Tony Duckles on programming, photography, and general geekery

del.icio.us Director


Yes, somewhere along the line…I became a geek. I started using multiple computers, not just between home/work/school/etc., but even multiple computers at home. (Though, I mainly use my MacBook for all my casual web-surfing needs these days at home…) I was always annoyed by having different bookmarks on the different computers I used, which meant frustration when I had to remember which computer I bookmarked that useful such-and-such on. I wanted a way to have a centralized webpage for my bookmarks and hence could access from wherever I was. So, inspired by an entry on 24ways.org, I created one. It was my little pet project, and it was good…

Then I found out that someone else had already done the same thing and they had done it better. Enter del.icio.us. (Ooh, the pretty pretty tag-clouds! Yes, my tag-cloud is quite delicious indeed…) Tags are such a simple concept, but oh-so effective. It just makes so much sense to have a webapp where you save bookmarks and can assign arbitrary tags to each entry. del.icio.us then makes it very easy to navigate around your list of links by tags, even providing nifty “easy” URLs like http://del.icio.us/tduckles/madison, which shows me everything I've tagged with “madison”.

Even better, people out there have written even slicker tools to access and navigate around your del.icio.us bookmarks. <!– more –> John Vey wrote this amazingly cool tool called del.icio.us direc.tor. In it's native form, it's meant to be a bookmarklet which you use at api.del.icio.us after you've done all your HTTP-Auth stuff, so that the JavaScript code doesn't need to worry about auth when trying to access your bookmarks.

Not only is this a uber-slick UI for navigating around your tag-tree and for quickly finding a link based on (real-time!) searching, but the page itself also goes into the design and architecture of direc.tor. This was a really fascinating read for me, from a web-dev perspective. What really blew my mind about this is the whole concept of using AJAX methods to grab the del.icio.us XML DOM, and then use XSLT and XPath features which are built-in to most modern browsers to do all the searching in real-time on the client-side. So, really, the whole bottom pane of direc.tor is the output of an XSTL on the del.icio.us XML DOM of your bookmarks. I had never realized that you could do XSLT and XPath operations via Javascript before. This was a watershed moment for me, because a whole new perspective on web-development opened up for me: you could use XMLHttpRequest to grab an XML document, and then use Javascript to do an XSLT to transform that XML data into HTML or whatever presentation- layer you wanted. In the past, I had always only thought of AJAX calls returning some chunk of HTML which you could then insert somewhere into the document DOM.

Google Reader


I really dig the whole web-based RSS aggregator/reader thing. For the past year or so, I've been using reBlog on my Linux box at home. It had it's quirks, but it was great to use.

Enter Google Reader. Being the show-off's they are, Google has created a fantastic RSS reader web-app. I've ditched my home-based reBlog setup for using Google Reader for all my RSS feed reading needs. Here are the things which really won me over:

Street Fighter: The Later Years


I don't know about you, but I remember playing a fair amount of Street Fighter 2 back in the day. College Humor is running this hilarious series, looking into the lives of the Street Fighter combatants…10 years later. *insert suspenseful music here!*

Firefly & Fan Documentary DVD


I finally succumbed to recommendations of friends and picked-up the Firefly TV series on DVD…and it definitely didn't fail to impress. It's the best sci-fi show I've seen in a long time. It reminds me of ST:TNG in some ways, in so much as it's very character-driven, with engaging characters who are developed very nicely. I would certainly recommend it to any sci-fi fans who haven't had a chance to see it yet.

The fan community for Firefly seems to be alive and strong, and it looks like a fan-compiled Firefly documentary is on the verge of being released. I'm still debating picking it up… I know I can get fanatical about some things, but I'm not sure if I'm too that point with Firefly yet. I certainly wish that the TV series hadn't been cancel mid-1st- season.


reBlog - Web-Based, Server-Side RSS Aggregator


Like many people these days, I use RSS feeds to keep up on news from various feeds. But, with some of the higher traffic sites, since the RSS XML file only keeps the last 40 headlines or so, if I don't update the feed every ~12 hours, then I'll miss some posts. Since my iBook has been on the fritz lately, I've just been leaving it on 24-7, so I was able to have it auto-refresh every few hours.

This weekend, I was suddenly struck with the idea that it would be cool to have an RSS reader with a web-interface, and the RSS fetcher could run as a crontab job. This has the benefits of being able to be accessed anywhere, and to fetch new posts automagically, without needing some desktop computer somewhere to handle that.