Scott Hanselman

Windows Live Writer Beta 2 - DasBlog and the Customization API

May 31, '07 Comments [4] Posted in DasBlog
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Windows Live Writer, Microsoft's Free Offline Blog Editor, is updated to Beta 2. It was getting pretty quiet there and I was thinking it had disappeared but they're back with a pile of good changes. Some of the changes are "it's about time" like inline spell checking and Paste Special support.

They support RSD (Really Simple Discovery, and have since the last build) so if you're running a Daily Build of DasBlog then you've already got this support. Just tell Windows Live Writer about your blog by entering your main URL and WLW handles the rest by interrogating the blog for its capabilities. This will also allow those of you who want to upload images directly via the metaWebLog newMediaObject method (Translation: You can upload images over HTTP directly from WLW) rather than using FTP.

More interestingly is their new Windows Live Writer Provider Customization API, which allows you to not only override the RSD if you like, but also includes a way to more complexly describe your blog's abilities. It also lets us have some control over the Weblog Pane within the editor, including adding buttons and what not.

I just banged together this integration with Alexander Gross' help...you can visit your blog, edit online, or see your statistics without leaving Windows Live Writer. There's lots of potentially cool customizations using their polling notification system. You could be notified of new comments on you blog while you're writing a post within WLW.

wlwbuttons

One more subtle thing we were able to get working was a "post and continue editing online...

image

This will do just that, it'll send your current post up to DasBlog, then launch your browser and you can continue editing.

With all these features, make sure you've launched Internet Explorer and logged into DasBlog with the "Remember Me" checkbox checked, otherwise you'll get "you aren't authorized to access this page."

It's easy to hack these things together. Just create an XML file named wlwmanifest.xml and put it in the root of your blog. Here's mine:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?> 
<manifest xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/wlw/manifest/weblog">
  <options>
      <supportsEmbeds>Yes</supportsEmbeds>
  </options>
  <weblog>
      <imageUrl>images/dasbloglogo-16x16.png</imageUrl>
      <watermarkImageUrl>images/dasblogwatermark-84x84.png</watermarkImageUrl>
      <homepageLinkText>View your blog</homepageLinkText>
      <adminLinkText>Edit your blog</adminLinkText> 
      <adminUrl><![CDATA[
          {blog-homepage-url}Login.aspx
      ]]></adminUrl>
      <postEditingUrl><![CDATA[
          {blog-homepage-url}EditEntry.aspx?guid={post-id}
      ]]></postEditingUrl>
  </weblog>
  <buttons>
      <button>
      <id>1</id>
      <text>Statistics</text>
      <imageUrl>images/dasblogactivity-24x24.png</imageUrl>
      <clickUrl><![CDATA[
         {blog-homepage-url}Referrers.aspx
      ]]></clickUrl>
      <contentUrl><![CDATA[
         {blog-homepage-url}Referrers.aspx
      ]]></contentUrl>
      <contentDisplaySize>480,300</contentDisplaySize>
    </button>   
  </buttons>
</manifest>

I'm really interested to see what other cool DasBlog integration ideas (and better-formatted custom mini-pages for inline dropdowns...in the example above, I'm just showing the standard activity page) folks come up with.

What ideas do you have?

  • Last 10 comments, linked directly to the comment.
  • Chart of recent activity? Comments, traffic, etc. Perhaps from FeedBurner?
  • Link to the DasBlog Configuration Page

Here's a zip with my poor-man's integration:

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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TED: Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Photosynth demo

May 31, '07 Comments [7] Posted in Musings
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What a cool conference I wish I was going to...

"TED started out as an annual conference in Monterey devoted to Technology, Entertainment and Design."

...everything about their site, their style, their recordings, their conference is fantastic. Even their Session Schedule is a work of art and an experiment in User Experience Design. Their TEDGlobal 2007 conference is in Arusha, Tanzania, next week. We spent this last Christmas there...I wish we could be there again for this event.

If you're any kind of nerd I hope you've checked out Photosynth before...if not, check it out now, or watch the Video of Blaise Aguera y Arcas presenting Photosynth along with Seadragon at Ted this last March. There's going to be some really interesting possibilities as innovations like this converge with new form factors like Microsoft Surface.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Google Gears - Maybe all Rich Internet Applications needed was Local Storage and an Offline Mode

May 31, '07 Comments [26] Posted in Javascript | Musings | Tools | XML
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Stunning move by Google today in the Rich Internet Application space. While most of us (myself included) are off debating Flash vs. Silverlight vs. Apollo vs. Whatever, Google introduces Google Gears...at technology all of the above (or none of the above) can utilize...

This is a huge move and is quite brilliant. In one seemingly innocuous move (and one tiny 700k (yes, 700K) download) Google is well positioned to get Google Docs, including Writely, Spreadsheet and Presentation, along with who knows what else, enabled for offline use. And the whole thing is Open Sourced via the New BSD License.

Here's a snippet of Javascript that is used to detect if Google Gears in installed. Note the three (currently) different ways, one each for Firefox, IE and Safari.

 var factory = null;

  // Firefox
  if (typeof GearsFactory != 'undefined') {
    factory = new GearsFactory();
  } else {
    // IE
    try {
      factory = new ActiveXObject('Gears.Factory');
    } catch (e) {
      // Safari
      if (navigator.mimeTypes["application/x-googlegears"]) {
        factory = document.createElement("object");
        factory.style.display = "none";
        factory.width = 0;
        factory.height = 0;
        factory.type = "application/x-googlegears";
        document.documentElement.appendChild(factory);
      }
    }
  }

To the right is a dialog box that pops up to let you know that Google Gears is going to store data locally. Gears uses SQLite to store information, and you use SQL from your JavaScript to CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) your data. I wonder how would would store data securely?

If you like, you can explore the databases that are created using SQLite Database Browser. This starts to explain why SQLite was a 2005 Google Open Source Award Winner. ;)

The local storage shows up when running Internet Explorer on Windows under:

C:\Users\Scott\AppData\LocalLow\
Google\Google Gears for Internet Explorer\
www.yourdomain.com\http_80

Within Firefox, the local storage databases go in:

...\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\
<profile>\Google Gears for Firefox

So it seems I can't go to a Gears-enabled site in IE and later in Firefox and share data. Each browser gets it's own data storage. That means num of browsers * num of gears enabled uris = num of SQLite databases. For folks who run more than one browser, this makes the whole local storage thing a tricky issue, but I can understand why they'd segment databases by browser. I disagree, but I see their point of view.

Gears also includes a thread pool "tiny process pool" like construct that lets you perform CPU-intensive things without triggering the "Stop unresponsive script" dialog box, but you can't touch the DOM. Again, very cool and very intelligent tradeoffs.

Things are looking up, methinks. It'd be nice if Gears-like (Gearsesque?) functionality could get built into next-gen browsers the way that XmlHttpRequest did. Seems like only yesterday I was deep in the middle of the Great Cookie Scare of 1995, explaining to client what Cookies were...NO, they can't write out a megabyte sized cookie, no cookies aren't programs...glad that's over. If we've going to build some rich stuff, let's stop with the Flash Shared Objects and IsolatedStorage already and get the browser to solve this problem. Kudos for Google and let's pray there's no offline ads...

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Is This Useful? - Google Street View

May 30, '07 Comments [19] Posted in Musings
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A while back I posted about interesting maps (actually in 2005!) and listed out all the interesting map sites. At the time, Amazon's maps.a9.com was the most innovative because they had street level imagery. They've since shut down, but today Google Maps took it to the next level with Google StreetView.

Not sure why you'd want to watch a blurry video rather than just going there, but you can see a demo on YouTube if you like.

The embedded Flash has a nice draggable cylinder view like QuickTime VR, letting you see any angle stitched together.

The user interface is pure brilliance. Pick up the little yellow man and drag him, and his little feet float in the wind as you drag him round, until he's firmly planted on virtual ground again. A green arrow indicates which direction he's facing. Even arrow keyboard hotkeys work as they should!

Here's the real question - is this useful?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Going to Foo Camp 2007

May 30, '07 Comments [12] Posted in Musings | Speaking
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I received and accepted an invitation to go to O'Reilly's "Foo Camp" 07, being held in Sebastopol, CA, north of San Fransisco. Here's the schpeal:

We've invited about 250 Friends Of O'Reilly (aka Foo), people who're doing interesting works in fields such as web services, data visualization and search, open source programming, computer security, hardware hacking, GPS, alternative energy, and all manner of emerging technologies to share their works-in-progress, show off the latest tech toys and hardware hacks, and tackle challenging problems together. We'll have some planned activities, but much of the agenda will be determined by you. We'll provide space, electricity, a wireless network, and a wiki. You bring your ideas, enthusiasms, and projects. We all get to know each other better, and hopefully come up with some cool ideas about how to change the world.

There's about 250 folks going, and the list of "foo campers" is pretty cool. I'm going to have trouble keeping track of everyone, as the all seem so darned interesting.

One important thing about Foo Camp it seems, is that every attendee should be prepared to demo something that they are working on. This is, of course, where paralysis sets in. Here's their list of suggested sessions so far.

I like the sound of these:

  • Islam 2.0 - Understanding the intersection between spirituality and computing...creating 'life services' for Muslims (Imran Ali).
  • Using Improvisation to spur creativity and generate ideas (Kent Nichols, Douglas Sarine)

I'm hoping to record a number of Podcasts for folks to enjoy, and perhaps just conversations with cool people.

Help me, what sessions should I come to chat about? Here's some ideas I have so far...yours are appreciated as I'm only as clever as the sum of all of you. ;)

  • Carrying Water from the River to the Internet Cafe - Is Africa skipping a step on the technology road? How can The Continent avoid Brain Drain and support a new middle class of knowledge workers when there's no infrastructure to support them?
  • Using The Social Web to Improve Diabetes Care - What can the medical industry learn from Web 2.0 to provide better care for those with life-long chronic illnesses likes Diabetes?
  • How Important is NOT-English on The Web? - Will the Internet end up like the movie Serenity with just English and Mandarin? Or perhaps English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi and Arabic? Is there value in supporting a Web with pages in Amharic? Sioux? Zulu?
  • I left my Brain in my Other Pants or Where do you store yourself? or Techniques and Synchronization of your iLife or Mashing up your Life - Between email, contacts, calendars, freebusy information, documents, medical info, bills, accounts, my life is an exercise in synchronization...without an authoritative source. Who will be my cloud and can I trust them?

That's all I've got off the top of my head...What ideas do you have for me, Dear Reader? If you've gone to this event before, what tips can you offer me?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.