Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

March

16

by Kaj Kandler

Tonight I happened to read an article that made a claim about the BestBuy.com website and its use of certain semantic web technology. I was curious how they employed the technology so I looked at one of their web pages for a random TV.

I was amused that even such a large retailer could make some simple mistakes. I found numerous places where invalid HTML was used, due to using reserved characters in regular text. Proper HTML should use substitues called entities. The error is triggered by a TV’s screen size being measured in Inches, which is often expressed with the double quote sign (“). However the double quote is a reserved character in HTML and so needs to be replaced by " where ever it is used.

Here are a few examples from BestBuy.com

<meta name="keywords" content="DYNEX, 42" Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV, DX-42E250A12, 30"+ Televisions, Televisions" />
<meta name="description" content="DYNEX 42" Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV: 2 HDMI inputs; 1080p resolution; 160-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles" />


<li class="property included-item">Dynex&#153; 42" Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV</li>

Its funny that the page encodes one special character properly (the Trademark symbol as ™), but not the other. But then in other places it messes up the trademark symbol and encodes the double quote correctly

<meta content="Dynexâ„¢ 42&quot; Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV" itemprop="name"/>

As it happens this error is in the area of code I was interested in. And yes, in one place both are correct.

<title>
Dynex&#153; - 42&#34; Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV - DX-42E250A12</title>

If you read the source code it is peppered with things like tracking codes and semantic web data to make it attractive for search engines and other programs that analyze code automatically. I think these encoding mistakes do mitigate those efforts to a certain degree.

For that reason I check all (most of) my pages with an HTML syntax validator. Not that I correct all mistakes, because most browsers can handle some of the mistakes just fine (including this one, except for the third example). However, every browser (and other programs reading HTML, such as search engine crawlers) is different in their ability to handle invalid code. So I try to take as little chances as necessary.

January

03

by Kaj Kandler

I recently decided to replace the lucene based search engine on Plan-B for OpenOffice.org with a Google Custom Search engine. At first glance this seems to be an easy task. Remove the old code and replace it with some Google Java scripts. However this is not how it turned out to be.
I targeted a layout, where the search box is part of the general navigation menu bar and results appear on their own page. However the HTML/CSS code generated by Google is rather inflexible. The two page template came the closest as it generates two separate code snippets, one for the search box and button and one for the search results.
So I had to add some CSS to make the divs and its generated child elements inline elements

div#cse-search-form {
display: inline-block;
zoom: 1;
...
}
div#cse-search-form * {
display: inline;
...
}

Another inconvenience is that the JavaScript includes an absolute URL for the results page. But it also works when I omit the protocol and hostname part

options.enableSearchboxOnly("/search/index");

May

02

by Kaj Kandler

This week, Ingots, a group dedicated to teach IT skills based on open source, has published “Introduction to OpenOffice.org for Windows and Linux” (Use “Login as a guest”, to view the material).

I like the concept and the content of the course. However, I’m curious how it compares to the innovative approach of “Plan-B for OpenOffice.org. What is your opinion?

Do you prefer a traditional course offering like the one from Ingot or do you prefer the video based Software manuals from Plan-B?

Would you like to have course material with demo documents and quizzes on Plan-B for OpenOffice.org?

Please leave your comments about innovation in software manuals.

February

18

by Kaj Kandler

This weekend something amazing happened to the traffic at Plan-B for OpenOffice.org. It doubled!

Why? Someone discovered the Open Office Calc video table of content page using the StumbledUpon Toolbar and must have shared it with her friends. And the crowd was really interested. Visitors that came from Stumbledupon stayed 35% longer than average visitors and their bounce rate was half of the usual average.

February

08

by Kaj Kandler

We at Plan-B for OpenOffice.org do love feedback from our users. On average, about 50% send us back a thank you for our answers to their OpenOffice questions. Some of the best we publish on our testimonials pages.

Dear users and readers keep them coming. We love your feedback and appreciate a thank you any time. It is so rewarding!

January

31

by Kaj Kandler

Sun Microsystems wants to encourage more participation in the Open Office community. For that purpose Sun sponsors a contest for contributions to OpenOffice.org offering $175,000 in price money and public acknowledgment of achievement.

The contest asks not just for development contributions, such as source code or extensions. The contest also solicits documentation, artwork, marketing materials and methods, tools to improve the community in areas such as distribution, translation, etc. It even accepts improvements to OpenDocument Format (ODF) and other creative ideas.

There are a few conditions for entry: You must create original work free of other people’s rights and be of legal age. You also must be a member of the OpenOffice.org community (registered at OpenOffice.org). For the cash prizes you need to live or be a legal resident of certain countries and territories. You can enter the contest as an individual or a group.

If you are interested, read the rules carefully. Determine if you are eligible for cash prizes. If you live in Austria or the Philippines, you are out of luck in this category. Also make sure that what you produce does comply with the licenses of OpenOffice.org and can be contributed to the OpenOffice.org project under the Contributer Agreement (different from the licenses). You should also be willing to have Sun Microsystems use your work for publicizing the Contest and the OpenOffice.org software.

November

24

by Kaj Kandler

I never cared for Hotmail, the Microsoft online mail account. I always found it not very user friendly. Hotmail was bought by Miscrosoft in 1997 to compete with the then dominant online mail provider Yahoo! Now, Sabeer Bhatia one of Hotmails founders, has launched an new venture in Online Office document software, called Live-Documents.

Mr. Bhatia is Chairman of Bangalore based, InstaColl and wants to compete with Google, Microsoft, Adobe and many others with a browser based application to create, edit and manage office documents. Documents can be shared with anyone who has an e-mail for notification of changes and edited online in a Adobe Flex based application. Live documents also supports off line work on documents through a plugin for MS Office 2003. The company also plans support for Open Office as well as a Flash based local client program from the company itself. Offline documents are synced back to the central service ASAP. The storage server allows light document management services such as permissions to edit or print a document as well as attaching workflow tasks like review and approval.

The new service is available on an invitation only preview basis. The company plans to offer free service for personal use and business use for a fee.

November

21

by Kaj Kandler

Today I had to read a proud account of Plaxo that its new Plaxo Pulse Web 2.0 networking platform has seen a traffic surge since it announced to offer the OpenSocial API.

My personal experience with Plaxo Stream is rather negative. For several weeks now Thomas Power, Chairman at Ecademy and Owner, Ecademy.com sends to my Plaxo account and my Inbox messages reading:

Thomas Power shared something with the Jon… Network group.

You can view it here: http://pulse.plaxo.com/pulse/events/…/

Thanks!
The Plaxo team

I don’t find this funny in any way. It is plain and simple spam. I don’t know the guy and as a spammer I will certainly not network with him.

Plaxo, fix your spamming issue and while you are at it fix your broken plugin for Thunderbird, which produces duplicates, if you want to do some good for your services.

October

26

by Kaj Kandler

Can 900,000+ users a week be wrong? It appears that nearly a million people download OpenOffice.org since the release of 2.3. Mark Herring, Senior Director, Marketing, StarOffice/OpenOffice.org at Sun Microsystems Inc. reports in details about the uptick in weekly download triggered by the latest release and the publicity of the OOoCon 2007 in Barcelona.

While the numbers are impressive, I think Mark’s speculation of cost for a regular markerting campaign to reach the same results is excessive. I think it is safe to assume that the majority of extra downloads are upgrades by existing users. If this would be a commercial product, one would not need to buy millions of e-mail addresses to reach the existing users. In a traditional proprietary software model, users register their software and with that allow the company to inform them of new releases. So there is no cost of 10c per e-mail to reach the existing user base. And some proprietary products get their users to even download automatically what ever they throw at them. I see this comparison as a bit shaky.

October

01

by Kaj Kandler

With the latest release, OpenOffice.org has gained many valuable features useful to extend its functionality.

Matching this growing capability, the Open Office community has rolled out a repository for OpenOffice Extensions.

The site allows to search for extensions by tag, operating system, application or popularity. Off course you can download all available extensions and if you create an account vote for your favorite extensions. Give it a try.