Posting to WordPress from Onfolio

After spending years doing all of my blogging from Radio Userland, I have slowly migrated to more current tools. I’m really sad about this, as Radio Userland is a very powerful tool. It has taken me a while to recover, and I am still not able to do all things blogging that I was able to do with Radio.

One of the powerful features was the blog aggregator. I really like to read my feeds as a “newspaper” view, with all of the posts in a time ordered list down the page. What made this even better was that when I want to blog about something that I just read, I would then click a “post” button and Radio would take me to a page where I could author a post, and the contents of what I was just reading would already be included in the bod of the post. So with this combination, it made it very easy to read thousands of posts per day, and blog about the ones that I found interesting.

Moving to WordPress has been a great experience, however I wanted to find my solution for an aggregator … a new reader to allow me to efficiently read and blog like I had done with Radio. Craig Burton told me about Onfolio, and I went and grabbed a copy to check out. Onfolio is a nice plug-in to the Microsoft Windows Live Toolbar for IE. The more that I started to play with Onfolio (and I’m not even using a lot of it’s research tool features!) I really found that I like it’s aggregator and blog reading capabilities … even more than Radio. I’m now back in the mode of reading hundreds and thousands of post per day … easily. The one thing that was missing was the ability to blog about a post that I was reading. Now Onfolio has the feature … but when configuring it in the preferences dialog, there is no option to “Blog to WordPress” from Onfolio. I did see that they had an option labeled “Custom Command Line” however until last night I wasn’t sure how this might help me.

I now have a solution … and here is how to use Onfolio to post to your WordPress blog:

  1. In Onfolio, go to the Preferences dialog, Blogging options.
  2. Set the Blog Provider to be “Custom Command Line”
  3. In the field provided, for the file and path to your blogging client, enter the following “command line”:

    http://{your_blog_host_name}/wp-admin/post.php?text=$ITEM_HTML$ &popupurl=$ITEM_URL$&popuptitle=$ITEM_TITLE$&onfolio=1

  4. Replace the {your_blog_host_name} with the actual host name of your blog.
  5. Make sure this is all included on the one line with no spaces.
  6. That’s almost all there is to it!

Uh oh … now why do I say “almost”??

Well, there is one last thing that you have to do. It seems that Onfolio wants to post escaped HTML to the URL … so this command line will work, but the text that appears in WordPress, ready to blog about, is now escaped HTML text and looks pretty funny … and is useless. I tried a lot of different things, before I resorted to hacking the WordPress code slightly to fix this issue.

If you are using “hosted” WordPress, I’m not sure if you can do the following … but if you have access to the WordPress files on your server, you now need to go to your WordPress installation and do the following:

  1. Edit the file /{wordpress install directory}/wp-admin/edit-form-advanced.php
  2. Search for the following line:

    <?php echo user_can_richedit() ? wp_richedit_pre($post->post_content) : $post->post_content; ?>

  3. Change it to be:

    <?php echo user_can_richedit() && !isset($_GET[‘onfolio’]) ? wp_richedit_pre($post->post_content) : $post->post_content; ?>

  4. Save the file.

What this does is to tell WordPress that if the posted data has a variable set that is called “onfolio” then don’t use the escaping … but put the HTML into the body of the post. Done!

Now when you are reading a post in Onfolio, and want to blog about it, you simply click the “Blog this item” or use the Control-Shift-B hotkey … a browser will launch to your WordPress “Write Post” page, and the content of the Onfolio post that you were reading will be in the body of the post ready to be referenced.

With this latest addition, I’m almost back to where I was with Radio. I can now efficiently read all of my favorite feeds, and blog about the posts that I find interesting. I really do like the way that Onfolio allows me to read and sort the posts … easily getting through them all. Expect to see me now resume my habit of posting about posts that I read … I have a way to do it again!

Software Version Complexities

Today I had an experience that caught me off guard. I recently purchased a Cingular/AT&T Broadband adapter for my laptop. I do really love it … well … after I got it working.

One of the initial issues that I had was that the CD ROM that came with the Cingular package was *WAY* out of date. It dated back almost 12-18 months, from what the technical support person told me. When I bought the card and went to install, I never thought to check if the CD ROM contained current software … I just put it in and ran the installer.  That was is huge error on my part as the old drivers caused all sorts of problems with my laptop.  Three days later I was back up and running … with the new version of the software that I downloaded from the Internet.

Well, my problem today was that every now and then the broadband card would lock up.  It would just stop working.  I couldn’t “disconnect” or “reset” the AT&T software either.  I found that if I ejected the card, and then re-inserted it things would again work … for a while.  After going through several days with this routine, I started to wonder about the firmware in the PCMCIA card.  I did a little searching on the Internet, and sure enough found a Sierra Wireless 875 firmware update program.  I followed the instructions and ran the program … which proceeded to update my firmware from v1.0.0 to v1.7.8!

What really amazes me about this whole situation is the poor software installation design and coding, along with the pitiful state of AT&T automated support systems.  As a software architect, and also a business owner, I am always looking for ways to improve customer experiences, decrease support costs, and automate everything that I can.  In this day and age I can’t believe that AT&T isn’t looking to do the same things!

Anyone who runs Windows has experienced Windows Update.  Now I know that lots of people will bitch and moan and whine about Microsoft, however I will argue that Windows Update – which has been evolving for almost a decade – is a marvel of automated software updating.  If you stop and think that Microsoft can drop a patch out to their servers and update millions of computers across the globe in a matter of hours or days is pretty incredible.  And for those people who want to complain about it, the key here is that any software developer could add a comparable or better solution to their software at any time!

In my mind, the AT&T installation CD ROM could have asked me if I wanted to have it check the Internet for newer versions.  But it didn’t.  It also could have – upon installation – checked the firmware on my card, and let me know that there was a suggested update for the card.  But it didn’t.  Every time that I put the card in and run the AT&T Connection Manager software, it could see if it had checked for updates in the last day or week, and automatically check in with their servers and let me know there are new versions available.

In this day and age, most computer users are getting very familiar with the automated update programs … even Dell has instituted a very impressive one that I now have on my new laptop.  In the last couple of weeks it even told me about a new version of the BIOS for my laptop … and handled the download and installation.  A while ago I launched iTunes … and it told me there was a new version … and handled the update.  And yes … Windows told me about some new patches and automatically downloaded and installed them.

I’m always shocked when I see a company that employs talented product management and software developers who seem to have no clue about how to integrate this automatic update functionality.  AT&T?  Sierra Wireless?  You have to be kidding me … I even had clicked the little menu item about checking for updates … but couldn’t decode the landing page I was taken to.  No … I do not want to read a web page about updates … I want you – the software developer – to simply implement some code that checks with my machine, and then your servers, and lets me know there are updates to apply.  I then want your software to nicely handle the update … and yes, even tell me to reboot if I really have to.

As for their business?  They would probably see less technical support calls (two from me … one lasting almost an hour!), more customer satisfaction (I’m still a little pissed off about what I had to go through!), and even get a bunch of analytics about their user base, what versions are out there, when they are using the software, etc.

I believe that as we continue to embrace technology, and software continues to evolve, the winners are going to be companies that create products that are easier to maintain and that provide an improved customer experience.  If you are a software developer, you might consider how you can reduce the software version complexities … or make them go away completely!  It’s all very possible.

What to do with Wireless Freeloaders … and the dangers of “open” wireless

I came across this web page – upside-down-ternet – today while looking for some other technical information. I thought that this was great … just way too creative!

It seems that this guy found out that some neighbors were using his open wireless network. Now I have thought about this before … and thought of many of the security issues. For example, did you know that when you use someones open wireless network, they can “sniff” all of your non-SSL secured usernames and passwords from your applications? If you do not use SSL for your e-mail application, and you were using my open wireless network, I can get your e-mail account username and password. In fact … I have done this in the past. Likewise, any website that has you login and does not use SSL to secure it, is passing your username and password back and forth in the clear!

Anyhow … what this guy realized is that he could lock down the wireless, or have fun with the neighbors! The first thing he chose to do was redirect all of their web requests to a kitten website. So no matter where they tried to go on the Internet, they would end up at the kitten site.

His second ploy is even better. What he realized is that he could re-route all of their web browser requests through his own “proxy” … without them even knowing! What he played with was modifying the images on all of the web pages they viewed. His two examples are flipping all of the images … or blurring them!

The real important thing to realize here, is that when you choose to jump onto someone’s open wireless network, all of your Internet traffic is being routed through their network, and maybe their servers. If the person who owns that network is smart, or devious, there is a good chance that your communications are being monitored, recorded, or modified. You might want to think about it …

My thoughts on Twitter … or ‘Opt-in Stalking’

I do love communications technologies. Communications is the foundation of effective organizations … communities. There are so many ways that we are able to virtually extend the various communities in our lives. If you reflect back on society 200 years ago, you can see how communities of people were limited to physical locality. There was no effective means of staying in contact – in anything close to real-time – with anyone more than a few miles away. With this communications infrastructure, there was simply no way for global distributed communities to exist.

Now … flash forward to 2007. Twitter appears on the scene. We already have the Internet and cell phones. E-mail and Instant Messaging have been around for over a decade and are now completely entrenched in society. Instant Messaging has even bridged to cell phones where many of the phones in use can also login to the various Instant Messaging networks. Oh, and blogs of course are everywhere. I am now able to communicate and keep in touch with all of my global virtual communities. People who I have not seen in years … who are not physically close … are still “close friends” as we have stayed in touch via IM or now Skype. Of course we also read each others blogs.

I was very skeptical of Twitter as first … not sure if I liked the idea of it. But just like any other new communications technology, I quickly began to see a pattern that I liked. When Twitter is used with friends, we can begin to gain insights into their lives.  Phil Windley and I have talked about this, and we both seemed to notice a similar pattern … we are gaining new perspectives of friends and co-workers who are using Twitter to post short updates about their daily lives.  I learned that Phil Windley takes bike rides, and also works on his yard.  I found out that Phil Burns is into hiking up the mountains in the area, and also ran his first 5k.

When I began to look at Twitter in this new light … as a way to allows others to know what you are up to on a daily basis, this began to expand a new dimension in my relationship to my global virtual communities.  The messages that I am getting on Twitter are significantly different from the e-mails, IMs, and blog posts that I am reading … these twits are crude updates about what these people are doing at various moments during their day.  When I began to see this, I realized that what Twitter has created is a globally distributed “opt-in stalking” system!

Anyone can now create a simple way to be stalked … by almost any anonymous individual with access to the Internet.  Twitter allows the stalked a variety of simple ways to update the world with where they are … or where they aren’t!  Twitter also provides the new generation of stalker to monitor the goings on in any Twitterers life.  People twit that they are out at a club, or home watching TV.  They will twit about going on bike rides, and when they are at school.  Stalkers now know when people are not at their home … hmmm, time for a burglery?  They also know when they are out at some other public place … hmmm, time for a confrontational visit?

Don’t get me wrong … I’m actually a growing fan of Twitter … however I have started to see a lot of things that I like and don’t like about the service.  It’s great as it is … and there is a lot of room for improvement.  I’m actually working on an alternative system with some friends … we’re pushing to get a beta out the door by June 4th.  It will provide some similar functionality, but also some new enhancements that can provide some privacy and control over who hears what.

In any case … I am a big fan of this new form of communications … of having a new way to learn more about people who are virtually in my life.  I have long proposed Lemon’s Law of Effective Organizations:

The effectiveness of an organization is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of the communications within it.

Twitter is yet another form of communications that can contribute to the breadth of possible communications.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you ought to!

Microsoft … making Windows irrelevant?

Sometimes I think that “old people” really don’t get it. When I say “old people” I’m pointing at the twenty-somethings and up. Yeah … once you get into your college years, you begin to formulate a lot of perspectives and hold onto them. You hold onto a “religion” about things … even technology.

I have long listened to all of the complaining and whining about Microsoft. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Most people simply want to blame their problems on others, and attack the current king of the hill. It’s a human disease. The worst part of it is that I believe it causes people to loose sight of what is going on around them, and to fall victim to changing markets.

On Tuesday when I was at the LearnKey Challenge at UVSC, I got to listen to a presentation by Ivan Lumala called XNA Xbox 360 Development Framework. If you click the link, you can see his presentation. I have to admit that I was blown away. I had no idea what Microsoft was doing in this space … and the potential impact on the future. Most people … caught up in their whining about Microsoft and Windows are completely missing what is coming at them.

XNA is the development environment for the Xbox 360. Actually … it’s much more than this. XNA Game Studio Express is a – completely free – development environment for creating cross-platform applications that can run on the Windows, or the Xbox 360. Microsoft is quickly pushing to allow any software developer to create their own games and applications … and to build out the community of Xbox 360 developers and users. They are providing the source code for some amazing applications and games as the foundation for anyone that wants to create “your world. your game.” These sample applications are written in C# and can be compiled to run on Windows and the Xbox 360. If you want to learn more … read here!

So what is it that the old folks are missing? It’s that the younger generations are now seeing a much different Microsoft. They aren’t hanging on to their long-term “make wrong” and complaints about Microsoft. It was amazing to see … when Ivan walked in, and started to get set-up, there were the typical jeers and comments about Windows. But when Ivan asked how many students (all high-school) had an Xbox or Xbox 360 almost all of the hands went up. He asked about the games they play and they all started to shout out the names of the big classic Xbox games. He asked them who might want to write their own games that they could give away or sell for the Xbox 360 … the level of excitment continued to grow.

Now let me throw out some possible scenarios. What if Microsoft produced a “portable Xbox 360” that has a screen? Sort of a UMPC based on the Xbox 360 hardware? What if they created a laptop based on this Xbox 360 hardware? What occurs in 3 or 5 years as the younger generations have no qualms with the “Xbox 360” … a word that now represents a hardware platform, coupled with a form of operating system, and an open development environment? What occurs when these – now college – students might be able to run other productivity applications on this platform?

I wonder how this might compare to the current craze around the proprietary Apple MacBooks? (There are lots of numbers out there about Xbox 360 sales, and Apple MacBook sales. ) Could this be a way that Microsoft themselves actually makes “Windows” irrelevant, and has the next generations of college graduates and business workers continue to embrace Microsoft products?

I have to admit that coupled with Silverlight, I believe that Microsoft is making some strong moves to secure its future … even with all of the complaining and whining by old people!

P.S. Get over it … Microsoft has helped to create everything that we have to date! They will always have their place … and if you underestimate them, they might even end up with more!

I wouldn’t want to be AMD in a Wintel world …

I have to admit that I really haven’t had much to complain about AMD and their products … until recently. I have long been an Intel fan, but I had no reason to believe that AMD was not “Intel-compatible”. Over the last year, I bought a few rack-mount systems that contained AMD motherboards and processors. I was able to install Linux (Fedora Core 4) on them, and everything seemed well. All of that ended about three months ago.

About three months back, I chose to take one of my rack-mount systems, and reconfigure it to take the place of one of my last two Novell NetWare servers. (Yes … I worked for Novell and still have two NetWare boxes running some services … if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) To replace the one NetWare box, I needed to have two network cards in the server. Easy enough … I’ve done this with Linux before … add the card, configure the driver/interface settings, and off you go. Now I’m not doing this as a full time job, so this is something that I do when I have the time late at night … between e-mail, blogging, coding, etc.

I installed an old 3Com 10/100 ethernet card into the working system, and chose to reinstall Linux from scratch … a brand new shiny copy of Fedora Core 6! It installed on the AMD hardware flawlessly … until I rebooted. The 3Com ethernet card would not obtain a DHCP address. Hmmm. I went through Google, tried a different card … an Intel 10/100. Same results. The ethernet on the motherboard worked … the card in the PCI slot seemed to work, but wouldn’t get an IP address. I ended up going through three more cards (five total!) and then tried Fedora Core 4, and Fedora Core 2, then Knoppix. Crap!

All of this was done over a period of two months … on and off … trying various things one or maybe two nights a week. I ended up doing dozens of installations before trying to install Windows XP. It installed flawlessly … and both adapters worked! Crap! Crap! So now I’m starting to guess … Linux and this AMD motherboard? I took the machine to a friends place and had him look at it also … and he gave up.

Last week I went and bought an Intel motherboard, and Intel processor, and installed it into the rack-mount case … replacing the AMD hardware. I ran through the Fedora Core 6 installation … rebooted … and everything worked as expected! Both cards were recognized, and obtained addresses … I did some reconfiguration and testing and now am close to having my machine ready to install in my data center.

If only I had given up on the AMD/Linux combination sooner … I truly wasted far too many hours not believing that such an incompatibility could exist. But it did … crap, crap, crap. I have learned my lesson … at this point I don’t care if I ever buy another piece of AMD hardware again .. it’s just not worth my time. My Intel solutions? They just work!

Radio to WordPress Migration … finally!

After using Radio Userland for the last 6+ years of blogging, I have finally completed my migration to WordPress.  Well … mostly.  I’m still working out the kinks, and I’m still working on my new WordPress2Blogger bridge which will mirror my posts – based on categories – to my blogs.

Overall, it was a real pain.  I’m not looking forward to having to do this again.  I had some time to work on it over the last couple of weeks, and had actually done most of the ground work.  I am thinking that I’ll outline some of the steps and issues that I ent through to accomplish this.

  1. Export the Radio database to a RSS.XML file.  To do this I first located a tool for Radio called the backLogAllRSS tool written by Steve Hooker.  After installing it, I found that I actually had to hack the code … it turns out that any post that did not include *any* category would not be exported to the RSS.XML file.  (If you really want my hacked tool, contact me … I’ll post it someplace!)  Once I figured that out, and had hacked the code, I then exported all of my categories, and made sure that the Auto paragraphs options was *not* checked.
  2. Edit the exported RSS.XML.  When I got all of my posts exported, I then had to do a global search and replace on one thing … the apostrophes.  Radio had escaped them all to be “'” and for some reason the WordPress import did not return them to being an apostrophe.
  3. Import into WordPress.  I ought to mention now that I only learned about the code hacking and global search and replace after numerous failed imports.  Well … they worked, but what I got what not formatted properly, or has the escaped characters.  Or … lots of posts were missing because they were not in a category.  By about the 8th or 10 import I was finally getting close.  I was using the RSS Import capability, under the Import menu in WordPress.  I actually thought I was done.  Until I noticed that the dates and times on all of the imported posts were wrong!  It turns out that although the Radio tool exports all of the posts with the proper data and time adjusted to GMT … and labeled as such … the WordPress RSS Import seems to ignore the “GMT” designation and just assumes that you are importing from your time zone.  So now I had to hack the WordPress RSS Import code to add the proper offset of seconds to each post being imported.  Again … if someone really wants my WordPress RSS Import hack,, let me know and I’ll send it to you.

In the end, it was an interesting exercise.  I’m actually going to do it again, since my father is still using Radio and I’m now going to migrate him over to WordPress.  I’ll see if there is anything that I left out in the steps.

One thing that I have to admit is that I truly enjoy the breadth of plug-ins for WordPress!  I’ve already found useful ones like the “delete post database” plug-in … this one is very helpful when you import 6+ years of posts and the formatting is all screwed up!  I also found a great Tag plug-in, and then a good basis for my upcoming plug-in which worked with their old API.

I’m sure that I’ll learn more … I’m just glad to have it done!  Now, I just have to learn how to get Onfolio to post to WordPress … I like the aggregator, and want to use it to post!

Google wants MORE of your identity!

Ok … this is one place where I like even more than Google Maps … again!  I was long a user of Google Maps, however they didn’t allow me to mark-up the maps and add my own annotations.  Yes … I could hack code, but c’mon … has had the ability for a long time.

Well FINALLY, Google adds the ability to annotate and more through their new My Maps features … BUT … I MUST create an account and be tracked by Google in order to use the features!!  What the heck?  I can’t just hack out a quick annotated map for a friend or family without providing information to Google about who I am and having them permanently note my interest in some specific point on earth?

Once again … the average person has NO idea they are now going to have even more records kept of every place they have marked or annotated, and when they did it.  Google continues to gather even more information about you … who you are … what you do … where you do.  Amazing.  I’ll stick with

Google makes mashups easy, even for me. The search giant’s new My Maps feature lets anyone create customizable maps with photos and video, regardless of technical know-how.
Photos: Google maps out mashups [CNET] … a nice search engine!

After reading this post, I went out and played with ZoomInfo … it’s got some very interesting features.  You are able to search using various keywords, names, etc. and it seems to come up with some pretty impressive results.  Looking for a business in a particular market?  Looking for people in a particular role in a market?  Give it a try … there are some really interesting results.

First Semantic Search Engine?. Business search company ZoomInfo announced today the launch of what it’s calling the first-ever semantic search engine.

The site works by applying tags to information that distinguish between key concepts, such as a person, an industry, or a compa… [ Accelerating Intelligence News]