Housekeeping

 Me  Comments Off
Jan 042012
 

So I’ve been neglecting this website recently, and I decided to start doing some cleanup. The first thing I am doing is cleaning up the lifestream feed. Most of my post are now on Google+. Which if you have done any research on it at all, you will see that it has no rss feed. Since the lifestream plugin I use is meant to be fed by RSS feeds, that as a problem. So I did a little digging and found a nice little PHP parsing script that will take my posts and format them into an RSS feed. You can download it here https://gist.github.com/1513183. The author did a very nice job with it and it is pretty simple to use and set up.

I still have more changes I want to make to spruce up this site, but those will have to wait for another day.

Tracking What I read

 Project  Comments Off
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.

LifeStream

 Me  Comments Off
Jan 082009
 

Ok, I just added a new plugin to my page called LifeStream.
It’s basically a way to build yourself a kind of current events wall of all your activities on the web. Since most social networking sites these days provide an RSS feed, this plugin compiles all the RSS feeds you give it and provides a chronological timeline of what is happening.
If you use facebook at all, you will probably be right at home with it because its basically a personal updates wall.

So check it out if you get the chance. My LifeStream

Dec 042008
 

I love using Gmail. The clean and simple interface is intuitive and doesn’t get in the way of the main purpose of the app, reading your email.

And the whole searching and tagging of emails works great for people like me that aren’t all that organized. Just leave everything in your inbox, and let the tagging/search options find it for you. 

And beyond that, having all your mail available to you no matter what computer you are using and no matter where in the world you are, is really useful.

But sometimes it can be useful to have your data, in this case email, offline. That way when you don’t have an active connection to the Internet, you can still read and access your old emails. That’s where Thunderbird comes in.

Thunderbird is an email client, similar to outlook, that is maintained and distributed by the Mozilla foundation. The same guys that bring you Firefox. It’s free, easy to use, if you are at all familiar with Outlook, and pretty lightweight on system resources. Best of all, it can hook up to your Gmail account and download all your email into a local storage area. And with imap services enabled on your gmail account, you can keep both the online and the local copies of your email in perfect sync.

You can even sync your contacts using an Thunderbird add-on called Zindus. Pretty cool and very useful.

New Site

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Oct 182008
 


I just created a new site for me and the fiance. On July 4th, 2009 we will be married and she will come to Florida to live with me forever!

I love her so much,that I had to create a website just for the two of us.

Check it out www.jamieandkierra.com

New family site

 Me, Project  Comments Off
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

Update

 Me  Comments Off
Jun 282008
 

I’ve had pretty limited Internet access recently. So there hasn’t been a lot of activity on this site. But my internet situation should change soon. Meanwhile, my family members have been active in posting to the family website. So feel free to check out the pics there. www.Barrows-Family.com

Playing with twitter

 Me, Web 2.0  Comments Off
Jan 282008
 

TwitterWith twitter getting so much attention on the web these days, I thought I should check it out. So I went ahead and created a twitter account.
It’s kind of cool. A lot like the status message on MySpace or Facebook. Not really all that different actually. One cool thing is that you can update it from an IM client or a mobile phone. At this point I’m really wishing there was some way to send a status comment to all the services at once. So that I could send a message to a single location and have it update the status comments on all the services I’m signed up for. But I guess that would be too much to ask. So anyway, here’s a link to my twitter page.