Time Lapse of Shuttle Demate

This is pretty neat. When the Space Shuttle has to land at Edwards AFB out here in California due to bad weather in Florida, a Boeing 747 carries the Shuttle back to Florida. The video is a time-lapse of taking the Shuttle off of the back of the 747…

Changing Amazon terms hits LibraryThing

LibraryThing has had to modify the way they link to their sources of data for their book pages.

Everyone at LibraryThing disagrees with this decision. LibraryThing is not a social cataloging and social networking site for Amazon customers but for book lovers. Most of us are Amazon customers on Tuesday, and buy from a local bookstore or get from a library on Wednesday and Thursday! We recognize Amazon’s value, but we certainly value options.

Importanly, the decision is probably not even good for Amazon. Together with a new request-monitoring system, banning iPhone applications that use Amazon data, and much of their work on the Kindle, Amazon is retreating from its historic commitment to simplicity, flexibility and openness. They won through openness. Their data is all over the web, and with it millions of links to Amazon. They won’t benefit from a retreat here.

Tim Spalding and the gang at LibraryThing have always struck me as being very clear-minded in their goals and the best way to help their users. I agree with their assessment.

Soil Moisture Active & Passive

One of the projects that I spend time on at work is the Soil Moisture Active & Passive (SMAP) mission. and the project homepage just got a redesign.

If you’re like me, the first question you had was “Wait, do I pronounce that S-map, or smap?” I’m pleased to tell you that it is smap, one syllable.

The high accuracy, resolution, and global coverage of SMAP soil moisture and freeze/thaw measurements are invaluable across many science and applications disciplines including hydrology, climate, carbon cycle, and the meteorological, environmental and ecology applications communities.

It’s a big spinning antenna! Dynamically, very cool. Somewhat challenging to simulate, in the computer modeling sense, and very interesting…

Tellico 2.0's first bug

OK, the prize for the first big goofball mistake in Tellico 2.0 is one that causes a crash when exporting to HTML in most cases.

The ironic thing is that I appeared to have created the problem when I updated the export code to allow me to write unit tests for it. HTML export works fine in the test, but Tellico, the app, was setting the configuration wrong. All the articles I’ve read about there being no such thing as a harmless code change are true!

So, my apologies if you download Tellico, created a collection, tried to export your HTML page and promptly get a crash. We’ll hire new Quality Assurance people immediately.

Tellico 2.0 is finally out there

I just released Tellico 2.0, which is the first version of Tellico for KDE4. It’s taken me a while!

As always, I get rather nervous when I finally get up my courage to make a release. Five times out of 10, I do something stupid and mess up some portion of it. Maybe the i18n configuration, or forgetting some debug code, or adding in a fix that doesn’t work. And then I’ll get one or two angry emails about it.

But on the whole, this is a rather rewarding exercise. Number one, my wonderful wife is downstairs making brownies for us to celebrate. Number two, the number of positive, complimentary emails that I receive far outweigh the negative ones. Number three, I love scratching that itch of programming something that helps me!

This is a .0 release, ported to a new platform. So I expect there to be some whopper bugs in there. I’ve started adding more unit tests, particularly for the data sources and the translators, and those have certainly caught more than a few mistakes on my part. But there are bound to be bugs, so backup your data file if you care about your data!

Moving the Tellico website, source code repository, mailing list, and bug database was no small task either. I have received a lot of help and support from folks on the extragear mailing list, the KDE sysadmins, and many others who take the time to send me suggestions, feedback, and bug reports. Thank you very much!

I don’t have a grand plan for further feature development, at the moment. My thoughts of migrating to a full SQL backend have been shelved. I’m toying with the idea of adding some sort of RDF integration, maybe using the Nepomuk framework. There are also a few additional formats and sources that I would like to add to Tellico. The sky’s the limit!

The Register writes on the Amazon API

Cade Metz, over at The Register, published an article on Monday about Amazon’s requirement for authenticating API requests. He had called me over the weekend to chat, and we exchanged a couple of emails.

I think he wrote a fairly straight-forward piece, though my wife thinks his quote of my blog post made me sound a bit cold-hearted. Sorry, folks. You’ll just have to use a different search source. Yeah, maybe I could have phrased that better. And I actually think I can backport the implementation fairly quickly to the KDE3 version of Tellico. Just as soon as I get Tellico 2.0 out…

Like any internet article, some of the comments are insightful and some are confused. One accuses me of being a freetard/leech, one confuses application keys with Amazon Associates IDs, and then one guy says:

“Tellico had the same key. It was hard-coded in the source.”

Rather shoddy coding practices on display there, me old mucker.

“Some other application could have used the same key, since it was pretty much public, though”

If you’re an administrator, then you’ll be wanting to keep close tabs the server load which you’re shouldering out of sheer generosity, so it’s of no surprise that they’ve clamped down on security if these open source idiots have been handing out their security keys willy-nilly.

I think this guy forgets what open-source means. Here’s a hint, it means the source is open. Before the authentication requirement, Tellico used an Access Key, purely for identifying the request as coming from Tellico. It wasn’t for security. Sure, you could argue that Tellico should have been requiring users to register for and obtain those keys on their own, from Day 1. In fact, I’ll tentatively agree with you. But by far, the number of desktop applications that utilized the Amazon API, used the Access Key as a way of identifying the generator (application) of the request rather than the source (user) of the request.

I can see this being the driving motive for private keys. Amazon are allowing these (non-profit generating) database queries out of good will, despite these apps clearly being in violation of the T&C (you’re not going to purchase a book or album from Amazon, which you’re software has just catalogued you as clearly already owning.)

I’ve been criticized at least once for including Tellico’s Amazon Associate’s ID as the default setting for HTML export and linking. And true, out of the box, all the Amazon links in Tellico use that ID as essentially, the referrer. But it’s also one of the easiest settings to change, and was included as a config option for the Amazon data source from the beginning. In fact, you could have multiple Amazon sources, each with a different Associates’ ID affiliated with it.

While the affiliate ID has not generated that much in referral fees, it shows that a significant number of people are browsing Amazon products that are linked from Tellico’s HTML export. But maybe the comment writer does have a point. Now, with the requirement that each user provide a secret key, the onus for ensuring that Amazon’s Terms & Conditions are met falls on the user rather than the developer.

If you’re a Mac user, check out Delicious Library. Also notice that it doesn’t give you the option of changing the exported affiliate code. And at first glance, their update to Delicious Library for Amazon’s API switch doesn’t appear to require a user-obtained key as Tellico does. Anyone want to argue that DL has, as its primary purpose, advertising and marketing the Amazon Site? I think that serves as pretty good corroborating evidence of the practices followed by Tellico…

But I do resent being called an open-source idiot! Just for the record…