Web office

Web 2.0 Logo

Lots of people hate the phrase Web 2.0. It implies that a completely new world wide web is being created to replace the old browsing experience, when really it is just a gradual improvement. But you can’t tell me there aren’t some excellent innovations being created, mostly due to AJAX leading to a very different way people use their computers, all based around the web browser.

Most corporations pay Microsoft a lot of money to provide them with software and support to enable their office to work. Standard office applications on a corporate desktop are Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and Access.

There are non-Microsoft alternatives, but they all struggle to get onto work desktops, for a variety of reasons. Openoffice.org, for example, will do everything a normal user needs, and is free. It is certainly an improvement over Works or Office 97, if that’s what you are using at home, and can’t justify a purchase/install of Office 2003.

But why download and install 90MB of slow loading java based software when you can use the web for free, right now?

A free, web 2.0 based productivity suite could comprise:

Now I know that a lot of those programs are still in development, but that’s not such a bad thing. They are listening to users, creating programs based on peoples needs, rather than just to sell and add-on pack.

If you want to check out what web 2.0 is all about, visit koolWeb 2.0. Not only is it a cool example of AJAX in action, it links to the best web 2.0 sites/applications out there. It is a bit suss, though. Digg at number 1, and Land of PureGold at 56, despite it appearing to be plain html to me.

Wikipedia links: Web 2.0 AJAX Writely GMail Category: Web 2.0

Notepad replacement

Notepad++ Logo

The inbuilt Windows notepad program is okay. It is small, and edits text files without too much complaint. But it is very limiting. There are a lot of things it won’t do and there are many better alternatives.

But sometimes you don’t need a full IDE to edit a text file, or make a minor alteration to a web page. Even many text editors, like emacs and it’s equivalents, are a bit heavy.

So an entire new genre of text editor has been created: the notepad replacement. Light, integrated with windows, but much more capable.

Until recently my standard text editor in XP has been metapad. It does the things I needed. But I’ve recently found notepad++.

Notepad++ Screenshot

Notepad++ is GPL, so it is free to use, and powerful. Simple things like being in colour make a text editor much easier to use, and figure out any typos you may have made. And tabs (like in firefox) that allow you to easily flick between documents — something that really annoyed me in metapad, and was hugely frustrating in regular notepad.

Notepad++ has syntax highlighting for many different programming languages: C, C++, Java, C#, XML, HTML, PHP, Javascript, ASCII art file, ini file, batch file, ASP, VB/VBS source files, SQL, CSS, Pascal, Perl, Python and Ruby, among others.

It doesn’t have as nice an icon scheme as Notepad SX, but overall is a much better package. Why don’t you give it a try? (mac and linux users exempt)

Let me know if you have found a better gui text editor than Notepad++ and I’ll give it a try.

Open Source Web Design

oswd

Discovered this cool site today. OSDN is a web repository for html and css templates you can freely use on your site.

To put it simply, Open Source Web Design is a collection of web designs submitted by the community that anyone can download free of charge! The goal is to provide the Open Source community with quality web designs to help get people’s projects on the web in a way that is both organized and good looking. Open Source Web Design – About Us

So I spent part of this evening redesigning the homepage of this server. Check it out. It still needs a bit of work, but it looks much more modern. As usual, it looks much better in a standards complient browser than in IE. The template I chose was Blue Leaves written by Jenna Smith.

On another note, I appear to have fixed the IE problem on this site – tweaked the widths of the right column in the stylesheet.

L33t Signatures

Fortune Cookie

The unix fortune program is really cool. On demand it reaches into it’s library of interesting quotes and regales you with it. It is named fortune after fortune cookies and their words of wisdom.

I use fortune on my linux machines, basicly just to make logging in more interesting. But yesterday I came across this article describing how to use fortune to create an email signature that changes interesting quotes every time. You too can be 1337 like the h4x0rs out there.

Don’t worry if you don’t speak l337you’re not alone.

Having roughly followed the instructions as given on the site above, I wondered if I could get something similar happening in windows. I discovered a windows port of fortune called wFortune, made by a student at UTS right here in Sydney a few years ago.

Linux instructions

  • Install # apt-get (or yum or urpmi) install fortune
  • Create a signature file $ touch ~/.signature
  • Create a cron job to change the signature file every 5 minutes # vim /etc/cron.d/fortune-sig
    0/5 * * * * dan /usr/games/fortune > /home/dan/.signature
  • Tell your mail program to use the signature file Tools --> Account Settings --> Attach this signature --> Browse --> .signature

Windows instructions

  • Download wFortune
  • Unzip and install
  • Change directory to C:\Program Files\wFortune
  • Copy wfortune.ini to email_fortune.ini
  • Edit email_fortune.ini [wFortune]
    FortuneDir=C:\Program Files\wFortune\fortunes
    SaveFortuneFile=C:\Documents and Settings\Daniel\signature.txt
    ShowFortune=0
    PreferedLength=Short
  • Start wFortune control panel – create new profile
  • Enter the following details: INI file C:\Program Files\wFortune\email_fortune.ini
    Run wFortune automatically every 300 seconds
  • Tell your mail program to use the signature file
    • Thunderbird:Tools --> Account Settings --> Attach this signature --> Browse --> C:\Documents and Settings\Daniel\signature.txt
    • Outlook Express:Tools --> Options --> Signatures --> New Signature --> File --> C:\Documents and Settings\Daniel\signature.txt

And pretty soon you too can be signing off your emails with such witty quotes as: Maugham’s Thought: Only a mediocre person is always at his best.

Bandwidth Upgrade

iiNet logo

After a slight false start caused by a MTU problem, adsl2+ has come to this server.

Currently at 8000/800 kbps there’s a massive improvement over our previous adsl 1 speeds.

A 800MB file used to take 3.5 hours to download, it now takes 20 minutes. Awesome.

So sadly, farewell Netspace, but hello iiNet. Hopefully you on the outside will notice quicker access to this site, too.

Update 10/02/2005:

Our ADSL 2+ modem arrived last night, so after 4 hours of effort, we have now fully upgraded our connection. We’ve gained VOIP and wireless connectivity as well, but the firewall/NAT got a whole lot more complicated. Most things seem to be working correctly now, though. If you notice anything not working properly, please leave a comment.

Mod_Rewrite

Apache2

OpenSuse Php

A couple of months ago I changed the server this website is hosted on. It only moved about 3 feet physically, but about 6 years into the future in terms of hardware. And I changed the linux distribution that it was running on from Mandrake, to Suse. Then a couple of months later, I upgraded to OpenSuse 10.

There were no dramas with any of this. Our mail archives came across fine, this blog managed to get restarted without any dramas thanks to phpMyAdmin and response to just about any connection I’d throw at it was significantly improved.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was setting up a new site. It was just a virtual host, so nothing really needed to change. But something did. And it broke my apache web server. In trying to fix that one thing, I broke apache in about 20 other ways. Everything stopped working. Continue reading “Mod_Rewrite”

Digital TV Recording on your PC

Hands up if you’ve ever watched digital TV? Keep them up if you watch it at home. I thought so.

Well, who knows when the analog TV broadcast signal is due to be turned off? According to Digital Broadcasting Australia it is still due to be turned off in mainland Australia 31December, 2008. That’s right, a little over 3 years away.

It may not happen then, of course. Take up has been so slow that the day when half of the nations tv’s go black may be a way off yet. Think of this – yes, you only have to pay around $100 to get a SD-STB to work with your tv, and most people probably will. But what of those houses that have more than one tv? Do you really want to put a STB on that 20 year old 34cm tv? CSI in High Def Widescreen just isn’t the same if you can’t tell which voice belongs to whom.

Anyway, for a pretty small amount of money, you can build your own Digital TV recorder, using your home computer. You need a reasonably up to date PC – pentium iii or newer, and some hard drive space.

Oh, and this:
VisionPlus DTV card Continue reading “Digital TV Recording on your PC”

Firefox Search Plugins

I’m reasonably impressed with msn’s web search at the moment, so I thought I’d put a a plugin for it into my firefox search window. But there wasn’t one.

There’s one on the site, but it claims to be for games. So I thought, why not contribute, and write one. So I spent a couple of hours figuring out how, and made it work, and submitted it.

They rejected it, however, claiming it was the same as the one they already had. In that case, they ought to relabel it and change it’s category, but that’s just my opinion.

Get Firefox