Bugs, bugs, everywhere

June 27, 2006 | Leave a comment

Sometimes it’s easy to get despondent about bugs showing up in software you write. It’s possible to spend so long on a project that it almost feels like one of your children; any perceived imperfection hits you at your core. We’ve been doing some bugfixing lately, and it can occasionally feel a bit like you’re playing whack-a-mole.

But then you use other software.

I’ve been playing with a major open source PHP survey tool with the brief of making it work in Japanese and Chinese (on a Win2003 IIS box). Now, allegedly it can support these character sets, but in fact it has a little difficulty – so I spent a couple of hours adding the right headers and tweaking things to make it end-to-end UTF-8 compliant. It’ll now take pretty much any character set you throw at it; great.

Until you try and export the data to CSV, so you can import it into Excel. It turns out that Excel has a little buglet when you import CSV files – it ignores the character set and basically assumes everything’s in ASCII. In particular, Japanese looks a bit like a kitten has had a little dance across the keyboard; it’s total gibberish. It turns out you have to rename the CSV file so it has a .txt extension, in order to trigger Excel’s “tell me all about this file because I don’t understand” wizard, which asks you how it’s encoded and makes everything okay again.

After this little adventure, I feel much better about everything. Bugfixing is continuing apace (and will speed up as of next week), but on reflection I think we compare rather well.

This has been an unashamedly techie post, and I apologise – my next one will be about mountain vistas, blue sky thinking and synergy. Or something.

Live chat in the page

June 26, 2006 | Leave a comment

This is pretty neat – stick any URL at the end of gabbly.com/ and you get a personalised chatroom for that page. Click the link to chat on my weblog.

Not quite sure what the business model is, but it’s pretty neat. I think live chat scratches certain itches other forms of communication can’t match (although the ultimate goal, I think, would be videoconferencing / Skype-style VoIP within the page).

We’re looking at writing a chatroom plugin for Elgg communities, incidentally, so look for that functionality showing up on elgg.net sometime over the next few weeks.

Firefox VoIP

June 22, 2006 | Leave a comment


From the browser-as-platform department: voice functionality built directly into Firefox.

Vital Signs

June 21, 2006 | Leave a comment


A short film told in American Sign Language. Amazing.

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