Future Blogging

I’m really getting into the whole blogging thing now. Part of this has been my use of Bloglines and the increased number of blogs I’m reading. As I am more exposed to new blogs and new ways of using them, I’m more and more excited by the concept.

Most of this is down to Robert Scoble, Shel Israel and their Red Couch project. Two people writing the same book over a blog, with constant critiques coming in from commenters. It’s like a writing reality TV programme. Only interesting. As well as these two, philb is another who has excited my interest in the topic.

I’ve had a personal blog for a year or so now. I get fed up with the system I’m using so I chop and change a lot. I guess I didn’t really know what I was meant to be doing with it. That changed with the Closed Circle, where some of the stuff I posted was half decent and even worth hanging onto. Maybe I’ll look into importing some of that stuff into this blog.

I also use Blogger for the Graham Parsnip blog, a collaborative writing project with my friend Al Kitching. It suits because a slightly amateurish image is what we are after there. But my frustrations with Blogger (largely connecting to the damn server) mean that I couldn’t use that as a longterm solution for a blog I am working on regularly.

I’m pretty interested in a Scrutiny blog, specifically a collaborative one. I’ll try and grab stuff together for this blog, but it simply won’t have the range of one being put together by the whole county. We’ll see how receptive the other Scrutiny officers are at the next meeting – I’ll hold off sending that email till after that.

What would I like to see to improve Blogging? Better integration with images than I have seen so far. With Blogger you can use Picasa which I downloaded yesterday and haven’t yet decided what I make of it. That then links with another service call Hello which enables you to post pictures onto your blog. What if you don’t use Blogger? Tough, I guess, though I haven’t looked into it too deeply.

What I would want to see is a program that allows me to organise all my digital images, cut and crop them, reduce the filesize (v. important when a digital camera is involved), then ftp directly to my webspace, and then take me into my blogging application to post on that image.

Does this application already exist?

Forest’s chances

Not a great weekend for Forest. A 2-1 home defeat against Millwall leaves us further in the mire. The usual cliche about a new manager bringing with him a few points clearly isn’t a truism as well.

I was disappointed with Megson’s appointment for about 10 minutes. After that time, the plus points made me delighted to have this man in charge.

He’s a born motivator, a man who managed to get West Bromwich Albion (West Bromwich Albion!) promoted to the Premiership twice. Clearly a man who can get the best out of mediocre players. And boy, are the players at Forest mediocre. Sure, he plays (ahem) direct football, but if that’s what it takes to pull ourselves out of the relegation zone then that’s fine too.

Plus he favours 5-3-2 which puts you at an immediate advantage in the Championship. This is because teams in that division hardly ever stray from straight 4-4-2. Being confronted by something different might just make teams a little more wary of us.

But the squad does need strengthening. There’s talk of Baggies’ central defender Darren Moore joining the club. A big and strong (and slow) centre-half, he should add a bit of experience to a dangerously young back line. The other need is for a goalscorer. David Johnson is looking more and more like a crap striker who had one lucky season for us. Marlon King has the look of a player who will never be the finished article. Gareth Taylor is a plucky target man, but no-one in their right minds would rely on him for goals. Neil Harris is yet to prove himself – but I would like to see him given a chance.

There are plenty of players at Premiership clubs who aren’t getting a game. Not just WBA, though Megson’s links makes it difficult to think that players wouldn’t be willing, like Moore, to drop down a division. Geoff Horsfield is a big, uncompromising centre-forward who, unlike Taylor, scores goals. Rob Hulse is another, who hasn’t really had a chance in recent times, but who has proved himself at this level.

On top of a couple of Moore, and a couple of strikers, I’d like to see one more centre-half and a left back or wingback.

This blog – what’s it for?

A good question.

I’m liking this so much I think I’m going to make this my main blog. The WikiBlog can remain just that – blogging the updates and new pages on the website.

Here is where I will do all my main blogging, on work, life, books, the ‘net and everything else. Hopefully it will entertaining for anyone who comes across it.

You never know- stranger things have happened (Probably).

A Website for NSN?

On my Wikiblog, I posted thoughts on a possible website for the Norfolk Scrutiny Network.

I’ve put together an email to the two people that run the Network:

Karen, Mike

Without wishing to go over old ground, I have been giving a bit of thought to the website idea for the Network which I mentioned last year sometime. I didn’t take it any further at the time, as I thought Karen’s points were valid and would mean that it would be unlikely ever to get off the ground.

However, I’ve become interested in this again following discussions in and around the Conference, when various topics, like inter-authority working, were talked about and I think a website might be a great way to facilitate these sorts of projects.

Recently, in a non work related capacity, I have come across a bit of free software which enables websites to be setup and maintained quickly and easily, and where pages can be edited and created by any registered user. This would obviously alleviate the problem of who would update the site: everybody would. It’s remarkably easy to use and something that would literally take me half an hour to set up.

Stuff I thought of that could go on the site:

* NSN Admin stuff – a permanent record of minutes, agendas etc

* Individual Authorities’ pages – to be used as much or as little as necessary. For example, Norfolk County have a regularly updated, useful Scrutiny webpage and so little more than contact information and a link might be required. But for those authorities whose Scrutiny websites are more limited – possibly for technological reasons – (such as us!) this could be a really useful way of making information available.

* Library of reviews undertaken by member authorities.

* Collaborative Working – as mentioned above. This is what could be really interesting, and innovative. Using the website to conduct a County-wide review: maintaining lines of communication, sharing research and bits of data, inviting the public’s involvement. Rather in the same way (though obviously on a much smaller scale) that the Hutton enquiry put all evidence gathered on a website, this has the potential to do something similar – using IT but being very open at the same time.

* We could have a Scrutiny ‘blog’ – again, maintained by everybody. If someone comes across a piece of news which might not merit a large piece being written it would be possible for them to post a quick message on the blog, with a link to wherever that news first appeared. Occasional commentaries on work being undertaken could also be posted, inviting comment and suggestions from other members.

* How about an electronically maintained library of documents, booklets and articles about Scrutiny issues? There must be a wide range of documents which each authority has but which no-one else knows about or has access to. By maintaining a list of who-has-what and how to get hold of things, it might be possible to share this information around more easily.

* The advantages of having a site held off a Council server also means that all member authorities could use the site as a means to using the internet to gather information, such as by holding online questionnaires, for example.

Again, it’s possible I’m being a bit pie-in-the-sky over this, and work would have to be put in by everyone to make it work – though not perhaps as many as one might think. But in terms of raising the profile of scrutiny, and more specifically, scrutiny in Norfolk, especially when it comes to the issue of collaborative working, it could be a winner.

Haven’t sent it yet – it’s a good practice to hang onto these things and considers them later on!

WordPress!

So, this is WordPress. I have been looking into different blogging systems, like Blogger and using the wiki on my site, as well as others that charge, like Typepad.

I thought I would give this a try though coz a) it’s free and b) it installs onto my own webspace so I don’t need to worry about slow connections which knackered my experience of using Blogger.

So, far, it’s so good, and there is plenty to find out about – it’s a very thorough bit of software.

CrapAuthors.com

Here’s a great new use of a blog to keep an eye on: CrapAuthors.com.

It basically tracks the progress of a whole range of writers that the bloggers deem to be of negligible literary value!

Parsnip’s Progress

Al and I have created the Graham Parsnip blog (http://sliceofparsnip.blogspot.com) as usual with me, using the Blogger system.

Parsnip is a spoof science fiction author, who first appeared on Palimpsest
(http://palimpsest.org.uk/phpBB2) earlier this year. But Al reckons the stuff is good enough to one day be turned into novel form. We’ll see. But having the blog means we can post content more quickly and keep the story rolling along, whilst cross-posting the bigger incidents to Palimpsest as ususal. But how to promote a made up blog by a made up person?

Also, what with it being narrative, people do need to start from the beginning and work their way up through the posts. Maybe we should make this clear somehow.

Advanced Firefox

Original: http://www.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=04/12/02/1610202&from=rss

Internet
Firefox for power users
Wednesday December 08, 2004 (02:00 PM GMT)
By: Daniel Rubio

The Mozilla Firefox browser has garnered wide attention for its capabilities, compared to its predecessor Mozilla and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. But in addition to its widely covered speed enhancements and robust security, Firefox offers a rich assortment of features that are not so evident upon installation.

Some of the features are aimed at easing the transition from other browsers. Old habits die hard, and everyone surfing the Net has his share of established behaviours. Firefox allows users to easily migrate old preferences set on other browsers in a few simple steps. By selecting the Import… option under the File menu, one can incorporate bookmarks, passwords, cookies, and other browser-related information used on Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Mozilla directly into Firefox.

Firefox can store Internet password information for use upon revisiting sites. You can manage this behaviour through the Saved Passwords option located in the Privacy tab under the Tools-Options menu, for Windows environments, or the Edit-Preferences menu for Linux installations.

To more security-conscious users, stored passwords are unacceptable, since another user who can access the browser can use the stored credentials without authentication. Firefox sets itself apart from other browsers offering the option of assigning a master password, which it requests before giving access to these stored user-password sets. If you close the browsing session the next user who invokes the program has to enter the password again. The master password can be assigned from the same menu used for administering passwords, with the Master Password option.

Catering to those whose major source of information is the web, Firefox can detect RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds of Web sites, a means by which content providers offer an up-to-the-minute snapshot of their most recent information. If a site you visit offers this technology, you will observe a small icon in the lower right corner. Clicking on it allows you to generate what is known as a Live Bookmark — a dynamic directory of links which are generated from a sites updated RSS feed, and which are also stored under Firefox’s Bookmarks menu.

Another area which has blossomed with the advent of Firefox’s final release is its Extensions — special add-ons developed by third parties that enhance a browser’s default capabilities. While toolbars produced by vendors like Google, Yahoo, and AOL are the norm on other browsers, Firefox open source developers have come up with grassroots extensions that fulfill even the most exotic user quirks.

If you are an avid Internet music listener, check out the FoxyTunes extension, which will allow you to integrate your media player controls under Firefox’s lower frame, streamlining the operation of your favorite player while surfing the Web. If downloading is your thing, the FlashGot extension can handle Net downloads through external download managers, allowing you to reuse your download software seamlessly with Firefox. These are just two examples out of more than 150 available.

To manage extensions in Firefox, select the Extensions option under the Tools menu. From there you can install, delete, and configure extensions, and also obtain information on available extensions.

As an example, let’s proceed with instructions on how to configure one especially useful extension — InfoRSS, which allows you to incorporate an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed for delivering headline updates — into Firefox.

After you install InfoRSS and restart Firefox, you’ll see a small world icon on the browser’s bottom frame. If you select it with your mouse, you will see a list of default RSS feeds from around the Net.

You can add an RSS feed into InfoRSS in two ways: You can visit the feed — as if it were a Web page — and drag and drop the address onto the small world icon. Or, you can wait for Firefox to detect an RSS feed automatically and add it as a Live Bookmark — as was mentioned previously. This places the RSS URL into the InfoRSS menu for later addition. Upon placement, InfoRSS will confirm the validity of the feed and later show it within the drop-down list.

To view the headlines from a specific RSS feed, simply select it from the menu. To eliminate a particular feed, just drag and drop the line onto the top option, as shown in the previous graphic. Additionally, you can also opt to fine tune the display on InfoRSS, such as the number of headlines appearing per feed, the refresh time and background colors, among other features, through the Options tab appearing in the Extensions pop-up window.

Themes are another Firefox feature that allow you to modify the browser’s look and feel. You can specify if you want to view cleaner-cut smaller-icon menus or special color variants, and you can modify your visual rendition depending on your mood or tastes. You manage Firefox themes from the Themes option under the Tools menu. A small pop-up window will appear, allowing you to install, update, select, and search alternate display themes.

All of these are some of the less commonly explored — although powerful — features offered by Firefox. With them, you can enhance your browsing experience while using this W3C standards-based browser.

Daniel Rubio is the principal consultant at Osmosis Latina, a firm specializing in enterprise software development, training, and consulting based in Mexico.

OpenOffice.org better than M$ Office?

Good article on choosing Openoffice.org over M$ Office (from http://www.pc-tools.net/comment/openoffice/ ) :

There are some very good reasons to use OpenOffice.org instead of Microsoft Office, and the best reasons have nothing to do with cost of the software.

Although I have regularly used Microsoft Office in the past, I haven’t even had it installed on my system for over a year. This is despite completing a thesis, working with legal documents, exchanging business documents, writing academic papers for publishing as well as creating software based presentations.

I have NOT needed MS Office to do any of these things. OpenOffice.org is adequate – it has all the essential features, including style list functions for real publishing, document comparison capabilities and import/export abilities, a capable spreadsheet, and a presentation program that does its job while importing and exporting PowerPoint.

But it’s not just that OpenOffice.org is “adequate” for the job. As a software developer and long time computer user, I think OpenOffice.org is superior in several important respects. I would like to describe these points, because I think that others will also understand the issues better
when they recognize the implications for themselves:

OpenOffice.org runs on multiple platforms. Currently: Windows, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, Mac OS X. This is important because I use several operating systems, including Linux. It is a huge advantage for me to be able to work on the same documents under the same interface whether I have booted Linux, Windows, or whether I am using a thin Solaris workstation.

OpenOffice.org is stable, and runs smoothly. It has not crashed on me under Windows or Linux, and does not do wacky things. MS Word has scared me in the past with some of its flaky behaviour.

I trust the OpenOffice.org software and its developers; I may even contribute to the project myself! The office suite is open source, and the Internet community is heavily involved with improving Sun’s original software. You’re guaranteed to never experience licensing-related hassles (expired licenses, product registrations, lost keys, forced updates) which have occasionally caused much aggravation and lost productivity for MS Office users.

Data longevity: this is an important point, which is often overlooked because it’s really only an issue in the (distant?) future. Microsoft has made it clear that it wants proprietary document formats, and inconsistent ones at that. This may work as long as Microsoft is around and developing software that supports files created by outdated products. Personally, I’m more comfortable with my OpenOffice.org documents in XML format because I know that in the worst case scenario, I can unzip the document structure and easily extract text from the XML components. This is technical, but what it comes down to is: my data is easily accessible in the future. It is also easy for third party developers to write tools for OpenOffice documents.

Data interchange: this builds on the previous point. MS uses proprietary document formats and seems unwilling to allow seamless data flow between different software from independent vendors. It’s just not in their best interest. OpenOffice.org uses data formats designed to be easily interchanged (OASIS specification), and other projects are cooperating with the vision of open document interchange – e.g. Abiword, and KOffice.

Now, given the rapid worldwide growth and popularity of open source software, including OpenOffice.org, do you really think you’re better off locking your documents into an inflexible, non-interchangeable format (MS Word version X)? I would argue that for anyone who values document longevity and interchange, it’s in their best interest to use software based on open
data formats.

After all: software companies die, but information lasts forever. If a company takes the secrets of unlocking your data to its grave, where will that leave you?