Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category

Web 3.0 And The Features

For those who are in the dark, the web has numbered versions. Not too many people know this truth but, a few years back, a guy named Dale Dougherty envisioned Web 2.0. This is despite the fact that the whole world was in chaos because of the crash of the dot-com. People were losing hope that the Internet would ever rise again but Dougherty never gave up. The Web 2.0 Conference in 2005 gave way to the birth of the World Wide Web.

Web 2.0 has come to depict practically each site, technology, or service which are promoting collaboration and sharing even down to the Internet’s roots. Blogging, tags, wikis, RSS feeds, Flickr,, MySpace, and YouTube were the first fruits. The world has been a witness to the evolution of the Web from its 1.0 phase to Web 2.0. Looking at the great developments on the web’s history, people are wondering what is in store for those who would be able to witness the coming of Web 3.0.

Net technologies are constantly evolving: in the minds of geniuses in universities, in prime corporations, and many other great minds out there. Most of the online population coin the term Semantic web to Web 3.0. This is somehow in connection to Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web.

Basically, Web 3.0 is a location where web pages are read by machines just like humans read them. This is also a place where search engines abound. Looking at it on a layman’s perspective, it simply means a single database for the whole world (well, this is not quite simple when you begin to fathom the work it’s going to take to make this happen).

Some are skeptical about the birth of this modern Internet idea of Berners-Lee in 2001. He began with an idea where the Semantic Web can have agents that would take care of people’s schedules (even down to the setting of appointments). Semantic web agents can be programmed to do just about anything else (processing of research papers or even booking vacations). All it takes for these agents to become a reality, according to its author, is for the web to be re-annotated.

Nowadays, Web 3.0 is more than just a dream. Official standards which describe the metadata that would make information machine readable are now practically everywhere—they are already in place in RDF (Recourse Description Framework), OWL (Web Ontology Language), there is even a development platform in HP called Jena and structures are to be found in the Spatial database tool of Oracle.

The technology of Web 3.0 is evident in Google Gears which allows users to create web applications even when offline. The Adobe Flash player lets application developers have some access to the microphone and webcam. Pretty soon, it would be possible to drag then drop files from the desktop all the way to a web browser.

More awesome features await those who would want to experience Web 3.0: spectacular graphics, hi-def video and audio, seamless animations, and 3D. The present day’s generations of web front-end engineers are very lucky to have Web 3.0. Fragmentation which could result when technologies skyrocket could be moderated with the use of JavaScript toolkits.

These could very well be the vision that Berners-Lee saw. It’s more than just storing and sharing information now—the Internet could do far more complex actions that would make Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 seem ‘Neanderthal’ in comparison.

Learn more about the benefits you can get from the Internet evolution –


Adobe Flex goes open source

Adobe Flex goes open sourceAdobe is announcing tonight that the Flex SDK will be open sourced under the Mozilla public license, the same license that they open sourced the Action Script VM under (the Tamarin project). The move is just the latest in a trend of an increasingly open ecosystem around Flash and Flex which started with the Tamarin project.

The News Rundown

The Flex team has talked about open sourcing the project since its very beginning and did things like starting and giving people very early access to the betas of Flex 2. In chatting with them, it sounds like the impetus for this was just that the Flex community had grown large enough where a lot of exciting open source activity was happening, and they wanted to be involved. As part of the initiative, Adobe will be releasing the source to the following parts:

  • The Flex Compilers (mxmlc, compc, asc) – the command line tools that compile flex code
  • Flex command line debugger
  • View source utilities
  • Automated Testing Framework
  • Flex core component library – this includes Apollo components
  • Build Scripts
  • Web tier compilers
  • Flex-Ajax Bridge – already open source, but moving from MIT license to MPL License

Adobe will start by opening the Flex bug base in June and providing daily builds of Flex 3 at that time. Then between June and December, Flex 3 will be released under its current license. Shortly after this they will fully open source the SDK and open it up to external contributors. Adobe also has plans for a “second phase” in which people outside Adobe may be granted commit privileges to the core SDK and granted ownership over “sub projects” of the SDK. They would then be in charge of managing those projects. In chatting with David Wadhwani, the vice president of product development for Flex, he had this to say about how external community members can contribute code to the Flex SDK:

“Initially people will be able to contribute code by attaching it to a bug or enhancement request in the public bug database and we’ll clearly state our development philosophies at this time. After a few months we’ll start looking for external committers. We’ll look for individuals who have been active contributors of high quality code that most closely maps to our development philosophies.”

Developers Win

For Adobe and developers, this is really win-win. Adobe gets to leverage the community and ecosystem of open source, and the framework fits very well with an open source model. Developers can now actually contribute code and fixes to the framework and have those appear in the core distribution. One of the most exciting things for me is that some of the better custom components could, in theory, make it into the core release. This gives a lot of incentive for the people out there extending Flex by themselves, and gives developers using the framework the best components out there.

In talking to people, the general consensus seems to be quite good. Adobe is going to offer a commercial license for the companies who want support and warranty from Adobe, but there are no plans to branch the two code bases. As a result, the companies who want to have more openness in their technologies will be happy and those that still want Adobe to stand behind it can feel secure. I do wonder about the implication for OpenLaszlo, which has, until now, been able to carry the banner of open source in the Rich Internet Application community. I’ve also been hearing a lot of rumors about Microsoft having more open intentions behind Silverlight, so we may hear about that at MIX next week. Interesting times ahead. Adobe has set up a Google Groups for anyone that wants to discuss the news and project over at

Single Ajax Interface For Yahoo Mail & IM Coming

This morning Yahoo will announce that they will integrate an Ajax version of Yahoo Instant Messaging directly into the new Yahoo Mail beta. Unlike Google’s integration of Google Talk with Gmail earlier this year, Yahoo is combining the products into a single interface. Yahoo says the new features will launch in the next two months.I saw a beta of the product earlier today at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. When addressing a new email, a pop-up window appears to select an address book suggestion, along with the option to send an instant message if the person is currently online. If the user selects an instant message instead of an email, a slightly different interface appears that allows the two users to send instant messages to each other. If one user drops out of the conversation, the other user has the option to auto-paste the conversation into an email and finish the conversation. See the screen shot below for a visual of how the product will appear. This is all done in the browser with Ajax.

Users will quickly get used to flipping quickly between email and IM depending on “presence” – whether or not the person they are communicating with is online. IM conversations will eventually be archived and stored in the same manner as emails, allowing users to drag old conversations into folders in the sidebar.

An additional notation is also being made in the sidebar to let email users know which of their stored contacts are online currently. Multiple current IM conversations are organized by horizontal tabs.

Yahoo Mail continues to surge in worldwide and U.S. usage v. Gmail – Yahoo claims that Yahoo Mail gained more new U.S. users that in the first nine months of 2006 than total U.S. Gmail users to date. Comscore backs this claim up, reporting 250 million worldwise users of Yahoo Mail to Google’s 51 million (September 2006) (see chart to left).

The number of IM users worldwide is still very small compared to web-based email users – 80 million IM users v. nearly 500 million web mail users. Yahoo hopes to introduce IM to the large percentage of Yahoo webmail users who’ve never tried IM.

We continue to prefer Yahoo Mail over Gmail because Yahoo Mail allows POP access to third party email services, whereas Gmail only allows access to Google’s own email service.

Categories: Ajax, News, Open Source, yahoo

My Yahoo! Gets Web 2.0 Makeover

Hot on the heels of My.Netscape’s personalized homepage makeover, Yahoo has announced a new version of its own long-running personalized homepage, My Yahoo. It will at first be a private beta, with a limited number of users being offered a beta account at Yahoo’s plan is to gather feedback from those early users and then make the My Yahoo! beta more broadly available – with additional features – over the coming months.

Read/WriteWeb got a sneak peak at the beta and we have some screenshots, along with our initial impressions, below. There is also a screencast available (but for now it is high res and slow to load; I’ll notify you when a better version is up).

My Yahoo! has been Yahoo’s personalized offering to its consumers since 1996. In the preview, Yahoo told me that My Yahoo! is seen as their “narrowcast” option for users, while the frontpage is seen as the broadcast model. However I was also told that, over time, the two homepages will converge. Certainly, the first thing I noticed about the new beta My Yahoo was that it had some of the new features Yahoo introduced last year with its Ajax makeover of And the look and feel is very similar between the two.

My Yahoo! is essentially a user’s dashboard, or start page, for the web. So it shares a lot in common with Microsoft’s, Google’s Personalized Homepage, Netvibes, Pageflakes, Webwag, and many others. However up till now, My Yahoo has been a relatively static personalized homepage – mostly devoid of the widgets and gadgets that populate the likes of Netvibes and Also the design was rather conservative, although to be fair probably much more usable than the other ‘start pages’. Also, My Yahoo was an early adopter of RSS feeds (not full text though).

All in all, Yahoo has managed to keep its many millions of mainstream users happy – but with the trade off of falling behind Microsoft and Google in terms of widgets and ajax interactivity. Indeed we’ve noted a few times before that My Yahoo has plenty of potential as a ‘web 2.0’ start page – and thankfully now we’re starting to see that potential being fulfilled, which is good news for Yahoo’s user base.

New Features

The beta My Yahoo has a fresh new design and some neat interactive features (using ajax of course!). It also aims to make personalization simpler. Some of the new beta features include tools for:

  • pre-built personalized page for each user, based on data Yahoo has already gleaned from their usage of Yahoo properties – the design of the page is closely aligned with;
  • Category pages for topics such as cooking, plus “content suggestions”;
  • Users can further customize their page with drag-and-drop modules, and new four-column and small search box layouts;
  • Feed previews and a full post reader on the page;
  • Editable Personal Assistant with instant access to things like Yahoo! Mail, horoscopes, local traffic, etc;
  • Redesigned modules from Yahoo! and select partners, with games, music, commerce, sports updates, weather, finance portfolios, TV listings, etc;
  • Sharing feature, enabling users to send their My Yahoo! page or favorite modules to friends and family – note, this is very similar to Pageflakes’ sharing feature, only Yahoo told me that their sharing service doesn’t require sign-ups;
  • More “new interactive modules” to come

Also noteworthy is the “hover bubble” (an unofficial term for an ajax-based text bubble). My favorite new feature so far is the MyYahoo Reader, which offers full text (yay!). Both of these features aim to give the consumer more content in the page, without navigating away.

What’s not there currently? Widgets, but Yahoo told me that over time Yahoo! Widgets (aka Konfabulator) will be integrated with My Yahoo.


digg_url = ‘’; As you can see from the screenshots below, the new beta My Yahoo is much easier on the eye than the current My Yahoo. It is very slick and easy to use too. My Yahoo currently gets 50 million monthly users worldwide (their figure) and so it is the biggest “personalized homepage” on the market. As such it is careful about rolling out new ajax and web 2.0 features – in order to avoid the or USAToday re-design backlash from users. Yahoo also says it received “a fundamental United States patent for the invention of personalized start pages” back in 1999, although who knows what that means.

The new My Yahoo is a great improvement already on the old one and we’ll be tracking its progress over the coming months, as it is slowly released to the mass market.

Update: Ex-My Yahoo Boss, Now Pageflakes CEO, Responds to My Yahoo Beta

My Yahoo Reader

Customize colors, columns, etc

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Categories: News, Open Source, yahoo Tags: , ,

Web 2.0: Sports Sites Get Social

With football season heading into the final sprint and basketball season warming up, sports fans are heading online in droves to catch the latest news, analysis, opinions while certainly not shying away from wanting to express their own opinions. Fans can always browse to traditional popular sports destinations such as or, but let’s review what new innovations from the Web 2.0 movement such as social networking and social news has brought to the world of sports news. We’re going to take a look at several sites incorporating more social features while trying to immerse you into their sports community.
FanNation is the biggest social sports site around, probably due in a large part to their relationship with and the prominent billing they have there. Unlike some of the other sites that follow the Digg-inspired user submission of news, FanNation aggregates news itself by pulling in content from sources around the web for the major sports including football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. News is broken down into three types. The most prominent type is the “Truth & Rumors” section, the sports world’s gossip column where you can also get the standard news from “NewsScout” as well as news affecting fantasy sports. Members of the FanNation community can rate the articles and provide their commentary. Members can also track their favorite teams (TeamTracker) and players (PlayerTracker) and have the news relating to those topics delivered to them automatically. FanNation provides the traditional message boards throughout the site and some newer social networking features like friends, user profiles, private messaging, blogging, and groups.
The FanNation aggregation is impressive. I’ve been a frequent visitor of the site for a while now and I hadn’t even realized until recently that you couldn’t submit news yourself. The content is usually always fresh and interesting and the discussions are very active (this is sports news though; I don’t make any claim for the intelligence and maturity of the discussions). One thing lacking were news feeds. You will have to come to their site to get all of this content (except for a member’s blog), a very web 1.0 way of providing content. There’s also a lack of transparency about how news gets to the top, the ratings aren’t very helpful (no rating count for example), and there’s very little information about where exactly the news comes from, in other words, it doesn’t feel very user-driven.
BallHype is the newest site reviewed here, launching this past spring, and it has been a great addition to the field. Like FanNation, BallHype is an aggregator, but BallHype is pulling from all of the top sports blogs on the web, rather than more traditional news sources. BallHype also provides the capability for user submitted stories to be added into the mix. Members of BallHype vote stories up or down by “Hyping” them, which determine which stories make the front page. Members can also take part in a discussion by leaving comments. BallHype slices up the news in many different ways, as you can see from their site map. You can get news by sport, team, player, and city. What’s great about this too is that any way you view the news by, you can get a feed of that. So, for example if I want to keep up with the latest sports news from Seattle, I can visit and see news across all sports and subscribe to the RSS feed to get new news delivered to my feed reader (such as Google Reader or Bloglines).
Again we see the social networking features on BallHype with friends, profiles, and groups. When viewing a user’s profile you can see all of their submissions, comments and voting activity and they provide a ranking system for the top users. In addition to news and social networking, BallHype incorporates game scores and picking into the site, you can get all the latest scores and try to predict the outcome of games. Members can comment on the game itself too from the scoreboard, which is a cool feature, though doesn’t appear to be used much. The game picking is an interesting and probably effective way to get users more involved.
I really liked the flexibility of getting news on BallHype and the user-driven power of the site. One downside is with the focus of the content on blogs; you will have to go elsewhere for the standard news headlines. But if you’re a sports nut reading blogs, BallHype does save you an awful lot of work in finding, subscribing to and reading the interesting blogs out there.
Yardbarker is one of the three sites in this guide (the others being ArmchairGM and FanIQ) that helped to pioneer social sports in early 2006. Yardbarker’s mission is to provide the latest articles, rumors, videos, discussions, scores, standings and more. Yardbarker is completely user-driven. All content is submitted by members and then voted on and discussed to find the most interesting news.
Like FanNation and BallHype, news is easily broken town by sport and team to let you focus in if you want to. As a member you can submit and rate news, get scores, make friends, but you can’t provide your own original content like on FanNation or BallHype. However, Yardbarker does have some professional athletes writing their official blogs on YardBarker. Greg Oden, the #1 pick in this year’s NBA draft has his blog here.
Yardbarker is utilizing the proven social news methods to push sports news and discussions forward. It’s a nice site that any sports fan would love, and if you’re really into sharing sports new, then this could be a great site for you.
FanIQ puts its twist on social sports by encouraging its members to compile the best statistics, just as athletes do. Points are earned throughout the site by contributing news, writing a blog, and picking game winners. In that sense it’s probably most similar to BallHype, but has a lot in common with YardBarker and FanNation as well. The heart of FanIQ is the “Sports Scoop”, user submitted news from around the web. Once again, users vote and comment on the stories as they come in. FanIQ has social networking too, but their profile pages are probably the most comprehensive allowing members to share all kinds of information about their favorite sports teams and athletes in addition to information about their FanIQ contributions. One new thing that FanIQ does is provide a personality test, known as the “FanMatch” to find similar people.
The emphasis FanIQ puts on the user is great to see. Everywhere you go, you’re encouraged to meet other members, whether it’s the profile pages, highlighting the volunteers on the site, meeting other people that are fans of the same teams you are, and even pointing out people that are not like you (rivals). It has a great community feel to it. Unfortunately, I think the news content falls flat and is not as fresh and interesting as the others.
ArmchairGM, while still focused on providing fans a platform for reading, writing, and talking about sports, takes a different approach by providing a bliki, or combination community blog and wiki in addition to the familiar social network. The latest news, blog posts, and rumors from around the web are not the focus here. Instead, users are encouraged to write their own articles or edit the massive sports encyclopedia. The articles are the community blog where members write, vote on, and comment on whatever sports topic they’d like to discuss. Topics are filtered by sport and team and it is easy to find an area of interest. For the more permanent reference, members can contribute to the Encyclopedia, which is similar in theory to Wikipedia (and in fact ArmchairGM is owned by Wikia, the for profit sister company of Wikipedia), but with a complete sports focus, by adding or editing pages. There are number of other features on the site that keep users involved, such as polls, game picks, a great images collection, quizzes, and ratings. The ratings features is an interesting twist, it lets you rate anything and everything related to sports. Michael Jordan reigns supreme as the top rated athlete, while the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” is the top rated moment in sports history (see ratings here).
For a sports fan, ArmchairGM is a goldmine of fun and interesting information that can provide hours of entertainment as you browse around. The nature of the site makes it one that you’ll come back to every once in a while (to reference the encyclopedia perhaps), but unless you dive into the community and start writing articles or want to contribute to the encyclopedia, there’s not a lot to keep you coming back on a more frequent basis. More simply put, it’s as addictive as the other sites mentioned here.

Categories: Open Source, Resource, Web 2.0

Feature – Design Your Own Desktop with KDE 4

One of the best things about KDE 4, the newest release of the mainstream Linux desktop manager, is something it doesn’t do—force you to adapt to its way of running a computer desktop. Sure, the desktop environment boasts new 3-D effects, a polished theme, and improved functionality. But what KDE 4 does best is give users the ability to almost completely re-design their desktops, putting their programs, icons, and useful widgets wherever they see fit, on as many desktops as they want, to create their ideal workspace. I spent some time exploring the features of the less-than-week-old system, the results of which are after the jump.

If you wanted to see how KDE 4 looks right now without committing yourself to a new install, you can burn a live CD from the Kubuntu or openSUSE distributions, both of which plan to implement KDE 4 in their next releases. If, after these screenshots, you’re itching to switch for real, I’d recommend upgrading from inside a working KDE system rather than starting fresh, as none of the live CDs are officially supported yet. And there’s a good reason why—this is just the first release of a system that’s in many ways completely re-written, and a few important pieces are still missing from the whole. The developers have stated that KDE 4 is an intentional shift away from the norm, so those who rely on certain key programs to work might want to hold off until at least 4.1

But if you do boot up, the first thing you’ll notice about the new KDE is its clean-looking, ready-to-work interface. It has many of the same components as current KDE setups, but the icons and elements of the new “Oxygen” theme make it seem less like the Cute Lil’ OS That Could and more like a place to get things done (in my opinion, anyways).
Before jumping into the new-new stuff, note that the Start-like “K” menu (now named “Kickoff”) has undergone a major overhaul, adding an in-line search function and dividing your programs up into five categories, including a Google-like starred “Favorites” list. The only letdown is the big icon size and having to click to move through sub-menus, although fans of the older mouse-over menu can restore it by adding it as a widget.
About those widgets—they’re the heart of KDE’s desktop engine, named Plasma, and they’re a lot more powerful than clocks and mini-feed-readers, although they’re there if you want them. Everything you could put on the taskbar, and anything open source programmers can dream up, can be embedded anywhere on the desktop. After tinkering around a bit, I came up with my own taskbar-less desktop that was a bit crowded, but gave me a lot of functionality from the get-go:
expose_widgets.jpgThe widgets get covered up once you start opening program windows, but you can bring them to the fore and shade over your windows, Mac-style, with a Ctrl+F12 keystroke. They’re scalable vector graphics as well, meaning you can adjust them to any size, or even angle, and they’ll still look right. One notable widget is the “File Watcher,” which can display text from any file you point it at, making it a great way to track your text-based to-dos.

Mess around a bit, and you can come up with a lot of way to reorder your space in convenient ways. Put custom program launchers together across the screen bottom to create a Dock-like launcher. Move your window switcher to the top or the sides, or eliminate it altogether and stick with Alt+Tab. You can do many of these things in GNOME and in other operating systems, but KDE gives you a fairly blank slate from which to draw your own map to productivity.

KDE 4’s other big change is splitting the tasks of web browsing and file exploring between Konqueor and Dolphin, respectively. Dolphin, the newest kid on the block, brings split-view browsing for easier file transfer, and integrates the multi-format Okular viewing tool (seen in the background below) to view, bookmark and even add notes to files, making it easier to organize and sort them later.
Of course, no new Linux environment is complete without super-powerful, endlessly tweak-able Compiz-ish desktop effects, and KDE 4’s got ’em in spades. If you want your windows or menus to move a certain way, chances are you can do it.
There are many more improvements and changes in KDE 4, including improved multimedia handling, easier handling of plug-in devices and re-engineered core programs. What features did I miss that are worth noting? What do you hope to see come up next for KDE, GNOME, or any Linux system? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Categories: News, Open Source, webdesigner Tags:

Integrating Flex 2 and Ruby on Rails

In this article you will learn how to integrate Flex 2 with Ruby on Rails and a MySQL database by building a simple issue tracker application. By following the steps in this tutorial, you will also learn how to add functionality to the application, such as adding a new bug to the database, reading existing bugs, updating a bug, and deleting a bug.


Flex Builder 2

Ruby 1.8.4+

Rails Gem 1.1.6+

MySQL 4+

Recommended: RadRails

Sample files:

Prerequisite knowledge:

Basic understanding of ActionScript, MXML, and Flex Builder.

Why Rails?

When using Flex you have several options to choose from for back-end server software. So why might you want to choose Rails? Ruby on Rails, like Flex, is a well thought out, elegantly simple framework. As you will see, Rails uses code generation and metaprogramming to make it incredibly easy to integrate with a database using almost no SQL code. Furthermore, when you use Rails, you also get to use Ruby, a programming language that is both extremely powerful and easy to use. Using Flex and Ruby on Rails, you will be able to get more done with less code.

Flex + Rails + Ruby = RIA Nirvana.

Categories: Adobe, AIR, Flex, Open Source, RIA