Ma.gnolia & Me

Rick, a great Web Developer with whom I’ve worked in the past, and now count as a friend was kind enough to write about me being a featured linker on Ma.gnolia on his blog, Walking Around. In addittion to the pleasant surprise of seeing my name show up in the feed for his site, it was great to see that Rick has rediscovered Ma.gnolia, as I think it is a rockin’ tool that I hope lives up to his needs.

Speaking of tools, Barry Price, the creator of the Ma.gnolia plugin for WordPress has set its development aside and has encouraged me to adopt the project. As I use the plugin heavily on this site, and I enjoy development, I decided to take him up on the offer and have begun tweaking the plugin, with a goal of releasing a new version (likely 1.3) in the next week. The changes will be minor, but there are some features that I look forward to including in the near future. If you have any requests, please drop me a line!

Update

I’ve posted version 1.3 of the Ma.gnolia plugin.

Pandora on My Box

PandoraBoy Screenshot
I’ve finally decided to give the Pandora music recommendation service a try and enjoying it thoroughly. The system is built upon the Music Genome Project, which assembled “literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome… [capturing] the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony.” All you have to do is type in a band name and it makes the connections to other interesting groups, streaming the music to you via an Internet radio station.

So why am I checking it out now? PandoraBoy. This handy little app eliminates the need to run a browser in order to use Pandora. So I can listen to the tunes without taking up a tab in Firefox. I am also able to control it with hot-keys and my Apple remote, so if I don’t like a song while I’m in my reading chair across the room, I can skip it, just like I do with iTunes. Add to that, the built-in Growl support and you have a ell rounded, focused app.

Thanks to The Unofficial Apple Weblog for introducing me to PandoraBoy and spurring me on to try it. Now, to add the ability for it to write out to SilverSpider Play List

Podcast subscriptions

Here’s a list of some of the podcasts I currently subscribe to, all of which are available via iTunes in addition to the links below. I’ve set up a smart playlist (which I occasionally tweak by hand) to shuffle the shows, allowing me to interleave long episodes and short episodes, providing a nice bit of variety, while keeping the episodes in chronological order per-series.

  • 12 Byzantine Rulers is a great podcast by Lars Brownworth, whose love of the subject is apparent from the first minute. Anyone interested in history should check it out. As noted on the site, Mr. Brownworth’s “passion for Byzantine history has taken him on travels from the furthest reaches of the Byzantine Empire right into Constantinople, (present day Istanbul) the very heart of Byzantium. He has traveled and studied Byzantine history extensively and produced this lecture series giving us an overview of Byzantine history as seen through 12 of it’s greatest rulers.”
  • 43 Folders “is Merlin Mann’s site about personal productivity, life hacks, and simple ways to make your life a little better.”
  • All in the Mind is “Radio National’s weekly foray into the mental universe, the mind, brain and behaviour – everything from addiction to artificial intelligence.”
  • American Experience brings the amazing PBS series to our iPods.
  • APM’s Marketplace provides a perspective on economic and business news unavailable anywhere else.
  • Barbecue Secrets is new to me, but I enjoyed the first podcast I listened to.
  • BBQ Forums is also new to me, but is proving a great addition to the list.
  • Digital Debates from the National Constitution Center is one of my favorites as it provides an hour long Q&A with some of the foremost experts on the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers and the current political landscape.
  • The Engines of Our Ingenuity provides a gret snippet of the history of how culture and our current world was formed. John Lienhard’s stories and perspective are inviting and informative.
  • The Seanachai / How to Succeed are two podcasts from a heluva story teller. How to Succeed in Evil is a spin off of the Seanachai, both are well worth the listening time.
  • In Our Time is an always informative weekly show from the BBC that covers a wide array of historical topics. This is one of my favorites.
  • NOVA ScienceNow brings NOVA to iTunes.
  • NPR: Food provides “the story behind your favorite foods from Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other award-winning NPR programs.”
  • NPR: Sports with Frank Deford is a great podcast highlighting his weekly commentary on NPR that goes much deeper than the normal sports news.
  • On the Media‘explores how the media “sausage” is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad. For one hour a week, the show tries to lift the veil from the process of “making media,” especially news media, because it’s through that lens that we literally see the world and the world sees us.’
  • Slate Explainer provides great answers to interesting questions in about five minutes. I love mixing these in with the longer podcasts for variety.
  • The International Spy Museum’s Spycast provides “interviews and programs with ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars.”
  • This American Life is one of the best shows on radio, and I am exceedingly happy that they finally started publishing a podcast.
  • To the Best of our Knowledge is “smart, entertaining radio for people with curious minds. “
  • U.S. Senator Barack Obama is harnessing technology in his presidential bid, which is exciting for a geek like me to witness. I’m really interested to see how he uses it as the campaign progresses.
  • Radio Lab is downright amazing. Easily on par with This American Life, with a bit more of a science and technology twixt. “Each episode is a patchwork of people, sounds, stories and experiences centered around One Big Idea. On RadioLab, science bumps into culture… information sounds like music.”

Please add any of your favorites via the comments!

Redesign '007

Redesign ‘007 has hit the site, it’s first form known as Ashes. In time I plan to add its alter-ego, Frost. For now though, let me provide a quick write-up on what has changed beyond the obvious aesthetic shift.

The Engine

The site continues to run on WordPress, but now utilizes the new hotness that is version 2.1. The upgrade is most significant in the speed increase for building and delivering the pages that you see. The connections to the database have been vastly improved which translates into faster load times. Rejoice!

Tags

Screenshot of tagsI have begun to apply tags (information labels) to individual entries to improve the classification of my content without expanding my categories to the nth degree. This cloud displays the tags I have used on my site and provides a rough visual representation of how often each has been used. I’ve also added the capability to search by tag for those who are interested. At this point I have only added tags to a small fraction of the 900+ entries on this site, but the number will improve over time.

Syndication Feeds Powered by Feedburner

I’ve updated the entry and comment feeds on this site to use Feedburner as it provides some great statistics and functionality beyond the standard feed set up. If you subscribe to my main feed, you will now see a daily summary of new links added to my Ma.gnolia bookmark list. The process was surprisingly smooth, especially with the help of Steve Smith’s Feedburner plugin.

Ma.gnolia

Ma.gnolia LogoI love Ma.gnolia, and am very active, managing several groups, including those focused on Web Design and Austin. With my recent integration of my Ma.gnolia bookmarks you can see an up-to-date list of the sites that interest me. Even better, when browsing archives, you will see bookmarks specifically related to that archive’s topic. If you use Ma.gnolia, please add me as a contact as I’d love to see what you bookmark as well!

BrowseCap

I’ve used browser detection to serve up browser-specific pages and style sheets for a number of years now to avoid the use of CSS hacks. This site design is no different, though I no longer use the BrowserSniff class, having switched to Browscap as it does a great job of avoiding the “the limitations of get_browser() and… offers methods to update, cache, adapt and get details about every supplied user agent on a standalone basis.”

Moo.fx

Screenshot of the Navigation DrawerThe moo.fx Javascript library, built upon Prototype, is responsible for adding two fundamental bits of functionality: the tool tips used throughout the site (most notably in the side bar blocks) and the sliding navigation drawer. The library was simple to implement and is a small download, so it was a no brainer to integrate it with the site. While I am not currently utilizing its AJX functionality, I will soon.

sIFR

The headers displayed in the sidebar and used to present each entry’s date and comment count on the home and archive pages make use of sIFR 3 (beta at the time of writing), providing me the ability to use the font I want without forcing you to download a ton of images.

Modifications to WordPress Core and Plugins

WordPress LogoThe majority of changes revolve around modifications made to HTML output by WordPress or its plugins to add the nice tool tip functionality you see throughout the site, most especially visible in the side bar.

wp-includes/bookmark-template.php

I modified the HTML output to the browser in order to add tool tip capabilities.

Previous Posts Plugin

I changed the Previous Posts plugin in a couple of ways. First, I altered the function, allowing me to pass values for markup to be used before and after each line of output and the ability to set a minimum and maximum value. This has given me the ability to show the five most recent posts throughout the site, while ensuring I don’t show duplicates on the home page, which will show the five most recent plugins that aren’t displayed on the page already. I also modified the output to implement tool tips and grab comment counts to be used within the tips.

Amazon Media Manager

I added a new output format to AMM in order to use the tool tip functionality.

Ma.gnolia Plugin

I’ve modified the Ma.gnolia plugin to use the tool tip functionality and made changes to the output format of the date. I also included a link to my Ma.nolia account. I may well adopt this plugin as its creator, Barry Price has stated that he won’t be updating it.

Recent Comments Plugin

Recent Comments is another plugin modified to make use of tool tips.

SilverSpider Play List

I added another output format to my recent song list package to make use of tool tips.

Site Cleanup

I am reviewing each post on the site to clean up old formatting issues, many due to the period in which I used Markdown (a mistake, I really should have kept to HTML). So, individual posts will look nicer in time, though I am specifically not updating the content as I do not want to inadvertently re-write my own bits of history.

In Closing

The overarching goal of this redesign was to ensure the site stays fresh. As the archives show, I often go through periods where I don’t post to the site. Yet, during that time I am actually pretty active in various spots on the Net. This redesign adds focus to the conversations that occur on the site (please add your comments to this and other posts) and my interests, as can be seen in the recent bookmark, music and reading lists. While the Web is a often a one-way medium, it doesn’t have to be. So, welcome to the site, please jump into a conversation!

Feed Update

Feedburner LogoI’ve updated the entry and comment feeds on this site to use Feedburner. The process was a smooth one, so you shouldn’t run into any issues, but please let me know if you encounter any problems.

Adium 1.0 Takes Off

Adium LogoAdium, my favorite instant messaging application for OS X has released version 1.0! I’ve been using the 0.x versions of the app for quite a while now, and each release has been a marked improvement over the last. This latest version, a year and a half in the making, has a host of improvements, as they noted on their blog:

New features include a shiny new default appearance, an installation setup assistant, improved account management, privacy management, iTunes Now Playing status, optional Dock-like hiding of the contact list, grouping of saved status messages, a redesigned chat transcript viewer with improved searching, and much more. Adium 1.0 includes service-specific improvements such as AIM file transfer and Direct Connect image transfer improvements, Yahoo invisible status, receiving of MSN custom emoticons, and Google Talk buddy icons and typing indication support.

So check it out if you’re on the Mac. If you’re in the PC world, I highly recommend you download Trillian, which, like Adium, supports multiple clients and has a great interface, solid core of developers and an active community.