Tumblelogs

Tumblelog is a term coined in 2005[1] to denote blogs which favor short posts, most of the time sharing only a single item. I encountered the first such blog on 2007[2] but it didn’t really impressed me. Not until last night, when I was shown a comic translation blog [3]. Tumblelogs are just great for the purpose! It allowed instant sharing of daily comic (one thing jumps right in my thoughts: there is a bookmarklet somewhere) without any comments, category or other hassles. On the other hand, perhaps the comic blog above is too simple it don’t tell us where the comics come from, nor mention Garfield’s author (so I’m not condoning it at all, just an example).

It’s also worth a note to distinguish between tumblelog and microblog. While microblog is primarily aimed at status updates, it also allows you to post multimedia content like tumblelog. But your status could change anytime, anywhere, so you’ll need an equivalent update convenience (e.g. mobile updates). On the other hand, tumblelogs are designed to share content, and as you may encounter most content while surfing, think bookmarklet and email-to-post. You can see the gap between two services is not big, and as this article is being written, more features are being stuffed to twitter (that’s why its interface has turned in to a big bunch of text instead of one line of status :P)

Okay, too much ranting again. I only wanted a short review about current tumblelog services when I started writing!

Tumblr

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Not the first Tumblelog software, but the first one is currently down so I can’t test it :P.

Tumblr seems to be the most popular tumblelog service around. Clean interface, but there are only a few themes available. None looked good enough for me :/. The theme installation from theme garden worked erratic somehow. For the functionality, Tumblr is pretty good, it pulls the page to its server after you add it with the bookmarklet; analyze the page to find contents you may want to blog about on the page.

Tumblr could be linked with twitter so that all twitter updates will be copied to your Tumblr and vice versa. Also, you can import feeds, bookmark from social bookmarks and posts from other blogging services (thus Tumblr could also act as a bridge to let your twitter followers know when you write a post or bookmark something).

Media could be uploaded to Tumblr but there is a 10MB file size limit (I’m unsure what the storage limit is, see quote below). If you want to post bigger stuff, you are on your own.

Tumblr retains the right to create limits on use and storage in its sole discretion at any time with or without notice. [Terms of service]

The bookmarklet is in the “Goodies” tab; there you’ll also find your email-to-post address, iPhone app and third party apps. The dashboard interface is a little clumsy, functions are distributed on tabs, sidebar, and a menu; but that doesn’t seem to limit Tumblr’s popularity.

You can customize the theme with HTML and CSS. You can also attach your Tumblr to your domain as long as you are able to modify A records (it took a really long time to propagate through the nameservers so you may be unable to view your blog for one or two days if you use this). There are APIs available, but I haven’t looked to see what they can do (yet).

Soup.io

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Quite a competitor for Tumblr, most of the features are the same. The interface has more web 2.0 slides and fades, but the page still refreshes to update itself so I’m still not completely satisfied with this service. It allows you to import from more services (say furl or weheartit) but its bookmarklet isn’t as good. It will only detect media on popular sites; it does not analyze the page so it’s very likely that you’ll have to prepare a link to the media first.

The basic theme structure seems to be fixed. However you are allowed to theme it with CSS

Gelato

Seeing Tumblelogs in action somewhat annoy me why such a small amount of content take a whole page load? Isn’t some AJAX to flip pages are better? Then I went to the usual developer’s craze wanting to develop a whole new service that satisfies my every need, since the above are hosted by the blog provider. And as paranoid as a user may be, leaving data on a stranger’s server just doesn’t bring a nice feeling :P.

Fortunately, thank to the free culture (as in free beer :P), someone must have done the job for you! In this case it’s Pedro Santana: from Gelato’s homepage you can download the source (latest at the time of writing: 0.95).

021509-0930-tumblelogs4.png

Pretty close clone of Tumblr. To the average user Gelato only provides basic features. You can blog, change the theme, use the bookmarklet but that’s all. The advantage is you have full control over it. Its template share similarities with WordPress.

Still no AJAX for page transition, which I’m pretty disappointed since it advertised itself “built upon AJAX”. But I don’t think that would be a problem though, you have the source of a working Tumblelog!

Location service emulation on popular platforms

This post in a nutshell: How to run GPS emulation with several mobile platform and a short evaluation of each.

Windows Mobile

On Windows Mobile 5, you get a “GPS” settings applet but there is no GPS emulation tool. The attached documentation (GPS sample) state that you’ll need a real GPS device for the sample to work (and remember to configure it for develapment!); then I downleaded a new version hoping for better support. The first thing I noticed touching the WM6 SDK is the vast amount of tools added: Cellular network emulator, package tools, test framework, and of course among them: a GPS emulator. Looks like Microsoft has finally started to fear Sun.

The GPS emulator is in WM6 SDK folderGPS. Access the CAB file from your device to install it. Additionally, the settings.exe can only be run inside the device and is the same things as the GPS applet. The documentation is still vague, but the tool works.

Here’s the interesting bit: The WM6 FakeGPS work perfectly well on WM5, so you don’t need the new (and huge) SDK to work on location services, just copy the FakeGPS from someone who installed (it’s around 1MB)

020509-1131-locationser1.jpg

The data file structure is pretty clueless, but I may eventually figure that out after some more searching :/

$GPGLL,36000.0000,N,72000.0000,E,000023.998,V*1A
$GPGSA,A,1,,,,,,,,,,,,,50.0,50.0,50.0*05
$GPRMC,000023.998,V,36000.0000,N,72000.0000,E,0.000000,,101102,,*30
$GPGGA,000024.998,0000.0000,N,00000.0000,E,0,00,50.0,0.0,M,0.0,M,0.0,0000*78
$GPGLL,36000.0000,N,72000.0000,E,000024.998,V*1D

What left to be wondered is, why GPS is taken out of Smartphone and available only for PocketPC? While it’s true that a phone ‘s functionalities are not as easily extended with cards and stuff like a PDA but some of them can locate themselves; or Microsoft thinks 3G should not include location services? Oh well…

Symbian

Given the previous experiences with Symbian, I expected this platform to be the hardest to configure. Looks like I worried too much :). You can select the emulated location service from the phone’s settings. Just go to settings / general / positioning and select simulation, choose settings on this mode to choose emulation data.

Symbian’s emulator can read 2 types of data: the one Windows Mobile used above (nmea.nme is included with the demo) and .sps files. Sps files seem to define non-deterministic movement, like this:

Horizontal accuracy=10;
Vertical accuracy=16;
TimeToFix min=2;
TimeToFix max=7;
Powerup time=5;
Longitude=23.9385;
Latitude=61.5285;
Speed=0;
Course=113.9;
Deterministic=0;

Getting the sample application running is pretty easy too. They even have 4 more examples for this topic and each comes with detailed information on how the classes work.

020509-1131-locationser2.jpg

J2ME

The most straightforward platform! The Location service example is there (called CityGuide), Location and landmark service is built-in with the emulator. To simulate movement, from the emulator choose MIDlet/External events, toward the bottom you’ll see the “Location” group, click Browse to select the path file (City guide comes ready with a path file, citywalk.xml), press play and you are on the move!

The data file is different from both of the above platforms, which belongs to some kind of standard, which is good but to me J2ME’s xml is the best! It’s the cleanest and most human-readable data. Ph34r the power of XML!

<waypoint time="6500" latitude="14.394759972655674" longitude="50.10266737954043" altitude="310" />
<waypoint time="1500" latitude="14.395190022566581" longitude="50.102641304996304" altitude="310" />
<waypoint time="1500" latitude="14.395487422916618" longitude="50.10265163602227" altitude="310" />
<waypoint time="1500" latitude="14.395935213738783" longitude="50.10265925148049" altitude="310" />

020509-1131-locationser3.jpg

I think the landmark tool is build for some purpose, but clearly the sample work well without any tweaking by this tool.

Toy box

After finishing 7 years worth of Megatokyo drawings (you might have seen from the last post :P), I decided to wrap things up and finished polishing my toybox

It’s a collection of stuff I code from time to time. They were usable before, but wasn’t integrated and their look was so Web 1.0, I always wanted to “renew” them a little, now I am finally in the right condition to get it done :).

At the time of this post, my toy box contains:

You may read more about them from their page. If you have any comment for them, you can leave them here

about:brief and about:scribeFire

Don’t know when I started… Somewhere during the last week. I looked at Firefox’s featured add-ons list while updating my plugins (yes, I manually update
them for compatibility’s sake), I noticed Brief and ScribeFire (with nice logos :P), they are all free and are featured, which implies they are good for something. Why don’t give them a spin?

Brief

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Yes. I use Windows. Don't laugh!

This plugin lets you read feeds and that’s it! It has a nice interface with fold in and out effects (possibly some jQuery hidden behind); it now works with NoScript (they said so in the change log). Its advantages over Firefox’s live bookmark are:

  • You get to see the content of the post from the feed.
  • You can rate, mark read and deletes items.
  • Set individual update rate for each feed, or for all feeds.
  • Nice and customizable interface. (If you know CSS)

To me, at first it looked like a nice alternative to Microsoft Outlook’s feed functionality and I like its customizable interface. I have a feed with oversize pictures inside, it makes me scroll to see the content, all I have to do is go to the customization interface, and type some simple CSS

.article-content {
    width: 80% !important;
    overflow: hidden;
    font-size: 12pt !important;
}

font {
    font-size: 12pt !important;
}

Basically, the above CSS set the width of the content element to roughly 80% of the full window width, tell Firefox to trim off anything that come further than the edge, force all text size to 12 points to readability; and that’s it! The text content is wrapped nicely inside the window’s width, oversized pictures are trimmed off, should I want to view then, and “View Image” will come in handy.

To see brief’s elements on the page, go to Brief’s page description. Yes you can use some web development tools but trust me, all you got inspecting the page is a bunch of JavaScript insert :P.

<body>
    

But because it inherited from Firefox’s Live bookmark, it also share LB’s limitations like you can’t read the full post inline (if the publisher have chosen to publish it short), this can be frustrating reading feeds with lots of item. You want to read it? New tab! Shouldn’t a feed reader simplify the reading process? And looks like it’s compatible only with feeds which the Live Bookmark feature in Firefox is capable of reading.

And as a plugin, it has problems of its own, like it can rarely update the feeds on itself. At first I thought this was BetterCache’s fault, but even after disabling BetterCache, it still won’t update my feeds even if I clicked on each of them and choose “Update feed”. To have the feeds refreshed I have to go to the bookmark sidebar and update the like bookmarks there. Only then would the new items appear

So, if you want a news reader and like to pray that the updates work (possibly it just doesn’t like me), and always wanted to change the way how your news look, then Brief is right; but if you are looking for something that will satisfy all your reading need, there’s still a long way to go.

ScribeFire

A lightweight blogging plugin (about 500K). It lets you conveniently blog about stuff you like (a site, an image, you tube video etc.) straight from Firefox with a mouse click (or F8).

Yes, it implements many popular blogging services like WordPress, Blogger, Xanga, and custom blogs that implement the MetaWebLog API. For the basic part, it allows you to create / edit posts in a WordPad-like interface.

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It is capable of

In short, it lets you perform all the basic function all the blogging platform allows you in common. It’s quite good, I tried several posts and it does its job really fast, comparable to Word’s; there’s also some “extra” function like:

  • Insert a Flickr Image: You can search for Flickr images which match a keyword and insert it to your post, albeit the process is slow. I would prefer a Flickr-code text box, insert the image page URL and get the picture inside that page inserted (Flickr scatter a transparent 1×1 GIF over its images you can’t just save image as…)
  • Insert a You tube video: Same as Flickr.
  • Blogging toolbar: when you visit a blog of yours that you have registered with ScribeFire, you can quickly edit your posts and page by clicking their titles, nice feature that WordPress lacks, but can be fixed with a simple template tag (but that’s another story).

    013009-0249-aboutbriefa3.png

    Blogging toolbar

  • Managed ads: Haven’t tried this feature. Looks like it lets you insert and track ads easier, but I don’t like this one. I know that the plugin maker has the right to make some dough from this but it makes me suspicious if this plugin’s authenticity. To this point I trust it solely because it’s Mozilla-featured, and I’m still dubious. Furthermore, the space it takes to the left of the page looks clumsy; I just want to remove it off sight!

And as all my suspicions went, it’s right to some point. Since I began writing this post, I haven’t opened ScribeFire’s home page, I turned off all Firefox’s updates and only open some posts from my server (which is like thousands of miles away from ScribeFire’s), look at the traffic to and from my computer and see I’ve got:

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See that nice IP? 8.10.72.201, let’s find out where is it

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Surprise!

I could find out what it is trying to send back home, but doesn’t like to. I’m not going to use this for long anyway. Yes, it does its primary function quite good, but I doesn’t like that interface. Would you prefer the editor you see several paragraph above or this:

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Blogging with Word

I know that Word doesn’t have the full functionality set, but I feel more inspired blogging with Word than ScribeFire. UI over functionality, how superficial I am :P. But that’s not the only drawback of this plugin.

  • Every time you insert an image, you will have to wait for it to upload if it’s from your computer, in contrast with Word which uploads the image after you have published the post. ScribeFire’s approach makes the user wait, even if the delay is relatively short on broadband, it’s still a delay and the user (me) isn’t comfortable with it. It does have the advantage of easier control on which image has been uploaded and which have not (Word always upload all images every time you publish a post), but again, Word does not make the user wait: money can’t buy time but it can buy server space :P.
  • No find function in the code view (while the near-WYSIWYG editor has). You have like 1000 lines of HTML for your post? Forget your custom classes!
  • You can open multiple instances of it, ScribeFire will slow you browser down for a while but it will let you. This may easily confuse you and have you edit in the wrong window, especially when you are busy. And that lead to post conflict…

Both of the plugins are new, they have the potential to become better but for the moment, I’m done testing.

On ignorance

1.

A blog post from a HCMUT instructor suddenly force me to look back. Where am I actually? On the path to become a CS (computer scientist) or a CEN (computer engineer)? I have thought about it, but just unable to determine which. The following quote somehow cleared the blockade:

Should I pursue computer science or computer engineering?

Scientists and engineers are both interested in the nature of things, in understanding how ideas and objects in the world fit together. But in general, they seek to understand the nature of reality with different ends in mind: the scientist seeks this understanding as an end in itself, the engineer in order to build things. Thus CS is closer to the underlying theory of computation, with its roots in mathematics, and CEN is closer to the design of physical devices, with roots in physics and chemistry as well. Students with an urge to build things, to measure how things work in the laboratory, those attracted to physics and chemistry as well as mathematics, should seriously consider CEN. Students with an interest in the true nature of symbols, information and their manipulations, the forms and limits of algorithms and data structures, should consider CS. Of the three great divisions in computing, namely theory, software and hardware, to a first approximation theory go with CS, hardware with CEN, and software with both, but mainly with CS. The more general the software, the closer to CS; the more hardware-specific, the closer to CEN. Thus a student interested in creating his own new general-purpose computer language would best be served by a CS degree program, while one interested in designing a software interface for a new high speed serial device by the CEN degree program.

I don’t like to build things. I do that frequently, but because I am forced to :P. Either that is a project or that make my life easier. But a CS must have fascination with the nature of everything, and feel the elegance of a solution. Looks like I don’t. I haven’t invented any new way to solve a problem, just combine existing things together and see if it works. Furthermore, a scientist must explore lots of things and also  able to describe it so others can understand what they have in mind, which is something I’m not really good at. (Just writing a blog post like this is enough to give me a headache – I’m trying to get better nevertheless 🙂 ). And in the end, though I don’t like it, I’m best at building things, not sitting around and dissecting others’.

I think I’ll be a CEN, though CS does sound much cooler. The anti-need to build-something can always be credited to one thing: laziness.

2.

Another point for this matter: nobody told you what you’ll be before you started learning (sign up for the school, and stuff); and you don’t get to change your major in Vietnam. In contrast to other countries’ where potential students can get a grip of what they’ll learn, not by asking some counselor through magazines’ forums but by getting the info straight from where they want to apply:

http://www.pratt.duke.edu/highschool/cs_vs_ce.php

http://www.ntu.edu.sg/SCE/info-gen.asp

http://www.eng.buffalo.edu/compscie_vs_compeng.php

This may sound unimportant, but the consequences are not. Some 1st year student from my university suicide last week for getting expelled for low grades. If that kid had been informed that all students hated the general curriculum years… :/

3.

The itchy “unknowing” feeling is common. It doesn’t just come when you stop for a moment and start thinking about your life. It could come out of a sudden when you are in the middle of something else. The result for each time varies and could be hard to classify. Nevertheless, Phillip Armour tried to categorize ignorance itself and coined a term “Order of Ignorance”

  • 0(zero)th Order of Ignorance (0OI): Know something (relevant) and can use it effectively
  • 1st Order of Ignorance (1OI): Know that that you don’t know something
  • 2nd Order of Ignorance (2OI): Don’t know that you don’t know something
  • 3rd Order of Ignorance (3OI): Don’t have a process to find what you were unaware that you didn’t know
  • 4th Order of Ignorance (4OI): Not even aware of the Orders of Ignorance and their implications

Yeah! Now you’ve read this, so you are at 3OI already! You know what “order of ignorance” is :P. You (may) have successfully perceived that the unknown is vast. You can’t just “know” that and do nothing, you have to proceed up the levels of ignorance. Note that these levels apply to a specific range of problem, and you may say “I’m 0OI at X but 2OI at Y and I need your help”; most people would love to!

If all this sounds too alien to you, imagine that you read horoscopes, numerology, take personality tests. Do you believe in them without a doubt? Then you are at 3OI for psychology! If you have a slight doubt and wanted to find out why, you are at 2OI, because you know somehow they are right and somehow they are wrong, but don’t know where to clear the doubt. You are at 1OI if you want to know about the Forer effect. If you understood what that is, you are now at 0OI. You know science have space on the selves for supersition 😛

It’s like climbing stairs, the ascension is always harder to take. You may make it to the “higher” levels but as you forget what something is, you fall a level; and if you continue to forget your methodologies too, you fall down yet another level.

As human’s memory is currently so limited (except for exceptional cases). You will eventually forget things, but in order to keep yourself from falling further, you have to keep the methodologies of life; some call then principles. Don’t worry; most of us are able to keep them, and can come up and down the stairs.

Unfortunately, some don’t, and as climbing the stairs is hard even for themselves, you are always at 2OI to make them climb with you or if that even possible, and if you don’t even want them to climb with you, you are back at 3OI =)).

I have something that I must do, with which I have 3OI. Oh, well…