The Ups and Downs of RSS Feeds and What I Did To Overcome them… (For Now) Pt. 2

Overcoming Twitters New RSS Access Restrictions

In doing my investigation of RSS authouring tools that I outlined in Part 1 of this blog I came accross an obsure posting at a site called Get Satisfaction. In reading the posts it turned out that Twitter RSS feeds were changed to require authentication. When my Yahoo Pipe went out to get the RSS feed from Twitter, it was rejected because my pipe, and as far as I know all Yahoo Pipe components, lack the ability to authenticate access to RSS feeds.

In further following the posts someone suggested that an internet service called Free My Feed — a free and simple service where you don’t even have to create an account– takes a Twitter RSS feed along with the account login information and produces a second authenticated RSS feed that can be read by Yahoo Pipes and pretty much any other RSS reader.

It only took me a few minutes but it turned out that the rss feed produced by Free My Feed could be cleanly read by Yahoo Pipes and I was back in business. I had to write a new pipe because of the restrictions that Twitter had added but in the end I have a system that is a lot easier to understand. Its documented on one of my Googe Sites.

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The Ups and Downs of RSS Feeds and What I Did To Overcome them… (For Now) Pt. 1

For the past few days I’ve been rained out of the video shooting that I had been planning to do. I decided that this would be a good time to develop a few more skills in understanding RSS feeds for both my blogging and digital signage work. The skills will probably come in handy when I get back to work.

Background

It became necessary for me to learn about RSS because we decided RSS feeds would provide the best content backbone for a digital signage project we were working on at Ryerson University. After a lot of work I thought we had developed a system that employed Twitter and Yahoo Pipes that met our needs. But over time Twitter has not proved to be a consistent service for RSS feeds. For some reason Twitter’s integration with Yahoo Pipes was changed without notification. It was to the point where my Yahoo Pipe that I employed stopped working. I had to use the RSS output from Tumbler’s Micro Blogging site as the RSS feed to my WordPress blog to get around the problem. Now I find what I devised to be complicated, convoluted and the combination is not working to my satisfaction. So I decided to explore other alternatives to generate RSS feeds.

I won’t go into the gory details of my first efforts creating the Twitter Yahoo Pipes (documented here) but I found Twitter’s 140 character limit to be ideal for Digital Signage applications. As a cloud service Twitter automatically provided the policing to limit the text in digital signage posting and once the message was posted to Twitter it automatically generated an RSS feed that Ryerson’s digital signage system could pick up and display. The feeds only problem was that it would add the account name to the head of the post. The service I discovered to fix this problem was Yahoo Pipes. Pipes which is a free mash up tool, and a pre-made pipe that would eliminate the account name from the Twitter feed and re generate a new feed that could feed the Digital Signage system (and my blog). As I mentioned earlier it worked great for the longest time and then stopped working. All attempts to fix it have been difficult given Twitter’s irregular operating schedule and unannounced changes to its services.

The Downs Of RSS

For something called Really Simple Syndication, its something that is really difficult to author (or at least find out how to author). When I first went to the net all I could find were sites that would tell me how the files were formatted. I had trouble even finding the simplest tool to help me create an RSS file from scratch. Even a trip to Toronto’s Worlds Biggest Bookstore was no help in finding a good book on RSS.

I finally learned– after much reading and fusing– that an RSS file is little more than a standardized XML text file that is placed on a central server –usually a web server–. Because its standardized other devices can read and extract elements of the data contained in the text file. Hence the formatting is important so the precise information that one wants from the file can be extracted accordingly such as into Ryerson’s Digital Signage application.

Finally Some Authoring Programs!!!

When I work I like to keep things simple if I can. Given that my days plans were rained out I finally had the chance to look for some simple authoring programs.

The best program I found was actually a live web RSS Feed Creator application put on-line by the University of Mississippi. What is good about it is it creates an RSS feed on the fly that I could cut and past into Notepad. I could then save it manually as a .rss file and sent to my web server for testing. What I liked aboutthe webpage was that I could see the data being added to the RSS file in real time. This helped me immensely in better understanding the formatting of RSS files. I did a quick test using the website and Tristana Reader and the output seemed to work fine. Another bonus is that the Java code found on the webpage is quite editable. I used it to create a personal wepage that would create an RSS feed.

I also I tried a number of desktop based RSS authoring tools. RSS Builder (Freeware) has a built-in FTP client that allows for the RSS file to be downloaded to ones website. It authors in RSS 2.0 and having tested it, I know it creates RSS feeds that work. RSS Builder also allows one to save and reload existing files for updating before being republished. If you don’t like freeware I found Tristana Writer to be very good with similar features to that of RSS Builder.

Other Authoring Tools Available To Call Upon

Other programs that I came across while looking into authoring programs included:

The Ups

After playing with these tools for some hours I ended up gaining a much greater practical understanding of RSS Feeds and how they are generated. So what did I do to overcome my problem with Twitter and Yahoo Pipes? I came across an obscure post on the root of the problem and I found a solution. I’ll cover that in my next post.

….brad….

Blu Ray, Green Media Computing, Dissecting Macbooks and Twitter Stories

Twitter Stories

Twitter has been up and down since I went to the Toronto Raptors game last night. It’s great to see that MSNBC had its highest ratings ever with Obama, Clinton debate last night. http://tinyurl.com/2ye7hu I understand that Twitter was expecting a huge amount of tweets last night relating to the debate and maybe that’s what caused the outage.

I’m finding Twitter not very handy in a pinch with the service going up and down but here are my stories. I tweeted that I was at the game and the message obviously got out. I realized this morning that Stuart MacDonald had replied as he was at the game as well. Turns out he and I had talked last Saturday night at the Toronto Podcamp 2008. Stuart is the CEO & Founder of www.Tripharbor.com, former Founder Expedia.ca and CMO Expedia.com, and mesh Co-Founder.

When I walked down to Kipling Subway station to go into work today it was around 3:30 pm. I noticed a huge plume of smoke on the south side of the tracks. When I went by it on the train the smoke that looked more like steam was billowing in a huge cloud. The story at http://tinyurl.com/yvcuwt explains the fire and I gather that firefighters must have been dousing the roof when I went by. I immediately twittered noting the fire asking if anyone had information. My daughter responded by the time I surfaced and got telephone service at Old Mill and by the time I got to Yonge Station where I can pick up service Jason Theodor (http://thereisnobox.wordpress.com) had Twittered me with the details on the fire. Sweet…

New Media Gallery Launched At Ryerson University

I attended the launch of the New Media Gallery in the Image Arts School at Ryerson University. Ryerson has a terrific program in New Media. The School goes way beyond mainstream New Media and offers a very interesting program in Physical Computing as it relates to media production and exhibition. I think the students and faculty in the program believe that their program is not well known and the event occurred because the space was the first dedicated space specific to the program and in a University that is so space starved that was a reason to celebrate. My impression of the program is that it is as well known as New Media programs get. Amongst the countless things that I could get into about the innovation in the school, it’s worth noting that Josh Raskin who was up for an Oscar last week for I Met The Walrus is an alumnus of the program http://www.ryerson.ca/news/news/General_Public/20080128_RaskinOscar.html

One last thought on the New Media program at Ryerson. I first heard about this Technology from Steve Daniels who is the Program Director of New Media at Ryerson. It allows plants to communicate with people. It’s really neat and its the kinds of technologies that the students might experiment with in the New Media program. http://tinyurl.com/2pw282

Corporate or Publicly Owned Internet

According to portfolio.com Comcast admits that it planted people in a room at an FCC hearing into its practices. http://tinyurl.com/2cjn3c Wow! Begs the question…. Can we really trust corporations when it comes to network neutrality?

InfoComm 08

I really enjoyed the last two InfoComm’s I attended. InfoComm 08 registration is now open and it’s in Vegas this year. Infocomm 08 is occurring in conjunction with NXTcomm08. It’s a network-enabled voice, video and data show. http://www.nxtcommshow.com. InfoComm 08 will feature a walking Las Vegas Digital Signage tour and a tour of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that will include their state of the art the Casino Laboratory and the Casino Surveillance Lab. http://tinyurl.com/37kdm6

SMPTE Toronto Meeting March 11, 2008

The full details of the SMPTE Toronto meeting that I’ve been working on is online at http://www.smpte.ca. It’s titled Green Media Computing – From Data Centre Cooling Through Production Technology Virtualization. Should be fun.

Ubuntu… Mobile Edition

Ubuntu Mobile is something that I was not aware of. http://www.ubuntu.com/products/mobile

NMC Launches Open Virtual Worlds Project

The New Media Consortium (NMC) announced a $250,000 two-year collaboration with Sun Microsystems to launch the Open Virtual Worlds Project. This effort is very welcome as the effort is aimed at making it easier to learn, work, and exchange ideas in virtual space. The project will develop a range of standards-based, portable open-source educational spaces, content, and objects, and use them to extend open source Project Darkstar and Project Wonderland virtual world platforms. http://tinyurl.com/3735qr

Random Thoughts

Zerofootprint Calculators

You’ll find a number of Zero Footprint Calculators at http://tinyurl.com/3bafck

I read an interesting article where one of the new Mac Books was dissected. You can read all about it at http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=3240 . It’s quite detailed and it has a handy little chart that outlines the hardware differences..

Adobe’s AIR

Adobe’s AIR platform allows developers to create web applications that run on desktops without a web browser. http://tinyurl.com/ys9acb

Blu Ray

Blu Ray buyers guide http://dvd.consumerelectronicsnet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=310791

Launchy

Launchy is a free windows utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, the icons on your desktop, and even your file manager. Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes! http://www.launchy.net/

Online Bible 

Ever need a biblical quote? AskSam has the King James Bible online at http://www.asksam.com/ebooks/Bible/

IPTV, HDTV, YouTube and Virtualization

IPTV In Canada

In the CRTC hearings relating to new ownership, it came to light that Bell Canada is reviewing the competitive landscape before deciding to add Internet Protocol TV service (IPTV). http://tiny.cc/te4YV To my way of thinking IPTV would be welcome in my household if I didn’t have to purchase a basic service and I would seriously consider dropping my cable service. Since I live in TO my switch to HDTV will include getting my local service for free using an HDTV over the air antenna. I’ll use a MythTV system to handle all of my household media.

That said I’d welcome a service that complements free over the air television by offering non broadcast stations such as the sports and specialty channels. I trust the CRTC won’t put in regulations that forces me to buy a basic package when all of the basic services can be delivered via ATSC. On another front it’s looking like a lot of the sports teams I watch such as the Blue Jays, Raptors, Toronto FC, Argo’s etc may be –or are– starting offering streaming services that bypass traditional broadcasters to deliver their product anyway. Without an IPTV service available, I wonder if the trend toward downloading bittorrent content will continue to grow? I think so….

Michael Geist Digital Pioneer

It’s great to see that University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist will be honoured as a digital pioneer by the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. Last year, Geist led the public protest to proposed Canadian copyright law changes that would have devastated consumers’ technology rights. His blog makes for great reading at http://www.michaelgeist.ca

Corus Entertainment Building

I found out today that the Corus Entertainment building, which will house 1,300 media and entertainment sector workers, is expected to be completed by 2010. It’s being built on waterfront property a kilometer east of the Sugar refinery located at Cooper Street. The stretch of beach between the two locations is going to be called Sugar Beach.

W hat most Torontonian’s don’t know is that Cooper Street was once Cooper’s Wharf. In its day Cooper’s Wharf Toronto’s main transportation and shopping hub. Everything that came into Toronto came through Cooper’s Wharf. Toronto’s first general store and a shipbuilding slip was once located there. It was the place dock where passenger ships arrived and sailed away to far-flung destinations. Cooper’s Wharf was no more by 1845 and all that remains of this once historic landmark is Cooper Street. More info at http://tinyurl.com/2nf2tx

Using Twitter To Assist With My Blog

I found it very useful today to tweet my Twitter account with ideas that popped into my head today as fodder for my blog. It got me thinking that it would be very useful if I could tweet to an address and get related images and a different one to get links for the research I do… One thing I did discover in my exploration was Jason Theodor’s tweet sheet at http://jasontheodor.com/2008/02/15/twitter-tweet-sheet/ . Hmmm… I wonder what these cheats actually do?

Best Social Network

After opening a Facebook account last, reactivating my Twitter account and getting it interacting with this blog this article “Facebook, Ning or LibraryThing? – Plugging into the best social network for you“‘ was another article that I read today that I found of interest. If I get a little time later on tonight I’ll take a look at some of the other services it notes. http://tinyurl.com/2u8fvh

Virtualizing Computer Desktops

I’m in the process of arranging a Toronto Section SMPTE Evening. One of the topics will be ”
Virtualized Media Production Desktops – Looking Into The Future “. It looks like HP might confirm as one of the speakers they have Remote Graphics Software that is proprietary. http://tinyurl.com/32yce9 One person who has confirmed is Dr. Michael Murphy, Principal Investigator and Lead Research, Accessfabrik Lab, here at Ryerson. His group have done a lot ow work Virtualizing Desktops in industrial environments using Open Source software and tools. http://accessfabrik.rcc.ryerson.ca. Should be an interesting evening.

Eran Frank On Server Virtualization

Another presentation at the Toronto Section SMPTE meeting that I’m arranging for March 11 is a presentation based on the work of Eran Frank of Ryerson. It’s an amazing story of what he’s done for the University. If you’re at Ryerson on Wed. Feb. 27, Eran Frank will present info on Ryerson’s Virtual Server Technology from 10 -11 am, in RBB 2-021. If you’re not in the Toronto area or are just interested download this (http://tinyurl.com/33kkl4). Or you can come and watch me deliver a paper on server virtualization that will outline Eran Franks work at the SMPTE meeting. Details at www.smpte.ca.

Hacking the 2008 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition

Speaking of SMPTE I got an e-mail today from them noting that the 2008 SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition has put out a Call for Papers. This year its in Hollywood. http://tinyurl.com/2zu6xf

Random Thoughts

YouTube Getting Better For Technology Research and Learning

I gather in trying to block domestic access, Pakistan’s government blocked YouTube for several hours on Sunday. (http://tinyurl.com/ys9mrg) I’ve not been a big YouTube fan but I’ve been finding it useful for research. For the SMPTE presentation I mentioned above I plan to show 3 YouTube videos on Virtualization. It’s a lot easier to play them then arrange for speakers. The three I’m planning to play are VMWare What Is Virtualization http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnNX13yBzAU, Virtualization…What’s the Big Deal? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDiM19KShAA&feature=related and Multicore and Virtualization http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TiEbHsC5d0&feature=related. Lets hope no-one else tries to take the service down during my presentation.

iBand – The Future Of Music Instrumentation

iBand… Is it the future of bands. You tell me. http://tinyurl.com/3exeyr.

Ryerson University’s New Media Gallery

It’s worth noting that Ryerson’s New Media School will be launching its New Media Gallery this Thursday at 6:30 pm. If you’re interested celebration is planned from 6 to 7pm at IMA323 around the event. I think I’ll drop in.

Taking Risks

I read this article today titled Taking risks may be the smartest way to advance your IT career. The story cites several examples from a number of management types who talk about where and how they have taken risks. I really relate to the line in the story that says “Their stories show that taking risks, even those that don’t pan out, can have big payoffs.” I’ve often found that one can recover from mistakes. The most important thing about mistakes is to learn from them. http://tinyurl.com/2tp2b2

Telephone Teleconferences
Yesterday I sat through a telephone teleconference that had lots of holes in it because it was called in a rush to deal with a problem we were having at work. I think the most important thing a teleconference has to have is an agenda and someone moderating the call. Hence I found this article on Tips and tools was timely. http://tinyurl.com/3da87u

What’s Making These Social Media Press Releases So Hot?

After seeing Collin Douma’s Social Media Press Release session at the Toronto Podcamp 2008, I get this; http://tinyurl.com/2ddvgh

Roger Waters Has New Song

If your an old Pink Floyd fan like I am you may be interested to know that Roger Waters new song To Kill The Child will be on the Body Of War soundtrack. It will be released March 18. http://tinyurl.com/yp9zg2 . I also heard that Roger Waters will be back on tout this summer and Pollstar confirms it (http://tinyurl.com/28zeo5) and their were rumours of a new album. I’ll purchase tickets to see him anytime and anywhere I can make it too. His show last year at the Rogers Centre was amongst the best I saw last year and the best sounding arena shows of the hundreds that I’ve seen.