Google Talk: finally, a big player embraces open IM

Google Talk has launched. Nice to see that they interoperate with other clients conforming to the IETF XMPP IM/Presence specifications.

From 1996-1999, our team at Austin startup Activerse pursued a IM product strategy based on the idea that this crucial internet application space, like email before it, must eventually be ruled by decentralized, interoperable, standards-based products. We demoed interoperabilty with prototype software from Microsoft, Lotus, Fujitsu, Ubique, and AT&T using a HTTP-inspired, REST-ish toy protocol called PIP-DEMO. We helped author the IETF's Instant Messaging / Presence Protocol Requirements (RFC 2779), a key source document for the many attempts at standardization that followed, including the XMPP IM/Presence specification.

But "eventually" wasn't soon enough for tiny Activerse -- with the giant players like AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft more-or-less happy with owning their own giant closed IM networks.

Google might just survive the wait!

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Dynamic regex debugging in a web page: Regex Powertoy

Regex Powertoy is a fun little tool I've put together for playing with regular expressions in a web browser. I just showed it to a small group here at Bar Camp. It requires the latest Java ("5.0"/"1.5") applet support, and as yet has only been tested in Firefox.

Features include:

  • immediate highlighting of matches as pattern and input text are editted
  • drill-down into capturing group details
  • optional animation of matching progress -- heavy backtracking becomes obvious
  • "matchmark" bookmarks to prepopulate pattern/input text
Many more bells and whistles are possible. There have been similar tools as downloadable apps before, but nothing quite as interactive inside a web page, as far as I know.

I'm releasing the source code at Sourceforge under the GPL. (It's not pretty code -- quick hacks and whatever experiments survived to do the job.)

Comments, ideas, and contributed features welcome.

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The tall head strikes back: 'long tail' much smaller than previously reported

Chris Anderson's Long Tail blog: A methodology for estimating Amazon's Long Tail sales Anderson's originally-reported estimate, that the 'long tail' of books not among the 100,000 titles typically carried by a bricks-and-mortar Barnes & Noble accounts for 57% of Amazon's sales has been revised downwards. The new number is at most 36%, and perhaps as little as 20%. The 'tall head' strikes back.

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Fortify Firefox's pop-up blocking

PeteBevin.com: Firefox popups

Seeing more popups recently despite Firefox's built-in popup blocking? Chances are they're using a Flash embed to sneak through. From the above site, here's a little-known setting to disable this trick:

  1. Type about:config into the Firefox location bar.
  2. Right-click on the page and select New and then Integer.
  3. Name it privacy.popups.disable_from_plugins
  4. Set the value to 2.
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Highway (bill) robbery

Matier & Ross at SFGate.com: Small, private marina hauls in $20 million catch in transit funding

For a small investment in political contributions and lobbying, a private firm with a tiny marina in the north bay got a $20 million federal handout to build a new commuter ferry terminal -- a terminal unplanned by regional transit authorities.

Even the local congresswoman who slipped this shameless pork into the bill, Lynn Woolsey, didn't seem to realize it was in the final version, nor that public transit agencies had shelved a similar plan due to environmental concerns.

The $286 billion highway/transportation bill contains over 6,300 projects, most just as dumb and corrupt as this one. The bill, HR3, passed 412y-8n-14a in the house and 91y-4n-5a in the senate.

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