Browsers

Normally when I play with a new browser (like a few weeks ago when I tried out Flock 1.0) I usually post at least something. In the past week I played with no less than three new browsers.

I started out by installing opera mini 4.0 on my N95. Earlier versions of this program were already quite nice and I used it a lot on my E70 before I switched to the N95. This new version adds some impressive features again. Overall quite nice but I’ll probably use the S60 browser on my N95 most of the time regardless.

The second browser I played with was Apple’s Safari 3.0.4 beta. Unlike earlier betas, this one is actually quite usable and stable. I think the UI stinks and feels really awkward on windows but aside from that it is a fine browser. My main issue with it after a few hours of browsing was that I started missing my firefox extensions and some of its behavior. Additionally the fonts it uses are different from what I’m used to and I’m not sure I like the way it renders them. It uses its own antialiasing which gives a weird smudgy look to the fonts. But to be honest, I think I could get used to using Safari full time. A nice bonus feature is that it integrates Bonjour support. This is really useful because as you may have deduced from some recent publications on my publications site, I’m working with mdns based service discovery mechanisms at work. So I installed this at work and my aptly named foobar.local N800 portal website showed up in the windows Safari browser. Cool!

Speaking of Firefox, I just switched over to 3.0 Beta1 released last night. I’ve been using it all evening and it seems a quite nice upgrade. Most of the feature work is not that important to me but the performance work is really noticeable. I’ve caught myself several times already thinking “hey this used to be slow/laggy”. It’s mostly subtle differences of course and not having most of my extensions (due to lack of 3.0 port) is great for performance probably. But still, works great and seems really stable so far.

To compensate for the loss of extensions I was able to enable the most essential ones using the nightly tester tools. This allows you to override the version check. Since in many cases, a version bumb was all that was needed, many extensions work fine. So far I have just enabled del.icio.us support. What would be really nice is a new version of that that integrates with the new places system in Firefox. Until that happens, I’m posting to del.icio.us using the old extension.

A bit of a disappointment is that none of the exciting stuff regarding ms cardspace, openid and microformats that was more or less promised a few months ago, has made it into this release. There’s no openid support, microformat features are not integrated and I have not found any UI for MS Cardspace either. It could be that this is due in later betas. There is probably still a few months until the final release.

Feature wise, most of the changes are minor tweaks and most of those were not in Alpa 7 that I tried when it was released in October?. The biggest change is the new places functionality which is nice except (as mentioned) that I use del.icio.us instead of bookmarks so this not something I will use a lot. The rest of the changes are quite nice but not that essential changes to stuff like the downloads windows, various settings screens and the url bar. For the rest it is good old Firefox, and what’s wrong with that? Next betas will introduce an updated theme. I was less than enthusiastic last time they changed it and still am rather indifferent to the 2.0 theme, so lets see what comes out.

Anyhow, unless something major crops up, I’m keeping this as my main browser.

Flock

I just installed Flock – The Social Web Browser. Right now I’m trying out the blog editor included with it to write this little review. To cut the review short, I’m planning uninstalling it after publishing this post.

Lets just start by saying that this feels like a nice bunch of concepts and potentially useful Firefox extensions but not as a drop in Firefox replacement. Besides, the default theme feels rather amateurish and I already miss my dozen Firefox extensions. And while I am pleased that it supports Facebook, I find the lack of support for much else a bit disappointing. For example, I’m also on Linked in; phib; claimid. I have several openid logins; I use several Google services, including reader, gmail and calendar. All of these are unsupported by the self proclaimed social web browser. Hell, it doesn’t even integrate webmail from e.g. google, yahoo or microsoft (I have accounts with all three). You can find an overview of social networking sites I use on my blog: http://blog.jillesvangurp.com/my-other-sites/. Most of the stuff there is unsupported by Flock.

An exception seems del.icio.us. However, the extension functionality I get in Firefox is much better than the bundled del.icio.us support in Flock which is rather useless. Similarly, the blog editor is nice but nothing I can’t get using several Firefox extensions. I suppose the facebook sidebar is nice, but again there is also a firefox extension for that.

A rather novel feature seems to be the media bar. However, in its current incarnation it is limited to harvesting media from just a handful of popular sites like facebook (again), youtube and flickr. That’s nice but not all that useful to me.

So overall I have a bit mixed feelings. On one hand, this feels like a polished product, on the other hand there’s not much that I can’t get installing a few Firefox extensions. With Firefox 3 around the corner, I’m not planning to use Flock 1.0 based on the old Firefox without most of the extensions I can’t do without. Nevertheless, there’s some good ideas that I would like to see adopted in the form of Firefox extensions.

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semantic vs Semantic

Interesting post on how microformats relate to the Semantic web as envisioned by the w3c.

The capital S is semantically relevant since it distinguishes it from the lower case semantic web that microformats are all about. The difference is that the Semantic web requires technology that has been defined by the w3c but is not currently available in any mainstream products such as for example web browsers that people use to browse the current web. This technologies include RDF, the OWL query language, XHTML 1.x and 2.x and a few other rather obscure “standards” that you won’t find on a typical end user PC or web server. I use quotes around the word standard here because I don’t believe the W3C to be very effective in transferring its recommended standards over to industry in a proper way.
Continue reading “semantic vs Semantic”

OpenID & Microformats in WordPress

The good news is that Will Norris is making progress with his openid plugin. Once he puts up a release, I’m probably going to give it a try.

The bad news is that the wordpress bug database still lists as a main reason to not support openid that support is provided by third party plugins. I think this is rubbish.

First of all, they’ve broken those plugins several times with wordpress updates. Secondly, the reason they break is that authentication is rather critical to how wordpress security works (i.e. it is kind of non trivial to do properly). This is why I’d like first class support for OpenID rather than second class we currently get. And finally most of the plugins appear to be abandon-ware (they once were excellent hobby projects but people seem to have moved on with their lives) and there are no release quality openid plugins for wordpress 2.2 and higher. Will Norris seems to have adopted one of the abandoned plugins (which is very nice of him) but as discussed, I’d prefer a bit more structural solution in terms of support, testing and integration. What I’d really like is the wordpress guys getting off their ass and provide first class support for openid like the Drupal guys are doing. I hope his plugin will get some nice exposure and will eventually be picked up by the wordpress guys as something to properly integrate into wordpress.

In general, the wordpress people seem to be a bit reluctant to pick up new blog technology lately. For example, I’m using the barthelme theme which supports a number microformats and semantically structured html. Barthelme basically provides searchengines, microformat plugins and other semantic tools with a shitload of hooks to extract information from the blog. That is sort of hidden for ordinary users but kind of rapidly becoming crucial to the whole notion of web 2.0 Sorry for sounding superficial, I hate this 2.0 bullshit as much as anyone (forget about a web20 tag on this site).

Tag support in wordpress is a nice first step and it should be noted that they do it properly. Also, there seem to be patches in the bug database for hcard and hatom support. It would be great if these changes actually make it into 2.4 instead of just floating around (like they’ve been doing for some time). Also nice would be extending atom feed support to the default template. This still defaults to listing only rss feeds, despite the fact that Atom Pub has prominently featured on the last few wordpress release notes (2.2.2 and 2.3) and that backend support for Atom 1.0 feeds has been present for quite some time now. Guys: It’s just one line of text to fix! Get it in already!

xampp, skype and port 80

For some time I’ve been considering setting up some php development environment. Not that I like php but I want to play with some php stuff nevertheless (e.g. Drupal seems interesting). So I downloaded one of the popular all in one packages that combine apache, mysql and php: xampp. I have actually set up apache, mysql and php manually once on windows and know that it is A) doable and B) very tedious, hence the integrated package this time.

Xampp sure makes it really easy. Download, install, run xampp configuration tool, start mysql … green, start apache … ???!??!!! WTF, it won’t start. So I go to localhost with the browser, blank page instead of the expected error. So I check my processes list, no sign of httpd. Now this is weird, some process is definitely listening on port 80. So, I run netstat to find out who is guilty of this crime. It turns out that skype is actually listening on port 80 for some stupid reason. That just sucks. Luckily there’s an option in the skype preferences to turn it off but still, don’t open port 80 if you are not a web server.

Anyway, problem fixed and 2 minutes later I’ve created a database using phpmyadmin and installed drupal 5.2 and configured it. That’s just what I wanted: 2 minutes of work and *poof* instant website.

In case you are wondering, yes I am considering to dump wordpress. The reason is the lack of clear progress in getting proper openid, atompub and microformats support in wordpress. You can all sort of bolt it onto a wordpress install but not without editing php and default templates (and this tends to break during upgrades, i.e. every 2-3 months). Drupal seems much more feature rich and configurable than wordpress and it sure is tempting. Concerns I have include import/export of data (including e.g. uploads); openid support; comment & referral spam blocking; etc.

Update.

After playing with drupal 5.2 and a development snapshot of 6.0, I’ve decided not to migrate because simply the migration is too hard currently. There is only a seriously outdated module for drupal 4.7 which can only migrate wordpress version 2.0. In other words, this is unlikely to work for my blog without a lot of tinkering. Additionally, moving from drupal to something else is likely not exactly trivial either. I migrated from pivot to wordpress early 2006. That was quite painless since wordpress has excellent import feature. Drupal lacks such features and wordpress has no Drupal import as far as I know (would be hard due to the generic node datastructure in drupal).

BTW. I’ve spent some time researching the topic. This link here is the most informative I was able to find: http://drupal.org/node/69706. Be sure to also check the comments.

I’ve taken a brief look at joomla too. Interesting product but not really designed for Blogs. Overall, I’m pretty happy with wordpress. It’s just that I want proper openid support.

links for 2007-08-07