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Scripting News

Scripting News, the weblog started in 1994 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution. ๐Ÿš€

Published: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 15:18:33 GMT

Last Build Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 15:52:54 GMT

Copyright: © 1994-2018 Dave Winer.

Frontier love

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 15:18:33 GMT

Hearing from lots of Frontier users after Gruber's writeup yesterday.

I didn't know that he had used Frontier. It was really interesting to read his perspective. The connection between the language and the object database is something so simple it can be hard to explain. ๐Ÿ’ฅ

Some people wish it would "come back." For them I have good news. Thanks to solid engineering and generous work from Ted C Howard, Frontier runs on today's Macs, except now it's called The OPML Editor, because it's configured as an outliner. Long story. It's totally Frontier.

I'm using v10.1b19 as my IDE for my JavaScript work. I've built a real sweet code deployment environment, it's as if S3 is my file system. All this to say that Frontier is as rock-solid as ever. If you're a Mac user and want a Frontier experience, it's available to you. Not as a memory.

Ted maintains a GitHub repository with the latest version. The list is in reverse chronologic order.

There is a Windows version, I don't know how well it runs. You can download it from

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 21:48:23 GMT

Nice write-up for 30 years of Frontier on Daring Fireball. Thanks!

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 19:36:42 GMT

The demo river on Glitch now runs in HTTPS. (Yes, I support it in my products, when I can, but my websites won't, not until we get Google to kick back. No one owns the web. That's an absolute.)

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 17:14:04 GMT

Unread 1.9.3 supports titleless items in feeds. Thanks! Next, let's ask Inoreader and NewsBlur to do so as well. Here's a feed to test with. This is an important historic feature dating back to the origins of RSS. Today, it's how blogging can grow into Twitter's space, without its limits (with linking, styles, and no length limit). It was there before Twitter even existed, btw. If you look at the archive of my blog going back to the 90s you'll see lots of titleless items. This is one of the ways Google Reader screwed up the blogging world, by refusing to support this required feature. Let's undo that mistake and grow our world. It's really easy. ๐Ÿ’ฅ

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 15:09:23 GMT

You might try listening to someone who is sure they're right, no matter what their age. Sometimes they're right, I've found.

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 14:05:47 GMT

An update on the work with River5 and Glitch. The demo river is still working, amazingly. Before I close the thread, I'd like to do a little cleanup work so there's a good example to build on for others, and for when we pick the thread up in the future.

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 13:31:49 GMT

Until now podcasting has been free of lock-in. The better Google is, the worse it could be for the future of podcasting. Lots of history here.

Glitch and River5

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 12:49:32 GMT

TL;DR -- We're seeing if it's possible to run River5 on Glitch.

Update #2 -- the current demo server has been configured to write all of River5's data into a folder named .data -- this folder is supposed to persist across launches. The proof will be if the server is still updating in 12 hours, i.e. 2:30AM Eastern time.

Update #1 -- maybe there is a way forward. They do something special with a folder named .data -- and luckily River5 can be told to maintain its data anywhere you like through config.json. We may be back in business here. See the thread for details.

Notes from earlier in the day follow...

Yesterday I posted a link to a River5 server running on Glitch, the result of a braintrust query earlier in the day. This was significant because Glitch is easy to get started with for people new to running servers, a good thing, and it's free. Seeing it run River5 was great. Alas, when I came back an hour later, the server had lost its memory of previous stories and had started over. You can see this by watching the dashboard page on the server.

I found a doc that explains its technical limits, notably:

Projects sleep after 5 minutes if they are not used, and those running for more than 12 hours are stopped. Both wake again when they receive a HTTP request.

This is similar to what happens on Heroku with free projects. So I tried what had worked for Heroku, I wrote a script that runs on my desktop that reads a fast page on the server once a minute. It should, according to their warning, keep the server running.

River5 maintains the data about the feeds its following and the stories it has seen in the local filesystem. That gets recreated when the server is shut down and then restarted. So, even with a keep-alive script, it will lose its memory after 12 hours.

However this paragraph seems to contradict that conclusion --

Projects have a limit of 128MB of space on the container. Though things written to '/tmp' don't count towards that, nor do your Node modules, and we use compression to squeeze the most out of that space. Plus, there's an additional 512MB of assets storage space too.

I'm guessing they have an API for this? Not sure. River5 just keeps JSON files in the filesystem. It uses the Node fs package to read and write.

I like w3schools

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 13:19:48 GMT

I saw a thread on Twitter the other day where some developers were dissing the w3schools website. There are apparently browser plugins that block the site? I don't know why they don't like it, if given a choice to point to this page or this one, I'll generally pick the one on w3schools, because there's a chance that people who don't know Node will understand it, and might learn something, and learning imho is a universal good.

Similarly, I appreciate it when traveling if people don't make fun of the fact that I don't know where everything is in their hometown, and try to return the favor when people need help finding their way around my hometown. If I know a little bit of their language I try to throw it in -- grazie! prego! buon giorno!

I like w3schools because they tend to show you the info you need in the order you need it. Other developer docs more often show you stuff in the wrong order, and leave out details that are necessary to understanding the topic. They may work well for experienced programmers, but what's so bad about making what we do more accessible to the non-initiated?

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 17:47:19 GMT

Braintrust query: Tom Critchlow wants to run River5 on Glitch. Has anyone had any success with this?

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 21:59:59 GMT

New header graphic, a distinctive white plant I spotted in a planter on Arlington Ave in Berkeley in (let's say) 2007. The previous header was a springtime picture of Kim of North Korea and Xi of China.

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 21:39:54 GMT

I would think that given the hype about blockchain that by now there would at least be a demo of something interesting to an average person.

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 17:40:31 GMT

What has become of Anthony Hopkins??

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:20:21 GMT

A new kind of software I want to do. Starting with Node on the server and JavaScript in the browser as the foundation, ship sample apps or code examples that solve common problems with a neat simple API. We did this inside Frontier for many years, so there's plenty of prior art. The first one is a simple feed reading API. It takes the URL of a feed and calls back with either an error, or a JavaScript object containing the content of the feed, in a standard form, flattening the differences between the formats. Your code doesn't care. It also handles charset encoding. It's as simple as it can be. Now there's no excuse for not adding a feed reading capability to your Node app.

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:16:17 GMT

Without a strong tech press we can't have open formats and protocols, because the big tech companies will just usurp them, monetize them, squeeze all the juice out of them, and leave what remains to rot. We don't have journalism today that watches and reports on the power grabs of the tech industry. That's why it's so easy to expose corruption. It's lying around in the open for all to see. But if you look deeper you'll see how it all connects. No reporter has yet had the will or the requisite technology background to do it.

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 14:55:34 GMT

I got a confusing email this morning from Flickr, saying I'd have to migrate my site to SmugMug by May 25, or download and delete my site. Then I read their FAQ that said I would only be agreeing to new terms and privacy policy. In 2014 I wrote a post saying someday Flickr will die. Today is not that day, but it certainly raises the question again. I don't know much about SmugMug. Not the greatest name ever. Might want to just call it Flickr, a better-known name that has been on shaky ground for a long time. Saying it's part of SmugMug now probably doesn't do much to add confidence. Just sayin.

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 13:03:37 GMT

I finished all sixteen episodes of Bablylon Berlin. It was quite a ride. And at the end I'm not sure exactly what happened. I needed this summary to convince me that I did/do. Would I recommend it? It's a roller coaster. Dark. Some scenes are hard to watch. The song is addictive. You fall in love with the characters. Would I watch it again? Not sure. But the ending isn't exactly Singin' in the Rain. ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ•บ

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:07:32 GMT

Don't you know the best things in life are free? It's true!

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:07:13 GMT

It's incredibly sad that New York magazine thinks the internet was the creation of venture capitalists and execs. Next they're going to ask us to believe that love was created by VCs. The heavens and stars above. Life itself.

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 13:53:26 GMT

New York magazine quotes Wikimedia exec: "There is no public internet, and we are the closest thing to it," which is of course complete nonsense. You know all those citations at the end of every Wikipedia article? Where do you think those come from? Wikimedia owes the internet an apology. And New York mag, I used to respect it, has been running a series with the theme that the internet wants to apologize. That's like saying the Grand Canyon wants to apologize. This is what journalism thinks it can get away with. No different than the garbage Fox News sells.

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:50:39 GMT

The simplest way to parse any kind of feed in Node. Example.

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:21:06 GMT

It's great that the Dems sued Trump, Wikileaks, Russians if for no other reason that they will have to give depositions. Firing Mueller is looking like less of a solution to anything. Also pardon power does not extend to civil penalties. Heh. Good lawyering.

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:50:15 GMT

For such a famous place, it's weird that Silicon Valley doesn't have a landmark. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. NYC has the Empire State Building, London has Big Ben. I remember arriving in Silicon Valley in 1979 and driving around looking for it and finding nothing but suburbs. I guess that's why Buck's was so popular. It certainly wasn't the food. ๐Ÿ’ฅ

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:43:52 GMT

On a discussion board, I posted, in response to a fellow techie talking about interfaces that work for grandmas. "Here we are, a bunch of middle-aged men, with no clue wtf is going on. On the other hand things are so broken this way, there's no chance of it getting fixed. I don't like the NYC subways either, but they're what we got. Technology is like evolution, it favors what works, and never fixes its mistakes."

James Comey

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:39:18 GMT

James Comey is a lawyer and bureaucrat.

He doesn't have that much to say.

He was spectacularly wrong about something really important, and doesn't know it.

And he is no Michael Wolff, a muck-raker and rabble-rouser, by profession.

The press loves Silicon Valley

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:08:12 GMT

If you want an idea of why no one told you what Facebook was up to, look no further than the press. It was their job to tell you, after the tech companies.

Here's the lead paragraph of a news story written by John Markoff in the NY Times on this day in 2015.

  • "Silicon Valley has a richly deserved reputation as the worldโ€™s engine of technology innovation, with a track record that includes developing integrated circuits, microprocessors, personal computers and smartphones. This is a culture of confidence and bravado. Ask a bunch of tech leaders about their goals, and itโ€™s a good bet that many of them will utter the words, 'To change the world.'"

That was and probably still is the way the press views the tech industry. Until they get over it, don't expect much reality from them re tech.

A new reality TV show format

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:04:47 GMT

A new TV show format. Tours of neighborhoods in various parts of the US. Show people in different parts how we live, and vice versa.

Walk through a typical supermarket and show what you can buy and what the prices are.

The nearest airport.

An average commute.

See it as a person living there would see it.

Confront perceptions with reality.

Reality TV that is real reality.

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 22:23:52 GMT

As of April 11, you had no excuse for not knowing that the privacy scandal was much bigger than Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:28:38 GMT

I'm five episodes into Babylon Berlin and loving it.

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:30:07 GMT

This song is the point in Babylon Berlin when I knew I was hooked. It was about three episodes in, and i can see now that many of the main characters are in this scene. I didn't know that the first time around.

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:20:30 GMT

Sometimes by chance Twitter pairs two messages that totally belong together. Death is very real, and unambiguous. People who care about language should leave it to do it's work when it's what's really happening. Speaking as someone with recent experience with actual death. And I doubly hate it when that word is applied to something I care about.

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:31:37 GMT

Anyway not only is blogging not xxx, but look at all the new features here on Scripting News. Many of these things have never been done in blogs before, or for that matter on news org sites. You only believe it's xxx if you ignore everything outside your little piece of the blogging world (which for many is limited to their own blog). Just as we need to branch out and share innnovations in the land of RSS, we must do that for blogging too, so that when people say it's xxx, we can show them how it's anything but. You want blogging to thrive? It can, if you're willing to look, and tell the story.

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:53:51 GMT

Maybe one of the problems is that the main blogging platforms aren't moving. Or if they are moving, only in increments, and not in features that readers can appreciate. What a blog is isn't changing much. And that's not good, or necessary.

feedBase fixes

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 16:47:52 GMT

I found a feedBase problem, an interaction with the new checkboxes, de-duping and dereferencing feed URLs. It would manifest this way: Click a checkbox for a feed, reload the page, the feed is unchecked. But only for a few feeds. For most feeds it worked as it should (that's why I didn't catch the problem the first time around).

The common denominator -- the feeds were one of the de-duped feeds on the hotlist. The solution is to be careful with the de-duping map, to always map to the one that's preferred by the server, because we deref the URL before subscribing. We weren't doing that for a few of the de-duped feeds. The problem may come up with future mappings and I want to be sure we don't have to repeat the debugging process.

Another thing -- when dereferencing a URL, if the only difference is the protocol, don't use the deref, stick with what you have.

I'm beginning to realize that we need feeds to have a guid, to take all the guesswork out of this. It's a real mess! Once you try to maintain a database of feeds, something I've not actually done myself before, you buy into trying to come up with a canonical ID for a feed. The URL works pretty well, until you realize that there are several different URLs for each feed.

Also realizing we should have popped the protocol off the URL before using it as a key so http://xxx would be the same feed as https://xxx.

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 21:47:30 GMT

Wouldn't it be a great to have a blog that covered developments across all feed readers, so we can follow what's new? If you make a reader, would you support this? Not sure who would be good to write it, but we'd need someone who loves RSS, and isn't in business.

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:39:52 GMT

I was able to replace iconv with iconv-lite in River5, so if you have been having trouble installing, it makes sense to try again.

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 16:19:15 GMT

Example code: Using iconv-lite to do character conversion of HTTP requests. Here is the original request for help

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:42:16 GMT

When I was growing up in NYC, before the EPA, they'd burn garbage in incinerators, in the morning, as I walked to school. It was choking. My mom sent me out clean, by the time I got to school there'd be burnt garbage in my hair and on my clothes.

Long ago, I designed a language

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 16:46:09 GMT

Little-known fact: I designed and developed a programming language.

My goal was to create an environment I would work in for the rest of my career. I just realized it's exactly 30 years later, and I'm still using it.

30 fucking years. I think I earned the right to say it that way. ๐Ÿš€

Now that I also work in JavaScript, it amazes me how easy the simple things are in Frontier, compared to JS, esp when you have to tack on a database. You really have to work at seeing what's going on. In Frontier, you just click around expanding things. You can even look at the runtime stack that way.

We hacked and optimized and reworked things. In comparison, JS was developed in a more chaotic way. Too many ways to do the same thing imho. In Frontier there tended to be one, which is my preference. However there are missing features. Maybe at some point I'll try to rebuild Frontier in JavaScript. I think I'm now good enough to do it. The original was written in straight C.

Where would I start? db.c of course. ๐Ÿ’ฅ

PS: Most people don't know about Frontier. But you probably do know about things that were developed in Frontier. Like the first blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, readers and content creation tools, XML-RPC and lots of other good shit. People would ask me how I got so much done. "Great tools." That's Frontier.

PPS: The OPML Editor is a Frontier distribution. Not sure if it still works on Windows, but it definitely works on the Mac.

PPPS: Thanks to Gruber for the kind words. ๐Ÿš€

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:54:10 GMT

Imagine a Twitter where the limit wasn't expressed in the number of characters, but in the number of vertical pixels.

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:27:15 GMT

A friend who uses Feedly told me about his collection of NYT feeds. He sent a pointer, where Feedly offered me a chance to use his list. But only on Feedly. Ugh. Ideally, they would let me have the list in OPML form. I suspect they do, but if so, it's not obvious esp to someone who would want the list in OPML, i.e. someone who is not a frequent Feedly user, such as yours truly. This is the problem with commercial vendors who build on open formats. They don't reciprocate. They consume the openness. This happened before. Even better if they offered a dynamic link to the user's collection, so I could add the link to the OPML to my reader and if his collection changed I'd be updated. Remember the big idea of the web, people return to places that send them away. Feedly is doing the opposite, trying to suck people in and hold them. This is the tech industry philosophy, and it will imho be its downfall.

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:48:03 GMT

"Hannity has no ethics" is not news.

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:19:44 GMT

I would pay a fee to subscribe to a group of news pubs. I think this is necessary, but this should be created and managed independent of the tech industry. News already looks to tech to be its sugar daddy which leads to fawning coverage, and a huge conflict, at a time when tech is more in the news than ever, and deserving of scrutiny. Tech controlling news flow, especially Apple, which has little respect for criticism, free speech, spells the end of any semblance of independence of news. Also I'm hearing more that paywalls are seriously stifling the flow of news, at a time when we need better flow. Apple would not be good for that either.

Apple's pencil

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:06:02 GMT

I'm thinking about getting a new iPad, and said so on Twitter. I got a bunch of responses, including this blog post from Matt Ballantine, who loves the iPad because of its compatibility with Apple's pencil. Based on his report, I decided to get the new iPad and the pencil. I used to be a diagram person, as part of pitching ideas to other people, I'd develop what I called a chalk talk. A very good way to communicate, highly personal and persuasive.

Ariel Anbar posted a caveat about the pencil on Facebook.

  • My main problem with the Pencil is that it doesnโ€™t hold a charge long when unused - maybe a couple of days - and recharging it requires an additional step beyond my nightly recharge of the iPad. So unless I get into a daily routine with it, I find it is usually dead in the moment of inspiration-driven need.
  • On the plus side, it recharges very quickly, but 5 min is an eternity when you suddenly have the need. Add to this the occasional need to mess around to get it to reconnect, and it is one of those really cool and tantalizing and useful but not-quite-up-to-its-lofty-potential pieces of tech.
  • As for how to carry it, there are many iPad cases that have solutions. Some are quite inexpensive.

Hmmm. That's too bad. I wondered why Apple didn't promote the product more, maybe this is why. Even so, I think I'll give it a try.

Imagine a world without blogging.

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:49:47 GMT

Imagine a world without phones.

In a world without phones, you could listen to people with beautiful voices speak words designed by psychologists to make you want to buy tacos or life insurance.

But you couldn't listen to your daughter or son.

Blogging lets us write for each other.

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 20:20:33 GMT

18-minute podcast about the Denver newspapers and Berkeleyside. The Denver news orgs are doing something unusual, crossing the wall between publishing and editorial. And Berkeleyside, a local news org who just did a public offering of stock, and eliminated the wall between publishing and editorial. Have a listen and think if perhaps this isn't a better way forward for news than paywalls and hedge-fund ownership.

Media Files:

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 17:27:32 GMT

I wish the Democrats were self-aware enough to choose the strongest candidate to run against Trump or whoever is the Republican nominee in 2020. People still think in terms of a perfect candidate. Dems don't have any. But that's not a problem because the Repubs don't have any either. Imho what we need is someone who appeals to the massive core of American voters, without betraying us to the super-rich. Never mind who appeals to you -- you're going to vote rationally. Think about the massive number of voters who don't. I don't think they're fascists or KKKs, I think they are emotional and want to feel good. Who can give a rousing even angry speech that gets people to feel good about themselves without tearing other people down (except for Trump of course). That's the one. Imho

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 15:44:41 GMT

Sometimes things have to fall apart before they can start to make sense again. When they write the history of the web, if they get the story right, a big event will be the San Francisco newspaper strike in 1994. A lot of ideas came together there, across a wide divide. It showed us how news and tech are inextricably entwined.

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 15:11:16 GMT

The best part of the Comey interview last night was when he asked what the f*ck were Russians doing in the Oval Office, without any Americans there other than the president (who is obviously a Russian tool).

Installing the latest River5

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 14:33:46 GMT

There have been a couple of reports of trouble installing the latest River5, both having to do with the iconv package, which is a relatively new addition to River5. Here's the latest report.

I don't know what the problem is, I had no problems installing it on my Mac or on a Linux server.

When I have trouble with NPM, this is what I do:

  • Delete the node_modules folder and do an npm install.
  • If that doesn't work, clear NPM's cache, delete the node_modules folder and do an npm install.

What's unusual about iconv is that it's written in C, and as part of the npm install process it needs to compile it to machine code.

I am anything but an expert in NPM problems, that's why I'm raising a flag here on Scripting News.

Update: I think Anton got to the bottom of it. Some systems have it set up so that you can't run downloaded stuff without modifying permissions.