THE BLOG

31
Jul

Historical Interest?

In my random net based trvellings yesterday I came across this site – the UK Delorean Owners Club. Why? Why not?

Anyway, this site tells us that, when importing a Delorean into the UK, HM Customs treat it as an ‘item of historical interest’, and so you pay less tax. How cool is that! Maybe it’s their way of pitying you for buying a crap, but reasonably good looking car. Now if I just had 24000 euros…

28
Jul

Cuil vs Google

I’ve just spent a short while playing with Cuil, the new search engine that’s supposed to be both bigger and better than Google. The main thing they tout is a bigger web page index than Google. This may well be true, but it would appear that the index may contain many more pages which have little relevance, and fewer real pages. For example, searching for ‘imaginary roots’ turns up no pages on Cuil. On Google, you not only get this site, but hundreds and hundreds of maths sites with people talking about complex numbers.Similarly, searching for ‘the sombrero principle’ returned no results.

How can they have not indexed any of these pages? It may be that they have indexed them, but their search algorithm isn’t quite refined enough to fetch those results. As TechCrunch points out, Google has had a lot longer to refine it’s searching algorithm, and credit should be given to Cuil for being really very good for one that is only a few hours old. And it does have some nice features such as the related categories – but is this not something Google could build very rapidly, and make a very good job of? Probably. Whether they want to or not is another matter.

23
Jul

100 Users!

We’ve just reached 100 users on the Blaccu Weather Report Facebook App! How cool is that? I honestly didn’t think anyone would use it when I made it, so it’s really cool that people are actually adding it. Thanks guys!
In other news, I’ve set up an RSS feed for this blog, incase any of you out there are interested enough to keep up with what’s going on. You can view the feed either by using the RSS icon at the top of the Blog pages, or by clicking here.

23
Jul

Mondrian

I’ve just put up a new project I’ve been working on for a while (almost a year, infact…). It’s a small Flash app which randomly generates and then lets you edit a picture in the style of Piet Mondrian and his famous compositions. At some point in the near future I hope to add in the functionality to let you save the images you make, but haven’t got around to it yet.

I hope you like it!

http://mondrian.imaginaryroots.co.uk

21
Jul

New Design

As you can probably tell, I’ve put a new design up. It’s been long overdue, and I’m really pleased with this. Nice and simple. This has been done to coincide with the incorporation of Imaginary Roots, so we’re now officially Imaginary Roots Ltd – how exciting is that?

Hope you enjoy the new design!

08
Jul

FB: Updating the Profile Box

Further to my previous post regarding updating the user’s profile box on a Facebook application, I found this site which shows you how to update everyone’s profile content in one go. Of course, this means its Asynchronous, which isn’t exactly what we want, but it appears this is the best Facebook allows for now. Obviously this poses a number of problems:

  • When to do the update. Since there is the opportunity to have people from all over the world using your app, there’s very little chance of there being actual downtime in which all the updates can take place. Similarly, if you need to update things once a day at midnight, you should really be checking which country the user comes from and update their profile content at the right time.
  • Resources. If you’ve got thousands of users, how do you process all of them without killing your server? There are,of course, many solutions to this (I’ve implemented something similar to this on a project of ours at work), but I think they’re all pretty resource intensive. In the worst case when everyone’s profile is different, even caching won’t help you.
  • How often to do the update. This of course depends on the nature of your application. With Blaccu, currently I only update everything once a day, but of course the weather will be changing many times during that day (subsequent visits to the canvas page / using the refresh button on the profile page do refresh the profile with the current weather, however), so it would be ideal to have it update many times during the day. This isn’t so bad now when I don’t have many users, but what about when (/if) I’vegot lots of users?

All things considered, this is a bad way of doing things, and it’s Facebook’s fault. I would love to see a way of making an Ajax call when the page loads, so that the content in the profile box could be drawn in asynchronously and be completely up to date. We’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose.

03
Jul

Blaccu Weather Report Part Trois

I’ve made the facebook app – you can sign up to it here. It’s pretty basic at the moment, and I need to do a lot of research into how to get the weather to properly update on the profile page, but it works alright for now. The main issue is with automatic updates on the profile page. As far as I can see, there are two main options: 1. Flash – however this requires you to click the ‘click to play’ image before it begins to load 2. Ajax – however I don’t think they let you call an Ajax request when it loads, so it has to be triggered. Hopefully there is a way around it on the Ajax front. If not it’s quite disappointing – I’m sure FB would have their reasons for disallowing this, but it is very disabling for those of us developing apps that really need the info on the profile page to be dynamic. There is much reasearch to be done here, methinks.

02
Jul

Ta-Da List

For a long time I’ve been looking for a simple To-Do list thing for my desktop. I’ve used Task Paper, and wasn’t too impressed. What I really wanted was Ta-Da list for the desktop, so I thought I would make a dashboard widget for it. Especially since this would involve making an API for it, which would have been very fun! However, these guys have done a much better job than I could have done. My prayers have been answered! Even if I’ve lost yet another project idea…

01
Jul

Blaccu Weather Report Part Deux

I’ve just spent some time re-doing the Blaccu Weather Report. It now uses the Google Weather API (details of which can be found here), which, although is much neater than the Yahoo! one, doesn’t have a defined set of return states, which made generating the Oli phrases a tad more difficult. I’ve gone by the icon it returns, and unfortunately cannot find a directory listing for the icons directory, so will have to hope I’ve got them all! I’ll be keeping an eye out for other icons that I’ve missed, but hopefully there won’t be many. As well as that, it now attempts to guess your location using the NetGeo Database, which is very cool, but could do with turning the result of the queries into a nice XML or JSON format. Apparently there’s a Pear package that does this querying for you (quite why, since it’s just an HTTP GET request and then some minor parsing, I don’t know), which I suppose might be a nice thing to look into if you’re planning on using this for anything more substantial. And now, to plan the Facebook app!

01
Jul

Blaccu Weather Report

A year ago (almost to the day, I think) I built the Blaccu Weather Report for a laugh. I looked at its analytics today, and although it’s not getting much traffic, it turns out that it’s number 1 on Google for “oli williams family guy”, and is on the first page when you search for “oli williams” by itself. I think this is pretty cool! As a result I hope to dedicate a bit of time to the site, make it a bit better. Probably make a Facebook app – everything has a Facebook app these days.