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Thursday, May 8, 2003day link 

Some bright techies are working on threadsML, which is an envisioned standard way for applications to interchange threaded discussion data. That makes very good sense of course. There are many different programs that support discussion groups. Bulletin boards, newsgroups, chat, etc. But no existing way of transferring the data into other formats. Right now threadsML is just a discussion, so there's no software and nothing to join. The discussion is here and there's an overview page here and a WIKI here. Hm, I'm not sure what to contribute, but I should probably try to understand what is going on so far. Seems there's some focus on outliners as one universal way of looking at threaded materials. There's a whole cult of outliner adherents around. I think an outliner is a good thing, but it is based on the assumption that data is hierarchical. I'm probably most interested in ways of getting beyond that. Ways of navigating non-hierarchical data.
[ | 2003-05-08 17:46 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, May 7, 2003day link 

 XML weather
Adam Curry mentions he found weather.interceptvector.com which provides weather for just about any town in XML format. He was looking for a way of putting it into an RSS feed, and a fellow named Marcus made a script for that. That's cool. But actually I'd just like to have the current weather in my area reported in the sidebar on ming.tv. So I spent an hour figuring out how to do that. A cron job picks up the XML file for Van Nuys, California every hour and stores it in a cache file. And I then made an XSL document, which defines a way of transforming some of that into a little snippet of HTML for my sidebar. I use PHP with the Sablotron XSL processor compiled in. This is a pretty primitive use of it, but I just wanted to try something slightly useful. I'd post the code here if I could just figure out a way of showing it in raw form.
[ | 2003-05-07 23:59 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, March 3, 2003day link 

picture Zope seems to be popping up in front of me more frequently recently. Zope is an ingenious, unique, dynamic, modular, web-based software environment written in the Python language. I've had it running on my server since several years, and for a while back then I was really gung ho about it, and was planning on doing all my development in Zope. There's lots of ready-made freely available modules for Zope that very easily makes it do lots of useful things, without any real programming. But when I tried to implement one of my own projects from scratch in Zope I ended up so thoroughly frustrated that I gave the whole thing up. Well, what frustrated me so deeply was the DTML scripting language, which seemed to stop me from doing even the simplest things I wanted to do, for no good reason. I understand things have changed greatly and there are new versions and new frameworks for how to do things, which all sounds exciting. So maybe I should explore that world again. Zope 3's 'Component Architecture' sounds very compelling. I was today looking at a couple of weblogs by prominent Zope people. Jeffrey Shell is a programmer responsible for some key pieces of Zope. Paul Everitt is the former CEO of DigiCool, the company that develops the core of Zope.
[ | 2003-03-03 23:59 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, March 2, 2003day link 

 Techie to-do stuff
There are many small or large projects or to-do items that I have on my list to do. You know, that involve programming or server administration. How many of these things I get done depends on many things. It happens in waves. In some periods of time I get lots of my own hardcore techie stuff done. In other periods I work hard to do other people's sometimes boring programming, because I get paid for it. And other times I'm somewhere else, writing about big philosophical or political ideas. Some times I'm doing many things at the same time. Anyway, here's a short list of some of the things I'm working on.
  • I've been talking with Britt Blaser and Mitch Ratcliffe about Xpertweb, and mulling over the details. It involves a peer-to-peer economic network, using XML data structures. I'm going to play with the elements of a more simple and powerful prototype
  • There are a number of features in this NewsLog program (which this weblog appears in) that I need to add:
    • At least two levels of RSS feeds, one with full pictures and formatting, and another, more minimal.
    • I already made the functionality that can send the daily contents of a newslog out in e-mail, but I need to finish the subscription mechanism, so that people can sign up for it.
    • A preview function is needed, so one can see how one's posts will look before one publishes them.
    • Spell checking is an often requested feature
    • The stuff that appears in my left sidebar in ming.tv is custom. I need to make an easy interface for others to do all the same things.
    • The MetaWebLog and Blogger API interfaces need to be implemented, to make it easier to post from various sources.
    • I need an integrated RSS aggregator
    • Trackback features need to be finished.
    • Need to link with TopicExchange as a feature.
    • RSS 2.0 features for backing up the full contents of a log
    • Switch over to CSS for formatting, and XHTML well-formedness.
    • Many more little things
  • I just installed Quicktime Streaming Server on my server, but didn't take the time to quite figure it out. And maybe video clips in the weblogs would be a fun idea.
  • I just re-compiled my PHP with Sablotron support for XSLT. Cool stuff for transforming XML documents. I need to think about whether to use that to do some things seriously differently.
  • I need to make another attempt of getting into Flash enough to know how to make ActiveScript client-server connections with XML. For a number of projects I could really use a little applet in a corner of a page with a real-time server connection. You know, saying "Bing! Your friend Joe just logged in."
  • I need a word processor like way of editing text online. You know, where you paint over part of the text and click the Bold button and it becomes bold. One can do that in Java, but I hate Java, and I've turned it off a while back in my Mozilla, which means it hasn't crashed since then. One can do it in Flash. Or I believe one can do it with dynamic HTML if one is a little clever. So I'm going to play with that part some more.
  • I wrote a system for laying out websites from within a web browser. I need to make it more general purpose, so it can can used for, for example, laying out the contents of a weblog sidebar, or the way a product is displayed in a shopping cart, or a bunch of other things I need it for.
  • I need to update my own server monitoring tools. I administer many servers, and I need a better overview of what is going on with them. I never seem to be completely happy with the existing tools, like Big Brother. I wrote a thing earlier that used XML-RPC for each server to report its status frequently. I just need to patch it up I think.
  • I wrote this DNS administration program, for keeping track of hundreds of domains with thousands of virtual hosts, and writing the configuration files and updating secondaries, etc. It works great. However, I need to make it do some more things, such as keeping track of when domains need to be renewed. And keeping better track of servers and IP numbers.
Many more things, I think. But it is good to write them down once in a while.
[ | 2003-03-02 23:59 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, February 4, 2003day link 

Timothy Appnel thinks about TrackBack. To explain it to you non-programmer types, TrackBack is a mechanism for letting another site know automatically that you've linked to it in your weblog. It makes it easier for all of us to be able to refer to other people talking about the same stuff.

I've done half of an implementation of a TrackBack thing for the NewsLog program that underlies this weblog here, but I didn't finish getting to understand the whole thing. I got as far as being able to make the required 'ping' to another site by manually entering the information in a form. But it really isn't worth much unless it happens automatically.
[ | 2003-02-04 18:23 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 Topic Exchange
The Internet Topic Exchange is a new site inspired by Seb Paquet's idea for Ridiculously Easy Group Forming. The idea is that in one's weblog one identifies a post as belonging to a certain topic, and then, through a mechanism like for example TrackBack a centralized site gets notified of it, and it keeps a global index of stories under each of many topics.

I mention it here because I think that can be a very useful thing, and to make a note to myself to remember to get into the technicalities of it, so that users of my NewsLog program can participate too.
[ | 2003-02-04 18:23 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, December 15, 2002day link 

 Weblog Programming
I follow a bunch of weblogs where techies are talking about technology related to weblogs. The kind of people I mostly pay attention to in that regard are those who speak in a language I understand, like Dave Winer or Jon Udell or many more. I'm an experienced programmer, but there are many discussions that are way over my head and that I couldn't catch up with without weeks of study, and they're often about standards that take years to evolve. But a guy like Dave Winer will come up with an idea, and a couple of days later it is written up as a standard, and a few days later several people have created implementations of it. RSS and XML-RPC are examples of that. That's a rhytm I like better. Really good ideas should be simple to explain and you should be able to see benefits from them really quickly. I'd like to play more in that field in the future. But for now there are still some more basic things I need to finish in this NewsLog program, and there's a major reorganization of the NCN site that I've left half done. But then I want to play more with inter-operability with other brands of weblog software, and cool features that are worth sharing.
[ | 2002-12-15 23:59 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, November 27, 2002day link 

 Weblog exchange
Dave Winer announces that Radio Userland, a popular weblogging program, has a new feature of being able to export all posted entries into a standard format, RSS 2.0. RSS is traditionally the format used for syndicating streams of news postings, but 2.0 is flexible enough to store a whole weblog. I'm going to look into implementing that feature, and hopefully it is flexible enough to store weblogs created in my NewsLog program as well. I'm a bit worried about whether it can handle the pictures. Anyway, what this kind of thing can mean is an easy way of moving from one weblog software to another, an easy way of backing up the contents of your weblog, and it opens the door to programs that can browse freely through the content of many weblogs.
[ | 2002-11-27 22:29 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Friday, November 8, 2002day link 

 Hot Scripts
I sometimes find it almost depressing how much great web software that is easily available for free download. Like see here at hotscripts.com, and that's only looking at the PHP programs, since PHP is my programming language of choice. That's great of course, but the reason I say it is almost depressing is that it is pretty much a full-time job to keep track of what is out there. And even if you find that somebody has already solved a certain problem really well, it might still be a lot of work to get it to work with the other pieces you have. So, a programmer will often have to make the choice between just putting on blinders and himself doing what he wants done, versus spending the time looking for what's already done, and adjusting that to his needs. So, the wheel gets re-invented many times, because we don't quite know what other wheels are out there, or how we mount them on our axles.
[ | 2002-11-08 23:59 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Groove is a platform for web collaboration. It is not free, but it is geared towards open standards and peer-to-peer connections. Ray Ozzie runs the company, and he's also the guy who created Lotus Notes. Groove is now opening up to access through web services. Jon Udell has a good analysis here. The term "Web Services" refers to protocols (XML-RPC,SOAP,WSDL) that are used for letting programs talk to each other over the web. That is a big thing right now. If more programs are making their functionality available from afar in standardized way, there will be so many more ways you can get what you want, the way you want it.
[ | 2002-11-08 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

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