Sunday, May 28, 2006

I am a Father!

Today, my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl weighing in at 3,276g. Both she, and her mother are well.

This also answers Kim's question about my sleeping patterns: I count on getting no sleep in the coming months...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Choosing FeedJournal Output Format

When I first started spawning ideas about an RSS reader that would print the articles as a regular newspaper, I had a tough choice to make between output formats. My main options were:

  • HTML with CSS
  • Microsoft Word
  • Adobe's PDF format

There are also other document formats (RTF, etc) I considered but quickly rejected.

Let's look at each of these formats in order to see how I came to my final decision. The main factor guiding my choice was having the result look professional, with justified multicolumn paragraphs for instance.

The thing is that I would love to be creating an HTML page with CSS styling because of the portability. Basically the full published issue would be contained in one HTML page (with a few hyperlinked image files). This package would open on any computer with a decent web browser. Also, page breaks are readily available using the <br style="page-break-before:always;"> tag. However, the problem comes when trying to figure out the size a chunk of text will use when creating the pages.

The MS Word or RTF choices are immediately more attractive because they expose an API to create the documents, which should produce more maintainable source code. On the other hand the Word format is a closed format as well as the API.

Then we have the third option, PDF, which on the surface doesn't offer any benefits over MS Word (besides being an open format), only a more quirky client which by default takes ages to start up. But some research-hours later and after finding iTextSharp I reached the conclusion that PDF is the way to go for FeedJournal! iTextSharp is an excellent open-source component written in C# for generating PDF files using the .NET platform. Using an open-source API for creating the PDFs is a significant improvement for a developer, allowing deep debugging of code sections and finding the root cause of exceptions. And should I find a bug or limitation in the component I have full control over the source and can fix it without being dependent on others.

Besides, the startup performance of Adobe Reader is easy to cure. And if you are completely allergic to Adobe Reader there is a beautiful lightweight freeware alternative in Foxit Reader.

Then of course there is the additional benefit of supporting the new ubercool eInk gadgets hitting the market right now, with all of them supporting PDF natively. More about these in future blog posts.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

FeedJournal.com

As I have mentioned on the blog before, the big project I am working on right now is a feed aggregator in the form of a paper newspaper. This application is currently being developed using the .NET 2.0 framework. By using this development environment I automatically qualified to enter Microsoft's $10,000 Made In Express Contest where the idea was picked along with 11 other finalists.

I have previously used the name "RSS Star" for the project, but from now on the name will be FeedJournal. Information about this project is available at www.feedjournal.com - and as part of Microsoft's contest I will also be blogging at http://spaces.msn.com/madeinexpress6

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm in!

I got an e-mail from Microsoft letting me know that I will be one of the 12 finalists in the Made In Express Contest. That's way cool! I will keep a blog updated at the contest site but I intend to double-post the entries hare as well.

I am thrilled to get the privilege of competing as a finalist in the "Made In Express Contest!" with my vision of an RSS aggregator in the form of a paper-based newspaper or magazine. What is most exciting for me is the opportunity I am getting to build the project within this contest, with all its opportunities of making it visible to the public.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Made In Express Contest

Microsoft called me up on the phone today to discuss my submission for the "Made In Express Contest". The newspaper project I submitted for the contest seems to have grabbed their attention, and I am now a finalist candidate. Apparently we are down to 30 contestants now, out of the original 1500 submissions. The finalists should be published in about a week and a half, if everything goes according to plan.

Anyway, this is a very good sign that my newspaper project can find a niche in the market. Now, I just have to wait for Microsoft to make their final choice...the suspense is unbearable!

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Currency conversion in browser

One of the most useful Firefox extensions I have installed must be ViewMyCurrency, which helps me to convert currencies inside the browser. Basically you define which currency you want all prices to be converted into and then many major world currencies will automatically be converted and displayed along with your own currency inside any web page.

If you regularly browse sites with prices not in your preferred currency you will greatly benefit from this extension. I have been using it for several months now both at work and and at home, and I can't imagine surfing without it. Highly recommended, and of course free!