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The Importance Of Testing
Date: 16/8/2004
Recently I got sick of how the HTML control is Scribe was terrible at rendering tables and even more tired of the constant complaining from the userbase about it (you know who you are!). So I rewrote the layout algorithm, which took far less time than I feared. But as with all non-trivial peices of code I didn't get it right first time. Well I made it work with one known peice of HTML that broke the old algorithm. But soon I noticed other HTML that didn't work in the new control. Ok, so I go and fix that. But now the first peice of HTML doesn't work.


Right, I said to myself, if I'm going to get anywhere I need to collect all the HTML snippits that have hairy tables in them and put them in one place so that I can easily check that the HTML control works on all of them. So I did, essentially creating a small HTML test suite. Now I'm not aiming for web standard complience, I'm aiming for readability of email. So I deliberately don't support a whole range of rather meaningless cruft that has been rammed into the HTML specification, hence I don't just use the W3C HTML test suite.

Nevertheless, now after much work on getting the control up to snuff it's starting to not break on previous test files everytime I add a new peice of HTML to the test suite and fix the control. Thus as time goes on, each time I bump into a peice of HTML that breaks the control it goes in the test suite. I fix the bug, test all the previous files and make sure I havn't inadvertantly busted something else, then commit the code to version control. Gotta love procedures.

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Firefox Brain Damage
Date: 13/8/2004
Hilarious. Just hilarious. I don't know what drug the Firefox developer's are on but you still need the MozEx extension to configure an external mail client for mailto links.

Of course I had to dig through my archives to find the first blog entry about that so I didn't have to think about the syntax for the mailer command.

But this is 2004 people, can't we have normal browser UI/features now?

What is even more priceless than the fact that firefox needs an extension for core functionality is that to access or even "see" the MozEx extension in firefox v0.9 you need the Show Old Extensions extension.

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Firefox Suckage
Date: 11/8/2004
If you, like me, thought that installing firefox on Linux in root mode was a good idea then heres a little tip. Don't. Install it in your home directory as yourself. The installer is a peice of crap when it doesn't crash.

And if you get a message along the lines of "Can not initialize security component..." then the permissions on your profile directory are borked up. I used this sort of command to "unbork" them, login as root or sudo, then go to your user's directory and:
cd .mozilla
find -uid 0 -exec chown <user>:<grp> {}\\;
Where 'user' and 'grp' is your username and group.

Basically it sets all the files in your .mozilla directory that are owned by root to be owned by yourself, so that firefox can read/write them.

In unrelated mozilla/firefox news, I tried to install Mozilla as the default browser on the shared Win2k machine at home and she can't stand how slow it is and has found the IE shortcut again. I swear it's not that much slower than IE, but obviously milliseconds count with the non-technical crowd. Can you imagine how dreadful trying to sell Linux/X11 to her would be if she complains about Mozilla vs IE? X11 is an order of magnitude slower than Windows, maybe more... yeah actually definately more. X11 is a good reason why Windows should win the OS war.
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Html Layout
Date: 5/8/2004
I've been rewriting the layout of HTML tables in the control used by Scribe so that it can cope with the "webpage in an email" sort of junk that people receive. It's amazing how bad the HTML that gets sent in email's is, lots of nested tables and other lame layout tricks. Makes life really hard to support these emails in a secure, lightweight, cross-platform manner.

So far it's looking pretty good. Pages that just wouldn't render are comming up reasonably well. I'm using the CSS2 table layout algorithm as a base and then hacking on the necessary bits as I need to, so that it works. There is a lot of things not really discussed in that algorithm. It's too breif, and I'd like to know if there is a most complete HTML table layout algorithm.

In the meantime if you have HTML content that doesn't render in Test19 (not yet released) then you can send it to me by right clicking on the HTML control, selecting "Copy Source" and pasting that into a text file. Attach that to a bug report email to me. I'll add it to my test suite and see what I can do to get it running.
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3 Types Of Creatives
Date: 3/8/2004
Most of my friends would agree that I'm a creative person. Who I am revolves around my coding and music skills. Sometimes people are really only aware of one side of that divide, like my co-workers. Anyway I was thinking the other day that I catagorize people into 3 types, in terms of their level of talent and ability. Firstly there are the truely talented, then you have the dedicated and finally the talentless. Which might sound harsh but hear me out.

'Talented' people are those who come along, pick up an instrument, a brush, a mouse or a pen and in seemingly no time at all start bashing out amazing works of art that people gawk at. It seems very effortless for them to create very good work, and they become good at what they do very quickly. I know a few people that are truely talented, and yes they work hard at it but what I'm getting at is that they have a very good return on their work as well.

Then there are the 'dedicated' people that work for years and years on their chosen skill, gradually getting better and better, and eventually doing something really good with their medium. They are characterized by being very stubborn and not giving up. What they do doesn't seem to come naturally to them and they can't adapt quickly to new challenges, but nevertheless they do eventually "get there".

Finally, the 'talentless', and you can probably guess where this is going. They never get even a little bit better, they slog away at something for years and at the end are still within arms reach of where they started. It's almost depressing watching them struggle trying to grasp the concepts and skill required to execute in their medium.

Now your probably wondering what catagory I put myself in, and well I'm one of those 'dedicated' types that spend their life slowly getting better at their art. The funny thing is that the dedicated types often go furthur than the talented type simply because they have far greater stamina, because without that they don't get anywhere at all. They don't get anything handed to them on a plate, it's all very hard work, so they just have the staying power to reach their goal that not all the talented types have. Nevertheless some talented types do have that as well, and of course they blitz everyone else. *sigh*

Maybe you could add a 4th catagory for all the people that are so apathetic that they never try in the first place. But they aren't really 'creatives' after all.
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Date: 3/8/2004
If you not already aware of Scribe's POP over HTTP protocol then it's a way of routing POP traffic over the web so that if you stuck behind a firewall that only allows web traffic you can still get your email. The only downside that you need a PHP server somewhere to host the script that bundles the POP mailbox data into webpages. Although it doesn't have to be on the same server as the POP account, it works so much better if it is on the same server. The reason why is latency. When the script is loaded on to the same machine as the POP account it runs really fast, so much so that your entire mailbox downloads in about a 10th of the time it normally takes. Thats because the POP protocol is not designed for laggy connections and POP over HTTP removes almost all the lag by batching commands and responses together.

Anyway considering that it's not easy for everyone to host a script somewhere, I am considering setting up a service that does just POP over HTTP. You'd get a mailbox on a server that allows you access using POP or the POP over HTTP protocol. You'd have to change your email address but for some people that'd be worth it. There aren't any insurmountable technical issues. So it'd be just a matter of setting up a domain and writing some PHP glue code to setup and configure accounts. I think I would probably have a free account with a small mailbox size, say a few MB and a commercial account with more MB's and maybe other features like virus removal or whatever. As for pricing I'm thinking maybe $5/yr. But I'd have to do some figures to make sure that is sustainable.

What do you think? Is it worth setting up? Is there enough interest?
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