phil wilson :: a geek commodity

5:37 PM

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Friday, March 28, 2003

I want my new server.

I also want a Java version of Textile (JTextile? Hello, Humble Narrator).

And how about this: from a single Jabber account, I want to be able to auto-generate a comprehensive FOAF file.

  1. from JID (using vCard) JID2FOAF (php)
  2. from roster (using vCards) Roster2FOAF (php)
  3. from MSN contacts (contact details) msn2foaf (perl)
  4. from exisiting OPML file (using autodiscovery)
in Java.

I also want Joggle to support iCalendar so I can have my appointments wherever I go, and be notified via Jabber (if necessary via SMS using the ICQ interface (if it still works these days)). Is this too much to ask?

10:20 PM

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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Weapons of mass seduction? Pff, next thing you'll be telling me is that guns are sold to gun-totin', battle-lovin' (sad and lonely) rednecks using women posing in bikinis firing AK-47s! Please! We're far more civilised than that!

Enlightenment, my first favourite window manager for Linux isn't dead. Apparently. (It's sure been doing a good job of pretending.) It'd be great to see the E team release a rip-roaring new version, kicking the other WMs into touch with all-aliased, perfectly skinned, amazing ease-of-use everything.

Why won't it happen? Because it's probably been the longest product development cycle since Netscape 6. That's why.

1:34 AM

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Saturday, March 22, 2003

Mark Pilgrim was the platypus.

I knew it had to be a set-up (all those very high profile links, with content like that? I know it had all those xml files, but still....), but didn't know who it was. Well done Mark. :)

11:26 AM

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The 'get out' list of blogs I regularly read (over on the right) is now generated on the fly, using javascript, from an OPML file created using the "export" function of Syndirella. I got tired of having my blogroll out of sync with my RSS reader, now a single file upload and voila! the same.

It's cross browser, which is great, but as Mark Pilgrim mentioned yesterday in his article about MIME types, it will cause problems if and when I ever want to create valid XHTML 2.0.

It still needs to be sorted alphabetically (because Syndirella doesn't support sorting its feeds), but I just wanted something quick - sorting can come later.

The script is based on one found at probably the best javascript resource on the web - ppk's javascript section. Everything I know about Javascript I learnt there.

→I suspect this sorting lark may be more complex than anticipated, and whilst still very doable, I'd rather keep the code simple. Unsorted it is. It's more fun like that anyway. →I almost forgot to mention that whilst the file kept its opml extension, it wouldn't be loaded by either IE6/Win or Mozilla 1.3 - only when I renamed the file to have an xml extension did it start to work. →Now ordered alphabetically by removing all my subscriptions in Syndirella and then importing back from the xml file. Not an ideal solution, but works in the short term.
4:12 PM

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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Work, work and more work.

None designed by me, hence the table-ness of everything.

My current job, to upgrade this site, means out go the tables, font tags, spacer GIFs, and in come tamed lists, flexible layouts and general niceness.

The problem, of course, is that I've only got a week from beginning to end to get it all converted and working.

4:34 PM

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Friday, March 14, 2003

This is my first posting to my Blogger blog via Jabber.

I can have new paragraphs, and more.

All from a chat window!

4:45 PM

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Thursday, March 13, 2003

Haven't we all wanted to send lynx text instead of images so we can keep great design and great accessibility?

Ben Hammersely loves linked folders in Eclipse, and many other people just adore Eclipse in general. Neither I nor any of the dev team I work with have ever really got to grips with it in a satisfactory manner (OK, one of the guys uses Emacs on his Win2K machine, but we won't count him). It just seems to take so long to understand and start being productive with. Is there something we're missing?

(Incidentally, just about all the other developers, including me, use Editplus)

3:54 PM

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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Good products aren't written under insanely tight time constraints.
Good products have some form of written specification.
Good products have an architectural model

I'm so glad I decided to take my time with Joggle and try and do it in a way that seemed sensible instead of just knocking out code that would _work_, but wouldn't be very _good_. This is the state of the current product we're making at work, now I have to bend it to my will to produce websites. “Impossible!” I hear you cry! And you may be right.

In other news, a Java blogging tool based around the design concepts of Bloxsom, blojosm and I'd forgotten all about the "Most popular friend of friends" page.

I changed my template on the 7th of March, anytime you want to publish it, Blogger, feel free.......
13th March: And about time too.

1:35 PM

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Thursday, March 06, 2003

The Wildgrape NewsDesk is good. Very good, and it looks better than Syndirella, too. But here's why I won't be making the switch:

  • It comes automatically set up to a host of feeds I neither want nor care about. This should be an option, not a default.
  • The feeds it does use mostly come from, even when there are perfectly good ‘official’ versions (e.g the feeds for Boing Boing, BBC news, and others).
  • I've got very used to Syndirella's address bar - it's very useful when you want to send someone the link, or copy the URL into another window.
  • Its "update all" function is single threaded (according to the NewsDesk site). Syndirella does this multi-threaded, and certainly seems faster for it.
  • There's no user feedback when adding a feed, removing a channel etc. so that it looks like NewsDesk has crashed. It would be polite to display a "downloading feed" or "removing channel" message whilst NewsDesk is still working.
  • It appears to have some memory issues. I subscribe to about 25 RSS feeds, Syndirella uses up about 11 MB RAM to refresh them all, NewsDesk uses a consistent 35 MB.
  • It's slightly too harsh in parsing invalid XML, for example, at the moment even Zeldman doesn't parse correctly (using a screenscraper, feed here), and when something's gone wrong, it lets you know by making the icon for the feed red, but doesn't tell you why (timeout, invalid feed, whatever)
  • As soon as you select a feed item, it marks it as read. Instantly. A timed response is much better behaviour. Added to which, unread articles aren't as obvious as in Syndirella. NewsDesk notes them by placing an icon next to them, which disappears as soon as you click the article title. Syndirella displays unread article titles in bold, and drops the bold once the title has been selected for a few seconds.
  • NewsDesk doesn't let you view the source for a feed. Not an immediately obvious requirement (why would you need to see the source?), but it's kind of nice, and can be useful.
  • The biggest bug-a-boo of all - no RSS auto-discovery. This is the biggest selling point of any aggregator now, if you've got autodetection and a usable interface (standard three panes will do), I'm willing to overlook a lot of other bugs so long as you provide this.

But I do like the way it breaks feeds up into Channels, and has good import/export abilities (although Syndirella's "import feeds from FeedReader" is a stroke of genius - simple, yet effective), and the way you can validate feeds just by right clicking. Also, the alphabetical ordering is a godsend, something that Syndirella could really learn from.

I've yet to give NewsMonster a try, but by all accounts it seems like a step too far for me; I just want a plain RSS reader (I've never used the "web feeds" that Syndirella lets you use), not a whole browser addon/mega-app, I want to be able to actually read Mark Pilgrims's site (read the controversy), and anyway, I'm getting kind of bored of XUL chromes - platform specific UI, please.

4:40 PM

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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

My company has a new website. None of the usual web developers were involved. As a result, it doesn't validate, is poorly-formed, uses tables for layout, has unclosed attribute values, and uses the <font> tag.

It just doesn't get much worse. It doesn't use animated gifs, but it _does_ have a <marquee> tag on the front page. And the navigation on the front page is different to the rest of the site.

The guy who wrote it owns Jakob Neilsen's Designing Web Usability. His code isn't even valid HTML 4 Transitional, and even Frontpage can produce that these days.

So depressing.

4:57 PM

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Monday, March 03, 2003

Jeffrey Zeldman links to the colour harmoniser, which is truly wonderful for making well balanced, easy-on-the-eye templates for webpages and images, and when coupled with the web colour converter provides for all your colour-related needs on the web.

In other news, posting to Blogger via Jabber now works, MT is next in the works, but storing the user preferences calls for some refactoring. I think a slight delay whilst I sit and write a proper spec is needed...