Archive | June, 2004

Dan Bricklin releases ListGarden, simple RSS feed generation

Sounds great! I know several folks for whom this would be perfect!
The Doc Searls Weblog reports Well sown.

“Dan Bricklin has released ListGarden,
an RSS feed generator. Looks like an ideal way to extend easy RSS
generation from blogs to everything else: newsletters, private
websites, whatever. It’s a free-standing utility that runs as a local
HTTP server app or through CGI on a remote server. No need to know XML,
HTML or RSS details. Runs on Linux, OS X and Windows. Open source
(written in Perl), released under the GPL. Launches a new category,

Very cool.”

Win XP SP2 and Samba problems?

I have no trouble browsing and seeing shares on my Samba (2.27) file
server from my Windows XP SP1 client. However, on the test machine with
SP2 RC2, using the “Add a network place” (boy, I love being treated
like an idiot), the dialogs let me browse and see all the shares on
Windows machines, but it doesn’t show the shares on the Samba server.
Providing the explicit path in the dialog’s text box
(\\server\sharename) did let me see the files on the share, and read
and write them without a problem. It appears that just browsing is the
issue. A quick Google didn’t turn up any documentation on this, so I’ll
have to try to figure out if it’s something in my settings or
UPDATE: Never mind. Must have just taken a while for the browsers to get in synch. The shares appear fine now. That’s a relief!

WinXPSP2RC2, in the morning

Successfully installed Release Candidate 2 of WIndows XP Service Pack 2
on a test machine last night. The morning, I was greeted by a screen
asking me to turn on Automatic Updates, with green and red shields
lifted from McAfee or similar security products. This option not only
downloads but installs patchs as Microsoft distributes them. While this
might be an appropriate setting for a non-professional, it’s important
to me to evaluate the possible dangers to installing, say, an hour
before a major presentation (ask me about Visual Studio Service Pack 5
and my nine GPFs during a DevCon sesssion sometime). Also, you can find
very few patches available from Microsoft that aren’t version 1.0a,
revised or reissued. They just don’t get them right the first time. I’d
prefer to evaluate the danger of being exposed to a flaw, expecially in
products I don’t use, like Outlook Express or Media Player, in
comparison to the possibility of destabilizing a production machine.
So, I passed on the Automatic Updates.

Next stop (“Where do you want to go today?”),
Windows Update. Interestingly, Windows Update came up with a “We’re
Sorry” message and a bar across the top of the page saying “This site
might require the following ActiveX control: ‘Windows Update’ from
‘Microsoft Windows Publisher’. Click here to install….” I’m not sure
how that really differs from the older means of confirming
installation, except I don’t see the “Always trust content from
Microsoft” joke checkbox. Clicking on the bar produces a pop-up menu
with three options: “Install ActiveX Control…:, “What’s the Risk?”
and “Information Bar Help” — the last two options both pop yet another
window with the Microsoft Internet Explorer HTML Help. “What’s the
Risk?” doesn’t explain what the risk is, it explains the variety of
messages the bar may display. It appears that ActiveX controls without
valid digital signatures are blocked. The page does on to ask:
“Do you trust the Web site providing the control?
Don’t install an ActiveX control unless you absolutely trust the Web
site that is giving you the control. Click on Related Topics for
information about how to decide if you can trust a Web site.” OK, I’ll
skip the diatribe on whether I should “absolutely trust” Microsoft and
go on to try to install the control.
Selecting “Install ActiveX Control…” brings up yet another dialog,
titled, “Internet Explorer – Security Warning” and asks “Do you want to
install this software? ” with a “More options” button, “Install,”
“Don’t Install” and another pane across the bottom “This type of file
can harm your computer. Only install software from publishers you
trust.” and a link “How can I decide what software to install?” that
again goes the help file, on a different topic. The “More options”
button expands the form, revealing option buttons to “Always install
software from ‘Microsoft Window Publisher’.” “Never install…” and
“Ask me every time” with the last option selected. Seems like “Always
trust Microsoft” lives on.

Finally, the “Install” button really does install the control. However,
the page doesn’t refresh, and I’m left staring at a message that says
“Windows Update has encountered an error and cannot display the
requested page. Try refreshing the page, clearning yor Internet
Explorer Temporary Internet Files, closing and restarting Internet
Explorer, or trying Windows Update again later.” and then it goes on
with “Self-help options” and “assisted support options.” Jeeez.

Refresh didn’t work. I get the “Checking for Windows Update and then a
message “Get the latest Windows Update software” followed by “We’ve
made improvements to our website. To download the new version of the
software and beding using WIndows Update, please click Install Now.” I
thought I already did that. Then, I get the “Sorry” message again.
Third time through (because I’m noting all of the message here) and it
starts installing successfully. Go figure.

Now we get another page “Welcome” says the message “update your computer” and presents two options:
“Express Install (Recommended): High Priority Updates for Your Computer
… Choose this for the fastest updating. Quickly scan for, download
and install only the critical and security updates your computer needs”
“Custom Install: High Priority and Optiona Updates for Your Computer…
Chose this to scan for optional, critical and securit updates your
computer needs, choose from all the updates on the site and review
updates before downloading.”

I choose the latter, of course.

What do you know! No “high priority updates” to install. Good news at last.

Overall, I thought the “eXPerience” was painful, drawn out, and not
terribly helpful. The issues could be explained without several trips
to the Help file. People who are just trying to install some new
internet toy are either going to gullibly ignore all the warnings you
put up, or they are going to pass on the process that is too

However, the machine is finally patched up to date and I can begin testing. More news as it happens…

Where does Win XP SP2 threaten FoxPro developers?

John Koziol blogged
back in March that two areas of VFP were a problem with SP2 installed,
and those two problems were only on chips that supported the NX
processing instructions. Well, Intel says
they’ll be shipping client machines with those instructions soon. I’d
really like to see some more concrete examples of what kind of code is
going to break, so that I can evaluate the extent of the threat to my
clients, and start to plan work-arounds, if possible.

Testing VFP and WinXPSP2RC2

Taking my own advice, I installed XP on a test machine, so that I could test Windows XP Service Pack Two Release Candidate Two.

Not a screamer, an PII-266 HP Omnibook that was Laura’s previous
laptop. The CD turned out to be flaky, so ended up XCOPY32’ing the CD
to disk (it had a Win98SE install on it) and installing from there,
successfully albeit slowly. Where do you want to go today?
Windows Update, of course. A clean install of XP has forty-nine, yes,
49, “Critical Updates and Service Packs” to download. SP1’s a mere 54.5
Mb, so I am glad Comcast’s download cap has been lifted to 3
Mbps. That’s plugging away now, since it must be installed
separately from everything else. Then I can go back and review the
other “Critical Updates” and see what else I’ll need to do.

On the bright side, Microsoft is updating their product — remember
Ashton-Tate that left an entire community hanging for a year and a half
with a dBASE IV that didn’t work before shipping 1.1. On the other
hand, it looks like Microsoft shipped swiss cheese. I read recently,
though I can’t recall where, that someone tried doing this install with
his machine jacked directly into the Internet, but before he could
install all the patches, the machine was compromised. I can believe
that. This one’s been installing for six hours…

UPDATE: After the WIndows XP SP1, install, Windows Update now
claims there are only 18 “Critical Updates and Service Packs” left to
go. I’m going to go straight for XP SP2 RC2 (try saying that three
times fast) and see how many are left after that.

More news as it happens…

InfoWorld: XP update could cause support chaos

Batten down the hatches, those of you, like me, who support clients out
in the field. Windows Update could be bringing you some surprises, in
the form of tech support headaches. If you haven’t beta tested it
already, you might want to get ahead of your customers, who’ll be
beta-testing it soon…

Windows XP update could cause support chaos.
The major changes to Windows XP brought by Service Pack 2 (SP2) are
bound to cause support headaches. Analysts, users, PC makers and
Microsoft Corp. all expect a spike in help desk calls. [InfoWorld: Top News]

Bush invokes Hitler

It’s traditional in most of the newsgroups and forums go on until one
wingnut accuses the other of acting like Hitler. At that point, the
fight has degenerated to silliness and is ignore by anyone with common
sense. The anti-Bush campaign saw Hitler in a proposed ad and wisely
nixed it. If only the President’s campaign had the same sense of

Dan Gillmor’s eJournal blogs No Shred of Decency:

  • NY Times: Hitler Reappears in ’04 Campaign, This Time in Bush Ad. President
    Bush’s campaign Web site is featuring an advertisement casting Senator
    John Kerry and his allies as a “coalition of the wild-eyed,” blending
    clips of former Vice President Al Gore, former Gov. Howard Dean of
    Vermont and the filmmaker Michael Moore shouting about Mr. Bush.
    Interspersed twice are images of a shouting Hitler, drawn from a Web
    spot that, the Internet advocacy group that runs anti-Bush
    advertisements, briefly posted months ago in a contest for
    advertisements about the president.
  • Dan goes on to write: “The clip of Hitler came from an ad submitted to’s “Bush in 30 Seconds” contest — an ad that MoveOn disavowed as soon as it was noticed and, quite properly, attacked for its inflammatory nature.

    But the Bush campaign has no trouble using the same images
    (wmv video) to slander political opponents and critics of its radical
    policies. Just when you imagine they couldn’t sink any lower in their
    tactics, the Bush people find a way.
    If this slimy ad were to be aired on television — on the airwaves Bush
    and so many others are so eager to censor to stop “indecency” —
    campaign laws would require him to personally endorse it. He doesn’t
    have to personally vouch for this garbage when it’s on the Web. Maybe
    that’s why it’s online.”

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