Web Tech

ePub: an option for simultaneous content development?

One of the problems with developing high-fidelity printed content (e.g. in PDF) is that it is not very accessible, despite all the improvements in PDF accessibility.

In fact, it is an Australian Government requirement that websites should never use PDF as the sole means of communicating important information -- for example, a fact sheet.

But if the printed fact sheet is still needed, are there any alternatives to developing the content twice: once in Adobe InDesign, and once for the web?

Here Comes Everybody

I have a confession to make.

Most of Web 2.0 leaves me cold. All this hype about Wikipedia, social networking solutions that will magically sustain themselves and revolutionize the world (Facebook, I'm looking at you) is generally just so much marketing bullshit, frankly.

So I tend to yawn a bit about books that yammer on about harnessing social power. But after reading the Ars Technica interview with author Clay Shirky as part of a review of Here Comes Everybody, I had to revise my opinion.

Vanilla

Just when I thought that forum software had dropped off the perch, I find Vanilla. Rocketing up the charts to #3 on Google (although I see that Yahoo! and Microsoft Live search aren't with the program) it's a refreshing change to the same-ness of phpBB and its derivatives, spiritually or otherwise.

It's built to be extensible, and from a quick look at the code, seems pretty well thought out. There are over 300 extensions registered to date!

As some have noticed, it can be thought of more as a live web/blogging tools rather than a forum, since it's permissions are quite granular and customizable.

Live update of local news stories

Now that Google News allows news searches by geographic location, we can combine this with a tweak of the Google Reader embedding code to get a live feed of local stories in our area.

First, let's craft our geo-specific query. From Advanced Search at http://news.google.com, we can work out that it's the geo=xxx parameter that determines our geographic bias. So a Canberra local feed is

http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&geo=canberra

Unifying Feeds

As many are aware the history of incompatible RSS formats is a running joke, even given the chequered history of most Web standards.

Some ramifications are still being felt today.

But I'm surprised that there's no easy library which can convert one format to the other -- or

Atom + RSS feed readers & servers

Given the explosion of interesting in feed technologies such as RSS and now particularly Atom, I find it slightly bewildering that it's so hard to find a web-based aggregator which works well inside a corporate firewall.

Why? Well, quite simply, I think that employees are increasingly demanding what amounts to pub/sub technologies to exchange information and status amongst themselves.

There are some signs of life, e.g.

IBM Mashup Startup Kit (complex, but looks very powerful)
SimplePie (a PHP library)

Clamshell - an OpenID server

Clamshell software now has a new home at Dropforge! Please visit there for latest news and software updates.

Clamshell is an OpenID server implementation I have developed as part of ongoing work at building my own wiki software.

It's very simple and is really just a re-modularization and extension of the phpMyID single-user OpenID software.

eXisting with WebDAV

I've long been fascinated by the eXist native XML database, and I think it's just made it into my list of apps that can really help an enterprise out.

Why? Well, I think in the Web 2.0 days there's a clear shift away from aggregated data sources to document-driven workflows. But there's still a need to search, run queries, and limit access to these documents.

Plus eXist belongs to the WebDAV world. That means REST: you can add, update and delete documents from eXist just by issuing the right HTTP command. The icing on the cake is that by making a couple of simple changes to an XML 'collection' (think: collection = database) you can turn it into fully fledged Atom feeds with full APP support. Mmmmmm.

Roll your own stack

Okay, compiling my own stack has already frustrated (and scared) me to death before, but this set of instructions seems almost simple enough to follow:

Set up the Command Shell for Windows 2000/XP/2003
Building Perl
Building Apache with SSL, Security & Compression
Building OpenSSL
Building mod_perl 2.0.2

The IIS Metabase, WBEMTEST and Communicator web client

This is worth documenting, if only for the fact that I've never been game to touch the IIS metabase before.

The Communicator Web Access planning document talks about Metabase settings, but not how to change them. Here's the basics --

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