I’m currently travelling on my way to visit my friend Damon who is living in Guangdong, China with his lovely wife Wenhui and their awesome baby Jackson. I’ll be returning home on April 18th.
Things we’ll probably be doing:
Hanging out in Guangzhou
Working on our super-duper top secret game idea
Taking a train ride to the famous mountains (the ones you see in the background of many Chinese paintings)
Getting rained on (probably)
Trying to get by in a place where everyone speaks Cantonese, not Americanese
Taking lots of pictures
Making new friends
Playing with the baby
Should be a fun time. I plan on being available via email as often as possible (gserafini [at] gmail.com) and via the usual IM channels also whenever possible. If you have an emergency, please send me an email and I will see if I can help. I will probably not be available via phone, although if I am probably the best bet would be to call my friend Damon’s cell # 159 8643 6868 (country code 86 I think..?) Calling China would probably be ridiculously expensive, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Email would be best.
I will be hopefully doing regular updates of my Flickr stream and posting into my China Trip 2007 set, so check back there every couple of days to see what I’ve been up to. If I can’t post easily from China then I may have to wait until I’m back stateside to post all the pics.
I also may be updating my Twitter page (kind of like small little micro blog updates) with what I’m doing at any given time so you can keep up with the adventures that way too maybe.
See you when I get back! 🙂
P.S. – Posted this using my Palm Treo 700p using USB modem from the airport in Chicago. Yay for mobile Internet!
Some video I took of a cool machine mounted on the back of a truck that was hauling 3″ thick old telephone copper wire bundle cable out of the ground and chopping it up into 4′ segments to be hauled away. They were then going to lay fiber optic cable in the hole where they pulled the copper out of.
I use an excellent free Open Source program called DiddleBug on my Palm Treo 700p for doing small black and white drawings. The latest version of DiddleBug creates 320×320 pixel size drawings. These are referred to on their site as “high-res” pictures instead of the 160×160 pixel size drawings that older versions of the software created.
Getting DiddleBug pictures off your Palm
I used to use a nice converter on my Windows laptop called WindleBug but wanted to be able to just use my Mac laptop by itself instead.
The DiddleBug FAQ mentions using a Perl script called Didcon on Windows, Linux and OS X which hadn’t been updated yet to extract the new 320×320 pixel sized images. When I ran the Didcon script for the first time, it saved out a 160×160 graphic that had weird lines running throughout it, due to the fact that it wasn’t reading out the data for a 320×320 pixel sized graphic.
After hacking at it for a little while, including researching how to correctly indicate the pixel size of an image in a Windows bitmap in the header of the file, I managed to get a working script that correctly outputs a 320×320 .bmp file.
This is the modified script, and I’m also including a second script that you can double-click in the Finder to run the extraction process.
I finally ventured down to explore the new Metrolink train station undeground at the intersection of Skinker and Forest Park Parkway (right near Kayaks and Washington University.) This is some video I took using my Treo 700p.
You’ll notice in the second video the neat light changing artwork along the walls, as well as a soothing soundscape. Quite nice, I thought.
So, I finally got my packages of 300 LEDs (ordered on Ebay from a Chinese manufacturer) and 100 watch batteries for the purpose of experimenting with the concept of the LED throwies today.
I made my first one with scotch tape and an orage 10mm LED. It was so exciting when it lit up. Silly, I know, to get excited about such a small thing. By the way, I had ordered the parts for my LED throwie kit earlier this week, before the city of Boston came to a screeching halt due to freaking out about a street art promotion for a cartoon show made of LED lights that caused a bomb scare. Because, well, gosh darnit, those lights must be… a BOMB! In my opinion what happened in Boston was the same result as crying FIRE in a crowded theatre. Except the theatre is the United States of America, and the person crying FIRE is the Bush/Cheney White House. Somebody is winning when our response to new promotional art is to call in the bomb squad. Somehow, though, I don’t think it is Osama bin Laden who has instilled this fear in the American people. Who wins when everyone in the country is afraid? Who gains more power?
Anyways, I was very excited to open the packages and construct my first LED throwie. The magnets haven’t arrived yet, so it’s not quite a true throwie but it is still fun to play with. Then it was time for my nightly dog walk with Kuma, going to Tower Grove Park. Tonight it is about 14Â° F out (pretty cold) and the park still has a light covering of snow and ice from yesterday. As I was walking along, holding my ever so precious glowing orange LED and playing with it, it occured to me that it might be neat if I attached it to Kuma’s leash so that it would track her movements as she ran around sniffing different squirrel tracks.
This is a short movie I made of her dancing movements with her own personal LED throwie light tracer dog leash modification.
It’s kind of neat to see Kuma’s movements captured by light. I took the video using my Treo 700p cameraphone. You can hear the crunch of my footsteps on the snowy pavement.
I’ve recently made some more nice refinements to RSS2.com:
Removed the voting links. There are TONS of places where you can register your approval or disapproval. A new site only has about 5 seconds to make a good impression. I had to decide whether voting on each entry as being good or bad was more or less important than giving my users (readers) what I really want to give them — the very best, low-resource requiring feed reading process. RSS2.com isn’t particularly optimized for people who obsessively catalogue every single thing they ever see on the net. For those people, there is digg, reddit.com, del.icio.us and a gobzillion other sites out there to help you keep track of things. RSS2.com is about giving you the ideal reading experience for reading what everyone else has blogged about and has published into their own RSS feed. Asking people to vote for individual entries seemed like too much work, and even I didn’t really use the feature that much. So, bye bye voting on individual entries for now. I’ll probably implement some click-tracking so that I can show people which entries were the most interesting or are the most interesting right now.
RSS feeds are now auto-discoverable. On every feed page, the source RSS feed is included in the <head> as a <link rel="..." /> tag. This means that if someone sees a feed that they want to subscribe to in another feed reader, they can do so easily (particularly using a browser like Safari or Firefox that makes auto-subscription to a discovered RSS feed easy). Also, the source feed URL is always shown in the Feed Info section of the feed page so you can copy/paste the link as well if you like.
Front page is a modified ‘river’ of news. The home page now features the one latest entry from the most recently updated feeds with a link to read the rest of the feed. This keeps a site like, for example, digg that publishes many new homepage stories every hour from dominating the whole homepage with entries as would happen in a river of news implementation that just published all of the latest items from all feeds at once. I know this because that is how I coded it the first time, and one site often dominated the entire homepage. Now you can get a sampling of a variety of different feeds that are fresh and current right now right on the homepage.
Mobile Palm Treo Edition Originally I designed the main HTML template for RSS2.com to be friendly to both mobile devices and to regular desktop web browsers. This led to tradeoffs for both browsers. In the next redesign I took the step of optimizing the page design for desktop web browsers, since they currently account for the majority of the page views and traffic to the site. I have a Treo 700p, however, and wasn’t really happy with the mobile web browsing experience. So, I added a check for Palm browsers and improved the reading experience if you are using a Treo to read RSS2.com by stripping out the stylesheet (for now) and reducing the number of graphics, keeping the focus on reading feeds (where it should be).
More favorites. There are now 25 feed favorites listed at the top of the page instead of only 15. It is enough that you can quickly check many different popular sites without getting overwhelmed by every feed in the system.
Changed tagline I changed the tagline (again) to be: “Read everyone’s news.” This better reflects the intent of the site — to become a place to get lost in content without distractions. Like a good book or an old-fashioned newspaper, where the story is more important than the advertisements. In today’s mental environment, I think providing a service that cuts down distractions has some value. I already like reading some sites better this way than going directly to them (in this way RSS2.com is just another RSS feed aggregator) but unlike most other aggregators there is no guilt factor when you haven’t read every item in a feed. It is easy, simple, fun, delightful. (See rightsumi for more of the overall design principles I’m trying to express in this project.)
Lots more features planned for this budding web application, including in no particular order:
OPML support. This is a no-brainer, and will make RSS2.com play nicely with other RSS feed reading applications. You will be able to both import and export all of your favorite feeds in OPML format.
Ability to read older items. This will allow you to browse through more than just the 10 latest entries in each feed. I’ll probably also add a feature where you can read a feed from the oldest entry through to the most current instead of the current standard default of reverse-chronological order
Ability to create named ‘rivers’ of feeds This will go hand-in-hand with OPML support, but will allow users to create their own version of the main homepage and publish that to share with others.
Better support for other mobile browsers I’ve found some good resources for identifying mobile and phone browsers to enable delivering a more optimized experience for them. This would include building a WAP version of RSS2.com to deliver the ideal RSS feed reading experience for all devices. This is a little bit in the future right now. If I get requests for this it will probably move up in the priority list…
So far I’m really happy with how quickly RSS2.com seems to be gaining exposure with more and more new users every day. It is growing and that is exciting and motivating to keep on improving it.
If you have any suggestions for future features or ways to improve the user experience even more, please leave a comment or send me an email: gserafini [at] gmail.com.
I’ve been using kmaps on my Treo for a while and it works pretty great. I’m interested to try this new client from Google.
Take the power of Google Maps with you on your Treo. Cruising around looking for a nearby coffee shop? Driving to that new restaurant but can’t remember which street to turn right on? Now you can get business locations, maps and directions while you’re on the go. And it’s all free.