Tracking What I read

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Jan 242011
 

So I decided to do an experiment. For this year, I’m going to try my best to track and write up a simple review of every book I read. Whether I’m re-reading an old favorite (I’ve read the Lord of the Rings series at least 10 times), or I’m reading a new book for the first time, I’ll mark it down here and put in a simple summary of what I thought. I know I read a lot of books, but I actually have no idea how many I typically read in a year’s time. So this will be a interesting experiment.

As with any of my grand projects, I may not finish this one. But hopefully I can keep this up all year.

You can check out what I’ve read so far this year.

Apr 232009
 

I’m working on a project that takes an HTML document and allows users to edit and mark it up with their comments and notes.

Previously this was all done on paper. The form was submitted by a customer. It was then printed and placed in a customer folder which would be passed around to the different departments. Each department would work some aspect of the form, and would add their notes to it. At the end of the process, the form would be scanned back into our system and attached to the customer record. Did you get that last part? The form is printed out from our customer system, marked up, and scanned back into the same customer system! Kind of redundant.

So my project is meant to be an improvement on the process that should eliminate the need to print it out. Since our users are very resistant to change, my Boss has tasked me to create a solution that mimics the existing business process as much as possible. So to that end, I was trying to find a way that they could mark up the existing HTML form electronically but have it track changes as they are made.
I found a very good WYSIWYG editor that I could embed in a .Net form called HTML Editor. It’s Open source and written in C#. So that took care of my editing requirement, but the markup requirement was a little harder. I started working on a way to detect differences and insert style elements around them, but that was getting really tedious and was not going well. So I did a little more hunting online, and found a great little library that merges two HTML files and marks up the differences showing new text as well as deleted text. Check it out: Rainbow.MergeEngine

Feb 132009
 

Last month when I heard the news that my favorite bookmarking tool, Google Notebooks, was being discontinued I panicked. I used Google Notebook all the time for everything from notes to bookmarks. And having my notes and bookmarks available to me at all times and on any computer I am using is a must. I looked around at some of the alternatives and did a little research into what I could use to replace it, but in the end I decided I needed to take control of my own bookmarks.

Losing all my bookmarks and notes was not something I wanted to happen to me. And relying on a third party service was just asking for trouble. So I decided to create my own.
Initial Requirements:

  • Online and accessible from any browser
  • Private mode so that I can take notes that are only for me
  • Public mode so that I can publish notes and bookmarks
  • Tag/label based organization rather than folder based. That way items can be in multiple lists without having to have multiple copies
  • Easy way to bookmark or clip from any page without having to leave the page

Now anyone who knows me, knows that I am all about adapting existing systems to my needs when I build software. So my initial thought was build my own bookmark service using WordPress as a base. After all, this site and many others I run/administer use WordPress. So I’m pretty familiar with it.

To that end, I started researching what plugins and features were already out there for WordPress that I could use. And the result was the new jamiebarrows.info site. It’s not completely perfect, and I’m still modifying it and tweaking it, but for the moment it does everything I wanted it to do.

Here are a couple of screenshots.

Here are the tools/plugins/themes I am using to accomplish this.

  • WordPress.Org The underlying engine of the entire site.
  • PressMark Theme A WordPress theme/conversion that is set up specifically for bookmarking. Has a great little scriptlet that you can add to your toolbar to clip and bookmark while reading or browsing. Also gives you the option of making a bookmark public or private.
  • Postalicious plugin A WordPress plugin that automatically pulls any Delicious bookmarks along with their tags into WordPress and posts them as a WordPress post. I found that this way I can still use a third party tool to do my bookmarking without surrendering control of those bookmarks.
  • wp-Spamfree plugin Not strictly a bookmarking plugin, but this does eliminate spam comments almost entirely. Which is important if I want my bookmarks to be open to comments.

And that’s it. The whole thing was a lot easier than I expected it to be. Most of the tools I needed were already written and required little or no modification to get them working the way I wanted them.

All of my bookmarks and notes are now located on a domain and in a database and form that I control. And so far it’s working out pretty well.

New family site

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Aug 232008
 

I just set up a new site for my family. I’m using wordpress mu as the back end for it. The cool thing about using wordpress mu, rather than standard wordpress, is that you can set up each user with their own site using subdomains.
So check it out. BarrowsNotes.com

Mission Project update

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Jan 022008
 

Thought I would give everyone an update on what has been going on with my project. I spent most of my holiday vacation days working on the installer and a website for the project. So the whole missions project is now hosted out at www.MissionDisk.com

There is still lots of work to be done, but I thought I was to the point where creating a website for it was worthwhile. So head out to the website and check out the project.

My Missions Project

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Nov 272007
 

Bunny dancingI’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the project so far and things are really starting to look good. I’m still trying to find a good name for it, but I’m sure that will come. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Meanwhile I’ve finished identifying the software that I’m going to include on the CD and am starting on an install script to install all the different packages at once. Once I’ve finished the majority of the install script, I’ll start writing documentation and templates.

By the way, if you are wondering what project I’m talking about check out this post on my Blog