Online aggregators

Yes, I really am catching up… Gordon mentions a new online aggregator, but it costs money, so I am unlikely to try it… There are so many good free options out there, and I suspect that aggregation will very soon be a part of the operating system (well, I believe Vista has already announced that). When you think about it, presenting an interface to the changing world certainly seems like something you would expect to be baked into every computer.

I’ve been finding Bloglines to be increasingly unreliable since I moved to the US a couple of months ago. I think the two are unrelated, but it’s possible that there is something there… Although it hasn’t really died on me in the last couple of weeks.

Gordon also needs to be reminded that Google reader is a sample app. To quote from that blog post:

Update 10:40 p.m.:Jason Shellen, PM of Google Reader, called me to let me know that Google built its feed API first and the Google Reader application second as a demonstration of what could be done with the underlying data. Jason confirmed my documentation below is very accurate and Google plans to release a feed API “soon” and perhaps within the next month! Google Reader engineer Chris Wetherell has also confirmed the API in the comments below.

I suspect there are some really cool apps waiting to be built on top of that API, and it’s a little surprising that I haven’t seen anything yet which is doing that.

Why does every man and his dog put man pages online?

So, I know that I have a few man pages online, but then again I wrote either the code they document, or some of the generation toolchain to create them, so I think that is different. Why does every man and his dog feel that he should put man pages online? It actually makes it really hard to search for things if the first page of Google results are the same man page over and over again from sites who seem to think that they’re making a contribution to the community.

Are they just doing this to grab some pagerank?

Trying out the Apress e-book system

Full disclosure: I am currently writing a book for Apress.

As an Apress author Apress asked me to check out the Apress e-book online catalog thingie. They threw in a free e-book as an incentive, so I thought I should give it a try. I’ve done a fair few book reviews for AUUG / Woodslane over the last couple of years, so it seemed like a good idea to look further into this e-book thing anyway. Especially as I have a garage full of books that I occasionally need as references, but don’t have the space to store in the house, especially with two small kids who like to draw in books around.

So, I picked a book in their online catalog, and said I’d like to buy it. I entered the discount code, and was good to go until they noticed that I didn’t have an online account in their system. So, I had to stop my “purchase” and make one. Which meant that my place was lost in the purchase, as I had to wait for a confirmation email to arrive, and then click on a link in that email which didn’t have the stage I was up to embedded into it.

The email by the way set off my somewhat aggressive spam filtering, by not having any of my addresses in the delivery headers. I had to go digging in the probably spam folder to find it. You can read about my mail list filtering rules over here if that kind of thing excites you.

So a couple of warts. After all of this I went and found the book again, entered the discount code, and “bought the e-book”. What this gives me is an entry in the list of books I have access to on the Apress site, which means I can download the e-book more than once (if for instance I delete it in error or something). The book is a PDF file, with the slightly annoying name of “book143.pdf”. The book in question is quite long, and is about a nine megabyte download.

Oh, all of this webby stuff was with Firefox on Debian Linux, which all worked fine. The PDF file opens fine with xpdf, with a password on the file which matches the email address I signed up with. This just means that you need to remember the email address that you used when you signed up with Apress, which seems reasonable in a world with fairly permanent email addresses now. It also means that if I put the e-book up on kazaa or something, that they can tell which account did it I suppose.

xpdf seems to think that printing works by the way, although I don’t have a printer configured to actually test with.

Overall, I think it’s quite good. The e-book was very cheap ($15 US if I’d paid), I can download it lots, I don’t have to remember a crappy password, and the PDF doesn’t seem too crippled. Cool.