A Random Pattern

Archive for the 'web technologies' Category

WordPress sandbox on Ubuntu

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

I finally got the WordPress software (that I use to publish this website) installed on my local computer.  It’s in a nice sandbox, so I can turn it on whenever I want.  The issues I ran into were mostly permission-based errors, so I’m going to be learning more about setting and managing permissions.

Full write-up will come later.  The good news is, I can now test changes without subjecting you, my imaginary readers ;), to being the guinea-pigs!

It’s worth noting that command-line-use really makes things easy – if you already know what you’re doing!  If you don’t , welll….. :D

VOIP, not just IM, moving towards open standards?

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Google and Skype – interoperability a possibility?

Unfortunately, I share the concern of others that the wording is “explore”. I had hopes for a more aggressive position, but it’s too early in the relationship and the companies involved don’t want to ‘over-promise, under-deliver’.

Still, this means good things for all of us. For example, some of the IT folks in my company are quite hostile to Skype. I’m with them on this, as I don’t like all the resources it eats up, or other problems it causes. It’s not just my company that has a problem with this either.

On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Google Talk, and would like to see it used more. One really great way for it to grow is for it to inter-communicate with other IM clients / networks. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but think of it this way: I would like to use Google Talk instead of Gaim, Skype, etc. Unfortunately all my contacts are already on those other networks, so I either try to force them all to change (yeah right), run several clients (hello slow computer), or don’t get to use Google Talk because I don’t have friends on the network. If I could talk to the other networks through Google Talk, suddenly I can decide which client I prefer, and other people can choose something different that meets their needs, and we can still talk!

The other thing to note is that this announcement goes beyond the XMPP support Google already brought with GTalk’s introduction. Not only do they have a commitment to an open standard for IM (text chat), and not only are they helping define an open standard for voice / other interaction (Jingle), but now here’s another step towards real interoperability BETWEEN VOIP CLIENTS, WITHOUT THE ‘OLD’ PHONE NETWORK INVOLVED AT ALL.

Imagine a world where IM or VOIP is just like email or the telephone. It doesn’t matter if your friend uses Cingular or Verizon, you can still call her from your AT & T phone. It doesn’t matter if your business partner has an @comcast.com email, or an @mylastname.com email.

Speaking of which, along with my own domain, I have a new IM name: step@ransomedhome.com.  It’s mine, I own it, I can take it with me as long as I own my domain name.  So if you want to email or IM me, you can use the same contact information.  :)  See how great having an open IM network would be?!

iChat in the next OS X: fun ideas

Friday, August 25th, 2006

I’ve been thinking about one of the fun little extras Steve Jobs showed off at WWDC not too long ago: The ability to replace backgrounds in iChat video chats. Here are some ideas that I’m sure someone will play around with as soon as Leopard is available:

  • Wear a t-shirt that matches the background. Presto, there’s a hole in your stomach! (Don’t know if this will work, depends on how they implemented the algorithm.
  • Take a screenshot with your head in the picture. Does your head now disappear?
  • Create a fake background with yourself, then “walk in” on yourself while chatting with someone else.

Remember, folks, you heard it here first. ;) Here’s the site that gave me the idea, with a rundown on Leopard:

… In addition, a sophisticated chroma key algorithm was added so that a user can do a snapshot of the background he is chatting in front of, and it will remove the background and key in a background image or video of the user’s choice. For corporate presentations, podcasts or just plain having fun, this is a great feature. …

Update:  Links to WWDC, the Leopard sneek peek iChat page, and a picture from Apple showing the new backdrop effect:iChat Video window

CSS fun, and IE challenges

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

With the fixes I implemented last night, careful inspection later (read: today) reveal that I partially broke my page in IE. Yet another reason that you should be browsing the web in style.Get Firefox! A fix is in progress, and I’ll document it here when I get it actually working.

I also verified that the sidebar on single pages goes right over the footer. I found one suggestion for fixing it, but that didn’t seem to work. Anyone have any ideas?

My fix for navigation links on single posts didn’t fix anything. So back to the drawing board for that too…

Update:  The breakage on IE was worse than I thought, so I’ve moved the subscription block back to the bottom right for now.  Hopefully the fix for that is easy.

Whiteboard technology

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Could it be what I’ve been hoping and looking for? A collaborative whiteboard-type environment with IM, and it’s open-source to boot?! Of course, it looks like it has some, ahem, rough edges…

Performancing and Myspace get together

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Performancing adds a MySpace Blog Editor – Who’da’thunk’it? On one hand, I’m thinking “yay Performancing“, great plugin, want to see them get more traction. On the other hand I’m seriously not too pleased with MySpace, and don’t want to see them get any bigger than they already are. On the third hand, this plugin may be one step needed to break the MySpace dominance…

Let me explain a little:

1. I didn’t understand MySpace at all, but I got a page anyways because two of my favorite bands were on there, Unsed and .heretoday.

2. I discovered there was no way to remove the ‘astrological sign’ junk on my main MySpace page. That’s just plain lousy and lame. On top of that, “TrueLuv” ads with scantily-clad women pulling at their skirts shows up every time I log in. You have no idea how much that ticks me off.
3. I discovered a few other people in my circle of friends, and since I had moved MySpace is the only way I would be able to keep in touch with them.

4. We had the neighbors over for dinner, and their son has a MySpace page. We discussed MySpace, because I still wasn’t getting why it was popular. Then it hit me as we talked – kids don’t care about any of the stuff I complain about. They just want to keep in touch with people, be cool, have friends.

The more I think about it, the more MySpace’s success makes sense. And it’s a little scary, because I don’t think the site is healthy – I think it’s a trap for our kids. Not that good can’t come of it, just that it facilitates evil far too easily.

But MySpace’s lead won’t be easily overcome. There’s no easy way to catch up with a friend network like that…

Other cool new links, technologies

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Just some quick links for bloggers and tech hounds out there:

-Plogger, a photo gallery tool. I may experiment with it here on my blog, though it doesn’t sound like it has the ability to add other users who can upload photos / media.
-Zapr is still in beta, but looks like a nice tool if you need to send large files to other people. I often do, so I will probably review this app sometime soon.

-The review actually gives Windows Live Writer (also in beta) surprisingly good marks. It’s a tool for posting to blogs, and sounds like it’s got a lot of the features missing from everything else.

-Interested in Content Management Systems? Here are some guidelines on how to pick a CMS.

-As I’ve become more interested in Design, I’ve noticed the difficulty in getting my company to acknowledge the need for this type of role. The problem, at least with the people I work closest with, is that this type of role is still not well enough known or valued. Here’s an article on how design is becoming part of some company strategies.

-Ok, this software virtualization thing will be a little hard to describe unless you’re pretty hardcore geek. Here’s the basic idea: if you download and try lots of windows software, only to end up not using 2/3 of it and having problems with finding the other 1/3, this is one tool to help. It DOES NOT GUARANTEE PROTECTION from spyware, but for regular apps it will let you install them, and later remove them, without your Windows PC (registry, et all) getting bloated, slow, and troublesome. Cool, huh?

rdesktop on Mac, connect to Windows

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Interested in getting a Remote-Desktop-type setup to work?  I’m overdue for another post on the Ubuntu and Kubuntu methods of doing this, but in the meantime here’s a good link for setting up between a Mac and a Windows PC.  It uses rdesktop, as the Microsoft client for Mac is apparently not very good.

Second test. WP plugin and Sidenotes work.

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

As you can see by my last test post, I do have the arc90 lab javascript code working. Now I just need to clean it up (it’s a mess!) There are several things I want it to do differently, but hopefully you’ll just notice the improvements and not all the work (frustration) going on behind the scenes. :D

I’ve just been looking through some buttonsnap and moresmilies php code, and it looks like it might take me a little longer than I hoped to make my first plugin. So for now I’m going to manually insert my sidenotes by hand-coding.

While I’m on the subject, I’ll list the other things I want to accomplish with this plugin. But first, I’d really love your feedback on whether these sidenotes are useful or distracting, and what could be done to improve them.

1. Change the colors. I want to tone them down quite a bit. The free colorpix tool will help tremendously here.
2. Make them behave more like the other hyperlinks on this page. That is, red text until you move the mouse near them, at which point the sidenote shows up.

3. Behind the scenes, I want to make it easier to create sidenotes. Instead of manually typing a bunch (ok, a little) code, I just want to click a button and type in the sidenote. Even better, I hope to have it handle urls (web addresses) and perhaps images gracefully. Cross your fingers.

4. Finally, I’d like to clean it all up into one or two nice little plugins, then yank it out of my code and use it properly as a plugin. This is probably me dreaming, because I doubt I really have the know-how to finish this. Hey, if anyone wants to mentor, answer questions, or even just help out a little….

Last thing on WP plugins. Here are a few of the articles that helped me get started.

Good recommendations on software tools to use

How to write a simple WordPress plugin

Tons of useful WP articles. Tips, tricks, you name it she’s got it.

The codex (official WP documentation) on plugins. It’s all greek to me. :p

Remote Desktop, KDE install

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

I got Kubuntu installed. I first made the mistake of just installing KDE-desktop and some other important-looking KDE packages. Then, once I figured out how to log into a KDE session (log off, go to “Options” in the lower left corner, select “Session” then “KDE”) I got into IRC chat and learned that the easy way would have been to install Kubuntu-desktop. I did that, and KDE looked much better, had things in the right place, etc.

However, I still couldn’t get Remote Desktop working. For one thing, it was called “Sharing” instead of “Remote Desktop” (as it is under Gnome). For another, as I eventually discovered, I had left the firewall (Firestarter) running. Even though it hadn’t blocked my other PC the night previously, once I disconnected it started blocking that incoming connection (makes sense since I hadn’t made it an exception). For a third, I finally discovered my KDE session was 20, so trying “ipaddress:0″ or “:1″ or without colon obviously wasn’t going to work.

I still don’t have desktop sharing / remote desktop working for KDE, but I can remote into Gnome anytime I please. I think the VNC viewer and/or server might not allow sharing up to 20, maybe it only allows the first 5 or something. I haven’t looked into it yet, so if you know please tell me. I also don’t know why KDE starts at 20, instead of something much lower (the Gnome session is 0). One thing left to try is making KDE default – so far I’ve kept Gnome as default and just temporarily logged into KDE. This whole ‘session’ concept is still a little foggy for me. There are workspaces, displays, screens, sessions….I know there are differences, I just haven’t figured them all quite out yet. I’ll probably blog more on this.

One other item that was frustrating me until someone on the Kubuntu IRC channel pointed out the obvious: My display was just a few pixels wider than my actual monitor’s screen, and it was bugging me. I was looking for a software adjustment, when someone suggested I use the buttons on my monitor. Duh! The guys on #Ubuntu and on #Kubuntu have helped me out a few times, and I appreciate the community support. Sometimes the only solution is to figure it out yourself, but at least they’ll give you moral support. :)