Mobile Linux

A lot has been written about mobile and embedded device platforms lately (aka. ‘phone’ platforms). Usually articles are about the usual incumbent platforms: Android, IOS, and Windows Phone and the handful of alternatives from e.g. RIM and others. Most of the debate seems to revolve around the question whether IOS will crush Android, or the other way around. Kind of a boring debate that generally involves a lot of fan boys from either camp highlighting this or that feature, the beautiful design, and other stuff.

Recently this three way battle (or two way battle really, depending on your views regarding Windows Phone), has gotten a lot more interesting. However, my in view this ‘war’ was actually concluded nearly a decade ago before it even started and mobile linux won in a very unambiguous way. What is really interesting is how this is changing the market right now.

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WordPress sandbox theme

If you are one of the handful of people not visiting this site for the first time (i.e. less than 10% of visitors), you’ll notice that for the first time since I installed wordpress, I’m not running the default theme anymore. Basically one of my reasons for installing wordpress was that despite enjoying the fiddling with html and css I got a bit tired of working around IE and mozilla incompatibilities, the many limitations of CSS and all the weird issues you run into when trying to achieve perfectly simple things like three column layouts. If you are interested in this stuff, there are several nice sites where you can read a lot of stuff about these issues.

Now, instead of getting my hands dirty, I decided to install the sandbox theme for wordpress available at plaintxt.org. This is somewhat of an experiment for me, basically my requirement is that the thing shouldn’t break down if I roll out upgrades for wordpress in the future. I simply want to keep that process as simple as possible: upload new wordpress php files and run the upgrade php script.

Basically, developing a wordpress theme means that these things become non trivial since with every update the theme needs to be tested again.

The sandbox theme has a few nice characteristics:

  • It is skinnable using ordinary CSS (i.e. like the good people at W3C have intended all web sites to be skinnable).
  • It generates particularly nice HTML. This always annoyed me in default wordpress and sort of took away my motivation to do something about making it look nicer in the browser.
  • Including nice little microformat class names for html elements where that makes a lot of sense.
  • It’s quite popular which means lots of people use it (so it is well tested) and which also means that it is likely to be updated as wordpress evolves.

Rather than develop my own CSS file for wordpress, I’ve decided to just pick one of the defaults that come with sandbox. I like the spartan skin since it is minimalistic and also tries to improve readability of the actual text. Overall it is quite nice to work with. Adding alternative sandbox css skins is particularly easy and I might actually do that since the spartan look is not quite minimalistic enough for my taste and also has a handful of issues with too small margins and paddings. On the other hand, I said the same about the wordpress theme when I migrated my blog to wordpress over a year ago (i.e. never happened). We’ll see what happens.

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 :-).

JQWeb

JQWeb is a software package for creating and running webquestionaires. You can create questionaires with JQWebEdit, save them as an XML file. The XML file can then be read by the JQWebServlet which produces an HTML form. The response of the form is processed by another servlet which simply appends it to a textfile. This textfile can than be read by JQWebEdit for analysis. Currently the only analysis supported is converting to tab separated format for easy importing in spreadsheet programs but more complex analysis strategies are on my to-do list. JQWeb is available under LGPL so you can change it as much as you like. And change you should because I never bothered to finish the program.