myJournal – it lives!

As promised oh so many weeks ago, myJournal is now live. At the moment it’s in a beta state so membership is by invitation only, however visitors have full access to all the public parts of the site. It’s aimed to be a powerful social networking tool specifically for businesses and is packed with features:

  • Member profiles
  • Multiple sites per member
  • Sites can be company sites or personal sites
  • Company sites have a showroom (an online product brochure, with multiple images per product, product categories and a really powerful management tool)
  • Company sites and personal sites have a gallery where images and videos can be uploaded
  • Members can create and join networks. The administration functions for networks are really extensive:
    • Make networks open membership, or membership by invitation only
    • Make networks private, meaning the network can be seen but all members remain hidden (except to other members of that networks)
    • Network discussions, based on the great bbPress software, with attachments
    • Network administers can revoke network invitations, ban members, and promote/demote members to be administrators
  • Members and companies can choose a number of industries to be in – the list of industries is pretty massive
  • Private messaging feature which handles multiple recipients and attachments
  • Featured members and networks, which appear around the site
  • “Who’s online?” feature

And the entire system is available for organisations that wish to run their own business social networking site. If you’re interested in that please contact us for more details.

The whole thing wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful WordPress MU platform, which I believe I’ve pushed to the very edge! Also my thanks go to Andy Peatling of BuddyPress fame for many, many hours chatting, helping me with code and generally being a good egg. It’s my pleasure to have offered the entire myJournal codebase to BuddyPress for their open source system, and I know some parts have already made it into builds.

Obviously there’s still a lot to do – how come so many bugs only make themselves visible when a beta version has gone live? – but I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done so far. Hopefully we’ll end up with a site that will help businesses really get the best out of the web.

IE8 WebSlices

The web world is currently alight with discussion around the new Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 software slated to be released later this year. The bulk of this conversation has been about whether IE8 will display pages with its much improved (it passes the Acid2 test) standards-complianct rendering engine. It seemed that we would have had to do some fiddling to get this to work but now it appear we don’t have to. That’s a good move, well done Microsoft.

I’ve just been and had a look at the website for the IE8 developer beta, and noticed something pretty interesting. they’re introduing a new feature called WebSlices which are like feeds for certain parts of web pages. Developers who add the required code to their pages will allow visitors to subscribe to updates of those sections of the page, which many of the same facilities afforded to RSS publishers.

My initial thought was that they’d have used some horrible proprietary syntax to make this happen, completely ignoring the established ways of doing this. But I was wrong. Almost.

Looking at the whitepaper for WebSlices it appears the IE8 team have taken large slices (excuse the pun) of the hAtom format to build their new feature. The main change being using a “hslice” rather than “hatom” class on the parent element of the feed. I’m not sure why they’ve done this, hAtom seems to do everything they need. Maybe it’s just Microsoft wanting to keep some level of control, maybe there’s something more to the story.

At any rate, this is is going to make it easier for developers to provide subscribable content on their web pages. Hopefully it will bring microformats – and web standards in general – to the attention of people traditionally deep inside the Microsoft world.

Silly season is upon us

I could launch into a tirade at the lunacy of modern Christmastime, but to be honest I’m too tired after shopping this weekend. If there was a modern 12 tasks of Hercules then shopping in Toys-R-Us a few weeks before Christmas would surely be one of them.

However it doesn’t have to be that way. Looking for the perfect gift? Look no further:

Ubuntu for web developers

I’ve now been a home user of Ubuntu for 2 months, give or take. In that time I’ve booted into Windows XP a total of two times. Once to get photos off the wife’s phone using a Bluetooth application (I could use a USB lead in Ubuntu, I’ve since discovered) and once to get some details saved inside an application.

For what I do, Ubuntu is proving to be an excellent choice. The new version has fixed a fair few of my niggles, such as pane layout in FileZilla not being saved. So, for any other web developers out there who is sick of WIndows, or looking at a costly "upgrade" (I use the term loosely) to Windows Vista, here’s what I use daily in Ubuntu:

  1. SciTE, Scintilla Text Editor – a basic text editor, which is what I do all of my development in. It could have a few more features (I miss the PHP function list plugin for Notepad++) but as far as text editors go, it’s pretty darn good.
  2. The aforementioned FileZilla FTP application which I’ve used in Windows for a long time. It’s a great FTP package that does every thing I need it to do. The latest version is especially nice.
  3. MySQL Query Browser allows me to easily create and edit both the schema of MySQL databases and the data itself. It’s like a cut-down version of SQL Server Management Studio, without the screen-wasting, time-wasting, CPU-wasting rubbish. The Administrator tool is really slick, too.
  4. My weapon, sorry, browser of choice is still Firefox. I have to be honest and say that a few plug-ins don’t seem to work for me (Color Picker and Tidy being the most important ones) but Chris Pederick’s Web Developer Toolbar is perfect, and makes the ‘Fox the standout choice fo web developers.
  5. One of the most famous pieces of free software is the GIMP. I have to confess I’d prefer to use Fireworks (which runs in Wine, and I have a valid licence for … hmm) but for the graphic work I’ve needed up to now it’s been fine. Again, the new version makes a lot of positive interface changes.
  6. Although I’m just a one-man-band development team, I find source control is very useful. If nothing else then just for off-site backups. My tool of choice for commits is RapidSVN which works with my Subversion server.
  7. Open Office. Of course, what more can I say?
  8. For tunage I use RhythmBox, which I find to be fantastic. Being able to create CDs from playlists with two clicks makes life easier. The only downside is I haven’t found any keyboard shortcuts to move up/down tracks. I’m sure they’re there, as pretty much everything is when I look properly.

And when I get chance to do some music stuff, which isn’t often to be honest, I lay down the beats with the following:

  1. Jack‘s the boss. Audio and MIDI routing, and a centralised time server, all wrapped up in a little neat box. Some musicians studio pay thousands for this functionality.
  2. Ardour audio workstation, which records all of the audio-based stuff. Works with Jack like they’ve been best friends for years. The next version will have MIDI support, which is a bad thing for me as I’m male and therefore can’t have the children of the developers no matter how much I want to.
  3. Kicking the beats is Hydrogen drum machine, which I only recently started using but already love.
  4. ZynAddSubFx is a great little synth. There are loads of other synths I haven’t even got round to trying.
  5. Qsynth – Qt GUI Interface for FluidSynth makes working with soundfonts a breeze.
  6. I have to mention LinuxSampler (for which I use the front-end Qsampler) but in honestly I’ve not managed to get it playing GigaSampler files yet, which is the whole reason I want to use it. Can anyone help?

If you haven’t heard of these applications, or if you’re not even aware that there are good, free and – most importantly – non spam and ad-infested applications out there then hopefully this list has whetted your appetite. I have to admit I’m a fully paid-up fan of open source software, and Ubuntu in particular, and like Apple I find using Windows at home an increasingly tedious business.