Friday, 30 September 2005

Your blog: search engine rankings, anonymous blogging

There's been lots of talk already about a handbook released recently for free download by Reporters Sans Frontieres, called "Handbook for Bloggers And Cyber-dissidents". It's useful not just for cyberdissidents but, as it says on the tin, for bloggers too.

Getting your blog picked up by search engines

In particular there's a 6-pg. chapter on "Getting your blog picked up by search engines" which has some good tips. I've always tried to make my posts useful to readers by having properly descriptive titles and headings, and relevant text at the start (it's the first 50 words which count it seems), and apparently that really helps with the search engines, which may explain why I rank pretty well on Google for some searches. The words you use for links also matter (as I should have figured when I first heard about "Googlebombing"). Well, that's me avoiding "here" for my link text from now on!

There's also a chapter on what ethics bloggers should have, sensible stuff like thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency - more for journo-style blogs than "pouring your heart out" ones, though, really.

And there's a bit on "What really makes a blog shine" which again is mostly common sense but bears repeating.

Blogging anonymously

I've previously mentioned some useful links on anonymous blogging before. This handbook also has a chapter on how to blog anonymously, plus one on technical ways to get round censorship. In a sentence - it ain't easy! I wonder if anyone has done a tutorial that us mere mortals can understand on how to use Mixmaster? (if I have a quiet Christmas holiday, and there is demand for it, I guess I could grit my teeth and buckle down to trying it...). I do blog anonymously myself, but only in the sense that I use a pseudonym and don't give away any identifying details in my posts. If a government wanted to it could easily figure out who I am (but hopefully others like employers can't!).

The chapter on ensuring your email is private wasn't as practical as the rest, I thought.

All in all though this is an interesting handbook and worth a read, even if you're not into political blogging - especially the search engines chapter.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Technorati: link count and blog ranking changes

Technorati have just tweaked their backend (sounds kinda rude!) to change how they take account of links pointing to a blog, and therefore how highly they rank a blog on Technorati (the blog's "authority").

They now only count links from blogs over the last 6 months (though they still store old links). So links to your blog which are more than 6 months old are ignored for ranking purposes. Technorati engineer Adam Hertz said in the Technorati Weblog post on this yesterday: "Up until now, we displayed a count of all links from blog homepages, which tended to weight more highly blogs that have been around for a long time, even if they have not been posting recently... Our new link counts expose more active blogs and rising stars, allowing readers to discover blogs currently receiving the attention of the blogosphere."

They say they welcome feedback on the changes.

All I can say is, as my blog rank has risen from (I think it was) the 18,000s to (as of today) no. 8,104, I ain't complaining!

To see your own blog rank just search Technorati for your blog's URL and your Technorati rank should be listed under your name, at least if you've claimed your blog on Technorati. To shortcut the process, if you like enter your blog URL in this box and click "Search" (opens in new window):

However when searching Technorati I'm still getting messages like "Sorry, we couldn't complete your search because we're experiencing a high volume of requests right now. Please try again in a minute or add this search to your watchlist to track conversation" - it seems related to the search words or URLs strangely, as when searching for other words or URLs there is no problem. Strange that, when they say they've been working on speed and performance issues too.

Plus clearly Technorati's problem with not indexing certain blogs is still continuing...

Let's hope they'll now turn their attention to basic stuff like that.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, 24 September 2005

London Geek Girl Dinner, 11 October 2005

The second London Geek Girl Dinner, London Girl Geek Dinner, London Girly Geek Dinner (call it what you will, you get the drift!) will be on Tuesday 11 October 2005 at 7.30 pm, organised again by the initimable Sarah Blow.

I posted previously about the first dinner, which was fun.

Sign up for the next one here. Men allowed only if accompanied by a responsible female geek!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Feedburner feeds: pings for changes in your feed

If you use Feedburner for your blog feed, you should turn on Pingshot, a new service introduced yesterday by Feedburner: "When you use the new PingShot service, we will 'ping' a collection of services that you choose whenever we detect that your feed has new content."

To do that just login to your Feedburner account and click Publicize, then select Pingshot (on the left). I've ticked everything on that page (PubSub, Ping-o-matic, Newsgator) and clicked on the "Add one" dropdown for "up to four additional services" and added as many as I could. They only list 4 anyway so I added them all - Feedster, Icerocket, and Tailrank (plenty of time to check occasionally in future if new ones have been added and if I want to change my list).

While you're at it you might select Awareness API on the Publicize pages too, and turn it on - "The Awareness API allows developers to build applications that can display, analyze and promote your feed's traffic data outside of FeedBurner". I've not had a chance to look into how much that's being used by external developers, but I figure it can't hurt.

I really like Feedburner. Their free service is extremely useful and well thought out and the support is excellent - friendly, helpful and prompt - especially on their support forums; and they keep improving their service and features all the time. This is the way a Web service should be run, and I hope they continue to go from strength to strength. Nope, I don't have shares in the company - if only!

(By the way, I'm assuming most people know about feeds generally - I've been thinking of doing a really basic "ground up" post on feeds and your blog, Feedburner etc. If that's something that would be of interest to you please let me know by a comment or email and if there's demand I may rustle something up.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, 17 September 2005

Google searches: biassed? Nah...

Google Blog reported complaints by users of bias because if you search Google for "failure" or "miserable failure", the top result currently is the White House bio for President Bush, but explained that this is due to the prankster practice of "googlebombing".

I am sure that Google are entirely neutral politically - or perhaps, more accurately, that the Googlebombers as a whole are (or maybe the rightwingers and leftwingers just balance each other out!).

Why? Well, as Anon. pointed out - just try searching Google for "ass".

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

Blogger: new Blog Search feature

Blogger have just introduced, in beta, a new "Blog Search" facility you can use Blogger style or Google style, and also through your Blogger navbar or dashboard. (One mystery: they say "The Navbar, however, provides two buttons: one to search the blog you are currently viewing, and one to search all blogs." My navbar only shows one button, still, and it's the same for other Blogspot blogs I've checked. Anyone else got the two button thing?? [Edited 24 Sept:] Both buttons are showing up now. Must have been a teething issue.)

It seems to be basically a Google search but limited to blogs - not just blogs though, but all blogs which publish feeds (so interestingly, no feed means no Google Blog Search - so if you haven't turned your feed on, do. In Blogger it's Settings, Site Feed, and make sure Publish Site Feed is set to Yes (it should be by default anyway - Blogger normally create the feed file for you whether or not you make use of it)). Google will also be producing a form to manually add your blog.

It even seems to index Technorati tag pages, see for example the top result in this search, though it's a mite peculiar that the title links to a Technorati tag page and the blog link at the bottom of that item (which I think is meant to be a link to the blog that the post came from) doesn't, and I've noticed other mismatches of this type too.

And if it just indexes blogs by feed, I wonder if this means blogs which publish limited feeds with only excerpts will find that only parts of posts get indexed?

Their comprehensive FAQ notes that this new search only shows posts from about June 2005 at the moment, though they are working on including older posts (a good thing - I hope they recrawl old posts in case they may have been edited, too).

You can search not only for words/phrases (in quotes), but also for URLs, so you can find which blogs link to your blog or even to a particular post. However it doesn't eliminate "internal" links so the results will include your own posts too, if you've linked to any of your own posts.

As you'd expect there are search options to enable you to search e.g. just within a particular blog (or indeed blogs) or URLs, or to limit the search by date; and there are advanced search options too with the usual Google search operators plus some new blog-specific operators. (From what I can see, though, typing a URL in the Find box gives exactly the same results as typing link:URL in that box, or typing the URL in the Find references box. Go figure...)

In the search results, they may show entire blogs matching your search, as well as specific posts. And if a particular post in the search results list has been linked to from other blog posts there's a neat "References" link which lists those other posts.

However, they still don't let you search user profiles, so my profile search form (which allows searching for particular interests, favourite movies etc) still has some use, as may my post on different ways to search Blogger.

This is all good stuff though, yay to Blogger and Google. I hope they'll introduce tagging and tag pages next, it would be great to be able to access tag pages at Google speeds with Google comprehensiveness. And how about categories...?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pure Digital's The Bug DAB radio/MP3 player: review, tips

The Bug, an innovative digital radio/MP3 player by Pure Digital, has been around for a while - but in my view it's still the best in terms of features and value for money, if you're looking for a DAB (digital audio broadcasting) radio with its high quality and potential for extra information in the broadcast e.g. the name of the song playing and the artist. (The Pure site has info on DAB generally including e.g. the difference from FM radio).

Tesco's are now selling it online relatively cheap at just over £100 all in, with free delivery. They usually cost over £120, so if you want one, get one while stocks last! (I wonder if this is a sign that maybe Pure are discontinuing the Bug or bringing out a new improved model?? Who knows...)

I personally don’t think the Bug can be beaten - especially at this price. There aren't many DAB radios around which can not only pause/rewind live radio but also record (for personal timeshifting use only, of course) onto any size SD card, including programmable timer recordings as well as live radio (and rewound live radio!). You can have 10 preset stations, the sound is great (with 5 EQ options), and it scores highly in the usability stakes, being beautifully intuitive. There's a digital as well as analogue out and a headphone socket. Oh, and an alarm and timer and sleep function, of course. Little touches like being able to set the display brightness both for standby and "on" mode are nice, but be warned the display is blue which I find slightly less conducive to sleep than say red or green.

A USB connection provides a degree of future-proofing via downloadable firmware upgrades plus the ability to transfer music from your computer to the SD card to play back on the Bug (and vice versa - the Bug will play MP3s). The latest trial firmware has an EPG (electronic programme guide) for the week ahead, so you can just view and select a programme up to a week ahead to record it rather than fiddling around programming. (The instructions are in a window at the end of the installation so you might want to copy and paste them into a document before you close that final window, though you can also get them from the Pure website). Some will like the cuteness factor too, and did you know that its eyes blink when you turn it on or off? Awwww….


  • DAB coverage varies, even within the UK, and many countries don't have it at all.
  • The Bug only records in MP2 format but you can get software to convert that to MP3 such as Easy CD-DA.
  • No SD card provided, nor USB cable.
  • Mains only so you're tethered, though unless you're a retro boombox type you wouldn't want to heft this round with you, it's not excessively heavy but it's not that portable either if you're a weakling like me.
  • Windows only for upgrades (though Pure say you can upgrade via Macs using Virtual PC/Win XP).
  • Firmware upgrades can be tricky, see below.
  • Not related to the Bug, but generally - stations should make more use of DAB capabilities to transmit info that listeners really want, like displaying who sang that song and what's it called, where you could buy or download it from - potential money spinner missed there (and I mean, how many people actually want to listen to the inane twitterings of "me me me aren't I sooooo interesting" (not) DJs who keep talking over the music and never announce what's playing, well I don't care what the DJ just had for dinner, just gimme the music!! [/rant]).

Firmware upgrades

Pure haven't rest on ther laurels, they issued firmware upgrades with bug fixes (if you'll forgive the pun!) and improvements back in August 2004 and December 2004, and in January 2005 they released a beta version with an EPG. Good stuff. Hopefully another full firmware upgrade will be out soon, as it's been a while since the last official one.

But upgrading the firmware requires patience. Their email support is helpful but the full troubleshooting info really should be on Pure's website, although it does contain a few recommendations which should be followed to avoid trouble e.g shut down all other open apps including background stuff like antivirus programs. In addition, make sure the Bug is OFF (or on standby) before you connect it to the computer. Then plug in the USB cable, then turn on the Bug. Let it go through the "new hardware found" routine (clicking Next where relevant, including searching for drivers); reboot if necessary. THEN doubleclick the updating software and follow the onscreen instructions regarding your Bug and computer.

If it seems to get stuck after you press "Yes" on the Bug to confirm the USB cable is connected, that may be because a popup window on the computer hasn't popped up where it should, but got hidden behind the install screen, so look for that window - it's more "new hardware" stuff, and you have to click Next to get it to proceed. Hopefully it'll then work.

The process is not as easy as it should be. It took me 4 tries, plus a fresh re-download of the upgrade, before I could get it to work - with several installation checking failures initially including, heartstoppingly, in relation to the restore of the original firmware (but it was OK - apparently they'd built in failsafes, thank goodness).

Factoids and Tips

  • To find out your exact firmware version, press and hold the Info button.
  • To go back up a level in the Menu without selecting anything, press the Menu key again.
  • Check the Pure website for which SD cards are compatible, not all makes may be.
  • FAQs are actually more comprehensive on the Pure site than on the dedicated Bug site.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,, , , , ,

Environmental self-help

Who knows what if anything is going to happen as a result of the Kyoto protocol or the "rival" Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, never mind when. Well, the health of our planet isn't going to wait on politicians - why should we?

New Scientist's 10 September 2005 issue contains a good article by environmental scientist Dave Reay about how each of us can do our bit to combat global warming. Not much, individually, maybe - but it would add up. Here they are.

Ten steps to saving the planet

  1. Dress for the weather - don't turn up the heating in the winter, wear more layers; vice versa in the summer; and insulate your house.
  2. Get out of the car - use public transport if you can.
  3. Get into composting e.g. with composting worms - so your waste doesn't contribute to methane production
  4. Fly less, especially short haul - take the train, consider Climate Care, hold conferences where less travelling is needed, or conference electronically.
  5. Change your driving habits or better still, your car - use slower cruising speeds, avoid short unnecessary journeys, share cars, service them regularly; consider smaller cars, and maybe diesel, dual fuel, hybrid or biofuelled ones.
  6. Remember the appliance of science - consider more energy-efficient appliances, low energy bulbs, but making new equipment costs energy so consider keeping gear that's working and less than 5 years old and run them efficiently e.g. clean seals on fridge coils and doors; turn off rather than put on standby.
  7. Avoid flatulent and jet-setting food (yep that's how they put it!) - less meat/dairy apparently means fewer methane-belching ruminants; buy local, in-season produce which doesn't cost energy to ship round the world, or grow your own.
  8. Learn the 3 Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle, particularly packaging, junk mail; buy less stuff ; reusing plastic bags can make a difference
  9. Improve your ethics at work - turning lights off, using energy-efficient office appliances, using energy-saving settings, printing on both sides of the paper and recyling waste paper
  10. Go green at the final checkout - cremation or caskets and vaults cost energy, consider natural burial e.g. (and I recall being very interested in an old New Scientist article about freezedrying your body to produce soil enriching powder, believe it or not).

Technorati Tags: , , , ,, , , ,

Recycling info via SMS text message

The BBC reported on a good idea just launched by Recycle for London

For 10p plus the usual text charge, you can text "recycle" plus your full postcode to 63131 to get info on when your recycling is collected or where your nearest recycling facilities are, and the number of your local recycling helpline to order a recycling box or bag.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, 5 September 2005

Nokia 7710 smartphone: how to set up for Gmail

Delicious bookmarks before domain name change:

I've recently got myself a Nokia 7710 smartphone - that's a PDA combined with a mobile phone (big landscape screen, touchscreen only). Lovely, lovely, lovely high resolution colour screen, great for web browsing. A full review and tips will follow.

But for now, here's how to set it up to use it to receive and send email from your Gmail account.

Enable POP access in Gmail

This is covered in the Gmail help. 'Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on' would be the quickest option, in my view. I also set it to keep Gmail's copy in the Inbox, just in case.

How to configure the 7710 for Gmail POP

The 7710 is not covered in the Gmail help, the closest is the generic help page. But I had to experiment a bit to get it to work.

So here's what to do - screenshots courtesy of freeware S90Capture - and yes, the screen is that clear.

From Desk, open Messaging:

In Messaging choose menu Tools, New mailbox:

You get the Mailbox Setup Wizard. Click Next:

Enter your mailbox name of choice, and pick POP3 for the mailbox type:

Enter your Gmail user details, i.e. display name, your Gmail user name and password, and your Gmail address (pity there's no copy/paste working in that screen) - for user name, note that you have to include the "" at the end. [Edited 5 Sept 2005:] BIG RED WARNING - it's really really easy to get your password wrong, especially if you use handwriting recognition and forget to switch (or switch back) to text or numbers or uppercase/lowercase etc (REMEMBER: with the handwriting recognition it's not whether you write in upper or lower case, but the setting you pick - you can write in uppercase and yet it will display, and be taken for, lowercase, if it's been set to lowercase, and vice versa). Be very careful, and take your time. The stuff you enter actually flashes up in the password box for half a second before it becomes a *, so watch that as you do it to check you've got it right. If you got it wrong and then you can't get in, and you go back and edit your settings (Tools, Message settings, E-mail) to try re-entering your password again, and you finally get it right, you may still have the wrong password in a later step which you ALSO have to correct manually, see below.

Then for server details enter and as shown below, and tap Next:

You get this "Mailbox Setup Complete" screen - but DON'T click Finish, you're not finished yet!

In that screen, tap Advanced, and you get this:

Set Retrieval as you like, it's not critical - e.g. retrieve Headers only, or Msgs. and attachments. I upped the e-mail size limit, myself. Password authentication should REMAIN Normal, don't change that. By NOT ticking Retrieve e-mails to Inbox, it will create a separate folder for your Gmail account, which I personally think is better (if you tick this, everything goes into your Inbox and is mixed up with your text messages etc).

The Sending tab isn't vital either, choose the settings you want here.

Then tap the Outgoing server (SMTP) tab, and tick Authentication required - it automatically fills in your Gmail username and password. ([Edited 5 Sept 2005:] BIG RED WARNING - if you entered your password wrong in the User Details screen above, and find you can't connect to Gmail, so you go back and correct the password there, note that the password in the Outgoing server tab does NOT automatically get corrected too - therefore you'll find that you can retrieve/receive your Gmail, but you can't send it. To be able to send Gmail, you ALSO have to delete the mistyped password in the Outgoing server tab and then enter the correct password here, too - very carefully. See the warning above about handwriting recognition and text, numbers or uppercase/lowercase etc, and checking what you enter as it flashes up in the password box for half a second before it becomes a *):

Finally tap the Other tab, and this is what you'll see.

Now the order is important here. FIRST, set the Incoming e-mail port and Outgoing e-mail port to 995 and 465 respectively as shown below:

THEN, for Security you pick Secure port (POP3S), as below. (If you did that before you entered the port numbers, you wouldn't be able to set the 995 - it greys out, as you can see.)

Finally, tap OK, and in the next screen Finish, and you're done. You can use the menu E-mail, Retrieve and send option to, as it says, retrieve and send mail on a particular account, or all of them. (There's also an Auto-retrieve and send option which you can set if you wish for individual accounts).

To send email via your Gmail account, use the menu option Message, Create, E-mail. In the e-mail drafting screen, pick Sending Options in the right hand command bar, and there is a Mailbox in use field where you can select your Gmail account and tap OK.

One little thing to watch - Outgoing e-mail port, on my 7710 anyway, sometimes reverts to another number; reset it to 465 if necessary, and save.

Accessing my Gmail on the move on this gorgeous screen, bliss!

[Edited 6 May 2006:] Some things to watch:

Sometimes when you try to send/retrive Gmail it claims the site has sent an untrusted certificate - I just ignore that message and hit Continue anyway, and it seems to be fine for me..

More annoyingly, once you open (and retrieve) a particular email, next time you hit Send/retrieve the opened email disappears from the list on the 7710 so if you want to refer to it again, best to copy and paste the contents of the opened email to e.g. a document, before you next tap Send/retrieve. Profimail is supposed to keep even opened emails but I've not had the chance to try it properly yet.

But now I've worked how to save your Gmail so it doesn't disappear when you open another email. See that post for other gotchas and tips on using Gmail via POP on your Nokia 7710.

To stop it from always downloading ALL Gmail since a particular (same) date/time rather than the newest email, and also to save a few pennies if you pay for all data downloaded on your Nokia 7710, you can to tweak your Gmail settings each time you're logged on via your computer, before you sign out of Gmail - see this post.

You may also be interested in:

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, 2 September 2005

Technorati: tagging your blog entire, plus Blog Post Tags

As pointed out by David Sifry of Technorati in a comment and in his blog, Technorati have just introduced the ability to tag entire blogs, not just individual posts. The purpose is to enable users to find blogs on a particular subject by browsing or searching, via Technorati's new "Blog Finder". Search results are shown ordered by authority (i.e. number of links to the blog from other blogs), but can be viewed in alphabetical order or most recently updated too.

Tagging entire blogs will of course work best for blogs that have definite themes/categories (e.g. mine would certainly have the tag "blogging", and Truckspy's "trucks"!).

It's good that Technorati are introducing new features, but this does mean even more work for us poor bloggers who have to set to tagging our blogs as well as our posts now. I personally would rather have the ability to do an "and" search for tags, i.e. find posts with "tag a AND tag b", and, even more, I hope that projects like these won't be diverting Technorati's scarce resources away from solving the perplexing indexing problems which have made many a blogger Technoratty, or from beefing up their support service as David Sifry had promised.

How to tag your blog

You can get your own blog tagged on Technorati even if you've not claimed your blog, although it's probably easier if you do. I won't say say anything about the process as it's well explained in Technorati's blog finder help (click that help link for an explanation of how to tag your blog). For non-Technorati members it may be easiest to link to tag pages on, or first create posts tagged so as to produce tag pages on Technorati or Icerocket etc, just to make sure the URL which ends with the tagname you want actually exists.

How to figure out which tags you use and how often

Don't know which tags to use for your blog? If you've been regularly tagging your posts, it might help to check what tags you've used most often in your blog (to the extent they've been indexed by Technorati - remember there are problems with Technorati tag pages still, so this won't be dead accurate). Technorati have provided a "Blog Post Tags" facility recently, which can tell you the 100 tags you use most frequently in your own blog (to the extent they've been picked up by Technorati), and how many posts bear a particular tag.

To use it, first you need to get a Technorati API key (I'm not sure it's enough to claim your blog, you may have to join their developers program too, to get the key - try logging in and go to the API Key page, if you see "Your Technorati API key is:" followed by a jumble of letters and numbers, you're fine, else you may have to join the developers program as mentioned, and try it again). Copy that sequence of letters/numbers (which is your key) into your clipboard.

Now fill in this form and hit Go, it'll open in a new window [edited 14 Jan 2006 to provide a form to fill in - easier for you all!]:

Your blog URL:

Your API key:

See top how many tags? E.g. top 100

(Using that form, by the way, is the same as going to the URL
pasting in your long key instead of "YourKeyHere", and changing "YourBlogURLHere" to your blog's main URL, e.g. mine is

You'll get, in a new window, a list of the top 100 (or whatever number you've picked) tags that you've used, displayed in your browser as an XML file. It's not very pretty but you can get the drift. Note that the resulting page gives the number of posts with a tag first, then the name of the tag used.

If you want it prettified, try the following:

1. Save that XML file on your hard drive, call it tags.xml or something like that. Open that file in a text editor like Notepad.

2. Delete the lines near the start which read:
<!DOCTYPE tapi PUBLIC "-//Technorati, Inc.//DTD TAPI 0.02//EN" "">
<tapi version="1.0">

3. Where those lines were, insert instead:
<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="" ?>

4. Delete the last line that reads:

And save and close that file (making sure it doesn't save as tags.xml.txt, but tags.xml - select All Files in the Save As Type and then insert the tags.xml in Filename. Unless you have problems, you can now go straight to step 6.

5. [Updated 14 Jan 2006:] This step isn't necessary now, as I've managed to upload an XSL file which you can use, but if there is a problem with the site where my tags.xsl file is hosted and you're desperate to see a slightly more prettified version, try the following.

In step 3 instead of the line above, insert the following then carry on with step 4:
<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="tags.xsl" ?>
Now in your text editor create a new text document called tags.xsl (again ensuring it doesn't save as tags.xsl.txt). Paste the following into the tags.xsl document, save (again as tags.xsl only) - make sure you save it in the SAME folder where you saved the tags.xml file - and close it:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<html xsl:version="1.0" xmlns:xsl="" xmlns="">
<body style="font-family:Arial,helvetica,sans-serif;font-weight:bold;font-size:12pt; background-color:#EEEEEE">
<div>Top <xsl:value-of select="document/result/querycount"/> tags from my blog recorded on Technorati:
<br />
<div style="margin-left:20px;margin-bottom:1em;font-size:10pt">
<xsl:for-each select="document/item">
<xsl:value-of select="tag"/>
<xsl:value-of select="posts"/> posts <br />

6. Now just doubleclick your edited tags.xml (or open that file in your browser e.g. Firefox - get it to Display All Files not just HTML), and the display should be a bit nicer and it'll be easier for you to check out your most frequently used tags as indexed by Technorati. Again remember the number of posts using a particular tag precedes the name of the tag.

Please note that I don't know XML or XSL (keep meaning to start learning!) so bear with me if all this is not as straightforward as it could be - it's only thanks to W3Schools that I managed to figure out something that seems to do the trick, at least for me, e.g. I have no idea what the tapi lines do but I couldn't get it to work until I deleted them, so this is the best I can do… (I tried to upload the XSL file to some free webspace I have so that you could just put in the link to that in your XML file without having to create your own XSL file, but it didn't work. It could be my host automatically transforming uploaded files, I'm trying to find out. I tried to upload my own edited XML file as an example of the end result, but it messed that up too though it displays fine on my own PC. Anyone got any suggestions/advice on that front, please let me know!)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your TV - connecting audiovisual (AV) equipment

As with computers, the AV world seems full of jargon. Many people just shudder and pay a little man from John Lewis a small fortune to hook up their new gear to their TV (as I confess I did for my VCR a few years back). It's a well known cliche that some people, certainly including some of the brightest I've known, can't even programme their VCRs.

Well I took the plunge when I got a hard drive/DVD recorder, and figured out how to hook it up myself. It's not that difficult once you've got the underlying logic. So here's my take on how to connect AV boxes - Freeview set top box, DVD player or recorder etc - very basic and conceptual, as that's the only way I know how to look at things, but hopefully it will demystify things a bit for some. (This is with a British/European bias naturally).

AV signals

There are several possible types of signals. In decreasing order of quality: RGB or component video (roughly equal); S-Video (not the same as S-VHS) and composite video. Obviously, try to use RGB or component video if you can. RGB is the most commonly supported high quality signal.

To use a particular signal type: box A has to be able to output that signal type, box B has to be able to receive that signal type, the cable you use has to be able to carry it, AND the sockets you connect that cable to may have to be set (in the box's menu options) to output that type on box A, and to receive that type on box B.

Cables and sockets/connectors

In Europe (including the UK) Scart sockets/cables (also known as euroconnectors) are the most common and easiest to use, and usually carry RGB signals. (For component video and composite video etc, other types of connectors are used, usually involving multiple cables). Generally, as you'd expect, the better (and more expensive) the scart cable, the better picture/sound you'll get.
Scart leads are usually NOT included with your box, most manufacturers are too stingy to give you one even with your several hundreds of pounds' worth of gear. So get one in advance if you can't wait to hook it all up once you get your shiny new box home.

On some boxes, certain sockets do double duty - they can act as outputs or inputs depending on what you connect them to and how, and on the menu settings. It may be obvious but worth emphasising that if one end of a cable is connected to an output (with that socket being set to be an output if necessary), the other end should be connected to an input (with that socket being set to be an input.)

Sockets on boxes or your TV will often be labelled AV1, AV2 etc (sometimes the labelling is annoyingly not shown on the box or TV, but it should be clear from the manual which socket of a particular box is considered "AV1" and which is "AV2" etc). The labelling AV1, Av2 etc is just a way to distinguish between different sockets on the same box - it can be other types of sockets too, not just scart sockets, which are labelled AV something. There's no magic in the numbering - AV1 could be an output on one box, but an input on another; AV1 could be a scart socket, AV3 composite video etc - you just have to check the manual to find out if AV1 on a particular box is an output or an input, what types of signals it can carry, and how to set it up in the menu if necessary to make it an output or input (as needed) and to make it output or receive the kind of signal, e.g. RGB, that you want (which should be the same at both ends!). By the way, on your TV remote control if you keep pressing the "AV" button it will just cycle through, displaying on your TV in turn the signals that come from the the TV aerial, then from the boxes connected to whatever is designated as AV1 on your TV, then whatever is AV2 for the TV, etc.

At the risk of stating the obvious, if a box is going to output AV signals to be shown on the TV, like a VCR or DVD player, then a cable should go from the OUT of the box to the IN of the TV; if a box needs to receive AV signals, like a VCR or DVD/hard drive recorder recording digital terrestrial TV from a Freeview box, then a cable should go from the OUT of the Freeview box to the IN of the DVD/hard driver recorder or VCR.

Not all scart leads are equal. Some scart leads are "fully wired" or "fully featured", and are more expensive. You need fully wired scart leads for some things. Mainly, some boxes can do fancy stuff like automatically turn your TV on for you when you turn on the box. For this to work, you have to connect the box to the TV with a fully wired scart lead. Also, TVs often have only one or two sockets that this works on - if you connect a fully wired scart lead to the wrong socket, it won't work, so check your TV manual to figure out which socket to connect it to, if you want this feature.


Most boxes need to be connected to your aerial, e.g. if you want to record to a DVD recorder while your TV is off. Most manufacturers will give you a spare aerial cable with your new box (no doubt they're cheaper than scart leads!).

The basic way is to connect the cable from your rooftop aerial to the Aerial In (also called RF In) of box A, connect the Aerial Out or RF Out of box A to box B's RF In (using the cable that came wth the box), and so on in a chain, until finally the RF Out from the last box goes to the Aerial In of your TV. That's all - you just have to remember it's always Out to In, and the last thing in the chain has to be the TV. (If you don't have any scart connectors or cables, for many boxes it will still work if you just connect the aerial cables between all the boxes as mentioned, without any scart leads - the signal just won't be as good. See further this webpage if you have no scart input or output connectors or leads.)

So a typical setup might be:
Freeview box - scart out to TV; another scart out from Freeview box to DVD recorder; RF IN from rooftop aerial; RF out to DVD's RF in
DVD recorder - scart out to TV; scart in from Freeview box; RF in from Freeview box's own RF out; RF out to TV

Switch on the power last to the boxes, only after you've connected everything.

My final suggestion is that you label cables at each end (I just use paper and sellotape!) to say e.g. "DVD out to TV" at one end and "TV in to DVD out" at the other. It will make life a lot easier when you upgrade or get new gear - it certainly enabled me to get it all working in less than 3 minutes when I upgraded my DVD/hard drive recorder recently.

And remember - you have to set the timer on your Freeview box separately as well as programming your VCR or your digital video recorder (unless the recorder has been set to record automatically on detecting a signal from the Freeview box, which you can do - check your recorder's manual - I don't, personally).

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Technorati problems: a new leaf?

Problems with Technorati seem to have been escalating in the last couple of months or so. Just search Google or even Technorati itself. But Technorati now appear to be turning the corner, or over a new leaf, to mix the metaphors...

I've detailed some problems with Technorati's tag pages before, and commented on their support issues, which others had reported to me and which I'd also experienced first hand myself.

To boot, since early July Technorati had stopped indexing my blog completely. Period. You couldn't even find my July/August posts by searching on Technorati, never mind checking the relevant tag pages. The initial response to me, and to other bloggers from what I hear, was that the problem was down to our blogs not using valid enough XHTML code. This made little sense to me as it had all worked fine before these problems started, even when my blog's code was equally (indeed even more) invalid. I know I wasn't the only person who then spent hours trying to get their template code as valid as possible and continually pinging Technorati, to no avail. My emails to support, pointing out that there was still a problem, went unanswered for about a month.

Finally, I decided to contact Mr Sifry direct, and I'm pleased to say that my blog started getting indexed again pretty much overnight, although the dates of the posts reported on Technorati were of course weeks if not months after their actual dates. Still, better late than never. They said there was indeed apparently something awry with how they indexed my blog (and I suspect some other blogs too), but that Technorati had deployed new and better parsing code recently and my blog was being picked up again. So - as I'd thought - it wasn't the fault of me or my HTML.

Today, Mr Sifry has posted acknowledging the problems they've had with support. Good on him. He says "We're busy expanding out our support capabilities, and also putting together tools to make it easier for users to help answer their own questions before a Technorati support staffer has to get involved, and we've already made a bunch of fixes and feature enhancements to help fix the most common support requests, like fixes in our blog claiming code". Bring it on!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Google sitemaps and verification

Following the queries about this, I've amended my original longer post and summary to add some stuff about verification.

I hope that will make things clearer. Verification isn't needed to get Google to index your updated blog, but rather for you to view more detailed stats. So, we Blogspot users and others who have no way to upload anything but posts to their blogging provider's servers will just have to be "detailed stats"-deprived.

There is no solution really except to lobby Blogger (the Suggest New Feature box at the bottom) and also Google Sitemaps to allow what we need - tell 'em you want Blogspot users to be able to have full Sitemaps functionality including verification!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,