Archive for April 2008

Upgrading to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

I’ve updated my Asus Eee from Ubuntu 7.10 to the latest release (8.04), though I didn’t strictly speaking upgrade, it was more of a reinstall. I’d intended to upgrade using Ubuntu’s update manager, but when I tried this I got a message to say that I didn’t have enough disk space, needed 1.3Gb, but I’d only got about 1Gb free. In the process of freeing up some space by removing packages, I think I removed too much, as I couldn’t even get the login screen to appear. So anyway, I ended up just doing a reinstall. All went fine, though I needed to look up a couple of bits to get the wireless working.

My only little niggle with Ubuntu 8.04 is that it’s got Firefox 3 Beta 5, rather than the current stable version of Firefox, this causes a bit of an issue for me because it means I can’t install Google Gears or the del.icio.us plugin, neither of which work with Firefox 3 yet – I assume they’ll soon get them working when v3 is fully released (don’t know when this is due – maybe summer, but hopefully soon). Having been playing with Firefox addons the other day, I think I may be able to hack the del.icio.us plugin to make it work, but don’t think I’ll be able to do the same for Google Gears.

Another unresolved issue I have is that I can’t seem to view any BBC iPlayer programmes. Flash appears to be installed fine and works for other sites, but when I try to play any programmes I just get the message “Something went wrong. There seems to be a problem playing this video. Please try again. undefined” :-( But I haven’t yet figured out where this problem is. [Update, I now have this resolved]

Facebook finally adds chat

I’m surprised it’s taken them so long… (admittedly it might have been there a little while and I just haven’t noticed!)

Will have to investigate and see what it’s actually built in, whether you can log in using a different client and if you can add contacts from outside FB? I suspect that you’re tied to using their client and your only contacts are your facebook friends.

Firefox extension for Cohere

I’ve started to build a Firefox extension for Cohere. This is the first time I’ve ever had a go creating FF add-on, but it seems straightforward enough so far, thanks to some good examples and explanation. In couple of hours I’ve got my head around basically how it works and even created the requisite helloworld plugin, though for originality I called mine Cohere… just to prove it here’s a screenshot…

However I think that’s the easy part over with now and it’s only going to get more tricky. Not from the point of view of creating the actual add-on, but figuring out how to make it easy to use. What we’re trying to build is something along this lines of the del.icio.us firefox add-on, but the difference being that we want to offer users the ability to make connections between 2 websites (or bits of text grabbed from websites), which means the add-on will need to have a neat way of storing one idea, whilst the user is browsing the web searching for the next idea to make the connection to.

My thinking at the moment is that when you make an idea from a page it will automatically create the node for you and give you a short list of your most recent ideas you have added to make connections between.

Multi-user chat with MSG

Chatroom in Pidgin on MSG server

“Does MSG do multi-user chat?” is something we’ve been asked about countless times, and our response has always been no, and we’re not intending to add this feature, on the basis that many other clients already offer this functionality and we’re not here to reinvent the wheel.

Well, this is only partly true! The MSG web-client interface doesn’t offer the facility to create and join chat rooms, but the server that MSG runs on does (OpenFire Jabber server). This means that if you have an account on our MSG server, you can log into this account with another Jabber compliant client, which does have chat rooms.

Liam and I have been trying this out this morning using the Pidgin client (he’s also just had a meeting with few people using it) and all seems to be running well, these are the steps you need to go through…

  1. Create account on MSG (use the register link)
  2. Install Pidgin and connect to the msg server (msg.open.ac.uk) using you rnew username and password
  3. From the ‘Buddies’ menu in pidgin, select ‘add chat’
  4. Create a name for your room (only seems to like alpha-numeric characters, so no spaces)
  5. Fill in the options you want, or just leave on the defaults

We found the ‘invite’ function a bit flaky (didn’t track down the exact cause or where it was going wrong), but you can just give people the name of the room you’ve created for them to join.

Any feedback/comments etc welcome ;-)

WordPress 2.5 – Error uploading to Media Library

Whilst writing my previous post and trying to upload the relevant screenshot using the ‘add media’, I kept getting the (rather unspecific) error message: “HTTP Error, An error occurred in the upload. Please try again later.”

There’s a WordPress forum thread which mentions this error (plus other problems people are having with the Media Library), but the easiest solution I found was just to edit the .htaccess file.

OpenID server gets a makeover

I’ve just updated our OpenID server with a new site design (which is more OU-brand like) and also a much cleaner interface. There are also a few minor changes that I’ve made, e.g. showing people what their OpenID URL is and I’m going to update some of the help documentation too later this pm. This is essentially in preparation for me to hand over the server for someone else to look after ;-)

FF extension for Remember The Milk

Have just spotted this posting about the Remember The Milk GMail extension for FireFox, so you can manage your RTM tasks directly from GMail. Looks pretty good (saves having 2 browser windows open), but seems its something else I’ll need to wait for, as you need the most recent version of GMail, which hasn’t yet been rolled out to my account (should note that now I do have the offlline version of Google Docs!). Only thing I’m not too sure about is how it will look on the small screen of my Asus Eee – might just be too much to squeeze onto one page – but will give it  go anyway….

OpenSocial

I’ve finally got around to having a look at OpenSocial, following it’s launch last year (and all the subsequent blog postings) I’ve not really heard too much about it, or who’s actually implemented it, but it seems quite a few social sites have done (though obviously not facebook): hi5, Ning, MySpace to name a few. My comments below are my first impressions from only having looked and played with the docs/examples for couple of hours, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about anything below!…

The first thing I needed to find out was what OpenSocial actually is and what it gives you (apart from the generic description that it’s an API for social web applications). My impression had been that (and I don’t know why I thought this), as well as a way to write applications (Google Gadgets) that can run in compatible social sites, OpenSocial would also help solve the problem of having multiple disparate networks of friends on different social sites, so you didn’t need to recreate your friends network when moving between different social sites. Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be the case (please correct me here if I’m wrong!), but it does give application developers the chance to build applications for social sites which will run in multiple sites, rather than having to learn a different API each time.

The problem of friends being on different networks was one we came across when thinking about developing a Facebook application for MSG. Users would already have a set of contacts in MSG, but how to link match these up to Facebook friends. The point of having MSG in Facebook, or any other social site, would be so that you can chat directly to your friends within that network. It seems we could run up against the same problem if we created an OpenSocial MSG Gadget too.

I did find this little video about Shelfari and their OpenSocial implementation that we should be able to learn something from – though even after watching this I’m still a little confused as to how your Shelfari friends match up to your friends in Orkut :-/ . Then I got slightly distracted looking at some blog postings about Shelfaris invitation process – it appear rather similar to how Facebook used to (or still does?) automatically invite all your email contacts.

The part that I found most interesting (and also most confusing) was how you could make a social site compatible with the OpenSocial API (i.e. allow users to add applications to their profiles). It certainly seems a non-trivial task to create a site which would be compatible with the OpenSocial API – which is why in the tutorial I get pointed to a number of “container” sites which will allow me to test out my new (hello world) Gadget.

So… will be having a think now about how we can apply some of this to Cohere – and what should a Cohere Gadget embedded in a social network site actually do/look like?

Running Ubuntu

I now have my Asus Eee running Ubuntu, there are loads of “how to” pages on how to install it, but this was the best one I found.

Setting up the wireless was a little fiddlier than I’d hoped, the instructions to get it running include a ‘wget’ call , so you need to be connected to the internet to download the packages. I plugged into my wired network, but couldn’t get any connection and it took me quite a while to realise that I needed to have the ethernet cable plugged in to my machine when it starts up, in order to have a network connection. All worked fine after that! I assume there must be a way to get it to recognise a network cable being plugged in after it’s already booted, but I’ve not found out how to do it yet.

Getting Skype and the webcam working was easy enough too, though to get the webcam working (rather than just a black image!) an extra step was needed to the instructions above – that was to set the BIOS option OS installation from started to finished.

Google Gears is now installed fine too, though again I needed a little tweak… by installing libstdc++ 5 before trying to install Google Gears.

My final task was to get Apache, MySQL and PHP running. I thought this would be the most tricky part, especially after my experiences getting them all running together on Windows, where it all just seemed very fiddly. But in fact, it turned out to be one of the easiest parts of getting my system set up. I used these instructions, and installed each of the components (apache2, php5-mysql, libapache2-mod-php5, mysql-server) separately. On Gutsy Gibbon Ubuntu, I couldn’t get it to install LAMP using tasksel, hence why I needed to install them separately.

Asus Eee arrived

The Asus Eee I ordered a few weeks ago has finally arrived. I’m beginning to have a bit of a play with it, though the first thing I really want to do to night is to update to Ubuntu. I’m not too experienced in Linux, but there seems to be plenty of help and forums to help me out.