URNs and persistence

This is just a short note to state that I am alive and well! Seriously though this is final exam season for me, along with which I have been working hard on my final year project as well as doing some real work and travelling to Spain, again ūüôā Anyway as the title suggests this post is about URNs and persistence, how so? Well, I’ve recently written a¬†new article explaining the benefits of URNs, their practical application and how they can help web authors to preserve a measure of persistence in their citations.

I also received a rather interesting package yesterday from Microsoft, the contents of which will have to remain underwraps for a little while longer until I launch the new project I am developing and I can let the cat out of the bag.

package from Microsoft

Redesign Launched

The redesigned site has been launched! If the page looks a little bland then either you are using Netscape 4, in which case tough luck, or you have an old style sheet cached. To update your cached style sheet just reload this page. Please let me know what you think of the changes.

My¬†frequently visited templates are unchanged, this redesign is based on the layout of¬†template 2. The previous design was based ontemplate 1. I have made these templates freely available for people to base their designs on, and to give them ideas on what CSS can do. Please do not copy the “style” of this redesigned version! A good example of using the templates effectively is given in an example on theRogue Librarian site, the template has been used as a base but the finished design is definitely an individual work. Be individual, do not plagiarise!

The redesign was fairly basic, but there were quite a few basic changes than had to be factored in there. Tim Bray recently wrote aboutrefactoring software and I had his words in the back of my mind when I was making numerous changes to the various bits and pieces that make this site what it is. There are some things that need to be pushed out still, but I didn’t want this redesign to follow my earlier abortive attempts at a redesign by stalling before delivering it. When something works, it is tempting to just leave it, or as they say¬†If it’s not broken, work on it.

Very Busy…

Well I am quite busy hence the lack of an update for a little while. Exam times, coursework and work pressures are all mounting up but I am progressing on all fronts. This weblog has suffered, but hey it’s not my priority at the moment. Nevertheless once exam season is out of the way prepare for some more high tech tidbits and opinionated rants!

All has not been quite on the web site front though, a redesign will be coming soon, thanks to all those who have commented on the prototype I did,¬†Iso,¬†David and¬†Leo, cheers. I might even get round to using proper headings for my blog posts soon ūüėČ

Connected Computing

The new alpha release of Longhorn has stirred my interest again with a concept for managing concepts called the “My Contacts Library”. This replaces the windows address book application but uses a carousel concept has been hinted at recently, as I stated a while ago Longhorn seems to be crossing paths with some of the¬†use cases covered by FOAF technology. The direction, and even the interface, seems to be getting closer and closer to what FOAF and its applications are doing.

The interface can be seen clearly in a mockup in Paul Thurrott’s¬†review of one of the Longhorn Alpha builds. To describe it textually, the interface has the individual at the centre with contacts organised in concentric circles around the individual. The individual contacts can be grouped by user defined categories, like Windows messenger contacts can be. All in all Microsoft seem to be using some similar UI ideas to¬†FoafNaut and the¬†Semaview Foaf browser. With the carousel interface and pivot based viewing capability I am starting to really look forward to the new version. I can understand why some people might think this has all gone a bit far, however although I am a big fan of the Amiga, Linux and Mac OS etc I really like working in XP and Longhorn looks even better to me. Pivot views and filters aren’t for everyone but I lived in excel when I worked in finance and loved the flexibility and power that pivot tables gave the user (No I wasn’t one of those losers who only uses 10% of Excels capabilities, I was a Macro writing Pivot table freak!), bringing this power to the desktop looks like a good move to me.

Oh, now I’ve alienated most of my Linux loving readers by praising Microsoft I will say that I think that FOAF and it’s contemporaries/replacements have a great opportunity, Longhorn isn’t coming to a computer near you for a while yet. Lets make the most of that gap by creating applications that “normal people” can use now to manage their contacts in more powerful ways. Let’s face it FOAF is a bit geeky at the moment, it’s a 0.1 after all! I can think of a few things that need to happen for something like FOAF to be more widely used:

  • Import from address books. Such as .wab format.
  • Introduce flexible categorisation of contacts.
  • Push the prototype use case implementations (ie¬†co-depiction) onto the desktop.
  • Wow the consumer, not just the techies!

Well there is my opinion piece for the day, if you are interested in researching more about FOAF I suggest looking around the relevant category¬†in the open directory or¬†google’s mirror. Paul Thurrot’s¬†review of the Longhorn Alpha contains plenty of information on the windows side of the equation.

Problems with RSS as it is deployed

I have a some longstanding issues with RSS for example the method for RSS autodiscovery, however the two most important problems with respect to RSS are:

  1. Entity encoding in the <description> element.
  2. Resolving relative URLs.

As I use a¬†decent news aggregator, I don’t suffer from the second problem. The first problem however is something that should interest us all. As¬†Tim Bray notes, entity encoding in the description element and then expecting the encoding to be resolved back is prone to errors. This is due to the under specified nature of the various RSS branches and people just doing it in an effort to crowbar HTML (not necessarily well formed XHTML fragments) into the early RSS deployments.

How to do it right! In order to include even html in your RSS then there are a few steps you need to take.

Step 1: Convert to RSS 1 or RSS 2, earlier 0.9x versions do not support what I am proposing here.
Step 2: Include the <encoded> element from the RSS 1.0 content module namespace, using the namespace prefix “content” as in <content:encoded> will work in more readers.
Step 3: Wrap your content in a CDATA section and put the result into the <content:encoded> element.
Step 4: Ensure the result is well formed XML.

This solution can be used to ensure that the content is included in an element recognised as holding encoded data, rather than the much abused description element. This is the method I use for my own feed which you can take a look at it to get some ideas.

Using the Vera typeface with CSS

As I mentioned yesterday a new typeface, Vera, has been released that is suitable for open source projects. In order to use it a bit more fully I wrote a quick test page and compared the rendering of each of the fonts in my font viewer program with the fonts used by my web browser, Mozilla 1.3, to ensure that the right font was consistently applied. Below is a short list of each of the fonts and the appropriate CSS font selection properties that will request the desired font.

  • Bitstream Vera Sans.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans';
  • Bitstream Vera Sans Bold.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans';
    font-weight:bold;
  • Bitstream Vera Sans Oblique.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans';
    font-style:oblique;
  • Bitstream Vera Sans Mono.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans Mono';
  • Bitstream Vera Sans Bold Oblique.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans';
    font-weight:bold;
    font-style:oblique;
  • Bitstream Vera Sans Mono Bold.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans Mono';
    font-weight:bold;
  • Bitstream Vera Sans Mono Oblique.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans Mono';
    font-style:oblique;
  • Bitstream Vera Sans Mono Bold Oblique.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Sans Mono';
    font-weight:bold;
    font-style:oblique;
  • Bitstream Vera Serif.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Serif';
  • Bitstream Vera Serif Bold.
    font-family:'Bitstream Vera Serif';
    font-weight:bold;

I’ve uploaded the¬†test file I used for the typeface. It includes some lorem ipsum text to help get a better feel for the typefaces.

Back from Holiday!

Yes I’ve been away in Cyprus for a short while, there was some great weather while I was over there and some excellent historical sites to visit. There was also some fun to be had as well as can be seen in the photographs below.

A photograph of me paragliding, this is me taking off Me taking off while paragliding.

A photograph of me paragliding, this is me in flight In flight.

I’ve received a few emails from my contact form where people have asked me something but then¬†forgot to include their email! If you ask me a question make sure you include your email address. I have cleared up¬†my contact form a bit so it should be harder to forget now.

In other news the Vera font 1.10 has been released. Hopefully this will lead to further improvements in the quality of freely available fonts. They are truetype fonts so they can be used with most modern operating systems that I know of, windows users can use them but they are distributed in a compressed format, I got the tar.gzip format, so they will have to use something like winzip to access them. thanks to Russell Beatie for pointing these fonts out.

RSS 1.0 Modules Explored: Taxonomy

In the first of an infrequent set of weblog entries I’ll be briefly exploring the RSS 1.0 modules. The first on the list is the¬†Taxonomy module. The taxonomy module is a way of specifying topical structure within an RSS channel.

The Taxonomy modules has a namespace is referenced by including the following namespace in your RSS document.
xmlns:taxo = "http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/taxonomy/"

The modules contains two elements the “topic” and “topics” elements. Use of these elements, and the taxonomy namespace, is¬†not very widespread at present (Syndic8 stats). The taxonomy module has many potential uses however. For example filtering an RSS channel by topic could be an interesting development for a large feeds. Other aggregation strategies could be based upon gathering items from a variety of channels with a commonly identified topic, this kind of meta information is potentially more useful than simple textual analysis to discover similarities, and may enable knowledge discovery even when synonyms to common terms are used. See the¬†taxonomy module details for more information on how to integrate this module with an RSS 1.0 feed.

New Mozilla Roadmap Released

Big news from mozilla, a¬†new roadmap for the application suite has been released. I’m not going into too much analysis of it here, but as far as I am concerned it takes things in the right direction. Rather than bundling everything as one “monolithic application” the new suite is based around separating the components out and thus cleaning up the user interface and easing integration with other applications. Ever since I figured out how to stop Mozilla (the browser) opening mozilla mail instead of my default mail client (Outlook Express) I’ve wished for a simpler UI and better integration with other applications.

So in summary the new roadmap is a good step, I fully support the mozilla teams efforts. This has been coming for a while with the release of the phoenix browsers and the recent information released regarding minotaur.

P.S. To get the default mail client activated use the following in a user.js files (the same folder as your prefs.js file)user_pref("network.protocol-handler.external.mailto", true);

A few useful links though:

nntp//rss 0.3 hits the street

A new release of my favourite newsreader has hit the streets. The latest release implements a number of improvements over the previous builds. One of the main highlights includes support for setting individual polling intervals, this was really useful for me as some of my feeds were timing out on the connection when nntp//rss tried to retrieve them at the same time. I can now carefully stagger them to balance the load somewhat and resolve some timeout issues I had.

The big feature improvement though is the support of various blogging API’s to allow items to be posted to the weblog from the newsreader. Some people think this is¬†a bit of an overkill, but I think it is quite cool. Here’s an extract from the release:

Posting – You can now post entries to your blog from within your newsreader. nntp//rss has support for the popular Blogger, LiveJournal and MetaWeblog APIs.

The next logical step would be integrating some kind of commenting integration. a link to the comments for an article is already included in the aggregated content, what I am thinking of though is the kind of integration where I can just reply to a post from my news reader. Is this possible? Well I don’t know how the API’s Jason Broome listed currently work, but at least one weblog I read implements thecommentAPI developed by¬†Joe Gregorio, creator of my previous favourite newsreader Aggie.

Well at least I have identified some reading to do in the future, the weblogging API’s. I’ll post links to them here so I know where to look when I get the time.
Further Reading: