archive for the Technology category

News,Technology Friday 7th October 2005

So I’m adding to the general blogosphere buzz by blogging about a blogging tool. A while ago I put my email address into some box on and a few days ago I got an invite to start a blog. offers a free pre-installed wordpress hosting solution much like blogger. So I setup a completely pointless blog just to try it out.

It’s a very neat setup, you can do almost everything you can on a normal wordpress setup except edit the actual page templates. It comes with a choice of eight different themes which is more than adequate for this type of service. I think I’ll stick to my own hosted wordpress install though. The geek in me requires much more customisation than allows.


Google Reader

Technology Friday 7th October 2005

Google playing catch-up with RSS have release Google Reader, a web based feed reader.



Technology Monday 26th September 2005

These look incredibly awesome and are only £125! I have to say, I’m tempted.


Google Blog Search

Technology Friday 16th September 2005

Shiny new things from Google! They’ve finally done something Google-esque with their blogger aquisition, and Google Blog Search is the result.


Your History Here

Technology Friday 16th September 2005

Your History Here is a very neat use of Google Maps, and from a UK perspective!


Open Rights Group

News,Technology Saturday 10th September 2005

Glad to see this has been setup. Basically a UK version of the EFF.



Technology Sunday 4th September 2005

Another nifty AJAX application on the block is Kiko, an online calendar and scheduling app. It’s pretty neat.


GoogleOS? YahooOS? MozillaOS? WebOS?

Technology Thursday 25th August 2005

An interesting article by Jason Kottke on GoogleOS? YahooOS? MozillaOS? WebOS? and the general future of applications and the internet.


Local W3C HTML Validator

Technology,Work Thursday 18th August 2005

We got annoyed at the slowness of the W3C HTML validator today, so I looked around for instructions on installing a local version. As usual the Apple Developer Connection has a very good article on installing and setting up a local validator. It’s much faster with it being local plus its, like, more extreme.



Design,Links,Technology Thursday 18th August 2005

Protopage is a brilliantly useable application of AJAX and Javascript. A useful application for non techy folks who want to create an instantly editable “links page” to set as a home page.


Hell Freezes Over Some More

Technology Monday 8th August 2005

Holy mackerel batman! The W3C HTML Validator has had an update and a face-lift. It has finally come crawling out of the 90s.


Hell Has Frozen Over

Design,Technology Wednesday 3rd August 2005

Slashdot is moving to CSS and Web Standards.


Successful Strategies for Commenting Code

Technology,Work Tuesday 2nd August 2005

This is a nice article over on particle tree about code commenting strategies. We should do more of this at work.



Design,Technology Sunday 31st July 2005

We were moaning about the lack of CSS bug fixes in beta 1 of IE 7 at work the other day. Reading the IE blog on msdn it’s nice to see that they have actually fixed the majority of CSS bugs, but these will only be fixed in beta 2 for some reason. Lets just hope everyone upgrades.


IE Woes

Technology,Work Thursday 28th July 2005

Spent some time at work tearing my hair out today as IE was rendering a page bizzarely. I eventually tracked it down to the fact that the very first line in the HTML was not the DOCTYPE definition. If IE doesn’t see this first I think it reverts to “quirks” mode AKA “render stuff where every I want” mode. Handy to know.


Sheer Genius

News,Technology Monday 25th July 2005

$ cd Afghanistan
$ ls
bin Taliban
$ rm Taliban
rm: Taliban is a directory
$ cd Taliban
$ ls
$ rm soldiers
$ cd ..
$ rmdir Taliban
rmdir: directory "Taliban": Directory not empty
$ cd Taliban
$ ls -a
. .. .insurgents
$ chown -R USA .*
chown: .insurgents: Not owner
$ cd ..
$ su
Password: *******
# mv Taliban /tmp
# exit


Windows Vista

Technology Saturday 23rd July 2005

The new version of Windows will be called Windows – Vista. Hrm, Microsoft suck at the naming game.



Design,Technology Thursday 21st July 2005

Browsing through delicious popular links tonight I spotted this new forum software “Vanilla” which looks very, very nice. It’s very Apple inspired in design and looks to be on the same design-train (all aboard) as the chaps at 37 signals. It’s got some super neat features. Such as, in your profile page, instead of having a million different input fields for various obscure IM formats they just have a “Label & Value” system. You write a label and then assign it a value e.g. “Milk In My Tea? – Yes Please!” or “Favourite Colour – Yellow”. They’re a bit like Tags for blog posts, you can dream up any Labels you like. Vanilla in general seems a nicely thought out piece of software. Hopefully something will crop up that I can install it for :).


Flickr API Integration

Meta,Technology Saturday 16th July 2005

So I did that Flickr thing I was muttering about. The pictures area now has a flickr section which shows my photo sets from flickr. I’ve only got one up there at the moment but it’s pretty neat.


Flickr API

Technology Wednesday 13th July 2005

API‘s are great. The more web services we have the better the Internet gets in my opinion. I’ve been playing with the Flickr API of late and it’s pretty neat. I like having a personal gallery on cyber-junky but then I like uploading stuff to flickr and playing the tag game and the sense of community you get. The best of both worlds would be for me to integrate anything I upload to flickr into my gallery here. Which doesn’t look too hard with the commands available. It also uses a REST interface which I’m liking more and more. It’s so much easier to debug and test stuff with.


God’s Little Toys

Books,Technology Thursday 7th July 2005

Nice read over on Wired by William Gibson about the remix, cut ‘n’ paste creative culture of today.


Software Patent Bill Thrown Out

News,Technology Thursday 7th July 2005



I Have A New Phone

Me,Technology Wednesday 6th July 2005

It is shiny.

k750 - my new phone

It also has a much better camera (2 megapixel!) than my old one, which will handy for super quick snaps about town.



Technology Monday 4th July 2005

I’ve had an evening of wading through the Google Maps API. It’s good stuff though and I’ve managed to convert my Travel Data map and the map on Google Sightseeing over to the “official” method. The new methods and objects allow for much easier expansion and flexibility. Plus, now that there is an actual API the maps no longer break whenever Google update their code.


Nintendo Child

Links,Me,Technology Tuesday 28th June 2005

This site of Nintendo tat for the NES brought lots of childhood memories back. I used to go to my friend Marks house almost every day after school and play for hours on his NES. He had one way before me and had awesome games like Duck Hunt (stupid dog…) and MegaMan. Fun Times.


I Should Really Upgrade

Me,Technology Saturday 25th June 2005

In the current warm weather I have to run my PC with both sides off, lying on its side with a fan pointed at it:



Links,Technology Thursday 23rd June 2005

Google have added world satellite coverage to Google Maps with high-res stuff for a lot of big cities around the world. Needless to say, the submission queue over on GGSS is creaking under the flood of new (non-US) submissions. Maybe now people will stop emailing us saying “you guys suck, how come you don’t have maps for country X” 🙂


Another Slick Maps Hack

Links,Technology Monday 13th June 2005

BusMonster combines traffic information, real-time bus locations, bus routes and timetables for Seattle and plots it all onto Google Maps. This is a very nice piece of work, executed extremely well. I’ve thought of doing something like this for Edinburgh buses (or some sort of ‘accessible lothian buses’) but calculated/generating the route data would be a major pain. If only lothian buses published their ‘Bus Tracker’ location data online…


Gallery Upgrades

Me,Meta,Photography,Technology Sunday 12th June 2005

I’ve posted my photos from Rick & Rach’s wedding in the gallery for your viewing pleasure.

The gallery has been having a bit of a scrub lately. Using some mod-rewrite dark magic I’ve made the URLs much nicer and easier to read. Instead of having:


we now have:


A vast improvement!

The other main change is now when viewing a gallery the page is much simpler. Before I had things like: the image size, resolution, data and the filename. People won’t actually care about those things! All they want is to see all the images and maybe click on one to see a larger version. Working on customer facing e-commerce stuff has taught me a lot about removing barriers to navigation and generally making a users life easier. I figured it’s time I implemented some of it around here.


Gmail Hard Drive

Links,Technology Wednesday 8th June 2005

Gmail Hard turns gmail into a super easy web-enabled file archive. Neat.


Google + Keyhole = Google Earth

Links,Technology Thursday 2nd June 2005

Someone on the Keyhole beta test program reviews the latest verison, now re-branded as “Google Earth”. The new 3-D views look pretty amazing!


Backstage shows up on the O’Reilly Radar

Links,Me,Technology Thursday 2nd June 2005

I nice write-up of the backstage project over on the O’Reilly Radar with a link to my Travel Data Prototype.


BBC Backstage

Links,Technology Friday 27th May 2005

The BBC recently launched their backstage project that aims to provide lots of the BBC’s data to developers to play around with and develop innovative applications. They currently have lots of RSS/XML feeds for all kinds of data like: news, weather, travel, sport etc. I’ve knocked up a prototype using Google maps and plotting the current UK travel data onto it.


Multicolour Nintendo Revolution

Gaming,Links,Technology Saturday 21st May 2005

Now this is a sexy looking console. Give me this over the Xbox 360 and PS3 any day.

via: and Google Maps

Links,Technology Friday 20th May 2005

Another super-cool use of Google maps here. Chicago Crime plots all the crime data made available from the Chicago Police Department. Check out all crimes reported in the 3 a.m. hour on May 5, 2005 in Chicago. You can even map out all the prostitution busts. Excellent combination of the two technologies. Needless to say I’m working on something very similar at the moment for Google Sightseeing.



Me,Technology,Work Friday 13th May 2005

Mutt is awesome. It’s a super hardcore console email client that I’ve been using for my personal mail at work. Not that I’m trying to be sneaky, but it keeps the personal mail out of the way in a terminal, and stops me getting distracted by it all the time. It supports IMAP nicely and has an insane level of customisation. I’ve got it colouring my inbox mails differently depending on the status of them and what their subjects/senders are. Its pretty neat. It also does threading, threading! I can’t live without it now and it drives me insane when I see people reading their mail in the wrong order through something like hotmail.



Links,Technology Sunday 8th May 2005

Current design faves 37signals have released another super-duper web app: BackPack.


Google Sightseeing

Links,Me,Photography,Technology Thursday 7th April 2005

James, Alex and I have started up a collaborative blog spotting cool stuff in the satellite photos on google maps. Go take a look.

Update: Well, that was massively more successful than we initially thought. We’ve had over eight hundred submissions and apparently we are using up to much of the server’s resources. We’re currently relocating to a friendlier host.

Update, update: Woo-hoo, we’re back!


More Creative Commons UK

Links,News,Technology Wednesday 6th April 2005


New Look GameSoc

Design,Gaming,Me,Technology Wednesday 23rd March 2005

A while ago in my role as “webmonkey” for GameSoc I thought that we were due a re-design. The site design had been unchanged for atleast a year and was starting to look rather dated. It was based around a horrendous table layout with a huge banner graphic. Really old-skool stuff. So, I’ve updated the colour scheme and stripped out some of the table layouts. A lot of the table stuff is still there but I really don’t fancy digging around in 30+ files changing <td>s and <tr></tr>s to <div>s and <span>s. The original site back-end code was written before CSS layouts were vogue. I think I’ll phase out the tables gradually.

I’ve also managed to crowbar in some nifty png image trickery. The shadows on the sides of the page content are actually pngs with variable transparency. This means the background image can change and the shadow will still ‘make sense’. Neato stuff, except that is totally breaks in IE (surprise). One hack later and IE is atleast displaying the image properly. But now you can’t click on any of the page! Slight flaw there microsoft… Another google later and I find this life-saving page. Apparently your image has to be really small in one of it’s dimensions. That’s one nasty bug.

Anyway, I like the new look and I’ll continue squashing those nasty tables. What do you think?


MSN Sandbox

Links,Technology Saturday 12th March 2005

MSN Sandbox, an awful lot like Google Labs.


XHTML Friends Network

Meta,Technology Wednesday 9th March 2005

No, its not a support group for lonely web designers. Well, maybe it is now that I think about it. Inspired by Matt I’ve put relationships on my “friends” links to comply with the xfn guidelines. This enables links to be mapped between sites and divided into classes depending on the relationship given. Funky stuff.


Wonderful Spam

General,Technology Saturday 5th March 2005

Had some strange spam this morning that managed to slip past spam assassin. It’s sole content was:

Ashlie Ahmed

and the title was “Cyb Billingham”. Two words that have obviously been scraped off my site (I’m from Billingham). So, they went to all this trouble of scraping my domain before sending the spam and then include nothing useful in the content. Weird…


Yahoo! API!

Technology Thursday 3rd March 2005

So, Yahoo have jumped on the API bandwagon and gone head to head with Google. With the Google API you are limited to 1000 queries per day and you can access standard search listings and thats about it. But with the new shiny Yahoo API you have a 5000 query limit and you can access web search results, news, images, local and video search. Plus, Yahoo have a wiki and a blog! Good grief! It’s all a bit open-source and un-Yahoo like. All this help and community makes Google’s handful of API pages look a bit, well, rubbish.

Of course, I had to sign up as a developer and give the API a try. It uses REST instead of SOAP (like Google) and I have to say, it is much easier to use. Have a play around.



Technology Tuesday 1st March 2005

More and more of this ‘XML HTTP Request’ stuff is getting coverage as people pick apart Google and other sites using it. The method that people like Basecamp and therefore Ta-da Lists use has been given the name ‘Ajax’ (Asynchronous Javascript & XML). Ajax is basically a method where you update the client using Javascript (which is pretty instant) and update the server simultaneously (using XML HTTP Request) in the background (doesn’t really matter how long it takes). In this way you give the user a nice a responsive user interface, something which the web is not always great at. There’s a good write up of the method here.



Links,Technology Tuesday 1st March 2005

So, it appears that GeoURL is back on the block after downtime of like, years. Reading around the new site I found out that it was originally started by Joshua Schachter, who went on to create The site is now being developed by Bjorn Hansen and he seems to be adding lots of nice new features (It knows I’m near Corstorphine). Of course, I’ve added myself to the database complete with new flat coords. Check out my neighbours.


Silly Adwords

Me,Technology Thursday 17th February 2005

I wish Google would filter out all these lame Adwords that just parrot back your search terms. They often make for some very silly results:


WordPress Upgrade

Meta,Technology Thursday 17th February 2005

The blogging software I use for the front page of the site is the very nice WordPress. Version 1.5 has recently come out and has some very nice improvements so I upgraded last night. It was pretty painless but not as nice as the install process, could do with a little polish. The main new feature is a themes system which was sorely needed. Originally you had to hack about with all the default wordpress files to change the look and feel of various areas. This was done as nicely as possible through a web interface but still you were messing with things that could really break your blog. The new system allows you to create “themes” which are basically separate pages and styles for the different elements of your blog; the front page, the comment page etc. Now, you can leave the default WordPress theme alone and hack about to your hearts content. I converted my hacked pages to a new “cyber-junky” theme and switched WordPress over to use this. It worked surprisingly well. I had to make a few changes but that is mainly becuase of the way I use WordPress, I don’t use it soley as my front page. This theme system fits nicely into the old adage of seperating content from style, where the content is the blog logic/code and the style is the theme.

If you spot any bugs, please let me know.

update: wahey, it’s just been officially announced. Matt seems like such a nice guy 🙂


Google Maps

Technology Saturday 12th February 2005

Google have yet again pulled an amazing piece of work out of their magical hat. Google Maps is the latest project to enter their ‘beta’ program. It manages to dynamically resize your window, scroll with the mouse in real time, zoom in almost real time, search for businesses in the current map area and can be controlled via keyboard shortcuts! Its only the US at the moment but knowing google it won’t stay that way for long. They also manage to cram in route-finding, that will show you the route and give you a list of directions.

Like Google Suggest they do lots of requests in the background to maintain the ‘current page’ for the user. This time its not all with that new fangled XMLHTTP object, they request content in a hidden iframe and then switch it about. Even cooler though is the fact that they actually get back XML data and use a javascript XML object to do the transformation into something readable. It looks like the map segements are all pre-rendered aswell, they seem to want to keep the processing as much client side as possible. Which is extremely sensible for google as I’m sure they have a lot of computing power, but not unlimited.

More reading:


A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System

Links,Technology Thursday 10th February 2005

This is very cool. It basically allows you to do slide shows in very simple XHTML and then the system does all the navigation and progress bars and basic layout. Very nice use of the technology. I must remember to try to use it the next time I have to make a presentation.