Neil's Place

November 29, 2002

11:25 PM Weblog Archives

The Great Dave of Weblogs is talking about Blog Browsers, which would let one view a Weblog using a simple UI. Could fit into the stuff I've been doing. I've been thinking of adding some generic XML handling just for those non-RDF RSS files (and for other things of course).

I'm not sure why this Blog Browser Dave refers to needs an archive though. Would be nice to only need to send the data the user actually is viewing at the time. I think RDF would better let one return as little or as much as one desires.

By the way, you can get an RSS version of any portion of my Weblog (except the static index page) by adding '&format=rss' onto the end of the URL. Use '&min=X' with some number X to indicate the number of items to return.

I've added some UI to do this. You could, I suppose, set the minimum count to some large number to get an archive to use for the Blog Browser.

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7:08 PM Interesting...

Tried out that AOL Communicator beta to see if I could find out more about how its implemented. It uses an embedded version of Gecko to display HTML mail. It may even use it to edit mail. It is not implemented in XUL. Instead, it uses the wxWindows GUI toolkit. It doesn't use the Mozilla Mail back-end code either. It appears to have a seperate application for mail, the address book and instant messaging. It does look similar to Mozilla Mail though.

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November 28, 2002

7:30 PM

Hmmm. Aaron is working on some secret new application involving RDF. At least he won't have to worry about having to change its name later like the Phoenix folks.

Got to come up with a name like that for my stuff.

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November 27, 2002

7:10 PM Is it just Mozilla Mail in disguise?

Pictures of the new AOL Communicator strongly suggest that it is not only based on Gecko and XUL, but on Mozilla Mail as well. The UI is almost identical, the menubar has the same labels, Modern theme buttons appear on the toolbars, and they have the same features (junk mail filter, collected address book, mail headers in a grey box.)

The only interesting difference from a XUL person is the slightly different tree widget. It has buttons to scroll through the columns in place of the hide/show drop-down.

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1:02 PM

Well, according to this, that new AOL Communicator mail client is written using XUL and the Gecko engine. So regardless of whether this is good or bad for Netscape, this is good for Mozilla either way.

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November 26, 2002

10:46 PM 101 things translated

Hey. A Japanese translation of 101 things that the Mozilla browser can do that IE cannot is now available, courtesy of KOZUKA Atsushi.

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November 24, 2002

4:36 PM RDFPath / RPath

There were some folks looking into building RDFPath, an XPath-like syntax for referring to RDF data, although it hasn't had any updates for over a year. The syntax is fairly general purpose though.

For the RPath language I'm using in the SWC, I probably have different goals, since the expressions are intended to be used in UI elements, like XPath expressions are used in XForms. As such, they don't connect to a giant database of info.

For example, I might use:

director[birthdate/year < 1950]

which in RPath would return all nodes of directors born before 1950, but that wouldn't make sense to use on a client, as a client wouldn't have a database of directors to scan through unless it sent the query off to some remote server.

But, given two RDF files sent to the client each describing a different movie, one could pick out cast members that starred in both using:

children(<movie1id>/cast) & children(<movie2id>/cast)

Thus, there needs to be a balance between making the expressions powerful, yet ensuring that they make sense and performance doesn't suffer as a result.

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2:00 PM Real work

Hmmm. I seem to have gotten myself into a situation where I have to do some real paid-for work for a few weeks. So I might not get as much time to work on the SWC.

The only thing I've done lately is change the history panel to use labels instead of URIs, and started creating a dialog box for adding custom datasources.

I wonder how I am doing all this.

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November 22, 2002

11:51 AM

MSN Instant Messenger doesn't allow one to set your Displayed Name to anything containing the string "employ". So, if your name is "Tom Temploy", you're out of luck.

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November 20, 2002

11:55 PM A little history

Have been working some more on the Semantic Web Client. I've started adding some real UI to it. It's not polished yet and it is quite slow at times, but it is finally getting close to doing something useful. I've added a history sidebar that shows a list of all of the resources one has viewed. Double-clicking a history entry opens it in the main content area, modifying the XUL and what RDF it is bound to accordingly.

It now has three datasources, Movies, Word lookup and Mozilla Bookmarks. The image shows some of the items from each in the history sidebar.

Next, I'll get it so one can add any RDF datasource at all, and get it so that links between them properly display the right UI for the right data.

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2:52 PM It won't happen again for 1000 years!

Is it just me, or doesn't there seem to be some kind of once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event every year?

Comments ( 8 )

November 17, 2002

4:20 PM RDF Library Updated

I have updated the RDF library in the XUL tutorial. I changed the way that datasources are loaded to make more sense. I also added functions to parse RDF from a string, and to serialize a datasource back to a string again. I also added more examples.

You can now do fun things like output your bookmarks as RDF:

var bookmarksRDF=newRDFDataSource("rdf:bookmarks").serializeToString();

Comments ( 37 )

November 14, 2002

10:16 PM

Anil Dash has updated Introducing the Microcontent Client. Interestingly, he even refers to the RDF stuff I've been working on, which, of course, is why I noticed the change.

Comments ( 1 )

November 13, 2002

11:55 PM Some XUL/JavaScript bits

Some useful bits of one may find useful.

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4:46 PM More RDF stuff

I have been working a bit more on a semantic web client. I've started a simple XPath-like language for referring to RDF resources (RPath perhaps), so one can do something like "director/birthplace" to get the birthplace of a movie's director. You can use these expressions in XUL to bind to data. When the data changes or an expression changes, or the user selects items in the UI, the relevant expressions are recalculated. Thus, when a user selects a movie title, the movie info changes accordingly. Here is a picture of a simple movie viewer. No templates or JavaScript is used by the XUL file.

I also created a sample using Dan Brickley's Wordnet service which returns word definitions. Here is an image.

The hardest part is coming up with a name for this thing.

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3:33 PM

Several years ago there was a contest or something to get free jelly beans. Suddenly, after all this time, I receive a newsletter informing me that Earwax flavoured jelly beans are available. They sure left that mailing list unused for a while, until they had something important to say.

Comments ( 31 )

November 12, 2002

10:32 PM

Hey! I'm now on the list of official Mozilla Weblogs!

Comments ( 0 )

November 10, 2002

7:28 PM

How come I have never seen these DOM demos from mozilla.org before?

Comments ( 0 )

November 9, 2002

12:11 PM Magic Search Engines

Others are also starting to think a bit about making search tools magic.

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11:50 AM More feedback on feedback

When looking over the feedback I've received on 101 things, a number of people have criticized me for spreading "false information about IE", yet those same people go on to tell me that IE has support for PNG alpha transparency, or standard DOM event handling, or various other things it definitely does not support.

Try looking at this demo of PNG alpha both in Mozilla and IE and compare. Note that the Mac version of IE does support it, but as I say at the top of the list, I wasn't comparing the Mac versions.

People, if you're going to tell me that IE does support something, at least make sure that you actually have evidence to back up your claim.

I admit I was wrong about #85 though. Once I've gone though all the feedback, I'll update the list with some changes, and provide more descriptions for some of them.

Comments ( 40 )

November 7, 2002

10:00 PM On the mouse and keyboard

I've had lots of response to "101 things". I'd say over 40-50% of it to inform me that one can change the font size of a page in IE using a keyboard shortcut -- Control and scrolling the mouse wheel.

While that is true, it doesn't class as a keyboard shortcut. A keyboard shortcut, be definition, requires using the keyboard and not the mouse. As any accessibilty person will tell you, there is quite a difference. For one thing, pressing Control and scrolling the mouse wheel requires two hands. A standard keyboard generally requires this too, but if you can't use a mouse, you probably aren't using a standard keyboard.

I mentioned lack of a keyboard shortcut in item 7 on the list, although it was more of an aside than a main comment, since one can still access font changing options using the menu via a keyboard.

However, the number of comments about it does seem to provide evidence that many people don't understand why creating accessible content is important. Especially interesting is that changing the font size is also an accessibilty aid, but convenient access to it doesn't seem to be important to people. No wonder there are so many Flash-only sites.

Comments ( 29 )

November 6, 2002

11:21 PM CNet Item

CNet did an interview with me on "101 things".

I don't recall saying this though:

He also noted that trying to get people to change their browsers would more likely turn into a negative rather than positive experience.

Comments ( 11 )

November 5, 2002

5:50 PM

I've had this Weblog for less than one month, and 101 things that the Mozilla browser can do that IE cannot is currently number 2 on Blogdex.

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10:04 AM Fixed Security Holes

The headline "Mozilla Riddled with Fixed Security Holes" on MozillaZine made me laugh.

One of the six bugs (147754), and coincidently, the one I reported, was fixed way back in 1.0. What, are they having such trouble finding security issues that they have to use older versions of products instead?

Comments ( 20 )

November 3, 2002

11:57 PM Building the Semantic UI

I've started putting the ideas I have had for the Microcontent/Semantic Web Client together into a simple prototype UI. I have something partly doing something, but not enough to show yet. Here is a description.

The user selects from a variety of categories, such as Movies, News, Weblogs and so forth, although the user can add more using a directory lookup or by manually entering information. Each category has two lists of information stored with it.

The first is a list of datasources that supply content for the category. One source might provide general movie info, another reviews, while yet another provides images and clips from the movie. The user may add and remove sources when they wish. The data is in RDF and is internally combined into a single source when used.

The second is a list of descriptions of how to present the information. I call these 'layouts', and the user may add or remove them as necessary. Basic layouts would present the data in various usuable forms, others would display as plain text, calendars, and so forth. Layouts would also contain UI for searching and sorting through information.

A third aspect, which I haven't worked out the details of yet, is the descriptions of what the data means. The Semantic Web people call these ontologies. But here, they also need to describe UI actions. For example, when we list the times when a movie is playing, the application should know that one can add them to a schedule or set reminders. Neither the datasources nor the layouts should need to indicate this.

I am planning on using XUL as the layout/presentation language. I don't want to use (X)HTML, as it is a content and structure language, not a layout language. The content is stored in the datasources, so many HTML tags would be useless. Seperation of content (datasources) and layout is already achieved anyway.

I would need to add some elements or attributes to XUL to bind the UI elements to the data to display, much like XForms does. (XBL can be used to create the new elements for the most part). However, since XForms uses XPath expressions to bind to XML data, an XPath-like language tailored to RDF data instead of XML would be necessary.

Perhaps I should set up a project on mozdev.org, although I'm having trouble coming up with a good name for this thing.

Comments ( 5 )

November 1, 2002

11:03 PM

Just fixing the update time in the RSS feed to be in the correct format.

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10:36 PM On Saving Files

mpt suggests that documents should be saved automatically to the desktop, picking some filename for the user, instead of using a save dialog. Here are my thoughts.

I do think that saving files automatically is a good idea. In fact, some applications can do this already.

However, just sticking things on the desktop seems like a rather unorganized way to store them. He expects users to then move files manually to the folder that they wish them to be in. This is a multiple step process that requires one to switch to the file manager, open a pile of folder windows, move the folder windows because the saved file is on the desktop behind them, move the file to the appropriate place in the folder, move the folder windows back to where they were, close the folders again and then switch back to the application.

Most users won't bother and will end up with 2000 icons on their desktop. I remember him mentioning at some earlier time that this is fine, since people tend to just stick paper and other stuff on their real desk. True, but since computers are meant to do things that we're too lazy to do ourselves, they should try to do some of that for us.

The user will also have to do the same steps above if they want to keep an old version of a file, (which might be impossible if files are saved automatically).

He also suggests that filenames should be selected automatically. That would work in some cases, although anything that relies on guessing is going to be wrong some of the time. It might associate a filename with a document that the user wouldn't associate with a document, making it harder to locate once saved. It also wouldn't work with an audio file one had just recorded, since there isn't an obvious title for it.

And then, the interface would need to have a sophisticated search tool, because users wouldn't know the titles of documents, or where they were located. Of course, systems already do have such a thing, but it would need to be used much more frequently.

While removing file dialogs does allow users to not have to worry about saving things, I think more thought needs to be put into helping the user organize their stuff first.

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5:37 PM Here is a Halloween movie

Quicktime required.

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