Ultra-short thoughts

Jazz à Juan: good festival, bad Web site

Jazz à Juan is doubtlessly the best festival in the region: excellent musiciens, the Mediterranean as backdrop and, especially, the best sound installation. One could say that the organisers (the Antibes Tourist Office) know how to organise a jazz festival.

On the other hand, as Web site makers they still have to learn: Their site says, in bold letters, that this link is illegal. (Of course, that is not true. See, e.g., what Tim Berners-Lee says, or the European Court of Justice.) Interestingly, that text is absent from the English translation. 2015-07-14

Les routes du sacré

The regional government (Conseil Général) of the Alpes Maritimes published a guide for the religious heritage of the Alpes-Maritimes, written by the Cercle Brea. The guide describes briefly about 150 chapels, churches and other buildings. 2013-12-15

Dudle vs Doodle

Once upon a time, doodle.com was usable, but it is not any longer. Ever tried downloading a dooodle link with curl? or looking at it with w3m? Then try Dudle. It works with any browser, even without a browser, and is much easier to use. 2013-03-21


PlayOgg I have all my music in FLAC with copies in Ogg Vorbis on my portable devices. The FSF leads a campaign to make these free and patent-free formats better known. 2013-03-21


A couple of years ago there weren't many wifi hotspots yet, but when I was traveling and needed to send an e-mail, I could simply go out in the street, walk a bit, and I was sure to find a wifi network. Nowadays there isn't a house without wifi anymore, but no open networks. Somebody convinced people that that is necessary for their security. I think it is rather commercial interests that require that nobody should have access for free. My wifi is open. It's my computers that are secured. And there is now a Web site to promote the idea of open wifi: https://openwireless.org/ The Internet must be as accessible as the roads! 2013-02-13

BBC and others call for action against censorship

The BBC and six other international broadcasters (RNW, AEF, ABC, BBG, DW, NHK) call for action against governments that try to control what information their citizens can or cannot receive. That holds for traditional media, but also for Internet. The seven broadcasters will support and promote technologies that can circumvent Internet censorship.

Personally I'm a fan of Tor. 2013-01-16

Browser functions for tables

Wouldn't it be nice if browsers offered some functions to help make sense of tables in HTML? It often helps to play a bit with the data to better understand their meaning. Sometimes I download a page and modify the table in an editor or I cut and paste it into a spreadsheet program for that reason. But some basic operations could easily be done directly in a browser: transpose (flip the table such that rows become columns and vice-versa), sort on a column (alphabetically or numerically), select (highlight) a column, resize or suppress a column… Maybe even some simple visualizations are possible: select a column of numbers and pop up a graph.

Such functions are useful, e.g., with tables that are too wide or too tall for the browser window; that contain benchmarks for two dozen products when you're only interested in two; that contain data sorted alphabetically on the table headers, when you really want to see them sorted on the data, etc.

Bookmarks, history, view source, open in new window, save to file, and find text in page all existed before 1995. Since then we didn't gain much more than “fit to width” (in Opera), the option to turn style sheets off (required by the CSS standard), looking up a word in a dictionary, automatic reloading of a page (in Konqueror) and “open in this window” (to neutralize the “target” attribute of HTML)… 2012-09-12

The best thing about HTML is that it hasn't changed in 12 years

Probably the best thing that happened to the Web since its creation is the fact that HTML has been so stable. It's 13 years since HTML 4 became a standard (1998). That has enabled us to learn the language. The things we, in the HTML working group, intuitively thought possible actually took many years to realize. And no doubt we're still learning.

Take the CLASS attribute. It took six years, until 2005, for microformats to be invented (by Tantek Çelik).

HTML 4 is now in all kinds of software, from translation memory systems to libraries for the Python programming language. Will HTML 5 have the same chance of remaining stable for ten years or more? Or will it turn out to be like HTML 3.2, which was a step towards HTML 4, but only lasted for a year and was only implemented by browsers? 2012-01-18

Zazie in Vence, it could have been good…

Zazie gave a concert in Vence (south of France), for the festival of the Nuit du Sud. She writes lyrics (in French) that merit being listened to, with sometimes quite catchy melodies. A pity that the sound in Vence was so bad, due to her own roadies. When the music is so loud that it hurts the ears, it is rather difficult to concentrate on the songs.

Incidentally, although she plays her role of performer well, I have the impression that she prefers to play with words rather than with her public. 2011-07-16

EFF article on browser fingerprinting

The Panopticlick demo site itself is easy enough to game, but the EFF's article “How unique is your Web browser?” has a lot of good insights about how a browser/user can be assigned a (relatively) unique “fingerprint” and how a user can make that fingerprint less unique. The methods go far beyond cookies.

(About the demo: the EFF should have asked contributors to identify themselves, e.g., with an e-mail address, so that a second visit by a unique browser could have been distinguished from a visit by a different browser which happened to have the same fingerprint.) 2010-05-18

Veil vs surveillance camera

The French government, like some other European governments, considers forbidding clothes that cover the face (veil, balaclava, etc.). OK, but then let's make a deal: a ban on face masks vs a ban on surveillance cameras. 2010-04-28

Airbus A380, not a good idea

A historical day for aviation, today. De biggest airplane ever, the Airbus A380 has succeeded its first test flight in Toulouse. But a black day for travellers. A plane with 800 passengers, that means: longer queues at check-in, longer queues for boarding, longer waits at disembarking, longer waits for luggage. Moreover, an airplane of that size can only be filled on busy lines and therefore everybody will from now on have to travel via the big airports (“hubs”).

My ideal? More small planes, without stopovers in Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam. I want to arrive at the airport no earlier than 20 minutes before departure, fly direct to my destination, and leave the airport 10 minutes after landing. (Oh yeah, I also want Internet and power for my laptop in every plane, but that has nothing to do with the A380.) 2005-04-27

“Couques Amandes”

Since a few weeks, the French supermarket Carrefour sells a new product: Couques Amandes. In fact, they are the well-known Dutch “gevulde koeken” (almond cookies). In itself not surprising that you can now buy them in France as well, but what struck me was the name: “couque” is not a normal French word. There are apparently a few Belgian cookies that are called that. But it looks very much as if “couque” is simply the Dutch “koek” in French spelling... 2003-09-05

Is XML really self-describing?

The mark-up in XML-based documents is often so verbose (relative to the other content), that some people have described XML documents as “self-describing.” A somewhat weaker claim is that such documents contain both content and structure. Neither is true. The structure is in the document format's definition (often summarized in a DTD), the mark-up only serves to tell a parser how the document maps into that structure. For example, the document doesn't tell which optional parts are omitted.

It is interesting that the claim of being “self-describing” seems to be only made of XML, not of other languages (Java, RTF, CSS, etc.), not even of relatively verbose ones (MIME, iCal, etc.). Or maybe people once claimed that Cobol was self-describing? 2003-02-12

Definition of “semantic web”

The “semantic web” is a crusade against the practice of hiding the useful information of a Web page inside tons of advertisements, navigation links and other clutter.

The crusade will probably have some effect, but it is unlikely that information will ever be completely in the format that the reader wants, if only because it is hard for a reader to ask the right question (recall and precision). 2002-06-20

Pedestrian crossing

Do you always push the button of the pedestrian traffic light twice, too? For security?

If there had been a light or audible signal to indicate that the button press had been registered, people wouldn't push twice. Somewhere (in Japan?) I've seen such a traffic light. Another Japanese discovery: a pedestrian traffic light that indicates how long it takes before the light turns green. 2002-02-17

Bert Bos
Created 17 February 2002