Windows Live Messenger Update

According to Mess.be, invited testers of Windows Live Messenger should get their next beta today.

Apart from the many reported changes compared to build 0365, the refresh is not entirely the same as build 0562. New improvements:

Contact List (see screenshot)
– Nickname in black, personal status message in soft gray.
– Once again, a new logo.
– Your Display Picture and buttons aligned to the left again (phew!)
Word Wheel layout changed, Buddy List buttons now placed at the right hand side.
New icons for expanding groups.
Tab icons placed back inside the main window.
Less spacing between contacts.

Conversation Window (see screenshot)
Ink/type tabs on the right.

I'm looking forward to this update. I've found WLM a bit unstable recently and some of the bugs are realling annoying me.

More information at the Live Messenger Blog

Leave a comment if you want an invite. 

Online TV Recorder

Google Blogoscoped points to Online TV Recorder. It's a service which works like a PVR but you don't need any special hardware. Online TV Recorder will record the show for you and then allow you to download the programme.

I do wonder whether this is legal. It's certainly legal, in the UK, to record a television programme from the television and keep it for up to 30 days (or something along those lines, IANAL). I believe that it is also legal to go around someone else's house and to record a television show on their VCR and then take it home to watch.

Following that line of reasoning, this service should be legal as this service basically allows you to do that but uses the internet as a distribution medium.

However, from the other point of view, it is illegal to download a television show from BitTorrent. This service basically allows you to do that – download a television show but the difference is you have to let them know your going to download the programme in advance.

Any thoughts? 

PHP UTF-8

PHP is quite infamous for not being unicode friendly. This PHP library by Harry Fuecks should make it uber easy to handle UTF-8 unicode in your web application.

Harry Fuecks writes at Sitepoint:

PHP UTF-8 is intended to make it possible to handle UTF-8 encoded strings in PHP, without requiring the mbstring extension (although it uses mbstring if it’s available). In short, it provides versions of PHP’s string functions (pretty much everything you’ll find on this list), prefixed with utf_ and aware of UTF-8 encoding (that 1character >= 1 byte). It also gives you some tools to help check UTF-8 strings for “well formedness”, strip bad sequences and some “ASCII helpers”.

It's released under the LGPL so you can use it in most open source web applications.

I've not really investigated it properly but I may look into using this in my scripts. Investigating unicode has been on my to do list for quite a while but I've never got around to it. 

PHP 6 should have built in native support for unicode. 

Geneone Updates: Forum Icons

I've finally managed to update the copy of Geneone here at neonDragon.net to my latest build.

Forum Icons

Forum icons are neat. In Geneone Forum, each forum can have an icon associated with it. This icon is displayed in the forum listing. Moderators can upload an image and Geneone will automatically resize and crop it to the correct size.

This is great because it gives each forum a unique visual identity. I've still yet to reformat the forum list page so at the moment it looks really bad as the icon is scaled down to 32×32. Eventually I want to fix PNG transparency and also provide an easy interface to find images perhaps interfacing with Open Clipart (which seems to have disappeared somewhere) or other services which provide public domain/CC imagery. 

I currently have a mockup for a different kind of forum homepage which puts a bigger emphasis on images and personalization.

Files

I finally got around to adding file & upload support so I don't have to use Imageshack The screenshot above is hosted out of the File namespace. There needs to be some work on TinyMCE/Upload integration.

Also…

  • Upgraded to TinyMCE 2.0.4. There was some BC-break between 2.0.2 and 2.0.4 for plugins so it took me a while to figure out how to update emoticons. As a bonus, I fixed a bug where having the cursor right next to an emoticon and selecting another emoticon would cause the original emoticon to be overwritten .
  • I've updated the templates to conform to the latest specification of the hAtom microformat.
  • Profile fields are now gone from registration! Woo Hoo!

iTunes DRM

This article and this site says it all about Apple’s iTunes. DRM is the reason I don’t buy music online at the moment. Instead, I  buy CDs which are often cheaper and better quality than the regurgitated bile you get from iTunes. And it plays on Windows, Linux and even FreeBSD.

I really hope that the record companies decide to take on the advice from the head of Yahoo Music and try DRM-free music which does not lock you into one proprietary company. Many of these non-iTunes services have much better price and better quality than iTunes but they can’t compete on a fair playing ground with iTunes because they won’t play on the iPod. If record companies allowed companies like Yahoo and Napster to sell music in a format such as MP3, Apple will be forced to offer better quality and prices.

Besides, DRM doesn’t stop piracy at all since people pirate CD rips – not iTunes downloads. 

Yahoo! changes result display for Wikipedia

The Yahoo! Search Blog reports on a change to their results pages where Wikipedia links also have additional "Quick Links". Search Wikipedia for Star Trek for example. Below each result you’ll see up to 3 additional links to certain parts of that article. On the result for "Star Trek: Enterprise" (result 3), you’ll see the following additional links:

Quick Links: MilestonesPlotsSeasons 1 and 2

Not bad but it’s not that useful. Results appear in standard search results too. 

I do wonder whether this goes against the search engine’s roll of being unbiased. Yahoo! is displaying results slightly differently for Wikipedia and does not allow other web pages to have quick links. Any thoughts?

Why can’t Yahoo provide simple links directly to the target page rather than through rds.yahoo.com? 

Vista Voice Recognition

Check out this video for a demonstration of Windows Vista’s voice recognition feature. It’s around 13 minutes long and covers how you set up voice recognition on Vista and then shows it in action opening programs, writing and correcting text in Word and Notepad and finally using Internet Explorer to find an image of Bill Gates using only voice recognition.

Pretty neat. Skip to the 5 minute mark if you can’t be bothered watching the setup process  

Google Page Creator

Quite a few people have been talking about the launch of Google’s Page Creator service. This is a bit like a Geocities Google version. The WYSIWYG editor is quite cool and seems to produce fairly good HTML. The pages are hosted on the googlepages.com domain without any adverts so it’s a great way to get started with your own website without the complexities of HTML and the advert-ridden junk of Geocities or Tripod.

You get 100MB of storage space for pages and images. Oddly enough, Google seems to allows adult content (there is a checkbox on the Site Settings page) 

It feels like a bit of an outgrowth of Blogger to me. It has auto-save functionality and theme selection, similarly to Blogger.

Google Pages might be a nice place to host files which can be referenced from forum posts (or even hotlinked if Google allows it; not read the Terms of Use).

I do believe there may be a related spam problem with Google Pages. To use Google Pages you need a Gmail username and your webpage will be at yourusername.googlepages.com. It can be quite easy for spammers to harvest lots of valid e-mail addresses by searching for site:googlepages.com.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Blogger and Page Creator eventually merge into one service as they are quite similar. Perhaps Google will even decide to turn this into a full web hosting service with FTP, PHP, etc.  

Since there are reviews and screenshots on the blog of every man and his dog, I won’t provide screenshots or a detailed review – Google Blogoscoped has some screenshots and a nice review.