Site Update: It's like Web2.0, but three years too late to be considered cool

You know how I had separate lists of Twitter updates and Blog updates? Like, on my home page, I listed each of those, but they were in separate areas? That was kind of silly. And unnecessary: Friendfeed provides a handy combination of my feeds. They provide it as a pretty web page, but also as a Web API. So I wrote a little Javascript to present that list of recent updates.

It's like I'm some kind of web programmer or something. But I'm not turning into a hipster, I swear. I don't even own an ironic trucker cap. Don't shun me just because I used some Javascript. At least I didn't put in any gratuitous XML parsing.

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Link: Google Reader Hooked up to Automatic Translation

A couple of weeks ago, the Google Reader folks announced that I (or you, for that matter) could use Google Reader to subscribe to foreign-language feeds, automatically translated. I thought I'd like it; I've been using it for a while now, and I think it's going to change my life. Not humongously change my life. But it's going to change my life, kinda, and probably for the better. I'm subscribing to more foreign-language blogs. I'm getting windows into some different points of view. Some of these I'd already subscribed to. And when I was pretty sure they were talking about something I was interested in, then I'd go to the trouble to get them translated. But now it's easy to read all of them.

OK, it's pancake photos and a rant that's only a couple of degrees removed from the usual Slashdot nerdly hissyfits. Calling these things "life-changing" is overblown, granted. But this feels like something that could grow over the next few years.

(You remember those disclaimers about how my opinions are mine, and not necessarily anyone else's? Those disclaimers still apply.)

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Book Report: Beautiful Code Chs 30-33

(If you're reading these posts in reverse chronological order, be aware that this Book Report is the last one of a series. This book report is for Beautiful Code, a book of essays. Rather than try to review all of the essays at once, I chunked them into blog posts, a few chapters each.) (If you're reading these posts in forward chronological order, you reached the last one! But you probably already figured that out.)

When a Button is All that Connects You to the World / Arun Mehta

I didn't know what to make of this chapter. It's a HCI exercise, inspired by Stephen Hawking: how would you design a computer UI for someone who can just press one button? But Stephen Hawking doesn't use their software. It's not clear that anyone uses this software.

Emacspeak: the Complete Audio Desktop / T.V. Raman

Every so often at work, I see a message on a distribution list from this software developer, T.V. Raman. It's usually about how to use some API for some Web2.0-ish page. At first, these messages surprised me. I suppose I was prejudiced. I kept thinking, Wait, how did this blind guy even notice that this totally visual page had useful information on it? How does he make as much progress around the web as he does? I asked him for some background once, and he gave me an answer that didn't make much sense: it sounded like he'd set up the Emacs text editor to browse web page, screen-scrape useful information out of them, and speak it. But that couldn't be right, could it? Surely I was misunderstanding? But that's what he did.

In this essay, Raman gives us a glimpse into his Emacs configuration, how he put it together, how he's built it up. He talks about the early days of the web, before pages got all visually fancy. He talks about why he likes some parts of Web2.0: the APIs. They reveal data--unadorned with presentation. He knows how to program Emacs to fetch, parse, and speak the data he's interested in. In this article he talks about how he uses Emacs' advice feature to add text-to-speech support. I think I understand it now. I think I understand how this guy bootstrapped his system, turned Emacs into his window to the world.

Code in Motion / Laura Wingerd and Christopher Seiwald

Ha ha, folks from Perforce, a revision control system, wrote this essay about writing code so that you can understand it when you need to revise it years later. That's cute. This was a fun essay.

Writing Programs for "The Book" / Brian Hayes

This essay was pretty cool, though it's not clear how mere mortals are supposed to put its method into practice. Hayes was working on a geometry problem: testing three points for collinearity. He tries a few methods that don't work. So then he tries the best method: he posts to his blog, asking for help. Soon, he gets tons of advice, including one really great set of lecture notes which has a good solution.

How many computational geometers read your blog? Yeah, maybe I have one, but I don't know that he reads often. I'm not sure that Hayes' method would work for me.

The best part about this article was when I recognized the name of the author. Brian Hayes wrote the article about Markov-chain-generated text that inspired my Daily Nonsense page. Nowadays he has a blog. So I spent the rest of the day catching up on two years of archives on that. And I subscribed to his blog. I'm not a computational geometry expert, but maybe he'll be stumped by some Japanese ska trivia someday and I can help out.

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Site Update: I'm on Twitter. (Are you?)

I signed up for Twitter. Yes, you can now get updates about my status much more often than you want to. You can see my Twitter status if you visit this blog's front page; if you resourcefully follow the "follow me on Twitter" link, you'll find other ways to receive those updates. E.g., there is a feed.

Are you on Twitter? Let me know.

I'd considered signing up for Twitter before, but their About page mentioned something about giving them my gmail password, and I was all like "No way! I sit down the hall from a bunch of computer security experts. They scream every time you tell your password to a stranger. I just couldn't face those people." So I gave up.

But you can join Twitter without telling them your email password. It's just that then you're kinda on your own for figuring out which, if any, of your friends are already on Twitter. Thus, I ask: are you on Twitter? If so, let me know so I can subscri^W follow you.

I already know that Vanessa is on Twitter; it was her blog post today that prodded me to sign up. How about the rest of you? Yeah, I know, the intersection between my circle of friends and Social2.0 folks is narrow; but there are a few of you.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Book Reports

I read many blogs. According to Google Reader's new Trends feature, in the last 30 days, I've read 1977 items in the past 30 days from 302 feeds. (And I've been cutting back. When the Trends feature first appeared, that "1977" was more on the order of "2300".)

Many of these are book reviews, including those by blogo-famous librarian Jessamyn.

I read a lot of blogs about puzzle hunts, too. I try to keep up. This weekend is the MIT Mystery Hunt. It's a big weekend-long puzzle hunt. In theory, it's for MIT students in some inter-session break; in practice, the MIT student teams bring in many "ringers" from the outside.

The point, which you may have predicted from the above: It was a worlds-colliding moment to see that Jessamyn is playing in the Mystery Hunt this year.

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Blog Infrastructure Update: "Add to Google" Link

Yesterday was Buy Nothing Day in the USA, so I bought nothing. Actually, I didn't do much of anything yesterday. I went cold turkey on caffeine. I'd been hitting the sauce pretty heavily lately, and it was time to break the cycle. I read, napped, and didn't do anything that required much concentration. I headed over to my parents' house to help them move some furniture around. And my dad said, "How long have you had a feed?"

I said "January." I started using the service in January so that it would automagically create a feed for me.

I'd like to encourage people, especially my dad, to follow feeds. Why? Mostly because my dad keeps talking about "podcasts". I can't listen to podcasts--my computer doesn't have a working sound card. So I'm hoping that podcasts lose their hipness quotient soon. How better than by hyping feeds: it's 2002 technology for today!

To this end I have added an " Add to Google" link over in the sidebar of the main page. If you click on that link, you can slurp this site's feed into your Google Reader, Personalized Google Homepage, or whatever. I think that's pretty neat.

Disclaimer #1: my opinions are mine, and might not coincide with my empolyer's opinion. I'm pretty sure that most of my colleagues could get a sound card working. Or at least they'd prefer to get a sound card working than try to convince the world to give up listening to podcasts.

Disclaimer #2: I don't know why I said that feeds are 2002 technology. I don't know what year feeds were discovered. Developed. Whatever. I'm too lazy to fact-check it now. I'm kind of drowsy. Even though I had coffee today. But maybe it wasn't real coffee. I went into this new café on 9th Avenue, Café Gratitude. Once I was in there, the hostess dropped the bomb on me: the cafe served only organic, vegan, raw foods. I ordered a coffee, but coffee beans are normally roasted. So how did they... Oh, here is the Café Gratitude menu. It says that their coffee is cold-processed. Ah, and other articles point out that this process is healthier because it has less caffeine. Oh, I should be really upset that I settled for this coffee, but I'm too sleepy to get properly upset about anything. Oh, lookie, it's 6:30, time for bed.

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Outsourced the "New" page

I started using the Blogger service to maintain this page. Now you can use your favorite RSS aggregator to keep track of how rarely I write!


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