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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Working On Tools

Immediately after "retiring" from the Prototype Core Team, I became active (for the first time!) on the group and finally did what I was there to do in the first place. The next version of Prototype (1.6) will have custom events. The custom events code in 1.6 doesn't look much like the code I described in my essay a year ago, but it's built on the same idea: piggyback custom events on one of the browser's built-in events. (The custom events code in 1.6 was written by a number of people, not just me.)

Anyway, the real point here is that I use Prototype for nearly all of my web projects now, and I contribute to its development. That's working on my own tools.

Plus, immediately after finishing my side of Prototype's new events code, I realized that the next version of Prototype didn't look quite right in BBEdit's function popup. (Some objects were listed as [anonymous] when they should have had names, and some class methods were listed as though they weren't contained by anything.)

So, I updated BBEdit's JavaScript module to fix that problem.

I'm rather proud of the JavaScript support in BBEdit, but (again) the real point here is that I love being able to work on my own tools! (See the BBEdit Disclaimer...)

The same is true for Conversant, which currently runs on Frontier, and which runs my site (and lots of others).

Being a tool-builder makes me feel like a real craftsman.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Hooray for Automation

I wrote a little web app (in Rails) to help me manage these crazy charity software auctions and all the donations that have gone into them.

While setting up the auctions (which will start this week), I realized that I need pictures. I don't want to use pictures of a CD-R (duh), which is the only "pyhsical object" in the auction, so it'll have to be pictures of the icons for all the apps that will go onto a given disc.

That's fine, except it meant downloading all the apps and digging around in their bundles to find the icon files (probably .icns files), and then extracting what I need. There are approximately 125 applications in this auction. That's easily a full day of work, if not two or three.

Instead, I wrote a letter to the donors, and had Rails send the letter to all of the donors. Every letter is fully customized and sent through my gmail account, but directly from Rails.

It took me a few hours to write the scripts and the letter, and to configrure the Rails app to send mail through Gmail. I didn't save a full day... but it's very likely that there will be more letters that need to go to the donors, and now I can add those in a matter of minutes.

Best of all is that one third of the donors have already responded with their icons. Hooray for generosity!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Well and Weirdly Met

RailsConf 2007 was good. I'm glad I went, and I believe I pulled from it — mainly from the other attendees — exactly what I wanted.

It's no surprise, of course, that the best part of the weekend was finally meeting and hanging out with Jim and Sean. Exactly as it was with Greg last year (who I missed this year (but not as much as Corinne and Lauren!) ... lousy timing on the pregnancy, Greg and Kt!), we hung out and chatted as if we've been doing exactly that for many years. Which we have, of course, but only virtually. This was our first meeting, and it was a good one.

The second weirdest experience of the weekend was meeting John Gruber's twin. He hasn't said anything publicly, but he confirms that he has seen it, some of his friends are calling the other guy, "Fake John Gruber," and John referred to it as Very Weird. Rich (who has known JG far longer than I have) agreed the similarity was eerie. They really were identical, in the sense of identical twins. Just as identical twins have little differences that help you tell them apart, these two are not identical in every little detail... but it was still weird.

However, the number one weirdest part of the weekend was that Sevin Sayers was here! (Ok, his name isn't really Sevin Sayers, but he's being very weird about this and wanted his name removed from the site. So it's something *like* Sevin Sayers. (Let's just say there's a reason I haven't seen ‘Sevin’ in years.)) He was completely out of context, as though my life's threads were suddenly exchanging objects or pointers in some way that surely indicated heap corruption and would result in an OS shutdown (kernel panic!) any second.

I first saw ‘Sevin’ on Friday morning, but never really thought it was him, just looked and sounded a bit like him. Then again that evening, but it was just after I met John Gruber's dopplegänger so I decided my brain was having a little more fun with me. When I saw him for the third time on Saturday, I stared at him for a few seconds trying to find the subtle differences that would make him not look like ‘Sevin’ anymore.

He finally looked back at me, and immediately looked very confused. "Seth?!? What are you doing here?"

"Right. Funny you should ask that."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gruber or His Not Evil Twin?

At dinner tonight (hamburgers at the Red Robin), I explained the nightmare that I suffered implementing Markdown support for BBEdit. I told my funny-to-me-at-least story about wanting to snail-mail Guido's beautiful Python language spec to John Gruber with instructions to cook and eat (and how I thought it couldn't hurt the language-design process).

Imagine my surprise, then, when Mr. Gruber sat down in the row ahead of us, just thirty minutes later, for the evening's keynote presentations! (Mac-heads, most of you may better know John Gruber as

No, it wasn't the real John Gruber, but he looked so much like him that he had me fooled for a few seconds. (One might say that he had Grubered John's look and feel, if one knew exactly what it means "to Gruber" something.)   :-D

Not John GruberPlease compare this picture of Gruber's non-evil twin with this one of the original. Freaky, no?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

RailsConf 2006: Highs and Lows

RailsConf (the first 'official' Ruby on Rails conference) ended Sunday afternoon. I'm very glad I went.


  • Having Corinne there with me, for a lot of reasons.

  • Meeting Greg and hanging out like old friends, making plans for future work, and getting help with problems in one of my projects (he has more Rails experience than I do).

  • Watching one of my clients (M.C.) scurry around with a big backpack, and talk to anybody who would listen about his project. The man really seems to love his work.

  • The jets taking off right over the hotel, and the huge trains rumbling by on the tracks across the street.

  • Dave Thomas's keynote on Friday morning, throwing down the gauntlet.

  • All the keynote speakers bluntly disagreeing with all of the others, without hostility.

  • DHH's keynote on Saturday night

  • The Homesteader's Guide, by Nethaniel Talbott

  • The code-related sections of the "performance" by "Why the Lucky Stiff"

  • Meeting with Sam Stephenson, author of Prototype, for an hour on Sunday, and being told that he loved what I showed him. It seems I really did figure out something NEW in JavaScript, and wasn't actually deluding myself. (Note: JS-related validation from Sam is a bit like Ruby-related validation from DHH. That is, he didn't write the language, but he is considered one of the elite and there are many, many thousands of people following his lead.)

    (Yes, I'll have a LOT more to say about this soon.)

  • An email I received from a brand new client. I had to work for this one, but in this case that's a very good thing. I can't wait to say more about this!

  • The macs. It was totally nuts. 550 attendees, and I've seen estimates between 80% and 95% mac coverage. Some joked that "in the future, everyone uses macs." I parried that this wasn't the future, it was the alternate universe where things had worked out like we always knew they were supposed to.

    Check out some of the pictures. I'm even in one of them, from the neck down. ;-)

  • Giving the (other) last remaining mac geeks (about twelve of them) in the bar just off the hotel lobby a whole pizza (our leftovers after we ordered two smalls). They couldn't believe their good fortune! I told them they could have it if they promised not to get any on their MacBooks. They looked at me funny, one guy said that his runs better with pizza. I said, "you don't need to put it on the macbook, the pizza is already cooked." Took them all a second to figure that one out. :-)

Now the lowlights:

  • My babe being bored out of her mind. The conference kept us so busy that there was no time for us to do much of anything, and who wants to play tourist by oneself? (Not her!) Lesson learned. For future conferences, we'll be able to make a more informed decision about whether or not she goes with me.

  • Some of the sessions were desperately boring and lacking in any useful technical information. Some were good, many were not.

  • All the rest of Why's performance. Some people totally loved it. I'm not one of them.

  • Paul Graham's keynote presentation. He has this awesome rep, and I truly enjoy most of his essays, but all he did was read it! Dude. Look at your audience more often than when you're making a joke. (It was funny, though, that he kept saying, “I’m going to leave THAT part ouf of the essay on the site.”)

  • That it ended so soon. Sigh.

Back to work!

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