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Fri, Nov 08 2002

Nothing much in the way of new coding I'm afraid since I didn't get a chance to work on BlogMan (and yes, DeViLbOi I haven't forgotten PostMan :p) - I've been busy with a few other things but hope to get back to BlogMan soon since I want to be able to make offline posts to my MT blogs soon. As far as PostMan goes, it is actually useable but is missing quite a few features that people might want, is a bit buggy and slow. It's the slowness which actually halts me from going ahead with further development since I don't want an e-mail client which takes ages to check mail when Eudora does it faster. It probably is either something I'm missing (most probable) or the Indy component that I'm using to do POP3 access. Either way, I will get back to PostMan but I usually find I code better when I work on something I'm interested in and so at the moment, it's going to be BlogMan :p

Before I get anymore requests for this particular feature (suddenly, it has become very popular and I've received no less than three e-mails requesting it within about a week or two), the ability to have a different template for the archived entries is slated to be added in Blog 8.0 :-) Both Tyran and Darin asked for it as well as another user in a comment left on this journal. Since so many people seem to want it, it's going to be there in the next big release. But just have no idea as to when the next release (major or minor) is going to be since there seems to be enough coding projects to be divvied up between a whole team :p Ah well, I guess one at a time is the way to go ...

I've also received a request to add scripting capabilities to Blog - so that a script written in perhaps VBScript or JavaScript can automate certain functions in Blog such as publishing, logging etc. While the idea has merit, I am again wary of adding too much bloat to any of my apps. I like to keep an app at a stage where it can still be carried around on a floppy. I know that's sort of archaic at this juncture of computer development and that Blog really isn't there since the compressed installer is around 2MB but to me that is still acceptable ... kind of. But when you have a 4 or 5 MB installer, I don't like that and I don't know how big the final executable will grow to if I added scripting. Of course, as usual, I will do what the users want since you are ultimately the people who will need/use these features - I got Blog to the stage where it does what I want a long time ago :p
posted at 05:33:31 AM  link  comment

Thu, Nov 07 2002

I am still working on BlogMan. Though I should have gone on to entry retrieval and posting after doing the blog information retrieval code, I decided to deviate a bit and add multiple user support :-) So I've been working on adding the retrieval of user information for a given blog. Of course, this part is a bit clunky in that the BloggerAPI needs a login and password to retrieve information for a user instead of allowing you to retrieve information about all users on a given blog if you are an administrator for that blog. And the UI is kind of cluttered because it is all on one tab called Servers. You define the information for a given server and on the same screen you have a list of blogs for that server and a list of users for any given blog. I just completed the user information retrieval but haven't tested it yet.

Once that is tested and is proven to be working, I will have to modify the UI so that you can select a given blog *and* a particular user from that blog. Then you should be able to use a synchronize option which allows you to retrieve either all the posts for that user and synchronize those with your local database or retrieve a certain number of recent posts. There are limitations here as well since I have read that Blogger only allows up to a maximum of 20 recent posts to be retrieved whereas B2 allows you to retrieve all posts by the user. I don't know how Movable Type behaves in this respect. So it's going to be a fine kettle of fish to sort out all this stuff.

Of course, that brings me to the other thing that I haven't added yet and am mulling over - server categorization. Currently, each server you add to BlogMan is not categorized as to whether it uses Blogger, MT or B2 etc. Since there seems to be variations on the API support, I probably will need to add a server type/category field. Now my dilemma is as to whether I should have a separate table to hold the server type - this will come in especially handy when/if using different plug-ins for each server - or to hardcode the server types in to a drop down box for the moment. I still haven't decided and will probably end up hardcoding for the moment since it's easier :p
posted at 05:27:15 AM  link  comment

Wed, Nov 06 2002

I am well and truly in the throes of creating another app :p The BlogMan prototype is coming along pretty well and I was actually able to connect to my Movable Type server yesterday and retrieve information about my blogs there. Retrieving posts and making posts is still going to take about a week to finish but we're getting there. Of course, I'm already beginning to notice certain things such as the fact that I will probably need to either create a plug-in architecture or a separate API file since apart from the core Blogger API, Movable Type also seems to implement other access methods for features it has but Blogger doesn't - such as the category feature. A plug-in architecture probably is the best since then I can support almost any blog server with XML-RPC capabilities but for the moment, I'm too lazy to do that and will probably go with a straight API file but keep the plug-in idea in mind. I won't say more till I have actually gotten some of the other stuff to work since I have certain reservations but not sure if they are well founded or not.

I've also heard a few comments about Blog 7.0 linefeed conversion feature :-) Now, I had not even considered putting more than basic HTML formatting in my entries but I see that Rob has been using tables - sometimes I feel as if I am the person who least uses all the features/possibilities of Blog :p The easiest way not to have the linefeeds automatically insert line break tags into your tables is to have the table code and the contents in one complete line with no breaks at all. Yes, I realize that looks totally ugly and is hard to debug when a problem occurs but it will definitely keep the line break tags from appearing. The other thing I can think of is to use some sort of a new tag which will mark certain areas as non-parseable by Blog so that its completely bypassed by the Blog tag/linefeed parser. This might however, slow things down a bit and so there's going to be a bit of a tradeoff in speed for clarity of entry.

Since so many people seem to be in favour of the calendar idea - I guess plug-ins are a definite feature to be implemented in the next major release of Blog. But just because I create a plug-in system, don't expect me to create the calendar plug-in :p I might or might not since I'm way too lazy <vbg> I might simply convert the cookie tag into a plug-in, release the source and expect somebody else to do the actual work :p Of course, thinking about a plug-in architecture has brought up certain other difficulties that I had not considered at first. Blog relies heavily on database access but the plug-in creators might not have access to DBISAM to do any development work - so that means that I'll probably have to create an internal Blog API which gives plug-in authors transparent access to the Blog databases. I am currently thinking of making it a simple function which takes an SQL statement and returns the results for the query as a variant array. Not sure if that will actually work since I haven't tried it out yet but I'd like any input on the idea from the other developers out there. Anybody? :-)
posted at 04:54:14 AM  link  comment

Tue, Nov 05 2002

I've discovered that it should be pretty simple to implement an application that would allow somebody to post to both Blogger and Moveable Type (MT) using a client to compose the entry offline! This should work with Grey Matter as well since I believe that it supports the Blogger API as well. However, not all the blogging applications/servers support the Blogger API in the same way - for instance, MT does not allow you to edit templates since their template mechanism is different to Blogger's. However, this is a starting point and so I have decided to start work on a new app I'm calling BlogMan - short for Blog Manager :p It is basically using the existing Blog interface and code as a launching point - it will even have the 7.0 interface with comments display etc. even though I cannot currently support the extraction of comments ... but I'm hoping that I can at least add extensions to MT to do some of this. Not sure about the others since it'll depend on each implementation I guess. I will probably have a better understanding when I have a working prototype but that might not be for a week or so.

In the meantime, I have also been thinking about some of your suggestions and ideas for Blog. John mentioned that he liked the current separation of entry and HTML template and wanted it kept that way - with reference to a WYSIWYG entry option. This was just to do the entries, the template still would be separate. The reason for the WYSIWYG entry box would be so that you can get your entry exactly the way you want it to - especially for those who use a lot of HTML code in their entry. It personally wouldn't do much for me since I don't use images or lots of HTML code but there are some for whom it could be a great boon.

Then there is the questions of plug-ins. I've been giving this a lot of thought and originally I had been thinking of a way to create a comprehensive plug-in system which would allow new features. I realize that this will probably never work. But, it is possible to allow a plug-in system which would allow new Blog tags. For instance, I know that the BlogCookie tag can be easily parcelled out to a plug-in since I don't think everybody uses it - plus, it needs Cee to be installed to use it. A plug-in would make the whole process so much more cleaner and you could probably even have Cee installed in a completely different directory than Blog. Another good candidate for the plug-in system would be a calendar display a la MT. There are many possibilities and I'm going to look into creating a plug-in system for the next major release of Blog, which will be 8.0 but there probably will be the bug fix release that I've been talking about before then - especially since Tyran's pointed out that I have broken the search text highlighting in the Find option somewhere along the way :p
posted at 04:51:32 AM  link  comment

Mon, Nov 04 2002

I like Moveable Type for a lot of reasons - I like the spiffy interface, I like the standard template which looks elegant and is yet simple, I like the fact that it can be accessed from anywhere and I like the fact that multiple users can post to the same blog. But there are also many things that I don't like about it - I don't like the fact that you have only a few HTML code snippet buttons (bold, italic and URL if I recall correctly) and there is no way to assign custom snippets so that I can add my own frequently used HTML code to buttons instead of typing it out all the time; I hate the fact that there is no spell-check or thesaurus; I don't like it that all my entries, site settings and templates are on a server and if the server goes down or is shut down, I lose all my entries and settings; I don't like the fact that I can't post the same journal to multiple sites and so the list goes on. I guess in choosing any software, you sometimes have to weigh the pros and the cons and decide what is really important to you to get a certain job done. But if you are a coder, you also have the option to write a new app of your own that has all the features you want or to code an enhancement for an existing app that will do what you want :p

Now, I already have a blogging application out there and I certainly don't want to write or maintain a server-side blogging utility like Moveable Type or Grey Matter. But ... what if it is possible to write an application which will connect to a Moveable Type, Grey Matter or Blogger blog and allow you to post entries and to retrieve existing entries to be stored offline? This will give you a system which will have quite a bit of the missing features that I talked about *and* give you the flexibility of posting from anywhere as long as you have web access. I have been giving this matter a lot of thought and I think the idea is worth exploring and so I intend to do some research to see if it is possible. I know it should be eminently possible with any blogging utility that supports the Blogger API but I am not even sure that Moveable Type or Grey Matter do support the Blogger API.

I have actually been thinking of a plug-in based blog management system which will allow a user to add a plug-in for any blogging utility of their choice and be able to connect to that particular blog and post their entries or to synchronize their entries. This way, you will always have a backup offline be able to recover fast from any disasters. Not only that, you will have a tool which allows you to compose your entries offline (with a lot of bells and whistles such as a spell-checker) and then go online only to post your entry. Of course, all of this is still in the realm of conceptualization since I don't know if any of it is possible but let's see where it goes ...
posted at 05:15:02 AM  link  comment

Sun, Nov 03 2002

I'm going to make one of my very rare double-posts (OK, I'm obsessive compulsive about not making more than one post a day - so sue me :p) because I did put the idea I had in the morning about a second journal into action! I went into work (since otherwise I would have had to work on a dial-up connection), downloaded Moveable Type and then set it up and a couple of hours later, I have a new blog named Solipsistic Meanderings! There is only one entry and there is a lot of changes and additions to be made but for the moment I do have a new blog :p Of course, this reminds me why I coded Blog in the first place - now I can post from anywhere with web access but I have to be online to post from home and that's a pain on a dial-up connection :-( I guess I could write the entry beforehand and then quickly connect and post but even that doesn't really suit me and so I'll probably end up writing some sort of an app which can connect to a Moveable Type blog, upload entries and perhaps even synchronize other entries made from other places so that you have everything in one place. I know that's going to be a big job but it sounds pretty interesting and you know how I am about coding interesting projects :p In the meantime, you can get all the personal dope about me at Solipsistic Meanderings while I'll talk about coding stuff right here :-)
posted at 01:37:37 PM  link  comment

I don't understand people at all! They tell you that honesty is very important to them, that they never lie, that they always tell the truth no matter who gets hurt; they tell you that even omitting details or not revealing everything is lying and then they turn around and lie outright to you. Where are all their principles? Where are all the rules that are supposed to apply to you? I guess it is always alright when you are doing the lying but not when you think somebody else might be doing it. Ah well ... I know this makes no sense to any of you but I had to rant - sorry. I have never understood people and their talk of honesty. When you are honest, you get castigated for being honest and telling the truth and what you are told is it doesn't matter that you told the truth, you did whatever you did. And if you don't tell the whole truth or don't reveal something that wasn't specifically asked about, you are accused of lying. There is no winning is there? Again, I guess it comes to the whole moral dilemma thing - you do what you think is right and damn what others think. That's how I've always done it and I guess I'll continue to do so. Now that I've got that off my chest ...

I watched "XXX" and two Tamil movies yesterday. While I don't really care that much for Vin Diesel, I found "XXX" to be pretty interesting - maybe it was the combination of Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson or maybe it was all those stunts and gadgets but it was a pretty fun movie. The Tamil movies (as is usual for Tamil movies) were about love and the lengths people go to for love. In one, the guy thinks that the girl is in love with him and so falls in love with her but turns out that the girl actually comes around to see him and stuff only because he has the eyes of her dead love (the guy's eyes were damaged in the same accident that the girl's love died in and they gave the guy the girl's love's eyes - yeah that's how Tamil movies run :p). But since the guy is now in love with the girl, he tries to convince her that it's OK to fall in love again but she says she's going to live out her life remembering her love and so the guy decides to live out his life thinking of the girl. That's how the movie ended and I was entranced.

My ideas of love come from these movies and the books by authors like Barbara Cartland which talk about a pure and romantic love. Maybe it's wrong to look for such a deep, unselfish love in this day and age but what can I say - I've been corrupted already :p I don't know if such love exists anymore - a love where you will put your loved one before self, where you would do anything to see that the one you love is not hurt. I'm sorry, I shouldn't say that I don't know if such love exists, because I *do* know that it exists because I know of people who share that kind of love but it seems to be very rare. But this is turning into another one of my maudlin introspections instead of anything to do with software. I've noticed this trend recently where I write way too much in a whiny, personal note. I have decided to stop (or at least cut down on ...) that. I don't think anybody is that interested in my angst ridden thoughts, moral dilemmas or personal history - if you are, let me know and I'll probably start a second journal. This one, I intend to keep just for software development, books, movies and perhaps a few important happenings in my day to day life. At least that's how I look at it now - who knows how it will be tomorrow?
posted at 06:29:47 AM  link  comment

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