Reinventing Fire

Obama Phenomena

January 27, 2008

Filed under: Politics,Real Life — Magister @ 3:04 am

I was skeptical of Obama at first. I thought his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was great, but even then people were ready to crown him as the next Democratic nominee. I didn’t think we knew enough about him, that he had a track record to back up his admitted charm and eloquence, even after a couple of years in the Senate.

I think I was wrong.

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SVG On Acid?

January 21, 2008

Filed under: Browsers,Standards,SVG,W3C,Work — Magister @ 2:00 am

ACID3, that is. Most of you will have heard of the ACID tests put together by the Web Standards Project in order to promote interoperability among browsers. Microsoft recently made a hit in the blogosphere by announcing that the next version of their browser, IE8, passed the ACID2 test, showing their commitment to Web standards.

Ian Hickson, who wrote the second ACID test, is now working on ACID3. He recently started a contest to get contributions from the community on what features they want tested.

SVG has had a huge surge of popularity in the past few years; it’s now used on Wikipedia and Google Maps, and largely implemented in 3 of the 4 major browsers (it works in Opera, Safari, and Firefox). There are a few inconsistencies between implementations, so we thought ACID3 would be a great chance for a push for SVG interoperability. The SVG Working Group, most notably Erik Dahlstrom of Opera and Invited Expert Cameron McCormack, devised a few tests that we hope will be included in ACID3.

You can read the explanations for the tests, and see the tests themselves, in Erik’s email. Let us know what you think, and if you support the inclusion of SVG in ACID3 (and let Ian Hickson know, too). Maybe by the release of IE8, it will pass ACID3 –and any SVG tests– too.

[originally published on the W3C Questions and Answers blog]

Update (25-01-2008): Just so you know, our efforts paid off.  Hixie accepted our tests, and SVG will be in slots  70-74 (or 75) of the Acid3 test.  I think this will be a great win for interoperability, and nice acknowledgment that SVG is a first-class citizen of Web architecture.  Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the tests and to the conversation, and to Ian Hickson for putting the tests in (and for driving Acid3 in general).

Fixer Upper

January 13, 2008

Filed under: Real Life — Magister @ 8:10 am

Despite a bout of insomnia that kept me up all Friday night, Saturday was surprisingly productive. I normally only see the dawn hours when I stay up late enough, especially on the weekend, and sleeplessness afforded me the opportunity to shop at the Carrboro farmer’s market with M (though she’d gone to bed early and slept through the night).

I was a little frustrated, because while I don’t mind sleeping during the day, there was some house maintenance I’d been putting off for a while that I’d planned for Saturday. The light in the office ceiling fan was shorting out, and the toilet in the master bath was broken. It’s only a 24-year-old house, but I guess that’s normal wear-and-tear. So, after breakfast, I forced myself to stay up a little longer to whip the house into shape.

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Burn the Whole Place Down

January 9, 2008

Filed under: Real Life — Magister @ 11:06 pm

I usually work late, and when I have an early meeting, my girlfriend sets the alarm for me after she wakes.  This morning, she asked me if I wanted her to set it.  I sat upright, grabbed her arm, lay back down, closed my eyes, and said, “I thought we were going to help you escape.  They don’t have a replacement yet.  Get some Molotov cocktails… burn the whole place down.”
Naturally, I have no memory of this.  She told me about it when she got home from work.

Two Tech Predictions for the New Year (or So)

January 7, 2008

Filed under: Browsers,CDF — Magister @ 1:50 pm

Okay, first a disclaimer: none of this speculation comes from “insider information” I’ve gotten as an employee of W3C; but being surrounded by the swirl of standards, I suspect I may have picked up on a zeitgeist. I’m interested in seeing how well my predictions play out.

Prediction 1: Microsoft will merge its browser and office platforms

That’s what I would do if I were them. Right now they are in a bit of mindshare competition with online apps, like Google Docs; as Web apps transition to the desktop (like, the downloadable desktop GMail client), Microsoft will take their core competencies (the desktop Office suite) and make it more Web-friendly. They’ll take advantage of the fact that desktop apps are often more robust and speedier, and tie in the chief benefits of Web apps: distributed authoring, ease of deployment, and ubiquitous availability. To enable the latter, they also make a Office-lite Web app, sold as “software as a service”, for those who’ve bought the real product (though of course it won’t be as good as their desktop version); they might open this up in the razor-and-blade sales model.

They will merge two of their products, SharePoint Server and Exchange Server, into a sort of portal/wiki thing that ties into their new Office Browser. They will probably integrate chat (MSN, or whatever) into the whole thing, so you have some uber-communications suite: email, chat, collaborative distributed document creation, and all that enthralling office goodness.

This could be IE8 (or IE9), or a totally new product, but it will probably be a new version of MS Office. It will be their typical monolithic entry into the agile Web space. And of course, it will use OOXML as a native format.

Why I’m wrong: I think this would be smart, but the different divisions of Microsoft actually compete for resources. I wonder if they could play nicely together for long enough.

Update (25-01-2008): I’m actually going to Microsoft next week to talk about standards stuff. Maybe I will get an inside scoop.

Prediction 2: A cross-platform browser based on WebKit (but not Safari) will supplant Firefox

WebKit has a cleaner, faster (if less complete) engine than Mozilla, and it’s already been reused by Apple for Safari, Nokia for their mobiles, Adobe for Apollo (I think), and by Google for Android. But all those are controlled, as far as I can tell, by their name-brand deployers.

I think a new, more open repackaging will happen. It will be standards-based, and truly open-source, from the engine on up to the executable. It will implement Widgets (as being specified at W3C), so that people can make simple desktop applications based on common Web technologies. But the key enhancement will be a new, cleaner, lessons-learned, easier-to-author Extensions platform. Extensions, in my mind, are the most brilliant thing about Firefox, allowing slightly-above-average users to create new features for the browser, or to use features added by others; this gives great community buy-in. But it will be even easier to do in this new browser; this will probably necessitate a new XUL-like language, too, so people can add chrome, or it might just be in the form of script APIs. But what would be even smarter is to have the Extension editor, and Widget editor, built right into the browser, so making a new theme or feature or widget is as point-and-click as possible, with common tasks encapsulated (though for advanced enhancements, some scripting will be needed, in a smart editor with code completion).

Oh, and it will have SVG support.

Naturally.

Why I’m wrong: This is just my dream browser. Browsers are a hard market to break into, because there’s established competition, and you’re not making a product you can sell… you have to give it away. There’s already a lot of momentum around other efforts. But this is the browser I want. Too bad I’m so lazy.

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