Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category


Grey Screen of Death


Today I was taking part in an online presentation from Dr. Simon Ball of JISC TechDis; one of his regular HE updates.  They use an online presentation system known as Instant Presenter to deliver the presentations on a roughly quarterly basis and they last for about half an hour.  A genuine whistle-stop tour.

I connected to the specified URL in Firefox as usual and the presentation session kicked into life as usual.  However about three or four minutes from the end my screen went grey.  Totally grey!  I couldn’t Alt-Tab, turn caps lock on, or do anything to get a response out of my PC.  The audio from the presentation however did still continue to come through.  It was this that makes me think that it was probably some flash component having a bit of a panic.

I haven’t been able to reproduce it or find anything in any of the logs, but it certainly made a strange difference to the ususal blue screen of death and at least it was considerate enough to let me listen to the remainder of the presentation.  Unfortunately it meant I had to just cut out at the end and pass on my apologies to Dr. Ball by e-mail from my phone whilst I stared my lovely grey screen of death (gsod) or is it more a grey screen of coma?


The TED Interface


I recently came across a site called TED. It’s a web site for the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design conference.  The web site itself has a showcase of videos clips from conference speakers and is worth a look.  The thing I want to quickly post about however is something I think is quite innovative … an interface I’ve not seen anywhere else (yet).

TED.COM - Image Cloud

TED.COM - Image Cloud

The TED home page displays a set of images based upon criteria selected in the page’s left hand list.  The images are stills from different videos that are available to view from the site.  The size of the image is relative to the other images and is based upon the selection criteria – e.g. “the most popular technology videos” would have the most popular video identified by the biggest still image.  This is really just like an image version of  a tag cloud (see the categories section in the right column of this blog).  Many tag clouds give a precise indication when hovering on a link (e.g. number of occurrences), but this “image cloud” pops up an information box and displays the image at a standard size in the box – which helps see the smaller images.

I’ve not seen one of these before, but I can imagine that it will become more prevalent in the not so distant future.


Merging URLs into SharePoint Document Libraries


After spending a bit of time looking at service desk records today I had the opportunity to look at a particular request where a SharePoint user wanted to include links to files on other web sites in a document library without uploading the file onto the SharePoint site.  This is actually a really nice idea as then if the other site is updated (assuming the URL remains the same), the latest version is always accessible via the SharePoint site.

Now normally links would be handled by using a link based web part, but the integration with a document library was what made this notably interesting.

Whilst a custom list web part could provide an interesting option, the document library the user wished to add to was already in use so I took the simpler and more pragmatic approach.

Most web browsers (notably Microsoft Internet Explorer which is the browser of choice for using Microsoft SharePoint) allow bookmarks to be saved out (e.g. by drag and drop from the address bar/field) into a simple URL file a.k.a. an Internet short cut file (at least you can in Windows XP which the user is running).  So if this can be done it would make sense to upload this into the document library.

Unfortunately by default URL files are on the ban list for SharePoint so a system administrator must first amend the list in the operations settings to allow URL files to be uploaded.

This should have been the solution, but when trying to upload the file I at first got a sample file being upladed onto SharePoint from another web site.  Exactly what I was trying to avoid.  However the option to upload multiple files uses a different upload process.

Choosing just one file on the upload multiple files (to a document library) option will successfully upload the URL file.  once uploaded to the document library, any user clicking on the file then gets the appropriate browser action that relates to the link.  This is actually quite a versatile thing to include into a document library as this could in theory (though I didn’t actually get around to trying it) provide access to FILE, FTP and mail-to protocol actions as well as HTTP for the typical URLs.

The developer in me still wonders what could be done with a customised list with this sort of functionality requirement in mind….


Zxing a QR Code in a pinch


Have you ever found yourself in a pinch where there’s a QR code on a web page or stored on your computer and you don’t have your phone with you (or more often than not your smart phone’s battery has died on you {again})?  Well Zxing to the rescue.

The Zxing on-line decoder allows you to specify the URL for a QR code or to upload one and it will display its details for you.

Really quick…

Really simple…

I really like it.


Grab Web Page into NoteTab Text Editor


NoteTab is a favoured text editor of mine and for a number of years I’ve used it for working with web pages and coding up HTML, PHP, Javascript and the like.  One of the best features of NoteTab (beyond the light version being free to download) is its powerful scripting language – creating what is known as NoteTab Clips.

Grab Web Page clip inputs

Grab Web Page clip inputs

One of my favourite clips is one that provides a basic integration with a command line utility to download a web page without having to go into your web browser and view it.

So if you don’t already have them download the following free pieces of software:

  • NoteTab Light – text editor with scripting capabilities.
  • wGet – command line utility for downloading files from the Internet.

The two clips below should be copied and pasted into an appropriate clip library in NoteTab (see the NoteTab help file on how to do this – it’s very straight forward).  Run the “Grab Web Page” clip and after specifying what URL to download, where to download it to, how to display it (open the downloaded file, copy the file content into a new file or insert the file content at the current cursor position) and what log file to log the activity to.

H="Grab Web Page"
;Initialise variables
^!Set %FETCH_URL%=^?[URL of web page to retrieve=]
^!Set %OUTPUT_PATH%=^?[(T=D)Directory to download file to=c:wGet Output]
^!Set %INSERTION_TYPE%=^?[(T=C)Downloaded file==_Open|Copy into new file|Insert at cursor]
^!Set %LOG_PATH%=^?[(T=S;F="Log Files (*.log)|*.log")File to log download progress to=c:wGet Outputoutput.log]
^!Set %WGET_PATH%=^?[Path to wGet.exe=C:Program FilesCommand line Utilitieswget.exe]

;Remove trailing backslash if it exists - wGet doesn't like these
^!If "^$StrCopyRight("^%OUTPUT_PATH%";1)$"="" NEXT Else SKIP
^!Set %OUTPUT_PATH%=^$StrDeleteRight("^%OUTPUT_PATH%";1)$

;Create the output directory
;(If it exists it won't do any harm)

;Fetch page
^!Set %FETCH_OUTPUT%=^$GetOutput("^%WGET_PATH%" -P"^%OUTPUT_PATH%" -nv -o"^%LOG_PATH%" "^%FETCH_URL%")$

;Get the name the retrieved file was named as
^!Set %OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%=^$GetFileText(^%LOG_PATH%)$
^!Set %OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%=^$StrDeleteLeft("^%OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%";^$Calc(^$StrPos("-> ";"^%OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%";TRUE)$+3)$)$
^!Set %OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%=^$StrCopyLeft("^%OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%";^$Calc(^$StrPos(""";"^%OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%";TRUE)$-1)$)$
^!Set %OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%=^$StrReplace("/";"";"^%OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%";TRUE;TRUE)$

;Output the contents of the downloaded file
^!If "^%INSERTION_TYPE%"="Copy into new file" NEXT Else SKIP
^!Clip "New From Text" ^$GetFileText(^%OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%)$
^!If "^%INSERTION_TYPE%"="Insert at cursor" NEXT Else SKIP
^!InsertFile ^%OUTPUT_FILE_PATH%

H="_New From Text"
^!Menu File/New
^!InsertCode ^&