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    Ludovico Magnocavallo
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22 novembre 2006

2 commenti

After a long hiatus, I have decided to resurrect this blog so that I have a space where I can publish about things I’m working on these days in Python. If you are curious about what I have done during the past fifteen months, you can have a look at Lightpress, my Italian blog, or at the Italian and Spanish blog rankings.

My blog's new clothes

29 marzo 2005

4 commenti

As you may have noticed, I have moved this blog to a “proper” blog engine (BTW I apologize if my new feeds have screwed up your aggregator) instead of the mess of Python scripts I used before to generate static pages. I am still convinced that generating everything dynamically is overkill, but since I have been working with WordPress on our commercial blogs for the past few months, I have come to appreciate the enormous gain in flexibility versus my previous approach.

I did not use a stock WP though: given my usual inclination towards dismantling (often) and reassembling (rarely) everything to try to “make it right”, I have spent a good part of those past few months rewriting a new frontend for WP from scratch. It’s working wonderfully on our commercial blogs, handling a decent traffic on a very old machine, and more importantly it’s cleaner and faster than WP, uses less queries, and it’s much more flexible. Now that it’s somewhat stabilized I am going to rewrite the backend too, so as to be able to remove all WP code and use a single installation (and user/post base) for all our blogs.

I hope this faceblog-lifting will make me write a bit more, even though this is fast becoming the busiest time of my life. If you will be in Paris for Le Blogs on the 24th-25th of April drop me a note, I will be there since I’m supposed to take part to the Nanopublishing panel. Oh, and please help me find a better name for my blog…

Scoble and the iPod killer

20 dicembre 2004

Scoble writes a letter to Bill Gates on what Microsoft should do to compete with the iPod, and gets the Most Insulting Blog Entry Of The Year award. I agree he’s getting it all wrong, in typical big corporate thinking (I work for a huge company, and know a bit about corporate hype, and reverence to those in power, myself).

The irony is that Microsoft already has all the ingredients for the iPod killer. Windows Media Player on the PocketPC is the best portable audio application around, and PocketPC hardware has become cheap. Would you prefer to buy an expensive iPod that forces you to use iTUNES (at least officially), is plagued by Apple’s firmware updates, and only allows you to listen to music? Or would you prefer a sub-100$ handheld, powered by two AA batteries, with a monochrome touch screen to fast forward through a song easily and read ebooks, a CF card slot, and a bundled CF card reader? I would prefer the second, in fact I’m using a retrocomputing version of the same minus the AA batteries, and it’s the perfect audio device. Powerful audio output to be able to listen to anything in noisy subway cars, audio playing that remembers what you were listening and where when you power down the device, swappable storage, easy connectivity with any operating system via a minuscule CF card reader.

Scoble, you’re a blogger and you should know this, you don’t need big names, you need users. No need to “Pay whatever big money it’ll take to get stars like Elton John, Ludacris, Eminem, Shania Twain to work on designing an entirely new player from the ground up.”, just hire me and a couple other audio-ebook obsessed geeks, who know their way through the IT maze. :)

Oh, and if you are wondering why I did not update this site in a long while, I’ve been busy on a few other projects.

Categories, Date Archives or both?

17 settembre 2004

I’m rewriting the mess of scripts I use to manage this site to give them more stability, something like an architecture, and to add some important features. Up until tonight I knew how to implement categories and archives, then when I was walking the dogs (which is my usual — and only — zen-like moment) I started wondering what should happen to archives when you are inside a category.

I have always thought of categories as just a kind of alternative, filtered index and syndication pages for new entries. It’s a good feature, one that not all blogs use, which better defines entries and allows me to offer only my Python category feed to planetpython without cluttering it with unrelated stuff. And I always thought of archives as, well archives, a date-based hierarchy ordered by year/month and possibly day, where for each date you have an index page offering different levels of details on the relevant entries, eg a blog/2004/ page with entry titles, a blog/2004/January page with titles and abstracts, and so on.

But what should happen when you’re looking at a category page, and click on an archive link? Should you get a filtered archive page displaying only Python entries for that period? Does it make any sense, would it be useful? Or are archives just “storage”, a different sort of categorization, unrelated to categories? Is it enough to show the entries’ categories in the archives pages (eg next to the tile in the year view), to allow people to “visually” filter out entries?

Tangled in these deep thoughts, I came back home and had a look at a few well known blogs. Guess what? Everybody does things differently. Some blogs have categories, some archives, some both but categories are just index pages with no effect on archives, etc. Since I will be generating static .html pages the difference in implementing category archives will be huge, not in terms of code but in terms of time taken to rebuild the site, and load on the storage backend. But then you won’t need to rebuild the site that much (publishing or modifying an entry means regenerating only the relevant pages), and you might gain something in search engines visibility by more deeply crosslinking your site. Uhm…..

Visual Thinking

2 settembre 2004

One of today’s Boing Boing posts links to an interesting entry on Nanotech titled The Kabbalah Nanotech Connection. I’ve always been fascinated by Jewish misticism (especially by Hasidism), so I went and read Nanotech’s blog entry. What intrigued me most about it though is not its main topic, but its mention of Temple Grandin, an autistic scientist who published (among other things) a very interesting book titled Thinking in Pictures (you can read Chapter 1 online). I’ve always known my thought processes were highly visual, but I never knew that visual thinking is one of the distinctive traits of autism. So I googled a bit, and came up with a paper by Lesley Sword titled I Think in Pictures, You Teach in Words: The Gifted Visual Spatial Learner which defines a few distinctive traits of “gifted visual spatial learners”, among them “very sensitive hearing [they] can hear sounds that would simply be background noise for other people”. I still remember when I heard the foot of a soccer player struck the ball 60 or 70 metres away despite the background noise of 80.000 people around me…..

Ebay, always a bargain?

24 luglio 2004

Russell learns that you don’t always save any real money on Ebay. I am learning the same thing these days, luckily without spending as much money as Russell.

My P800 screen is broken, so I’m looking for a new phone since repairing the P800 will cost almost 200 euros. As much as I love my P800, I’m pretty tired of having to carry a brick in my pocket without even being able to read email or surf the web (my company’s cellular subscription has GPRS and MMS disabled), and since I have lots of SonyEricsson gear (USB data and power cables, etc.) I am trying to buy a T600 (which is the smallest modern phone around), or a T610.

I have been tracking Ebay auctions for a couple of weeks, and I guess today I’ll go to the store downstairs and buy a new T610. T600s are pretty rare, and with all the noob ebayers out there who start bidding as soon as the auction is up, and shippinh, they end up costing around 100 euro which is too much for a GPRS-less used phone.

T610s on Ebay go for 130-140 euros plus shipping, and since they’re being discontinued for the T630, the shops that are still carrying them have lowered their prices to 170, which gets you a brand new phone with a 2-yr warranty without the risk of being scammed, and without having to wait for the seller to wake up and ship the item.

I guess Ebay is ok if you’re looking for something special, or very rare (I just bougth a Swatch bag which isn’t available to the public), otherwise I guess you’d make a better deal buying new from a store.

Urban Headphones

20 gennaio 2004

Koss 'The Plug'

As I mentioned in a previous entry I am now the happy owner of a Sony Ericsson P800 which I use to listen to mp3 audiobooks while going to/from work by subway and bus, which are unfortunately very noisy. After a while I got fed up with trying to shield my ears from the noise, and started investigating possible solutions to this problem.

My first thought was to look for a headphone amplifier to raise the volume of the P800 audio output. It turns out that pocket headphone amplifiers are not too common. Apart from a DIY project which I have no skills (and no patience) to complete, the only one I was able to find (via Dan’s Data) is the Boostaroo, which looks like a nice little piece of hardware. Unfortunately the Boostaroo isn’t available in Italy, making it a bit too expensive. And of course, what’s the point of having a smart phone if you have to carry other stuff around to use it?

My next thought was to find a pair of portable noise-reducing headphones. After reading a nice review on cheap headphones on HeadRoom I decided that a pair of Shure E2C would be perfect to shield my ears from the surrounding noise, knowing perfectly well though that I would never be able to find them in stock somewhere around here.

Sennheiser PX200

So today when I got out from work I went shopping, hoping to find the right pair of headphones for my needs. My first stop was a well known HI-FI store, where despite the snobbish clerk (apparently you should enter that store only if you’re interested — ie buying — esoteric and very expensive HI-FI components) I bought a pair of Sennheiser PX 200. Then on my way home I stopped at FNAC to buy a 3.5-2.5 jack (while I wait for my PC-Mobile SP8AA adapter to get here from Hong Kong) and, surprise surprise, they have a cheap version of the E2Cs, the Koss “The Plug” earbuds. Obviously I couldn’t resist and I bought them too.

My impression so far is that the Koss earbuds are perfect for my needs: they’re (relatively, at least in Italy) cheap, very light, and they block most of the outside noise. The Sennheisers on the other hand are a bit too big to carry around comfortably (they fold in an eyeglasses- size case), but they’re beautiful, very very comfortable, and a wonderful piece of design. So I’m glad I bought both, and I guess I will use the Koss earbuds with the P800 while the Sennheisers will go in my laptop bag, or come handy at home when E. is working in the same room where I am (she needs total silence, except when she feels like chatting which is very often). =)

update: it turns out that the Koss earplugs are not as comfortable as I thought, inserting them well is pretty hard, and they are almost painful; on the other hand the Sennheisers are wonderful, very very comfortable and with very good external noise reduction, so I’m using them as my day-to-day headphones.

What a waste

17 gennaio 2004

I skimmed over the Return of the King movie today, and though I did not think it was possible, it’s even worse than the previous two episodes. The characters are all wrong (Denetor for instance is too young and looks like a butcher not like a high noble and the lore master of Gondor, Aragorn looks like a biker, etc.), the architecture and the costumes are all wrong (the palace of Gondor is a romanesque church, Gandalf’s staff looks like an art deco object, Pipin should have worn Gondor’s uniform with a silver winged helmet and a black vest with the silver tree, the cloak of the Nazguls’ Captain — who used to be a king and is Sauron’s most powerful servant — is in tatters, etc.), the music is awful, the directing is pompous and empty (no more birds-eye shots, please).

What a waste, thinking that these will be remembered as the Lord of the Rings movies. I may be culturally biased here, but having seen the first two Harry Potter movies, I think the LoTR should have been produced in the UK, with a british director and british staff. Or they should have hired a real director, like Ermanno Olmi (maybe a bit too gloomy to be successful, but have a look at The Profession of Arms to see what I mean). The Jackson movies look too much like a long, boring, and badly made rock videoclip.

Luckily there’s the beautiful unabridged Audiobook narrated by Rob Inglis which I am listening to these days.