What I’m Reading on 09/05/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What I’m Reading on 07/15/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What I’m Reading on 05/27/2014

  • “There’s a new advantage to doing business in New York. A big one. START-UP NY, Governor Cuomo’s groundbreaking initiative, is transforming communities across the state into tax-free sites for new and expanding businesses. Now, businesses can operate 100% tax-free for 10 years. No income tax, business, corporate, state or local taxes, sales and property taxes, or franchise fees.”

    tags: bs startup ny

  • “This is a list of the best books for learning the python programming language.”

    tags: bs python books

  • “Memo to anyone who logs in to a WordPress.com-hosted blog from a public Wi-Fi connection or other unsecured network: It’s trivial for the script kiddie a few tables down to hijack your site even if it’s protected by two-factor authentication.”

    tags: bs wordpress

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What I’m Reading on 03/20/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What I’m Reading on 12/05/2013

  • “Mashery, which Intel acquired back in April, specializes in managing application programming interfaces, or APIs—bits of code that allow apps to communicate with cloud services and one another. Hacker League founder Mike Swift (aka Swift) announced the transaction in a round of informational blogs. The acquisition should ensure support for a steady flow of more than 60 hackathons each year, all over the world.”

    tags: mashery apis

  • “An open-source, open-process, open-access scholarly authoring and publishing platform based on WordPress, built on the Carringon Theme framework. Annotum provides a complete, open-access scholarly journal production system including peer-review, workflow, and advanced editing and formatting features such as structured figures, equations, PubMed and CrossRef reference import, and structured XML input and output compatible with the National Library of Medicine’s Journal Article DTD.”

    tags: wordpress themes

  • “At IBM, Watson seems to be everywhere these days. The cognitive computer that beat two grand champions on the TV quiz show, Jeopardy!, has a team working on enhancements in IBM Research; its own IBM business unit developing services for businesses and whole industries; programming and ideation contests in universities; two books about it (Final Jeopardy! and Smart Machines); and, now, a play on Broadway.”

    tags: watson broadway

  • “If Amazon can imagine delivering books by drones, is it too much to think that Google might be planning to one day have one of the robots hop off an automated Google Car and race to your doorstep to deliver a package?”

    tags: google robots

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

WordPress and automatic tagging of posts

There are basically four ways of finding things in a WordPress blog:

  1. Brute force looking through entries
  2. Using the built-in search or a web search tool like Bing or Google
  3. Looking at all posts in an assigned category
  4. Looking at all posts tagged with one or more keyphrases

Both #3 and #4 can reduce to #1 if there are many posts in a category or tagged in a certain way.

Generally, I’m very good at putting posts into categories. At the moment, I have 15 categories and each post is in one and only one category. There are now 976 posts, so this is a pretty reasonable if coarse segmentation of what I’ve put up here.

Tags have always been more of a problem. If you have too many tags, you might as well just do a search. If you have too few, it approaches the functionality of categories. Also, I have quite a few of the “What I’m Reading” posts that are auto-generated by Diigo when I save things there. Those have not been tagged unless I’ve manually done that. Very tedious.

Today I started using the Automatic Post Tagger plugin for WordPress. This allows you to set up a list of tags and then it will automatically tag newly published blog entries by doing a search on the phrases in the title or the content. You can also go through your previously published content and retag all of that.

I built the list of tags by looking at the ones I had previously manually inserted. Anything with zero, one, or two posts associated did not make it into the new list. Even some with more associated entries were not always included if I no longer thought it was interesting. I also did this with my old archived blog so I could be consistent with tags since I started blogging.

For this and the old blog, I then deleted all the old tags and ran the plugin to insert the new tags. This took about 10 minutes for the almost 1000 blog entries here.

I plan to tweak this and will also manually tag some entries for which the automatic process is too heavy a method. But this has added consistency and gotten rid of some old junk tags that I no longer want or need.

Tuning up the website

I’m a bit under the weather today, so I’ve been sitting on the couch fiddling with this website, a WordPress blog. Its most recent large overhaul happened over the Christmas holidays at the end of 2009 when I archived my previous blog and launched this one.

The theme I had been using until then was heavily customized and had not kept up with the various improvements made in WordPress for the layout, widgets, and other features of themes. MinervaSo I switched to the new and official Twenty Ten theme, did some customizations within the user interface for such, and then added some PHP code to rotate the header images among my photos in an uploaded directory. (This last feature is more or less built in now, but my code is working so I’m keeping it.) I made these customizations in a child theme of Twenty Ten that I called Minerva after one of our cats, now unfortunately and prematurely departed.

Before I settled on Twenty Ten, I looked at dozens of candidate themes and I investigated using Drupal for the blog. Ultimately I ruled out the other themes because they didn’t have the look I wanted and I liked the idea of the WordPress team itself supporting my base theme. While Drupal was and is wonderful software, I stayed with WordPress because I wanted to preserve the links to all my old blog entries and have consistent formatting between the current and archived blogs.

Through the years I’ve added and subtracted plugins and widgets as they were updated or I found new ones that had functionality I wanted. The social buttons you see under this post are one example of using a plugin that did not exist in 2009.

I’ve been keeping WordPress itself, the plugins, and the themes up to date on a regular basis. Aside from improved or fixed functionality, this at least helps keep the security up on the site.

So today I started out by looking at the other official WordPress themes that came after Twenty Ten. These are called (wait for it): Twenty Eleven, Twenty Twelve, and Twenty Thirteen. I didn’t think any of them look better than what I have.

Then I looked at some others that are high in popularity among the thousands of WordPress themes. I downloaded and installed several of them and ultimately decided that I would stay with what I had. They either didn’t impress me visually or they would have required more customization than I’m in the mood for today.

I deleted the FaceBook plugin because it was superfluous with the new social buttons. I then started playing with the “Recent Posts” widget that is in the right column. Since I’ve been writing blog entries less frequently than I did a few years ago, many of the entries that do appear are of the “What I’m Reading” variety that are automatically generated from my use of Diigo.

Screen shot of the Recent Posts Extended widgetThe Recent Posts area was dominated by these postings of links and I wanted to exclude them. Unfortunately the built-in widget did not seem to work correctly when I adjusted the visibility of the posts to display.

It took only a few minutes to find a much improved widget called “Recent Posts Widget Extended” (catchy name). This not only allowed me to block the posts I did not want appearing but also let me include excerpts. I think it is an improvement and you can see a screen shot on the left.

So that’s it for now. I’ll still keep looking for new themes, plugins and widgets, but I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns for the moment.

What I’m Reading on 08/03/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/02/2013

  • “His project, called the 2045 Initiative, for the year he hopes it is completed, envisions the mass production of lifelike, low-cost avatars that can be uploaded with the contents of a human brain, complete with all the particulars of consciousness and personality.”

    tags: avatar ai

  • “The open-source blogging platform and content management system (CMS), WordPress is ten years old now. A success story in its own right, WordPress has gone from being a simple blogging platform to an extremely helpful tool for building websites and enabling communication across the web, in the past decade.”

    tags: wordpress

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Social Media and the Professional: Enterprise Social Media

In this series I’m looking at my experiences using social media as a business professional. In this entry I examine the rules and policies I personally use regarding enterprise social media.

In the introduction to this series of blog entries, I asked several questions regarding my use of particular social media services, and how I manage the intersection of my personal and professional lives in them.

Here I’m going to look specifically at enterprise social media. That is, services that allow you to blog, post status updates, comment on the status of others, all inside your company’s or organization’s firewall. I’ll assume that what is posted is seen only by people in your organization, not by the general public.

I think use of multiple social networks only has value if you do different things on each of them. If one service targets a specific audience, use it with those people in mind. If you are more or less throwing the same material at all of them, I think you are spamming people, hoping it will lead to some sort of positive outcome for yourself. Therefore, if you post blog entries externally, there is no need to repost internally, but perhaps a link will do.

Enterprise social media is tricky because what you post could be seen by your bosses, your colleagues, and your employees, not to mention HR. You want to keep it relevant to your work life but you do need to be aware of the politics and sensitivities involved.

Do not use internal enterprise social media to state how brilliant you think management and their status updates are and how much their postings have changed your outlook on life, the way you’ll raise your children, or the very essence of your being. It’s fine to just click “Like.”

Be constructive, don’t use use enterprise social media to build a mutual admiration society. Ask questions, get a better understanding of the details of how the business is run and why decisions were made, and improve upon the suggestions of others. Don’t ever say in a response posting “What is more important …” but rather say “What is also important …”.

Share what you have learned about making products or service engagements better. Pass along dos and don’ts about working with clients. Don’t ever criticize a client as individuals or a company in your postings. Think about how new technologies like mobile and analytics can help you serve customers better and share your thoughts with your colleagues.

Be interesting. Be a person.

The social media service I use inside IBM is Connections.

Here are answers to the standard questions I’ve used in all these postings.

Who will I follow?

I follow (or connect with) people I know and have worked with directly. IBM has over 400,000 employees. If I connected with everyone, I could never find anything of value in the stream of status updates.

Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?

I’ve suggested to my current employees that I would be honored if they connected with me, but it is completely optional. If anyone expresses uneasiness that “the boss” is watching what they post, I won’t follow them. No one is blocked (I’m not even sure I could if I wanted to).

How much will I say in my profile about myself?

Much of my work contact information is pulled up automatically. I’ve added a few other items, plus links to my external social networking activities. I certainly don’t list my personal hobbies in my inside-IBM profile, though I don’t think that is out of bounds in general. Since I cover my personal social networking elsewhere, I don’t redundantly add things in my internal profile.

What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?

Though many people blog internally, I don’t. When I first started blogging in 2004 I had a WebSphere blog, then a developerWorks blog, an internal blog, and then one WordPress personal blog and one WordPress business blog. It didn’t take me long to decide I needed just one, and that is what you are reading here.

If I had something to say about open source, standards, Linux, WebSphere, or mobile, I would not have a special inside-IBM version and a different outside-IBM one. For one thing, this helped me keep the messages straight! Since I spoke publicly quite a bit, I needed to make sure that I did not say things internally in print that might inadvertently get repeated externally.

I do use Connections Communities now to share very specific internal information with named groups of people, such as the worldwide Business Analytics and Mathematical Sciences community. This is quite useful.

In terms of status, I post questions, some simple statements about IBM activities in which I’m engaged, and occasionally some critiques of features of processes or software.

While it’s fine to inject the occasional comment about non-work matters, I do not recommend that you use a lot of bandwidth in your company’s social networking service discussing American Idol or the World Cup. Take it elsewhere, perhaps to Facebook.

When will I share content posted by others?

Sometimes if I think it is really important or answers a question someone posts.

How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?

Zero, nada, zip.

How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?

See above.

On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?

Anything I see where I might add something useful to the conversation.

What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

I’ll link to co-workers to share what they’ve said or to note them as experts on a particular subject.


Blog entries in this series:

Social Media and the Professional: Twitter

In this series I’m looking at my experiences using social media as a business professional. In this entry I examine the rules and policies I personally use regarding Twitter.

In the introduction to this series of blog entries, I asked several questions regarding my use of particular social media services, and how I manage the intersection of my personal and professional lives in them. Here I’m going to look specifically at Twitter. This is the way I use the service and may or may not be how you do or should use it yourself.

I do not have separate Twitter accounts for work and my personal life. If you go to my Twitter account, you’re likely to see several aspects of my personality. I think that’s important: if I had a work-only blog it might sound like a marketing channel.

Who will I follow?

If I follow more than about 400 people or Twitter accounts, I find it hard to separate out what is important from what is not. That is, the noise dominates the signal. (But see update below.)

Every month or two I go through the accounts I follow and drop those that seem to hibernating or otherwise unused. I’m happy to follow someone to see if I find they are posting interesting or informative stuff, but if they are not, I’ll drop them to make room for somebody new. I’m happy to revisit that decision, and do add people back sometimes.

If someone posts too often, I may drop them because they are dominating my feed.

If someone is using Twitter mainly for self-promotion, I usually drop them for several weeks. I’ll check back in to see what they are then talking about and decide to follow them or continue to stay away.

Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?

This is hit or miss. I may follow someone in the hope they will follow me, but my feelings won’t be hurt if they don’t. I could probably be more deliberate in what I say and how I say it to gain more followers, but that seems odd. Controversy always increases  the number of followers, but I need to be careful about not misrepresenting my opinions as those of my employer’s.

I block obvious spam accounts or ones that are obscene or hateful. I wouldn’t want these people talking to me in my living room, and so I don’t want them to be involved in any way in my Twitter conversations.

How much will I say in my profile about myself?

Just enough. There’s a fair amount of information about me that is pretty public at this point. My résumé is online, I’m male, you can probably guess my age with a bit of research, and it would be hard to miss that I now work for IBM. So I include enough for people to decide if they have found the right Bob Sutor, but not much more.

What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?

All my blog entries have their titles and links automatically posted on Twitter. (I’ve used various WordPress plugins for this, and I recently switched to JetPack.)

I’ll post or retweet IBM announcements if they are about areas in which I now or formerly worked, if I see them. I don’t go out of my way to do this, but several of my work colleagues are very good at bringing these to my attention. If I think the topic is cool or innovative, I’ll say something.

I’ll post or retweet news items or articles if they are interesting, in the hope that if you bother to follow me, you might think them valuable as well. (If not, I know you’ll ignore them.)

I’ll say something when an idea pops into my head that I decide is funny, clever, intelligent, or profound. For such an item, however, I try to wait several minutes so that I don’t also decide that it is silly, obvious, dumb, or inane. I’ve deleted tweets that fall into the later categories if I later regret putting them up. I know they won’t really be gone, but they’ll be a bit harder to find.

When I first started using Twitter I had all my tweets posted also to Facebook. My wife (and through her, her friends) thought this was just too much. So I don’t do that anymore.

I don’t seem to hesitate tweeting about television shows I don’t like. I’ve occasionally gotten some customer service problems resolved via tweets.

When will I share content posted by others?

In Twitter-speak, this is mostly retweeting. I usually do these in batches. I might have 5 or 10 minutes here or there to scan my Twitter stream and I’ll retweet the good stuff I see.

How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?

Slightly. I try not to overdo it, though opinions probably vary about that. I’ll do more before elections that will make my US political party affiliation pretty clear. Other than that, I tend to retweet some items I’ve seen that pertain to social issues.

It’s really easy to go too far in this area. Know your company’s or organization’s policies about this.

How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?

This is related to the profile question and response above. You don’t need to know where I am most of the time, but if it is public knowledge that I am speaking at a conference, I’ll say where I am, for example.

I don’t tell you every place I go. I’m not the mayor of anything. I may tell you where I was last week, however.

In my blog I talk about hobbies such as sailing, carpentry, and fishing. I may tweet or retweet items about that sort of thing.

On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?

I may comment on something tweeted or retweeted by someone I know. My biggest regrets about using Twitter have been stepping into conversations I really was not and should not been a part of. So I try to bite my tongue, but I fail sometimes.

I’ll tweet or retweet/comment to congratulate someone on a baby, a job, or a project. If I think I have something intelligent to add, I’ll do it. If not, I’ll just let it pass.

I try to run, not walk, from flame wars. Per the above, I may stop following people engaged in them.

What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

If someone asks me not to link to them, I won’t. Nor will I disclose personal information about them. I try to ask permission before linking to anyone, especially if that person works for me. (Might not be a bad idea if I work for them either …)

Update on March 31, 2014: Not being a celebrity, infamous, or notorious, I found that the number of my Twitter followers plateaued. Clearly content and said notoriety would increase my followers, but I decided that I needed to increase the number of people and aggregators I myself followed. That did give me a bump, but I’m in the midst of a general review of who and what I follow, why, and what I’m getting out of the information I see. The goal is not to increase followers, really, but to make sure that Twitter is useful for me and to make sure that my side of the conversation is heard.


Blog entries in this series:

Testing WordPress 3.4’s new Twitter integration

So evidently if I just put a Twitter URL on a line in a blog post, WordPress 3.4 will handle it as an embed and give you options to retweet it, etc. So let’s try one:

Cool.

Killing WordPress page scam

I hate spam and I don’t think very highly of those who help create it. On my blog I have comments on entries locked after 3 days because 1) I think that’s enough time for people to respond, and 2) it cuts down on the amount of junk sent by spambots.

Akismet does a great job of capturing spam, but I still like to clean out the spam folder, especially if hundreds a day are arriving. In the last few months, I’ve noticed that spam has been directed to pages within the blog where comments had not been turned off. Evidently my 3 day window above does not apply to pages, just blog entries.

This is what I did to shut off the comments on those pages and hence the spam in WordPress 3.2.

Go to your Dashboard and click on All Pages in the left-hand column. Click the checkbox next to Title above the page listings, and then click Bulk Actions above it, select Edit, and hit Apply. In the box next to Comments, choose Do not allow. Then hit Update.

This turns off comments for all pages that appear in that administrative panel. If you have more pages, you will need to move over to them and repeat the above. You can increase the number of entries shown on the screen via Screen Options in the upper right.

What I did (and didn’t do) on my summer vacation

Now that it’s early September, I suppose I can look back over the last several months and take stock of what happened over the summer season. Technically, summer is not quite over, but in northwest New York where I live you can really feel the first flourishes of fall in last August. Admittedly, it’s 85 degrees F today, so it would be hard to convince many people that summer is on the way out.

I did start a new job within IBM in early June, owning project management for what we call the WebSphere Foundation line of software. More recently I picked up some additional executive leadership in the mobile area, which just might account for the links showing up in my (almost) daily news postings. Altogether, though, it means I’ve been swamped in a very good way with work.

Therefore what I didn’t do is blog very much. Part of it was time constraints, but a good deal of what I’ve been working on is internal business, product and technology strategy. Those are not exactly areas I can freely write about, but, heh, it’s a living. Given the stability of the WordPress platform on which my website is implemented, I’ve also not had to tinker much with the infrastructure behind this blog.

I did start using Google+ in addition to Facebook and Twitter. While I do wish everyone would just switch from Twitter to Google+, that’s not going to happen. Apple‘s support of Twitter in the upcoming iOS 5 will ensure it has a social networking role for quite some time. I feel my energy flagging with respect to Google+ and I suspect that is true of some others as well.

I didn’t sail much at all. This was a combination of the time I had available, the weather, and the conditions on Lake Ontario. I’ve decided that I’ll move the boat to another lake starting next year, but which lake is TBD.

I did spend quite a bit of time in the New York Adirondack region. Our son spends two weeks at camp up there, and this summer my wife Judith and I spent a week at The Hedges in Blue Mountain Lake. We managed to get up to the mountains a couple of other times as well. We’ve been to the Adirondacks quite a bit in our lives and plan to spend even more time there in the future. That’s one reason why I’ve been posting links on Facebook about the damage caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene.

Judith and I had a great time visiting friends in Maine over a long weekend in July. It set lobster as the season’s culinary theme, and that was just fine with both of us.

I didn’t have a major outdoor project this summer. Before the snow flies I need to do some repairs and paint the porch I built 5 years ago. It is holding up well except for some of the small pieces of trim that developed some wood rot because of the moisture from snow and rain.

I did enjoy watching the two guys who did the landscaping work on our side lawn. After battling an overgrown area that was once a grape arbor and then a garden for over a decade, we decided to convert it to lawn.  It took the two guys two days with a skid steer to pull up the weeds and hundreds of bricks that were used in the walkway and as edging. They then filled the area with 20+ cubic yards of dirt and seeded it. The grass is growing nicely now and the eyesore is gone. To visualize 20 cubic yards, think of a volume that is 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep by 60 feet high. That’s a lot of dirt and it validates my conclusion that it was work that I was just not going to get done myself.

With autumn coming on fast, I do hope to get a little more sailing in, do that porch work, and perhaps start and finish a few more outside evening projects. I get frustrated when I’m not building something, so it’s best if I have a few tasks like these in the pipeline.

Daily links for 02/24/2011

  • “Just days after an apparently offhand comment from Nathan Fillion, who played Capt. Malcolm Reynolds on the short-lived Fox series, the Web has once again lit up with efforts to revive the sci-fi franchise. Last week, Fillion, who now stars in ABC’s “Castle,” told Entertainment Weekly he’d love to play Mal again. Then, he ratcheted things up a notch.”

    tags: firefly internet

  • “Virtual functions allow polymorphism on a single argument; however, sometimes there is a need for multi-argument polymorphism. Double dispatch, commonly used in C++ to implement multi-methods, does not lend easily extensible code. Solutions based on function tables are difficult to implement and prevent repeated derivation. This article focuses on two new techniques based on templates and Run Time Type Identification (RTTI). The first is faster but less flexible, the second is slower, but allows new classes to be added without any need to change existing ones.”

    tags: c++ dispatch

  • “On February 23, 2011, WordPress Version 3.1 “Reinhardt”, named in honor of the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, was released to the public. For more information on this enhancement and bug release, read the WordPress Blog, and see the Changelog for 3.1.”

    tags: wordpress

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Review of the blog for 2010 – October through December

I finish my survey of what I blogged about in 2010 as I look at the final three months of the year.

Last Time: “Review of the blog for 2010 – July through September”

Just as the third quarter of 2010 started with the buzz about IBM switching to Firefox as its defaults browser, the final quarter started fast in October with the news of IBM shifting its open source Java efforts to OpenJDK. Oracle, the new steward of Java after its acquisition of Sun,  was in the news a lot this year regarding open source, but I’ll let you find those stories yourself if you are not already aware of them.

On the sailing front, the boat finished its season a bit early as the headstay cable shredded. This spring I need to replace all the fixed rigging, but that’s a 2011 story.

I continued tinkering with the blog itself as I replaced the WordPress theme I used with a slight variation of one of the default ones provided with the software. I finally got fed up with Atahualpa, all its options, and the instability of the theme from release to release. When I finished the work to put the new theme in place, my wife confessed she never really liked the old one, something that might have spurred me to action a bit earlier.

One feature I did like in Atahulapa was the rotating header images. This doesn’t mean they spin around, it indicates that each time you view a page the theme will randomly select an image for the topmost section. I showed some code to implement this feature in a subtheme of TwentyTen.

In November I gave a keynote at ApacheCon in Atlanta called “Data, Languages, and Problems”. It was a fun talk to give and the research for it brought me back to an earlier part of my career, before Linux and before most of my involvement with open source. Every time I look at the Apache Software Foundation I’m amazed by the incredible work being done there.

I occasionally do a blog entry about cooking and on Thanksgiving Day I posted an entry on considerations when making apple pies. Two words for you: apple jack. In the pie crust. Ok, that’s six words. But try it.

winter snowIn early December I started to get the sense that news about open source was slowing down and I and then several readers offered some suggestions why that might have been so, if it was indeed the case. While it may just have been an end of the year occurrence, it will be interesting to see if and how things pick up again in 2011.

I looked again at math software for the iPad and decided that not that much had changed since my first review in July. That’s a bit like saying that the news is that there is no news, but I’m curious if downscaled versions of Maple or Mathematica will be released for the tablet in 2011. Of course, they’ll need to charge a lot less than they do for the desktop editions, so that might be giving them pause.

After speaking with several customers and partners on the topic, I posted a blog entry about open innovation. It’s clear to me that some very good work is being done by several visionary companies, but it also seems to be a field fraught with jargon and an imbalance between marketing and technology.

Just for fun, I published a piece about the basic ideas behind predictive analytics. I didn’t hear too much from readers on that one, though my sister said she found it useful in conversations about the travel industry. It’s a fascinating field with business implications as well as social and ethical ones.

I ended the year with some comments on predictions for open source made for 2011 by other people. While we wait to see if efforts started in 2010 turn out to be wild successes or spectacular failures, I can’t wait to see what gets announced that will be truly disruptive.

That’s what is always most intriguing to me as we start a new year: what will happen that we just do not expect. I hope for you and the rest of us that those surprises will be happy ones and lead to great new opportunities.

Mostly obvious predictions for open source in 2011, or are they?

I’ve been reading many of the lists of predictions for free and open source software in 2011. Most of them are pretty obvious: many of the things that were significant in 2010 will continue to be so in 2011. The obvious tweak to this is to ask whether such-and-such will make it big or fade way.

Here’s a list of these types of questions and my guesses at answers:

  • Will ChromeOS from Google be an interesting player, will it merge with Android, and will it replace Windows on hundreds of millions of desktops? Yes / maybe / no.
  • Will Android devices surpass those from Apple? Perhaps, but only in aggregate volume.
  • Will one emerge that will clobber the iPad in market share? No way.
  • Will some flavor of Windows be more significant than Android on tablets? No.
  • Will we see more open source apps on the most popular smartphone platforms? Fewer than some people will hope, since developers see those platforms as a way to make money without a lot of the overhead.
  • Will Linux gain further market share as people continue to flee from Solaris and install new servers for new applications? Yes for both the shift and the lift.
  • Will there be more lawsuits around the use of open source in smartphones? Yes, and from the same and usual suspects.
  • Will Windows Phone 7 beat out Android phones or iPhones? Only in the State of Washington, briefly.
  • Will LibreOffice pass OpenOffice in downloads? No, but check back in 2012.
  • Will open source virtualization via KVM start to gain market share against VMWare and Microsoft HyperV? Yes.
  • Will the “open cloud” become more significant and more widely implemented? Only once we agree on a definition.
  • Will Windows Internet Explorer continue to lose market share to Firefox, Chrome, and Safari? Yes.
  • Will Diaspora replace FaceBook? No.
  • Will any open source system replace WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla in the top three of open source content management systems? No.
  • Will 2011 be the Year of the Linux Desktop? That was last year. Seriously, the question is no longer relevant, though Desktop Linux will be adopted by several surprisingly large organizations as well as many individuals.

In my personal opinion, the main open source areas to continue to watch in 2011 will be cloud, virtualization, system management, and analytics. Simplification and ease of use will be critical make or break factors for each.

On the standards side, the so-called open data movement will gain increasing importance especially as potential users realize they don’t want to have the formats dictated to them by a single company.

What are your predictions?

Review of the blog for 2010 – January through March

With a little more than a week left in 2010, I thought I would go back and review some of the themes and entries from this blog since January. In many ways it was a strange year and my writing cadence was much more irregular than the last few years. I’m definitely feeling the effect of Twitter, as it is so much easier to throw out the germ of an idea as a tweet rather than let it sit and develop into something longer and more thought out.

January started out with a lot of new technology under the covers as I had decided to archive the old blog I had been running since 2004 and start again with the latest version of WordPress. I also began using a new blog theme, Atahualpa, that had hundreds of options, a feature I came to really dislike as the year went on.

Gardening was on my mind, or at least buying seeds, as was my first trip to Lotusphere in Orlando. In 2010 I started putting a lot more photos in the blog, which reminds me that I haven’t done that in a while.

The blog entries that attracted the most attention had to do with Linux as a gaming platform, and they continue to get a lot of hits:

February was a mixed bag of topics, as are most months. I write according to my interests at the time. Most of my ideas for entries come to me when I am doing some else, like painting a wall or driving in the car.

The Open Document Format, ODF, has a recurring part here and I’ve been writing about it for at least 4 years. In the piece called “What would ODF support for WordPress look like?” I wondered what it would be like if my favorite blogging platform added support for import and export of the only true office productivity open format standard that’s out there.

I was still tinkering with virtual worlds in February, with entries about Twinity, opensim, and SecondLife. I’ve now ceased almost all personal activity in that space outside of World of Warcraft. The requirements for success I outlined in 2007 have still not been implemented, though technologies like Kinect may improve the situation. The most successful entry on this theme during the month was “Virtual Life with Linux: Standalone OpenSim on Ubuntu 9.10″. That’s technology worth checking in on from time to time to see how much progress has been made.

There is still no word “heighth.”

Though I did not blog about it, my son and I went to Florida in February to escape winter in upstate New York. It must have been the coldest February of the decade in Florida. Next time, farther south.

Many of the blog entries I write originate in misunderstandings or misstatements I hear in my travels. So it was with “Thinking about open source: There are three types of software …”.

Though spring officially begins in March in the northern hemisphere, it can take longer to get here in upstate New York. The availability of bunnies and chicks at the local farm supply store helped me feel that winter was coming to an end, though a walk on the Erie Canal reminded me that it was not over yet.

I spoke at OSBC in San Francisco during March and discussed “the hard questions about open source software,” a topic I was to return to over and over (and over and over) during the remainder of the year. It was a great source for many discussion ideas and I’m toying with the idea of doing a much bigger work on the theme.

Finally, to end the first quarter of 2010 I bemoaned the still oddly primitive state of affairs for presentations and the software that creates them:

Next up: spring arrives, and I have the photos to prove it, and I get an iPad and start wondering about how to properly do math software on tablets.

Replacement for delicious, if you want or need one

I was looking at some blog stats just now and saw that many people landed on some old entries that discussed what I would like to have as a replacement for the delicious social bookmarking service:

The feverish searching was because of rumors that Yahoo was going to shut down the delicious service. Evidently that is not the case.

Diigo logo

I still haven’t found or coded something that would let me save my own bookmarks as I describe in the 4 blog entries above.

Therefore, I have gone back to using Diigo as my primary social bookmarking service. I very much like and use the function that can post your bookmarks to a blog up to twice daily. I use that for my Daily Links.

Open source news slowing down?

I just did a tweet saying that I thought the number of news stories about open source seems to have slowed down quite a bit in the last month or so, outside of the major projects and companies. Indeed, the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 was big news.

Perhaps I’m thinking that because I myself haven’t blogged much lately. The main reason for that is that I’ve been exceptionally swamped with work and, in particular, have been doing a lot of writing. (If you haven’t tried it, the no-charge Lotus Symphony word processor is quite nice, by the way.)

So let’s consider why the news might be slowing down:

  • The Apache Software Foundation vs. Oracle events are dominating the news cycles (as Tony Baer tweeted back to me, and I agree with him).
  • Students are busy with final exams (per Brian Proffitt on Twitter).
  • End of the year exhaustion (I’m certainly feeling some of that), coupled with that strange period between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US.
  • There are so many open source projects that it is harder for them to get much traction in the media.
  • Many of the big projects have done minor releases lately (I installed WordPress 3.0.3, but it is not big news).
  • Open source is become a common part of mainstream software discussions, and so doesn’t stand out as much as it used to do.
  • WikiLeaks.
  • People associated with commercial open source ventures have their heads down trying to close end-of-year deals.

Note I’m not basing my slowdown theory on any sort of formal measurements, just a feeling based on what I’ve been seeing on Twitter and in the news.

So it is December and things always pick up again in January. I love January announcements around products and industry efforts, especially if they surprise people. They are especially fun if people spend a lot at the end of one year doing detailed planning for the next, only to have an unexpected industry announcement cause them to rethink everything.

This is not to say I like having that happen to me, but it adds excitement to the IT industry, and that includes open source.

Daily links for 12/02/2010

  • “Tammy Hart is an Automattic consultant who recently gave a talk at WordCamp Atlanta about “WordPress & Working with Clients”. She had such a positive response to her talk that it prompted her to set up http://www.wpmethod.com – a blog for freelancers that work with WordPress. We highly recommend you to check it out.”

    tags: wordpress

  • “Companies usually spend time and money developing new and interesting features to drive upgrades, but Microsoft is taking a different approach with the “Vail” release of Windows Home Server (WHS): It’s dropping the popular Drive Extender feature that lets users “pool” hard drives to increase storage. In response HP is kicking WHS to the curb and using WebOS for its MediaSmart systems.”

    tags: microsoft linux

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Rotating header images for a WordPress theme

This entry is rather technical and is meant for those who deal with tinkering with WordPress-based websites.

I recently switched from the Atahualpa theme for WordPress to the TwentyTen theme that started being shipped as the default with WordPress 3.0. Atahualpa is an admirable piece of work but because it has so many options, it became difficult for me to maintain it as updates appeared for it and WordPress itself. So I decided I wanted to switch to something much simpler.

I do this kind of analysis periodically and end up looking at tens if not hundreds of themes. This time around I decided that I wanted to go with a theme that was maintained by the WordPress team and not some individual or group I never heard of. That’s not to say those other themes wouldn’t be great, but I wanted one less level of variability between the blogging software and the design of my site.

Now for me themes are never quite perfect and I always want to do a little tinkering. I forbade myself to do too much since when I first started using WordPress I had a very customized home grown theme. Getting off that was one of the reasons I went with Atahualpa in the first place.

If I went in and tweaked the TwentyTen theme I could lose those changes when the theme got updated. One option was to copy and rename the theme, but there is an easier way of doing this via WordPress child themes. Essentially, you create another theme directory and just put in the changed files. You must always have a style.css file with your child theme information.

In my case, I called the theme Minerva and the beginning of my style.css file looks like this:

/*
Theme Name: Minerva
Description: Child theme for the TwentyTen theme
Author: Robert S. Sutor
Author URI: http://www.sutor.com/
Version: 0.1
Template: twentyten
*/

This file is read instead of the parent theme style.css so you must either copy in the CSS markup from that file or include an extra line like

@import url("../twentyten/style.css");

This is all well described in the WordPress Codex. I opted to copy all the CSS in and tweak that because there were some declarations that I could not undo with later CSS. (These had to do with images and the use of max-width and auto for widths and heights.)

Since I had all the CSS I reduced some of the vertical line spacing and made links only be underlined when the cursor hovered over them. Should the TwentyTen theme CSS get updated, it will be easy to redo these changes by looking at the file differences. I also made comments in the CSS file where I made changes.

But tinkering with CSS is not the major reason for this blog entry. Rather, I wanted a feature for my theme that did not come default with TwentyTen. I take a lot of photographs and I wanted a random cropped image to show up each time a page or blog entry was shown. Many themes have this feature and various WordPress plugins through the years have tackled this problem.

TwentyTen ships with several attractive header images and you can manually select one of them or choose not to show an image at all. These images are in the images/headers subdirectory in the theme, together with thumbnail versions of them.

For my child theme Minerva I created a subdirectory called images/random-headers and put in 70+ images that I had cropped to 940×198. Inside the default header.php in TwentyTen, a call is made to the function header_image to print (or “echo”) the name of the image the blog administrator choose in the theme header option panel. My idea was to create a function called random_header_image and have it print the name of one of the images in the images/random-headers subdirectory. It doesn’t matter how many images are in that subdirectory. If none are found, the original header_image function is called:

function random_header_image() {
    // Choose a random header image and echo its name
    $images     = "";
    $imgurlbase = get_bloginfo('stylesheet_directory') .
        '/images/random-headers/';
    $imgdir     = opendir( STYLESHEETPATH .
        '/images/random-headers/' );

    while (FALSE !== ($filename = readdir($imgdir))) {
        $ext = strtolower(pathinfo($filename, PATHINFO_EXTENSION));
        if ($ext == 'jpg' || $ext == 'gif' || $ext == 'png') {
            $images[] = $filename;
        }
    }

    closedir($imgdir);
    $n = count($images);

    if ( $n > 0 ) {
        echo $imgurlbase . $images[rand(0,$n-1)];
    } else {
        header_image();
    }
}

I wrapped this code up in standard PHP tags in header.php and substituted a function call for random_header_image in for the usual call to header_image.

A couple of notes on this:

  • You want to work with the child theme directory name and URL and not those of the parent theme. That is why I use STYLESHEETPATH and get_bloginfo('stylesheet_directory'), respectively.
  • This will accept GIF, PNG, or JPG format image files.

Since I use a caching plugin for WordPress, the image may not change every time you refresh a page. Other pages may use alternative images and a different image will probably be chosen when the cached version of a page expires. You can visit a special page I created to see all the images used for headers on my website.

This is a simple and straightforward implementation of choosing a random header image. I would find some of the following useful though they would add complexity:

  • Somehow either tag or put images in special subdirectories so that certain images are only chosen on given days, given weeks, given months, or given seasons. For example, I might not want a photo of snowy trees to be shown in the middle of summer. However, my summer in New York is different calendar-wise from summer in Argentina, say.
  • Somehow either tag or put images in special subdirectories so that certain images are only chosen when a blog post is in a given category or has a given tag. For example, only sailing photos should be shown for entries in the Sailing category.

Saturday slow down

Today was the autumn work day at the club on Lake Ontario where I keep my sailboat but I didn’t make it up there this morning. On Monday evening after work I was putting up a new aluminum storm window on our dining room and after getting one screw installed I managed to slip and fall off the step ladder. The window stayed up as I fell down.

I fell 4 or 5 feet and the ladder went in the opposite direction. I landed with a thud on some border stones that separate the grass next to the driveway from the mulched area next to the house. I bruised my back behind my right hip and twisted and wrenched various other things. Nothing got broken and I avoided hitting my head on the stones, though I’m not sure how.

So I’ve been sore all week though I’ve definitely getting better. My back hasn’t liked dealing with lifting since my mishap, so I decided not to push it today. This has also meant no strenuous chores this past week. I’ve contracted with someone to rake the leaves this fall, so at least I don’t have to worry about that one.

With that prolog, I mostly took it easy today. My son and I arranged for the tuxedo he’s going to need for a special eighth grade dance in Rochester in a few weeks. I also spent more time on the website reconfiguration after switching my WordPress theme from Atahualpa (it never saw an option it didn’t like) to TwentyTen (it’s basic, it’s sharp, it works).

Related to the second task, I also spent a lot of time grumbling about our slow DSL connection. We used to have cable but shifted to DSL when that became unreliable. However, over time the speed of DSL has varied widely. Once they managed to turn it up a bit, but I’m getting tired of family members asking why the Internet is so slow. Lately I’ve noticed that it get glacially slow when it rains, which indicates that there is likely an issue with wires or equipment getting wet. I called today and they submitted a work order.

I also went online and order a fast cable-based Internet service. There is a 30 day money back guarantee for it so I should be able to run them side by side and see which one is really better. My money is on the cable one. Unfortunately, the earliest date they gave me for installation is almost three weeks from now. Let’s hope the phone company can improved the DSL between now and then. Otherwise, if you send me an email and I don’t get back to you right away, that’s why.

Yet another events calendar

Throughout the 6+ years that I have been blogging I’ve struggled with having an event calendar on my website. I’ve tried most of the WordPress plugins out there and either I didn’t like them, they were a pain with which to work, the formatting was unfortunate, or they stopped working when new releases of the blogging platform came out.

I want to use a calendar to keep track of open source and Linux conference, science fiction conventions (though I admit I’ve never been to one), and concerts. In past when I wasn’t using one of the plugin calendars I tried maintaining the listings by hand. It was a pain in the neck to update and then I needed to go in and remove past events.

I think I found a new plugin I like. It’s called GigPress and according to its website:

GigPress is a powerful WordPress plugin designed for musicians and other performers. Manage all of your upcoming and past performances right from within the WordPress admin, and display them on your site using simple shortcodes, PHP template tags, or the GigPress widget on your WordPress-powered website.

You can see my use of it on my “Upcoming Open Source, Science Fiction, and Musical Events” page. If you do try it out and look at how I’ve employed it, I made “Linux and Open Source” be an artist and then defined venues and shows. I like that it is a listing and not a calendar.

Debugging the new theme

I’ve started using a new, simpler theme for my website. This is the TwentyTen theme that comes with WordPress 3.

There are a few problems I’ve noticed so far, all of which have to do with width, especially images and the events calendar. I’ll be working to get those sorted out.

Update: I tweaked the CSS to be less heavy handed with images in entries, made some pages a little narrower, and redid the events calendar entirely. More on the last item in a future blog entry.

Recategorizing the blog

When I reorganized my website and blog earlier this year, I redid the categories that I had used for five years in my older, now-archived blog. They seemed reasonable given what I usually wrote about. I went into WordPress this morning and looked at those categories and discovered that some of them had no entries at all. That is, I had designed the categories based on what I thought I would need rather than adding them as necessary. This was probably a 90% successful exercise.

I deleted those unused categories but it got me thinking about tags and categories for the blog. In truth, this has bugged me from time to time since 2004 when I began blogging. I decided I was doing something fundamentally wrong.

My error, though this might not be a problem for you, was that each blog entry could be in multiple categories and have multiple tags. This was made even worse by my daily links which threw a lot of tags and category usage into the mix, making it harder to find the core entries in, say, the Linux category.

So my new philosophy is that each entry will be in only one category. I’ve renamed some of them and have a designated one now called “Daily Links.” Over time I’ll tighten up the tags, but I will still use them more liberally. However, tags that are used in only one or two entries probably aren’t that useful, so I may delete them.

For all my attention to categories and tags, I know that the real way people find things on the blog is through search, either the one on each blog page, or one of the big external search engines. The categories and tags do go into the meta tags in the HTML, so better discipline should lead to more accurate search results.

Daily links for 10/14/2010

  • “The criticisms made in the video are not really the point – they are mostly about OpenOffice.org not being a 100% clone of Microsoft Office, and compatibility problems with Microsoft’s proprietary formats. The key issue is the exactly the same as it was for the Mindcraft benchmarks. You don’t compare a rival’s product with your own if it is not comparable. And you don’t make this kind of attack video unless you are really, really worried about the growing success of a competitor.

    Just as it did in 1999 for GNU/Linux, Apache and Samba, the company has now clearly announced that OpenOffice.org is a serious rival to Microsoft Office, and should be seriously considered by anyone using the latter.”

    tags: microsoft openoffice.org

  • “Given Sun’s failing financial fortunes, however, the possibility that Java would end up in different hands was hardly unforeseen. The question was, and to a degree still is, what the new owner meant to the fate of the technology and the ecosystem that surrounds it. Part of our answer to came Monday, when IBM shifted its Java development efforts from the Apache Harmony project to OpenJDK. To explore the implications of that, let’s turn to the Q&A.”

    tags: oracle ibm java openjdk

  • WordPress started with good usability, but a limited architecture and feature set. Drupal started with a strong architecture, but a very developer-centric user experience. But WordPress has  been steadily improving its architecture. And Drupal has been working on its UI. They had different origins, and they have taken different paths, but they are both evolving towards CMS Nirvana. And we users get to ride along.”

    tags: drupal wordpress cms

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 09/26/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Retheming the blog, again

I’m looking to change the theme of this blog and website, again. That’s not too bad for me, really, since I’ve had this look and feel for almost 10 months.

At the end of 2009 I decided to archive the blog I started in 2004 and begin anew with the latest version of WordPress and a new theme, Atahualpa. I very much liked the look of Atahualpa and I could customize it in many, many ways. I especially liked that I could have a two or three column design, since I do not want the blog-specific right hand column to be on the standalone pages. I want to thank the developers of Atahualpa, but I’m looking to replace it.

The problem is with all those options. For some time I’ve had the lingering feeling that the maintenance of the theme is more difficult than that of WordPress itself. My version of the theme is slightly backlevel and I’m nervous about upgrading it because of some of the problems I’ve seen noted in the forums. Moreover, I want to upgrade to WordPress 3.0.1 and I’m not sure that the theme is going to survive that change.

So I think it is time to switch themes. I’m going to find one that is in active development, appears to be well supported, and has a history of smooth upgrades from version to version. I know that moving to a new version of my current theme will be work, so I’m going to apply that work effort to make my overall self support of this website is easier.

I haven’t found the new theme yet. When I do move to it, the appearance of the site may be erratic for a bit while I stabilize the new look.

What’s holding back presentation software?

I can’t think of one thing I do with presentation software today other than creating PDFs that I didn’t do ten years ago.

We have Microsoft PowerPoint, we have OpenOffice.org Impress, and IBM‘s Symphony. Over on the Mac we have Keynote. Toss in a few others such as KOffice and we have the office productivity market.

These all have value to their users though if though don’t support ODF, the Open Document Format, in a first class way, I don’t care too much about them. On a regular basis I use Symphony and to a much lesser extent OpenOffice.org and Keynote.

I don’t view presentations on the web as a matter of course, though I do look at SlideShare occasionally. I probably get a dozen presentations a day for work. Unless I’m going to edit them, I want them in PDF format. Otherwise I expect ODF.

The software for creating and deploying presentations have changed very little in the sense that we create blank slides, use templates and predefined layouts, add text and images, and fiddle with fonts and colors. Depending on the application you choose, this is more or less easy.

If you were to create a new desktop presentation application from scratch, what features would you put into it? What would you do differently compared with the apps above?

I’ve addressed some of these ideas before in “Presentations: Still too hard to mix and match” and “Presentations: The death of complexity”.

Here’s an idea of what I would do. Note my usual disclaimer that these are my own opinions and not those of any IBM product group.

  • Forget backward compatibility with the Microsoft formats. I understand that for some of you this is a non-starter, but this is my app and I’m starting with a clean slate. I have no interest in supporting the huge number of features that minorities of users need. I also don’t want to support all the failed formats contained in OOXML. Therefore it all goes.
  • I would support ODF natively, but look at understanding the subset, if possible, that I would need.
  • Excellent PDF export is necessary.
  • Like applications such as Firefox and WordPress, I would have a well defined and documented architecture for extensions and hooks. The goal is to keep the core small, tight, and well understood. From there we would drive a third-party market for tools that extend the core. These could include input format filters and export plugins.
  • I would use Python as the macro language in the presentation editor.
  • While I would target the desktop, the architecture must facilitate multi-touch interfaces such as the iPad and the upcoming Android tablets.
  • I would not prioritize support for devices as small as a smartphone.
  • The display engine would be cleanly separated from the core components. For the desktop, I would start with a Linux port, then do the Mac, and finally Windows.
  • Themes and presentation documents need more metadata to make it simple to switch themes easily and accurately. That text box at the top of a slide in a big font is not assumed to be a title, it is known to be a title because of the information associated with it. This also allows me to create and manipulate presentations programmatically, even on servers. No guessing about slide structure is allowed.
  • I need to be able to manage groups of one or more slides for reuse, with versioning. It is still far too difficult to create libraries of slides and then put them together when necessary into new presentations. Slides and groups of slides need tags. For extra credit, slide groups might have suggested dependencies so you know, say, that you should not include these 4 slides without showing those other 2 first. Similarly, one group of slides might be indicated as being the in-depth expansion of another group.

What am I missing? What would you do differently?

Daily links for 08/05/2010

  • IBM and groups like the OpenAjax Alliance are launching a few initiatives to make the Internet more accessible to folks with mobility or sensory disabilities.

    The overarching theme here is that the Internet needs voice Web development and other interfaces to address 750 million people around the world with disabilities and another 900 million illiterate folks. The elderly as well as people with disabilities have largely had to sit out the Web 2.0 advances such as social networking.”

    tags: ibm open-source accessibility

  • “iVERDE™ Built on the open-source iDesktop™ client, iVERDE allows iPad and iPhone users to access VERDE Windows 7, Windows XP and Linux desktops. iVERDE is fully integrated with the VERDE distributed connection broker and user console, providing a user experience identical to any other VERDE client. iVERDE has been contributed to the open-source community under the GPL license, and is available through Apple’s AppsStore.”

    tags: verde virtual-bridges

  • WordPress

    “The use of WordPress in this case is significant because it represents one of the highest profile installations of the free, open source software. Long a favorite with smaller scale Web sites and blogs, the software was originally developed for bloggers but has expanded its capabilities to include full-scale Web site content management.”

    tags: wordpress open-source

  • “Though loudly cheered by developers when it was introduced at the 2009 Google I/O developer conference, Wave has just not been widely used. Despite a year-long beta period, no one really succeeded in finding a compelling use for the technology. It found fans as a way to interact during conferences and as a real-time collaboration tool, but these business use cases never translated into popular appeal. “

    tags: google wave

  • Boat on Blue Mountain Lake“Our two hour scenic boat cruise crosses three beautiful lakes: Blue Mountain, Eagle and Utowana. The Osprey and Neenykin, vintage 1916 launches, along with the 40′ Towahloondah perfectly complement the historical narrative spun by experienced guides. In the late 1800s, Blue Mountain Lake attracted the very wealthiest families in America as a great retreat; some of their great camps are still visible from the water. Behind the scenes, the servants and lumberjacks of the area lead to many interesting stories that give this region its rich cultural heritage. Our tour features the camps, hotels, steamboats, workers, and players in the late 1800s.”

    tags: historic tours adirondacks ny

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/30/2010

  • “Did you know that WordPress supports multiple tag queries?”

    tags: wordpress, category, tag, multiple

  • “I GARDENED WITH THE DEER FOR NEARLY A DECADE, and then I said no more. I’d sprayed, sachet-ed, blood-mealed and Milorganite-d myself into a meltdown; I just couldn’t wrap or pen or hang aluminum pie-plate mobiles or otherwise defend individual plants any longer. After all, the deer would just eat whatever wasn’t “protected,” indiscriminate feeders who were happy to move on to the next course as the previous runs out. So I finally fenced.”

    tags: garden, deer

  • “After scouring through tens of pages of dictionaries in the app store from foreign languages, slang, and bibles to medical, law, and pranks (yes, pranks), I’ve decided that the app store is in no dictionary shortage crisis at the moment. Let this AppGuide lead you in the right direction as to what English language dictionary will serve you, your situation, and your iDevice the best.”

    tags: ipad, apps, dictionary

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/23/2010

  • “In this morning’s Red Hat Summit sessions, Jean Staten Healy and Bob Sutor of IBM presented on the solutions that communities around the world are implementing using Linux as a catalyst for a smarter planet.”

    tags: linux, red-hat, smarter-planet

  • WordPress became popular by making it as simple as possible to publish a personal blog. Along the way, the project has become a hit not only with personal bloggers, but with publishers as well. WordPress 3.0 comes to terms with its new audience by adding features that are better suited to content management systems than personal Weblogs. The question for most users is whether WordPress 3.0 can scale to handle the big dogs while still retaining the simplicity for single-user blogs that has fueled WordPress growth since its inception in 2003.”

    tags: wordpress, blog

  • “The company’s results have held up well in recent quarters, thanks to the bulk of its revenue being either recurring or subscription-based. Red Hat’s core Linux product is free, but the company makes its money on providing maintenance and support to corporations and large organizations who use it to operate computers.

    Chief Executive Officer Jim Whitehurst said Tuesday that the company had a strong start the year, highlighting its growth in organic revenue and income. He said that the number of large deals booked was up significantly from the year-earlier period, including several with an initial consulting component that the company sees as an indicator of new project spending and future subscription billings.”

    tags: red-hat, linux

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 06/18/2010

  • “Normally this is where I’d say we’re about to start work on 3.1, but we’re actually not. We’re going to take a release cycle off to focus on all of the things around WordPress. The growth of the community has been breathtaking, including over 10.3 million downloads of version 2.9, but so much of our effort has been focused on the core software it hasn’t left much time for anything else. Over the next three months we’re going to split into ninja/pirate teams focused on different areas of the around-WordPress experience, including the showcase, Codex, forums, profiles, update and compatibility APIs, theme directory, plugin directory, mailing lists, core plugins, wordcamp.org… the possibilities are endless.”

    tags: wordpress, blog

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

12 days with an iPad

Twelve days ago I got a new iPad with WiFi and 3G and promptly took it on a one week business trip to Europe. Generally, I think it lived up to its hype and is quite elegant. I very much like the choice of apps and I’m excited about what the changes to the UI will mean to software and the industry. Coupled with the upcoming tablets based on open source, I think competition will drive some real innovation in this space.

There are two areas where I repeatedly found myself thinking that the tablet was less convenient than a laptop: multitasking and text editing for my blog.

It is well known that the iPad does not do multitasking in general, though the Apple apps can do it. This means that generally when you move from one app to another, the first saves state and shuts down. When you want to go back to that first one, it restarts and lets you reload your data. This is not fast nor convenient, and gets tiresome quickly. I don’t mind the one-app-per-screen rule, but the slow context shifting hurts productivity. Better multitasking will come later this year, though it will not be the same as we used to on modern operating systems like Linux or OS X.

The second area, text editing, is just awkward. When I create a blog entry I often include links, lists, and some special formatting. This involves selecting text, copying, opening forms, pasting, and so forth. Copying text from one app to another can be slow because of the multitasking, but the general browser-based interfaces such as the WordPress admin and editing panels have been tuned for mice and full keyboards, not fingers. Coupled with not being able to use social bookmarking sites like Diigo in an easy way means that I won’t be doing much on my iPad for my blog for some time, other than the really easy things like approving comments.

Things I do like are the interfaces for music, App Store, video, the Kindle App, maps, and some games like Scrabble. Using a browser with a screen that’s big enough to see a lot of the page is a big improvement over the iPhone. Safari on the iPad needs tabs, again for speed of switching.

Daily links for 04/23/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 03/30/2010

Novell gecko

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Presentations: The death of complexity

I don’t know about you, but the presentations I create today are much simpler in design than those I created ten years ago. For example, I now never create presentations that include

  • animation and builds
  • slide transitions
  • sound
  • video

Any presentation I create today that will be shared with others ultimately ends up as a PDF file. Therefore the above features won’t necessarily work nor do I think they really add much other than being distractions.

I do care about

  • good support for templates, including the ability to efficiently change templates and merge parts of presentations that use different templates
  • precise and easy placement of presentation slide elements
  • translation to compact and full fidelity PDF files

Note that the best presentation software can allow people to create truly ugly slides. Conversely, someone who is a true presentation artist can use crummy software to create pretty good slides, at least some of the time.

So just how much is really needed to create and represent presentations like those above? For the representation question, an appropriate query would be “what subset of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) is necessary to include all the information necessary, and nothing more?’.

The creation side can vary quite a bit. Assuming you are using ODF, it would be possible though tedious to use a text editor and command line tools to create a file. I wouldn’t want to do that and would expect something with a better user interface to make slide creation and reuse easy.

Because of all the features they need to support, I think most presentation software is overkill when it comes to creating my kinds of presentations. They do much more than I need.

On the other hand, I’ve been very impressed with the progress made in visual editors in Web 2.0 software such as WordPress. While not truly WYSIWYG, they visually support features such as tables, lists, font styling, and images. Within five years I expect them to have much better support for CSS while editing, and hence be even closer to the final browser rendering while the document is being created.

This begs the questions:

  • By 2020 will current presentation formats and software be completely obsolete?
  • Will we instead be using HTML 5 and CSS to hold the content, structural, semantic, and formatting information?
  • Can we use in-browser applications to create and show beautiful slides?
  • Can we move to something simpler and without the legacy baggage?

If we do this, move to something more minimal that still allows us to create beautiful but static slides, we can then start adding back in some of the features that HTML 5 will support.

Browsers as well as software like Drupal, WordPress, and fully formatted email have significantly reduced the need for word processors. I think presentation software will be the next category of productivity application to be affected, with spreadsheets coming last.

Also see:

Daily links for 03/07/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 02/07/2010

  • “Have you ever watched a BBQ cook-off on television, or gone to one of these live events and thought that judges at these events had the best job in the world? Well they do. However, to get one of these coveted non-paying positions you have to become a Certified BBQ Judge, and this article will show you just how easy it is to meet this requirement.”

    tags: bbq

  • “BuddyPress is a bundled collection of plugins and themes for creating a social network service around an installation of the popular open source blog engine WordPress MU.”

    tags: buddypress, wordpress, social-networking

  • “The OpenLuna Foundation seeks to return mankind to the lunar surface, first through robotic missions, followed by manned exploration, culminating in an eight person permanent outpost, and to do all of this in a way that it is accessible to everyone. Our research and technology will be open-source, we are privately funded, and one of our specific goals is to reach out to the community and educational systems to spread interest, enthusiasm, and involvement.”

    tags: space, luna

  • “Now, the author is quick to point out the caveats of the graph (and does so for four paragraphs), and notes that he was hesitant to even publish it because of how easy it is to misinterpret. The graph, while it shows commits, doesn’t weigh more important ones versus less important ones. Nor does it in any way measure the ways in which companies or individuals contribute to WebKit in other meaningful ways. That said, it does clearly show that in late 2009, Google surpassed Apple as the company that now contributes the most (again, in terms of commits) to the project.”

    tags: apple, google, chrome, safari, browser, webkit

  • “The Linux and open source community does not want to find itself back where it was in the mid-to-late 90’s, where it was relegated to servers and the desktops of fan-boys and uber-geeks. This is not where Linux wants to be. The last five years has blessed Linux with so much growth. But if Linux can not gain a foothold in the tablet PC market, that growth could wither away.”

    tags: linux, tablet

  • “It’s been a long time in the coming but this year Linux will get a makeover, thanks to the Gnome project. In September the Gnome team, makers of one of the most popular desktop interfaces for Linux, will release version 3.0 of their desktop environment and they are promising “big user-visible changes”.”

    tags: linux, gnome

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 02/05/2010

  • “Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, announced today that open source industry veteran Matt Asay has joined the company as chief operating officer (COO) — responsible for aligning strategic goals and operational activities, the optimization of day-to-day operations, and leadership of Canonical marketing and back-office functions.”

    tags: canonical, ubuntu, linux, alfresco

  • “Right after WordPress launched their Android app, the WP crew finished the final touches on their Blackberry app that rivals the one they built upon Google’s mobile OS.”

    tags: wordpress, blackberry

  • “Most of this information is based on my experience working on Second Life at Linden Lab from 2001 to 2009. SL is a highly complex virtual world, incorporating the features of Web services, online games, 3D modeling and programming tools, IM and VOIP, and so on. Between 2006 and 2007, the userbase grew dramatically, and while it has become more manageable, it continues to grow today. We ran into all manner of scaling challenges, and had mixed success meeting them; ultimately SL did grow to meet the new levels of demand, but we certainly made some mistakes, and there were periods where the reliability of the system really suffered.”

    tags: second-life, datacenter

  • “(GIMP) is undergoing a significant transformation. The next major release, version 2.8, will introduce an improved user interface with an optional single-window mode. Although this update is still under heavy development, users can get an early look by compiling the latest source code of the development version from the GIMP’s version control repository.”

    tags: gimp, linux

  • “The Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VW-BPE) is a community-based conference that provides opportunities for participants of virtual worlds to share current teaching, learning and research practices in 3D virtual environments. Conference presentations focus on teaching/learning, scholarly work, projects, events, activities and new and innovative tools for virtual education. Conference presenters’ focus on the identification of ‘best practices in education’ designed for 3D virtual world technology.”

    tags: second-life, virtual-world, education

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What would ODF support for WordPress look like?

WordPress logo

I was having a conversation today with a friend and somehow we got onto the topic of support for ODF, the Open Document Format, in WordPress. Drupal has some import support for ODF word processing files and that effort appears to be quite active (in the sense that there was an update to the module yesterday).

Thinking of WordPress as a content management system, importing an ODF file means taking a word processing, presentation, or spreadsheet document and putting into a form that can be saved and displayed by WordPress, either in a blog post or a standalone page. For simple text, this would mean translating to HTML. Doing a bit more work, it could mean using HTML and CSS for formatting. Getting even fancier, it could incorporate extra JavaScript or PHP code to handle spreadsheets in a live manner.

Import is hard because you need to be able to do something with anything that’s in any document. If you can’t handle something, you had better tell the user what you decided to discard. A minimal import for word processing files, as I mentioned above, might respect all words in the text, paragraph structure, bold, italic, colors, headings, and a few other simple things. In this case I would think of the import as “take this file and do something sensible, if not perfect, with it.”

Export is easier to imagine. Given the range of things that can be done in WordPress posts and pages, I would think that only a relatively small subset of ODF would be needed beyond the packaging and some straightforward text markup. Here I would take as my model “what would this WordPress page look like if I printed it, and what ODF file would I have to create to generate equivalent output?”

Given this, I would tackle the export to ODF feature first, but there is a core question that needs to be answered. Why? That is, given a web page generated by WordPress, why do you need to generate ODF form? I must admit I’m somewhat strapped to come up with good reasons, though I could probably make up a couple.

It is more interesting to consider how to take documents created in ODF by something like Lotus Symphony and then import them into WordPress for publishing. That’s the key word: publishing. So though the problem is harder, having various ways of importing documents into WordPress from ODF would likely be much more useful.

Assuming this as the preferred direction of work and looking at how WordPress can be extended, it’s worthwhile to ask what you might do with plugins or themes to make the import even better. While I like the idea of the result being theme independent, having one or two plugins that added some cool support for imported spreadsheets or presentations could potentially be quite nice.

My new WordPress theme

Atahualpa screenshot

After working through a lot of issues with my website over the December holidays, I started to look for a more modern and, frankly, better looking theme. After trying a dozen or so, I finally settled on Atahualpa.

This theme had almost all the features I was looking for:

  • Variable number of columns, so I could use two for full pages and three for those with blog entries.
  • Customizable logo and header images.
  • Built-in CSS support for printing.
  • A professional looking design.

It doesn’t have automatic page navigation, but I can live with that for now. The theme has many ways to tweak it and allows you to “tiger stripe” tables (that is, alternate the color of rows). I turned this off, but it clearly represents a tremendous amount of work and refinement.

Incidentally, I generated the photos used in the header from images in my collection of screen wallpapers and backgrounds.

Checking broken links in WordPress blogs

I just installed the Broken Link Checker plugin. It scans your blog entries and pages and gives you an nice report and way to fix any links that end up in the great web void rather than honest web pages.

Though I installed it for this, my current blog, I was mostly curious what it would say for my archived blog, which has over 3000 entries created over 5 1/2 years. I was nervous, in fact, because I was afraid that I would have to spend a lot of time tracking down and fixing links that were no longer valid.

The good news is that there are only 16 broken links. The bad news is that of the few I quickly checked, I can’t find web addresses that are valid and current. That is, the old content is either gone or is now so well hidden that I can’t locate it. This happens, of course, but is rather sad somehow. Some of the online articles were no longer there because they were from now defunct newspapers. A couple of MIA links were from major IT trades and, if I remember correctly, vanished after some company mergers.

Should you be thinking of moving your content, learn about “redirection,” the way to tell your site where to go when it gets a request for a page that has been moved. This can be done at several levels, from the Apache .htaccess file, to some HTML, PHP, or even via a WordPress plugin. There are other ways to do it as well, depending on how your site is built.

Think twice before casting your content, and your links, into the web void.

The great website reorganization of 2010

WordPress logo

Well, I did it. Over the end of December, 2009, holiday break I took about 15 hours to do what I considered a much needed website reorganization.

Here are the highlights:

  • Modified my WordPress theme to have printing CSS support and a two column full page PHP template.
  • Split the website into two WordPress installations, one for the older, archived blog material and one for the current blog.
  • Moved all pages that were in Drupal into the new WordPress installation and set up .htaccess redirects for all the old Drupal pages. While Drupal is still present, all access attempts to pages should go to the new WordPress pages. In a few months I’ll delete the Drupal installation as I have no further plans for it.
  • Started moving auxiliary files like images and Mint into more standardized locations higher up in the site hierarchy. The rest of the work on this is lower priority and will be done as time permits over the next few months.
  • Started cleaning up the archived blog and adding some links to the current blog. The widgets used in the new and archived blog are similar, but the latter is simpler and encourages people to go to the new blog. I’ve greatly extended the time that entries in the archived blog are cached.

    Aside: I find it really annoying to find errors in old blog entries. I wish someone had mentioned them if they had seen them.

I’ve talked elsewhere about some of my frustrations with using both WordPress and Drupal on this site. It was a worthy experiment to learn both technologies but, in the end, I was able to make WordPress do everything I wanted, with a few caveats (see below).

Why did I do this? I found …

  • … it untenable to have two content management systems with two similar but different themes. Now I can use WordPress and the same theme for both installations, any employ WordPress plugins. I may use different plugins, but at least they have the same technology base.
  • … that I was spending more time fiddling with my CMSs (content management systems) and not enough time creating new content, blog or otherwise.
  • … the size of the older WordPress installation (over 3000 entries and 3000) comments was making it excruciatingly slow to work with, even with caching.

What else does WordPress need to be useful for page-based content management?

  • Built-in support for wide pages for non-blog content in themes.
  • Built-in CSS support for printing (and eventually mobile styles) in themes.
  • Page hierarchy navigation at least as good as but preferably much better than what Drupal has.
  • Anything else that I’ve complained about before. (grin)

Finally some words of advice to the Drupal community: You really need to provide exemplary import of WordPress blogs if you want to move more people to your platform, no matter how many others are adopting it (e.g., the White House). You shouldn’t say it’s non-core, you shouldn’t say “somebody in the community will do it if they want to,” you need to make it easy, complete, and elegant. I know there are some import modules out there, but unless you can handle things like intra-blog links, automatic category and tag taxonomy creation, and generated redirects from the WordPress structure to the new Drupal structure, you won’t get people to move sizable blogs over.

That said, if I were starting from scratch I would certainly consider using Drupal, but WordPress is not only an excellent blogging platform, it is becoming a very capable CMS. It works for me.