May 31, 2005





I write this blog like a Calcuttan that write poetry

 

 

"Calcutta is, above all, a city of scribblers. It seems that all Calcuttans feel that they have a right to see their opinions and prejudices in print. "There are two things you will find in the middle-class Bengali characters," claims Nirmalaya Archarya above the din of ceiling on Bankin Chatterjee Street just off College Street. "They try to write poetry, every Bengali considers himself a poet, and they try to bring out one little magazine."" -- Travelers' Tales India: True Stories

 

 

Calcuttans seems to be born bloggers

 

 

I am seeing myself as a Calcuttan when I am writing this blog.  I do not have a particular talent in writing, but I am "self-publishing" them. Good or not, I only do what I started to like: writing. I like to write, like Calcuttan scribes. Am I a blogger or not? I do not know, but I am seeing myself as it, like Calcuttans that are seeing themselves as poets.



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May 30, 2005





The best waterproof pouch for your Moleskine notebook

 

 

I am considering to start a travel blog for my next trip to India. However, given the Internet infrastructure there (I am not talking about the major cities), the challenge could be interesting. It is a back to the future with their 33,6k and 56,6k phone modems.

 

It is why I bought 2 large Moleskine notebooks some months ago. I do not think that I will have the luxury to have a computer for 4 or 5 hours in a row to draft, correct, publish and talk with my readers. It is why I will draft all my posts in the notebooks before publishing them. However, what if I get caught by the rain? No worry, I found the best waterproof travel pouch for these Moleskines notebooks! My Moleskine perfectly fit into the pouch; it seems that it was specifically created for this purpose.

 

What is interesting is that when I will get them out of my backpack, people will think that I am pulling out some type sailor gears. No, it is not, it is a heavy duty Moleskine waterproof pouch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found this pouch in a local CAA service center for only 3.5$CAN. This product is manufactured by Coghlans, a Canadian company. I do not know where you can find such pouches in your Country, and unfortunately you cannot buy them on the Internet from them their website. However, there are some Internet retailers that sell them. Do not search anymore for a waterproof pouch for your Moleskine notebook, you just found it.



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May 28, 2005





Anonymous tagging by Feedster

 

 

A week ago, Feedster started an Anonymous tagging prototype system. With this system, your readers will be able to tag each of your blog's entries. The idea is good and the principle seems to work. However, will this feature add something to all the blog readers' experience? This is the true question to ask when you evaluate these tagging systems. Are they adding something to the experience of my readers/users? Or is the system just incorporating the system to follow the hype?

 

Are these tags, these keywords, really worth it? If yes, are they applicable to all classification systems?

 

Some tagging systems seem to work, and other does not. For example, I only use Del.icio.us to show interesting links to my readers. I do not really check what is bookmarked by other Del.icio.us users. There are just too many entries. The system is not convivial to search interesting stuff. I already subscribed to some tag's feed and I always got the same stuff and lost my time to check at them. Now the only thing I do is to put other bloggers' Del.icio.us account into my inbox. Then I subscribe to my inbox's feed and get all the interesting stuff they bookmarked. The Technorati tagging system is also interesting, but limited. He suffers from the same problem: there are just too many things being tagged.

 

So... I'm questioning myself with this new "hype". Meta-tags keywords failed... will Tags too? I do not know. I think that the concept is good for some application, but I doubt that they are useful for all things that have to be classified.

 

 



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May 25, 2005





Tips and tricks on how to be a more productive blogger

My addition to the list of Keith

 

Some blogs have thousands of hits each day and others less than ten. Many factors could explain this fact. However, one of the most influent is probably the publication frequency. These blogs generally have a high and stable publication frequency.

 

You can't attain this productivity by being sloppy and unorganized. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks that could be used to help you to be a more productive blogger. Keith, the blogger being To-Done, released a list of the tricks he used to make To-Done the popular blog he became. In his post "Be a More Productive Blogger", he explicit 11 tips and tricks he use everyday to write his blog. It's one of the best post I read on the subject since a while; it worth the reading.

 

 

Bellow I explicit and comment some of the points I found particularly important and that I already talked about.

 

  • Idea journal. Keith uses an idea journal to keep track of his everyday ideas. It's probably one of the best tricks he could use. Personally I use my pocket Moleskine diary as my ideas journal. I can easily slip it into a pocket, and I have enough pages to get track of a wide range of ideas, all at the same place.

 

 

 

  • Communicate with other bloggers. He also explained the importance of getting connected with and motivates to discuss with other bloggers. It's essential for the good health of your blog, and also to find new ideas. It's while conversing on other blogs, on others subjects that you do not write about normally, that you will have new ideas. It's around these new ideas that your blog will evolve and grow. Personally I use a comments blog to get trace of these discussions. It's is a place where I put all the discussions I had with other bloggers. Sometimes I skim it to find new ideas.

 

 

  • Evolve. The hardest thing to do is probably to keep the blog evolving. The content of the blog needs to evolve with the blogger. The subjects need to change. The reader need to see the blogger evolving in his writing. It's hard to do. Fortunately, all the tips and trick of Keith will help you to evolve as a blogger. There are many good blogs that I stopped to read because I was losing my time. They were always saying all the same things in other words. Keep evolving; this is the key to success.

 

 Which of these tricks do you use? How are you using them? Are you using other tricks? I would like to know them, share them here.

 


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May 24, 2005





How I use my iPod and other tips and tricks I found

 

 

A week ago I wrote about why I think that the iPod mini is probably one of the best travel companions anyone could find. However, I learned many things since then, I found software to exploit it at his full potential and I fully integrated it in my laptop.

 

 

How I use my iPod?

 

Basically, the iPod is a simple MP3 player. However, the fact that he has a big screen and text display capacity, make him more like a lite version PDA than a MP3 player.

 

When I bought it, I never know that I was able to synchronize my Outlooks calendar, tasks, notes, contacts and mails. That I was able to sync some of my favorite web feeds or that I was able to upload the latest weather forecast. I didn't have in mind to sync backup folders and use it as a storage support.

 

However, time as changed and now, in a single click, I sync all these information in my iPod mini. I found two really cool synchronization software that do it. The first one is the iPodAgent. This is reliable software that that will get all your Outlook information files, converts them into text files, and syncs them to your iPod. The other one is the iPodSync. He has almost all the same features as the iPodAgent, except for some advanced features like having the possibility to sync your PodCast files. However, I tested and used both; they are all reliable and I never had problems with any of them.

 

Now when I wakeup the morning, I sync all my files with my iPod. Even if I'm going out of the house without my laptop, I only have to bring my little iPod and I'll can read my web feeds, my emails and my tasks while listening at my favorite music and this, for 18 hours in a row. Is that not beautiful? Yeah it is for 249$ bunks.

 

I was a big fan of having my task and appointments shown on the desktop of my laptop. I was using ADC to do the task. However, with my new system, I needed to use all the features of Outlook and didn't want to fill my tasks and appointments in both ADC and Outlook. So I searched for a program that will put my Outlook stuff on my desktop. I found DeskLook also developed by XemiComputers. Everything was so perfect, the loop was closed and working like a charm. My iPod mini was fully integrated with my laptop computer.

 

 

Other tips and tricks for the iPod

 

Altitude warning. It seems that the iPod will not be your best friend over 10000 feet. So, if you are going into the Himalaya, do not open it, otherwise the hard drive of your iPod would broke and make it a shiny peace of junk.

 

Use Winamp to sync your music with your iPod. Personally I don't like iTunes. It's huge and unstable. So, I found the perfect tool to resolve my problem: ml_iPod. It's a Winamp plug-in that seems to work like a charm for most users. Personally I had some bugs with my laptop setup. However, the project seems really promising and as soon as they will arrange the bugs I'll use instead iTunes.

 

50 fun things to do with your iPod. So, you don't have enough? You need more examples of what you can do with your iPod? Take a look at this list of 44 fun things to do with your iPod compiled by Kootke.

 

 

 

If you have tips or tricks that you would like to see in this list, leave a comment, I'll add it immediately.



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May 22, 2005





Come back on the Bloglines' security flaw with secure feeds

 

 

Give to Cesar what belong to Cesar. Bloglines has reviewed the previous security flaw I found in their system in interaction with secure web feeds and fixed it.

 

I was reviewing the posts that bloggers make on the subject and read all the comments on them. It leads me to check if the problem I found on Bloglines was always there. They fixed it.

 

How have they fixed it? No they did not delete the HTTPS and HTTP Authentication handling feature of Bloglines. They simply make the URL feeds with HTTP Authentication private.

 

 

 

We can't change the status of such feeds; the system does not give us the possibility anymore. They are private and will remain private. It's good news. As far as I know, there are no other problems with this feature in Bloglines.

 

I would like to thank the Bloglines team for their positive answer to my security flaw discovery and for their fast service fix.

 

 



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May 21, 2005





Why do I read science fiction books?

The beginning of my literacy life

 

As I said, I'll gradually put texts in my bookshelf section that will tell you why I read these books. The first book I read by my own was a science fiction one called: "Les Thanatonotes". Soon after, I read all Isaac Asimov's books. I never read in my childhood, I was too busy to build shacks and towers in the wood. I needed to work in a book store to open myself to books. Since then, I can't see my life without reading.

 

I need to thank science fiction books. They opened me to the world of literacy and helped me to see benefits in reading. When I started to read the Fondation chronicle of Asimov, I was so entertained by the story that I go through the 5 books in some weeks. I soon discover that science fiction books are far more than entertaining stories. The authors have the possibility to explore the science world with another eye. They can make their scientific fantasies a reality. They can explore the impact of such fantasies on the human society.

 

By example, if I remember right, Arthur C. Clark has "invented" the geostationary satellite before scientists think about building and sending them into space. Or Isaac Asimov created and popularized the word and concept "robot". It was a contractor fascinated by his "robot" concept that built the first industrial robot for one of his factory. This is just some examples of what science fiction trend could bring to the readers and the society. It can be seem as an experimentation laboratory.

 

Personally I'm reading science fiction books in a quest for new ideas; to see things differently.  Sometimes, when I'm reading a science fiction book, some ideas come up in my mind. Then I muse on them and see if I can do something with them. They could be, or not, in relation with what I'm reading. But the fact is there, and my goal was reached, they were trigged by my reading.



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May 20, 2005





My Indian visa just arrived

 

 

My Indian tourist visa just arrived this morning.

 

Expiry date: 17 November 2005. Dah! Have I applied for a 6 months or 1 year visa? Definitely a 1 year, I paid for it! If I arrive in Delhi in September I have… 3 months? I’m not arrived in India and all my "plans" fall apart. The problem is that Indian visas start when they are issued.

 

I called at the consulate of Toronto and asked why I got a 6 months visa when I paid for a 1 year one. It seems that it is much more difficult to get a 1 year, so I got a 6 month. Fred... do not ask any questions and take it as it is.

 

So I need to bring back my plan number 2: arrive in Delhi and run at the nearest country to get another 6 month visa. Many possibilities exist: Arrive in Delhi, do the northern states of India for 3 months and go to Katmandu to get another visa. Or from Delhi to Calcutta to finish in the Bangladesh. Or run from Delhi to Colombo. There are so many possibilities... the problem is that this is not 100% sure that you get your new visa hahaha. Any ideas?

 

It's what I like in traveling... you never know what will happen and where you will go. The only thing you can do is to go with the flow... the flow of events. When someone say to me: I'm planning a trip. I stare at him and start grinning.



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May 18, 2005





The art of unproductiveness

The way I changed my blog's font

 

Everybody talks about productivity, me included. Today I have been drive by an unproductiveness force that leads me into the wonder world. What have I done? I took 2 hours to check for a new font for the blog. I tested many, of all sizes. I checked, mused on the result it gives to the reading's feeling. I also checked the colors of the links, the color of the visited links, the background color of the links, etc... Then I wanted a favorite icon. I drawn it and putted the link into html files. It worked instantaneously in Firefox but had problems with IE. I tried to make it work in IE for an hour without any results. I read that many had problems with this feature of IE. My only hope is that what I done will work on the next version of IE. However, where is the productivity here? No where. I had only the joy of caring of nothing during 3 hours.

 

Seriously, do you like the new font I adopted for the blog? I think it makes it more personal and relaxing for the reading. What are your impressions?

 

[...]

 

Finally as I think about it… it was not unproductiveness… it was only rigorous tests that I had to do for the pleasure of our eyes and the tranquility of our minds!



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May 16, 2005





The place of mind maps and traditional writing in the creative process

 

 

Some days ago I had a discussion with Niall about mind maps. We were talking about the fact that mind maps are far more flexible than linear notes. However, one method could be better than another depending of you and your needs. I mused about the place of mind maps and traditional writing in the creative process.

 

 

Vincent Ryan Ruggiero in his book The Art of Thinking describes the creative process in four stages:

 

1.      Searching for challenges

·        "The first stage of the creative process represents the habit of searching for challenges, not at one specific time, but constantly. Its importance is reflected in the fact that you can be creative only in response to these challenges that you perceive."

2.      Expressing the problem or issue

·        "The objective in this stage is to find the best expression of the problem or issue, the one that will yield the most helpful ideas "A problem properly stated," noted Henry Hazlitt, "is a partly solved". Because different expressions open different avenues of thought, it is best to consider as many expressions as possible. One of the most common mistakes made in addressing problems and issues is to see them from one perspective only and thus to close off many fruitful avenues of thought."

3.      Investigating the problem or issue

·        "The objective of this stage is to obtain the information necessary to deal effectively with the problem or issue. In some cases, this will mean merely searching your past experience and observation for appropriate material and bringing it to bear on the current problem. In others, it will mean obtaining new information through fresh experience and observation, interviews with knowledgeable people, or your own research."

4.      Producing idea

·        "The objective in this stage is to generate enough ideas to decide what action to take or what belief to embrace."

 

 

Now, what are the places of mind maps and traditional writing in these stages?

 

At stage one, the mind maps are well designated to answer to the need. Mind maps would be created each time we face a new challenge, each time we see a problems or an issue with a certain process. What is important to remember at that stage is that we need to constantly review the mind maps we have done, we need to find links between them. It is important to find these links because it will help us to view the problems or issues with a different eye.

 

At stage two, mind maps are also privileged. The links previously found will help us to aboard the problem or issue with many perspectives. 

 

At stage three, mind maps always best fit the need. However, in this case what we like is the flexibility characteristic of mind maps: their ease updatability. As Niall said, they are much easier to update than linear notes. Then we can easily update old mind maps facts with new ones.

 

For the stage four, I will divide it in two sub-stages: (1) the act of producing many ideas and (2) the act of defining some of these ideas. In the first sub-stage, the mind maps or free writing always have their place. We do not need to bother us with clarity; the only things we need are ideas, many of them. However, we will eventually need to clarify them, to structure them for us and for other. We enter in a stage of writing for others. In this sub-stage, we try to refine some of our ideas. We need to put a light on some of them; we need them to be reviewed by our peers. In this process we will ask ourselves many questions. We will write and rewrite our most promising ideas. In this stage, the mind maps of these ideas are here to help us to make a plan for the writing. However, they are useless for their presentation to others. Mind maps are the expressions of our cognitive process but are worthless to others and lack depth. The traditional writing will structure, refine and deepens our ideas. It will make them clear and usable for their communication to others.



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May 14, 2005





Do not use the Atom Gmail service with online aggregators like Bloglines

There is a real security threat

 

 

I study the problem of the secure web feeds since some weeks. I read a surprising post that talks about the Gmail Atom feed service used with Bloglines this morning. An idea came up in my mind while reading the post: it is not possible… can I really have access to login and password of people that subscribe to "secure" web feeds that use SSL and HTTP Authenticate with Bloglines? The answer is sadly: Yes I can.

 

The problem is that to use the Gmail Atom service in Bloglines, you need to build your feed's URL like this: https://USERNAME:PASSWORD@gmail.google.com/gmail/feed/atom, to provide the user and password to the feed's server.

 

All the problem is there: you have the username and the password in plaintext directly in the URL.

 

The first thing I then checked is if I was able to find such strings in online aggregators such as Bloglines. There is the answer:

 

 

Why do I have access to these URL? Probably because the Bloglines profile of these users are public and not private.

 

Then I tested if I was able to have access to these users and passwords by subscribing to the SSL and HTTP Authentication test feed on the silverorange project with Bloglines. I created two Bloglines profiles: one that the profile (Jim) and his blogroll are public and another (Todd) that will check the blogroll of the first account. The scenario goes like this:

 

  1. Jim subscribes to a new SSL and HTTP Authentication protected feed with Bloglines. His profile is public and he does not know the consequences of what he is doing. The address he subscribe to is:

https://testuser:testpass@secure3.silverorange.com/rsstest/

httpauth/rss_with_ssl_and_auth.xml

 

  1. Todd discovers the public profile of Jim and checks his blogroll. He is lured by an entry called "Test Feed (HTTP Auth, SSL)" he checks it, likes it and subscribes to it. Then Todd see this Bloglines page:

 

  1. Todd check more closely to this Bloglines page and remark:

 

 

Todd just discovered the user and password of a "secure" web feed. Basically he was not able to see the complete URL of the feed because it is viewable in the Bloglines system as: http://www.bloglines.com/preview?siteid=1830560. However, by subscribing to it, Bloglines shows the complete URL of the feed to the subscribed users.

 

This is just a test I performed with a SSL and HTTP Authentication RSS test feed available on silverorange.

 

Now, think about the consequences of this situation when users subscribe to Gmail or any other "secure" web feed using SSL and HTTP Authentication? The problem is real and could have many undesired consequences.

 

The best thing to do is not using such feeds in online services like Bloglines. Even in stand alone software it could be unsafe. I pointed out a week ago why I do not like this strategy to handle the problem of secure web feeds. This is a beautiful example of the potential problems it can lead to. You can read my article on the problem and the proposal of a solution here: Secure Web Feed Protocol.

 

This experience is a good example of the potential security treats that can appears when more than one system start to interact together.

 


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New applications of the Secure Web Feed Protocol

In Gmail and RSS Calendar

 

 

Five days ago I proposed my article: Secure Web Feed Protocol, to the PST05 conference. Two days after I came around 15 things you can do with RSS. Two of these applications got my attention:

 

  1. Collect your email from all your email accounts in your RSS reader
  2. Stay updated on someone's schedule

 

I thought: these ideas are wonderful! What about the security of these services? Could they use SWFP? There is what I found.

 

 

1. Google is supposed to have tested a RSS feed service for Gmail in their GoogleLabs in 2004. I can not confirm if the service is always available because I do not have any Gmail accounts and I can not sing-in for one. This service put new incoming messages of a Gmail account into a RSS feed. Then if you subscribe to that feed you will see your new Gmail messages directly into your web feed reader. What an excellent idea! However, I was surprised to found that they used SSL to create a secure channel between the feed and the feed reader.

 

In the section 5 of the SWFP article I explained why I think that using SSL to secure a web feed is not the good strategy to adopt. It is for this reason that I was surprised to discover that they tried to use SSL to secure the inbox web feeds. JC suspected that they did not create it for this purpose but for another application called Google Notifier. I think he is right.

 

I do not know what was the real purpose of this test but the result is the same: the idea of using RSS feeds to check your mail is interesting. However, using SSL does not seem to be the good strategy to adopt. Not all stand alone feed readers support SSL. If you do not wish to enter the login and password of the private feed each time you want to check for new messages, you will need to do something like that:

 

https://USERNAME:PASSWORD@gmail.google.com/gmail/feed/atom

 

This solution is even worse than not encrypting the web feed at all. With this string an intruder could sing-in into your account then check, delete or send messages with your Gmail account. It is far worse than only having access to the unencrypted inbox content.

 

This is a beautiful idea that could be handled by the Secure Web Feed Protocol. Now check out the second application of RSS feed that could use SWFP.

 

 

2. This time we are sharing our calendar with our friends and family using a service called RSS Calendar. When you add something to it all your friends and family will have access to your calendar's changes. Is that not beautiful? Yeah it is. What about the security of this other service?

 

You could wish that the planet know that you are going to Mont Washington the 20 Mai 2005. But what if you only wish that your friends and family know it? There is no privacy feature in the service for the moment.

 

I think that the implementation of the Secure Web Feed Protocol could be really interesting in this case too. Only the people you choose would be able to read your calendar. I like the idea.

 

 

You are now thinking: how could the implementation of SWFP could be done in such services? The only thing that will change with what I discussed in the article is the way you will distribute the asymmetric keys

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May 13, 2005





Why blog systems do not include comments in blog posts?

 

 

Comments are integral part of posts. Why blog systems, like Radio Userland, do not take this fact into account? I mean, why the comments are viewable from another source, another system? I would like that the comments made on my posts be integrated in them and in the blog's feed.

 

Why? You are asking. I thought about it and I found that even on popular blogs people do not comment too much. The reason? Most readers seem to read the posts on the feed and not on the blog. The result is that they do not see the comments made on them. If people could be able to read the comments at the same place that they read the posts, I think they would be more motivated to join in the discussion and leave comments.



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May 12, 2005





Is the iPod Mini the best travel companion?

 

 

If not he is near. I just bought one in prevision of my trip to India in some months. Why do I think that the iPod mini will possibly be my best travel companion?

 

·        The iPod mini has the longest battery lifetime (about 18 hours)

·        You can put between 1000(the 4Gig) and 1500(the 6Gig) songs

·        You can upload audio books to learn the local language. In my case the Pimsleur Hindi I

·        You can plan some part of your trip in the calendar

·        The apple power adaptor can handle most of the world’s current voltage and Hz

·        He can be use to wake you the morning

·        You can play games while waiting at the airport or at an international bus station

·        You can read text format ebooks

·        You can consult a to-do list (previously build in a text file)

·        You can use it as a watch

·        You can use the contact list to consult the addresses of the hotels where you are expecting to sleep and the ones of your embassies in the countries are planning to go

·        You have plug-ins to transform it into a camera or a FM transmitter to listen the local news

·        He is small, light and beautiful

 

Do I need to tell mores?

 

I finally know why people sometimes adulate them. They are awesome. They are relatively low cost, full of useful features and beautiful.

 

In next days I'll explain how I incorporated it in my daily live: the interaction of the iPod Mini between: me, my laptop and other software.



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May 10, 2005





Now I think that I know what writing mean

In reality I don't really know what it means but I tasted it

 

 

 

Sorry for my lack of blogging in past days. I had been overwhelmed by the writing of my article called Secure Web Feed Protocol. I rewrote it 4 times. As I said in a previous post I was only supposed to post the idea here, on this blog. Finally I sent a whole article to the PST05 security conference. It's my first interaction with the world of publishing. The only thing I know is that I learned many things in the process and that I have many others to learn, accepted or not. I don't really care about the outcome because I loved the experience and already learned a lot by doing it.

 

The main thing I learned was what writing means. I read some books about writing in past few months. They all said that writing is rewriting; that writing is a process. Now I know what they mean. If you don't understand what you wrote, how people can? The only trick is to rewrite it as long as your thoughts are not clears.

 

Writing is learning? I learned a lot then. I not only learned on writing, I also learned on the subject I was writing on. Why? Because "writing is thinking is learning" -- William Zinsser.



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May 4, 2005





Shame on Canadian Politicians

 

 

All the ancient Canadian combatants of the World War II are currently in Holland for the commemoration of the 60 anniversary of the liberation of Holland. The Canadian army of the Second World War was an army of volunteers, ready to give their live for their families, country and the World’s peace. The Dutchman are currently thanking them another time.

 

They know what these Canadian boys and guys done for them; they thank them every year; they teach the true story of their courage to each new Dutchman generations. They are seeing as heroes. In Canada they are seeing as elderly people that participated to a war far from home.

 

A week ago, our politicians tell them that they will not go to the ceremonies in Holland because they don't have the time for this: the current minority government is in troubles. Tomorrow, after that these old heroes tell to these politicians what they think of them, the prime minister and the chefs of every other party concluded a truce to fly to Holland... The problem is that they will not be there for the official ceremony of Sunday, they will arrive in Monday.

 

Shame on them. These soldiers are old, it's probably one of the last chances we have to thank them for what they done for our country, for our generations. We must remember.



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May 2, 2005





Small chapters for faster reading

 

 

 

I these days, people have less time to read. Most of us can't sit down, 4 hours in a row, to read. Our reading will be sparse. We like to read, but we'll read 4 or 5 pages here, another 3 or 4 pages there, etc.

 

Many people will read before sleeping.  They will read 10, 15 or 20 pages. Reading needs to be planned like any other tasks we have to do daily.

 

Personally I like books with small chapters or books with pauses in chapters. I need it because I hate to lose track of my readings. If a book is wrote with small chapters, between 5 and 10 pages, or have pauses (2 carriage returns), I'll be able to read them in minutes. Then, I'll be able to read these short chapters between other daily tasks.

 

If I check the chapter I'm starting to read and see that he have 75 pages, I'll certainly not start it for a 15 of 20 minutes of reading. Then I'll wait until I'll have the time to read it. It's rare that I'll have the time to read 75 pages in a row during a normal week of work. Then, the result will be that I'll read less during this week.

 

Otherwise, if I'm starting to read and see that the chapter have 10 pages, I'll be able to read it somewhere between two daily tasks. The result will be a greater reading time because I'll be able to more effectively plan the reading of these small chapters with my other daily task.

 

I don't think that I’m alone in this situation. Our world is changing and I think that authors will need to take this new fact in count when they will write their books. They will need to write smaller chapters to give their readers more flexibility to read their books. I think that authors like John Grisham understand this new need.

 

 



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May 1, 2005





Why using SWFP rather than HTTP over SSL?

 

 

Note: This post have been posted before the final release of the article. It talks about the first version of the protocol.

 

 

  This legitimate question has been asked by Daniel Lemire after his reading of the SWF protocol. There is my answer to his question. I added it as the section 7 of my SWFP paper.

 

 

 

The question is hard to answer because it depends on many factors. I'll compare the two methods together and try to show you the differences between the two protocols.

 

Usually SSL is used to authenticate the server to the client and, optionally, the client to the server. With the cost of authentication certificates (about 100£ each), the normal clients can't afford these authentication certificates. It's why SSL is mainly used to authenticate servers.

 

Our goal is especially to authenticate the readers to the server. It's a reason why using SSL as a secure channel and an authentication protocol is not so useful: because the implementation cost is too high; like the revised version of SWFP at section 5.

 

This is the big difference between SWFP and SSL: their goals.

 

A solution could be to use HTTP over SSL (HTTPS) with HTTP Authentication. HTTPS would provide the secure channel and HTTP Authentication would provide the authentication mechanism. The problem with this solution is that some feed readers only implement HTTPS, others HTTP Authentication and few implement both. Another problem with this solution is that who says HTTP Authentication also says login and password. In SWFP the authentication is inherent to the system. It's made with the public key of the legitimate reader present in the secure database of the server. The authentication steps of the reader to the server are transparent to him. I think that this transparency feature is an important one because it simplify the process and brings non-expert users to use it. Only the simpler things, in appearance of, are widely used.

 

Two types of feed readers are available: the web applications like Bloglines or the standalone software like Omea Reader. Both principles, HTTPS with HTTP Authentication and SWFP, could be implemented in standalone software and the implementation time, cost and difficulty are probably comparables. However, I think that SWFP would be much more easer to implement in web applications. Why? To use HTTPS with HTTP, the web applications would need to create the secure channel themselves with the feed's server. By example, Bloglines itself would need to create the secure channel with each private feed server. I don't think that it's imaginable. However, with SWFP nothing like that would be necessary because the encrypted feed is viewable by anyone who needs it, even web applications. If I check the FeedBurner stats of my blog: 30% of my readers use Bloglines. I think that it's considerable and that we need to take this fact in count.

 

Another problem with the HTTP Authentication solution is that it's not an optimal solution to our problem. If a user is subscribed to many private feeds then he'll need to enter, each time, a login and password to check the feeds. Personally I don't think that this is viable. Think about the pain such a situation would engender… nobody would subscribe to such feeds.

 

Finally one of the beauties of web feeds is that you can archive them for future readings. The problem with the HTTPS solution is that you didn't really have the choice to archive the encrypted or the unencrypted content. But such a choice is possible with SWFP.



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