Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

Currently Viewing Posts in The Web Sucks

Mozilla LiveHTTPHeaders

Today (thanks to Jeremy and Rasmus) I learned about a tool that I never knew I needed but now can’t live without: Mozilla LiveHTTPHeaders.

I’ve been debugging HTTP for years using trusty text-based tools like telnet and nc, but today a quasi-technical person stopped by my cube to ask for help with a caching problem and they really needed a GUI-based solution.

LiveHTTPHeaders lets you open up a separate window or tab to display HTTP headers in real time (while pages are being downloaded from various websites). It makes it pretty easy to see the various caching headers (like Cache-Control, Expires, and Pragma) and also follow trails of 302 redirects, Cookies, etc.

It also adds a cute Headers tab to the Page Info dialog box for information about the currently active page:


Absolutely brilliant. Probably something I’ll use at least once a week.

My new Web Hosting ISP

I love DreamHost, my new ISP. I now have most of my domain names (hebcal.com, shtibl.com, and the rather stale utf-8.com) hosted there now.

JR convinced me to switch last month. Even though I’ve been absurdly busy with Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I’m happy I initiated the switch.

For about the same price, DreamHost gives me more of what I want: more disk space, ability to manage fowarding email addresses without having to bother a sysadmin or trust myself to procmail, mod_php compiled directly into Apache, phpMyAdmin already pre-installed, etc.

Due to the complexity of the software that runs my High School Alumni Internet Directory, I haven’t had the time to migrate radwin.org yet.

Front Page News

I saw this photo on the front page of Yahoo! today:


“The MTV Video Music Awards turned into a red-hot, all-girl smooch-fest last night as Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera performed a raunchy, bump-and-grind dance routine that ended in explicit, open-mouth kisses.”

I’m glad to see we still have our editorial integrity. 🙂

Tribe.net: online communities redux

My friend Chris persuaded me to sign up for tribe.net, an online community/job networking website.


It’s like 1999 all over again, and the web still sucks. Back then, PlanetAll promised to help you manage your contacts so you’d never need to update your address book every again; you just “linked” to someone’s PlanetAll account and any changes to their contact info would propagate to your PlanetAll account. Amazon bought ’em, tried to use them as a vehicle for selling books, and then eventually shut the site down when they couldn’t figure out how to make it profitable.

Then there was good ol’ sixdegrees. That site was designed around the cute concept of “six degrees of separation” between any two people on the globe. You could sign up on the site, but you had to earn enough karma points (or something like that) by getting people to link to you and verify your membership in order to get any value out of the service. I don’t need no stinkin’ website to validate my existence.

Even my employer jumped in the online community game with Yahoo! Clubs. The site combined message boards with photo albums and member lists. I think the most popular section was the Hanson Club; the site was really just a place for 12-year-old girls to hang out and chat about their favorite bands. But after a year or so, folks got tired of having to remember to go back to the site to check for new messages. So we replaced it with Yahoo! Groups, an email-centric service, which is quite popular and still going strong. Mmmm, bop.

All quiet on the Online Community Front for a couple of years.

But now we’ve got the venerable Friendster, with 1.3 million users and a lot of buzz. I’ve seen a demo at the urging of a friend in Seattle, but right now it seems like a dating service in disguise. It claims to be much more than that (“It’s a great way to meet people just to increase your social circle”), but I have my doubts. The site is free now, but they’re going to start charging $8 a month; that’s cheaper than other online dating services, but I lost interested in that scene several years ago.

This Spring, my friend Rachel introduced me to Meetup, an online/offline community site which helps you arrange in-person get-togethers at coffee shops or restaurants. The idea is that people in your geographic vicinity might interested in anything from stamp collecting or Howard Dean, and if only you knew about these other folks, you’d all start a club and become best friends instantaneously. All while drumming up some extra business for Starbucks. Online community meets offline community. Or something like that.

So now tribe.net shows up on the scene. Despite Chris’ urging, I’m pretty hesitant to join. “Isn’t this just Friendster all over again?” I ask. “I’m a married man, you know.”

“No, it’s not a dating service. This site has got a much bigger emphasis on professional networking,” he replies. “You really oughta see for yourself.” So while Ariella was studying for a Greek exam last night, I signed up and took a look around.

The site is still pretty small, but there’s potentially some value. I even found a classmate of mine from BrownCS through the Brown “tribe”. And a friend of a friend of Chris was hunting around for a JPS Commentary on the Torah. But the guy lives in Utah; wouldn’t it be easier for him just to buy it online than for me to ship it to him so he could borrow my copy? I wonder what the value of a networking resource is (especially in the job market) when most of the contacts don’t live in the my area.

Tribe.net does definitely do one thing right. Instead of using a rigid categorization scheme for things like interests or skills, it lets you enter free-form text. The software engineer in me realizes that almost every click on the website results in some full-text query (which has gotta put a burden on whatever search technology they’re using), but the end-user in me likes the fact that I don’t have create my profile based on someone’s preconcieved notion of the universe. You’ll never find choices like Egalitarian Hasidic or Conservadox on a drop-down menu.

If you’re curious, drop me a line and I’ll send you an email invitation to the site. For some reason I can’t get a generic referrer link to post on my website. Hey, no surprise here; the web sucks.

I found the cure for hope

The Pessimist's Mug from Despair Inc. Avital laughed at my coffee mug yesterday at breakfast. Although familiar with the genre of “inspirational posters” from the SkyMall catalog, she had never come across the parodies of them. Obviously she had never seen Derek‘s cube.

Back in 1999 when Yahoo! was still a relatively small company, we did a deal with Despair, Inc. In exchange for free stuff (T-shirts, mugs, posters, calendars) we gave them some free advertising in the form of a BooHoo! web portal. They came by and took some photos in our cubes of us wearing their “I found the cure for hope” T-shirts.

The photos they took got heavily Photoshopped. Compare the expression on my face in the photo at the bottom of the phony press release with the original. They turned my smile into a frown!


mcdonalds-wifi.gif I read today that McDonald’s is doing 802.11 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“McDonald’s and Wayport Bring High-Speed Wireless Access to 75 Restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area… McDonald’s is the first quick service restaurant to offer high-speed wireless access in a major market. The new Wi-Fi service will be available at approximately 75 McDonald’s restaurants around the Bay area with the first 55 going ‘live’ today.”

See also article on News.com.

I don’t care. I won’t eat there because they’re not vegetarian-friendly.