An Interview with David Flanaganby Bruce Stewart
Flanagan: That article really touched a raw nerve. Lots of developers still felt an allegiance to or fondness for Netscape, but they were frustrated that Netscape (and Mozilla) had been unable for so long to ship an updated browser. When I pointed out that Netscape was finally about to ship a browser, but that it would not be all that we had hoped it would, I guess a lot of that frustration boiled over. The article raised hackles at Netscape, too, and in hindsight, I should not have used the word "Fail" in the title. As Netscape rightly pointed out, Netscape 6 had better standards compliance than any other browser. My intended point was that beta releases of Netscape 6 were not ready for prime time yet, and that there were many standards-related bugs that could be easily fixed, but which would not be fixed because of the tight and inflexible release schedule.
Despite the pleas of developers, Netscape 6 was released as it was. It has come and gone, superseded by Netscape 6.1 and 6.2, both of which are a lot more stable, and in which have been fixed all of the specific, standards-related bugs I pointed out in my article. I don't use Netscape 6.x myself because it has too many Netscape-centric things, such as the Shop button. My favorite subversive feature of Mozilla has also been disabled, which allowed me to selectively turn off images from certain servers, such as those that deliver advertising. Netscape 6.x continues to have excellent support for Web standards. And because Mozilla is updated more often than Netscape, it has cutting-edge support for those standards: better than any other browser.
Stewart: It sounds like you've been keeping up with the Mozilla project. What is your impression of the latest builds?
Flanagan: They are doing a good job of bringing all the pieces together and closing in on a 1.0 release. I applaud their effort, but I find that I still use Netscape 4.7 at least as often as I do Mozilla. Because Mozilla still runs a little sluggishly on my 450MHz Linux box, I don't use it as often as I ought to. Some have laid the blame for Mozilla's slowness on its reliance on interpreted XUL for its user interface. When I can make the time, I look forward to experimenting with some of the browsers that have adopted Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine, but have put their own non-XUL user interface on it. My hope is that those browsers will give me the standards compliance of Mozilla with the speed of Netscape 4.
Flanagan: The fourth edition of Java in a Nutshell, to cover Java 1.4. After that, probably the third edition of Java Examples in a Nutshell, also to cover Java 1.4.
Stewart: If we were to look at books on your home bookshelf, which titles would show signs of the heaviest use?
Flanagan: Like many programmers, I secretly wish (sometimes, at least) that I was a real architect. Thus, the book A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander et al., is an inspiration to me. (I believe it was also the inspiration for Gamma et al., who wrote the modern programming classic Design Patterns.) Other books that inspire the designer in me are Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek and Permaculture: A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison.
My favorite nonfiction author (although I enjoy his novels and poetry too) is Wendell Berry, a tremendously gifted essayist, who has a magic way with words. I would love to be able to write with the power and grace that he does. I like almost everything he has written; two of my favorites are What are People For? and The Unsettling of America.
Other books that I feel are particularly important, and that enjoy a place of honor on my bookshelf include:
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins
The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability by Paul Hawken
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E. F. Schumaker
Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development by Herman Daly
I used to be a frequent science fiction reader; now I read it only as an occasional escape. My favorite fiction author is Samuel Delany: I have a nearly complete collection of his books, several of which are autographed, and they bear the marks of multiple rereadings. I've recently reread some Neal Stephenson works--my favorite is Zodiac. I'm also fond of cyberpunk authors William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Bruce Stewart is a freelance technology writer and editor.
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