problems with RSS aggregators

RSS aggregators are very fashionable right now. Having toyed with AmphetaDesk, RadioUserland and NetNewsWireLite, I'm struck by problems with them all:

  • many RSS feeds don't actually include the information that the reader wants to read,

  • the information is presented in a form chosen by the aggregator author (NetNewsWireLite and, to a lesser extent RadioUserland).

old 25 Aug 2002 #
twiki to make life easier

Despite the lack of success, you can stillread in the press about how small robots are going to move into our homes to assist with chores REAL SOON NOW!

That said, after reading some more on 0xdecafbad's site, I installed TWiki. It's great ! No more do I have to laboriously type up small pages of HTML just to provide details of some small snippet of code - just type in the text, link to it from the main page and it's done.

The obvious next step is to use the wiki formatting plugin, then it will be easy to link from this log into the wiki. That can wait for another day.

old 24 Aug 2002 #
time management - the pickle jar approach

Time Management - The Pickle Jar Theoryis interesting. I've spent quite a lot of time lately thinking about "planning".

By "planning", I don't really mean project planning, gantt charts, etc. - more "how to get the right things done today". Well, and some thoughts about determining what the right things are.

In my last jobthere was a lady who spent the first thirty minutes of every day organising her plan for that day. She did this on paper, copying incomplete items from the previous day and prioritising as she went. Once the prioritised list was completed, she allocated time against each of the items. Then, she started working down the list.

This always seemed very attractive to me, in a similar fashion to how I admire people who find significant comfort in religion. In both cases, you might not want to live your life that way, but it's clear that the people who do get some comfort from it (and in the case of the lady with whom I worked, she was widely admired for her professionalism and approach).

Anyway, I've always been verygood at making lists of things to do. Similarly, I'm good at making entries in diaries (paper or electronic) about things that need to be done on a certain date. The problem has been doingthings on the list or remembering to look at the diary to see what should be done today.

It often seems that there should be some type of technological answer to my problems, but it never turns out that way. I've tried many PDA's, various email, todo and calendaring programs. In the end, if you aren't disciplined, these things will just help you to build up a vast bulk of data that you never actually use.

These days I manage with the emacs diary/calendar for my meetings and appointments. Whilst the package is simple, that's okay, as most of the meetings I have are regular and straightforward. For a list of things todo I have a slightly customised version of emacs outline mode. With a few default first level headings, code to move entries around, add timestamps and some gnusintegration I'm all set.

But I still get tempted. I readabout how Morbus Iff uses Omni Outlinerto manage his todo list. Before you know it I've started the browser and I'm reading the specs...

old 21 Aug 2002 #
truncation of MT RSS entries

By default, Movable Type RSS entries only include the first twenty words of an article. This seems wrong - if the principal way in which content is to be read is through an RSS aggregator, much of the interesting comment will be missed.

It's easily fixed - change the RSS 0.92 and 1.0 templates to use MTItemBody rather than MTEntryExcerpt.

To see what you are missing, compare the RSS datafor Daring Fireball with the siteitself.

old 20 Aug 2002 #
RSS to NNTP gateway

I've been experimenting with a small script to take a bunch of RSS/RDF feeds and inject them into newgroups. Perl is a convenient language - libraries for RSS parsing, an NNTP client, etc. all exist and can be downloaded from CPAN. But Perl is full of so much syntactic goop. Sometimes that gives you power, as you can attack problems for a variety of different angles. Then, some things seem clumsy. For example:

$from = $result{'managingEditor'};
if ($from eq "") {
    $from = $result{'webMaster'};
} if ($from eq "") {
    $from = "invalid\@invalid.invalid";
old 11 Aug 2002 #
Over 150 new virus each month ?

From Alec Muffett:

Neil Cowie, senior virus researcher at the McAfee lab, said it was now seeing between 150 and 200 new viruses per month. In total there are more than 30,000 documented viruses.

Those numbers don't seem credible. 150 new virus in a month means that we average about 5 each day. Funny that Neil Cowie works for a company that sells virus software...

old 09 Aug 2002 #
Baroque Connectivity

Having baroque connectivity some of the time is a real strain.

At workaccess to the outside world is via one of two mechanisms:

  • a web cache,

  • a SOCKS proxy.

Massinova<p>A pertinent example of this is the difficulties in trying to get Radio upstreaming to work in this environment. Using the Radio Userland servers (accessed using SOAP over HTTP it would appear) works well. Any attempt to publish using ftp to machines at homeseems doomed.</p><p>The fact that there are (at least) two other network configurations to consider ("DSL at home" and "DSL at home with Cisco VPN") suggests that I’ll be sticking with with Radio Userland servers for a while :-(</p>

old 12 Jun 2002 #
A wireless network for the office

The wireless network for the office is up and running now. Initially, the Regus supplied network port had almost all traffic restricted (only possible use was web browsing, and that through a "transparent" proxy). They were actually quite good at sorting it out over the phone, and within an hour we had all of the restrictions removed.

Performance is quite good - with our Cisco VPN running between my laptop, over wireless, through firewall, through Regus network to BT, over the internet to the VPN server, etc. the RTT is around 25ms. Perfectly usable.

Proposed instructions are written, just being reviewed by Richard, Paul, Guy and Alec Muffett.

old 11 Jun 2002 #
xml-rpc.el hacking

Here are the functions to mangle the new xml.el output back to a format that xml-rpc.el is more content to understand:

(defun xml-rpc-clean-string (s)
  (let ((new-string (replace-regexp-in-string "^[ t\n]+" "" s)))
    (if (string-equal "" new-string)
	nil new-string)))

(defun xml-rpc-clean (l)
  (cond ((listp l)
	 (let ((remain l)
	       elem (result nil))
	   (while l (let (tmp)
		      (setq elem (car l)
			    l (cdr l))
		      (cond ((stringp elem)
			     (if (setq tmp (xml-rpc-clean-string elem))
				 (append (list 'result)
					 (list tmp))))
			    ((listp elem)
			     (append (list result)
				     (list (xml-rpc-clean elem))))
			    (t (append (list result)
				       (list elem))))))
	((stringp l)
	 ;; will returning nil be acceptable ? (xml-rpc-clean-string elem))
	 (t l)))

When combined with:

  • using these functions in a couple of places (new version of xml-rpc.el will be available when it's cleaned up a little),

  • a patch to support "blogname" as well as "blogName" in the XML,

  • a patch to remove ^M characters from the XML,

old 09 Jun 2002 #
blogger.el and Radio Userland

It seems that the version of url.el that I was using was too old for blogger.el (well, xml-rpc.el). Getting the version from CVS fixed that.

Unfortunately it seems that this isn't enough. To have a good version of Emacs for MacOS X, I'm running the CVS version of Emacs. There are some changes which have been made to xml.el such that it no longer ignores whitespace in XML text which it is given. The whitespace turns up as strings in the resulting emacs lisp lists. This confuses xml-rpc.el a great deal, causing failure.

Mail sent to Mark Hershberger(the author of xml-rpc.el version of blogger.el). Perhaps Daniel Lundinwould be a better bet.

Strangely, I was browsing Advogato's recent diaries, and I came across someone elsehaving problems, though they don't say which version of Emacs is involved.

old 08 Jun 2002 #