Holidailies 2009

Postings during the 30 days of Holidailies 2009 (www.holidailies.org).

Phone Apps as the Badge of FAIL

I'll give you an easy out: you can write off this rant as a case of iPhone envy. You can do that, but you'll be wrong.

Phone apps are, for the most part, a bad idea. Once upon a time, a long time ago, online services lived in little walled gardens, with names such as Compuserve and AOL. Then it was discovered that open, common standards, namely the Internet and the Web, were far superior. The walls crumbled and openness prevailed.

Phone apps are an attempt to recreate the walled garden. That's bad and wrong. When developing for a phone, a platform specific app should be the last choice. The first choice should be a standard web application, optimized for mobile use (which means smaller screen and limited input capability).

There are four reasons to develop a phone app instead of a mobile web app. Two of them are good. Two of them are bad -- but are the predominant reason why phone apps proliferate.

Proposed Changes to Texting Ordinance a Disappointment

In October, the Austin City Council considered a new ordinance to ban texting while driving. Numerous concerns were raised. The ordinance passed, but enactment was delayed until January 1, 2010. That was to allow for public education, and to review the concerns raised.

Discussion since then has focused on two primary problems with the ordinance.

First, the ordinance is vague and confusing. It isn't entirely clear what is prohibited and what is permitted. For instance, if you sync a note to your iPhone and glance at it later while driving, would that be a violation or not? It's hard to say.

Much of the confusion is based in the atrocious – borderline nonsensical – definition of an "electronic message" (§ 12-1-1) that was adopted:

I Heart IMAP

I am finally ready to leave the email technology of the 80s and embrace the technology of the 90s.

I was, many years ago, a prolific contributor to the Elm mail project. Elm was groundbreaking in that it was one of the first, user-friendly, "screen oriented" email programs. Although it was text based, you could arrow around the screen to read your mailbox and page through messages.

Elm spawned two main successors, the Pine mail program (which tried to dumb down Elm) and the Mutt mail program (which tried to smarten it up). I have, until recently, been using Mutt.

(Interestingly, the Mutt email program appeared because Michael Elkins offered changes to Elm that were not accepted. It's not that the changes were bad. The problem is that they needed memory, and that would have prevented Elm from working on small memory machines. That was a big deal in those pre-virtual-memory days, but probably sealed the deal for Elm's doomed future.)

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