Dreamweaver is lame

I don’t have a problem with the code it generates (because it’s driven by what I give it as templates and I work in code view anyway) but the application itself is the most unstable I’ve ever used on my work machine. I think it’s the only app I use which actually crashes. The error messages are poor at best, the preview screen doesn’t refresh properly and sometimes breaks so badly that you have to restart the entire app! I can honestly say that it’s the most amateur-feeling application of all the professional, commercial software that I currently use.

It’s genuinely unbelievable. I’ve not worked with it for years, but I was at the very least expecting a stable, usable application. Was that too much to ask for? Apparently so.

All I want is Nvu to support Dreamweaver templates and syntax highlighting for source code editing and I will move immediately and wholeheartedly recommend it to every good web developer I know. I just don’t get the point of expensive commercial software that is quite obviously so terrible. Dreamweaver’s feature set may well far outstrip that of the free alternatives, but if I can’t run it for half an hour at a time without needing a restart or becoming incredible frustrated with its interface, then the features are irrelevant.

Jabber meeting reminders

I need a bot, transport whatever, which can query either my exchange server or my running copy of Outlook (via a small desktop app) and then send my meeting notifications via Jabber.

Why is so that a) I don’t have to run Outlook just for my calendar and meeting notifications (which is probably about 70% of my current use for Outlook) and b) it can use my Jabber presence indicator to see whether I’m actually in the meeting or still at my desk since Outlook has no idea, so that I’m I’m still available I’m clearly not in a meeting and c) I sometimes click “dismiss” instead of “snooze” and d) I don’t have to be running Outlook locally to get meeting reminders.

I think the easiest way to do this would be:

  • Write a generic reminder bot which stores events per user (via a simple command interface, or uploading iCalendar or vCalendar files like from EventSherpa, or pointing at existing online iCal files like from iCalShare) and reminds the user when the event is imminent, uses a configurable timeout system based on user presence to prompt the user to go a meeting
  • write a script which runs Outport every so often and uploads my latest calendar info to the web where my reminder bot can get at it
  • Sit back and relax

Obviously it would then be nice if I could publish my calendar info to the web a la Michael Sippey’s timeline and calendar solution

The problem there of course is that every time Outport accesses Outlook it prompts to allow it, so I need to find a way of either getting at the data directly without using Outlook’s OLE interface or putting Outport on some kind of whitelist of applications which are allowed access to Outlook’s data.

The situation I’m currently in is that my PDA syncs with Outlook and so when I’m at work they both remind me about meetings. I only need one reminder, thanks. Moving my notifications to Jabber and turning off Outlook alarms would definitely improve my attitude to meetings, as well as allowing the same system to notify me of private events as well as work-related events.

Maps on your phone

When talking about the Tube map for mobiles that Transport for London and Orange provide, Jim Hughes pointed out to me that the image viewer on my phone also does a pretty good job of of viewing street maps. I don’t know why this didn’t ever occur to me before!

Multimap has a “light” version which is intended for PDA-like devices but which works perfectly well on my Nokia 6600. From there I can do a search on a London Street name or any UK postcode (there’s also a box for “places”, but I’m not really sure what this is useful for other than being able to start at a city and then zoom in on your target, provided you already know where it is). Once you’ve got your search result map, you can do options -> view image -> select the map image (gif.cgi) ->options -> save. Once done, you can disconnect and view the map in the phone image gallery at your leisure! The quality is definitely high enough to be able to read the street names and navigate with, and the scale is part of the image. Genius!

If you’re actually preparing in advance of course, you can do the search on your PC as per usual and transfer the image to your phone via Bluetooth (either by send to Bluetooth from the IE context menu or saving the image to disk and then sending to BT if you’re on something else like Firefox).

This is one technique I’ll definitely be using next time I’m going somewhere new. All I have to find now is a street map of Paris. 🙂

I forgot, of course, that multimap has maps of just about everywhere, not just the UK – hurrah!

Review tools

I’m a big fan of Alf Eaton’s forays into review tools, and his new RVW! bookmarklet is ace.

From any item page on amazon you click the bookmarklet and get to add a rating, a heading and a review and can add it to your del.icio.us bookmarks. See Alf’s del.icio.us bookmarks for an example.

Using an existing system like del.icio.us has its advantages (like, it’s already there) but there are also obvious problems:

  • because it creates a new tag per item based on the ASIN your tag list will soon grow to be immense
  • the “rating:x%” tags aren’t usable because they don’t create valid del.icio.us URLS, so their usefulness becomes moot
  • The “year” tags (like 1977 for Young, Loud and Snotty) don’t work for some unknown reason

I think the combo of a huge tag list and the partial loss of ratings (since you could still get all of the ratings for a particular item and aggregate them) to get someone’s favourite items is what kills it for me. What’s needed is a centralised system to post things like this. A pure reviews site that accepts REST and XML-RPC and everything and just works, where you can create reviews, and store them, and retrieve them, provide all the info with RDF and get personal recommendations.

How hard can it be? 😉

Joggle Tellybot

I keep putting off writing about it, but here’s a spare five minutes I prepared earlier.

The Joggle Tellybot is a Jabber transport for letting you know what’s on the terrestrial television stations in the UK.

It runs as a transport on the jabbernet.org server so register for it as you would any other transport (via Service Discovery in Psi, Register with a Service in Exodus). You won’t need a username or password.

You can then send it commands to find out what’s on telly. For example:

  • sending the string “now” will return what’s on at this precise moment
  • sending a 24-hour time like “18:30” will return what’s on at 6.30 in the evening
  • sending just the hour of the day like “18” will return what’s on at 6.00 in the evening
  • sending the string “eastenders” will return the next few instances of programmes with “eastenders” in their title with times and dates

It’s reasonably stable and uses data from bleb.org.

I’m tempted to add per-user channel listings, but seeing as I only have terrestrial myself I’ll only do it if people actually ask. 🙂