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Saturday, February 22, 2003

The Trailing Edge

(This post is boring. Go read something else.)

Long ago, computer terminals were all black, with just green letters and one font, because green electrons were the first to be invented. You've all seen this in the movies. (Actually, before that, computer screens were green and white with faint black letters and were printed on dead trees in long folded sheets, and you typed your instructions in on a big noisy machine which spat out pieces of cardboard, which you then put into another big noisy machine, which---in the fullness of time---ejected the green-and-white sheets which told you you'd mis-spelled a word and had to do the whole thing over again.)

(And before that they were stone tablets, but that was before my time.)

Soon, white electrons were invented. When my household got its first personal computer---make that Personal Computer [TM, IBM]---it came with amber electrons which were just the end. They were much easier to read than the harsh white electrons. Nothing could be cooler than this. Except, maybe, for the computer---which I saw with my very own eyes---that could switch between white, green, and amber electrons. Wow.

Eventually, for some reason, terminal text colors stabilized around white letters. And when I say "terminal", I mean terminals for serious computers, not those toy PC thingies. Suns. Vaxen.

That seemed about as fer as we could go, until that time when some genius invented the concept of windowing. That was fabulous, because it meant you could have more than one black-and-white "terminal" on your screen at a time, for those special occasions when you wanted to do two things at once. Fantastic. When we got our first windows (note the small w) machine at work, there was also image display software, which had more than one color, if you can imagine. But that was just for us scientists. Ordinary folk didn't want to be displaying images.

All this is to explain why this blog is white letters on a black background. That just looks normal to me, and it's easier on my eyes. I edit almost all my posts beforehand, and just paste them into the Blogger window. Just like this one, which I'm editing in a window with white text on a black background. I mention this because some crybabies have complained.

Which brings me to the reason I've just upgraded my Netscape. It was Netscape 4.79, now I've upgraded to 7.02, because I couldn't figure out how to upgrade to 7.0. (7.02, Niles tells me, has "issues" with JavaScript. So do I, pal.)

See, I figure that once you've got software to the point where it does what you want it, you can stop fiddling with it. Netscape 4.79 worked just fine. Oh, there were some blogs I couldn't read with it. But only a few, and if I really really wanted to read them, I started up Konqueror. Why upgrade, and risk losing functionality that you like, only to gain some functionality that you don't want? And upgrading is annoying, and this particular upgrade insisted that you download some sort of alien executable, and it reached out God-knows-where and put God-knows-what on my computer. I resisted this, but there didn't seem to be a choice.

A Unix sysadmin knows that software is installed with a Make file, which you can see with your own eyes, and which you can edit to your satisfaction. You don't have to put that new program in /usr/local. You can put it in /hd001/obscure/arcane/nyah-nyah-can't-find-me and copy the binary to /usr/local/bin. That way not only do you keep large files off of /usr (and instead use disk space "liberated" from Prof. Deadwood, who has gobs of it which he never uses for anything), but you hide it from pesky users who might want to do something fancy and dangerous with it, like use it. But you don't let programs go wandering off on their own, installing whatever they want without asking you. That's what this one did. One day I fully expect to wake up and find that Netscape has signed me up to join the 700 Club, or Greenpeace. Bah.

But sadly, the stuff I'm doing requires some software which will not work with Netscape 4.79, so I had to upgrade.

And that goes for the terminal colors too. Why upgrade with bells and whistles and fonts and textures and smells, when this plain old white-on-black text thingy works so well? I got some fancy colored text, what more do you want? Next you'll be wanting to watch movies! I tell today.

But the Netscape upgrade does mean one thing. Now I see blog people. Previously, a lot of blogs were just Netscape-background-gray with black letters. Now, I can actually experience Quatloos as Andrea intended them. I see that Moira Breen has a really beautiful color scheme. Jane Galt's blog is all green and stuff. I even see the New Zealand flag at the top of Silent Running.

Oh! And Blogger works better now too. For one thing, it doesn't try to do something JavaScripty to my hard drive every two seconds, which not only makes me paranoid, but the noise drives me nuts. This means I can leave my Blogger window open all the time. Huzzah!

So, I think I might get used to this new Netscape business. The tabs are kind of convenient. But I'm not going to rush into things. I'm going to test-drive it for a while before upgrading the browser on my Windows 95 partition (which is currently running Netscape 3.04).