Simon Willison’s Weblog

Entries in Jun, 2002

Filters: Type: entry × Year: 2002 × Month: Jun ×

Gone to Glastonbury

Gone to Glastonbury

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Warchalking now has its own website: Warchalking is one of those brilliant ideas that quickly takes the ’net (or at least parts of it) by storm. The basic idea is a set of symbols which can be chalked on walls in areas with a wireless network node to alert other geeks to the availability of bandwidth. I’d go in to it further but the site has as much information as anyone could possibly want on the subject.

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Enterprise Application Architecture

Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler: A fantastic book on Object Oriented patterns and how they can be applied to large software projects. The book is available on the web as a work-in-progress and I can safely say I’ve never found an online resource that has taught me more about software design. Literally 24 hours after finding it my head is swimming with design patterns, domain models and relational database mapping techniques, and I’ve already started using some of the patterns in my latest project. A big thanks to Captain Proton on the SitePoint forums for pointing it out (and also for helping me understand PHP references a few days ago). I thoroughly recommend this to anyone who is serious about learning Object Oriented design, or indeed any OO-capable language.

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Cetus links

Useful resource: Cetus Links—18,244 Links on Objects & Components. I found them via their Python page, which in itself lists over 200 Python resources split in to categories.

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Use real links

Day 13: Using Real Links (or why you shouldn’t use javascript:). I’m ahead on this one—Scott Andrew convinced me of the dangers of javascript: a month ago and I designed my comments system with this in mind.

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PHP auto class inclusion

When developing PHP applications, I usually have a classes directory somewhere in which I keep all of my PHP classes ready for inclusion. I name the class files ClassName.class.php. Normally I have a file that is included in all of the scripts in my application and requires the classes needed by the application, but today I wrote a few lines of code that saves me from having to alter that file every time I write a new class:

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Slashdot on XWT

Slashdot has a story on XWT (mentioned previously). Adam Megacz, the author of the system, does an excellent job of defending and explaining the concepts of XWT in the discussion thread attached to the article.

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EuroPython starts

EuroPython 2002 kicks off today, and the EuroPython site is hosting an interview with Alex Martelli (comp.lang.python regular and author of the soon-to-be-released Python Cookbook). I haven’t found anyone who’s blogging the conference yet though.

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XML in Mozilla

WebReference: XML in Mozilla 1.0. A quick summary of the XML technologies available with Mozilla 1.0, code samples not included.

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The 5k

The 5k is an annual competition in which entrants must create the most impressive web site in 5k or less. This year’s competition entries are now online and the quality of the entries is even higher than the previous two years. My initial favourite is Wolfenstein 5K, a texture mapped first person shooter implemented in 5119 bytes of cross browser javascript (I tested it in Mozilla and IE6, and the author claims it runs in Netscape 4).

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Semant-O-Matic—an experimental blog search engine. This is an impressive technology demonstration. The engine indexes eleven weblogs over the period of four months (March to June 2002) using a technique called “latent semantic indexing” or LSI. A full explanation is provided on the site but this basically means that you can type in a term such as “hobbit” and recieve a bunch of results about related topics (i.e Lord of the Rings) that don’t necessarily have to mention the word itself.

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Oh ffs...

Slashdot: Shocked, Shocked at Payola. This is just tragic. American record companies are all upset about the huge amounts of money they have to spend bribing commercial radio stations to play their music... but at the same time the RIAA are killing off internet radio and p2p file sharing, activities that give bands exposure for free! OK, file sharing allows people to keep the copies they download which is something the RIAA have justification to be cautious about, but killing internet radio and then complaining about the costs of promotion on commercial radio is just farcical.

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SitePoint CSS guide

SitePoint have a good new article on CSS layout, which includes some useful tips on how to use position: float and position: absolute to create columns on a page, as well as some tips on providing Netscape 4 with only basic CSS rules and an example of a PHP browser detection script.

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Using colour safely

Mark’s latest tip is up: Using color safely. I’m aware of the rule that you should never use only colour as an indicator of something in a user interface, but I had completely forgotten that my own links on this blog were a classic example of that—all that distinguished them from the rest of the page was a difference in colour. I’ve now turned underlines back on for all links except those in the entry footers (which looked ugly with underlines), based on the principle that the text and position of the footer links should be enough to explain their purposes even without the underline.

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Kuro5hin on AudioGalaxy

Kuro5hin are running a fascinating story on AudioGalaxy, written by one of the AudioGalaxy developers who wrote a large portion of the web interface code. It covers the history of the system and its recent demise at the hands of the RIAA, with quite a few technology pointers as well (they used PHP to serve over 90 million hits a day).

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Paul back soon

Paul Sowden: I’ve finished my exams and I hope to be back soon.

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Writing IM Bots

Via Boing Boing: How to make your own IM Bots. This tutorial explains how to write a bot for both MSN and AIM using Perl running on Windows/DOS. Perl modules are provided to handle the actual protocols, and sample code is available to help you get started.

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Dot leaders in CSS

Via Brett Merkey on CSS Discuss: Dot Leaders without Tables. Dot Leaders is a publishing term that describes the rows of dots frequently used in tables of contents to connect a chapter title with its relevant page number on the other side of the page. Brett’s CSS solution resizes elegantly to fit the page, and there isn’t a table in sight. Brett’s site provides an assortment of other useful CSS resources, including a very handy CSS cheat sheet.

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An IA process

Anders Ramsay: How I work as an Information Architect (via Guide to Ease). An interesting overview of Information Architecture, including what it involves and how it can be aproached. The article also touches on Software Engineering related concepts such as project management and system design.

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Installing PHP and XSL on Windows

I’m currently reinstalling PHP on my Windows machine, and in doing so I came across this tutorial: Installing XSL and PHP on Windows. The tutorial provides all the necessary files and instructions to get XSL working with minimum hassle. I’ve been meaning to play with XSL for some time, and this has provided me with just the boost I needed to give it a go.

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PHP string tip

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve posted this PHP tip on a forum somewhere, so I may as well blog it:

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Some Python advocacy

I just engaged in some basic Python advocacy, during which I rolled out my all time favourite Python advocacy link: Why Python? by Eric Raymond.

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Skipping over navigation

Day 11’s accessibility tip is Skipping over navigation links, which suggests a compromise for people who did not or could not comply with Presenting your content first. I altered my template to present content first on Friday, but before then I was using a skip-navigation link. I now have a skip-content-to-access-navigation link instead, a technique I borrwed from Mark’s site but which he does not mention in today’s tip.

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Mozilla page info

I’ve been playing around with Mozilla’s “Page Info” feature, available in the View menu, the right-click context menu and through the Ctrl+I shortcut. I’d never really lookd at it before, but the information it provides is invaluable, especially if you are interested in web development. The info window is divided in to five tabs:

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Glastonbury Flash

I’m headed off to Glastonbury on Thursday and I’ve been checking out the offical festival website. It’s pretty good—the information I wanted was all there, it was easy to find and the site has a pleasant enough look to it. Then I tried the interactive flash map (warning: spawns popup). Running on my Dad’s brand new Pentium 4 1.8 GHz desktop, the opening intro animation ran like an absolute dog and took over a minute to finish. There was no “skip intro” option and no way to turn off the irritating music until the intro had finished. Once it had loaded the map was quite useful—you can overlay paths, information points and other bits and pieces straight on to the map which is a decent enough reason to use flash. Unfortunately the pointless, jerky 3D intro meant I very nearly gave up in disgust before I got to the good stuff.

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The Pickle Jar theory

A List Apart: Time Management—The Pickle Jar Theory. I like this concept—it’s simple, doesn’t involve long words or complex charts and makes good sense. The basic idea is that you should schedule only your high priority tasks for the day and leave the gaps in between for less important activities (email, browsing and so forth). This is supported by the analogy of a pickle jar, where you can fit more in the jar if you add large pebbles first before pouring in smaller pebbles and sand (rather than adding the largest pebbles last when they will be unlikely to fit). Jeremy Wright, the author of the article, is a regular over on the SitePoint forums.

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Comments added

I’ve added a comments feature to this blog, in preparation for tomorrow’s big story (hinted at below).

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Two things about Mozilla

New project in the works—details to follow soon. In developing it I’ve learnt two new things about Mozilla:

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Via Slashdot:—for all your world domination needs. Product categories include Superweapons, Lairs and Miscellaneous Evil.

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Building a semantic website Building a Semantic Web Site. A top down guide to RSS and associated metadata concepts, including Dublin Core and Topic Maps.

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