Monthly Archives: April 2006

Test failed

As you can tell from the previous post, the test failed.  The source code in the blog editor shows the src accurately, but for some reason something in the process of publishing to WordPress.com strips away the information on the source.  I’ve tried going into the editor in WordPress and manually adding it back and changing the information from img alt to img title, but that doesn’t help either.  Still WordPress seems to be removing that information for some reason. 

I have notified the appropriate people at Flock to see if it is something related to the blog editor.

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My Newspaper video

The lastest version of Flock, soon to be released in beta and codenamed "Cardinal," has improved the way RSS feeds are handled. The feed reader in Flock is called My Newspaper, and it is represented by an icon in the icon bar that looks like a newspaper (what else?) and is positioned just to the left of the icon for starring a favorite (which, in Flock's terminology, equates to marking a site as a favorite).

It was reasonably instinctive to me how to open the My Newspaper sidebar (just click the My Newspaper icon), but how to add a feed to the newspaper didn't seem as immediately obvious. So once I figured out how to do it, I decided to record a short video and upload it to YouTube to illustrate the process.

If you'd like to view the video, click here.

Update 4/30/06: If I had done a bit more research before posting, I might have found the explanation of how to subscribe to feeds in the specifications for the Cardinal distribution of Flock. But like so many others, I first see if I can do something without reading the directions, and only when that fails do I turn to reading the instructions.

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A laptop for Ben

On occasion I have been one of the resources to which a friend has turned for help with his computer questions and issues. Last night I received an email from him asking my advice once again. His son, whom we'll call Ben, enters a large midwestern university this fall as a freshman, and he needs a laptop. My friend, whom I'll call Bob, wants advice about what things he needs to consider when making the purchase of a laptop for Ben's college work.

In Bob's email he made this request, "Can you possibly help us in our orientation toward getting him the best, but being sensitive to what he wants as well — the X University is a wireless campus so I guess we'll need that stuff too."

He continued, "Any help, insight, commentary, recommendations would be greatly, greatly appreciated." And then in conclusion he added the line that makes this request really interesting when he said, " … money is really not an object (well, for the most part, you understand I think)."

The constraints should be obvious.

Ben needs a laptop to use as his computer during his college career. It will need to be light enough to maneuver around campus to the library, the dorm, and the classrooms with ease, but it needs to be powerful enough to serve as his primary computer and should have enough storage to meet his needs. Ben intends to be a business major rather than graphics artist or architect or physics major, but he has been a gamer in the past. So a fast machine with good graphics capabilities will make his leisure time more enjoyable, I'm sure. He is also "into" music, so Ben is likely to want to use it to entertain himself or as a processing station for his "tunes" for his IPod. Ben has done some work in his hometown as a disc jockey, so he might even want to do a podcast at some point. He needs to be able to produce written assignments for classes, tie into the university's wireless network, use the resources such as printers and scanners that may exist at school and have a software package that covers all his basic needs at school. He doesn't need to be hassled by having to recover from virus or spyware infestation or hardware malfunction. The laptop needs to be sufficiently current and reliable that it will last him for the next 4 years.

So I turn to you, my readers with experience in choosing and using a laptop, for your comments to help Bob and Ben and me to choose a laptop for Ben. Given the requirements as spelled out by Bob's email, and expanded upon by me, and given the opportunity to choose a laptop without undue concern over cost, what would you choose for your hypothetical 18 year old son, just heading off to college? What factors do you think Bob should take into consideration? And what specific computer would you recommend? (A link to the specific configuration would be great.)

Please be aware that because I have moderation turned on to all comments, it may take a little while for your comment to show up here.   

One final bit of information, Ben himself in his message to his dad suggests a computer that a friend of his has recently gotten, a laptop that Ben says, "looks like pretty much exactly what I envisioned." That laptop is the Dell Inspirion E1505.

Is that laptop the best choice for Ben, or do you have other ideas? Should Ben consider a Tablet PC, a Mac, or what? Any and all comments about this subject will be welcomed and appreciated.

And thanks for your help.

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It’s about time for Cardinal

I saw this comment (#7) over on Mike Neel's blog this morning and decided I'd better post something here on my blog before such comments begin appearing in my comment section. So let me try to catch you up on some of the things that have been capturing my attention during the last week or so.

Yesterday morning I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me about the upcoming Cardinal release of Flock sometime in May. If I understand correctly, Cardinal will be the first actual beta version of Flock. Up until now, all the releases have been termed a "developer preview," and they were accompanied by a warning that the software wasn't even to the beta stage yet. Despite that very preliminary, and yes even buggy, version of the browser, I began using it back in November as my default browser. At any rate, yesterday I decided to download the latest "daily build" of Flock to see what has changed, so I downloaded version 0.7.0.3.0 and installed it. A number of changes have been made, some of which I like and some of which I don't.

For instance, I am now using the new built-in blogging editor for this post. When you press the hot key for it (Ctrl-B), the editor pops up a separate window, which is okay I suppose, but one of the things I notice immediately that there is no way to enter categories for the post. That means that posting to the blog will have to be a two-staged adventure. First, I can draft the post in the editor, but afterwards I'll have to open the post in WordPress and change the categories there. That is not very efficient and surely it is an oversight.

Also the editor doesn't seem to separate paragraphs with a space when you press Enter. I won't know how the post will appear on the blog until I publish it, but if it doesn't add the space between paragraphs I'll have to add them during that second stage of editing the post when I am adding the categories. I can, of course, modify my behavior to add those extra CR/LF (carriage return / line feeds) when I'm editing the post, once I discover how the editor treats them, but this behavior is a departure from the previous versions of the editor and to me it seems an undesirable change. Also this version of the blog editor no longer has a spell checker built in. Given my poor spelling skills, that is definitely not an improvement.

Another change in this version of the software is that the widget for selecting which collection is displayed at the top of the browser has been moved from the left side of the window to the right. Why? I have no idea. Again I can get used to that, but it doesn't seem to be an improvement to me and I see no rationale for the change.

What used to be called "the shelf" is now referred to as web snippets, and its location has been moved from the topbar to the bottom window. A feature has been added that allows you to highlight text, graphics, and links and drag them to the bottom of the window which causes the web snippet window to open automatically where the item can then be deposited. Once you've done that, moving the cursor back to the browser window closes the web snippet window. I think the rationale for this change was to make the web snippet window easier to use. I'll just have to see whether this configuration proves easier and more desirable. So far, I'm not convinced that it is.

One of the things that I do like about the new version is the modification they have made to the photo browser. I can now see all the photos of my friends on Flickr instead of just the ones that are public, meaning that I can see the photos that are classified by the photographer as for "friends and family" only when I am one of their contacts. That makes sense and is a change that needed to be made. Also the developers have added a link to each photograph that permits you to drag either a small or a large version of the photo to your blog post. I'm pleased with that capability. Previously you could only drag a small version of the picture so this new ability gives greater choice, and I'm almost always in favor of that.

So, despite my kvetching about the little niggling things I don't like about the newest version of Flock, I'm still a big fan of this browser because I've become reliant on the tools it provides for interacting with the web. I like the fact that when I mark something as a favorite in the browser it updates my del.icio.us site.

Flock is very innovative in the ways it encourages you to participate online rather than to merely observe content that others have generated. And since I favor all of us contributing to what's online, I think Flock will make a major contribution to that capability. Other browsers are like radios (one-way conversation) whereas Flock is more like a telephone.

Update: Upon publishing from the blog editor, I discovered to my delight that I did have the option for adding categories after all because upon pressing the "publish" button I was presented with a list of my categories from which to choose, and when I clicked on the "advanced" button I found that I could even enter Technorati tags too. So the paragraphs in which I complain about those absent features just reflects my lack of familiarity with the features. On the other hand, my observations about the CR/LF issue were correct, so in the future I'll know that if I want a blank line between paragraphs when I'm using the blog editor, I'll have to put them there. That's not hard to do, though, so I'll just modify my behavior to account for the way it works.

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