Monthly Archives: October 2006

Wanted: PHP5 or Rails coder for eBay widget

Could you code a clean, usable web widget using the eBay API.

Required functionality

• The widget will display a user’s eBay items for sale (and possibly some other stuff) on their blog or homepage, using a script tag that renders the widget’s content.

• Users will add the widget to their pages using Snipperoo’s neat widget management system.

• The widget will fetch the data it needs via the eBay API.

• We want you to write both the client-side javascript responsible for displaying the items, and the server-side code that communicates with the eBay API and that is ultimately responsible for the content shown via the script tag.

• The server-side code can be either PHP5 or Rails. Snipperoo will host this code.

• We expect this development to take 2 or 3 days.

• eBay don’t have a widget that displays items for sale at the moment but they’ve asked us to build this and make it available to the world as an experiment.

Drop me a line (steve@snipperoo.com) if you’d like to have a go. Please let me know your price for the job.

About Snipperoo

Snipperoo makes managing the widgets in your sidebar easy and efficient. We aim to eliminate cut-and-paste entirely for bloggers who want to add content and features to their web sites, make it easier for widget creators to distribute their product and help site hosts and blogging companies by offering their users lots of funky add-ons.

Snipperoo‘s invitation-only beta test is under way now. Keep up with the news at the Snipperoo blog.

Another sad, jug-eared Tory comes out…

I bring you – without comment, of course – the voting record of Gregory Barker, utterly true blue MP for the constituency of Bexhill and Battle. I think you’ll also want to note TheyWorkForYou‘s (entirely algorithmic) assertion that Barker’s record shows him to be ‘moderately against’ equal gay rights (Stephen Newton, though, points out that he at least didn’t oppose civil partnerships).

Competition in unexpected places

Competition has already arrived in bits of the marketplace that seemed out of reach not long ago: domestic electricity and gas supply for instance. So called ‘natural’ monopolies turn out not to be so natural when you put them under the free-market microscope. How about this, though. I bet you never expected to see competition in waterways linking the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Nicaragua just announced a plan to build (dig? construct?) a canal across the whole (really quite wide) country, via the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua, wide and deep enough for even the largest supertankers. Unsurprisingly, the people of Panama responded by voting 3-to-1 to back a plan to widen their own Canal to meet the demands of Modern Shipping.

The wild card in all this Pacific-Atlantic-Pacific to-and-fro is – you’ll never guess – the Arctic Ocean which, by the time the Central Americans have finished their fancy canals, will have been conveniently cleared of ice by global warming. Since it’ll cost upwards of $500,000 to make one passage via Panama or Nicaragua, the Northern route is going to look pretty attractive for lots of destinations and Alaska will probably be the next Florida.

Hungary 1956 links


A handful of interesting archival videos at YouTube, including this lovely 90 seconds of trams in Budapest (nothing to do with the uprising, though, as far as I can see). Pictures, some contemporary, from flickr. Terrific interview with Gyorgy Ligeti (by John Tusa) who escaped Hungary in the wake of the revolution. Timothy Garton Ash in the New York Review on the fortieth anniversary of the revolution in 1996. Fascinating contrast with the fiftieth.

A perfect use of the Prelinger Archive of old movies held at Archive.org – expatriat Hungarians in Oregon filleted a bunch of Universal Studios & Warner Pathé newsreels from 1956 to make a fascinating compilation of American newsreel coverage of the revolution (don’t expect balance from this populist moviehouse stuff: Communists are ‘reds’ throughout).

Loads of good stuff about the uprising (Brits seem to call it an uprising and Hungarians a revolution) at the beeb, including this nifty timeline. An interesting account of the fighting from the English-language Budapest Times. Gripping transcript of radio transmissions from Budapest before, during and after the uprising (can’t find any audio recordings of those heartbreaking shortwave pleas for Western help from the besieged freedom fighters after the Soviet invasion but here’s an amazing little film of BBC monitoring staff transcribing Prime Minister Nagy’s appeal to the people of Hungary to end their protest).

A few weeks after the suppressed revolution, Hungary met The Soviet Union in Melbourne in the semi-finals of the Olympic Water Polo. Talk about needle. The pool, reputedly, ran red before Hungary won 4-0. Half the Hungarian team defected while in Australia rather than return to Hungary. Oh, and someone nicked a Soviet-era T-34 tank from outside a military museum in Budapest yesterday – a veteran of the uprising is suspected since no one else would have known how to hotwire it and drive it away!

Computing in a (really big) box

A skip
Sun’s big black shipping container is the most exciting thing to happen in computer hardware since they stopped shipping them with casters..

I remember sitting around rapping with my friends (my less fashionable friends, obviously) ten years ago about how, one day, you’d be able to rent computing power like you rent a skip or a generator or a portakabin or some other very basic unit of business capacity. I seem to remember wondering if it might come on a flatbed truck in a sort of anonymous-looking box and that you might just have to plug the thing in, attach it to the Internet and forget about it.

We speculated that the thing would probably ‘virtualise’ its capacity so that it appeared on your network as a single (huge) block of CPU and storage, no matter what was actually in the box.

Of course it didn’t occur to us that this thing might help with the kind of capacity crunch that hits a Web 2.0 business when its trendy site goes viral or gets onto the Yahoo home page. Nor did we really worry for a minute about the disastrous environmental impact of the vast datacentres serving YouTube and Google and MySpace (it didn’t occur to me that it might need its own water supply, either, I suppose).

What I like about The Black Box Project is that it’s evidence of Sun‘s continued creativity and defiance of the apocalyptic commoditisation of their core business. Sun ought to have gone bust three or four years ago: fast, flexible CPU is now cheap as chips, the UNIX workstation is no more. Not one of Sun‘s unassailable differentiators turned out to be defensible. Sun is proof that brains can reverse the ugly trend towards zero in the hardware business. Well done to Sun. I’m going to be looking out for Black Boxes round the back of all the big businesses I visit.

Thanks to Eastern Waste Disposal for the picture of a skip.

Inkjet wheeze

The Epson R220 is a nifty (and cheap) photo inkjet but it takes six inks and costs a fortune to feed (over £70 if you buy inks singly, £50 if you buy a six-pack). We’ve tried remanufactured cartridges before but they were rubbish. Now, I notice, you can buy 100% compatible own-brand cartridges at Asda and they cost half the price (£25 for a six-pack) and, so far, they seem to be at least as good as the real thing. Blimey.

Reuters arrives. Cool departs.

I guess the warbloggers who’ve convinced themselves that hyper-objective, scrupulously neutral Reuters is an arm of the giant global liberal conspiracy will be sending their avatars to picket the news agency’s latest bureau – a virtual one covering… erm… ‘events’ in the SecondLife RPG.

Can I be the only one who thinks Reuters’ bid for digital cool is a bit lame? I don’t know what the profile of SecondLifers is so I’m just going to assume that the arrival of a Reuters bureau in town will be received a little bit like the arrival at your sixteenth birthday party of your dad wearing his nicely pressed jeans.