Geocities is dead, Long Live Geocities

My first web page was a Geocities page. Freshman year of college, 1996. I still remember the address: I even went and dug it out of the personal archives. You can find it here.

The front page was created with their creator software along with our guestbook. Incidentally, do people still have guestbooks? Do these kids today even know what they are? Then I went out and purchased a brand new hot off the press HTML 3.2 book. That is where the rest of the pages came from, frames and all.

Don’t kick the baby.

Why I made it or what to do with it, I really had no idea. I liked anime, but that wasn’t what my site was about. It wasn’t about anything, really. Just a collection of pages, HTML experiments and sometimes hosted files. It was a hodgepodge of randomness that never got altered. Why change it to something else when I could simply add on more?

But more important than purpose. More important than continuity or even coherence. This sight, Nowhere as I called it, was me. This was me on the internet. No longer was the world wide web something that I merely observed. It was now something I participated in.

That was a sense of empowerment. Sure I got practically no visitors, what was there to see? I still showed it off.

I went on. I made a tripod page for poetry. That one I used their template at first, but it was too cumbersome to update. So I remade the whole page using Netscape Composer (TABLES BEWARE!). On that one I jumped into some more Javascript. I had a menu I wanted on all of the pages, but didn’t want to write it over and over. If I added a page, I would need to update all of the other pages. So instead I made a Javascript function that printed out the menu. SImple and sweet, it later got me a job.

You’ll notice a blog-like page where I comment on updates to the site.

Next I tried XOOM (Xoom? xoom? hm) There I put ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ which was a site based mostly on AeroSpace Java programs. I made Java applets to find properties behind a shock wave and to get the atmospheric conditions at a certain altitude, etc. While it was neat playing with Java, I found myself with something more pressing than writing aerospace applets: aerospace homework.

All the while the Geocities site sat there, mostly ignored. So one day in 1999 (ish) I decided it was time for a revamp. The Vault was a neat name, so went for Vault 1909 as a site title. Worked with the page URL and even gave me a theme to design to. Made this page. So now it is much cleaner.

By this point I owned my first URL, (as well as my name) and had been programming in Perl for quiet some time for a company started with two of my friends. While the free sites never really let us use CGI, getting my own server opened up an new world for me. I had been working as a web programmer since 1998 for various clients, but never really had my own production box to show off. (I had apache configured on my computer for building and testing). So the CGI I had been writing had always had a point. “I need a box that updates here.” “I need a place to get client email addresses.” Etc. Now I was free to do whatever I wanted.

So onwards I went. Perl, PHP, more Javascript, even some ASP (eek!). But in the end, it really all started with a small picture of Calvin at the top of a black website.

Godspeed Geocities.

How I would Change Microsoft

The Microsoft / Yahoo! rumors seem to still pop up every so often on the Intrawebz bringing up new discussion on where the software giant is going. The conquering of Google and the internet is its next objective, hence all the talk in the first place of acquiring Yahoo!.

Here is where I believe Microsoft is making a mistake. Microsoft’s core business is, well, business, not the internet. Yes the internet plays a part in what Microsoft should be doing, but it should not be the focus.

Right now Microsoft rules the desktop. Like or not, this is how it is. Between Windows and MS Office, business is conduted through software written by Microsoft. What would people do without MS Exhange? or Outlook? or dare I say Word (cringe).

Focus should be shifted to these two core applications. The Outlook – Exhange pair is essential to Microsoft, as it is essential to Business. Already they are near the top of their game. Love MS, hate MS, Outlook – Exchange make a good pair. Add in a Blackberry or Windows Mobile phone and you have an email / contacts / calendar solution that has everyone else running to catch up.


So push it. Farther. Make Exchange the most secure and stable email solution out there. Make outlook more flexible, more adaptable, more ready to meet whatever problems some IT group throws at it. Make us want MS on our back ends. Sounds naughty, eh?

Then what?

Microsoft Office Lite. Or possibly a better name, but the idea is simple. You divide office into “Professional” and “Lite”. Professional is what it is now, everything in all its glory.

The “Lite” is a new beast. Here is what you do. Go dig out the Office 2000 code. For 70% of the home user, this has everything they will ever need. Patch it up so it runs on Vista, add in all the file formats of the new office (like docx) and sell it for $50.

You heard me right, $50. At that price people will buy it. And yes, I know you have works, but get rid of it. Give them Office at a reasonable price and you’ll sell it.

Make the “Professional” one have the new whistles and bells, make it have all the Exchange hotness, etc. You aren’t looking to cannibalize your business sales with this move. You are looking to cannibalize your piracy.

So then what?

Windows. Windows Vista didn’t do so hot out of the box. That is OK, it happens, really *cough OSX 10.0 cough*. But instead of being all Microsoft about it, you should instead, well, be Apple about it.

Here is my Windows proposal. (and yes, I am aware the next version is called Windows 7, but I think this is better). First, get rid of all the different versions of windows. There is one version, and that is Microsoft Windows V. Now V.0 is what we got with Vista (see? Vista, V) Now we go to V.1 (which is probably one of the current SP, I am an admitted Mac guy here), which is a free upgrade to Vista.

Now since we have reduced our foot print to a single version of Windows we are going to focus on it. The next version, V.2 will be a paid upgrade, but the difference is here we will blatantly rip off Apple’s pricing and release schedule. Instead of $ONE MILLION DOLLARZ for windows, it will be $150. No upgrade, no media server, no basic and advanced versions, just $150 for Windows V.2.

Then we get on a regular schedule. V.3 will be 12 – 18 months later, V.4, etc. Meanwhile we have a crack security team (you may need to hire these guys…) to start working on V.2.1. What is this? the .1 – .X releases are security patches. Fix it and fix it fast.

Are there other things, like online Office, and anything with Web 2.0 buzz words in it that should be done too? Maybe. Let’s look at one.

Hotmail. Seriously, what in the hell is going on with Hotmail? If I have a Hotmail account, I want it to work on my Outlook and my Windows Mobile phone just like an exchange server. Yes it is free. Yes it is Hotmail, but make it better. Use the leverage you have with your exchange – outlook synergy (OOH! big manager word!) to make people think about jumping from gmail to Hotmail. Think it can’t be done? Then you aren’t thinking hard enough.

And please just forget about search engines. Really. You are only wasting money by going into that market. Hell I could have built you from scratch a better product than what you have online for much much less than what you would have spent for Yahoo! (Here is my offer, if you respond to this post in 36 hours, I’ll give it to you for only 2 billion. How does that sound??)

The fact is that Microsoft, you don’t need to get into search engines. You NEED to make Windows. You NEED to make Microsoft Office. Focus! (and leave Yahoo! the hell alone)

Blackberry Storm – A biased review

Let’s get this out of the way. I am a Mac guy, have been for years (except for some ‘experiments’ with windows in college, but isn’t that what college is for?). I wanted an iPhone before they were out. And, I want one now. There are three reasons why I will not have an iPhone: AT&T. Say what you want about Verizon, but their service is still the top. If I had an iPhone, I’d be greatful to get signal where I live.

Ok, so that is out of the way. I got a Storm on the first day. This was my first touch screen phone and my first Blackberry. The first day I owned it I spent learning how typesure keypad works and how to navigate the Blackberry OS. Everywhere I go I get “is that the new Blackberry?” and people asking about it, what I think, etc.

Here is what I think. I love it.

Let’s talk about the touch part, since that is the part that sets it aside from the iPhone, Instinct and any of the others. The screen registers your fingers as soon as you touch it. Keys will change to blue as you run your finger over them, but nothing will happen. You have to actually press the screen down for something to occur. The entire screen is a button. This reduced the number of mistakes I was making compared to the iPod Touch significantly.

There are three keyboard layouts. In vertical mode you can get either a SureType pad, or a normal phone pad (hit 6 three times for “O”). Suretype is RIM’s condensed QWERTY keyboard found on the Pearl. I was sure that I’d never figure out how to type with two letters on one key. A guy in line with me gave me some advice which has worked. “Just type,” he said, “the phone will figure out what you are trying to say.” And he was right. After a few days I can use it with some proficiency. The advantage is you can type with one hand in this manner. The other keyboard is the full QWERTY. You get this when you turn the phone on its side. Unlike the iPhone, however, you can get this keyboard in any program where you type. Actually you can pull up a keyboard at anytime by pulling it from the menu.

Speaking of menus, everything is pretty much menu driven. The ‘berry’ button (which I am sure has a much more technical name) opens the menu. You either press it again to select the highlighted option, or you select the one you want by clicking the screen.

The browser so far seems to work quite well. I used it the first day to show off the new Star Trek trailer from YouTube. Playback was good, even if the video was a bit stretched to fit the screen. Now, if you tap the screen, that is touch it but don’t push down, the browser will zoom. A feature that is useful at times, but too easy to do accidently. While the ‘real’ browser experience is nice, like my experience with the iPhone, in the end, mobile websites still work the best.

Messaging is where the Blackberry shines. There are reviews everywhere about Blackberry messaging, and from my experience, they are right. Coming from a Windows Mobile phone, it was a vast improvement. I have four email addresses set up on the phone, and push email is my new favorite thing. There are rumors of calDAV support coming to the Blackberry, which would allow syncing with Yahoo! and Google calendars (or any other calDAV ones as well).

I’ve used the media part a few times. It works pretty well. I do wish the volume control was a bit more precise. The screen is great for video and pictures. The phone has a 3.2 Megapixel camera with a flash. The pictures are good, even though there is a delay as the camera focuses. The phone can also take video at a decent resolution. Not sure I’d make a movie with it, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about trying.

The OS is a multitasking OS. This means that if you have one program open, you can open others without having to close the first one. Now, this has had me digging though folders trying to figure out what an alert on the top of the screen was. (I had gotten an IM)

Ok, and as a final note, the blackberry can copy and paste. So there.