Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in 2008

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Showers and UI design. UI issues aside, why is it so hard to build a shower where the settings for freezing cold and scaldingly hot are more than a couple of millimeters apart? # 14th December 2008, 8:21 am

There. Is. No. Long-Term. Data. Storage. Solution. There is only a series of short-term solutions punctuated by data migration from one medium to the next.

Mark Pilgrim # 13th December 2008, 11:36 pm

ZooBorns. Best blog idea ever: news and photos of baby animals born in zoos around the world. Nicely categorised as well. # 13th December 2008, 10:18 pm

Scaling memcached at Facebook. Fascinating techie details on how Facebook forked memcache to use UDP and increase performance from 50,000 requests a second to 200,000. Now running on 800 servers with 28 TB of memory, and their code is on GitHub. (They may scale like crazy, but they can’t put their blog entry title in the title element?) # 13th December 2008, 10:08 am

ETags And Modification Times In Django. Part of Malcolm’s series of tutorials on implementing advanced HTTP concepts in Django. # 13th December 2008, 9:49 am

Yahoo! Query Language Console. Neat developer tool for playing around with YQL. # 13th December 2008, 9:39 am

YQL—converting the web to JSON with mock SQL. YQL just got a whole lot more interesting to me—I had no idea they were exposing an HTML and RSS scraping tool over a JSONP API in addition to all of the Yahoo! web service methods. # 13th December 2008, 9:39 am

Freebase Sets (via) Give it some topics and it will tell you what they have in common and show further topics matching the same rules. Kind of like the old Google Labs sets tool but this one shows its workings. # 13th December 2008, 9:26 am

Extending jQuery’s selector capabilities. I already knew this was possible, but the examples James Padolsey provides are eye-opening—I especially like his clever :data selector extension which lets you write CSS selectors that query against jQuery’s custom “data” DOM element storage in a manner similar to CSS2 attribute selectors. # 12th December 2008, 6:05 pm

Facebook’s new signup process. It looks like they’ve dropped the “enter your password twice” pattern. Is this really a good idea? I suppose if people mis-type it they can always use forgotten password to set a new one. # 12th December 2008, 11:43 am

lxml: an underappreciated web scraping library. I just wish I could get the wretched thing to install on OS X Leopard without resorting to MacPorts. # 11th December 2008, 9:54 am

Spock Proxy. A MySQL Proxy fork (no Lua) that concentrates solely on sharding, by parsing incoming SQL statements and redirecting them across multiple databases. There are some limitations on the SQL that can be handled (no nested queries, joins across a maximum of two tables) but generally it looks pretty impressive. # 11th December 2008, 9:49 am

How could the major players have left a gap in the market so wide that a complete novice in mobile telephony could so instantly shame them?

Stephen Fry # 10th December 2008, 6:21 pm

Visual Event. External code loading bookmarklet that visualises the JavaScript events hooked up to the current page, and lets you view the source code of the event handling function for each one. Only works for events added by jQuery, YUI or MooTools since those libraries maintain a cache of event handlers that they add, to work around the standard DOM’s omission of handler introspection. # 10th December 2008, 3:38 pm

Responders will tell you that broadcasters are condescending talking heads who think they’re too good for the community. Broadcasters wish responders would take their nonsensical patter to a chat room, where they could natter on in privacy. Everyone agrees that members of the other group are total jackasses who don’t know how to use Twitter.

Margaret Mason # 9th December 2008, 6:06 pm

Conern over London parks vote. London is allocating 4 million pounds to improve parks around the city based on the results of an internet vote. Tom Steinberg: “Anyone in my team could knock up a script to vote with plausible looking data thousands of times, in about 30 minutes.” # 9th December 2008, 1:25 pm

[In Mali...] The outcome of this rampant illegal software copying is that Windows is seen as “the first world standard” and any attempt to push a cheaper alternative is strongly resisted. They consider it trying to cheat local people out of getting the same quality of software that is used in the developed world, even though it’s a legal way of getting quality software for free.

Jeremy Allison # 9th December 2008, 8:03 am

BBC Programmes iPhone webapp experiment. More clever BBC hackery from Duncan Robertson, a really classy iPhone web app for viewing the BBC’s TV schedules, built against the BBC Programmes API with source code available. # 8th December 2008, 6:21 pm

Ubuntu and Debian AMIs for Amazon EC2. Exactly what it says on the tin. # 8th December 2008, 6:04 pm

Noncontiguous area cartograms. a.k.a. really funky data visualisation maps. Includes lots of examples, plus ActionScript 3 source code. # 8th December 2008, 6:03 pm

ptth (Reverse HTTP) implementation in a browser using Long Poll COMET. Donovan Preston experiments with the cleverly named idea of ptth, where servers send HTTP requests to clients. # 8th December 2008, 5:22 pm

Kapow SMS Gateway. Looks like a solid provider for sending and receiving SMS messages, with APIs provided over both e-mail and HTTP in both directions. # 8th December 2008, 5:05 pm

OurDelta Builds for MySQL (via) A community supported “alternative distro” of MySQL, incorporating new features from Google and other sources by maintaining a clean set of patches against the MySQL source tree (which I guess is why it’s not considered a fork). I recognise some of the patches from the excellent “High Performance MySQL, 2nd Edition”. # 8th December 2008, 4:20 pm

How I Use TextMate. “Ack in Project” is a brilliant replacement for TextMate’s disappointing single threaded “Find in Project” feature. # 6th December 2008, 10:32 am

I don’t think that Python 3.0 is a bad thing. But that it’s displayed so prominently on the Python web site, without any kind of warning that it’s not going to work with 99% of the Python code out there, scares the hell out of me. People are going to download and install 3.0 by default, and nothing’s going to work. They’re going to complain, and many are going to simply walk away.

Christopher Lenz # 6th December 2008, 10 am

pyquery. “A jQuery-like library for Python”—implemented on top of lxml, providing jQuery style methods for manipulating an HTML or XML document. # 6th December 2008, 9:53 am

Warcraft account security. Apparently Blizzard have been selling two factor authentication key fobs for World of Warcraft for about six months. # 6th December 2008, 9:52 am

Python 3.0. “We are pleased to announce the release of Python 3.0 (final), a new production-ready release, on December 3rd, 2008.” # 4th December 2008, 12:38 pm

Secret Geek A-Team Hacks Back, Defends Worldwide Web. Wired’s take on the story of Dan Kaminsky’s breaking-the-internet DNS vulnerability. Horrible headline. # 3rd December 2008, 11:10 am