CleverClogs

Experiments in writing, by Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC

Archive for November, 2006

links for 2006-11-30

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November 30th, 2006 at 10:27 am

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Rendering Feeds in Firefox 2.0

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"Then Firefox 2.0 ruined it all. Everybody knew beforehand that the
Mozilla developers were going to introduce enhanced support for RSS: Firefox 2.0
would make it easier to use one’s own preferred RSS aggregator and there’d be an
RSS viewer.
"

Though I wasn’t a very early adopter of FeedBurner—I only signed up little over
two years ago—I’ve always very much appreciated that I could offer my visitors a
formatted version of my web feeds using the BrowserFriendly feed optimization
method. Basically this service adds a stylesheet to your feeds so that they
don’t look ugly with <xml> tags when displayed in a browser.

Firefox2_default_rendering

Then Firefox 2.0 ruined it all. Everybody knew beforehand that the Mozilla
developers were going to introduce enhanced support for RSS: Firefox 2.0
would make it easier to use your own preferred RSS aggregator and there’d be an
RSS viewer. Well, contrary to my expectation, they did not integrate the code
from the excellent FeedView extension by Tom Germeau, even worse: they made
Firefox 2.0 insert its own displeasing stylesheet, overriding any existing one,
whether or not the feed was created with a 3rd-party service like
FeedBurner.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one complaining about this: luckily the
FeedBurner team recently improved the BrowserFriendly service so that the
original stylesheet is re-enabled, thus effectively restoring the original
FeedBurner rendering of your feeds in Firefox. Just tick the box "Always use my
selected landing page in all browsers" in the BrowserFriendly settings of the
Optimize Feed section and you’re all set.

Feedburner_browserfriendly_1

Try the FeedBurner BrowserFriendly version of my newly created feed CleverJots, for
example. CleverJots is the feed that I’m currently also displaying in an
experimental, animated widget at the top of my blog, rotating a mash-up of
personal IM-like jotlets loosely joint with bookmarks from several of my
del.icio.us bookmark accounts.

There are a few caveats that Eric Lunt was kind enough to point out to me:
the proper stylesheet is only displayed when you click on a hyperlink that leads
to a BrowserFriendly FeedBurner feed. It won’t work if you manually type the URL
of the feed directly in your browser address bar. Secondly, sometimes your
browser cache may contain a copy of the previous rendering of the feed, causing
you to think that the BrowserFriendly service isn’t working well. If you clear
the cache, all should be well.

Another improvement to the BrowserFriendly service that’s mostly of interest
to non-English speakers is that you can choose to display your feed’s
subscription instructions in several languages: Spanish, French, Polish, Dutch,
German, Italian, Swedish, Portuguese and Russian. Several native speakers helped
to provide the translations.

If Firefox add-ons are your thing, there’s one that I find indispensable and
that you might find of use too: RSS Panel,
created by Johannes La Poutré. Once installed RSS Panel displays an orange
drop-down panel in the upper left-hand corner of your screen, showing you the
most recent feed entries tied to the page you are visiting. In collapsed state
it looks like this:

Rss_panel_collapsed

And this screenshot shows RSS Panel in expanded state for CleverClogs:

Rss_panel_expanded_1

RSS Panel is available both as a Firefox add-on
(aka extension) and as a Greasemonkey user script.

As an aside: this last screenshot painfully but clearly illustrates why from today I’m going to refrain
from posting del.icio.us bookmarks to my blog: they make me lazy and make my
site look rather bland. So as I see it now the bookmarks will go into the animated widget at the top of the page and I’ll be doing some proper blogging again.

Update November 30th, 2006: I’ve found several very interesting blog posts and conversations on the web:

Howto Disable Firefox 2’s Feed Preview by Paul Baker on October 27th, 2006. Paul’s post explains how to modify the file feedconverter.js so that Firefox no longer inserts its own stylesheet. (Pointer gratefully received from Mike Kowalchik of Grazr.com)

firefox, rss, xsl – from anger to apathy on 0xDECAFBAD, November 7th, 2006. In the light of the Feed Preview ‘misfeature’ Lee Orchard—XML/RSS/OPML expert—considers giving up geekhood in favor of farming sheep. I’d say "once a geek, always a geek". Besides, some geeks keep sheep (I do).

Firefox 2 Feed Support on Tins, October 5th, 2006. Rick Klau (of FeedBurner) is disappointed too by the fact that FeedBurner feeds are no longer displayed with their original stylesheets. In short: "But where publishers include an XSLT declaration – especially where that XSLT is superior to Firefox 2’s own – they should pass it through."

XML in Firefox is a Major Problem lengthy thread on the Google Group mozilla.dev.apps.firefox, started by Adam Scheinberg on November 2nd, 2006 and still running. Opponents (among whom Mark Pilgrim) and proponents (from the Mozilla Dev camp) defend their point of view. Several solutions are being offered, but so far it doesn’t seem like the Mozilla Foundation is going to withdraw their decision. Note that there are several other threads in this group that are relevant to the discussion.

XML+RSS with XSLT in Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 short thread on MozillaZine from August, 2006, which has this ‘solution’: "You can force mozilla to render the document as xml (using your style)
by ensuring that the rss tag does not appear within the first 512
bytes.
"

Feed View overrides XSLT stylesheet defined in XML document Bugzilla entry started by François Gagné in May 2006 (!). Although this conversation is still running, commenters are requested to post their submissions to the Google Groups thread (listed as #4 here).

Custom styles for RSS, a wiki page on the Mozilla Development Documentation Center proposes three solutions to work around the Firefox Feed Preview feature:

  • putting the <rss> content in a prefixed namespace
  • preceding the <rss> element with an XML comment
  • serving the content as UTF-16

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November 29th, 2006 at 3:32 am

links for 2006-11-26

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November 26th, 2006 at 10:22 am

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links for 2006-11-25

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November 25th, 2006 at 10:22 am

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links for 2006-11-24

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November 25th, 2006 at 12:27 am

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links for 2006-11-12

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November 12th, 2006 at 3:19 pm

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links for 2006-11-07

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November 7th, 2006 at 6:17 pm

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links for 2006-11-05

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November 5th, 2006 at 6:17 pm

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KMWorld Offers Personalized Feeds

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I just discovered that KMWorld offers personalized feeds. Basically this means that you can subscribe to any keyword from the KMWorld website and be notified in your RSS reader when someone uses that word in an article. I always cheer silently when website publishers implement feeds based on custom keywords. I think it’s the ultimate courtesy to your site visitors.

kmworld_custom_feeds

First I wanted to be sure KMWorld was delivering on the expectations that it was putting up: in the following screenshot you can see how I’m using the KMWorld custom feed service to track mentions of the word ’KMWorld’ [!]:

kmworld_tracks_kmworld
 
I haven’t discovered yet if it is also possible to generate feeds for compound search terms such as "web event" or "RSS technology". The attempts I made so far failed. I’ll update this post if I discover a way to do this after all.
 
It happened before that I cheered too soon about a discovery like this (just a few draft posts that probably will never see the light), for example because everybody else except me knew about something way before I would. It made sense to me to double-check I wasn’t discovering some old news, so I quickly looked up whether these three main resources for this type of information had been mentioning the KMWorld service before I found out about it: TagJag!, Kebberfegg and Library clips.

I first checked out the full list of sources covered by TagJag!, Chris Pirillo’s keyword-to-OPML service. The TagJag! service is very easy to use: just enter any keyword that you would like to track and the OPML file is generated for you.

tagjag_screenshot

TagJag! OPML URLs look like this: http://www.tagjag.com/blogs/aggregators/opml/, that is, if you want to create a list of feeds from blog searches for the keyword ’aggregators’. OPML files generated in this way can automatically be viewed using your preferred OPML browser now that OPML auto-discovery has been enabled on all TagJag! search results pages—just install the OPML auto-discovery extension for Firefox for this. The OPML URL is persistent and dynamic, which means that you can subscribe to be notified of updates to the feed list.

I must say I really like the visual make-over Pirillo’s developers have been putting in place over the last few months. Still, it seems the KMWorld Personalized Feed service isn’t listed among the 178 engines that TagJag! can query. I notified Chris, of course. He once told me that any search engine that accepts a url parameter of this kind http://www.google.com/search?q=keyword qualifies to be included in the TagJag! list of search engines. Send your own TagJag! submissions to info@tagjag.com.

 

Assuming knowledge management workers most likely have some affinity with online research, I also checked if ResearchBuzz blogger and Google guru pur sang Tara Calishain had included the KMWorld offering in her list of engines queried through her Kebberfegg tool.

kebberfegg_screenshot

Kebberfegg is a keyword-based RSS feed generator similar to TagJag!, but with a different angle and a different scope. Kebberfegg does generate an OPML file, but it doesn’t host it for you. You’ll have to grab it off the screen and save it to a file, which makes it static. Tara encourages submissions too: send them to tools – at – researchbuzz.com.

The last site I checked was John Tropea’s blog Library clips: I used a simple Google Blog search query to search "KMWorld" on Library clips, but there weren’t search results at all. John’s blog is encyclopedic with regard to RSS, OPML and advanced search technologies, so if he hasn’t covered it, then indeed, this must be a new service by KMWorld.

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November 4th, 2006 at 7:41 pm

Xdrive, Your 5GB Personal Online File System

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I had seen a couple of mentions of Xdrive on technology blogs in September, but never bothered to check it out myself—until there was a need for it today. I had passed on my old Palm PDA to an online friend of mine last week and now figured I might as well send him the CodeWarrior for Palm OS software development kit too since there wasn’t much incentive left to play with it myself. So, how was I going to get that 108 MB zip file to him? I’m not going to bore you with the numerous file-sharing solutions I’ve tried in the past. I can honestly say that Xdrive is by far the most well designed personal online filesystem that I’ve come across so far. I’m describing my experiences on my Windows system. The web version of Xdrive also runs on Mac OS X and Linux/Unix operating systems.

xdrive_web_interface

Xdrive is developed by AOL and is available for free to people who have signed up for an AIM screen name. This means that if you use an AIM instant messaging account, then you are ready to benefit from AOL’s free offer. If you don’t have an AIM screen name yet, then just use this AIM Screen Name Registration page. There’s no need to download or install any AOL or AIM software.

To give you an executive summary of the Xdrive benefits I’ve experienced them today, apart from the facts that you get 5 GB of online data storage space for free, that its navigation is a breeze and that the whole service looks totally awesome, Xdrive lets you

  • choose between a browser interface (see screenshot) and a desktop interface
  • keep folders private or share them with any particular person (email) or with the whole Internet community (through a web link)
  • assign granular file access permissions to each folder that you share: read content, add items, change items, delete items or any mix of those
  • use Xdrive Desktop as a network drive: operate it from Windows Explorer or from your preferred file manager (mine is Total Commander) and it fully supports drag and drop mouse operations.

xdrive_in_explorer

As you can see in the screenshot I assigned drive letter M to my Xdrive. Note the hilite that I placed on the Xdrive Downloads folder: this is another smart courtesy from the Xdrive development team: this folder contains the executable files that you need if you want to run the Xdrive desktop client.

Note that you need to reboot your system after installing the desktop software. This is because the software needs to adapt your file system so that you can hook up a drive letter to your online storage space.

Xdrive Desktop looks different from its web counterpart, but the functions are the same: you can access the major ones through the system tray icon:

img1

During setup of the Xdrive desktop client the installer silently adds an Internet Explorer plug-that allows you to save all your web downloads immediately to your Xdrive. This function is referred to as "Skip the Download" on the Xdrive website. "Skip the Download" is accessible from any hyperlink context menu in IE by clicking on the "Save to Xdrive" option. This is incredibly useful if you often try out new software or if you regularly switch between machines.

img

Besides being a personal online filesystem, Xdrive also allows you to make scheduled backups. You can quickly select predefined groups of files that often change, such as those that reside in your Documents and Settings folder, or you can define your own file sets using the "Backup Set Creation Wizard". Of course the software also lets you restore your files.

Before you install Xdrive, you can test your browser to see if it is capable of running Xdrive.

Suggested Improvements:
Although the core of the Xdrive service works just fine from Firefox, the Xdrive "Skip the Download" plug-in is only available for Internet Explorer. A Firefox add-on is dearly missed for this convenient feature. There is no mention on the Xdrive website that such an add-on is being developed. I’ll post an update here if I’m notified of one.

It may be an incident, but at some stage during the 108 MB file transfer that I did today the desktop client reported to me that my Xdrive was full. This could not be true. Since then I’ve had difficulty accessing my Xdrive through the desktop client. I probably need to reboot my machine to fix this.

Links:

Home Page

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Minimum System Requirements

Download Page (Windows only)

Release Notes

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November 3rd, 2006 at 7:05 pm