Feedback on deployment descriptors

Whenever I write about basic issues of software configuration and use, it seems to touch a nerve and provoke a flood of responses. Here are some reactions to Saturday's deployment descriptors item.

Paul Kulchenko:

I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with custom configuration. I'm doing installations for my co-workers and would like to be able to set up proper configuration with minimal effort. The easiest way that I found is probably to use radioStartupCommands.txt file, which is executed at every startup. The problem is that weblogData.root (which is where the most preferences are stored) is not opened when radioStartupCommands.txt is executed, so I need to open the database myself in radioStartupCommands.txt. Any ideas on how to do that? Ideally I would like to have "Save configuration as" button that will create that file with ALL setting I currently have, so I can enable/disable some of them and update Radio configuration. [ Paul Kulchenko ]

Those are all great questions. I can't answer them but I'll hope that passing them along here will help flow some answers through the system.

Kevin Donovan:

I got here after reading your dream for a deployment descriptor (link from SN) and while it's not all you hope for, I couldn't help thinking of the humble .emacs file and the generative, interactive 'Customize Emacs' utility.

Granted the gui could be A LOT better but a lot of applications out there could do worse than to mimic the eternally flexible emacs configuration system. [Kevin Donovan via email]

Agreed. In Radio, UserTalk plays the role that Lisp does in emacs, but you're right to note that emacs is slicker in the way it enables you to generate and collect the scripted expressions.

The more I think about this, though, the more I see the need for a system-wide UI for describing and sharing app behavior, and for a language-neutral (i.e. XML) representation of such behavior.

Paul Philp:

There was a problem in your script for changing the item layout. The quotes are a bit off. Here is the corrected version. Also, newlines must be removed after the cut and paste into QuickScript. [Paul Philp via email]

Ah, thanks for pointing that out. In fact the descriptor I wrote and conveyed to my colleague was correct, w/respect to newlines and quotes. It's the infernal DHTML edit control that mangled those things when I posted, edited, and reposted. The universal canvas can't come a moment too soon for me.

Steven Vore:

FWIW... just about the only thing that I found "better" in Outlook 2002 (over 2000) is that it's got a "save configuration" option that makes this sort of thing easier. I was able to "clone" my setup on one system onto a new laptop - all my customized toolbars, signatures, etc. That was nice.

(I ended up going back to Office 2000 because there wasn't enough new "goodness" to overweigh the new annoyances, but that's another story.) [Steven Vore, via email]

Chief among the new annoyances, I suppose, is the "phone-home" behavior. It would take an awful lot of goodness to outweigh that, for me.

While we're in tips 'n tricks mode, by the way, here's one related to the GoogleBox from Singing Banzo:

I'm playing with the googlesearch api, and I already have it in my blog (after fierce fight). Anyway, I have a tip maybe you can be interested in: In the old page ( you have 'Top 10 hits for "limits of transparency" and in number 8 you have a blank entry. This is because that page has no title. Anyway, in these cases you can have a link to it by adding in the template at the end of each title.

Good idea! In I've changed from searchengine.stripmarkup (adr^.title) + "</a>" to searchengine.stripmarkup (adr^.title) + "&nbsp;</a> which does, in fact, leave a small but clickable link in case of a blank title. Note than when you make a change like this, it's subject to being overwritten by a radio.root update.

Finding is, of course, a challenge in itself. I've learned to open radio.root and use the Find command, but if you search for, say, 'google', you will have to hunt through a bunch of tables. It's a lot like trawling the Windows registry. While I'm in a blue-sky mode, let's add one more fantasy: a system-wide search service that works in a consistent Google-like way across all local app and system config data.

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