hardware side of things, bought up what they could from Access and has been going their own way with a Linux based OS called Palm OS II which they’re planning on releasing in 2009. I’m sure that OS will r0xors on the Treo’s circa 2003 design. By the time they get a new device out, it’ll be cool again because it’ll be retro!

I just have to hang my head in shame as I watch a product that I so dearly loved circle the drain like this.

iPhone Development Is A Whole New Ballgame for Palm OS Developers

In my last article, I wrote about how excited I was to see Palm developers moving over to develop for the iPhone. Specifically, I mentioned how pleased I was to see that Stevens Creek Software will be releasing HandyRandy . Well, it seems that I wasn’t the only one that took notice of Stevens Creek’s work.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball posted a link on his web site to Triplog/1040. For those of you not familiar with Gruber, he’s well known for his expertise regarding the Mac OS user interface. His opinion of TripLog was summed up nicely with “Check out the UI on this upcoming iPhone app from Palm OS developer Stevens Creek Software. This is not a joke. (Via Macworld.)”, but he also posted a photo on his Flickr page which generated a lot of heated discussion in the comments. This was the snowball that started rolling downhill.

Having come from the Palm OS world a little over a year ago, I wasn’t that surprised by the UI of TripLog and the other Stevens Creek applications because they reminded me of my Palm OS days. That being said, once I took a second look, it was clear that TripLog/1040 and Handy Randy don’t measure up to the standards of most Mac Software. Mac users are more accustomed to refined interfaces and elegant solutions to complex problems. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of applications out there that are rough around the edges, but for the most part Apple has made it easy for apps to look good. That approach to good design has followed to the iPhone, but if you’re not a Mac user some of the nuances may be a bit foreign to you and you might miss them.

Luckily for Steve Pratt, the designer behind TripLog, 37 Signals picked up the thread and used it as an opportunity for positive feedback in their article “Learning from ‘bad’ UI. I have to applaud 37 Signals for not only seeing the opportunity, but for acting on it and steering the conversation from a bash session to an actual discussion. The article also bore fruit with several redesign ideas from Raphael Campardou, Paul Walker and Paolo Passeri.

Will these have any effect on the TripLog app itself? They already have! Stevens Creek has posted a video showing how to use the application and in it I noticed that the UI is much improved. It’s not perfectly polished, but it’s very much improved. Unfortunately, MacWorld’s TripLog Review focused on the current version and thus Stevens Creek is still having to defend their application, which is a shame.

Stevens Creek makes excellent software and I suppose the take away here is that application design for iPhone has raised the bar from the days of Palm OS. Design options were limited in the Palm space so it was easier to focus on the functionality of the app over the look and feel. With the expanded palette of the iPhone developers are going have to focus more on the side of application development that often gets the least attention — the user interface. It definitely plays a key role in an application’s success and Mac users have a poor tolerance for bad UI.

My only hope is that this experience doesn’t scare away Stevens Creek, or any other Palm OS developers from developing for the iPhone. I think there is a world of opportunities for Palm OS developers to leverage their applications and broaden to a whole new market – both for the mobile and desktop space.

If you’re interested in iPhone UI design, here are a couple of other articles I ran across while this story evolved:

Just Like The Good Ole Palm Days

It’s the little things that give me the biggest kick. Today I read where Stevens Creek software is going to make software for the iPhone. Why does that make me smile? Because Stevens Creek was one of the early pioneer’s in Palm OS software development.

They were most known for PalmPrint which allowed you to print directly from the Palm Pilot to a printer, but I used HandyRandy for nearly 11 years every time we pulled for door prizes at the local PUG meeting. So you can imagine my delight when I read that HandyRandy for iPhone is one of the three applications that they are releasing the day the App store launches.

They haven’t announced pricing yet, but rest assured HandyRandy is going to be the first app I buy on July 11th. I’m so very happy!

Twitter Is Becoming Irrelevant For Me

I’ve been a fan of Twitter for quite some time now. I would love to be able to tell you how long I’ve been a user, but the archives only go back a week or so and there’s no other indication of when I became a Twitter member. Along with it’s archives, Twitter has been plagued with uptime issues, so much so that they’ve created an entire blog to it’s uptime status (or lack there of) at By the way, if you don’t know what Twitter is, I highly recommend the Twitter in Plain English video.

Twitter is a victim of it’s own success, that’s for sure, but I’m sticking with the service because that’s where my friends are. However it dawned on me today that this may not be the case for much longer. Why? Because of the interface I use to interact with Twitter — Instant Messenger.

One of the coolest things about Twitter is that you can interface with the service from many different avenues. I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but here’s a quick list of ways you can post to and receive updates from Twitter:

  • Directly through the web site
  • SMS
  • 3rd party applications like Twitterific and Twhirl
  • 3rd party web sites like Hahlo (mostly for the iPhone, or site specific browsers like Fluid, Bubbles
  • An Instant Messenger (IM)

For me it’s the last method that I use the most. I use AdiumX, which is a multi-protocol instant messenger. It allows me to be logged into AIM, GoogleTalk, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN Messenger all at the same time. If you’re not on a Mac and this interests you, be sure to check out Pidgin, or Trillian. The point is that for me sending “tweets” and receiving updates from my friends have always occurred via IM. I already had a habit of leaving AdiumX open, so adding Twitter as a “buddy” seemed like the natural thing to do. Not only that, but it was one less thing open and running on my desktop, which can get rather cluttered.

Unfortunately when Twitter started scaling back it’s services in order to salvage as much uptime as possible, the first thing to go was IM support and a month later it’s still unavailable. They’ve added back updates a few weeks ago, but at best I have a one-way conversation since I’m unable to post via IM. The end result of all the outages is that I’m left wondering if it’s even worth the trouble.

When Twitter easily integrated into my established habits, it was easy to submit an update here or there, but now there’s an obstacle. I either have to launch a web page, or a special app and there’s a better than 50% chance that the service is down all-together. So perhaps my relationship with Twitter is rather shallow, or it’s just become more difficult than it’s worth, but right now Twitter is becoming less and less relevant for me.

What about you?

Paying The Price For Being #1

One of the funny things about having a blog is that you never know what is going to strike a chord with the people that read your blog, or for that matter Google. By some quirk of an algorithm you find that you’re at the top of the charts on one topic or another and you find yourself being put in the role of “guru” on that subject (wether you are, or not).

This happened to my good buddy Mike Rohde with an article that he did on Yoplait yogurt. He wrote a quick article about an idea he had regarding their packaging and next thing you know, he’s in the top 4 on Google if you do a search for yogurt packaging.

As for me, my hotspots have been Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap (currently slipped to page 2) and National Brand 43-571 (page 1) because of an entry I wrote concerning my love affair with paper. However, in looking at my Google Analytics this week, I found that the bulk of the traffic to my blog comes from an entry entitled “Having A Hard Head Can Sometimes Pay Off“. Doing a search for “Axiom and Garageband” turned up the reason why — I’m the #1 result.

The article dealt with my trials and tribulations in getting my Axiom 25 to work with GarageBand. It was a project I did almost 2 years ago and one month after the post, I never went back to it. Another case of something I “had to have” only to move onto something else 20-days later. 🙂

Regardless of my lack of interest in the subject, clearly there were plenty of people still looking for a solution, finding me and as luck would have it, being met with frustration. Over the past year, I’ve hacked this site every which way and never really completed the process. It goes a little something like this.

1. A client of mine wants to change something with their install of MoveableType.

2. I apply it to this site first to see if it’ll work.

3. It does/doesn’t and then I usually, but not always, revert the site back to the way it was and you can see where this is going.

All these changes affected my Axiom / GarageBand article when they broke the download to the PDF that provided the solution. Doh! So this afternoon, I updated the PDF, checked all the links, fixed the download tool I use to keep track of such things and generally cleaned this up a bit in the process.

So for those of you that found that article only to be met with frustration, I apologize. Hopefully the revised article will be more helpful. As for me, I’m going to be a bit more cognoscent of the long tail of my articles so that they don’t spank me in the butt. 😛

Holly Performs Live

Holly was a guest performer at the Moore & Moore Fan Appreciation Concert on Thursday for the CMA Music Festival (aka Fan Fair). The concert was held at the MetroCenter Neely’s Barbecue in Nashville, TN. You can watch the video that I shot below.

Holly met Debbie & Carrie Moore (aka Moore & Moore) in her Jazzercize class and found they had a lot in common. The girls were kind enough to invite Holly to come sing at their latest gig and it was a lot of fun. It was a thank you concert for their fans and after doing a small set, they turned the show over to several guest artists while they socialized with their fans. It’s a really great idea! We met people from all over the United States who came to Nashville strictly for Fan Fair and to see the Moore sisters.

Speaking of which, Moore & Moore have a very popular video right now to “Find Me A Man Like Goober”, which you can see on YouTube at this link. There are a TON of cameos, so keep your eyes peeled.

And for the geeks out there, I shot the video with Flip Ultra and edited it in iMovie HD 6 because iMovie 08 doesn’t import .mpg (don’t get me started).

The Reality Of Internet Explorer

I absolutely despise Internet Explorer. It is a complete turd of a program in every conceivable manner. It’s insecure, it doesn’t follow web standards when displaying web pages, it’s integrated into the OS so if it crashes it brings down your entire computer, and the list goes on and on and on, but I won’t belabor the point any further. Most of my gripes are with IE 6 and earlier but the latest version of Internet Explorer — version 7 — isn’t that much better, so it goes out with the bath water too.

From a system administrator perspective, I convert every system I can over to Firefox and go so far as to ban IE on systems that I control. As a web developer, I spend a serious amount of time in the development process dedicated to changing my code to make IE work properly. Every other browser on the planet will display content correctly, but IE always has some oddity that requires a tweak or hack.

As much as I and the millions of other geeks like me hate IE, it simply won’t go away. So it was with great interest that I read an older article by Kevin Hale on Particle Tree entitle On the Tenacity of Internet Explorer 6. When I read that adoption rates were flatlining and his question of “Have we basically converted everyone that had a problem with Internet Explorer 6?” I thought perhaps we were finally done with IE6. Unfortunately, after reading the entire article, it’s clear that IE6 is here to stay and it’s something we’re going to have to live with for a long time.

And why is that? Well, it boils down to the fact that the main reasons people were switching was due to the fact of popups, spyware and the like. Now that toolbars have fixed many of those glaring issues, people aren’t motivated to switch.

Now, you may think IE6 obviously makes browsing the Internet suck because it doesn’t have tabs and tends to implement CSS and JavaScript poorly. But that’s because if you’re reading this site, you’re probably a designer or developer. Remember: ugly, buggy and slow aren’t enough to make users think it sucks enough to switch (think MySpace and Windows). In hindsight, the best thing to happen to Firefox was probably the rise of file sharing networks, spyware and pop-ups. Basically, everything that made the web suck. Everything that made the web a safer place to browse, made Firefox less relevant and quelled the urgency that made an alternative to IE6 a necessity.

It disappointments me to now end to have to agree with his conclusion. I’ll still push Firefox, Opera and other alternative browsers every chance I get, but it sucks that the reason that there are so many Zombie Computers is due to ignorance and lethargy. I know that I’m a geek and that this falls into my domain expertise, so you might chalk this up to the ramblings of a nerd, but we’re not talking small numbers here – botnets number in the hundreds of thousands. Their impact can be felt everyday in the billions of SPAM messages that are sent from them every day.

All gloom and doom aside, Hale’s article did leave me laughing in the end. It may not end positive, but it does end on a funny note.

Just goes to show that it has to be in your face popups of wangs and cooters to make you download something different.

Reverting ReCaptcha Plugin To .01

I’ve been a big fan of the ReCAPTCHA service since it launched and was eager to implment it on my blog when MT4 was released last year. It was a complete kludge to get it working, but I eventually did figure out the voodoo necessary. You would think I’d leave well enough alone, but alas, I did not. I attempted to upgrade to the latest version, failed and then took the long road back to version .01.

How It All Began
For starters, I decided to upgrade to version 4.1 from version 4.01 of MovableType. I exported my entries and comments, deleted the entire site from the server and then did a clean install and import. Once I was sure everything was running properly, I began adding my plugins back and saw that there was an update for the MT ReCAPTCHA plugin. That’s when I played with fire and decided to upgrade to the new version only to find out it didn’t work.

What Went Wrong
The plugin itself installed just fine and the one big change that I saw what that the public and private key information was stored properly now in the plugin. Previously you had to enter this into the plugin itself, so this was a nice change. There could be other enhancements, but that was the one that I noticed.

So far so good, but as I walked through the rest of the instructions, I ran into a huge snag.

8. Edit Javascipt index template, to remove these lines of code which calls delayShowCaptcha… [snip] …If your install does not have these lines in JavaScript index template, these lines should be in GlobalJavaScript, which is a global system template.

Guess what, there was nothing in the Javascript index template that matched the calls I was looking for. Moreover, there isn’t a GlobalJavaScript template in the default build of 4.1.

Hitting a dead end, I tried rebuilding the site in the hopes that everything would work anyway, but of course it didn’t. No errors, but no display of the ReCAPTCHA code either.

Time For A Rewind
Luckily, I had copies of my templates and the old plugin, so I figured I’d simply revert back to what I had previously. Things didn’t work out that way because in an effort to get the new version working, I’d made changes in the “Blog Settings” as well.

“No problem”, I thought, because I could just pull up Josh Carter’s original reference of how to implement version .01 of the plugin. Unfortunately, it appears that he’s moving his site to TextDrive and that page is no longer available. CRAP!

Doing a Google Search and then pulling up the cached version though did save the day and I was able to get my blog configured properly again. *WHEW*

Plugin Redux
With everything back up and running properly, I decided to indulge in one more whim. I kept the templates and blog settings like they were for .01 and just dropped in the .02 version of the plugin. My hope was that the problem existed with the templates and not the plugin itself, but that didn’t work either.

So as it stands, only the hacked .01 method has successfully worked for me. The new version simply doesn’t work in any way shape or form. Looking in the forums, I see that other people are having trouble with it too, so at least I’m not alone.

Given the fact that Josh’s site is down and that I can’t seem to find the earlier version of the plugin, I’m thinking I might need to create a post specifically on how to get this working as a resource for others. Maybe even go so far as to provide the original plugin. I don’t know. What do you think?

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