David Baron's weblog: August 2003

Friends & Colleagues

Sunday 2003-08-31

I wrote a letter to the New York Times last weekend, right before I left (from my parents' house, near Philadelphia) for the CSS Working Group meeting in Oslo. Not surprisingly, they didn't publish it. So here it is (the reference to "Saturday" is August 23, which is no longer available online):

Saturday's editorial ("An Onslaught of Computer Viruses") omits some of the important factors that lead to the spread of computer viruses. Microsoft wants you to send Microsoft Word files by email since it excludes those who don't own Word from the world of email. However, this creates a culture where non-standard formats, such as Word files, are commonly accepted via email, and users are not surprised when they receive attachments to email messages. Thus users open attachments sent by email viruses, and viruses spread quickly. If senders avoided sending non-standard formats by email, recipients would be more suspicious of attachments, and viruses would not spread as much.

Ultimately, however, the best protection against viruses is population diversity. When one operating system, one web browser, and one email client dominate the Internet or a corporate network, flaws in those programs let viruses spread very quickly. In a world where people use different systems that coexist using open standards, viruses would be much less likely to cause the damage they now can.

Speaking of the CSS Working Group meeting, I was in Oslo for the past week. Ian has already reported (on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) a good bit about the meeting, as has Tantek. I think I was sitting sleepily next to Ian when he took this picture, but my laptop is visible in the picture (the blue one in the middle of the room). And like all of the pictures Ian takes these days, it was taken with his “cell phone,” which is a good bit more than what most Americans think of as a cell phone.

My experience buying food and public transport in Oslo made it seem like it deserves its reputation as having the highest cost of living (alternative link) in the world. It's worse for tourists, though, since the government gets a good bit of its revenue from a 24% sales tax (and has a lower income tax than neighboring countries), so tourists who are paying full income tax in their home countries end up supporting both governments through their purchases. The prices for food seemed really high, but it's not so bad once you figure that the prices shown have tax and tip already included in the price shown. This is much more sensible than the American way, and allowed me to figure out easily, in the Oslo airport at Gardermoen (which is really nice, by the way), exactly what I could by with the 50 Norwegian Kroner left in my pocket. (I bought a shrimp sandwich, which seems to be typical Norwegian fare, for 49 Kroner.)

Wednesday 2003-08-13

The CSS3 syntax module draft was published, so my name is now on the W3C TR page.

Wednesday 2003-08-06

More on my new laptop. I don't think I'm going to bother getting power management to work. After all, the BIOS claims to support APM 1.2 when the kernel asks it. It just doesn't do anything. I guess that's what happens when manufacturers use Windows XP as a test suite.

It's our fault. We should have given him better parts.

—Jack Warner (on hearing that Reagan had been elected governor of California)