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Web TV Highlights no.1

When you live and work in a world of technology it is easy to forget that it is not the technology that matters but what people do with it. Right now there is a huge amount of creativity being released into the web TV world. It is very exciting and I have been finding myself watching more and more online, so I thought I would start writing occasional posts about what has stood out for me. I'm going to embed previews where possible too, so I hope that the folk behind the shows don't mind.

Node.js, CouchDB, CouchApps and PHP 5.4 on the Raspberry Pi

A close up of the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi might not be a heavyweight in the specifications department but that is no reason why this inexpensive educational computer shouldn't help you learn more about some of the latest technology used to create web sites. The availability of some of the latest open source software in Arch Linux ARM introduces the exiting possibility of using the device as a mini portable web server (you could even battery power it). This could be very useful, not just for learning about these new technologies but also if you wanted to try your sites out with client machines that may not let you install server software locally, e.g. phones, tablets and set top boxes.

Getting started with watching web TV

Shot from a TV studio control room looking through the rear window.

This year's CES was abuzz with announcements about Internet connected TV sets. Much discussion of the technology powering these televisions followed and on this blog I have been exploring some of that technology over the past few years. Alongside these developments a whole new industry of web television is springing up. Last month even saw the first ever International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards that highlighted the achievements of this sector. However as this is a whole new world of television, where do you start? I made a resolution this year to find out much more about web TV. Here are some interesting examples of web TV shows that I've been watching.

Book Review: Learning SPARQL

Front cover of book

I've been experimenting with SPARQL for some time and was lucky enough to have had some training at work on it, but on several occasions when reading Bob DuCharme's Learning SPARQL I found out something that this very powerful language could do that was new to me. The book provides quite a detailed overview of the capabilities of the language and takes the reader right from their first steps in constructing a query through to using it as a data source for programs. The capabilities of both SPARQL 1.0 and 1.1 are covered, with warnings when commands only work in 1.1. If you are looking to take your first steps in learning SPARQL, or maybe you are someone who can already write queries and would like to enhance your skillset, perhaps exploring topics such as creating, updating and validating data then you may well find this book very useful.

Book Review: Building Web Apps for Google TV or "Why I read this book even though I don't have Google TV"

Book cover

I don't own a Google TV device and I live in the UK (at the time of writing Google TV boxes are only available in the US) so why, you might wonder, would somebody in my position want to read a book about how to build apps for it? Thanks to the magic of web technologies it turns out that in the context of this book not owning a Google TV device doesn't matter all that much. In fact if you have a computer that runs Google Chrome then this book can still work very well as a primer on how to develop for the TV web and the issues involved. If you already have web development or design skills and want to start developing for TVs this book could be for you as it will tell you not just about the technology involved but also how to create an experience for the user that will work in the living room.

A Launch Party for Firefox that showed Mozilla provides inspiration as well as browsers

The winning Firefox 4 T-shirt designOutside a trendy workspace in London's Kings Cross on Thursday 21st April, a man in a fox costume ushers people greets people on their way to celebrate the launch of Firefox 4. Inside people are wearing party hats, enjoying decorated cupcakes and proudly wearing Mozilla T-Shirts in a good reminder to us all that open source software is something that we should both advocate and celebrate as a great opportunity. During the evening we get treated to some great presentations that show off what the latest version of Mozilla Firefox is capable of and also how HTML5 technology will redefine our expectations of what a web browser can do. However, there is much more to Mozilla than Firefox.

PhoneGap Build makes apps in the cloud for multiple platforms

Part of the phonegap build status screen for an app, showing downloads and errorsJust targeting one mobile platform is not good enough anymore but building apps for lots of different mobile phone platforms could be a long and tedious task. Every smartphone platform has its own software development kit (SDK), these will need a developer to use different languages to be able to work with them all. You could easily end up with five or six code bases in order to reach a decent number of devices. So what to do if a mobile web site isn't seen as an acceptable alternative? Fortunately mobile apps and mobile web sites are two ends of a spectrum of possibilities. Sitting somewhere in the middle is PhoneGap Build, a service that lets you develop using Javascript, HTML and CSS and then builds apps for five platforms in the cloud.

Bring web video in from the cold with Ericsson Labs' Web Device Connectivity

WDC logoImagine a situation where you are sat on your sofa using a laptop to find interesting videos on the web. The laptop is great for this as it is close and you can get a lot of information onto the screen, you also have the keyboard and mouse so navigating options is very useful. Now you've found the video you might hit a snag, what happens if you prefer to play it on that nice big television that is only a few feed from you, instead of the smaller screen of the laptop? Sadly there is often no easy way to do this, but the team over at Ericsson Labs have been working on a solution: Web Device Connectivity (WDC), a solution designed to bring media devices in the home closer to the web by combining the power of the DLNA standard with a web API.

Book review: Drupal 7 First Look

Front cover of Drupal 7 First LookThe release of Drupal 7 was a long time in coming and is a major upgrade from and means major changes for anybody used to working with Drupal, the popular content management system and web application framework. Every major version number means lots of new features, but also breaking changes making upgrading possibly tricky depending on how your site is set up. It also means that you need to know what the benefits are of the new version before deploying Drupal. In an attempt to address this need Packt Publishing have released Drupal 7 First Look by Mark Noble and were kind enough to send me an electronic review copy.

A test drive of Ubuntu Server in the Amazon EC2 Cloud

Cloud Computing is a hot topic in IT circles right now and many will be keen to try out some of the technology involved to gain an insight into how they or their organisation might be able to benefit from this area. One significant product is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (also known as Amazon EC2) which offers the promise of a server image that can adjust its specifications to cope with peak demands on a website. Getting started with this product has previously meant a lot of preparation though, lots of reading up on new terms and new ways of doing things and that is before understanding a pricing structure which thanks to its pay as you go nature might work out cost effective, but also takes longer to understand. Fortunately Canonical, the commercial backer of Ubuntu has stepped in and introduced an offer where you can test drive an instance of Ubuntu Server 10.10 on EC2 free of charge for an hour. I decided to take up this opportunity and see what I could learn.

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