Sunday, June 26, 2022

Overbite Palm 0.2

Overbite Palm 0.2, the Gopher client for classic Palm devices, is now available (see it running on real hardware). This update includes Shawn Mulligan's Sony Clié key patch (thanks!) plus more aggressive memory management and menu compression, which should not only increase the number and length of documents that 68K Palms with their pathetic dynamic heaps can view but also cut down on the fatal Plua-generated "out of memory" errors that our memory heuristics failed to anticipate. Additionally, all transfers are hard-capped to 32K raw data since this appears to be the empiric limit for the native scrolling text gadget. It was tested on my Palm Centro and AlphaSmart dana, as well as my emulated m515. You can get it from Github (plus Plua source, natch) and I will be making a place for it on the Floodgap gopher server as soon as I get a round tuit.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

prior-art-dept.: ProleText, encoding HTML before Markdown (and a modern reimplementation)

Steven P. Spackman allegedly once observed that "flat text is just never what you want." Which, I guess, is true: half the historical advances in computing have come from figuring out ways to tart up plain text, whether embedding control codes or out-of-band styling or in-band markup. However, with the exception of out-of-band styling (I always liked the Macintosh text file formats that kept the text in the data fork and the styling in a resource), you still needed to parse the file or at best you'd get blocks of text separated by gobbledygook. Enhanced text formats like Markdown were thus designed to make cognitive sense to human eyes without further parsing — but also encoding sufficient metadata to facilitate improved ways of rendering the document.

Markdown circa 2004 has displaced most of the others today, but it explicitly never claimed to be the first such human-readable format; indeed, AsciiDoc predates it by about two years, reStructuredText a year before that and MakeDoc about a year before that. For that matter, some of the concepts popularized in Markdown might not have existed at all were it not for earlier ancestors like 2002's Textile.

But a forgotten rich text language predates most of these, with the interesting property in that much of the markup is encoded using trailing whitespace, almost a fusion of in-band and out-of-band styling systems. If the whitespace is munged, it's largely just a text document (like those particular Mac files if you pass along only the data fork); but if it passes through intact, an intelligent converter can use attributes encoded in the whitespace to style it into HTML. That system is ProleText.