Readme.txt or readme.html?

7 08 2007

I’ve suddenly found myself pondering whether to use plain text or simple HTML for the “readme” files, licence texts and other such simple documents in my “ObMimic” software product.

Traditionally, such documents are delivered as plain text files, and this still seems to be how it’s usually done. In the past, this was the safest way to ensure that these files would be readable on all systems, whatever tools the user might or might not have. But I’m not sure that’s still the best approach.

Maybe it’s time to start using simple HTML for these files. HTML and browsers are now so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine not being able to view HTML files (at least, provided the HTML is kept clean and simple without javascript or anything fancy).

I guess there could be mobile and embedded environments where plain text might still be necessary or preferable, but I’d kind of expect to know when this is going to be relevant, and even then I’m not sure HTML for these particular files would necessarily be a problem.

So, what are the main pros and cons?

  • First of all, even plain text isn’t without it’s problems. The most obvious of which is line-endings: for anything cross-platform, what line-endings do you use? I’m forever encountering “readme” files under MS Windows that have UNIX-style line-endings and need to be opened in something that sorts this out. OK, it’s not a big problem, but with HTML this just goes away – no decision to make, no build-time adjustments to make, no worries about how it will really look on the other platforms.
  • Similarly, for file extensions “.html” seems a more reliable cross-platform bet than “.txt” or the absence of an extension.
  • I’d also expect HTML to be preferable for accessibility, character-set issues, and general user control over how the text is displayed (e.g. font size).
  • More generally, even a simple HTML page usually looks better than a text file.
  • In addition, using HTML means you can have real links to other documentation, web-sites etc (even if these didn’t work for some reason, you’d be no worse off than if you just had the plain text).
  • The risk with HTML is that if an organization starts using HTML files for this, they will let them get progressively more and more complex until they break and you can’t read them (which could be as silly as black text on a black background – it does happen, I used to regularly get a marketing e-mail of this kind from my former ISP!). If everybody starts doing this, you can guarantee that someday you’ll encounter a “readme” file that you can’t read without hacking.
  • It’s conventional for these files to be plain text, so to at least some extent that’s what everyone expects.

There doesn’t seem to be any killer reason to decide this either way. On the whole I’m inclined to switch to using HTML for these files so as to avoid the “line endings” problem and provide slightly better-looking and more “accessible” content, despite plain text files being more conventional.

Now, I’m not advocating that we all fire-up Dreamweaver and the like and start churning out lots of fancy “readme” files with all sorts of javascript and animations and AJAX stuff and clever CSS hacks. If using HTML for these files, it needs to be kept as simple and safe as possible – basically it should just have the minimal tags necessary to turn it into reasonable, well-formed HTML, with nothing that could possibly render it unreadable. Any organisation without the discipline or quality control to do this should stick to plain text files, but I don’t see that as a reason for me not to do it. At the risk, of course, of looking like an idiot if I ever get it badly wrong – but that’s true of pretty much everything!

Personally I’d want to stick to hand-written, basic HTML with just headings, text, simple lists and some simple links – the same kind of thing as used within Javadoc comments. And I’d want to keep it XHTML compliant, with validation as part of the build process. (Ideally this maybe needs an explicitly-defined, guaranteed “safe” subset of XHTML – something else to ponder…). Probably accompanied by an optional stylesheet, also kept as simple and safe as possible.

Or are there any good arguments for sticking to plain text files? Can anyone see any other pros and cons?

Life after Erik’s Linkblog

20 06 2007

It’s been more than a month since Erik Thauvin put his linkblog to rest, and I really miss it.

I’d always wondered how he found the time and motivation to keep it going day after day, so I understand and respect his decision to stop doing it. But it’s still sad to lose a resource that’s been so consistently useful over the seven years or so that I’ve been reading it.

Sure, in this age of blogs, feeds, search engines and community-driven sites there’s no shortage of information. With a good feed reader you can whizz through long lists of stuff to read or ignore as you see fit. However, each such source has different characteristics (volume, subjects, selectivity, timing etc), and I’ve not yet found anything that hits quite the same sweet spot as Erik’s linkblog – a daily, concise list of well-chosen links covering a broad range of Java-centric news, articles, and announcements, without any unecessary bells and whistles, and with no hidden agenda. To be fair, it was never my sole source of information, nor even my main one. Mostly it just seemed like a convenient way to catch anything important or interesting that had otherwise slipped through the net. Without it, no matter what other sites and feeds I use, I still feel like I’m missing something.

Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe the more sources of information you have, the more you worry about what else you might be missing. The feeling that somewhere out there is that magical, perfect feed that everybody else knows about, but that you’ve somehow never come across. Or is that just me?

Anyway, now that Erik’s linkblog has ceased to be, I’ve been looking for any other such linkblogs in the hope of finding a suitable replacement. I thought there would be lots of them, and it would just be hard to find any that I liked.

Instead, it looks like pretty slim pickings, and I’ve struggled to find anything similar. OK, is effectively one great big global linkblog, but I don’t think that’s what I’m looking for. Unless I’m missing something, the idea of a linkblog such as Erik’s seems all but dead.

Come to think of it, the links to the “Quick News Items” from the Java Posse‘s podcasts are probably the nearest thing I’ve found, though being just one part of their podcasts this isn’t quite frequent enough or comprehensive enough to entirely do the trick. (By the way, if you’ve not come across the Java Posse guys yet, they are well worth checking out – they do weekly-or-so podcasts covering varied technical stuff including news and general discussions and some cracking interviews, all done with a great sense of humour).

So what am I missing? Anyone know of any other good quality linkblogs for Java and general IT stuff? Anyone found a way to cure their own no-more-Eriks-linkblog blues?

Alternatively, maybe I should start a linkblog of my own? I guess the simplest way to get started would be to use to capture links during normal browsing, then publish from there to a blog once per week or so. But would it be any good, and would anybody ever read it?

Maybe we need a handful of us to all start such linkblogs, and let natural selection reign. Anyone willing, or already doing this? Maybe if lots of us started such linkblogs we could also start a site where they could be centrally registered, accessed, categorized, rated etc?

So is it time for “real” linkblogs to be reborn into the “Web 2.0” world, or are we all happy to rely on our own scouring of, theserverside, infoq, artima, javablogs, javalobby, cafeaulait, DZone, Digg, Technorati, slashdot, and all the rest?

Seven things to do if you’re not going to JavaOne

7 05 2007

Today, I have not arrived at JavaOne.

Just like last year I won’t be there. Oh well, I didn’t get where I am today by galavanting off to JavaOne. And as crazy as it sounds, I guess most of us won’t be there.

So what to do instead? Here are a few possibilities:

1. Glue yourself to the internet.

Spend the week avidly consuming all the announcements and press releases. Wade through a zillion random blogs about it all (half of which will be about getting there, checking into hotel, registration etc). In between, check the same newsfeeds over and over again just to be sure you don’t miss anything. When all else fails, check slashdot again.

Assessment: Rather obvious, way too predictable, and somewhat pointless.

2. Hold your own JavaNNN 2007.

Give a talk to your colleagues. Maybe set up a “booth” and pitch some favoured tool to them. Host an unconference. Or if you’re on your own, catch up on Java Posse podcasts, or get a book on something new and read it out loud to yourself (ideally you need to fall asleep in the middle and miss half of it, but you might need someone else’s help for that).

If you’re of a less earnest bent, buy a bunch of pens and pretend they’re swag. Or hurl a t-shirt across the room.

Assessment: Nice try, but a poor imitation of the real thing.

3. Do something productive instead.

Whilst the world and its press-pass are busy talking about things that don’t quite exist yet, or exist but are still too flaky to use, why not actually do something useful?

Fix a bug. Implement an enhancement. Maybe even improve some Javadoc somewhere (or is that too radical?). Think what we could achieve if we all did one extra such “fix” each day this week, on top of our “normal” work…

Assessment: If only.

4. Invent a new web framework…

You probably can’t get away with this any more if anyone is paying attention, but maybe during JavaOne week you can sneak it in and nobody will notice.

There can’t be more than a few hundred web frameworks at the moment, so there must still be lots of small niches that haven’t yet been filled, or some combination of features that nobody has done yet. Off the top of my head, how about compiling JSP/HTML into an applet? Probably pointless, but if it hasn’t already been done I bet you could come up with some reason why it would be a good idea.

… Or a new annotation.

If inventing a new web framework sounds like too much work, how about inventing a new annotation instead?

We’re going to need an awful lot of new annotations if we’re going to fully realise the JSR 308 dream of having a dozen annotations before and after every actual keyword and name.

@Sentence(language=”en”) @Word(PRONOUN) @NotSearchable @NotKeyword You @Unfinished @Word(AUXVERB) @NotSearchable @NotKeyword can @Unfinished
@Word(VERB) @Searchable @NotKeyword help @Reply(OPTIONAL).

Assessment: Too late, everyone else is already doing this anyway.

5. Panic about the approaching singularity.

You’re an up-to-date kind of guy or gal, with your finger on (Eriks) pulse. So you’ve been meaning to take a proper look at GWT but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet, and suddenly everyone is talking about guice and apollo and silverlight and stuff and stuff, and you’re not even sure what they are.

It’s a bit worrying, and it’s only going to get worse. Think how simple everything was in the distant past, say five or six years ago, and how slowly things changed. When something new appeared, you’d wait for a book on it, read the book, play around a bit, use it for a few months, and be on top of it. Not like that now, is it?

Think ahead another five or six years. It’ll be like a whole JavaOne every day of every week. Nobody will know what they’re talking about, but it won’t matter because whatever it is, it will be obsolete before they’ve finished talking. You’ll still be trying to RTFM when everyone else has already moved on after just cobbling together something copied from somewhere else (and which almost works).

Before you know it, some kid straight out of college will be taking your job off you by virtue of having an entire day’s worth of experience in a dozen things you’ve never even heard of. He’ll mash-up stuff from a hatful of different services whose names you can’t even pronounce. It’ll probably all be running on some kind of infinitely-scalable grid of quantum computers that don’t actually exist or some such nonsense. Admittedly it won’t work, and the resulting security holes and data corruption will kill the company, but nobody will care because they’ll already be working on something else.

Then we’ll reach the singularity, the computers will take over, and nobody will ever get near to understanding anything ever again.

This is all going to happen too fast to keep up with, so you’d better get a good bit of panicking in now, whilst you’ve still got the chance.

Assessment: Some things are too scary to be worth worrying about. Get yourself a pair of Joo Janta 200 SCPSS’s and don’t panic.

6. Keep it all in perspective.

Do you feel like not being there means you’re missing out on all the juicy inside info on the latest and greatest stuff?

Go back to your bookshelf, and pick something that’s product or technology specific from a few years back (eight or nine years ago seems optimum). How much hype was there at the time? How many talks about it did you attend? How much time and effort did you spend learning it? But how much does it matter now, and how interested would you be today in an announcement, article or blog about it?

Well, in a few years time that’s how you’ll feel about most of this week’s stuff.

Examples from my own bookshelves include “Inside OLE”, “Corba 3”, “Delphi 4 Unleashed”, and a couple of books on EJB 1. All now about as much use as a Dutch-Dutch dictionary. Oh, the amount of time I spent mastering EJB 1, and then EJB 2, and struggling with it on a series of desparately bug-ridden application servers – all without ever actually using it for real. Do I wish I’d gone to more talks about it? No.

Assessment: This too shall pass.

7. Have a break.

Chill out, relax, take time off, catch up on sleep, watch some oddtodd cartoons. You’ve earned it. And you’ll need it before trying to catch up with everything again.

Rating: A bit of a cop out, but probably a healthy one.

Opinions on Eiffel? Design by contract?

10 04 2007

Does anyone have any real-world experience or opinions on the Eiffel programming language and/or its design by contract features? Or with any other languages or tools that support this approach (especially for Java or via a JVM based language)? Or any good arguments against “design by contract”?

The reason for asking is that I’m currently re-reading Betrand Meyer‘s 1997 book Object-Oriented Software Construction, 2nd edition, and finding it absolutely fascinating, but it has left me wondering how its ideas have fared in the real world and what the counter-arguments might be.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the book goes through the detailed rationale for an object-oriented programming language and the issues encountered and choices made along the way. It gradually builds this up into a complete language (and to a lesser extent, a supporting environment). Actually, it’s a thinly-disguised explanation of Meyer’s “Eiffel” language, but the discussions of the issues, alternatives and decisions are far more interesting than the specific syntax.

I’ve actually read most of this book before, many years ago, when looking for a book to help other people get started with object-oriented programming. This wasn’t the right book for the people I was trying to mentor, and at the time it seemed OK but didn’t really grab me. Somehow it got put to one side and become one of the few books that I never quite finished. I’m re-reading it now simply because I’m buying fewer and fewer books in these fast-moving, web-centric times, but still like to have a proper book to read before going to bed or when I can’t sleep. So I’m gradually re-reading selected old and “classic” books (which is an interesting and enlightening exercise in itself).

When I first read this book, I had done a couple of years object-oriented stuff in C++, was starting to use Delphi at work, was keeping an eye on Java (or maybe just starting to learn it), and had read things like the “Gang of Four” Design Patterns book. So I had a reasonable grip on object-oriented techniques, but didn’t really have any depth of experience with them. The book made some degree of sense, but seemed rather too academic and not as compelling as its reviews suggested.

A decade later, almost every issue discussed in the book seems to touch on something I’ve encountered or done battle with, and often casts a new light on it. It all seems far more relevant than before, and of course I can now compare it directly against the specifics of Java and my own experiences of using Java. In particular, there are lots of things in the book that ring a bell in the context of various recent and current discussions about Java (such as the introduction of generics, and how to support “properties”, and how to handle concurrency), or in the context of my own particular experiences over the past few years (such as the pain of writing natural-language Javadoc to specify method-argument validity, then needing code to check or enforce those pre-conditions, then needing test cases to check that code: all of which seems to cry out for a more formal, expression-based approach).

Overall, the book’s “design by contract” idea has substantial appeal for me, and feels like a good fit for things I’ve either been trying to do or been frustrated by for a long time. Many of the other ideas expressed in the book also look reasonable and potentially useful, or at least worthy of further consideration.

However, 10 years on from the book’s publication, and despite Eiffel still being a going concern (at Eiffel Software), and even recently becoming an ECMA and ISO standard, one hears almost nothing about it in the “mainstream”. Maybe it’s the fault of its licencing and business model (e.g. one supplier, single bundled development environment, expensive commercial licence)? It also looks like Meyer and Eiffel are now firmly committed to being “.net” based (with various sources such as entry QJVM of the comp.lang.eiffel FAQ and this discussion implying that the JVM is fundamentally unsuitable for it), which is a substantial deterrent to a Java dude like me.

So I’m curious as to whether anyone is really using Eiffel, or “design by contract” in general, and especially:

  • What aspects of it do and don’t work in practice.
  • Any counter-arguments to the book’s main ideas (especially “design by contract”).
  • Any views from anyone with strong experience of both Java and Eiffel.
  • What the state of play is for any other languages or tools that implement some or all of the relevant language features.
  • Whether there are any intrinsic reasons that some or all of these ideas couldn’t be supported by a JVM-based language, or whether .net is just Meyer’s particular platform of choice.

I guess this will either get no replies or degenerate into a language war, but you never know…

Changing e-mail address due to unreliable ISP.

8 02 2007

Warning – this includes a bit of a rant about my current ISP (whom I’m not going to name, except to say that they have nothing whatsoever to do with this blog or its hosting), and isn’t related to Java or programming, but does include one “idea”, albeit fairly vague.

This week I suddenly discovered that my broadband ISP’s service has deteriorated to the point that most of the e-mails I send are being silently blocked. Apparently this is a well-known problem with this ISP, and has been getting worse month-by-month. It appears they haven’t been dealing with spam adequately, so many other services are now simply blocking anything that comes from their machines. The ISP seems unable or unwilling to resolve this issue, isn’t warning its customers, and as far as I can tell isn’t even prepared to publically acknowledge the problem.

Looking back, I’d had a few e-mails where I was surprised not to get a response, or thought it was taking a long time to get a reply. Then last week I was puzzling over why an automated mailing list had picked up one or two of the e-mails sent to it but not others (and just would not let me unsubscribe no matter how many times I tried). It never occurred to me that my ISP’s once-reliable e-mail systems were simply not delivering my e-mails. It only leapt out at me when I was testing a set of new e-mail accounts for my business, and could see exactly which e-mails did and didn’t arrive. It became obvious that most e-mails sent from my main home/personal account were simply vanishing. A quick search revealed many other users of my ISP moaning about this.

It’s all too typical of the way things go these days. This was a very reliable service originally, but was successful enough that it got taken over by somebody bigger, and then that got taken over by someone even bigger. Under the giant corporate that now owns it, the service is simply going down the drain. There have been other problems over the last year or so, but this is the final straw. (As it happens, at the very time that I was writing this I suddenly had a two-hour complete outage – just back now – good job I’m not paranoid!).

Well, I already knew it was time to find another ISP, but I’d been putting it off because I first want to get everyone away from using the ISP-specific e-mail address that I’ve been using as my main e-mail address for many years. It’s easy enough to get a new e-mail address going, but it’s a pain to notify everyone and update all my various accounts, subscriptions etc. There’s a long, long list of web-sites that each need visiting to make the change (or unregister from the site if no longer relevant to me). All of them are different, of course, and some of them don’t even provide a way to change the e-mail address they have for you (or have pages for this that simply don’t work).

Notifying people has been relatively painless, but it’s a different story with web-sites, subscriptions and the like. I’m gradually working my way down the list, one site at a time, and a fair old time it’s taking me too. Then I also have the joy of catching up with all the people that didn’t get e-mails I’ve sent out over the last couple of months. Well, it’s my own fault, the warning signs of a deteriorating service have been there ever since the latest take-over of the ISP, and I should have jumped ship straight away rather than putting it off. At least this time I can start using an e-mail address with a domain name of my own, so that any future switching between ISPs won’t affect it.

Maybe there ought to be a way to make changing your e-mail address easier? I don’t know of anything, but one can imagine some kind of standard protocol for giving contact details to web-sites and/or individuals, tracking who you’ve given which details to, and then automatically (but maybe selectively) notifying and updating some or all of them whenever you change any of your contact details. Maybe also for unsubscribing/terminating accounts. Kind of like what I’m doing with simple lists and manual effort, but all automated using some suitable protocol. As well as e-mail addresses, this could cover addresses, phone numbers, and other such details. It’d probably be non-trivial to get the security and privacy right, but something like this ought to be possible in these days of RSS, trackbacks, and all the web-services stuff. Maybe there’s already some kind of web-service standard for this, or even actual products that support it, but I’m not aware of any (and certainly not aware of web-sites stating that they support such a service).

More generally, I can’t remember the point at which I went from treating e-mail as hit-and-miss and unreliable to unintentionally taking it for granted. Well, I’m afraid I’m back to treating it as entirely unreliable again. I’m getting to much the same point with all the AJAX-heavy web-sites, which work some days and not others, and seem to have slightly different behaviour and bugs each time I use them. I remember the early days of the web when web-sites never quite seemed to work properly, but then we seemed to go through a phase where you could generally expect most serious web-sites to be fairly robust, usable and predictable. Now we seem to be back to each site being a hit-and-miss afair depending on your browser, firewall, configuration, day-of-week etc. Maybe the pace of change dooms us to have lots of inexperienced people hacking out quick-and-dirty solutions on technology they don’t quite understand yet, and then moving on to the next big thing – combined with companies whose only concern seems to be fancy marketing, analyst’s perceptions, and who’s taking over who (rather than actually providing good products and services).

Unfortunately I can see this all getting progressively worse rather than better. Hope I’m wrong. Grumpy old man here. Sigh.

Juggling many different roles, and the pros and cons of a one-person project.

5 02 2007

This week I was going to try and finish off some development work, whilst also starting on a variety of things that need to be done in preparation for the impending set-up of my company. That has got me into setting up a business-only line on a VOIP/SIP phone, putting a proper multi-user e-mail system in place, and setting up some new domain names with holding pages, web/email-forwarding and the like, as well as starting to look into a number of potential suppliers for various other services I’ll need.

So there has been plenty of fun and frustration learning the ins-and-outs of DNS records, fiddling with SIP-phone configuration, and seeing just what “virtual office” services are available these days and which combination of things might best meet my needs. As usual, everything takes longer than it ought to. You set things up, test things, puzzle over what doesn’t work, figure out what to do, re-configure and re-test everything, document it all for future reference – and suddenly a whole day has gone by and it’s very dark outside.

In the end I didn’t get very far with the development work. I looked at it a couple of times, but with all the other stuff going on I was pretty much just staring at the screen. So the first half of the week turned into being a complete break from coding (more accurately, from writing Javadoc and test cases), and I only got back into proper development work towards the end of the week once the other stuff had calmed down a bit.

This has been a big reminder of how hard it can be to mix actual system development, and especially programming, with anything else. I can juggle lots of non-programming tasks when not programming, but mixing anything else with programming just seems to slow me down on both sets of tasks and leave me feeling drained. Except, perhaps, for technical reading and learning new stuff, which I always seem to be able to do in parallel with anything (regardless of whether it’s directly related to current work or not). I suspect everyone has different abilities and thresholds on this, but for me that’s just the way it is.

So I think from here on I’m going to set myself a fairly rigid routine of spending a fixed amount of time at the start of each day for non-development tasks, and then try to completely forget about that and spend the rest of the day on development work. For now that will mean an hour each day for non-development tasks, but that will increase as the development work winds down and other things build up.

From a broader perspective, this has also been a reminder of how different this current project is from anything I’ve ever worked on before. Specifically, due to doing the whole thing on my own, rather than being part of a team that is itself part of a larger organisation (or even being a one-person project within a larger organisation). OK, strictly speaking even this project isn’t really just me on my own, depending on where you draw its boundary – there are companies supplying me with services, emotional support from friends and family, various sources of advice, and assorted background chatter from the internet. But it’s as near to being a one-person project as anything could ever be.

There are pros and cons to this, and often they are two sides of the same coin:

  • You greatly reduce and simplify the management, planning and tracking that is necessary, but don’t have anyone to haul things back in if they start sliding off track.
  • You completely cut out all the usual communication overheads, misunderstandings and conflicts, but don’t have anyone to discuss ideas or problems with, nor anyone to tell you when you’re wrong.
  • You don’t have other departments imposing pointless procedures, meetings, negotiations, delays etc, but whatever needs doing you have to figure it out and tackle it yourself rather than having appropriate experts on hand to do it for you.
  • You have pretty much complete control over everything, but you can’t actually do anything in parallel unless there’s built-in “waiting” time involved (i.e. it’s just like multi-threading on a single processor).
  • Everyone is always pulling in the same direction (at least in overall terms – I still argue a lot with myself over details), but the entire responsibility for everything is on your own shoulders.

Depending on the overall circumstances, a self-contained one-person project can also potentially cut out or vastly reduce a whole raft of tasks, overheads, risks and other issues that arise when creating and sustaining a team of people. Office space and facilities, recruitment, internal politics, rules and regulations, team dynamics, quality control – the list goes on and on. Not to mention the costs involved and all the issues this brings up over funding.

Overall, I think software development by a single person working entirely alone and independently can be extremely efficient, for the right person on the right project, but at the cost of things sometimes taking a long time to complete. That isn’t the contradiction it might appear to be. For example, suppose an individual working alone can do something with a quarter of the total effort that an eight-person team in a larger organisation would have to expend (taking into account all of the pros and cons of each approach, including the broader range of skills and aptitudes the bigger team could bring to bear). Then the individual would still take twice as long to complete the work, albeit at a very much lower cost and with a much “simpler” project.

Of course, there are lots of other issues involved, not least of which are the complete dependence on a single person, how much a single individual can realistically tackle, what happens after such a development project is finished, and what kind of sales, marketing or support effort might be necessary for the resulting product. So in most cases having a single individual doing everything on their own simply isn’t feasible or acceptable. But when it is possible, the costs and overheads that it can cut out can be quite staggering.

I suspect the ideal is a one-person team within a suitably-supportive larger organisation (if such things actually exist), together with an appropriate deputy or understudy. Or maybe we still need the kind of “surgical team” suggested in Brooks’ famous book The Mythical Man-Month.

Haven’t found my voice yet…

6 01 2007

This blogging stuff is proving harder than I thought.

It ought to be so easy, but I don’t think I’ve yet found the right “voice” for this blog, and probably also haven’t yet found the right host for it. The experience has increased my respect for all those people that somehow manage to regularly produce readable, interesting and entertaining posts.

I’d like to think I’ve always been ok at face-to-face communication, mentoring and so forth, and at writing formal reports and documents. But trying to write blog entries is just leaving me struggling at the moment. I think I’m finding it hard to judge who the audience might be, and therefore how much background I need to explain for anything technical or that’s only relevant for my own particular way of doing something. Reading my last two blog entries, they seem far too dry and verbose. More to the point, they just don’t “sound” like me at all.

Hopefully this will improve with time and practice, but in the meantime I guess the style of writing for this blog might veer around wildly before settling down into something I’m actually happy with!

I’m also rather under-impressed with the blogging service I’m using (I’ll leave you to figure out what it is..). No real complaints about the service itself, it just doesn’t seem to have any styles/templates that I like. Before starting this blog, I did a quick trial on several different blogging services and software packages. There didn’t seem much to choose between them, apart from some fairly minor pros and cons, and I went with what seemed the most suitable. But now that I’ve put up some real content, I’m rather unhappy with the choice of styles available. There are plenty to choose from, but they all seem either rather ugly, or good-looking but with hard-to-read text, or don’t cope with code examples very well. Inevitably, some of the options that would be useful to me are only available on styles that I really hate the look of, whilst the best looking styles don’t support the options that I want.

I guess I could roll-up my sleeves and write my own CSS, and take whatever upgrade or subscription is necessary to do that, but I don’t want to spend time on this and I’m pretty hopeless at graphic design anyway.

So I might stick with this service for now, but I’ll probably reconsider it as I go along. Maybe try something like Simon Brown’s Pebble running on my own server. At least I decided to get a separate domain name for this blog, which ought to make moving it relatively painless.

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