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Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

AP claims web sites have to license 5-word quotations

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

Cory Doctorow notes the Associated Press’ claim that you should have to license 5-word quotations:

In the name of “defin[ing] clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt” the Associated Press is now selling “quotation licenses” that allow bloggers, journallers, and people who forward quotations from articles to co-workers to quote their articles. The licenses start at $12.50 for quotations of 5-25 words. The licensing system exhorts you to snitch on people who publish without paying the blood-money, offering up to $1 million in reward money (they also think that “fair use” — the right to copy without permission — means “Contact the owner of the work to be sure you are covered under fair use.”).

When attacked over the plan and its demand that The Drudge Retort remove some unlicensed excerpts, the AP backed down and is reconsidering its position:

After that, however, the news association convened a meeting of its executives at which it decided to suspend its efforts to challenge blogs until it creates a more thoughtful standard.

“We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this,” Mr. Kennedy said.

That’s all well and good, but what is more worrisome is the claim in the NY Times article that

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances.

No, it won’t, because it can’t. Fair use is a legal doctrine, and the AP can no more redefine what it means than the Times can define libel to mean “a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person, unless it is published by the New York Times.”

Posted in Blogging, law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Assembling a Blogger’s Toolkit in Linux: Not Good

Posted by Fred on May 9, 2008

As previous posts should indicate, I have been using Ubuntu Hardy Heron (aka 8.04 LTS) almost exclusively on the Compaq Presario laptop for a while now.  After some early hiccups related to wireless networking and printing, the setup works pretty well.  The OpenOffice suite does just about everything I need MS Office to do, browsing is almost the same experience in Firefox for Linux as Firefox for Windows, and there are applications to do just about everything else I do on this laptop.  One big problem, however, is blogging and the tools I generally use to do so.

On Windows, my basic blogging toolkit consists of:

Of these, Firefox, the GIMP and Inkscape are all cross-platform, so the experience is identical.  OpenOffice does everything I need done with number-crunching.  I miss using Paint.net for lightweight image processing, but the Linux tools are adequate for that job.  With regard to the latter two categories, the Linux tools are, in my opinion, woefully inadequate.

Think what you will of Microsoft, but its free Windows Live Writer is, hands down, the best tool for off-line blogging available.  Basic features of that program that I use everyday in Windows include support for WordPress tags and categories, image uploading and manipulation (including automatic resizing, adding drop shadows, etc.), creation of tables and live preview (the application downloads your blog’s stylesheet, so you can see exactly what a post will look like).  To be comparable, a Linux app would have to have all of these features.

I looked at each of the Linux applications listed in the WordPress Codex, including BloGTK, Drivel, Flock, Gnome Blog, JBlogEditor, QTM, ScribeFire, and WriteToMyBlog. I prefer an off-line editor for various reasons, including the ability to automatically save local copies, so the Flock browser, ScribeFire extension and WriteToMyBlog web service, while interesting, are not really comparable.  All of the Linux clients are much simpler than WLW, and none offer true support for WordPress tags or the level of image manipulation offered by the Microsoft product.  I actually thought the best client was one not on the list, Kblogger, which is part of the KDE application suite.  Kblogger is still relatively featureless, and does not support WordPress tags, although it does appear to support Movable Type keywords.  Further, most of the Linux applications with the exception of Kblogger appear relatively dormant, and few have seen recent updates.

I next attempted to install some Windows clients via Wine.  Virtually all Windows blog clients use Internet Explorer DLLs, so installing via Wine just won’t work.  I was able to achieve some success by first installing IES4Linux, and then running the client installation program through IE.  BlogJet appears to run well via Wine in this way.  Unfortunately, there appears to be a conflict at some level between the version of Wine in the Ubuntu repository, the IES4Linux script and Hardy Heron, as IE will install and run fine the first time, but crashes if I exit and try to restart it.  BlogJet likewise would run once, but would fail if I exited and restarted unless I re-ran the IES4Linux script.  In any event, I found BlogJet’s most recent version to be inadequate, as it too does not support WordPress tags.  My attempts to install Windows Live Writer, BlogDesk, Post2Blog, Zoundry Raven, Qumana and Ecto via Wine all failed.

The same general experience held true for RSS clients.  I’ve written before of the reasons I prefer FeedDemon, including its support for clipping folders and watch bins, powerful feed data and feed management and the Panic Button (which allows the user to mark posts older than a certain timeframe to be automatically marked read).  On Linux, I looked at Liferea and Akregator.  Neither offered the full feature set of FeedDemon, particularly the tools for feed management and the automatic watch lists.  Neither integrated feed reading and posting as well as FeedDemon and WLW.  Of the two, I far preferred Akregator, which has a more user-friendly appearance and UI, and which organizes the feed list in a more intuitive manner.

FeedDemon did install under Wine and IES4Linux, but I found the experience to be vastly inferior to FeedDemon on Windows.  It runs more slowly, and it’s just a less coherent UI, with aspects of Windows and GTK jumbled together.

Why is blogging and RSS reading so much better on Windows and Mac than Linux?  It appears that many of the Linux offerings are, like many other small Linux apps, personal scratch-an-itch development projects.  Unlike OpenOffice (supported by Sun) and Firefox (run by Mozilla), these projects have no corporate-level support and no drive to support a large userbase with feature development.  In Linux, of course, I could just learn Python and add features myself, but I don’t have that kind of time.  So for now, I’m back to Google Reader and ScribeFire when on the laptop, but blogging is the one area I find to be inferior to Windows (but not so inferior as to make me boot back into Vista).

Posted in Blogging, Linux, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

My Today Screen: So Far, So Good

Posted by Fred on April 4, 2008

At first, I was a little hesitant about My Today Screen, the new Windows Mobile site started by Doug Goldring (late of Just Another Mobile Monday) and Tariq Bamadhaj (from a bunch of places, including Pocket PC Mag and his own blog, which now redirects to MTS). After all, do we need yet another WM site linking to the same stories about the release of Opera Mini 4.1 or Windows Mobile 6.1? My Google Reader list already includes Engadget Mobile and MobileCrunch, The Boy Genius Report and Smartphone Thoughts.

However, I’m coming around, for a couple of reasons.  First, although there’s little original reportage in the tech blog world, I have seen a few links on My Today Screen that I missed elsewhere, such as news of Amazon’s TextBuyIt service (I often miss items appearing first in TechCrunch, now that it’s descended almost completely into self-aggrandizement and Mike Masnick-style pseudoeconomic arguments about the collapse of the content industry business model).  More importantly, I like the balance Doug and Tariq and friends have struck. With the advent of the iPhone Era, too many mobile tech sites have gone over the deep end, fawning over the device as if it hung from the tool belt of the Carpenter of Nazareth himself, or descending into bitterness as if Cupertino’s cell phone was a personal affront, or praising Microsoft’s OS like tweens at a Hannah Montana concert, as if their hysterics counterbalance the Apple-groping at Engadget and Gizmodo.  My Today Screen seems to avoid all of that, treating WM like what it is, a tool that makes mobile phones do stuff.

With all of that said, there is one thing I wish the site editors would address – their entries in my RSS reader include this annoying disclaimer:


Copyright © 2008 My Today Screen. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact admin at MyTodayScreen.com so we can take legal action immediately. (2)


I think splogs are as annoying as the next blogger, but this is both ineffective and unnecessary.  Most scrapers are now able to skip such disclaimers, and most readers are entirely capable of telling a legit site from a scammer looking to steal a few pennies via Google ads.  Unfortunately, the visual clutter of MTS’ site design makes me want to stay within the confines of Google Reader, so I’ll just learn to tune out the disclaimer:

MTS_screen_shot

Posted in Blogging, internet, Technology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Blogger Bracket 2008

Posted by Fred on March 18, 2008

I’ve decided to move ahead with a blogger-only NCAA tournament pool.  Details are on the Blogger Bracket page.

Posted in Blogger Bracket, Blogging, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hey Bloggers – Win Prizes in the Blogger Bracket NCAA Pool!

Posted by Fred on March 7, 2008

bblogo

March Madness is almost upon us, with conference tournaments starting today in the Colonial, Missouri Valley, Southern, Horizon, Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley, America East, Metro Atlantic and West Coast Conferences.  The big boys wrap their regular seasons this weekend, culminating with conference championships and Selection Sunday on March 16.  The NCAA tournament thus really gets underway in 13 days.  Lots of people have blogs, and lots of bloggers like basketball, so I propose the first annual Bloggers Bracket, a tournament pool for bloggers.

The eligibility rules are simple.  To play, you must:

  1. Have a blog.  It is of course trivially easy to start a blog, so you must have at least ten posts prior to Selection Sunday.  Sploggers will be disqualified and humiliated to the extent possible.
  2. Provide a valid e-mail address on the entry, in case you win.
  3. Promote the contest in at least one post.  I’m not looking for a Page Rank boost, just more players, so write it out as a text link instead of a hyperlink if you have ethical concerns.
  4. There is no 4.

There will be prizes.  If you want to donate prizes, feel free to send an email.  If we get entries from at least 10 individuals, the grand prize will include at least the following:

  1. A $50 gift card from your choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes.
  2. Your choice of one of the following: 50 credits from wordpress.com, a two-year Flickr Pro upgrade or a one-year SmugMug membership.
  3. Eternal Glory.

If there are at least 25 entries, there will be an additional prize for the best picker of upsets.  If this is something you’re interested in, leave a comment here or check back for more updates (Blogger Bracket archive, feed) …

Posted in Blogger Bracket, Blogging, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Neil Gaiman to release book online for free

Posted by Fred on February 11, 2008

To celebrate his blog’s birthday, Neil Gaiman is going to release one of his prose works online for free for a month. Which one? His letting his readers decide. You can go to his site to vote, or click below:

While I’d personally rather see something like Absolute Sandman online for free, it’s nice to see Neil rewarding his fans.  Of those books, I like American Gods the best (and it’s the clear leader so far), but one of the story collections may work better online.

Posted in Blogging, Books | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Automattic raises $29 million from NYT and others

Posted by Fred on January 23, 2008

automattic_logo Automattic, the company behind WordPress and Akismet (and thus the host of this here blog), has raised $29 million in venture capital, including “a small portion” from the New York Times Company. Automattic’s primary competitors, Google and Six Apart, are well-funded, so Matt and crew either needed cash or a buyer. This provides an answer to the obvious question arising from the earlier announcement that they were increasing storage limits on WordPress.com to 3 GB (i.e. how were they going to pay for it?). It’s good news for WordPress users, and should allow the company to expand its efforts in areas only tangentially related to its blogging platform, such as anti-spam, identity management and forums/social media.

The investment from the Times Company makes a lot of sense. About.com, owned by the Times Company, runs on WordPress, as do many of the Times’ own blogs. Traditional media companies are discovering that it’s better to adapt an existing platform than to build one from scratch — other companies using WordPress as part of their online platform include CNN (the Political Ticker, the Marquee and CNN Wire all use WordPress.com) and Fox News.

Here’s a wish list of things I hope Automattic considers now that they have some additional capital:

  • Incorporate forums in some way with the hosted WordPress.com service. I’m not sure I would use it, but it would be nice to have.
  • Bulk file uploads and/or FTP access.  I’d actually prefer the former, but the latter would work, too.
  • Either expand the type of media that can be embedded in posts or stop stripping embed tags altogether.
  • Seriously examine the code that is stripped from posts.  I understand the security issue, but some of it is a bit heavy-handed.  For example, IE7 doesn’t honor the align property for the img tag, and wants a float:left style declaration instead. But you can’t add that manually, because WP strips it out. You can add an img class to the CSS, but only if you buy the Custom CSS upgrade.
  • Convert more of their plugins to widgets for use on WordPress.com

There’s probably a bunch of other things they should do, but if they did those things, I’d do a little dance.

Posted in Blogging | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

WordPress.com upgrades file storage to 3 GB, world rejoices

Posted by Fred on January 22, 2008

yay-new-shoes.jpg

wp_space_upgrade.pngThis is awesome. Last week, my wordpress.com account said I’d used 30% of 50 MB for file uploads, but they’ve gone and upgraded free space to 3 GB. And it’s still free, if you don’t want to host audio or video.  Hey Matt, now just roll out the batch upload capability and I’ll be really happy.  Then I can move the images for this theme for an off-site host to wordpress.  No way I’m uploading all those files one at a time.

Posted in Blogging | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Essential PC applications for bloggers

Posted by Fred on January 17, 2008

Scoble recently linked to a post from Darren Rowse listing 14 Essential Mac OS X Applications for Bloggers, which led me to wonder “what about the PC?”  Darren’s response is “switch,” which really isn’t an answer at all.  So this is my attempt at a Mac-to-PC translation of that list.

1. Desktop Blogging Tool

Mac: ecto or MarsEdit

wlw.pngPC:  ecto is available in a PC version, but I’ve always found it to be lacking compared to the Mac feature set. It’s even more so now, as the rewritten-from-the-ground-up version 3 is available only for OSX.  Personally, I use Windows Live Writer, which is free and can post to Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Moveable Type, Community Server, and lots of other blog systems.  WLW also makes it simple to add photos, videos, maps, tags and other fancy stuff. Before WLW, I mostly used BlogJet, which is also good (but not free).

2. Image Tools

Mac: ImageWell and Skitch

logo3.pngPC: There are, obviously, a lot of image tool available for the PC.  For photos, I tend to retouch using Photoshop Elements and/or Picasa.  For vector images, I prefer Illustrator to Inkscape.  But for basic blogging tasks, nothing really beats paint.net.  It’s great for basic cropping, rotating, recoloring, adding shadows and text, and optimizing for the web.  It does a whole lot more than that (blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing, splines, Bezier curves, etc.), but most of that functionality is beyond the needs of your average blogger.

3. Offline Web App Tools

Mac: Twhirl for Twitter and Flickr Uploader for Flickr

smugmug_white.pngPC: Both of those tools are also available for the PC.  Twhirl is written using Adobe AIR, so it is cross-platform.  The Flickr Uploader was originally written for the PC, and later ported to OSX.  I don’t really use Twitter (although I have an account) or Flickr (ditto).  For image hosting, I’ve actually been using DriveHQ instead, as more and more filtering tools are being configured to block Flickr and Photobucket.  A good alternative for photo sharing is SmugMug.  For uploading there, I’d suggest Komodo Drop, available for PC, Mac and Linux.

4. FTP

Mac: CyberDuck or Transmit

logo.pngPC: Since I moved to WordPress.com, I have little need for FTP software, as WP doesn’t allow FTP access.  However, before the switch, I primarily used Filezilla.   It’s open source, available for Mac, PC, Linux and *BSD, andsimple to use given its powerful feature set.  If you do a lot of large transfers, the ability to pause and resume huge file transfers (> 4 GB) is a big plus.  It’s also available in a portable version, so you can take it with you on a USB drive for use away from your PC.

5. Screenshots

snagit7boxshot.jpgMac: InstantShotQuickSnap, Paparazzi and SnapNDrag

PC: For most purposes, I usually just use [Print Screen] + paint.net, actually.  For more robust screen capture, SnagIt wins hands down.  You can capture pretty much anything that appears on the screen, including menus and scrolling windows.  SnagIt will also automatically capture all of the images, video and audio files from a Web site if you feed it a URL.  SnagIt also includes an image editor, and free plugins allow direct transfer of images from the program to your blog.

Windows Mobile: I also blog about Windows Mobile from time to time. For smartphone screenshots, I use Ilium’s Screen Capture, which is free, fast and easy to use.  You do have to sync the phone to get the images to the desktop.  To avoid that step, you can use VITO ScreenCapture, which lets you take screenshots directly from the desktop.

6. Video Capture

Mac: CaptureMe

logo-new.gifPC: I don’t really do screencasts, but on the few occasions I’ve needed to try, SnagIt’s basic video capture has been good enough.  You could also try Camtasia Studio (also from Techsmith, publisher of SnagIt), but it retails for $299.  It integrates really well with SnagIt – you can send screengrabs directly from SnagIt to Camtasia. A free alternative is CamStudio, which records activity from your screen and audio from a microphone as AVI video files, which you can then convert into Flash using its built-in SWF Producer.

7. Instant Messaging

Mac: Adium

trillian_logos.pngPC: I mostly use Google talk because it’s free and built into Gmail, which is the only email I use these days.  But for multi-protocol IM comparable to Adium, the best is probably Trillian, which  supports AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC.  To get Jabber support (i.e. for Google Talk), you have to buy Trillian Pro, which supports plugins like the Jabber plugin. Cerulean has started alpha testing the new version of Trillian, called Trillian Astra, which promises even more interoperability, including Windows Live, Google Talk, Bonjour and MySpace IM.

8. Text Editing

notepadpp.pngMac: TextEdit

PC: There are a lot of good text editors for the PC, and the one I use depends on what I am using it for.  For basic “jot something down before I forget”, Notepad is usually adequate.  For more formatting options, or for HTML, PHP, CSS, etc., I prefer Notepad++, which is also available in a portable version.  For XML, I usually use the free Microsoft XML Notepad 2007. Of course, if you’re a real geek, you probably use emacs or vim.

9. Other Tools

I agree with Darren on some of his other suggestions, most of which are cross-platform.  For VoIP, use Skype. For browsing and general Web stuff, use Firefox.  For RSS, use Google Reader.

Anything else?

Posted in Blogging, Technology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

New theme: Sandbox + Sandpress

Posted by Fred on January 16, 2008

I changed the theme of this blog recently to something a bit “airier”.  If you’re a fellow WordPress.com-er and like the look, I’m using the Sandbox theme and a CSS style called Sandpress, from Arpit Jacob. To use it, you’ll need the Custom CSS upgrade from WordPress.  Download the Sandpress files and upload the images somewhere.  Until WP.com offers batch uploading, it’s probably best to host the theme images elsewhere.  You could use Flickr or another image hosting site. I use Drive HQ, as I’ve found more and more organizations are blocking the photo sharing sites.  Edit the CSS file you downloaded to change the image paths, or use mine (search and replace PATH to fix the links).  Mine also fixes a couple of other little quirks like the look of the search box, and formats the tag list for each post.

Go to the Presentation tab and choose the Sandbox-10 theme. Then click on Custom CSS and paste the contents of the CSS file (or the Word document I linked – WP won’t let you upload a plaintext file).  Choose “Start from scratch and just use this” and save the stylesheet.  Now you’re done.

Posted in Blogging, Meta | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »