I spent the last four years working on video game platforms - PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox.

Now I'm back in the PC world and more specifically in the web world.

My web site at Above the Garage Productions has always been super-minimal. This was to reduce maintenance time and also because this guy, who is an expert, said it should be super-minimal. To be honest, he also suggested some things to make navigation easier, but I never did them, because the time to maintain my site was my number one concern.

Web technology has advanced considerably in four years! I've been catching up. You can get free industrial strength databases (MySQL), you can get free servers (Apache or IIS, which comes free with Windows XP Pro) with massive amounts of programability, you can take people's money from them all sorts of different ways, and finally the bandwidth available has gone through the roof.

My main site is hosted by For $29 a month, I get a gigabyte of disk storage, a gigabyte of bandwidth per day, the ability to run MySQL, tons of email accounts, ftp access, and complete reliability. Hosting a server at home used to be a pain, because you generally had a dynamic IP address. Now services like TZO make that a non-issue for about $25 a year.

And this blogging service,, is free. Ron Gilbert wrote to me and told me about my RSS feed. I didn't know I had it! Summaries of all of my posts are available using the "Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication" format at /atom.xml . And of course, now there is XML to deal with, which allows web sites to talk to each other in a structured format.

Blogspot seems to serve up my RSS feed in a readable format if your browser is not XML aware. If you visit Ron's RSS feed, then you can see the XML tags that encode the summary.

(Here's a free newsreader than can read RSS feeds.)

The crazy thing is the number of languages available for programming your web server. VBScript, JScript, JavaScript, PHP, Perl, Python, C++ (with or without .NET), and anything you want to design and plug in. And then there are a crazy number of COM interfaces if you're working on Windows.

Here's a stream-of-consciousness subject change - the guy who invented COM lives near me. How do I know that? Because I saw his car, an expensive Lexus LX 470 at my local library, and the license plate said something like "COM GUY." I used to hate COM, primarily because the first document I read about it said boldy and incorrectly, "COM solves the interoperability problem," or some such nonsense. COM plus about a hundred other tools helps manage the interoperability problem, would be a better statement.

The history of Microsoft interoperability attempts is really something: OLE, COM, COM+, the Visual Basic VARIANT data type, which is actually useful, and now more interfaces and more complexity with .NET and XML.

When I was first learning Windows, I hated it too. I was raised on Unix and I adored the simplicity of the interfaces. On Windows, each interface had its own craziness, and there was no consistency at all. This is because lots of different people made up lots of different interfaces and no one was really in charge of it all. Now, I have adapted to it, and I just assume each interface will have its own set of rules, and I attack it with that in mind.

Anyway, "COM GUY", if I ever actually meet you, no hard feelings. You did in fact create a better interoperability standard than what had gone before (within Microsoft), and it's still the basis for the current Microsoft standards, such as they are, so that's a pretty good achievement.