e + 1 = 0

March 28, 2002

The saga of my troubled PowerBook G4 continues: Apple kindly sent me a new battery, in case my machine’s inability to recharge was due to the battery. Turns out, it isn’t, so the problem is with the logic board (this is the replacement logic board, remember; the first one broke after five days and suddenly stopped displaying video).

Naturally, 667MHz PowerBook logic boards are in short supply, so they can’t provide me with an estimated repair time. I was hesitant about sending my now-primary computer off for an unknown length of time, so they offered to send me the box for shipping the computer back to them and then inform me when a supply of logic boards came in. (We also discussed the possibility of taking it to a local authorized repair shop, but their most likely course of action would be… mail it to Apple, so we figured I might as well cut out the middleman.)

In terms of problems which aren’t Apple’s fault (mostly), I’ve discovered that my wristwatch is the most likely reason the finish is scraping off the left side of the base. To be honest, I’m surprised the finish is scraping off at all: I didn’t think the TiBook had finish. It looks so metallic, I just assumed that was it’s natural color. Naïve of me, I suppose.

In the interests of fairness, I’ll emphasize once again that Apple’s people have been very helpful and that I’m quite happy with the PowerBook G4 itself (aside from the various glitches and the lack of a forward-delete key). #

About the “#”s

You’ve probably noticed the “#” links which appearing in ZedneWeb this month, and you’ve possibly wondered what exactly they’re for. The answer is: Granularity. Aren’t you glad you asked?

Seriously, though, as ZedneWeb has moved in a weblog-like direction over the years, these entries have gotten longer and started involving multiple topics. For a while, I used bold text to simulate section headings, but in October 2001, I started using real heading elements to separate topics (the reason I delayed doing that is because the headings are second-level in the individual archive pages, but third-level on the front page, and it took me a while to sit down and make my back-end software capable of working that out).

This provided visual separation for readers, but it didn’t allow people to refer to specific sections. For example, the January 5 entry discusses CD copy-protection, digital identity standards, two geeky charts, weblogs in comparison to Journalism, and the recent Lord of the Rings movie. If I or someone else wanted to direct someone to a specific section, we’d have to link to the whole page and hope that the reader would find the part we’re referring to.

Fortunately, there’s a way around that, too. In February, I started enclosing each section in a “div” element with an “id” attribute. The id gives the div a name which can be used to refer to it specifically, rather than the entire page. For example, this section has the id “numbersigns” and is part of the archive at <http://www.eyrie.org/~zednenem/2002/03/28/>. That means you can refer to this section as <http://www.eyrie.org/~zednenem/2002/03/28/#numbersigns>. The “#” separates the id from the rest of the address.

I quickly realized that simply assigning names wasn’t enough, unless I expected my readers to look at the source code. I looked around at weblogs to see if I could find a way of indicating the addresses without being too obtrusive. Eventually, I decided that a short link at the end of the section would be enough, and I decided to use a “#” because it’s reminiscent of the “#” which appears in the addresses. (Other possibilities included a bunch of colons (“:::”) or the word “Permalink”.)

To summarize, then, the purpose of the “#” links at the end of sections are to provide an easy way for readers to determine the address of that section. They’re at the end to make them relatively unobtrusive.

I have specific reasons for using divs instead of the more common “a”-element-with-name method, but I imagine that no one has read this far, so I won’t go into it. #

Pages for printing

Nublog recently gave some advice for creating print versions of pages. Many on-line newspapers and magazines provide two versions of their articles, one with all the usual navigation bars and images and such, and a simpler one intended for printing out. The idea being that people don’t want to spend lots of ink on tables of links that have no relevance on the printed page.

Making things easy for people printing things out is a good idea, but having two versions of each story is not necessarily the optimum way of doing things (unless, like Salon, you break your stories into multiple pages on-line but combine them onto a single page for printing). A List Apart, for example, has managed to provide a single page for reading on-line and printing. #

More hot CBDTPA action!

Since I wrote my previous CBDTPA piece, Dan Gillmor has written an accessible explanation of why the expansion of copyright power is bad for Americans (and, presumably, the rest of the world as well, although they aren’t officially subject to American copyright law).

Regarding the well-disliked DMCA, Gillmor writes:

As prescient critics warned, the law has been abused by the entertainment crowd and its craven allies in the technology business to threaten scholars, curb free speech and even incite outrageous prosecutions.

We’ve already had foreign computer researchers jailed for writing software in other countries, professors refuse to publish out of fear of being sued, and judges rule that linking to sites can be illegal. How much more unbalanced can this get? Some people are starting to fight back, but I don’t hold out much hope. It’s real easy to point out that millions of people are listening to music they got for free; it’s harder to argue about abstractions like the public good—particularly without millions of dollars in campaign contributions. #


Salon has a recent article about GnuPG, which is a free version of PGP that has become popular since Network Associates dropped the product.

PGP provides a simple system for encrypting and digitally signing files, such as e-mail messages. What sets it apart from other public-key systems (which allow you to send a message that only the recipient can decode without first having to exchange a secret key) is its decentralized “web of trust”. Rather than having a central authority hand out keys and assure people that the people holding the keys are who they claim to be, PGP operates by letting people vouch for each other. If I know you, then I can sign your key, indicating that I believe you’re the person using it. Someone else who doesn’t know you but does know me might then choose to believe your identity because I vouched for you.

What’s neat about the web of trust, is that it doesn’t require a single certifying agency, but it allows for them. A certificate authority is just another person whose recommendations you trust.

Anyway, GnuPG is a free software replacement maintained by the GNU organization. For some reason, their site doesn’t mention the MacGPG project, which is working on a Mac OS X version. #