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There is no way I can forget Robert M. Pirsig (September 6, 1928 – April 24, 2017). It took me a while to read his first book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values“. Mostly so, because after the first chapter I wanted to understand, even contemplate, every paragraph he wrote.

In ZatAoMM, Pirsig wrote down the best possible description of what motorcycle riding means to me:

In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.

To me, Pirsig will remain a philosopher rather than an author. That is also why from time to time, I am able to pick up his books, read a bit at a random page, then find myself contemplating his words and their implications for life in general and my life in particular. In fact, ZatAoMM is the only book that makes me do that…

My personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that’s all.

Archive.org is publishing a series a programs, that allows any Mac-aficionado to return to 1991 and play around with old software on a modern computer. All you need is a browser, and – like me – you’ll be playing Crystal Quest again. The only drawback: I had a Mac IIsi in those days – with a colour display, and Crystal Quest comes up in a monochrome version…

And don’t worry if you do not like Crystal Quest: the site contains already a nice collection of programs, including games.

Last week, I did loose a lot of time in what should have been a quick ColdFusion hack. My colleagues and I were just trying to set up a web service-based solution for a simple problem: they had a JavaScript page that needed a bit of data for which I already had the code in ColdFusion. So I created a new directory in an existing application, whipped up the required code in ‘index.cfm‘ to return a bit of JSON and tested the result from my browser… only to get an “Error 500 - Application index.cfm could not be found“.

Weird, heh? The required file was there, so why could CF11 not find it? Adding an ‘Application.cfm‘ did not help, neither did repackaging the code in a CFC. On CF8, on the other hand, everything worked as expected. So what was going on?

It took some time, but I did find the explanation: CF11 reserves the directory name ‘api’ for special treatment, so you can’t use it like any other directory name – and of course that was the name I had chosen! Adam Tuttle described the situation nicely in 2015:

Funny you should mention that the issue is inside an /api folder. I’m trying to track down the same problem, except I’m directly accessing an index.cfm (sort of — onRequest intercepts the request and redirects to CFCs as appropriate — it’s a Taffy API) and I’ve found that renaming the folder from /api to … literally anything else… works fine. It’s almost as if something in CF has special meaning at /api, like the special /rest mapping does.

Indeed, renaming my directory solved the problem – too bad it took me so long to find the cause. On to the next problem!

PS. Adam Tuttle has more to say on the subject, but his post on the subject has disappeared: the URL ‘http://fusiongrokker.com/post/coldfusion-11-sometimes-chokes-on-api‘ no longer points to the relevant text, but is redirected to another blog also belonging to Adam Tuttle. There, unfortunately, the post is NOT available. I won’t call this a case of linkrot, but it’s not good either. Luckily, the Wayback Machine has a copy of the page, including a few comments…

My Palm – a PalmOne Tungsten E2, to be exact – still can be used for more than waking me up in the morning (or later ;-). Just to prove it still works, even on battery, here’s a picture of my latest Sudoku.

Dated 2017-04-11

The Tungsten E2 was introduced into the market in 2005. The funny part is, you can still buy them on Amazon. Since they can sync their data with a PC over a Bluetooth connection, they’re even compatible with the latest versions of Windows – how cool is that?

IDG Connect pointed me to the website of Planet Computers Ltd. Planet Computers uses the Indiegogo platform to fund the development of the Gemini PDA. Basically, the Gemini PDA is a Psion Series 3/5 lookalike – but with modern hardware and running Android and a GNU Linux variant.

Could be a Psion Series 5, indeed!

I must admit that I lusted after a Psion “personal digital assistant” in the late 1990’ies. But the Psion devices were quite expensive, especially when compared to some of the quite capable devices that Palm Computing managed to build. I still have three Palm devices in the house, although these days their functionality is limited to being alarm clocks ;-)

Much as I would like to see Planet Computers succeed in making the Gemini a success, I tend to agree with the IDG expert, Francisco Jeronimo, IDC Research Director for Mobile Devices in EMEA, who..

… is sceptical of the extent to which the Gemini will appeal to buyers, citing the relatively limited uptake of the recent BlackBerry smartphones that also combined the Android OS with a QWERTY keypad.

“There’s a very small market for this kind of device. Everyone has got used to typing on a touch screen, and most users that really need a physical keyboard or a larger screen have a mini tablet plus an external keyboard,” he adds.

On the other hand, the Indiegogo campaign seems to work well, and perhaps many of the millions of Psion buyers are prepared to spend quite a bit less money on a possibly very functional device, even if it’s just out of nostalgia. We’ll see what the pundits say about the Gemini, if and when Planet manages to build (and sell) them!

It has been a long time since I needed one, and it turned out that I did no longer have one available (installed) on my current machine: a hex editor. But there is ample choice on the web. I tried two of them: first Hex Fiend, from ridiculous_fish. You wouldn’t tell from looking at the homepage of the site, but the author(s?) has written serious code – and explanations about them to boot. Hex Fiend works well, and can supposedly handle very big files. That could come in handy.

My second test concerned 0xED, a tool (the only one?) by Suavetech. It has a somewhat different user interface, probably because it is a bit older. It works quite well too. Like Hex Fiend, it displays selected bytes in different interpretations, but it has more of them. As an extra, you can even write your own plugins to display your selection – that might come in handy if your dealing with somewhat more exotic data than text or numbers.

0xED examining its own download file

For the moment, I’ll leave 0xED on my disk.

 

Brent Simmons isn’t a new name in this blog – I have cited his name several times since 2001. A few days ago he wrote:

It’s been years since I could build the Frontier kernel — but I finally got it building.

[…]
The high-level goal is to make that tool available again, because I think we need it.

The plan is to turn it into a modern Mac app, a 64-bit Cocoa app, and then add new features that make sense these days. (There are so many!) But that first step is a big one.

“Frontier Is Interesting”, says Jim Roepcke – click to see what he writes

It’s an interesting development, from several viewpoints. I wrote some of my first “web applications” in Frontier, and that makes that Frontier will always have a special place in my book of tools. It’s also nice to see a relevant piece of software evolve so that it continues to run on modern hardware and OS’s. At some point, I will certainly download and run a copy on my Mac.

But the question is: do I want to go back to developing stuff in Frontier? Do you want to?