Tech Life The glimmer of hope

2002 Continued Technical Blunders

Since everyone was worried about their jobs in 2002, not a huge amount of attention has been paid to technology this year. This doesn’t excuse software developers from the following list of products/technologies I still CAN’T BELIEVE haven’t been done well. In the vein of Holy Shit Lists, this list could be considered a brief WHAT THE HELL? list.


The problem: The bookmark format has, essentially, not changed since Netscape 3.x – this an atrocity. In Internet Explorer 6, I’m still baffled about how to move one bookmark to another without firing up the tremendously useful “Organize Favorites” dialog.

Both IE and Mozilla variants have sidebar windows which present bookmarks/favorites in a more scalable, search form, but it’s STILL the same old boring bookmark format.

Why it’s hard: No one really cares about bookmarks because, face it, they’re just a small step above writing URLS on that piece of paper sitting next to your keyboard in terms of usefulness. Links organized in web pages appear to suffice for most folks who want to have more than SIX BUTTONS across the top of their browser, but the caring and feeding of such pages ultimately makes them stale.

The glimmer of hope: I’m seriously hopped on RSS kool-aid as of recent which means I’m seeing all solutions to problems in terms of RSS, but I do think RSS feeds will totally replace bookmarks in the next several years. Why? They do what bookmarks should have done long ago – they’re dynamic. If I tell my RSS reader that I care about this feed, the reader regular checks that feed for new stuff and tells me where that new stuff is.

While RSS popularity growing, RSS readers while have the same issues of scale that bookmarks have/did. Fortunately, there are very bright people devoting entire applications to the cause.

Centralized, OS independent storage.

The problem: I’m officially a two operating system guy. I’m using XP half the time and Mac OS X the other. This means I’m reading and finding stuff on one machine that I must have on the other. There are a variety of nuts and bolts ways to do this (FTP, Network Home Directories, iDisk), but solutions tend to be OS dependant and when they try to bridge the gap, the integration bugs make them annoying to use.

Why it’s hard & the glimmer of hope: Both Microsoft and Apple spent the 90s and the early 00s fortifying their operating system fortresses against incursion making sure the inhabitants were content while blissfully ignoring other fortresses. Problem with that scenario is the inhabitants start to inbreed and then the offspring get weird. Thanks to the Net and the United States government, Microsoft appears to be open the portcullis and acknowledging that integration is a good thing. Meanwhile, as a survival tactic, Apple’s Jaguar has a bevy of bridge gapping features geared at making Mac’s useful in a Windows environment.

The worth-mentioning glimmer of hope: I haven’t used WebDAV, but “folks who know” claim it’s a step in the right direction. Great, so when are Microsoft and Apple going to build seamless access into the OS?

Centralized, OS independent identity caching.

Riding on the centralized storage idea, I’d also like a secure way to store my identity and preferences. Microsoft has blown millions on trying to do this with Passport, but, in my opinion, consumers (and, more importantly, businesses) have avoided it. Bright move.

Sun’s Liberty Alliance hasn’t been in on my radar for months, but a quick glimpse of their site shows they’ve got a FLASH demonstration of what their 1.0 specification will provide. Go Sun?

The glimmer of hope: Privacy advocates are justified in being concerned about identity caching mechanisms. I am happy they are super paranoid about this stuff because I just don’t have time to be rabid enough. Still, there is a solution out there and the personal productivity gains I’ll reap by not having to remember one of a dozen passwords I currently have in play are significant.

Ok, what’d I miss?

7 Responses

  1. huaghl 21 years ago

    Hm. Bookmarks: The question is, what do you want them around for? If you’re an er33t bl0gg4r type (something few are, really), then yes, your bookmarks can be entirely replaced by RSS feeds, I guess.

    If, however, you’re a regular peon, or a general-purpose type, it comes down to what you want to do. If it’s DEAR GOD I NEED THE JUMPER SETTINGS FOR THIS MAGNETO-OPTICAL DRIVE THAT FUJITSU IS TRYING TO DISOWN BUT HALLELUJAH THEY LEFT THE INFO ONLINE ON THE CANADIAN SITE, then saving the whole damn page is the best idea. You don’t want a pointer, because you know it might die.

    On the other hand, if it’s just something to scribble down… bookmark. And if it’s live content (you care more about “the site” than “the particular pointer”), then RSS might be some sort of answer, I guess.

    I guess you could argue that the browser interface makes *all* these tasks inconvenient… but on the other hand, it ain’t that bad. Make a bookmark to file://where-I-save-my-sites, and things are sort of integrated, I guess. As to RSS.. well, hell if I know.

    Storage… is a mess. I’m always amused by people with the corporatetastic outlook on things- before we even fuck with things like WebDAV, shouldn’t we, say, settle on some sort of lingua-franca for removable media? I know I’m a luddite, but dear god, UDF was supposed to be the holy grail here, yet… good luck finding support for it, and double good luck finding support for it on Zips/MOs/any sane form of removable backup media.

    Let’s add a big “jesus christ it’s 2002 and it’s harder than ever to make backups” to that. Or at least, randomly-accessible backups. Obviously, if you’re part of a corporate hive, you’re using some sort of centralized SAN NAS RAID HUAGHL that gets backed onto DLT or whatever the fuck and then everyone crosses their fingers that the emulsion doesn’t flake off the tape and really how reliable is that shit anyway? … but if you’re a home user, or a small-office user, or whatever… it’s still impressively retarded if you just want to save some important files for posterity, and you’re still stuck to weird, halfassed filesystems that lock you into whatever system you’re using, and on and on and on. (I mean, sure you can rig up a Linux box, or an OpenBSD box, or whatever as a backup server, but this shit is STILL going to dump your data onto your tapes in ext2 or FFS or FAT or god knows what, and then two years down the line everyone’ll be using ext3 or Reiser or whatever and you’ll go through hell.)

    Identity’s already been argued here.

    Um… and “jesus christ it’s 2002 and the best we can do is blogging?” I’m going to go the route of a personal Wiki, but Wikis seem to have the concept right but the implementation unnecessarily brain damaged. What we really need is something like Chandler for “the web”… but, uh, it seems like Chandler will be built for “the web,” so it might be the thing to wait for.

    Still, it sounds like it’ll be freakin’ monolithic, so writing something vaguely similar in Ruby that just uses the filesystem and so forth might be cool.

    Um I guess… regular websites were hypermesses or hierarchial (is that a word?), Blogs add chronological organization, and are nifty for certain types of shit.. but we still need the whole orgy that XML and prevalent databases and all that were supposed to give us. Something like a relational Gopher, I guess. OR just a content-management system that doesn’t totally suck.

    It seems the world is slowly rediscovering multicast or at least multicast-like bandwidth-multiplication for actual broadcasting and not just taking down Yahoo! so hallelujah on that point.

  2. Just spent some time reading about RSS, which was new to me. Looks real interesting. I’ve wanted a client-side version of the functionality used to offer ever since I first saw spyonit. It seems that RSS could be that someday, if it moves beyond bloggers, eh?

    NetNewsWhatever looks like just the app I want (except the Mac bit). But the logical conclusion is, as you say, dynamic bookmarks. I see a project or two underway to write an RSS Mozilla sidebar. That’d do the trick. Doesn’t seem like any are done yet tho.

    Guess I’ll browse around some more and look for Windows apps.

  3. armacat 21 years ago

    Re: Moving bookmarks in IE.


  4. re: an rss mozilla/ns sidebar; try

    while you will only get the link to the site (not the full titles of the most recent items), it handles the updating-you-about-your-sites problem in a pleasant, non-software-needing way.

    re: bookmark evolution and link mgmt in general;


  5. Doctor Memory 21 years ago

    Regarding the OS-independent storage issue: WebDAV is an interesting idea, but SO PAINFULLY SLOW. Apple supports it directly through ‘iDisk’, but MS seems to be intent on avoiding it.

    SFS is an interesting newcomer, but still relies heavily on a lot of unix-y things on the backend, so I dunno if it’ll ever be a serious contender:

  6. Tim Moore 21 years ago

    MS isn’t avoiding WebDAV…it’s built into IE, MS Office, and IIS now (I’m not sure when that happened, but I’ve got it all w/ Windows 2K, IE6 and Office XP).

    And, yeah, Apple’s got it too. I think that few people understand it yet, and so they don’t use it on their servers.

  7. Klaatu 21 years ago

    Dear Rands;

    This is a minor “what the hell?!”, but I did a power point presentation on a Clone but I had to run it off a Mac. I had to do a presentation based on scientific content and key units did not show up when run on the Mac ! I got _ instead of greek symbols, to my consternation. I just made a big raspberry sound in front of the class and everyone cracked up. I am sentimental about Macs though, since I learned on one. What is up with this lack of compatability?