Simplepie

I have been using Simplepie for some time. It is great for streaming RSS feeds into your web page. A great way to stream information around when you build your own website.

So what is Simplepie? It is a PHP script that you can install in your web host and configure it to get RSS feeds not only from other website and also from within your website. It also a good way to re-feed the various website and blogs that you have and stream them into one easy to access web page too.

For example if you have Twitter, Flickr, Blogger and your very own website, it would be difficult for your visitor (including yourself for that matter) to keep track of what's happening, so why not provide a single page where all your feeds are channelled into it?

So here comes Simplepie to the rescue! Head on over to the Simplepie.Org website and download the latest PHP script.

I liked Simplepie in the sense that I don't have to set up a SQL database. It is also fairly easy to use, though it may be a little bit more complicated than Feedburner. Between using PHP script vs JavaScript, I would prefer going the way of PHP. The content is both visible to visitors and robot crawlers alike and that is a plus point because the search engine thrives on content.

Upload the simplepie.inc file into your Webserver plus the various files as per their specification.

Then it is time to hack your web page. The file needs to be saved with a .php extension and your server must be able to handle PHP files.

Before the main HTML codes add these php lines

require_once('http://www.example.com/folder/simplepie.inc');
require_once('http://www.example.com/folder/idn/idna_convert.class.php');
$feed = new SimplePie();


Then you need to tell it where to find the feed:

$feed->set_feed_url('http://exampleblog.com/atom.xml');


If you got several feeds, you have to use this line instead. Make sure you do not comma the last feed or you will get errors.

$feed->set_feed_url(array(
'http://www.example1.com/feed1',
'http://www.example2.com/feed2.xml',
'http://www.example3.com/rssfeed3'
));


Init the feed with this line and ready for next step.

$feed->init();


Somewhere in your main page add in the following PHP codes and you are good to go. Modify where necessary for the CSS to format the display.


<?php
foreach ($feed->get_items() as $item):
?>
<div class="item_simplepie">
<h3><a href="<?php echo $item->get_permalink(); ?>" ><?php echo $item->get_title(); ?></a></h3>
<p><?php echo $item->get_description(); ?></p>
<p><small>Posted on <?php echo $item->get_date('j F Y | g:i a'); ?></small></p>
</div>
<?php endforeach; ?>


Easy, yes? That's why it is called Simplepie!

Free antivirus software

Best things in life are free. And so is free antivirus software. You could save a couple of bucks using freebies like this. Of course if you need a more comprehensive solution, this might not be so good. If you are good in administering your computer and very cautious in downloading stuff from the internet, such free anti-virus software is probably good enough.

However in an office environment where you are administering a bunch of PCs and your co-workers are prone to download any kind of stuffs, then the free anti-virus software may not be good enough.

Anti-virus software should go in conjunction with a good firewall. The build-in Windows firewall is not good enough. And yes there are free firewall softwares too.

Anyway here are some free anti-virus you can consider. Got this list from PC World and is a brief line up. I'm sure there are many more out there.

Avira AntiVir Personal - Superior performance and superior features with ease of use. It offers great protection but using it might be frustrating for non-techie.

Avast Alwil Antivirus home edition - Superior performance and very good features with ease of use. They offer solid protection and some good feature set, unfortunately their interface is a letdown.

AVG 85. Free - Very good performance and superior features with ease of use. It has good interface and good web attack blocking but their defence against malware is below average.

Microsoft Security Essentials Beta - very good performance and very good features and ease of use. New boys in the block and solid contender. Should be out of Beta stage by end of 2009.

PC Tools Antivirus Free Edition - fair performance with very good features and ease of use. However it lets in too many malware for any sort of good protection.

Comodo Internet Security - fair performance with very good features and ease of use. Not good choice. Poor protection and poor detection.

See the table for cross reference of Anti-virus protection.

Build a free web site pitfalls

Geocities - there goes another free web site service.

The problem when you build a free web site using free website services like Geocities, you are at their mercy. After all, you are using their services for free, so what's more could you ask for if they decided they no longer want to run the free service anymore.

And recently Yahoo has made a lot of changes to make themselves more competitive against their rivals namely Google and Microsoft. So whichever business unit is not profitable, they will discontinue it or change it in one way or another. Yahoo has been revamping many of their services and stop providing many of their services. My Yahoo Briefcase was discontinued, and changes to 360° Yahoo was also made. There were a few more other services as well, so hopefully Yahoo would be leaner and better to compete against their rival. Best of luck, Yahoo!

While for the rest of us who make use of their free services like Geocities to build a free website and 360° for blogging, now will have to consider the next option.

Build a free web site using those free services are like that, you never know what the company would want to do. It is up to them, after all they do need a source of revenue to upkeep and maintain their services. So don't cry foul when they decided to change their terms or close down their free website services.

Although I don't really make full use of Geocities free website, I had it for a very long time, and it was kind of sad to see it go. It was also where I start practicing how to code HTML. The usefulness when you build a free web site is the chance of learning some HTML/CSS programming without having to make any payment for a full web hosting services. However nowadays, the free website offerings now comes with a free web site builder which makes it easier to make websites but at the expense of not being able to get your hands dirty into coding.

Thankfully there are still some free website services that still have the ability for you to do your own coding and upload to their free website hosting.

In closing Geocities, Yahoo offered suggestions where you could still host your web site for free. They are:


  • Tripod Lycos (www.tripod.lycos.com/)
  • Webs.com
  • Weebly.com
  • Webstarts.com (I think this site is dead, can't see the website at all)
  • SynthaSite (now Yola.com)
  • Wikispaces.com


I could add a couple into the list:

  • Bravenet.com
  • Google sites (sites.google.com)


And of course using free website will have its caveats, but that is the price you have to pay for not paying for web hosting.

Why free website may not be a good idea if you are into building a website seriously.


  • URL address is added on and not your own domain - bad impression if you are serious into getting a web presence for work
  • You are at the mercy of web hosting company policy - they dictate the terms. If they want to close, they will close (eg Geocities), if they want to change URL, they will change (eg SynthaSite to Yola), it may be ad supported (eg Bravenet)
  • Bandwidth transfer will be limited
  • Storage space is less
  • You lose all the inbound links when they make changes to their URL address (eg Geocities, Yola, etc) thereby losing your website traffic.


Good point about free website

  • Well, it is free
  • Good place to learn about website creation
  • If they provide HTML file uploading, it is good place to learn about HTML/CSS


So with the closing of Geocities by 26 October 2009, I no longer can build a free web site with them, though fortunately it is not such a major impact for me. However, I do need to remove links from web site to my website at Geocities; otherwise I get broken links within my website which is not a good as it is frown upon by search engines.

Flock a better browser experience than Firefox

I decided to give Flock browser a try and see what it is like. Turn out to be rather interesting. I had a much better browsing experience than Firefox despite the fact that Flock is based on the same Mozilla Firefox engine.

Flock is meant to be useful for those who log in frequently to their social web sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, MSN Live, Delicious, etc. Since I have almost all of the above accounts, so may as well give Flock a try. Mind you I already other browsers installed in my Windows Vista with the inclusion of Flock I now have a total of five web browsers installed!

Flock browserFor those who are already using Firefox fulltime switching to Flock is a piece of cake as all the Firefox functions remains intact. After installation, Flock would also ask whether you want to import any settings from one your browsers, so I chose Firefox. The importation was smooth and surprise was that the Yahoo toolbar was imported in as well! Since I was more of Google toolbar user and Flock was similar to Firefox, I could download and install the Google toolbar into Flock without any problem.

Next, I log into my social web sites and let Flock save the settings for each site so that I don't have log in again when I restart Flock in future. Flock has a few ways to keep track of what's happening in your social circle. One via the sidebar, one via the My World page, in addition the Facebook chat and notification would be displayed at the status at the bottom of the browser.

So now whatever has been going on in those social web sites like Facebook or Twitter you can see it happening in an instance. Though I doubt I will always be checking it all the time as though I got nothing to do except when I may need some diversion or something I could poke around those sites and see what's happening!

Another feature is the webmail function, it could check whether new incoming mail has been received in your Gmail and Yahoo account. I said "and" that means it could check both, so all you got to do is log into those account and save the settings to Flock and let the browser do the rest.

Since all functions are based on logging in, you may want to set a master password to secure Flock for privacy and other people from meddling with your account settings.

So what happens if somebody wants to use your PC to surf the net? Since I have so many browsers, I'll just ask them to use the other browsers available without having them to use Flock.

So far I've been using Flock browser for a week now and have been customizing it to make it more useful. And it seems to be more stable than Firefox which seems to crash all the time. So looks like I will be using Flock as my default browser.

Build a Free Web Site with Webs

Webs.com was formerly Freewebs.com. You can build a free web site here too! They have been around since 2001, longer than Yola but not as long as Bravenet. They use a free web site builder to make your own web site.


It's free, so I sign up just to have a look see. So here's my URL JanLeow.Webs.com. Because they use the provided free web site builder, I'm stuck with their choices of free web site templates available. There was a custom section, but I couldn't get it to work. Perhaps that would require more fiddling but for now I'm just stuck with what they have. You could still customize the template but I find it rather limited in how you might want to customize it.

They have made it easy to create your web site, but if you need more advance features, you would be better off going for a full normal web hosting services provider rather than build a free web site with Webs.com. I find their free web site builder a little clunky, clunkier than Yola's.

Free web sites builders has the advantage of being easy to use, but would not provide you with the flexibility of doing more advance customization and coding. Although they have a HTML code insertion so that you could still insert codes like JavaScript or do some HTML/CSS coding, but the HTML code insertion is not very smooth to use.

Anyway, it is free! So if you prefer something simple to make your own web site, then use Webs.com to a build a free web site.

IE vs Firefox, Opera, Chrome browsers

Internet Explorer is still bloated and slow as ever. And it is very telling. Just open your Gmail account and click on any inbox entry. It takes 5 long seconds for the message to open. It takes just as long to return to the Inbox list. In comparison, Firefox, Opera and Chrome takes only an instant. I couldn't even start counting the seconds (you know, one thousand one, one thousand two, etc to denote an estimated one second duration) for any of the 3 alternates to IE.

In terms of page loading, Firefox, Opera and Chrome browser all wins hands down against Internet Explorer. Much as I would like to avoid using IE, I still need to check my web site display every once in awhile to see if the layouts and alignment are in order or not.

Too bad for us Web Developers like us who dislike using Internet Explorer, but there are still a large number of people out in the World Wide Web who don't know about the better browser alternatives. And so I have to keep IE around just to make sure the web site will load up properly. And still Microsoft seemed to be aimless and aloof about their slow bloated inefficient browser and feel rather contented about their browser market share of about 60%-70%. Even with Firefox and Chrome slowly eating up small slices of the browser market ever so slowly, is Microsoft doing anything to improve their browser or are they going to strong arm their competitors and hobble them with a law suit like what they did with Netscape Navigator?

Twitter for Palm - MoTwit

Can't have enough of Twittering? Own a Palm mobile phone like Centro, Treo or something like that? Then give this freeware app a try! It's call MoTwit (formerly known as TreoTwit). Useful for those who own a Palm mobile phone and wanted to twit using mobile phone but not residing in US, UK, India or Sweden. Actually you can SMS but the cost would be very expensive since it will become an international text message. So use MoTwit instead which uses 3G/GPRS/EDGE service. Would save you a bundle and still have the ability to Twit!

http://www.mitreo.com/motwit_twitter_palm_os/