Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in 2009

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StartupBoeing—Starting an Airline (via) Boeing’s guide to starting your own airline. # 15th December 2009, 10:38 pm

Unicode code converter (via) Fantastically useful tool to convert strings of characters in to every unicode and/or escaping syntax you can possibly imagine. # 15th December 2009, 10:10 pm

Semantic Versioning. Tom Preston-Werner provides a name, specification and URL describing the relatively widely used Major.Minor.Patch versioning system. This is really useful—by giving something a name and a spec, people can say “this project uses semantic versioning” and skip having to explain their backwards compatibility policy in full. # 15th December 2009, 9:53 pm

HTTP + Politics = ? Mark Nottingham ponders the technical implications of Australia’s decision to apply a filter to all internet traffic. Australia is large enough (and far enough away from the northern hemisphere) that the speed of light is a performance issue, but filtering technologies play extremely poorly with optimisation technologies such as HTTP pipelining and Google’s SPDY proposal. # 15th December 2009, 3:36 pm

Guardian iPhone app. Released today, ad-free, £2.39 for the application, has an excellent offline mode. I helped build the backend web service, which is a Django app running on EC2. # 14th December 2009, 1:29 pm

Going Nuts with CSS Transitions. Nat’s article for this year’s 24ways—adding special effects to images using CSS rotation, box shadows and the magical -webkit-transition property. # 14th December 2009, 1:16 pm

Recently Google Translate announced the ability to hear translations into English spoken via text-to-speech (TTS). Looking at the Firebug Net panel for where this TTS data was coming from, I saw that the speech audio is in MP3 format and is queried via a simple HTTP GET (REST) request: http://translate.google.com/translate_tts?q=text

Weston Ruter # 14th December 2009, 1:13 pm

The View from Above. Andy Allan’s notes on three different projects that aerial imagery with OpenStreetMap. Andy and friends hired a small plane and took their own aerial photographs of Stratford-upon-Avon as a demo for a GIS conference. Aid agencies in the Philippines benefitted from OSM and a donation of high quality satellite imagery. Rural Georgia now has hiqh quality images from 2007 thanks to the Department of Agriculture. # 11th December 2009, 9:32 am

A piece with a lot of screenshots about the close tab behaviour in Google Chrome. If you click “close” with your mouse, Chrome doesn’t resize the remaining tabs until you mouse away from the area. This means you can click “close” multiple times without having to chase the close button. I hadn’t noticed this, partly because Chrome doesn’t do it if you hit Command-W. They even switch the position of the close button in RTL languages such as Arabic. # 11th December 2009, 9:19 am

GeoPlanet data available again (via) Good news: the Yahoo! GeoPlanet data dump is available again. An issue with one of their data providers meant they had to remove that supplier’s data from the dump, but it’s now been separated and the dataset is live gain. By the end of 2010 they intend to derive all of the data from completely open sources. # 11th December 2009, 8:17 am

Fixing Django Management Commands. Zachary Voase proposes dramatically improving Django’s management command API for Django 1.3. I’m in favour—management commands are one of the only APIs in Django that I have to look up every single time I use. My optfunc library was written partially with management commands in mind—Zachary favours the argparse library. # 9th December 2009, 8:41 am

Mobius Sliced Linked Bagel. “It is much more fun to put cream cheese on these bagels than on an ordinary bagel. In additional to the intellectual stimulation, you get more cream cheese, because there is slightly more surface area.” # 9th December 2009, 8:03 am

Real time online activity monitor example with node.js and WebSocket. A neat exploration of Node.js—first hooking a “tail -f” process up to an HTTP push stream, then combining that with HTML 5 WebSockets to achieve reliable streaming. # 8th December 2009, 11:07 pm

Panic’s lost 1982 artwork. Found. Jaw-droppingly beautiful re-imagination of Panic’s software line-up as Atari console products, complete with box art and 80’s watercolour illustrated posters. # 8th December 2009, 10:59 pm

Any sufficiently advanced damage control is indistinguishable from ethics.

Eliezer # 6th December 2009, 9:31 am

EtherPad is Back Online Until Open Sourced. Fantastic news. EtherPad just got acquired by Google and announced the team would be joining the Google Wave effort and the existing service would be shut down. Lots of people complained, so they’re going to keep it alive until they’ve open sourced the code! # 6th December 2009, 9:08 am

Version 1 Sucks, But Ship It Anyway. I think I should probably get this tattooed on to my skull. # 5th December 2009, 5:36 pm

Python’s Moratorium—Let’s think about this. Jesse Noller explains the thinking behind the Python Language Moratorium (no new language features until Python 3.3) in great detail. It’s principally about allowing both end users and alternative implementations to catch up. The standard library will continue to evolve as normal. # 5th December 2009, 5:33 pm

jQuery 1.4 Alpha 1 Released. Impressively the new version contains no new features at all (correct me if I’m wrong), instead focusing on significant performance improvements to the existing API. # 5th December 2009, 5:31 pm

Language Detection: A Witch’s Brew? The Flickr team make the case for using the Accept-Language header over IP detection to pick a site’s language, with a simple UI for switching languages in case you get it wrong. They’ve been using this for two and a half years without any significant problems. # 5th December 2009, 5:30 pm

Yahoo! OpenID: Now with Attribute Exchange! The nice thing about this is that an e-mail address obtained from Yahoo! via attribute exchange has already been verified, so you don’t need to perform the e-mail roundtrip yourself. I expect a lot of OpenID consuming sites will end up with internal whitelists of OpenID providers who they trust to provide verified e-mail addresses, with users of sites not on the whitelist still getting e-mailed a verification link. # 5th December 2009, 5:25 pm

What’s coming in Django 1.2 (presentation notes). I wrote up some background notes for the talk on Django 1.2 I gave at DJUGL last week. # 5th December 2009, 5:10 pm

FT.com: The rise and fall of MySpace (via) Lots of stuff about the internal politics at News Corporation. Of particular interest: MySpace have to take feature proposals to News Corp for approval. Meanwhile, Facebook are leading the industry in their use of A/B testing to figure out exactly what features their users will respond well to. # 5th December 2009, 5:09 pm

Looking for tennis courts on aerial photos. ahathereitis.com shows a map of tennis courts in the Bay Area, identified using computer vision techniques (with OpenCV) applied to satellite photos. # 5th December 2009, 8:56 am

Opening Up Librelist.com Code, Looking For Volunteers. Zed Shaw’s Librelist is a new service for open source project mailing lists, aiming to be donation supported in a similar way to Freenode IRC. The code is all available, and is written in Lamson and Django. # 4th December 2009, 9:25 am

Google Analytics goes async. This is excellent news—the latest version of the Google Analytics JavaScript is designed to allow for asynchronous loading, so it won’t hold up the rendering of your page. Analytics and banner ads are the two worst offenders when it comes to slowing down page loads. Now if only a banner ad vendor would follow suit... # 2nd December 2009, 6:30 pm

Mark Coleran’s screen design portfolio. Mark Coleran designs computer interfaces for films—Movie OS. His portfolio includes The Bourne Identity, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mission Impossible 3 and many more. # 2nd December 2009, 9:34 am

Namespaces. Python’s approach to imports is possibly my favourite feature of the language. I love being able to scan up to the top of a file in my text editor and see exactly where every symbol comes from, no IDE required. # 2nd December 2009, 9:31 am

Today, Facebook counts 29% of its employees (and growing!) as Hive users. More than half (51%) of those users are outside of Engineering. They come from distinct groups like User Operations, Sales, Human Resources, and Finance. Many of them had never used a database before working here. Thanks to Hive, they are now all data ninjas who are able to move fast and make great decisions with data.

Facebook Data Team # 30th November 2009, 11:30 am

Haystack 1.0 Final Released. I’ve used Haystack on a number of projects recently, and it has proved itself as a completely painless way of adding full-text search (using Solr or Whoosh—I haven’t tried the Xapian backend yet) to a Django ORM powered project in just a few minutes. Congratulations, Daniel + contributors. # 30th November 2009, 8:07 am

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