Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Open letter to Internet Explorer users, time to get a real browser

It is time for users to move on to much greener pastures. The Internet is evolving rapidly and Internet Explorer is incapable of delivering a complete Internet experience. It is directly responsible for holding back Internet technology and advanced features for years, but times are changing.

Strike 1: Least common denominator

The point of web development is ultimately to reach users. In order to broaden the audience as much as possible, all major browsers are to be supported. The good news is that FireFox, Safari, and Chrome are all very easy to support with their compliance to the standards. In fact they take almost no effort at all to support if the web sites are designed by the standards. Sounds simple right, not so fast!

The bad news is that Internet Explorer, not only does not support the standards, it goes out of its way to corrupt them. Often the choice is to make a web site for IE or for everyone else. It could be that this was an intentional strategy as for many years it kept people using Explorer because some web sites added non-standard content excluding all the competition. Luckily, these sites have been forced by their customers to drop that policy.

In the end, most sites have to reduce their features and slow acceptance of new technologies because Internet Explorer cannot handle it. This is a punishment handed down by Microsoft to all Internet users regardless of what browser they use.

Strike 2: Too expensive to support

Internet Explorer is not even compatible with itself making every release, often even minor ones, a costly effort to support. The changes between versions are so extreme that one really has to question if Microsoft's intent is to destroy the Internet. In all seriousness, a typical web site ends up having to have a separate style sheet for each version of IE and a JavaScript page to fix its quarks. On top of that, normal web pages are riddled with custom Explorer tags (a.k.a. hacks) to work around the endless of bugs it has.

It is very often the case that more time is spent creating Explorer workarounds than creating the content and supporting all the other browsers combined. This is ridiculous. Microsoft should have to pay everyone to support its products, then they might improve its quality.


Strike 3: Performance is a joke

Just look at the benchmarks not provided by Microsoft or better yet try to do something in Explorer side by side with the competition. The difference in speed is astounding. This is not just page load time either. Explorer is 10 to 20 times slower than the competition at JavaScript execution which is a primary part of web technology. This detail makes IE so slow that it cannot even run many web applications.

Strike 4: Poor technology support

Internet Explorer puts all its focus into Microsoft-only technologies. When it comes to standard technologies that all browsers need on the Internet like HTML, JavaScript and CSS Explorer seems to have gone out of its way to get it wrong effectively corrupting the standards. If users are interested in using the Internet, they are much better served using just about any other browser.

Strike 5: Using a monopoly to cause harm to everyone

Since Microsoft has enjoyed a monopoly with its windows operating system, it used that power to force users to use its browser. This fact has been proven in a court of law during its anti-trust case. Still today, most web sites feel they are forced to support Explorer because this user base of victims is very large.

The good news is that Explorer no longer holds the majority of users and its influence is declining every day. This change has forced web sites to build to the standards to support other browsers instead of using Microsoft-only technologies. This trend is moving like an avalanche right now so much so that sites are starting to refuse to support Internet Explorer.

Strike 6: A company with no business interest in improvement

This is the final nail in the coffin. Microsoft has no reason to change its strategy. They have a long standing reputation as a company that only supports its own interests. Having advanced open web technology weakens the position of all its products from Windows to its profitable office suite. It is in their interest to prevent a solid Internet experience, especially one that does not run on Windows like the vast majority of the Internet is today.

The new world order

Everyone deserves a full and rich Internet experience. There is really no excuse for anyone to suffer with Internet Explorer anymore. There are many great choices in Web Browsers available for Windows users that can provide a quality Internet experience like FireFox, Chrome and Safari. All of them are free and all of them have worked around Microsoft's past attempts to make it hard for users to download and install them.

Web sites no longer need to support Internet Explorer. They can now take the money saved, add new features and still have plenty for the bank. It is the end of era, but the beginning of something much better.

Still resistant to change?

At the very least, users should upgrade to IE8 as that is one step closer to standards compliance. However, as it fixes some of the more annoying compatibility issues, users are likely to experience a lot of poorly formated web sites since many sites had previously been hacked up for the older Explorer versions. Also, be warned, that browser is still buggy so some things may not work. Even a loyalist will have to admit users might be better off just using a different browser because most sites do not include Explorer hacks in pages served to non-explorer browsers.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

GPL is not Open Source

Developers of free software that want it to be useful should not use the GPL license. GPL has outlived its value in Open Source. Sadly, GPL is so common that many people associate it with the very term "Open Source". It has come time to put GPL to rest for the good.

Background:
GPL is a software license. It is a license so confusing that the country's top lawyers cannot even agree on what it means. However, the intent is to say that the software is free under certain conditions.
  1. Free if the software is not redistributed. For example, is used in house and not resold "as software." Reselling as a service is allowed so long as the software itself does not change hands.
  2. Free if used in software that is itself free. This is the viral nature of this license since if software includes GPL software, then using the same license is easy.
What is specifically singled out is for-profit software. Software with other licenses containing GPL software is a very gray area. The situation is so bad that some software is dual licensed because they can't figure it out.

The GPL intent is arguable and confusing, so almost all companies simply ban GPL software to avoid the lawyers. This last point is most devastating for GPL. If software does not get used, then it has failed its purpose.

History:
There was a time in the 90's when the only real choices in software were Windows 3.x, Macintosh OS, IBM OS/2 and UNIX. To get into the then elite world of UNIX would cost thousands of dollars and the user will still not end up with anything user friendly. Ironically, Windows was basically free for most computer savvy people, although it was not very attractive, but that is another story.

The savior was GNU and Linux providing UNIX tools and eventually the entire operating system or free, mostly. Much of this work was done by starving college students who did it for fun or challenge, but many, living on tuna, also hoped for money from those companies who could afford it.

Enter GPL, the license perfect for the starving college student hoping to make a buck from the corporate world. This was a great idea in concept.

GNU put Open Source on the map:
The GNU activity improved much software in terms of usability and portability in their patent-avoiding rewrites. The early GNU philosophy was to rewrite programs in a black box and intentionally achieve a different design objective then the original author. For example, instead of making a fast program, make a memory efficient one. Patents should have never been applied to software as they prevent innovation and primarily assist monopoly hungry companies, as a result harming consumers, but that is yet another story.

Hind Sight:
The starving college student later got rich employed by a company and the vast majority never saw a dime from the Open Source. Ironically, the same people found themselves having to rewrite everything they and others did in Open Source because the company they work for banned using Open Source because of the license. Even more sadly, these developers will have to do it over again at every job.

One has to imagine that most Open Source developers do it with hopes that as many other people use the free software as possible. Ironically, GPL has the opposite effect on software in encouraging yet another rewrite of the functionality with a corporate friendly license.

But Companies don't contribute:
It is simply not true that companies don't contribute. There are many companies that have a direct business interest in ensuring Open Source works best on their platforms. However, it is also true that many companies don't "give back." They often have legitimate reasons for this like:
  1. Not having the resources
  2. Not understanding the liabilities
  3. Not being able to afford the lawyers to explain and defend the liabilities.

A colossal waste of money:
Think about the billions of dollars cumulatively spent by thousands of companies avoiding the use GPL software, when in most cases the developer wanted it to be used by everyone and the company would have used it. Enough said..

Technology held back:
Since everyone has to rewrite everything for resale, less time and resources are spent innovating and advancing technology. This harms everyone, especially the end users of nearly every product in existence.

Even further, there could have been incredibly well engineered Open Source that represents "best of breed" software. This would have made it possible to provide better and more reliable software to all the people of the world in countless products. Even though such software exists, it is hidden behind the cloud of GPL.

Time for a change:
Change is easy, use MIT or BSD licenses for all Open Source.

Making Money:
The non-GPL, MIT and BSD licenses allow open source to be used, reused, rewritten and redistributed without any monetary restrictions but does protect the liability of the original author. Hence, the author, gets no direct monetary reward for their work. That is it, in plain english, Open Source = No Direct Money.

There is money to made from Open Source via services if that is the primary concern. If the developer's innovation is so potentially profitable, then the author should consider release as a commercial product instead. Sorry, GPL won't help.

Disclaimers:
I have written thousands of hours of Open Source software (some GPL) and even more commercial software, was there in the early 90's, work for a company that contributes to Open Source, have worked for companies that didn't. I have nothing to gain from any conclusion and believe, from real experience, that GPL has had some negative impacts to Open Source software that need to be exposed. I still write Open Source under the MIT license.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hellsing GIMPS Team


Join the Hellsing team, summon your beasts, and together we can find the greatest Mersenne prime number hidden in the darkness of the night.

About GIMPS

The GIMPS project is a collection of volunteers world wide who allow their computers to run a program in the back ground or when they are not using it to assist in finding the largest unknown prime number. You might even win some cash if you find one.

Install the Software

To get started, go to the main GIMPS site at http://www.mersenne.org and install the software. They have versions for Linux, Windows and OSX.

Join the Hellsing team

Login your account at http://www.mersenne.org and, on the side bar, click join team. The quickest way to find the team would be to use the browser's find option (ctrl f) and search for Hellsing. Then click to join the team on the right side of the page and then your computer does the rest.


Guinomi

Guinomi is the Japanese word for the large deep sake cup. The word for the small shallow cup is sakaduki. There are several basic materials for sake cups most notable of which is ceramic clay for tsuchi-aji, an earthy feel; and the ever humble square Japanese cedar cups, called masu. Masu cups tend to overwhelm the flavor of sake and is not generally used for finer sakes.
As an art and pottery collector and connoisseur of sake I could not pass up the opportunity to acquire an authentic guinomi. Usually I shop for pottery in the plentiful state of North Carolina, but in this case it seemed more appropriate to embrace a Japanese tradition. After an extensive search looking for something rustic, original and of manageable expense, I chose the one displayed below which was handcrafted by bizen artist Suzuki Tsunki in Okayama. It is about 2.4" high and 2.9" in diameter holding a modest 3.7 ounces of fine sake. The eight-sided shape of this cup is called Rokaku-hai.Bizen pottery, bizenyaki, is known to have started in the 12 century creating unglazed pottery with wood-fired kilns. Bizen pottery is well-known as one of the 6 ancient Japanese kilns. When looking for authentic traditional pottery from this area, be sure to ask if it was wood-fired in the traditional way. There is a robust assortment of pottery available from more modern gas-fired kilns as well.








So what's the big deal, you ask? Well, to some, maybe nothing... Heck most American's I know don't even like sake. That said, the majority who don't like it have never had real sake. They think it is something served hot with sushi. True sake is served cold and has a flavor delicate and pure with fragrances sweet to the nose and complex to the tongue.This cup has a texture felt both on the lips and tongue. It adds a new dimension to the already complex product for the senses. It may not save your palate from the ravages of brewer's alcohol often mascaraed as sake nor the hangover that is sure to follow from poor quality sake. But filled with the true daiginjo-shu it may add a sensation previously reserved for the angles. True sake is a deep breath of fresh air in the midst of a feild blooming cheerie trees washed down with a mist from a cold and pure mountain waterfall. It is an experience to be cheerished to the very last drop.
I hope this article inspires others to seek out and enjoy pottery art for themselves. This cup was purchased online from Artistic Nippon. 4/12/09

Monday, April 20, 2009

Akitabare Suirakuten

While I visited some close family in San Jose, I also was researching how to transform my beer brewing experience into a new sake making adventure. While on my search I discovered the Koji Sake Lounge in downtown San Jose. Always enthusiastic for opportunities to expand my horizons I convinced some family to go with me to the lounge.

It was a lovely urban style lounge with metro art style furnishings and newage meets french music. The metro tram would periodically visit the front entrance for that extra special downtown feel. The owner, I think, was a very beautiful and very hospitable Japanese-American lady whom responded to my email inquiries.

We started our experience with the eastern flight of sake followed by the western flight. With each glass we fancied ourselves with a game of judging. Each of us drank our sake left to right waiting on the first sample of each glass in anticipation for the other to be ready. Will the next one trump the previous? To our delight, there is a great variety in the bar's selection of samples. In the midst of the sake we enjoyed many superb appetizers especially the salt and pepper edamame, tuna tartar and salmon hand rolls which were rolled with what could best be described as a seaweed snack for a very nice and slightly spicy touch.

We topped the evening off with a bottle of the Akitabare Suirakuten. "Heaven of Tipsy Delight", which words simply could not describe. If I were to attempt to describe this sake I would use words like "mist from a fresh mountain waterfall", "fields of cherry trees" and "airy mists of an angel's feathers". In all seriousness, my nose could not escape the gentle and refreshing fragrance of this sake. I pondered each drop til the last wondering what form of craft created this delicate and completely fulfilling drink. It is simply an experience words alone cannot capture.

To all who visits San Jose, please do yourself the favor and make time for this place.

Monday, February 12, 2007

EB Logo Print

One night, I am thinking about the shipping details of the EB Series print #12 by Wes Wilson and I am realizing that there are no more stickers with the Expresso Beans logo on them to pack with it. I had to find something to replace those stickers. So, I poured my glass full of a favorite spirit and went to work.

I will be the first to say that this is not a very detailed print. I could not afford to spend a week designing and carving something elaborate. The objective was to promote the company, not myself. Not too mention, the star of the show is Wes Wilson and that is where the focus needed to be.

To make things interesting I decided to use the 19th century copy press I acquired over a year ago for the first time.

The usual drawing and carving of the block took place over the next hour or two. I had to resist the urge to embellish it with lots of goodness, but I couldn't resist carving a pattern around the logo instead of leaving dead space.

After the carving was finished I grabbed a tube of screen printing ink and diluted it a little in water. Then for each print, I used a hake brush to paint the ink over the block. I was careful not to repeat the stroke or intensity on each print to force the bold uniqueness across the lot. Even in placing the paper over the block for printing, the position was randomized.

The printing took a few hours and a couple more glasses. Near the end, I had to resist the urge to get another glass or maybe I would not be able to sleep that night. 70 prints does not seem like a big number, but when one considers having to cut paper to size, paint and place the block, aligned the paper, screw down the press which was a bit in need of grease, unscrew the press, remove the block, peal off the print; it turns to work after the first few.

Before long I was looking for space to put them to dry. The prints consumed every horizontal surface in the room.

It felt pretty good when they were done. At the end of the night I went downstairs in right into bed.

So yeah, these were 7x7 giveaway prints. After much thought, they were signed. Oh how I dislike signing anything. It was just an insert print and I was afraid that signing them would make it more than what it is supposed to be. For that same reason, they were not numbered or EB registered.
It was a fun job. I hope at least one person that gets it will tack it up somewhere because they like Expresso Beans.










Art can free your soul

One of things I enjoy most about making art is how free and unhindered the creation can feel. I am not talking about when someone asks you to make something. I mean when you make something, anything, from within simply because you want to do it.

One of my biggest problems is feeling confident with the techniques involved. It is kind of like magic in that when I get in the zone, there is no aspect of time and, to be honest, no certain destination. If I was to say, I am going to make this exactly like this in a logical fashion, it would never happen. It is all too overwhelming for my logical side. All to often, I start something wondering if will ever turn out, and when it does, I am totally amazed not realizing how I got even got there. It is so weird. I love making art.