Zlango Has a Way to Go

Zlango 1Zlango is an icon-based language. Here are a couple of recent takes on it.

I want to like Zlango, but found it frustrating to get the above very simple message into this post. What I wanted was a the URL of an image so that I could link to it. I ended up emailing the message to myself and uploading the file, which was one of four attachments to the resulting email.

I also wanted to use words not currently available in Zlango, such as share, to see the page on which “my” messages were posted, to link to that page,…

So I hope that Zlango will use the $12M of funding reported in the first of the above quotes to implent the advice offered in the second quote. Then “we help Zlango help us,” words such as we will be added to the language, and the above message won’t have to be a palindrome for ever.

Mobile Music (Station)

MusicStationYes.

Rather than just providing a grumpy old answer to the hip young guy in the picture, perhaps I should provide a little more detail about:

MusicStation, an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) full-track mobile music service which will be rolled-out in partnership with major music labels, mobile operators and mobile industry partners across the world.

There, now I’ve done it. But DRM certainly doesn’t make it more interesting…

Sharing

Sharing is on my mind this morning for a few reasons. I was uploading some photos to Flickr this morning, and my daughter asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was sharing them, so that family and friends in Philadelphia, California, and other places could look at them.

She protested that she wanted to look at the photos. I told her that I was sharing them in a way that allowed other people to look at them at the same time as her. I managed to stop myself launching into an explanation of the non-rivalrous nature of digital works. She is, after all, only three, and seemed convinced that I wasn’t taking anything away from her in order to share with others.

One of the things I talked about with the students in my Blogging and Business course on Saturday was Creative  Commons. I used as an example this blog, which has a sidebar heading Sharing rather than Hands Off.

Nokia N800 as Firefox Computer?

Toni Schneider, CEO of Automattic, like many of us, can do much of his digital work and play in his browser.

my digital day is currently spent in the following apps: WordPress, Yahoo Mail, Bloglines, 30boxes and Google. And they all run perfectly well in Firefox… I want a Firefox computer. A nice, sleek, solid state notebook with a big screen that you open up and it just runs Firefox. I bet this could be had for a reasonable price, it could have a nice long battery life and start up almost instantly.

I feel the same way, although I’d be inclined to go for the portability of the Nokia N800. But will Firefox be ported to it? Could I learn to live with (or should that be in?) Opera?

Andi Watson, Artist

Haunted If you haven’t yet followed the link from the image to the comic, the caption tells us that “Maddy is haunted by the ghosts of relationships past.” That was a little weird to me, since my daughter’s name is Maddie Watson.

Even without coincidence of names, the comic is well worth checking out. So is Andi (short for Andrew, but it’s not me) Watson’s other work. I found out about this fellow Andrew Watson via Drawn!

Simpla Way: Widgets

SimplaWayThis is the third in a series of posts about the current appearance of this blog. The first post explains why I’m blogging here at WordPress.com, and using the Simpla theme. The second post explains the custom CSS I use.

This post is about the sidebar widgets I use. For example, there’s the popular Categories widget, which does what you’d expect: lists the categories in use at the blog.

Most of the widgets I use are what I would call “HTML widgets,” but which go by the official name of text widgets. Such a widget gives me a box into which I can type heading text, and a box into which I can type HTML.

At the top of the sidebar is a widget with the heading “My Identity” and HTML including an image from, and a link to, claimID. Rather than having lots of About and Profile pages for the multiple blogging and other web services I use, I want to have one main place, and claimID currently seems to me to be as good a host as any for that. I find it strange to call things like this “text widgets” because, apart from the heading, there is no text in this particular widget.

Right under the categories widget is… another text/HTML widget. Under that comes the Search widget. This blog is part of a family of blogs, and it probably makes sense to direct most search at the family rather than only at the currently active member. I’ve used Google to create a custom search engine to do just such a search.

Google provides code to include custom search engines on web sites. Unfortunately, this code includes javascript, and so is not allowed by WordPress.com. My workaround for this is to provide a link to my custom search engine page, and to put it in a text widget. There was a recent discussion about this at the WordPress.com forum.

Right under the text widget linking to the custom search is the Search widget, which provides search of the current blog.

The widget with the heading Subscribe and the feed symbol is another text widget. No, it’s not the RSS widget. You use a text widget to put your feed in your sidebar. Yes, I too was confused at first.

The Share heading and the Creative Commons license comprise the last text widget in the sidebar. There is a Creative Commons widget, but it’s not available at WordPress.com. I wish that it was.

So now we’ve reached the end of the sidebar and, for now, the end of this little series. There will probably be a fourth episode of the trilogy, especially if anyone actually reads the first three. Thank you for reading this far.

Simpla Way: CSS

SimplaWayThis is the second in a series of posts about the current appearance of this blog. The first post explains why I’m blogging here at WordPress.com, and using the Simpla theme.

This post is about Custom CSS. Although blogging at WordPress.com is free of charge, there is a charge for custom CSS. For me, control over my blog’s style sheet is well worth the ~US$1/month; for others, it’s not worth it. If you have a WordPress.com blog, you can go from Dashboard to Presentation to Edit CSS, and preview the feature.

Note that: “Your stylesheet will be loaded after the theme stylesheets, which means that your rules can take precedence and override the theme CSS rules.” Most of my stylesheet came from cutting and pasting from the Simpla stylesheet, and replacing values.

But the CSS for images came from the stylesheet for my previous blog. I like images at the right of posts, with a little room to breathe.

#content img {
float:right;
border:0;
margin:10px;
}

I wanted the main heading for the blog to be more prominent than the Simpla default, so I made it twice the size of the post heading.

#header h1 {
font-size:4.4em;
}

I wanted the date of each post to be formatted consistently with the post metadata that appears at the foot of the post. In fact, I think that the date is post metadata, and as such belongs with things like the category. But CSS doesn’t control the placement of text, just the style. So the best I could do was copy and paste the formatting from the post metadata to apply it to the date.

.entrytitle h3 {
font-family:Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif;
font-size:0.9em;
}

Turning now from the content to the sidebar, the Simpla CSS gives too much separation between the items on the Blogroll list for my taste. So I took out the dotted line it uses as a separator. But I used it to separate sections of the sidebar from each other.

#sidebar h2 {
border-top:1px dotted #ddd;
}
#sidebar ul li {
border-bottom:0;
margin-bottom:0;
padding:0;
}

Mention of the sidebar brings me to sidebar widgets, and to the third post in the series.

Simpla Way: Theme

SimplaWayThis is the first in a short series of posts about my “moving in” to WordPress.com as my main blogging home. In particular, the series focuses on the current theme of Changing Way.

I’ll start by noting why I moved here from Weblogs.us, where the parent of this blog still lives. I didn’t import the old content into this blog because it is my experience that moving or converting data usually gives rise to weirdness, and I’d rather spend the time on things other than coping with such weirdness. The experience in question is with data and software in general, rather than with WordPress in particular, by the way.

Here are the main reasons I moved to WordPress.com:

  • Everything is taken care of: upgrades, backups, security, etc
  • Your blog is on dozens of servers, so it’s highly unlikely it will go down due to traffic

I quote those reasons from the FAQ comparing WordPress.com with WordPress classic (as I tend to call WordPress.org). The main reason against moving to WordPress.com is that you have less control over your blog.

Having decided to move to WordPress.com, I needed to find a theme for the new Changing Way. A WordPress theme is “a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog.” That definition is from the WordPress Codex page on Using Themes. From it, you can find a list of lists of themes: the WordPress community has published about a thousand themes.

My criteria for a theme were as follows:

  • Available on WordPress.com. Not all the thousand themes are available there. That may be a mercy.
  • Simple and clean, partly because that helps as a starting point for customization, and partly because I wanted to end up with a simple and clean theme.
  • One sidebar, on the right. This makes content prominent relative to sidebar stuff.
  • Widgetizable. That non-word may be as superfluous as it is ugly. I think that all the WordPress.com themes support sidebar widgets.

Simpla meets all of those criteria. In fact, it exceeds the second by a rather large margin; it goes beyond simple and clean and all the way to elegant. Link-outs to the designer, Phu Ly, the Simpla page, and the blog post announcing the theme. As you can see from the comments on the latter, I am far from alone in admiring and using this theme.

I was thinking of using Sandbox, the “theme for themers.” But I like Simpla so much, and feel so pressed for time, that I’ll probably stick with Simpla for the rest of 2007 and beyond.

The next two posts in the series focus on features of WordPress.com that allow some limited control over blog themes: custom CSS and sidebar widgets.

Yahoo Pipes: Currently Clogged

PipesMy feed reader this morning was full of Pipes: several of the blogs to which I subscribe included enthusiastic posts about Yahoo Pipes. For example, Read/Write Richard describes Pipes as an RSS remixer.

Richard refers to posts he made a couple of years ago. Pipes seems a little different from what he was foretelling then, though. It’s not the kind of end-user friendly tool he was writing about in 2005. It may turn in to one, although I doubt it. He also anticipated that Google (i.e. not Yahoo) would be the front-runner, along with… PubSub.

I suspect that Richard and others are right to be perky about Pipes. I am not, at least not yet. I tried using it at work this morning, and found it slow, unintuitive, and prone to giving strange error messages. I tried it on my laptop just now, and found that Pipes is “clogged” due to heavy demand. I’ll give it another try later.

In the meantime, thanks to Darwin Bell, Flickr, and Creative Commons for the photo.

New Camera

Can I Have Some Juice?We recently got a new digital camera, a Canon PowerShot A540 6MP. So far, so good. It’s amazing how much camera you get for a couple of hundred bucks these days.

The previous camera, a Casio, gave up the ghost about the one-year mark. I liked the camera before that, which was a Canon my wife gave me as a present. So we went back to Canon. I was thinking of holding off on the purchase, since Canon are coming out with some new models soon, but it’s hard to be without a camera when one has young kids at home.