Outside a trendy workspace in London's Kings Cross on Thursday 21st April, a man in a fox costume ushers people greets people on their way to celebrate the launch of Firefox 4. Inside people are wearing party hats, enjoying decorated cupcakes and proudly wearing Mozilla T-Shirts in a good reminder to us all that open source software is something that we should both advocate and celebrate as a great opportunity. During the evening we get treated to some great presentations that show off what the latest version of Mozilla Firefox is capable of and also how HTML5 technology will redefine our expectations of what a web browser can do. However, there is much more to Mozilla than Firefox.
Despite the idea of "being in Cyberspace" and the power of the Internet to connect us to people all over the world regardless of our location, we often use a browser to find out about people and services close to us. These might be queries such as finding the opening times of a local store, the time of a train or local expertise. Each time we do this it is often necessary to tell the website where we are, typcially by providing a post code, but what if you don't know the postcode? Fortunately browsers and becoming much more clever, and some can even work out where you are.
Every time I look at my netbook I keep thinking I've got a new machine, and an expensive one at that, but I haven't, I just installed the new Ubuntu 9.10 (code named Karmic) Netbook Remix on it. The upgrade cost me nothing, not even £25, and I've still got an operating system with designer good looks, a new user interface that even more elegant and user friendly than before. Installing it is easy and everything just seems to work out of the box. The changes in this new release of Ubuntu though are more than just skin deep, and show signs of the cloud based future ahead for computing.
The Open University here in the UK regularly coproduces educational programming in partnership with the BBC. Some of these programmes are for a wide audience such as Coast, and other programmes are for more specialist audiences such as The Story of Maths. To catch these programmes you don't have to necessarily stay in and make sure that you are sat on your sofa in front of the TV at a scheduled time, instead you can catch the repeats on BBC iPlayer (sorry - UK, IoM & Channel Islands only). My colleague Tony Hirst recently created a mash up to find the OU programmes from the last seven days posted to iPlayer using feeds from Twitter, iPlayer and a Yahoo Pipe, he then presented the results in a web page. When looking at his blog post on this it struck me that it would be really nice if this could be presented in a way more suitable for a media centre PC connected to a TV, so this would mean nice big fonts, an attractive interactive-TV type interface and ease of use from a remote control, and then I thought it would be even better to feed this into MythTV, integrating seven days of OU programming alongside the rest of your entertainment.
Having Flash 10 on your EEE PC opens up some interesting possibilities. One of these is the use of Seesmic, a website currently in beta that is designed to allow people to have conversations via video. The idea of this is that people can just use the built in webcam of their computer to record a short dialogue, this can be much quicker for somebody to do than composing a written comment and possibly could speed up the flow of a web-based discussion. The problem for EEE users is that this site just isn't designed for this type of machine. Hopefully the rise of netbooks means that we will see less and less sites being developed that do not work on them (that would be sensible after all) and let's hope that Seesmic will be able to correct this problem once they are out of beta. The way that the site is currently set up means that it is not possible to use it with an EEE. However, this is not the end of the story, open source has a habit of providing amazing flexibility, and we can put this to good use to make this site work for us. You mileage may vary with what is written here, but I have had seesmic working on an Ubuntu-powered EEE. If you get this to work with a standard EEE let me know.
You may have noticed that modern browsers have a facility to discover search engines on sites and add them to their browser search bar. Flock also shows you what content it has autodiscovered on a site by highlighting various buttons. You may also have noticed that these buttons do nothing when somebody visits your Drupal powered site. Well don't worry this is very easy to fix.