Monthly Archives: March 2005

Ed Felten:

Ed Felten:
“Recently I met a promising young computer scientist, whose name I will
withhold for reasons that will soon be evident. He has developed a very
interesting network software system that would be useful for a great
many legitimate applications. The problem, he told me, is that if too
many people find out what he has done and realize its value, some of
them may start using it for illegal purposes. He doesn't want that kind
of trouble, so he is avoiding bringing his work to the attention of the
broader public, publishing it in research venues where a small
community of experts will see it, but avoiding any further disclosure.”
From my perspective, that's indistinguishable from the legions of grad
students who simply don't ship. (Granted, shipping is not their job.)
But what's the point of doing research if you're going to be
risk-averse to the point of paranoia? Speaking of Bram Cohen, maybe
this guy should talk to him; I know Bram isn't losing any sleep over
potential lawsuits. [Hack the Planet]

WordPress and permalinks and Mac OS X

WordPress and permalinks and Mac OS X.

I’m playing around with a WordPress
installation on my laptop for a project, and had a hell of a time
getting permalinks to work properly. I figured that my experience might
be worth documenting for anyone else who’s playing around with Mac OS X.

I
should note that I had to start from the beginning for this
installation—I had to install MySQL using Fink, futz around with it
until I got it starting reliably and was able to create a database for
WordPress, then I had to enable PHP in the Apache httpd.conf file. At
that point I was able to run the WordPress installation script and
start tweaking options. But permalinks weren’t working.

I started
digging deeper and found out why. While on Manila a permalink consists
of an anchor on a page generated dynamically by Manila’s custom HTTP
server for which the content is assembled in Frontier, WordPress uses Apache’s mod_rewrite
to parse the incoming URL, figure out which content is being requested,
then get that out of the database and return it in the standard
template. Manila’s approach allows the blogging engine to control the
whole process from start to finish, while WordPress’s has a series of
dependencies: on Apache, on mod_rewrite, and, it turns out, on the file
system.

So here, skipping all the tried-and-failed steps, is what I had to do to get permalinks enabled:

  1. Verify that .htaccess actually exists.
  2. Chmod — change the file permissions on the .htaccess file so that WordPress can rewrite it.
  3. With help from a posting on the WordPress support site,
    figure out that I need to insert some specific language in the
    httpd.conf file, to wit, some directives for the specific directory
    where WordPress lives:

    • Options Indexes MultiViews SymLinksIfOwnerMatch
    • AllowOverride Options FileInfo
  4. And, just for kicks and giggles, update the httpd.conf to add index.html.var to the DirectoryIndex line.

And some combination of those enabled mod_rewrite to work. (This posting on the old Textpattern site provided some insight as well.)

I’ve
long admired the flexible navigation that WordPress provided—the
ability to have monthly archive pages as well as a calendar, for
instance—and it’s apparent to me now that the use of mod_rewrite is
what makes that possible. I do wonder about the scalability of that
solution—would it survive a Slashdotting?—but it’s interesting, having
used Manila for so long, to see how another platform handles the same
issues.  [Jarrett House North]

Shiny Clean Websites with Ajax

Shiny Clean Websites with Ajax

There is lots of development energy being spent on two relatively unknown pieces of web technology: Ajax and Ruby on Rails.

Ajax is the name given by Adaptive Path's founder Jesse James Garrett to the combination of technologies used so effectively in recent web projects, particularly Google Maps, Gmail and Flickr.  The list includes asynchronous javascript, CSS, XHTML, XMLHttpRequest and XML. Read his great overview for an introduction, then read Brent Ashley on the same subject.

Ruby on Rails is a technology that arose out of 37Signals and David Hansson's development of Basecamp.
The development team uses Ruby almost exclusively and built a new
framework to take web apps in Ruby to the next level. Visit the Ruby on Rails site for code, examples, and even a video walk-through.

And as you might have guessed, the two have been combined! Read Ajaxing the Rails.  [Leave It Behind > Brian Bailey]

How open is OpenSearch?

How open is OpenSearch?.

Last week at the
O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference,
Jeff Bezos announced OpenSearch, an API that enables third parties to
inject their own live search results into Amazon's A9.com. I didn't
attend ETech this year, but that cloud had a silver lining: I was able
to dive right in and do an OpenSearch implementation.

As fate would have it, I'd just finished a quick hack to
reorganize the output of InfoWorld's Ultraseek search engine. I named
my little project InfoWorld power search
because it delivers a dense page of titles, categorized by story type.
When I heard about OpenSearch, I wondered how hard it would be to
integrate my new view of InfoWorld search as a “column” in A9. As I
soon learned, it's almost trivial.

OpenSearch is interesting in lots of ways, but here
I want to focus on its use of RSS. A9 doesn't subscribe to my
search-results feed in the way Bloglines or FeedDemon or NetNewsWire
would. It doesn't poll for changes. Instead it sends a request to my
site when an A9 user with an active InfoWorld column performs a search.
The response packet I send back just happens to be formatted as RSS
2.0, but from A9's perspective, it could be any XML format.

Why RSS 2.0, then? Because it creates network effects that go
way beyond the point-to-point relationships between A9 and its search
partners. The work I did to export RSS 2.0 search results served double
duty. It accomplished the integration with A9, but it also dramatically
expanded InfoWorld's RSS surface area. Now, for the first time, you can
subscribe to any InfoWorld search in a feed reader. Want to be notified
when the next review of a VoIP product shows up at InfoWorld.com? Run
the query, and subscribe to its results.

Most people nowadays use RSS for person-to-person
communication. You know the pattern: When a publisher posts a blog
item, subscribers are alerted. A growing number of folks are also using
RSS for process-to-person communication. Subscribing to searches is the
best example of this pattern.

A9's use of RSS for process-to-process communication
represents a third pattern. We'll be seeing a lot more of it. Not
because RSS enables process integration in special ways — it doesn't
— but rather because RSS helps us blur the boundaries between human
network and process networks.

To be honest, I wasn't even planning to enable RSS
subscription to InfoWorld search. It just came for free. When that
happens, it's a sign that things are deeply right. [Full story at InfoWorld.com]

[Jon's Radio]

Biggest Complaint Of Blackberries So Far – Interface Lock Up

Biggest Complaint Of Blackberries So Far – Interface Lock Up

For most of the attorneys, the Blackberries are pretty good devices
for keeping caught up with emails. There are a few attorneys, however,
who really require a robust platform for emails as well as Personal
Information Management (PIM) and phone use.

The Blackberry is usable as a phone, but I think that a lot of the
attorneys feel that the 7730 is a little big to hold as a phone and the
lack of Bluetooth limits their headphone choices.

The Blackberry's biggest weakness, however, especially in OS 4.0
seems to be in the PIM arena and specifically contacts. Actually, OS 4
presents a few problems even for users who have no contacts. The fact
is that OS 4 takes up a lot more headroom than OS 3.7 did. Blackberries
run slower on OS 4 and often freeze up with the hourglass while it's
processing something or other. This is kind of annoying when you are
typing a password and you get the hourglass and have no idea what
characters of your password were grabbed properly.

It is, however, a major annoyance when you have a good sized address
book (lets say over 1000 contacts). When you have that many contacts,
the Blackberry often locks up for VERY LONG periods of time while it
does whatever operations it does to sort through the contacts,
especially if you have content protection turned on.

Whereas a Palm, or Palm Treo chugs through contacts very quickly thanks to it's much faster processor.

Ahh, the things I wish I knew before we got all set up with
Blackberries…Would have been nice to know that the Treo processor is
10 (TEN!) times faster than the Blackberry's.

Anyhow, if anyone from Research in Motion (RIM) is listening…it
would be REALLY REALLY helpful, if you either came out with a much
faster Blackberry very soon, or changed the OS so that it would always
reserve some processing power for the user interface.

It SERIOUSLY degrades the user experience when you have to wait and
wait for the @#&$ing thing to finish doing whatever it is that it's
doing  [Alex Scoble's IT Notes]