Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Using JSON and Yahoo Answers

Posted by Chris @ 9:47 PM

My recent flurry of questions on Yahoo! Answers didn't have an alteriaulterior motive until about an hour ago, when I remembered Yahoo! released an API for Yahoo! Answers. The perfect API for my first foray into JSON!

The page I've created also listed as “Questions (using JSON data)” under code projects in the side nav, is a list of the questions I've asked pulled in from Yahoo! in real time. I've explained more about the technique used in the page, and it is below for reference. Suffice to say JSON is a really useful data format in the web developers arsenal, and it needs embracing much more by the web development community.

If you have any questions about JSON do ask away, and I'll do my best to answer or clarify what might not be obvious to the none Web 2.0 / AJAX developers out there.

“This is my first use of JSON. It loads the questions in from the Yahoo Answers API, specifying the output as JSON, and provides a function name for the callback. This functions is then executed, and as JSON is all JavaScript under the hood, it is instantly available as an object to add into the page's DOM as a list of questions.

For more information check out the Yahoo Developer pages, there are some security risks with using JSON the way I have from a data source you don't trust (unlike Yahoo), so read up on it first. Also take a look at the source of this page for an example of how its implemented in the real world!

All in all this was the quickest, easiest API I've ever implemented. I could have done the same thing with XML, but the fact that parsing the JSON output is so much easier, you'd be foolish not to look into it and try it out.”

Another question

Posted by Chris @ 8:41 PM

I've been in a very ponderous mood of late, my latest question...

“What is the best way to hold a normal, flat tray, with regular mugs, to avoid major spillage when walking?”


Update: LOL, check out the answers on Yahoo Answers, I've got loads, some think I'm stupid, others are taking it as the serious question it is, I'm no waiter!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Writely disappoints

Posted by Chris @ 10:19 PM

I've recently needed to create an invoice, so I thought, ah, perfect chance to try out this Writely, see what it is made of. Sadly, not much it would seem. I don't want to be down about Writely, it certainly seems to have some cool collaboration and sharing features. But in terms of a general use word processor, it falls short.

All I wanted to create was a simple invoice. So I fired it up, start typing away, and all seemed well. I added a table and that seemed relatively painless. Then I noticed Writely kept adding spaces to empty lines, and I couldn't tab. Little things, but annoying none the less.

Fine I thought, I'll save it out to Open Office and edit it in there. Only once I did that things really cocked up. Opening it in Open Office I was presented with crazy spacing I hadn't had in Writely, and took me a fair while to figure out how to remove. So I decided, after I had fixed it in Open Office, that I would do the translation acid test on Writely. You know, take a phrase like “Fish swim in the ocean”, translate it from English to French and back again, and see what you get, only with Open Office and Writely, and my invoice being the phrase. (You get “The fish swims in the ocean” on FreeTranslation.com by the way.) The results are the screen grabs below.

Screen 1 is the document, formatted as I'd like in Open Office.

Screen 2 is the same document uploaded to Writely; not too bad, but it has mucked up the invoice number bolding.

Screen 3 is the same document saved back out to Open Office. What the hell has Writely done to it?! The spacing is all over the shop.

If this was an important report I'd just collaborated on, I'd be annoyed, annoyed as hell. I hope they can sort their conversion process out, because right now, that really isn't usable.

Disclaimer, I work for the company behind FreeTranslation.com

Does the colour of a glass affect the perception of the drink within it?

Posted by Chris @ 9:18 PM

At work they have refilled the water cooler with plastic cups tinged a slight blue, rather than the clear cups we've normally had. This resulted in a strange sensation for me because as I started to drink from this blue beverage holder, I had the feeling that the water tasted, seemed, looked, a bit better than usual.

Of course, it wasn't, it is the same water as usual. I threw this out to the office, and they came back with, yeah, the blue tinge could make a difference. So I decided I'd also throw this out to the Yahoo! Answers community.

“Does the colour of a glass affect the perception of the drink within it?”

As usual the mix of answers is intriguing to say the least, and I think we've all learnt something today.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Posted by Chris @ 7:44 PM

What on earth is the deal with foundation, the first layer in any woman's make-up routine?

I was in The Body Shop the other day with Dawn, and she was trying to decide whether to buy a different kind of foundation or not, as they didn't have her regular one in. So as we are stood there, the sales assistant comes up, and shows Dawn a couple of them.

“This one goes on as a powder and gives a smooth finish, and this one goes on as a smooth cream, and gives a powdery finish.”

You what? Did my man ears hear correctly? They've spent time and money developing foundation to look like the opposite of how it is applied, both ways! Madness. Why? Why why why why why? It simply does not compute in my man brain why they needed to do this. What is the point! Maybe it is a good sign I don't understand it, maybe I should ask this question on Yahoo! Answers. I shall update you if I get an answer, meanwhile feel free to hypothesise in the comments.

Update! People have answered my question!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Talking, on Google Talk

Posted by Chris @ 9:02 PM

I've had Google Talk installed for a while now as my preferred IM client, but hadn't yet used the VOIP (voice over IP) features as I didn't have a mic. Well all that has changed (thanks Dad), and so my rambling dulcet tones are now loose on the Internet!

As I don't actually talk to anyone but Tony on Google Talk, I called him. And I was pleasantly surprised. It just worked, the mic level is adjusted automatically, I could hear him, he could hear me, and we could just, well, talk. The quality is good, better than standard telephones and mobiles, and best of all it is free! Also, its got a wicked ringing tone, and the answerphone has a meep, not a beep - once you hear it you'll understand!

I've also got Windows Live Messenger installed too, and knowing this also has free VOIP capabilities, I tried that. That wasn't so good, I couldn't hear Tony, and he couldn't hear me. It didn't just work.

The only downside to Google Talk, currently no method of altering your speaker / headphone volume within Google Talk, and no video conferencing yet either, although I'm sure they'll be working on that.

In short, if you want quick, easy, free VOIP that just works, give Google Talk a go.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Blogger beta widgets?

Posted by Chris @ 12:49 PM

As you may or may not have seen, Blogger have released a new beta service, which you can migrate to if you're special and use the blogspot domain rather than FTP'ing as I do. The new features are comfortably covered in a post by Tony who I think, was first to blog about it, and on Google Blogoscoped.

Anyway, having had a poke around the source code of pages generated by Blogger Beta it appears they've introduced a widget structure to elements on the page, most notably the labels and archive bits in the side navigation.

Why do I find this interesting, well, a couple of reasons spring to mind. Widgets are generally reusable elements, bits you can slot in anywhere. But also remember that the new layout editor is lifted from Google Pages (so says Phillip.) Add to that Google's other services, Google Desktop and Google Personalized Home Page, all three make use of “gadgets” (read widgets) that can be written by anyone. Taking a small leap it is not hard to see a future feature of Blogger allowing you to add these gadgets into your Blogger template and vice versa - that would be a very nice feature indeed. Or maybe I'm imagining a Blogger utopia, something that will never exist. Comments?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Wombwell Hillies Golf Club

Posted by Chris @ 9:52 PM

This weekend, whilst Dawn's family were up, we decided to try out Wombwell Hillies Golf Club. It is a council run club, but we found it to be a challenging, well laid out, well maintained 9 hole course. I could wax lyrical on about each hole, but I think its much easier to say its a good little course, costs £6.25 for a round, and look at the score card below for better information. We shall be going again.

Wombwell Hillies Golf Club score card

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Movie titles

Posted by Chris @ 8:54 PM

Given the brilliantly named Snakes on a Plane (which comes out in the UK very soon) it got me thinking, what other great movie titles could you come up with using a similar plot in the title rule. To get the ball rolling here are a few off the top of my head, but I'm sure you'll all have much better suggestions.

  • Dogs on a Bus
  • Cats in a Car
  • Cockroach Coach
  • Sharks in a Pool
  • Spiders on a Train

As you can see, these aren't terribly funny, so I'm relying on you guys to come up with the goods...GO!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Camping in North Wales

Posted by Chris @ 9:27 PM

This weekend we have mostly been camping in North Wales with Tony and Suzy, in a little village called Saron to be exact. It is a little off the beaten track, down some crazy single lane twisty roads, but the campsite was very nice and did the job just fine.

After a hearty BBQ Saturday night we spent Sunday doing some proper sightseeing. We started off by going to Rhyl, on the North Wales coast. It is the usual seaside stuff, with some dodgy bits and good bits. We chose to ride the Rhyl Sky Tower, which at £1.50 each is a bargain. Dawn took a video of the experience as we rose and spun above Rhyl. We then headed off to the Rhyl Miniature Railway, which I and Suzy in the end were quite excited about / interested in.

Following that we walked along the front, went to the sea life center then headed off. We got to Rhuddlan Castle, a fantastic monument. Apparently a lot of people diverted the course of the river so the castle could be supplied by the sea.

After that we squeezed in a visit to Dyserth Waterfall before heading back, absolutely shattered.

That evening we went to a very nice country pub called the Kings Head in Llanrhaedr where Dawn and I enjoyed lovely pate and a Guinness and beef casserole, forgotten what Tony and Suzy had.

Monday we headed off to a nearby lake and played on the kids playground there, before finishing our weekend with a marathon (literally) shopping trip at Elsmere Port outlet village.

As usual there are plenty of photos of the whole affair, and a few videos too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

New umbrella

Posted by Chris @ 9:13 PM

It is raining in the UK at the moment, and that fact led us to realise we needed new umbrellas. Me because mines pretty broke now, and Dawn because, like a lot of her things, lost her last one.

So why does this mindless rambling about umbrellas deserve a blog post? Well, one, because its my blog and I'll post what I like, and two, because my new umbrella has a fantastic automatic opening action that I discovered after I'd decided to buy it! Check out the groovy video below (sorry the brightness isn't great).

Is that cool or what! I like to think it sounds like “click...whooommmph” Having it rain on the way to work shall now be an enjoyable experience, I can pull out my umbrella, “click...whooommmph”, and be the man about town.

Yeah, I know, I'm cool.