Saturday, September 07, 2002


Toolbar. What is it for? For grouping often-used UI functions together, in an easily accessible place. Hmh, ok. Kind of like keyboard shortcuts for occasional users.

Now, what should it contain, in Straw's case? The current meager selection of buttons (preferences, poll) dates back to the time when there were pretty much just those two functions in the main window. Poll arguably belongs there. On the other hand, with background polling, a feature which has been there from day one and which I suspect is more used than manual polling by people who don't habitually break their aggregator and restart it thrice a minute, its usefulness is limited. Preferences most certainly is not an often used feature.

So what others? Um, the most often used feature I use is navigation between items and feeds. Usually by repeatedly hitting space, reading all the unread articles. But that's hardly a feature which warrants a toolbar button — if you don't know the keyboard shortcut, you can just navigate by mouse, in the normal GUIy point'n'grunt way.

Catchup? Maybe. Poll selected? Umm... no, I don't think so? Quit? No way. So, what else is left? The two new UI gadgets I added in 0.9 do need their buttons, in fact three of them, but those buttons are located elsewhere in the window, in places I felt were somewhat logical.

That pretty much exhausts the current functions. The usual suspects from document processing applications — new, open, save — don't apply here. We don't do documents or files, not in a way the user can see (which is why I'm not too keen on the File menu either, but sometimes it's better to be consistent with other applications than trying to be all bold and inventive.) Browserish back, forward, reload, stop don't really work for us either, even if they are a slightly better fit. Well, I suppose there could be use for "Stop" functionality. Search is one thing that will appear in the application and which could live there, but I'm not sure when will it happen.

So should I just junk the toolbar? The window looks a bit naked without it, doesn't it? Leave it as it is? I'm not too keen on that, either.

Oh well.


Oops, noticed just after release a display bug in preferences dialog, 0.9.1 fixes that. And I'm not going to announce this one on Freshmeat &

Get it while it's hot

Fresh-baked Straw 0.9 is now available in the download directory, see the Straw home page for details.

Next up: a more detailed release announcement on the home page. And in the RSS feed. And on Freshmeat. And on

Straw 0.9 soon

Look, some new snazzy UI: channel information display and a subscribe tool.

The subscribe tool uses Mark Pilgrim's and is pretty smart.

There's been also pretty nice UI speed ups; I optimized quite a bit the feed list display routines (which were, basically, totally stupid) and also pruned out one extra signal emission when moving feeds up and down in the list.

This release will require version >= 1.99.13 of PyGTK and gnome-python.


Of course, the real reason I posted the last item, even though the wish is real enough, is to avoid monotony: I hope I'll be able to release Straw 0.9 later today, and it would have been a bit too much to have last Saturday's entries titled 'RSS 0.94' and 'Straw 0.8', and this Saturday's 'RSS 3.0' and 'Straw 0.9', now wouldn't it?

More on Referer, and GNOME

One wishlist item for GNOME libraries: url_show() should accept user-defined headers as extra arguments. This would mean that more browsers would also have to accept them on the command line. I'm not sure if it would be very useful with any other headers than Referer, and I don't know do any other applications besides Straw need that, but still. It would be nice to have.

RSS 3.0

Now we're really getting somewhere. I was, you know, all frustrated and stuff with the difficulty of parsing XML. This is what we really need.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

On Referer

John Wiseman complains about something I've noticed too: referer logs are getting a bit useless. The embarassing bit is that he lists Straw as one of the offenders :-)

I'd like to argue in my defense a bit. That particular URL isn't supposed to appear in Referer logs; it did while I was working on the feature, but now the one that goes there is similar (in fact the result of some severe copypasting) to Aggie's AggieReferrers.html: And a pointer to the user's weblog, if it is known. If not, there's a bug in Straw 0.8 :-) There's three alternatives to this I can see.

  1. Straw could just not create a Referer header, the way it was in 0.7 and before. But that would mean no information at all. The way it is now, you get to see who reads you, even if they don't comment on it.

  2. Straw could put a direct link to the user's weblog, but then, that would mean more "false positives". It's more than likely that there would in fact be no link in the weblog, because the Referer header, identical to one generated by a web browser, would appear each and every time the reader refreshed their view of your feed.

  3. Straw could generate the Referer header only when the user has, in fact, filled in information about their blog/personal web page. ATM, it's done always, only leaving out information about the user's weblog if it's not been supplied.

I think I'll go for the third option. John is right in that the User-agent header does the job of conveying information about the reader software quite nicely. But I think the information about who reads you is interesting, and by using the indirect link, you don't get the problem of false positives. By not generating the header without the link to user's blog, you don't get the extra noise.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Always waiting for the next great thing

Nothing is ever quite as good as it should be. I'm always waiting for some piece of software to get released, usable, something.

Most of the things I wait for aren't all that important, or affect usability of things much at all; it's just about getting something new. Or making something old just a bit prettier or working a bit better in some respect, or being somehow more "powerful". Getting the new thing gives a moment of satisfaction, and using it is a pleasure, at least for a while. But then I'll be again waiting for the next enchancement, for the same gadget or for something else.

I guess this is what they call consumerism, even if I the software is free. Or maybe just severely lacking systems.