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BlogBridge update. In the last

BlogBridge update. In the last few days I’ve made some reasonable progress on BlogBridge, both from my own personal efforts coding, as well as getting another developer involved in a small way. As time frees up, I am planning to invest more of my own time as well as getting others to contribute on this thing. Still Fun! (If you don’t know what BlogBridge is, check this out.)

BlogBridge Major architectural progress

We made some major new progress since the last update.

Unread Management. The persistent RSS layer (Informa) has been updated to support Unread management. This has been carried through the rest of BlogBridge, using Bold in the Channel Guide and in the Article list in the usual way to show read and uread. A set of new commands, Mark Read, Mark All Read have been added as well. Some of the other variations still need to be implemented.

Refined background processing. The various background processes have been moved into their own subsystem making it easier to manage them. Also a simple activity indicator has been added to the status bar so the user can see that there’s background activity. Finally an initial Preferences dialog box has been implemented allowing control over some of these background processes.

Imrpoved HTML rendering. With the help of another developer we are bringing the HTML rendering into the 21st century, slowly. As you can see in the screenshot RSS images are handled and we will use the opportunity to also support italics, links and other formats.

Other User Interface Changes. We’ve introduced an initial command bar at the top of the window. It looks like we will be able to do without a menu bar and tie all the commands either to the command bar or the right click menu.

What you may not know

What you may not know about Eclipse. (Demo 2004 Series 10) If you are a Java developer and you haven’t checked out the Eclipse Development tool from www.eclipse.org, then you owe yourself a treat. Who knows if you get excited about that kind of thing, but it gives me chills. Here are some claims to fame:




  • It’s free.


  • It’s open source


  • It’s as good as better as that paragon of tools Microsoft Visual Studio


  • It’s fast


  • It’s visually stunning as a Windows desktop application


  • And … It’s written in Java!

Check it out, you won’t be sorry. But that’s not really the topic of this post.


 


Back at Demo 2004, mValent demonstrated a unique tool for the configuration and change management of complex of n-tier enterprise system deployments. An arcane area to be sure, but a great product.


 


Back to Eclipse though: For me this product is especially interesting to me because it illustrates a unique and little known capability of the Eclipse system, which is it’s use as a wonderful application framework. They’ve done this by abstracting the IDE model to a level where it can be used for a variety of tools and applications which otherwise would have to start from scratch.



mValent is the existance proof: Here’s a sophisticated application which uses the Eclipse Framework – and which itself is not an IDE! Beautiful!

RSS/Atom: An idea whose time

RSS/Atom: An idea whose time has come. Dave Winer is reaching out to the Atom people to try for the grand unification of the two formats. If you look back at the history of how Atom came to be, and the public record of the debates, disagreements, potshots that have come before you see that this is a couragous step for Dave to be taking. It’s a first step which we all hope will lead to something great.


People should read what was written closely: particularly that this is not meant to be a final proposal but an opening set of ideas on how the unification might be accomplished (e.g. “And before stating the offer, let me say that I am open to counter-offers.”)


It is important that we articulate the approach to the unification in a way that objectively respects and recognizes the value that both Atom and RSS are bringing to the table. I have no doubt that this will be a difficult effort requiring give on all sides, but it will set us back on a path where duplication of effort will be replaced by forward progress. It’s worth it.

Flipstart from Vulcan (Demo 2004

Flipstart from Vulcan (Demo 2004 Series – 9): This is a weird little device. It’s essentially a Windows XP computer using thumb keyboard. The dimensions are (from memory, now 4″ x 6″ x 1″) It has a 30Gig disk, and fast chip. It also has built in Wi-Fi. It has a port replicator allowing full size keyboard and screen to be attached. The screen is very high resolution. All in all it looks attractive and kind of useful.


 


But the pitch was that this was a new approach to mobile computing, what you would come up with if you started with a blank slate, etc.


 


Watching the demo and then playing with it, I have to say that it didn’t really live up to that claim. I heard this comment repeated by several show attendees. To me, it was, as David Roux used to say, “Just a PC with the air sucked out of it.”


 


(Vulcan, of course, is Paul Allen’s think tank; Paul Allen being to co-founder, with Bill Gates, of Microsoft. At least that’s how I read the geneology.

Open Source, BlogBridge and Offshore

Open Source, BlogBridge and Offshore Development. I’ve been using several neat offshore development options in my work on Blog Bridge, a new kind of Blog Reader that I’ve been working on (very) part time. You can read all about it: here.


There’s a developer in Russia, a designer in China, a programmer in Norway and one in California (ok, not really offshore.) I don’t want to exagerate, each of these folks has done one project for me, mostly pretty small. It’s been an experiment for me to see how this works and how effective it could be. So far so good.


The designer in China redesigned the www.blogbridge.com web site. You can take a look. It was very reasonably priced and the work was professional. Nothing extremelyy fancy, but clearly fancier than I have the skills to do. The three developers did various pieces of Java code, installation script and even a windows .dll. So, real code: again very reasonably priced.


Open Source. As you may or may not know, Blog Bridge is Open Source. I’ve had several people say, it’s open source and your paying someone to work on it? At first this may sound counter intuitive, but really it’s not at all. After all, if I personally work on Open Source stuff, I may not be paying cash, but I am certainly paying with my time. It’s just that I choose to make the fruits of my labor freely available to anyone who wants it. I see no contradiction.


How the heck does a small shop like mine get offshore development going? This is actually quite cool. It turns out that there are several online ‘markets’ where I can post a functional spec or project description and receive quotes from contractors who want to take on the project.


I have been extremely impressed with the quality of people that bid. How do I find out? Well there’s always a bit of back and forth on email while you are considering a bid proposal. By the questions that they ask as well as the answers they give to your questions, it’s usually pretty clear who’s good and who is not.


My favorites of these markets are Rent-a-Coder for development and Elance for design. I’ve used both to good success. But there are some others that I am experimenting with, that might be worth a look if you are interested: Scriptlance.com, TheCentralMall and Assembla Talent.


If you are a tiny organization or even not so tiny, it’s an avenue worth looking into.