Rioja fans, watch out for Ribera del Duero
June 30th, 2005
On my recent trip to Spain a friend introduced me to the wines of the Ribera del Duero region. This region is located in the north-west central Spain on the banks of the river Duero, around the cities of Burgos, Segovia, Soria and Valladolid. Wines that have been produced there lately are becoming hugely popular among Spanish wine drinkers (that makes prety much the whole of the population). I must admit I enjoyed it as much as my favourite Riojas.
The wines are made of Bordeaux grape varieties as well as the local ones, Tempranillo and Garnacha. The top vineyard of the region, Vega Sicilia, produces the “Unico” which is reputedly the most expensive wine in Spain.
Tags: Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Wine
June 26th, 2005
“It’s a beautiful day”, you have to live in Bono’s Dublin to appreciate this phrase. At least when it comes to weather. Well, it’s one of those beautiful days today, sunshine everywhere.
Some people ask me what satisfaction do I get from writing free software. It comes down to, among a few other things, putting smiles on peoples faces, including mine. It’s a great feeling to see how something you’ve created positively effects people. Thanks Jerry and Matt, you’ve made my day too.
I’m now going for a walk with my Mrs, down to the blue Dublin Bay, to listen to the waves and clear our heads from last nights party. Still feeling the nice taste of the newly discovered cool drink - Zubrowka, Bison Grass Vodka. Thanks Adam!
Yahoo! provides Save bookmarklet for My Web
June 21st, 2005
My major complaint about Yahoo’s My Web beta service was that it’s Save functionality was unusable in browsers other than IE and Firefox. Well, they now provide a bookmarklet for other browsers. Works great in Opera. Thanks Yahoo!
Tags: Yahoo, My Web, Bookmarklet
Spain, Still Love It
June 21st, 2005
Ten years have passed since my last visit to Spain. At that time I was a student on a very low budget, enjoyed wondering the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Valencia and San Sebastián, living mainly on tapas and cañas, listening to rumba and, overall admiring the Spanish way of life and trying to “blend in”. In the following years, I made a few great Spanish friends (Hola!), developed a high appreciation for their beautiful wines, ate a bunch of imported Spanish jamón and chorrizo, practiced my paella making, listened to their few alternative bands, on ocassions smoked Ducados. The time came to visit again…
So, we gave ourselves a treat and went on a holiday to Barcelona and a “small fishing village” of Santa Pola, south of Alicante, to visit a dear friend of mine. Powered by years of dreams and a much stronger budget than the first time, we explored Barcelona the way ten years ago I promised myself I would do. We ate on average 5 times a day (not counting smaller “refreshment” tapas ), drank some nice wines, wondered around the city, looked for Manu Chao, took it easy and enjoyed the atmosphere. Again, admired the Spanish (OK, Catalan) way of life.
Over the next few days I will write a few posts related to this trip. In the meantime, you can take a look at some of the Barcelona photos in my public gallery.
How to monitor sites without RSS feeds
May 28th, 2005
RSS feeds have made our lives a lot easier by making the information come to us. Unfortunately, some sites still do not provide RSS feeds and enforce you to keep visiting them manually.
In the days before RSS people used web monitoring tools which allowed you to monitor your favourite sites and notify you of any changes that occurred on them. Some of the more advanced tools would check for changes in specific parts of the page only which was very handy for getting notified of new releases for applications that didn’t provide a mailing list. You get the point.
So, after a couple of years of not using any web monitor tools due to RSS, I felt a need for one again. I tried a few free ones and the one that cought my eye was Sitespector. It’s interface is very clean and user friendly and the app does its job very well. It displays only the changes between web page “issues” which is extremely handy and has good alerting capabilities too. The app is still very new, so there’s space for enhancements, but overall I really like it and have already added quite a few “channels”. Very useful tool, my thumbs up…
Spacilus Search Engine Assistant for Google
May 28th, 2005
Spacilus is a new interesting application which acts as a proxy and tries to categorize Google search results in order to eliminate unwanted items (spam, scraper sites, etc).
Spacilus uses Bayesian statistics to categorize search results. Put simply, Bayesian classification looks at the joint probabilities of a search results words and phrases to belong to a certain category. For example, a search result that contains a phrase like “price comparison” will most likely belong to a category “Commercial” or “Spam” rather than to a category “Informative”.
SnakeSQL - A pure Python SQL database
May 22nd, 2005
Today I’ve been playing a little with Python Web Modules (aka PythonWeb). While deciding which database I would use for session management and other data persistance I found that PythonWeb comes with built-in support for SnakeSQL, a pure Python relational database. Of course, it supports MySQL and potentially other database engines, but I was intrigued by this little database and decided to try it out.
What was very nice to see is that the database doesn’t require any installation, its engine can be placed somewhere on the path and you can start working. It doesn’t rely on any C code, which makes it somewhat slow, but the beauty is that it will run on any platform which can be very handy for small web services and their hastle free installation on various hosts (no C compilation required and no need for setting up external databases). It comes with a simple, but fully usable interactive interpreter and it supports a surprisingly rich set of SQL features for its small footprint.
SnakeSQL is still in alpha, but so far it’s performing extremelly well. I’ll stick to it for now. If you are looking for pure Python databases, you might also want to check Gadfly.
Tags: SnakeSQL, Python, PythonWeb, Python Database
Opera Super Search
May 22nd, 2005
Opera is well known for its powerfull and flexible little search box. It comes with several predefined search engines, but allows you to add any other engines you want. For example, I have Yahoo!, Google, LinkaGoGo, Technorati, Dictionary.com, Wikipedia and WebMasterWorld searches defined for easy access. Even better, Opera has a feature known as Super Search. When invoked, it will perform the search on the first two defined search engines and display the results in two windows arranged side by side. Much like Yagoohoo!gle (aka Twingine.com and Jaguhugel.com) does. However, with Opera you can compare any two engines side by side, for example Yahoo and MSN, Google and AllTheWeb, etc.
So, how do you activate the super search? The safest way is to download the Opera Search.ini Editor, place your two primary search engines at positions 1 and 2 (for example, Yahoo! and Google), then add a new search named “Super, int” which you will find in the list of search engines in the Search.ini Editor. Save your changes, type in something in the Opera search box, select the Super search and enjoy!
Tags: Opera, Search
The quest for the perfect cross platform GUI toolkit
May 21st, 2005
These days I’ve been thinking about implementing a new simple but extremely useful application (I won’t go into details at this stage). A couple of similar applications already exist, but they all run on Windows only and just one of them is free. The niche is very attractive for me and the demand for it is growing, so I thought I would jump in and provide an open source alternative. The application would have a fairly simple GUI in the front end and would have to run on Windows, Linux and Mac. Support for mobile platforms would be a major plus. I have loads of experience developing GUIs with Delphi, Swing and SWT, but I’ve ruled these out: Delphi is not cross platform and Java is, well, just too bulky and doesn’t provide a real native interface.
I’ve been looking at Lazarus for a while. This is a very promising open source Delphi port, built on top of FreePascal. It is already quite usable, but it doesn’t seem to currently fully support Mac OSX, so I had to rule it out. I am however thinking of porting IMAPSize to Lazarus, so I’m keeping a close watch on this one.
After considering several other “mainstream” options, I settled with wxPython, a Python wrapper around the excellent wxWidgets. This page explains the pros and cons of various toolkits and does it much better than I would. It’s a must read! The next question was whether to go for a Python or Ruby wxWidgets wrapper, since these are the languages I feel comfortable working with. I decided to go with the smart guys who’ve put a lot of thought into the whole thing, the Open Source Application Foundation and the GNU Enterprise. Apart from that, I like the RAD tool built on top of wxPython, Boa Constructor. Also, Python is more ubiquitous, which is important for an open source project.
Yesterday I started doing some work. As a wxPython/Boa newbie, I’m bound to bump into many problems. I already asked for some specific help on their forums/lists and got the right answers within a few hours - a sign of a great community. I’m quite excited, it should be a fun little project.
For a comprehensive list of GUI toolkits, check this page.
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May 13th, 2005
I just stumbled upon this ten year old page showing Opera in it’s very early days (version 1.0) while it was still named MultiTorg Opera, running on Windows 3.11. Their browser has greatly evolved since then, but the main goal has remained the same: “The aim was to make a lean program that works fast and supports standards without introducing proprietary extensions.“, “The user should never have to sit and wait unecessarily.“, “Lean, mean, full control“. In a world that changes so fast, it is amazing to witness someone stick to their initial ideas for so long. With a reason.