Scott Johnson / The FuzzyGroup, Feedster / PHP Consulting / Random geeky stuff / I Blog Therefore I Am.

 Friday, August 01, 2003

Wireless on Windows Sucks Slimy Green Toads

I'm sorry but Wireless (Linksys specifically) on Windows can just plain bite me.  Yesterday I had to work with Francois at his place so I had to reset all my wireless settings.  Now this morning as I'm trying to get my email and run out the door for a plane (offline all weekend) -- nothing works.  I do the restart dance.  Nada.  I shut down and pull the card.  Nada.  Zippo.  Bupkus.  Zero.  Finally it comes up.  I have to hand it to Apple -- I've never had an iBook have Wifi issues.  Us Windows folks are sitting there swearing to beat the band and the Mac folk just look smug.  I just wish Apple could make a decent keyboard.  I'm realizing that for my next laptop, I could buy a powerbook, run Yellow Dog Linux on it and at least have a machine where ALT+TAB worked properly.  And, of course, one where installing an application like QuickTime didn't require a restart.  What's up with that?

Sigh.  Wireless on Windows.  Sucks.

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 Thursday, July 31, 2003

Feedsterlicious !

Heh.  If you track our Feedster Stats page at all (and yeah its slow to display and I know I need to make a cached version) then you'll see something interesting: 160,000 + feeds now.  That's right.  Last night we added every Live Journal user to Feedster which doubled our database size.  My hat's definitely tipped to Francois whose crawler architecture happily crawled > 1,500,000 posts in 12 hours.  Nice job man!

Jon Thompson nicely pointed out to me that while we might have implemented Sherlock support, we made it hard to find.  Thanks man.  Done!  Now its linked to from the home page until it finds a permanent home. 

Now for a miscellaneous selection of oddments:

  • .Net RSS Class Library: RSSMaster
  • Atom less than useless as a syndication format: BottomFeeder Speaks Out!  (really good observation)
  • Oh Dear Lord: Ack!!! (the Feedster specific comment)
  • The most advanced tool for finding fresh blog information is definately Feedster.com.  Campus Tech News
  • Comments on Gnomedex: Dan Hanson
  • Php Threading !!!  Keith
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 Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Any Hardware Guys Out in BlogLand or "How do I get Feedster on my Sidekick / PocketPC / Palm" ?

Hm...  We've had an increasing number of people ask us for Palm / PocketPC / Sidekick / whacky device here support in Feedster and we actually do want to address this.  The real caveat here is that my current Palm is a Palm IIIx (no Internet access there), Francois doesn't even use a mobile device and since we're a teeny, tiny unfunded startup, there just isn't a hardware budget.  All our funds go into our monthly equipment contracts and bandwidth.  So if anyone out there works for Palm / Microsoft / Compaq / Dell / Danger / etc and wants to see Feedster support on your platform, we're happy to accommodate.  Just drop us an email for a shipping address and we'll get going on it.  All we need is a mobile device with a web browser, a detectable user agent and some type of wifi / Internet connectivity. 

So many devices, so little time....

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Feedsterize Yourself or "Your New Feedster Buttons Have Arrived"

Heh.  Hopefully you'll like these buttons as much as I do.  And I know I need to add them to my own blog (note to self).  Still feel free to add them to yours.  Thanks to www.kalsey.com for the button maker UI and Paint Shop Pro for the rest.



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A Mea Culpa to My Mea Culpa or "Maybe I'm Not So Stupid"

With today's round of three blog entries, clearly I don't need any help from the peanut gallery* to tell me I'm dumb -- I'll do it myself -- and then retract it myself.  The issue at hand is encoding binary files in syndicated content.  I've recently learned that Atom allows for this -- and from a pure technical perspective, I'll admit its elegant.  But from a practical standpoint, I think its rife with issues as I elaborated here.  Well in the comments to that blog entry I saw a bunch of feedback and eased back on my position.  The primary reason I did so was Dave pointing out to me that Enclosures are how RSS handles the issue and when I quickly (and poorly) read the enclosure spec, I walked away thinking that RSS did it the same way as Atom and then RSS would suffer from the same objection.  And since that wasn't fair to Atom, I retracted.

Then it was pointed out to me that I was actually wrong in how enclosures work -- they actually work correctly -- pointers to content as opposed to content itself.  And this brings me back to my original position.

So what took so long?  The usual -- I got involved in debugging a really complex bit of string code and that sucked up the morning.  Then lunch.  Then I honest to god stubbed my toe (and almost ripped the nail off).  And that brings us up to date.  So I'm resuming my original position -- encoded content within an Atom feed is just opening the door to a whole bunch of issues.  I understand why they're doing it but I don't agree.

I'd really like to hear an opinion from an aggregator vendor.  Dave weighed in against it but what about Kevin, Nick, Greg and Luke?  How do you guys feel?  You're the ones who have to implement it.  Are my fears valid?

*But heck feel free.

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A Mea Culpa or "Its Wednesday and I'm Stooopid"

Sigh.  I thought I was making a valid point about Atom (and I do still kinda think that) but Dave correctly pointed out that RSS supports enclosures too -- something that I didn't realize.  And, thus, everything I said applies to RSS as well.  Yeah I should have definitely known that -- considering what I do -- and I do know it -- but ....  So this is an egregious example of overwhelming stupidity.  I'm not proud.  So consider this an apology.  I shouldn't have labeled / titled the post as I did.

I'm tempted to just delete the previous post but that would lead to the whole arguments from a few weeks ago about post deleting / editing [Shudder]. 

When: 11:11:58 AM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

Atom: The Fatal Flaw No One Has Yet Noticed

Now given that atom doesn't really exist yet, it may be early to make a draconian statement like "Fatal Flaw" but this is fairly awful from my perspective.  I was being interviewed for Under the Iron and the interview brought this to my attention.  The (most excellent) question was:

Q: When Atom/Pie/nEcho is officially a spec and people start to use the real extensive metadata possible with it, will you need to adapt Feedster to searching more efficiently? Also, since Atom/Pie/nEcho supports content as sound files, pictures and even video, do you plan to look into those files and index their metadata as well?

For the answer to the 1st part of the question, you'll have wait for the interview.  But the flaw to me was here "Atom supports content".  Now I don't have any problem with content being supported -- but -- Atom supports encoded content.  And that, to me, is a fatal flaw.

Here's the entry from the Atom wiki at: http://www.intertwingly.net/wiki/pie/content?action=highlight&;value=encoding.  And here's a sample entry:

<content type="multipart/alternative">
  <content type="image/jpeg" encoding="base64">
  <content type="text/html" xml:lang="en-us" mode="escaped" rel="fragment">
    <![CDATA[<p>Hello, <em>weblog</em> world! 2 &lt; 4!</p>]]>
  <content type="application/xhtml+xml" xml:lang="en-us" rel="fragment">
    <p xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
      Hello, <em>weblog</em> world! 2 &lt; 4!</p>

Now if you notice the "base64" I'd have to assume here that they actually intend to support an image file within the RSS feed.  Now what happens when people start to actually use this.  You'll see issues like this:

  • Every single user has to download that image.  Even if they don't want it. This both increases bandwidth and removes control from the reader.  It makes syndication more like email.  Oh that's a good idea !  Sheesh.
  • Bandwidth usage with increase for everyone -- provider and reader. 
  • There's no way to control who downloads that image (or video or audio) -- its all in the one syndication file and you have to download the file to see it
  • If users are disabled (blind or hearing impaired) they still have to get the media.  That makes sense.  Yeah sure it does.  What was Mark Pilgrim thinking?  He even understands these issues.
  • What happens when someone embeds something illegal or a pirated audio or video clip into their syndication file?  Who's liable?  At least when its linked you can choose not to follow it.  Now you could end up with stuff on your hard disc you have no idea was there.  And don't think it won't happen.  What about pr0n in the workplace?
  • When you're a blog author do you have to choose every time that you want a media item to go in your feed or as a linked item?  Sure there can be defaults but what you really want is your tool to say something like this:

    This jpeg is 1.2 megs.  Your feed is downloaded on average 2500 times per day and this will cause X megabytes of bandwidth to be used costing you $154.37.  Do you want this in the feed where everyone will see it or as a link where only 25% (expected probability) will click on it.

    Shame no one will ever write that dialog box.  Good for hosting companies though.  Sure I want to give them more bandwidth.
  • Let's play "Crash that Aggregator"!  Just wait until someone starts fiddling with encoding options and your aggregator is told to expect a jpg file and gets an EXE instead.  Think email is a security minefield now?  Guess what -- your aggregator is headed the same way if it supports encoded content. 

Atom support for encoded content.  What were they thinking ?  Sounds good in theory but in practice?  Yikes.  Just because you can do something technically doesn't mean you should.

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More on Colors

Jason has more on colors (I mentioned the matched color picker recently).  Nice stuff.

When: 7:06:39 AM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

What if Your Product Didn't Work --- And Nobody Told You?

I've been a user of Windows related multimedia files (originally .AVI) since like 1992ish -- back in the CD-ROM days and I just don't get it.  Whenever I'm on the net and I encounter .MPEG or .MOV / .QTW / QuickTime video files they just plain work.  Period.  Rarely if ever does an MPEG file not play.  Same for QuickTime.  Why is it then that I rarely, if ever, can make a .AVI file just play?  I'll see a .AVI file on the net and then I download it and nothing.  I always see "Attempting Codec Download" and then "Error".  And then, utterly annoyingly, Windows makes the less than intelligent decision "I'll just play the audio track".  Sure that makes sense.  After all when you can't show the pictures, just give them the sounds.  Sigh.

Now I'll do what all good bloggers do whenever they enchounter a Windows issue and make the anguished cry of pain!  Scoble ....!!!!

Note 1: Bitching was done in the context of a Fresh Windows XP Pro install and a new installation of Windows Media 9.  I mean I did the damn update last night.  Don't get much fresher than that.  Piffle.  When my clients ask me about streaming media, I guess my answer is here.

Note 2: Oh and why did I say "What if no one ever told you?"  Well what kinds of video files are mostly on the net?  Think anyone would really complain?

When: 7:01:48 AM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   
 Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Miscellaneous Oddments

Sorry for being so quiet.  I've been re-architecting / re-implementing our meta tag indexer and suffering through the hell that is metatags.  We try and be flexible but man, oh freaking man.  When I look at the cruft that is metatags I just want to wince, moan, scream, pound my big right toe with a mallet and then scream some more.  Anyway </RANT>.  And don't even get me started on this annoying new thing where rssurls will sometimes have a ? after them and sometimes not.  Hopefully more later.

Via Nelson: Very Useful.

Hey!  Its Me!  Thanks Chris!

When: 2:51:11 PM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   
 Monday, July 28, 2003

New Feedster Feature: Blog of the Day

There are a lot of interesting blogs out there --- all with rss feeds.  And Feedster, with what is now I suspect the single largest database of RSS feeds available, sees so, so many of them.  Francois and I have been wrestling with this and, at least for now, we've added to the Feedster home page a "Blog of the Day" link that we'll try and rotate daily (doh!).  If you want to make suggestions then use interestingblog @ feedster.com

Thanks to Mike in Australia for doing the Blog if the Day graphic.

When: 11:17:24 AM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

Gnomedex: The Summary

How do you describe a conference, Gnomedex, where you get to meet and hang out with:

  • Tim O'Reilly -- If you don't get the reference then piffle to you
  • Rob Malda -- the founder of Slashdot
  • Dan Gillmor -- San Jose Mercury News
  • Beth Goza from Microsoft who actually owns a Segway !!!
  • Nelson Minar from Google
  • Nick Bradbury from FeedDemon, Topstyle and Homesite
  • Oh and, of course, Chris Pirillo
  • Tom Bridge from MacSlash
  • And, even better, all the myriad Gnomedexers and Gnomedex Bloggers (who are listed here) -- I got the best suggestions on Feedster from just different random people.  And I'll be implementing those over the next few weeks and months. 

Over the next few days I'll blog more about the conference including slides I thought were relevant.  The overall impression I got from the conference was simple -- it rocked.  Chris managed to make a technical conference **fun**.  How often do you see that?  And I have to admit that I was purely in awe of watching Chris' people skills.  For me the most interesting part of the conference was probably just watching Chris interact with people.   He's a natural -- its so clear why people pretty much love him. 

So if you missed Gnomedex then all I have to say is you should make it next year.  The event was outstanding.  Thanks Chris.

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 Thursday, July 24, 2003

Feedster Gnomedex Blog

Carrying out my silly (but functional) tradition of a different blogging tool for travel, my Gnomedex blog is here:

and rss: http://feedster.com/superblog//?q=node/feed

And apparently my Gnomdex Daily News is causing trouble. :-)

When: 10:34:05 AM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

Feedster, Being Busy and Doing da Gnome!

Well Gnomedex keeps drawing closer and getting ready to be away (again) and doign some special stuff for Gnomedex keeps knocking blogging off my list.  Sorry about that.  Here are some interesting links:

When: 10:18:14 AM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

Special Feedster Gnomedex Edition !

Check out http://www.feedster.com/news/ when you get a chance.  What we've done here is dynamically (1/2 hour to 1 hour basis) create a "Blogpaper" a virtual newspaper assembled out of different blog entries all with a common theme.  And, of course, the theme is Gnomedex.  So if you're a blogger and talking about Gnomedex, this could well feature you. 


Note: The dynamic nature of this won't really show up until people start posting when Gnomedex starts.

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 Tuesday, July 22, 2003

GGSearch is Coming to Feedster

I've had some interesting IM chats with Pieter and he's updating GGSearch for Feedster.  GGSearch is a client side (for Windows) tool for more easily building Google searches and its actually pretty darn cool.  The way it works is it builds up a search query and then sends it to the browser.  Pieter made a conscious decision to avoid the Soap api for Google and he's going to apply the *same approach to Feedster -- just build up a url.  Give Pieter any comments you have on how a client side API for Feedster might work.

*Note: We do have a Soap API for Feedster although it is currently undocumented.

When: 1:52:21 PM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

Robots.txt Support is (Partially) Implemented

I just wanted to let people know that we've now partially implemented Robots.txt.  Now before anyone flames on, I can just let you know that the main Feedster spider, the thing that checks sites regularly, is using Robots.txt.  We're grabbing it once per week, every Sunday.  Please note that there is NO standard for how frequently you grab it and this is what we decided.  If more frequent is needed, let us know.

And please bear in mind that if you use robots.txt to turn off our indexing of your blog (which is fine) then we will still periodically check your url to make sure that you haven't changed your mind.  If you want us to just go the heck away, never touch you, etc., then you have to let us know personally since we'll flip the database bit that says "A real live human made an intelligent reasoned decision to opt out of Feedster so we're never bothering them again unless they specifically ask us too".

As per the ill defined robots.txt spec we look for robots.txt in the root directory of a weblog.  If your blog is located at http://radio.weblogs.com/0103807/ then this means that we're looking for the file http://weblogs.com/robots.txt.  Subdomains and blogs are way, way, way too random for us to check every possible location. 

Now where Robots.txt isn't doing yet is handling images.  The reason for this is we use a separate crawler to handle Images and, in particular, we have to do a bunch of path analysis to compare relative to absolute paths and the whole issue of www and no www.  So while we're making progress, the current implementation is, indeed, buggy and hence turned off.  We'll get it in as soon as possible but with Gnomedex this week and my traveling to, of all places, Des Moines, Iowa, this isn't really likely.  At least not a stable, reliable version.

When: 12:12:11 PM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

So What About that "Technorati Cosmos" Scott?

I've had a flurry of requests recently asking why Feedster doesn't have a Technorati like "Cosmos".  So over the past few days, with the assistance of Mike from down under who tossed in a critical string parser, I've been implementing this.  And we're calling it your "Feedster   Web".  We looked at the whole Nebula / Galaxy / Constellation / etc but Richard Soderberg came up with "Web" and that one stuck.  Now while the final code may not be ready until after Gnomedex (there's one bug that makes some domains non-"webbable"), I thought I'd at least give you a preview so you can tell me if we're on track.

See Feedster Web Demo

Please leave comments on this blog entry and I'll see if we can, well, accommodate them.

When: 11:40:25 AM  | Permalink:   | comment []  |  IM Me About This   

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Last update: 8/1/2003; 5:45:51 AM.