Archive for the ‘Development’ 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");

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.

September

11

by Kaj Kandler

Today I visited the Sun Tech Days Boston for day number one. Sun Microsystems put on a big program at the downtown Sheraton hotel with three major tracks:

  • NetBeans and various Java related technologies
  • OpenSolaris and its community
  • University a cross section for students, introductions to almost every Sun developer technology

I peaked in to the introductions for OpenSolaris. What I and a moderate crowd listened too was core developers who focused on the developing community of OpenSolaris and how it becomes more than Sun employees developing with everybody else watching. In many ways OpenSolaris does catch up with many other *nix like OS distribution. The word “modernize” was used often in describing the efforts to create new installers,
updated shells, new packaging system, more drivers, etc. OpenSolaris really seams to be a train picking up steam.

I was surprised, how undecided the road map was for the various projects and initiatives. It often was unclear when a certain feature would arrive in which release of OpenSolaris or Solaris the commercial distribution of Sun Microsystems. As an engineer I like things to be finished and done right, instead of rushed to meet a deadline. But from the business perspective, it is not a good thing, that many processes, and I mean decision processes, are not yet decided on. I’m well familiar with such mixed messages from the OpenOffice/StarOffice project, I’m more involved with. If I would meet Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, I’d let him know that Sun’s positioning of the commercial Sun products versus the open source products is not clear and that it is hurting Sun.

Back to the Java track, where I peaked into sessions about Ajax frameworks and upcoming Swing technologies. It appears Sun does not take sides with the various Ajax frameworks, other than trying to support them all in NetBeans. NetBeans 6.0 impressed me with its ability to not just syntax color and code assist but also to have many wizards that generate code for your from a few questions. This was especially apparent in the session about Swing Application Framework and Java Beans Binding. NetBeans supports these brand new frameworks with code generation that can rival Ruby on Rails scaffolding, although for pure Java apps.

Speaking of Ruby on Rails, or better Jruby on Rails. This session was rather disappointing, as the speaker was jsut a few days into Ruby and Rails and basically did talk about her own excitement about a dynamic language and the impressive meta programming Rails style. I would have hoped for more hard facts on how JRuby does vs native Ruby and what the challenges are and how they are overcome.

As you can see it was a busy day, and the program only started in the afternoon. I look forward to tomorrow.

September

10

by Kaj Kandler

Most users know that Sun Microsystems is the main force behind OpenOffice.org and its development community. Historically they did buy StarDivision and release Open Office as open source. Today, IBM announced to commit to the OpenOffice.org development community with a team of 35 developers in China working full time on the project. IBM also contributed today a chunk of code making the open source office suite more accessible for users with disabilities.

While IBM has developed the accessibility interface called iAccessible2 for a while and also supported ODF (ISO 26300) in its Lotus Notes products, this announcement is a long term commitment to develop OpenOffice.org as a competitive suite.

August

28

by Kaj Kandler

NeoOffice just announced its latest release 2.2.1. All over the net is praise for NeoOffice’s new features, such as

  • Support for the native Mac OS X spellchecker
  • Support for the native Mac OS X address book
  • Support for high resolution printing
  • Reading and writing many Microsoft OOXML (Office 2007) Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents
  • The latest features from OpenOffice.org 2.2.1

While OpenOffice.org announced a native version for the Mac OS X and its user interface, and Sun Microsystems committed two full time developers to the project, NeoOffice has obviously worked hard to stay ahead. The integration of native features such as the address book and spell checker are certainly welcome. It makes working on a Mac much more consistent.

However, some report issues with this version of NeoOffice 2.2.1. I have no way to verify that.

The competing effort from the mother project seems to make good progress with frequent OOo Mac OS X port developer snapshots. However, I don’t think the upcoming release as part of OOo release 2.3 will be as comprehensive as NeoOffice yet. I guess competition does improve the product(s) for consumers. I applaud both efforts.

August

23

by Kaj Kandler

If you always wanted to extend OOo with your features, Open Office 2.3 will make you a happy developer.

Kai Sommerfeld, just blogged about the latest features for OpenOffice.org extension developers. I must say many seem essential to make more than tricial extensions:

Be aware that this is hot of the pressses for developers. All this will only be working for ordinary users with the release of Open Office 2.3 this fall. This includes the extension repository, which is still in beta testing.

In addition, Sun also released its 1.0 version of the OpenOffice.org API plugin for Netbeans its IDE. Developers will clearly rejoyce with the next release and I’m looking forward to a vibrant extension infrastructure that makes OOo even more useful.

July

19

by Kaj Kandler

I currently happen to be with my Laptop in Barcelona, Spain. However, my PC is set up en_US with US time zone, etc. Now for Google I seem to have become a Spaniard now. When I type in www.google.com I get redirected to www.google.es, when I search something in the Firefox searchbar I get results from www.google.es. When I go to websites that serve Google AdSense, I get served Spanish advertisements.

This is nuts, because I do not speak Spanish and I can’t read it and my browser is set to the languages en, en_US, ge and pt. So no Spanish. And the site I visit, the business network LinkedIn is only available in English. So why is Google serving me like I’m a native, just because my IP address is currently in Spain?

Can anybody tell me how this is useful for me (do NO evil) or for the advertisers (do NO evil)?

In my book this is evil. It breaks the HTTP protocol, because that says the browser does determine what languages it prefers to accept and not Google or its misguided idea of localization. If they want to show me advertisement that are local to my location, fine. But please in a language that I do understand. Otherwise Google is waisting its ad space.

June

05

by Kaj Kandler

The developers of OpenOffice.org have implemented some major improvement of memory usage for OpenOffice.org Calc. In their sample spreadsheet it reduces the overall memory requirement by 28%. I have some users of OOo complain to me that Calc could not handle very large spreadsheet and it so it was very slow. This could be a major step to alleviate their pain.

Don’t hold your breath yet, because this improvement will only come to you with release 2.3 planned in September 2007.