Sean O'Donnells Weblog
In the last few years I have begun to read more and more books from a screen. It began in 2000 when I received a hand me down Palm IV from work. I managed to hook it up to the Siemens phone I had at the time to browse the web, for the most part it was a toy, I would only fire that up to show off and that was about it. On September the 11th 2001 planes started hitting tall buildings and I was in the office. The boss gave us the rest of the day off and I was facing an hour long commute home on the bus. I simply could not handle not knowing what was going on, so I fired up the palm and the phone and read from that small screen jumping from report to report. That was the first time I saw reading from such a small screen as anything other than a gimmick.
Then came mobipocket, they make an excellent reader for the Palm , and a reasonable amount of free texts where available on the web. From there came my Zaurus and JustReader, my 7650 and ReadM, and lately my 6630 and back to Mobireader (As soon as ReadM works on it I will probably switch back). When I get to stand still for any amount of time, I switch from small screens to the Thinkpad. The last 5 years have seen me become perfectly comfortable with reading long texts from the smallest of screens and I would guess that about 70% of my recreational reading is now done from one portable device or another.
At this point I read a variety of ebooks regularly , on a variety of platforms and devices.As a result if I purchase an ebook I want a format that I can convert easily. At the moment I prefer HTML or PDFs that convert to HTML easily. I use pyrite publisher to convert to pdbs for devices that do not handle HTML easily.
Baen books is where I find most of my bubble gum reading for passing the time on bus rides (I do not drive). Their excellent free library is a brave and pioneering move that is about to make them some money from my pocket. I have grown fond of a number of their authors (1632 and its sequels are fantastic fun reads) and I am browsing their Webscription service right now credit card in hand.
My gripe is this (and I always have at least one), Baen is the only ebook provider I can find that does not peddle DRM crippled ebooks. My preferred reading tends to be popular history and science, and while I enjoy fiction occasionally, thats all Baen provide. So I went hunting today to try and find somewhere I could purchase something along those lines.
A quick google for ebooks brings up some pretty interesting looking stores. ebookmall.com support open formats, but precious few of the books they carry are actually available in them. ereader.com only supports their own reader software, ebooks.com, fictionwise.com and powells.com all only provides DRM formats. All of these stores are carrying books I would buy right now if they would provide them to me uncrippled. None of these formats will go everywhere I want to read them, so my money stays in my pocket.
Listen up guys, Baen wins , you lose. You have the books I would prefer , but Baen have my money. I like your product but the packaging is so appalling I cannot bring myself to buy it. If that is not setting off alarm bells for you I do not know what will.
James Roberts seems to think so.
There are a lot of developers who will have a really hard time letting go of the idea that all inbound CS people should take a compiler class. Ask yourself though - how many people are doing that kind of work, and how many are creating what amounts to glorified reporting interfaces?"
I have found that my compiler design class is one of the few I have used the material from again and again and again over the course of my career. This class introduced a wide range of tools into my toolbox. Regular expressions, a better understanding of parsing , the ability to create special purpose mini languages , nothing has made me a better developer than my understanding of compilers.
James goes on to say
Think about Unit tests, for instance. A structural engineer building a bridge doesn't need tests - what he needs is a blueprint and the materials."
And now I think I have a better understanding of where James is coming from, although I still fundamentally disagree with him. I am a big subscriber to the concept of Code as Design. James seems to believe that development is like the construction phase of an engineering project , hence he is asking where our blueprints are. To me the construction phase is running my buildscript to assemble the finished program and then shipping it. This is not a big problem in software development.
I believe that coding is the design phase, the finished design is the source code , and this is then used to manufacture the product. As our manufacturing phase is so cheap , we test our design by actually building and using it (hitting compile & run). Cost alone rules out this possibility when building suspension bridges. The idea of creating 100 bridges and then demolishing them because you decide to redesign some of the architecture until you get it right is ridiculous. We are very lucky to have such cheap and flexible construction material in our profession. Architects and engineers try to approximate such a development method by using scale models, wind tunnels etc. Then when they have tested on cheap scale models they refine their design and repeat. The cheap cost of building software allows us to do this with the real thing. Anyway , read Jack W. Reeves articles for more on this perspective.
The funny thing is, I agree with Jame's fundamental assertion, that developing software is not Engineering, I would say it is much more of a craft.
Well if anyone has been waiting for another release of Ogham, they are probably getting pretty testy by now. I'm still working on it and internet explorer compatibility is the primary goal at the moment. Its about 95% there right now. The navigation tree is now 100% , there are still a few irritating bugs in the WYSIWYG editor when inserting images and links. One or two more evenings hacking should get them sorted.I'm just having a problem getting those one or two evenings free at the moment. If I don't manage a release this week , I'll check what I have so far into cvs for the adventurous to play with.
The big feature in this release is Konqueror/KHTML compatibility, The tree menu should now be 100% compatible , but due to the lack of WYSIWYG support in KHTML editing has to be done in a plain textarea. I hear that the KHTML team are working on including support for this soon. As soon as they do I'll bring in compatibility. Everything else is down to bugfixes, you can download the latest version or check out the changelog at http://ogham.odonnell.nu/.
I would love to hear from safari users as to how well ogham now works for them , As I have only been able to test on Konqueror 3.3.2
The focus for the next release will be Internet Explorer Compatibility.