Posts tagged technology

Alternative input devices reviewed

ExtremeTech has reviewed a variety of keyboards and mice that are not your average devices in A Week of Wacky Input Devices

If you’re typing on a standard QWERTY keyboard, and most of us are, then your keyboard design is over 100 years old (135 years old, to be exact). Can you imagine using a hard drive that was designed a decade ago? Or a processor from two centuries past?

I’ve become more interested in devices that are designed to alleviate stress on wrists and other joints since I’ve been having problems over the past few years. It’s good to see that there is more coverage of them.

More browsers should support CSS3

William has taken the external link identification to a whole new level. I love the elegance of this solution, so much better than either the MTMacros or Blosxom macros answer. It’s a crying shame that more browsers don’t support it, though. Apparently, the only PC browser that display the images is Mozilla 1.3. Safari and Camino for Mac OS X also handle it, apparently, but that doesn’t do me much good. (At least, not right now!) Even a browser that operates on some kind of pay model, like Opera 7.1, doesn’t support it, which somewhat dampens my desire to pay for Opera.

CSS is such a cross-browser nightmare. Everywhere you read about it, people are scrambling for ways to achieve similar effects for their pages on different browsers. I have recently been introduced to how horribly IE 5.5 renders my page. Sure, at least things are in the right place, but the buttons with the background images for e-mail and external links don’t appear to be inheriting the extra padding for those classes and the border around the heading doesn’t look the same as any other browser. However, IE 5.5 was surpassed by IE 6, so I’m not too worried about that. It’s not like my page is anything but a personal playground, as William says about his decision to use the CSS 3 selectors. Perhaps if I used a browser that displayed that code, I would use it too, but I like to see my pretty accomplishments. ;) William’s code also has the advantage of applying to text flawlessly whether it was generated by the blogging tool or just coded manually.

Opera 7 also has a strange effect with links that cross lines in a paragraph. I think it’s related to text-align: justify;. Often, if a link starts the next line, I will be able to click on it at the end of the line above it, like a little residual bit of the link code is applied there. This also applies to the background images for external links, leaving strange little artifacts at the ends of lines.

Well, I feel a little better for getting this out. If Opera could support stuff like this, I would feel a lot more inclined to pay for it, as they so desparately want me to. I kind of object to paying for a browser that really doesn’t render pages better than its free cousins. Of course, with Opera there’s also the UI advantages, which is one of the reasons I continue to use it instead of Mozilla. I just can’t give up that MDI!

Wishing there was a better way to post to Blosxom

I really like Blosxom. I like the software. I like the community. I like the plethora of plugins and how everyone is so helpful. I have some issues with it,but I am confident that they will be fixed sooner or later.

There’s just one thing. I wish there were other ways to post to Blosxom. An application on my computer. A web interface that could edit past files. (PHPetal is well and good, but it only does new entries. The simplicity is nice and all, but I’d like a little more flexibility. Something that could be integrated with a news reader like, say SharpReader.

Datahand keyboard eliminates most hand motion

I want a Datahand Professional II keyboard. Not having to move my hands is getting more and more attractive since I’ve gone back to “work.” (Even my stupid temp job is making my wrists hurt more than they have since I left school.) Of course, at $1,200, who knows if that’ll ever happen.

Darn you, multiblosxom!

I’m so unbelievably frustrated that I can’t get multiblosxom to work. It would make thinks a little simpler for me, with regard to upgrading Blosxom. For that matter, I’m unbelievably frustrated about the way Blosxom config info is in the CGI file. It drives me crazy to have to copy and paste all those settings when I upgrade Blosxom.

Sigh. I need to learn Perl.

SharpReader cometh

I was recently made aware of a new aggregator that came on the scene, SharpReader. Following some other reviews by some people, I’m going to try to gather my own thoughts about it.

Reasons I like SharpReader better than Syndirella

(I figured I’d start with the nice things.)

  1. Categories and sortable feed lists. This is something that bothered me about Syndirella. The list was in the order that it was added in. If I had to delete a feed in order to replace it with a new URL for the feed, the order would get screwed up. Categories are a nice touch also, especially when you consider the next feature of SharpReader I like.
  2. Selecting a category shows you all of the entries of every feed in that category in date order. This is a nice way to read all new entries at once and an interesting alternate view.
  3. The subscribe feature is a mixed bag. Like Mark, I was thrown for a loop the first time I tried to add a feed. I’m used to boxes like that being display only, a la Syndirella. However, I see Luke’s point. Once you get the hang of it, it is easier in a lot of ways. Perhaps a submit button akin to the “Go” button found in so many browsers, such as IE, would add a needed visual cue to help first time users along. You could always make it an option, like the browsers do for users who no longer want it hanging around.
  4. I like the bar at the top of the content pane that holds identifying details. The comments link is a little more accessible than Syndirella’s, which is a context menu off the list item title. SharpReader’s positioning of the comment link in the content pane makes sense to me, since I’d think you’d be most likely to comment on a feed while you’re reading it.
  5. SharpReader is under more active development than Syndirella. At least for the time being. Dmitry is apparently out of the game from this point on. Sad news to me, since he did a lot of good work on Syndirella and was very responsive until near the end. I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised to hear this, since he had abandoned Syndirella for several weeks beforehand. It remains to be seen if Luke will continue to improve SharpReader.
  6. An important point, especially in light of Syndirella’s possibly ceased development, is SharpReader’s support of <html:body>. This is apparently replacing <content:encoded> as the new fad for putting encoded, full content of entries in an RSS feed. Getting the full content is something that I consider de rigueur for any feed. It drives me crazy to have to switch back and forth between mybrowser and reader. Until they can be more interwoven, I’ll stick with full text content whenever possible.

Reasons I like Syndirella better than SharpReader

  1. The interface does feel a bit smoother. I like the key bindings, like space bar taking you to the next unread item. SharpReader could well benefit from some more key strokes for doing things. Ins brings up Syndirella’s add feed dialog.
  2. Syndirella allows me to specify the font it uses for displaying the content of an item. SharpReader currently only allows me to specify the font for the feed and item titles. The dialog box for this is also a little confusing. It demonstrates the fonts for both read and unread, but you can’t modify them separately. There is a single button for changing the font. It pops up the standard Windows dialog box for fonts. The changes you make will show up in both read and unread, but unread is always bold. If you set the read font to bold, then they will both be bold. Not that you’d necessarily want to do this, but the interface seems a bit off to me. It should be clearer what properties apply to what.
  3. Syndirella puts a link at the bottom of the content that is the text of the URL. This isn’t necessary, but I like being able to see the location of the entry at a glance. SharpReader has a similar link, but does not use the URL for the link text.

While SharpReader has a lot of good features and I enjoy using it, I’m not sure that I would be as likely to stick with it if Dmitry wasn’t giving up on Syndirella. Syndirella really does have a more polished interface and I was looking forward to where Dmitry was going. C’est la vie in the free software world, though. You can’t dictate somebody’s hobby. Dmitry released what I think is his last version of Syndirella. I would be really happy if someone else would take up the Syndirella flag.

Cell phones: hot or not?

In the past couple years or so, there have been warnings on gas pumps that say that cell phones can create sparks that could ignite gas in the area. I’ve wondered if it was true. It didn’t sound right to me, but like all these sorts of warnings, there is an element of plausibility. Finally, my questions have been answered by Wired, in Cell-Phone Fires: A Lot of Static.

Robert Renkes, a spokesman for the Petroleum Equipment Institute, said he has documented every reported gas station fire for the last several years. “We have not found a cell phone responsible for any fire since the beginning of mankind,” he said.

This would have been just another urban legend that I wouldn’t have given a third thought if gas stations hadn’t been putting the warnings on their pumps. That gave it much more credit in my eyes. Seems that I was right to doubt, though. Good to know that I can fill up without fear.

Adventures in Blosxom Time Stamps

I decided that the entries_index plugin that Rael wrote wasn’t really working for me. It’s a good start, but it doesn’t deal well with moving files, and it doesn’t change the mtime, so when I had to delete the index file, I would lose my saved times. So, I decided to go for a simpler approach and used a simple little script from SciFiHiFi. All it does is save the mtime, launch an editor, and then reset the mtime when you’re done. Sweet and simple, and maintains the integrity of my Blosxom file system in case I try another way later.

I’ve also been playing around with trackbacks. I’m going to try my first ping with this post. I still have to set up the script that shows the count of trackbacks to my site.

The times, they are a changin’

I bit the bullet and moved to Blosxom to power my weblog. I have conquered Apache mod_rewrite so that requests to my main domain name are forwarded to /blog and to disguise Blosxom’s cgi script so that it looks prettier.

I have set up Blagg to run every hour in cron and push any new posts it finds over to my LiveJournal weblog so that the few people I know there can read it. Or something. :)

I am having lots of fun with the plugins for Blosxom. Maybe because they’re way simpler than Movable Type, I will finally be motivated to learn Perl so I can write my own.

But that’s all for now. I have tinkered all night to redo my blogging and my design and I need sleep.

Blosxom Thoughts

Well, I’ve been playing with Blosxom for the past day or so and it’s pretty cool. The new version is much advanced from the

earlier version I tried, due to the addition of plugins. This enables people to change the way Blosxom works. Well, it enables other people to do so, since I haven’t learned Perl yet, but I get to profit from

their endeavors! :)

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be switching my blog over to Blosxom, but I’d like to try to make a way to redirect my old urls to the new one.

Or maybe not. Who the hell bookmarks my entries anyway?


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Burk Burk Burk!

Movable Type 2.6 Released!

Ben and Mena have done it again! Download their latest achievement at the Movable Type web site. New features include:

  • Improved text formatting options
  • Ability to add a new category from the new/edit entry screen
  • Support for alternate SQL databases

Brad Choate has also done it again with the first plugin for text formatting. Check out Brad’s MT Textile.

Where’s the news?

So, I’ve been using Syndirella a lot lately to read my favorite sites. It’s my favorite news aggregator so far. I can put most of the sites that I enjoy reading in it. Dmitry Jemerov is incredibly responsive and has been keeping up a steady stream of releases with bug fixes and extra features. Syndirella sits quietly in my system tray and changes icons to tell me I have news to read.

Which brings me to my current problem. Where’s the news? ;) At least if I were reading at the site, I could mindlessly circle through the sites in my browser, hoping that someone would write something on this boring Friday night. Instead, I sit here trying to watch TV, while glancing at my Syndirella icon, which stubbornly remains inanimate.

I could delete it. Go back to trying to remember to visit interesting sites every day or remembering what the last thing I’d read on a certain site was.

Nah. I’ll just wait for more content.

Or I could hit a refresh all on my feeds.

Is MSN’s rendering in Opera sabotage or innocent mistake?

Why doesn’t MSN work with Opera tests the rendering of the MSN site in Opera. Apparently, MSN gives Opera a different style sheet, with some odd negative margin settings, including one for -30px. Opera renders these instuctions correctly, but that puts the lists out of their boxes, cutting them off. The sheet is only downloaded when the user agent string contains “Opera” and even when wget fetches the page while specifying the same user agent, it gets the same sheet. That demonstrates that Opera itself is not changing the content it is being sent. It is unclear why MSN would be delivering such a style sheet to Opera. It doesn’t help any version of Opera render the page better, and Opera is capable of rendering the page that is sent to IE 6 just fine. Perhaps it is an oversight by MSN’s web developers. I hope that this is so, because otherwise it’s a very sneaky approach.

Good thing I don’t visit MSN anyway. ;)

Ben & Jerry’s web site suckage

So I’m trying to send Ben & Jerry a comment about how good this ice cream is. I can’t figure out where an e-mail contact type thingy is. Finally, with help, I click through several links to find it. But, it doesn’t work in Opera. It gave a generic message such as “This operation could not be completed.” When I tried it in IE, though, it worked fine. They also send IP address and browser information with the comment. Tsk, tsk.

Movable Type 2.6 coming soon to a blog near you!

Brad Choate’s Sanitize plugin is just one of the additions promised for Movable Type 2.6. Enhanced text formatting and comment options are also on the list. Ben and Mena Trott are about to once again make our blogging lives easier.

Another long-awaited feature (that I suggested in the feature request forum ages ago) is the ability to add categories from the new/edit entry screens. It drove me crazy to finish writing a post, realize that I didn’t have an appropriate category for it, and then have to save it, go to the category edit screen, and re-edit the post to make that category a reality.

The downside? Two and a half weeks left. Can’t wait!