Sunday, September 16

The Digg Oracle - Data Mining On The Client

Brian Shaler noticed that almost a year ago, Digg removed the “search your own Diggs” feature, to the dismay of thousands of Digg users. To explain why the feature had not yet returned, they cited hardware and software solutions as being very complicated and expensive.

Brian decided to re-implement the feature himself using the Digg APIs, and we end up with The Digg Oracle:

Because the dataset is relatively small and user-specific, performing tasks like searching/filtering and  sorting can easily be done on the client, using Google Gears. The tool downloads the selected user’s entire voting history, indexes the stories in the local DB, then does all the sorting/searching without  connecting to Digg’s servers.

Here we see an original query, and the application starts to download the users usage data:


Digg Oracle Loading


When the data is loaded, searching and filtering the data is extremely fast, even if you use Kevin Rose as your sample :) This is a great non-offline example of using the database and workerpool components.

Source | The Digg Oracle


Mozilla monkeys around with browser scripting

Here's a quick look at the technologies that Mozilla is working on right now:

SpiderMonkey is the code name for Mozilla's JavaScript engine. That's nothing new, as it was the first Javascript engine and was used in the Netscape browser.

Tamarin is the ActionScript engine that Adobe donated to Mozilla back in November. Tamarin has a just in time compiler that compiles Javascript down to machine code and boasts a better garbage collector. It also supports ECMAScript 3 and is working toward full ECMAScript 4 (JS2) specification support.

ActionMonkey is the code name for the project underway to integrate the SpiderMonkey and Tamarin engines. The product of this merge will be the engine for the Mozilla 2 platform. This would bring the performance improvements AND the latest specification support of Tamarin to Firefox and other Mozilla based apps.

ScreamingMonkey is an effort to get the Tamarin Engine running in non-Mozilla browsers. This brings the same Tamarin benefits to the other browsers (starting with Internet Explorer). So those other browsers are brought, "kicking and screaming" into a world with a homogenous, fast, standards compliant scripting engine implementation.

IronMonkey wants to map Microsoft's Common Intermediate Language (CIL) to ActionScript Byte Code (ABC). This would allow code written in IronPython and IronRuby to be run on Tamarin. Which, when paired with ActionMonkey and ScreamingMonkey, means running Ruby/Python code in the browser.

Looks like Mozilla believes in the infinite monkey theorem.


Streamy - Not A Digg Killer After All

Streamy, ever since it showed of its screencast, has been generating a of hype, and had gotten a lot of press. Whenever I read about Streamy, it was being heralded as a Digg killer, and being an avid Digg user I was aware of Digg's many shortcomings and couldn't wait to try out Streamy. After waiting eagerly for months, I finally managed to snag an invite to Streamy, but now that I finally got in, I must say that I'm rather disappointed. The design of the site is very sleek and aesthetically pleasing, and the way stories are displayed within the site is awesome but that's pretty much where it stops being awesome.

First of all, Streamy's content is not submitted by its users, rather Streamy sort of crawls the web to mind the most popular news for a category. Not only does this mean that you won't be getting any unique stories from lesser known sources, but also this causes Streamy to get a lot of dupes whenever multiple blogs talk about the same topic (which happens a lot for popular stories). The navigation is confusing as hell, with a lot of unnecessary features shoved into your face (ie. a networking sidebar, and a topics sidebar takes up half the page), and because the site is still fairly new there isn't a huge thriving community leaving hordes of hilarious, witty, and/or stupidly enjoyable comments on each story (which is in my opinion is the best part of Digg).

Anyway, I have only been using Streamy for a couple of days - totaling an hour or so (its not as addictive as Digg) - so maybe its too soon to really "get into" this site and realize its full potential, but what I could make out so far, Streamy is more like Google Reader, minus the simplicity, plus a social network, and while that might end up being a good thing, it's no where near being either a Digg-Killer or a Google Reader-Killer.

P.S. Anyone wanting to try out Streamy, please leave a comment and I'll invite you .


Saturday, September 15

The Top Five Mozilla Firefox 3 Features with Mockups

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Mozilla's new version of its immensely popular browser, Firefox 3, is coming along nicely. If you are one to keep abreast of the latest tech news, you probably heard about a lot of planned features and possibly saw a handful of mockups to go with it. In fact Mozilla provides a rather in-depth (and up-to-date) list of features that are planned, and their current status. Take a look for yourself.

For those of you who don't want to pick out the good bits from the overwhelmingly comprehensive list, here's the top five features that would make Firefox 3 stand out from the rest.

1. Support web services as protocol handlers

This means Firefox can now properly identify individual file-types, and can carry out the default (or preferred) action. In Firefox 2, this just works for some (RSS Feeds and extensions), while most other file-types simply triggers the download prompt. Starting with Firefox 3, you'll be able to manage how images, microformats, podcasts, etc. are handled. Another interesting bit, is that whenever you find a page having such an element the mouse pointer will change shape to illustrate the default action. The mockups should clarify further.

2. A redesigned Download Manager

A brand new Download Manager that greatly improves on its predecessor. Now Firefox can pause and resume downloads across multiple sessions, and integrates with third-party virus and malware scanners to ensure you're security.The most interesting new addition is the ability to search through the downloads, although I personally won't find much use for that, many users will probably love it.

3. Better Bookmarking Feature

Bookmarking has never really been a strength for Firefox, and most people ended up using some external (social) bookmarking service instead. Mozilla has however finally wised up and added a quick and easy way to bookmark a page, you simply click the star on the address bar and a menu slides out letting you name and tag the page. Take note however that this mockup isn't up-to-date, and the final iteration is slightly more aesthetically pleasing.

4. History Search

This is possibly the best history search feature on any browser yet. You can search using multiple terms, that are searched for in the address and the title of the page, The star next to the results indicate how many times you visited the page, and therefore how interested you are in it (see the entire mockup), the darker the star the higher the interest, with a yellow star indicating a bookmarked page. Also note how part of the URL is faded, this is another unique feature of Firefox 3 that intends to make URLs more human readable.

5. Places (Yes, we're finally getting it)

Places is a unique yet simple method to unify and manage History and Bookmarking in Firefox, with a great tagging implementation and search feature. Places has been the most coveted feature for Firefox. Initially said to make its appearance in Firefox 2, users were sorely disappointed when it was cut from that release, now finally Places is all set to make its debut in Firefox 3, complete with a sleek (Vista-esque) interface, although I wonder how it'll look on non-Vista operating systems.

Other than these five features there are myriads of other minor (a permamnent Restart button) and major (under the hood tweaks) additions and updates to Firefox that truly make Mozilla Firefox 3 a release to look forward to.