Microformats

I’ve been reading a lot about web 2.0, microformats and the social/semantic/whatever web lately and decided to start supporting some of this stuff on my blog. Specific actions I took:

  • I use the XFN features that come with word press in my links to people I know in the sidebar. I’ve been doing this for a while
  • I joined del.ico.us and added links from that site to my sidebar using the javascript they provide and the nice widgets plugin for wordpress that allows me to mess with the sidebar.
  • I installed the structured blogging plugin (read my hReview compliant review of that).
  • I converted my contact page to be hCard compliant. I wrote it by hand and pasted the HTML but you can also do this using the hCard creator. A nice feature is the download vCard link which converts the hCard to a vCard.

This enables a number of interesting features. For example the tails extension icon now detects stuff on my page; technorati picks up my reviews, etc. Btw. use your favorite search engine to look up most of the terms above, I’m not going to add 20 or so links to this post :-o. Of course this post is highly buzzword compliant so you might have found your way here using some of those words in a search query :-).

Structured Blogging Test

Rating: 2 out of 5
I just installed a plugin for wordpress that allows me to write blog posts in a structured way and ensures that such posts comply with all sorts of microformats. The main benefit of this is that it facilitates automatic processing by sites such as technorati.com and many others, which understand these formats.

The installation procedure is basically dump files all over the place in the wordpress directory and then activate the plugin in the wordpress UI. Easy but it would have been nicer if the plugin would just have its own directory in the wordpress plugins directory.

The user interface of the plugin integrates with the wordpress administator UI. Under the write menu I now have a whole bunch of new options for creating reviews, events, lists, etc. The text editor for the review plugin which I am using to write this review appears to be just a textarea instead of the rich text editor that comes default with wordpress. This is of course annoying, especially if I want to use links or bullet lists. Writing all the tags manually sort of sucks. The rest of the user interface sort of is intuitive but too elaborate. It would have been nicer to have this more integrated with the write post UI. That is probably more difficult to implement but it is much more user friendly.

So I’m giving this 3 2 stars out of 5. It’s a nice plugin to have but there’s the integration issues and the issue with putting files where they don’t belong on my server. Lets see what happens if I click publish.

Update: it looks like it worked. It looks quite nice and the edit link below, which you don’t see since you don’t have write access to this site, works as expected: it brings up the review editor rather than the default wordpress edit UI.

Tags: microformats wordpress
Update 2: I just removed it for the following reason: it doesn’t seem to use the ping facilities in wordpress. Instead it forces you to create an account on a site called outputthis.org. The site is very brief on what it is all about and I don’t feel like creating an account there when I have a perfectly fine working pingomatic already. As explained in this lengthy rant, these structured blogging guys have their own agenda. I don’t feel like endorsing their services (at least until I know what they are) and without pingomatic being pinged I have no use for their plugin. So I’m removing it.

Update 3: I also removed the semantic formatting since it was screwing up my page layout.

Citizendium – horrible name but good idea

Slashdot reported on the creation of Citizendium by wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger. Citizendium is planning to do this specifically to impose some level of quality control. I’ve read through the plan currently on the website and it looks quite reasonable. Essentially it creates a layer of expert editors on top of the regular anonymous editors that do much of the grunt work in wikipedia. Expert editors are people with established, recognized backgrounds in particular topics. They must disclose their identity + verifiable credentials in order to get the status of expert editor. The idea seems to be that in case of conflicts, expert editors decide.
Like many users, I’m pretty fond of wikipedia. I am also aware of its limitations with respect to quality. Wikipedia and the associated community grew rapidly over the past few years. However the slightly anarchistic model that drives this growth ensures that has the disadvantage that the work of more knowledgeable individuals in the community can be damaged (intentionally and unintentionally) by unfortunate edits. This problem is real, not imagined, and it affects the quality of many wikipedia articles. I was reading an interesting article on mathematics the other day (brushing up some rusty skills and long forgotten concepts) which looked like somebody spent a lot of time on it. The current model of wikipedia makes it possible for people to add/change that article. However, I’d hate to see any non trivial edits in that particular article by someone without a solid mathematics background (e.g. me).

For all practical purposes wikipedia is rightly conservative in changing the way they operate. After all they have so far been very successful. Forking therefore seems a good way to experiment with new collaboration strategies. Forking does not need to be permanent, unlike source code it’s actually pretty easy to do some form of controlled synchronizing or even merging of articles. Branching might be a more appropriate name. Both branches will be able to benefit from work in the other branch.

rediculous clause

Ok, I’m considering to buy a RAID 5 external drive. If you have no clue what I mean by that, stop reading. Anyway, one of the products that seems interesting is the Lacie S1S 2TB which is a nice setup that includes four hot swappable 500GB drives.

Now here’s the catch (straight from the manual):
Caution! Do NOT attempt to replace a hard disk yourself. Removing a hard disk from a Drive Bay will void the
warranty.

Eh, excuse me? The whole point of buying a raid 5 setup is being able to fix a disk failure by replacing it with a new one without powering down the unit (which according to another quote in the same manual is an extremely bad idea in the event of disk failure). So I guess no Lacie for me (hey that rimes!).

Actually I’m looking for a simple setup that:

  • uses little power (It’s going to be inactive pretty much most of the time).
  • makes no/little noise (it’s going to be in my living room)
  • comes without drives (so I can install some myself)
  • is easy to maintain, particularly in the eventuality of drive failure
  • is easy to connect (USB 2 or gigabit ethernet).
  • allows for at least four drives (more is better)
  • supports raid 5 (I want my data to survive failure of 1 disk)
  • is reliable as hell (I several drives currently and am terrified of the day they will fail)

Tips are welcome. Right now I am seriously interested in the Synology CS-406, which gets a really good review at Tom’s hardware. The price is reasonable and it seems to meet all the listed criteria above and it comes with a whole bunch of very cool additional features.

Itunes 7

I installed itunes 7 with some mixed feelings yesterday: I was fully aware that it was not working as advertised for some people. Prior to installing I read about various issues people were having with disappearing files, crashes and sound quality. I had a good reason for upgrading anyway: version 6 never really worked well for me. Just yesterday I just couldn’t launch it. The process would start and then claim 100% of one of my cpu cores but no UI would appear. Not even after waiting 15 minutes. This happened several times to me already. Probably it is some weird conflict between quicktime and my hardware/drivers.
So I figured version 7 probably wasn’t as bad or at least couldn’t get much worse. So, I fired up my backup script that syncs my music library with an external HD. After that I killed the itunes processes and fired up the installer. Pleasant surprise: everything worked. I was sort of bracing myself for random crashes but there weren’t any. Lucky me. If it wouldn’t have worked, I would have been able to roll back to version 6 (several posts in the forums explain how).
So on to the review. Itunes 7, unlike version 6, is a major upgrade with several nice new features and small adjustments to the user interface. I like the changes. My favorite one is album art fetching from itunes (I signed up just for this feature) and the ability to flip through your albums graphically is just real nice. It just works ™. Other nice touches include gapless playback (great for listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon), the new ipod screen which is selectable if you plug your ipod in, integration of podcast settings when you select the podcast screen.

One thing I would like is to be able to exclude compilations from the album view for the obvious reason that they are not albums (hence, no artwork or the wrong artwork!). Also I have a lot of shit there that I almost never listen to and which I don’t want to see when browsing my carefully collected albums (all properly tagged, naturally).

But overall I can’t think of anything negative and it didn’t eat my mp3s either! The latter seems to have to do more with luck than anything else. The Apple forums are full of stories of not so lucky people. But once apple fixes the bugs this is definitely a release to look forward to. If you install it, do it like me with a plan B.

Places where I lived (2)

A few months ago I posted a set of placemarks with all the places where I ever lived marked in Google Earth. Last week, Google updated the imagery for the entire Netherlands so I had to revisit those places and found that in a few cases some adjustments were needed. Most of the places are now clearly recognizable and in most cases I tried to position the placemarks roughly where my bed would have been (as far as I can remember): Places where I used to live