Technology

Twitter as an RSS Feed - A Social Experiment
Published by Toronto Mike on November 21, 2008 @ 10:56 in Technology, Twitter

twitterWhen Twitter first took off, I was sceptical. I didn't think it would make it, but I kept my good eye on it to see if it would fizzle out or reach the mainstream. I think it's now safe to say that Twitter has gone mainstream.

I don't have an interest in Twitter as a status tool, although I see the allure, I'm more interested in Twitter as an RSS feed alternative. Not in terms of reading RSS feeds, but in terms of publishing. Would people follow a Twitter feed as a means of following a blog like this one?

I found twitterfeed which promises to feed your blog to Twitter. You create an account, enter your Twitter account info and the RSS feed of your blog. The RSS feed for this blog is http://feeds2.feedburner.com/TorontoMike and my new Twitter account can be found at http://twitter.com/torontomike.

And so begins my little social experiment. Will people follow a blog with Twitter? If you'd like to be a guinea pig, start following http://twitter.com/torontomike and tell me how it goes...

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The Rise and Fall of RealAudio
Published by Toronto Mike on November 19, 2008 @ 19:15 in Memories, Technology

MusicIt's been 30 years since the Jonestown massacre. That got me interested in learning more about the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project formed by followers of the Reverend Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. That led me to NPR Online where you can listen to a great doc entitled "Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown."

You can stream the audio, but it's in RealAudio. That's right, it's in RealAudio. When I saw that, I had a very webby flashback.

In the mid 90s, lots of audio required the RealPlayer. Most of us downloaded the RealPlayer just so we could listen to .ra files. At a time when WinAmp was my music player of choice, RealPlayer quickly became a necessary evil.

Firstly, they made it near impossible to find the free version. That download page was a serious pain in the ass. Then, there was this terrible interface, even for the mid to late 90s. Then, there were those bloody pop-ups. At one point several years ago, I swore I would never install RealPlayer again.

I've kept that promise, and that means I won't be streaming this Jonestown doc on NPR Online. That's a shame, but at least I enjoyed this webby trip down memory lane.

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XMp3 Player With XM Satellite Radio
Published by Toronto Mike on November 18, 2008 @ 19:45 in Technology

XMA package arrived for me today with a letter. Here's how that letter started.

You are one of only 25 individuals in Canada who will receive this exclusive XMp3 Kit!

Your XMp3 Experience includes:

  • 1 XMp3 player
  • 1 XMp3 accessory kit (earbuds, remote control, home antenna, home dock, and more)
  • 1 year subscription to XM Satellite Radio
  • 1 bag of XM Swag (water bottle, hat, notebook, pen)

I've been playing with it for the past hour and having fun. I've heard some alt rock on Lithium, some live Neil Young on The Loft, Norm McDonald on Laugh Attack, some pop on Top 20 on 20, some indie on XMU and some cat named Mad Dog talkin' sports. I've tried recording a few tunes to MP3 and now I'm setting up the XM2go Music Manager to run this thing from my laptop.

After I spend more time with my new toy I'll write a review.

PB188332

Comments 10 comments
The Flickr Lady at the Parade
Published by Toronto Mike on November 18, 2008 @ 16:42 in Technology, Toronto Santa Claus Parade

yahooLast year I wrote about the Yahoo! float at the Santa Claus Parade. This year it was back, but there was something extra. A young woman was biking alongside the float taking pictures and sending them to Flickr in real-time.

Here's my pic of the Flickr Lady promoting Yahoo!'s coolest property on Sunday afternoon.

PB168266

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PC Salvation
Published by Toronto Mike on November 5, 2008 @ 20:36 in Technology

UbuntuOne perk when working for a software company is easy access to hardware deemed insufficient for development purposes. At least this is a perk when you're buds with the IS guy. Older desktops and laptops are taken out of circulation and replaced, usually because the latest version of Windows demands too much under the hood.

When I get my mitts on one of these desktops or laptops, I breathe new life into them with a proven technique that never fails. I get Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system, and my personal favourite distribution of Linux. Oh yeah, and it's completely free. Here are the steps I follow when salvaging PCs.

  1. I visit http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download and download the latest version of Ubuntu's desktop edition, currently 8.10. This gives me an .iso file that will fit on a blank CD.
  2. Using the free InfraRecorder I follow the super easy steps here to burn the image to CD.
  3. With this newly burned Ubuntu install CD in the CD-ROM drive, I start up the PC and get into the BIOS. Usually that means pressing F10 or F1 or some key combination. Here's a cheat sheet.
  4. Once in the BIOS, set it to boot from your CD-ROM drive. Save changes and exit.
  5. Ubuntu will now guide you the rest of the way. It's super easy, trust me. You don't need to be a geek. The entire installation takes less than 30 minutes.

Almost everything is done in the browser these days, and Ubuntu comes ready to rock with Firefox. Connecting to the internet, either wired or wireless, is easy. It just works. Windows users will adapt quickly.

So if you have a PC that might be a little dated and lacks the horsepower for Windows, give it a new life. Give it Ubuntu. That's what I do.

Comments 8 comments
CSS Design
Published by Toronto Mike on October 28, 2008 @ 19:02 in Technology

cssAs it gets easier and easier for regular folk to publish on the web, I find less and less publishers are actually bothering to get their hands dirty with design. Using Blogger? Simply choose a theme from the list. Using Facebook or MySpace? The default settings will do. Using Wordpress or Movable Type? Again, we've got numerous themes to choose from, one is just right for you!

I think it was early in the year 2000 when I stopped marking up my design in the HTML. CSS design made so much sense so I dove in. Every colour, every font size, every border, everything could be moved to an external CSS file.

Here we are, eight years later, and I'm still crazy about CSS when it comes to design. I'm also still creating web sites from scratch, hand coding the CSS files from a blank slate. This entry was inspired by a great article I just read on CSS design, entitled Why Programmers Suck at CSS Design. The author's hope is to show people that feel CSS challenged that you don't need to be an artist, know how to draw or even just pick colours, and certainly you don't need to know how to use Photoshop to be able to come up with a nice, clean, readable and original layout. I concur.

It's an article I wish I had written. If you design for the web, or if you think you might like to learn how, read the article. At the very least it will get your creative juices flowing.

Comments 2 comments
The Google Adwords Maple Music Redirect Mystery
Published by Toronto Mike on October 26, 2008 @ 21:07 in Technology

AdwordsI've never met Buffalo Boy, but I helped build his blog and I help him out now and then. Earlier today, I received an S.O.S. email from him. A visit to buffaloboymike.com was resolving at maplemusic.com.

At first I didn't believe it, because it didn't happen in my Firefox. Then, I tried it in IE and saw it with my old eyes. There was clearly a redirect from Buffalo Boy's blog to the official Maple Music website. I tried it in Chrome and saw the same thing. I was intrigued.

I reviewed every line of the source code looking for a redirect script that may have piggy backed its way in there with an image or video Buffalo Boy put on his site. Everything was clean. I checked out the Movable Type templates, deleted the commented out countdown script to Spring Training 2008 and trouble shot this sucker to death, scratching my head the whole time. Then, I had that eureka moment.

Buffalo Boys displays Google ads on his site, as I do. My Firefox suppresses these ads because I use Adblock. That would explain why I wasn't redirected in Firefox but was redirected in IE and Chrome. Lo and behold, when I took out his AdSense code, the redirect stopped.

I've never heard of this, and Googling the issue isn't shedding any light on the subject. How the hell was a Google ad from Maple Music automatically redirecting visitors to maplemusic.com? Does anyone have a clue?

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A Father's Guide to Reclaiming the Wii
Published by Toronto Mike on September 15, 2008 @ 09:08 in Technology

WiiWe got a Nintendo Wii for Christmas last year. Well, in reality, James got a Nintendo Wii. He's been hogging the thing, occasionally throwing his old man a bone by letting me take him on in Wii Sports baseball or tennis.

This weekend, I reclaimed the Wii. Follow these three steps and you too can take back the Wii.

Step One: Cough Up a Little Cash
Assuming your Wii is on your wifi network, and if it's not it really should be, visit the Wii Shop from the main menu and go to WiiWare. For $10 US, you can buy 1000 credits. This will be the best $10 you ever spend. Whip out the credit card and cough up the coin.

Step Two: Download a Browser
For 500 credits, you can download an Opera web browser for your Wii. Do it. You'll be sharing YouTube videos with everyone on the television, browsing Flickr pics, checking the news and getting more personalized content on demand. Your Wii is already on the net, it's time to bring down the web.

Step Three: Go 8-Bit
This third and final step is the most important one of all. The quickest and most powerful way to reclaim your Nintendo Wii is to make it your old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. There are many retro games available in WiiWare, and this weekend I downloaded Ice Hockey for 500 credits. Ice Hockey is making me very, very happy and 15 years old again.

Now that I have Ice Hockey back (and it's exactly as I remember it, which is a good thing) I just need to score RBI Baseball.

I've got my Nintendo back!

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Odeo Stops Uploads, I Search For YouTube of Audio
Published by Toronto Mike on September 14, 2008 @ 15:23 in Podcasting, Technology

podcastI've been a member of Odeo for many years. Odeo was where I'd upload MP3s for sharing on this site. I always considered it YouTube for audio.

Odeo is how I'm streaming Ok, Blue Jays, Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits and these old Humble and Fred Christmas bumpers. The Odeo Studio was like a jewel in the rough, exactly what I was looking for. But now, Odeo has stopped allowing uploads, effectively eliminating the studio and forcing you to host your mp3 files elsewhere.

Is there a YouTube for audio files? I'm looking for a free service where I can upload MP3 files and easily embed a flash player.

I've got some audio I want to share but I'm not interested in hosting the files myself. If you know of a service I can try, leave me a comment.

Update: Testing Hound Bite

Comments 4 comments
Google Chrome Beta Test
Published by Toronto Mike on September 1, 2008 @ 19:31 in Google Chrome, Technology

ChromeI just read the great Google Chrome comic book that so clearly explains Google's new open source browser, Google Chrome. The beta version of Google Chrome launches tomorrow. Once again, it appears Google gets it.

All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends -- all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build.

On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn't the browser that matters. It's only a tool to run the important stuff -- the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.

Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today's complex web applications much better. By keeping each tab in an isolated "sandbox", we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren't even possible in today's browsers.

We'll see how Google Chrome matches up against Firefox 3. I'll leave a comment after I give it an initial spin.

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