1 beer javascript rant

At some point in the past, Steve Yegge had his “drunken blog rants”, now sanitized to “Random whining and stuff“, so I guess after one beer I ought to be allowed to rant a bit about what is, according to him, the “Next Big Language”. He comes right out and says it in this video:

http://blip.tv/file/319044/ (skip to the end if you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth).

What he gets right in his talk is that Javascript does not have a good brand due to inconsistent and troublesome implementations in browsers. Actually he gets a lot of things right – more geeks should pay attention to having a basic knowledge of marketing, because it’s a reality that isn’t going to go away just because you don’t like it. Leaving that discussion for another time, though, what brought this to mind was this cleverly worded error message in an application I’m trying to stich together:

Object cannot be created in this context" code: "9

To borrow a line, “Note the consistent user interface and error reportage. EdJavascript is
generous enough to flag errors, yet prudent enough not to overwhelm
the novice with verbosity.” Indeed, I don’t have a clue as to what it’s complaining about. Naturally, I had a look on Google with the error message, and found a few other individuals suffering from the same symptoms, and checked, and rechecked that I was indeed including prototype.js prior to including the file causing the error, but all to no avail.

After an hour or so of googling and fiddling with firebug, and reloading, the problem seems to have “just gone away” (I wouldn’t believe me either, but there it is…).

Let’s hope that if Javascript does become ‘the next big thing’, that even more effort is put into making it a pleasant experience for developers.

Squeezed Books summary licensing

Given my desire to see the community around Squeezed Books grow, I went ahead and added a creative commons ‘attribution/share alike’ license to it. I also did this in the spirit of reciprocity towards other people pursuing similar initiatives and using similar licensing. The goal really is to give people an idea of what some of these well known business books are about. Even though the book in question may present a unique and interesting idea, many of them can be summed up pretty quickly. As Phil Greenspun says:

This book illustrates a fault in the publishing industry. If you have
a 50-page idea it is too long for a magazine. But it is too short for
a book. So if you wanted to get it distributed before the Web came
along, you had to drop in words until you reached 200 pages.

I don’t really think the web has changed things that much, either. Who wants to simply put up a web page when they could publish a book?

The idea isn’t necessarily to avoid buying books, either – some of the good ones are really good reads, and a summary just isn’t the same thing as the book itself.

Process creation monitoring

So, I’m stumped – maybe someone knows the answer to this one. I noticed that on my new Ubuntu system, if I ran ps every 5 seconds or so, the process number jumped significantly, by 5 or 6. Being a bit of a control freak, I want to know exactly what’s creating those processes, so I wrote a little Tcl script to try and catch any new [0-9]* directories in proc and read its cmdline file entry, but that seems to not be fast enough to catch the culprit in the act. I had a look at inotify, but that doesn’t seem to work with /proc. So at this point, I’m stumped, and am looking around for suggestions. I just want to have a record of newly created processes… seems like it ought to be possible.