Feb 2005

JWZ: Groupware Bad

Boring summary: the ever-entertaining Jamie Zawinski talks about why groupware is stupid.

Fun summary: Jamie Zawinski vs Nat Friedman, awesome JWZ-style swearing throughout the article, paying out on stupid managers, and, as usual, telling us how crap Netscape went from version 2 to version 4.

(Props to Joel on Software for pointing out the article.)


Consider Phlebas

First, new blog category: “Books”. Go me. One of my New Year’s promises was to read more (fiction) books. Well, it wasn’t really a New Year’s promise — more of a general promise I’ve been wanting to keep to myself for about the last 5 years, so hopefully blogging about it will bring my non-book-readingingness out of inertia.

Anyhoo, the subject of today’s bookdom is Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. If you like big, grand, massive sci-fi scales and plots, this should float your boat quite nicely. The back-page summary of “a space opera of stunning power and awesome imagination” fits it very nicely. If you’ve ever played the magnificent computer game Freespace 2 and gaped in awe at capital ships which are kilometres long and supported thousands of crewmembers, this book evokes the same feeling — only several orders of magnitudes more epic. The main character, Horza, is interesting and is fleshed out quite well, and the supporting cast are decent too. Banks’s universe is filled with great, non-boring detail, from the philosophies of the Culture to the concepts in the Damage gambling game.

To top it all off, the ending of the book is quite interesting, in that the extra “factual pages” at the end of the book give it a sense of closure, while not completely resolving the main plotline. You’ll have to read it to understand what I mean, I suppose.

It’s not a thought-provoking kind of novel like the Ender series is, but that’s not a bad thing considering it clearly never has that goal in mind. If you want serious thought-provoking material, I’ve heard that some of Iain Bank’s numerous other books are quite the hardcore sort. (i.e. At least one person I know simply can’t read his other books simply because they’re so … grim.) As for Consider Phlebas, I loved it. I haven’t read an excellent epic sci-fi tale in a very long time. Recommended.


"Witch" Window Switcher

A man named Peter Maurer has published a most excellent bit of software for the Mac named Witch. Witch is a window switcher, in the spirit of LiteSwitch X in the pre-Panther days. I quite like the standard ⌘-Tab window switcher that’s built into Panther, so I won’t be using Witch for that. However, Witch’s killer feature for me is that it can also replace the ⌘-` key with its own switcher, which works in a MRU (Most-Recently-Used) fashion, similarly to how ⌘-Tab works.

Witch’s standard ⌘-Tab window switcher replacement also cycles through all documents in all windows, rather than only cycling through the active windows, which is gives more Windows-like behaviour if you prefer that. It also has other nifty features like being able to assign window zoom/minimise to keyboard shortcuts — but IMHO, that’s all small candy compared to the excellent ⌘-` document switcher replacement!