Monday, September 30, 2002

Moving on.

My weblog lives now at (yes, I know it redirects to, but is the "official" location. For now. :-)

Thank you to blogger for a great service. I just outgrew it.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Moving on?

I've been thinking about moving away from Blogger. Blogger makes it very easy to start a blog, but I want a bit more freedom, and nicer evironment to write in.

I can't really afford a web hosting solution at the moment, so that limits my choices considerably. I have an account the University of Helsinki, but they don't allow anything but static pages. For dynamic pages, Blosxom seems attractive. It does have it's shortcomings, but the basic concept sounds like something I want.

So what to do? I hacked up pyblosxom, the Python version of Blosxom, a bit, to support the features I need and to allow for easier static mirroring of the pages. The end result? My static blosxom blog!

I dunno if that will be the final solution, I'll have to play with it a bit. If it works out, I'll release the stuff and write a small howto.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Brokenness in next/prev behaviour of Straw

I've been noticing that Straw's next/prev behaviour is a bit, um, erratic. I've blamed it on the fact that my local Straw DB is probably somewhat broken, due to me hacking on it all the time. It just reached new heights, and I decided it was time to investigate. Sure enough, a few minutes of digging uncovered some stupid mistakes, caused by changing some abstractions slightly and not moving everything that depended on them along.

This is now fixed, expect a 0.10.2 release this evening (UTC+3) or

Subscription placement

Brent Simmons thinks out loud about charging for default subscription places. If I were Brent, I'd go for it. No reason not to, as long as you retain your independence. I've been thinking about adding default subscriptions too; though I haven't come up with anything I'd put there besides Straw news and FootNotes (which would be a whole lot better if they put the complete articles in the feed :-)

I can't really do charging for the placement; Straw's popularity (and probably maturity, too) is far from NetNewsWire's, and doing that sort of thing in an open development environment where there will potentially be other people working on it too, people I don't really know, is rather dubious. I'd rather make a policy of not adding any extraneous feeds than wonder about every change if it was paid for by someone or not.

But NNW's development is more closed and it's a popular piece of software. It'd be no problem keeping track of them and there would be no questions of trust. I'd probably do something like mark them as sponsored feeds (think Google), keep a limited number of them at a time, and keep a clear policy about how long to keep them there and what you allow as content. And don't do anything silly like not allowing the user to remove the feeds. Keep things honest.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002


Released Straw 0.10.1 last night.

Search is now a bit better. I didn't do hysteresis, but instead just made pressing keys in the find text field stop the rendering of the search results and start with the new results. At least with the systems I use, searching is quick enought, but rendering a list of few hundred items takes time. I also fixed some bugs in the search: it uses a pseudo-smart system of storing search arguments and results in a stack and checking on new search terms if they are a subset of some previous search, but the is_subset function wasn't working really very well in 0.10. It should be better now. Oh yeah, and search got a toolbar button too :-)

Mark Pilgrim has started to use content:encoded elements (RSS 1.0 land) in his channel items, so that the description contained only a short synopsis and the beef was in content:encoded. So now I support that. The current system is that content:encoded overrides description. I don't know if this is the "correct" way, I didn't really find out when reading the RSS 1.0 home page how they should be treated.

Straw also now reads the stuff in the blogChannel module of RSS 2.0. We don't do anything with it yet, though, I'll have to figure out what kind of UI I want around it first. And implement OPML reading and writing too, I guess.

The final thing is that the DB problems (which I hope I fixed in the 0.9 series) have occasionally caused empty items to be stored in the database. Straw doesn't break anymore when encountering those.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Semantic Cyc

As I said, I don't worry all that much if we don't get the RDF stuff in RSS. I share some of the doubts expressed here.

When talking about metadata and making stuff "easy" for computers to "understand", people should always remember that this stuff is not easy, and computers aren't going to turn smart overnight, however much metadata is fed to them.

New release of Straw out

As some of you might have noticed, there's a new release of Straw out, 0.10. It has two new minor features — number of unread shown on the title bar, button to sort feeds alphabetically — and one important-ish one, incremental search of items.

The title bar status view is bit of a compromise. What I really want to do is a status applet, or docklet, or whatever is the approved technology for this kind of thing in GNOME 2. But this does its job and is a nice solution, so it will most probably stay.

Search is a feature which will need some love before it's where I want it to be. There's at least one bug I know (add something in the middle of the search string, it won't show what it's supposed to), it doesn't deal with updating feeds and it's a bit too eager to start searching. As of version 0.10, it doesn't wait for one microsecond to start searching once you've inserted something into the search field. It should probably have a hysteresis of, um, maybe one third or one fifth of a second, so you could type normally and it would search when you are paused. Maybe it could deal a bit better with keyboard navigation too, and I'm still not quite sure should find pop up a dialog as it does now or should it just unhide the controls in some part of the main window.

But still, it's pretty nice. Even if it's not exactly like the search feature in Apple's mail application, which is what Marko wanted.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

blogChannel module

Thank you.

Monday, September 16, 2002

On competition

Dave said Straw competes with his own software. I never really thought about it that way, but I can see his point of view. Two things about their relationship and the competition.

I've never used Radio, but it is a full-blown weblogging tool, for both authoring and aggregating content. Straw is strictly an aggregator. I have no idea what percentage of UserLand's Radio customers use it only for aggregation, and I don't expect them to tell, but still, the focus is different. I've been thinking about writing a desktop weblog authoring tool, with possibly some kind of communication going on between it and Straw, but that's a project that might never happen, and would be a separate tool.

The other thing is platforms. Straw is written for the GNOME desktop. Radio works on Mac and Windows. I don't have access to those platforms, and therefore Radio; users of those platforms don't (well, I suppose OS X users might theoretically run Straw) have access to Straw. GNOME does — or will some day — compete with those two desktops, and I see Straw as a part of that, and in a way, Radio is on the other side of that fence, as a part of the larger world of those two desktops. But that's desktop A versus desktop B, not software package Z running on A versus software package X running on B. But unlike me, Dave has a commercial interest in this, so I wouldn't be surprised if he saw things differently.

Of course, Radio might be ported some day, and so might Straw (no, that's not in the current plans and I have no interest in doing it.) If they do port Radio, I genuinely wish UserLand the best of luck with it, because I'd love to see them, and a commercial desktop software package for "normal" users running Linux, succeed. I don't know if the time is ripe yet.

Thanks, everybody

It does wonders to your ego, being hyped by (at least) Aaron, Mark and Uzopia (which doesn't seem to answer at the moment, so no direct link.) And finally, Dave putting my face on Scripting News was quite a surprise :-)

(And just to clarify — or maybe not — my position in the whole RSS thing, I'm maybe not quite as pro-more stuff in base RSS as the bit in Scripting News makes me sound. I'd just like to see some new features in it, and I'm not enough of a Semantic Webber, and am sceptical enough about everything related to XML, to be too gung-ho about the namespaces thing. But namespaces might keep things more hygienic, so maybe they might be good. Shrug. Let's just get on with it.)