Newspapers Web Services

Newspapers without papers: API interfaces to the news

At the last post I wondered if it would be good idea that newspapers would offer full text archives of their content via API’s or something similar. Apparently I didn’t remember the fact that The New York Times and The Guardian have released their news contents via different APIs that make it possible to do variety of different things with them. Some people have already done data visualizations based on The Guardian’s data and there’s huge potential in how information can be analyzed if person just has enough skills for it. These two news providers aren’t even the only as there are 26 other news API providers in list at website of ProgrammableWeb.

Recently Tomi Ahonen wrote about how people are moving from traditional newspapers to mobile news delivered via MMS messages. It’s more about content distribution than providing interface to search and analyze various kinds of content but the main idea is still visible: people have been moving away from paper. It’s not that there wouldn’t room for magazines printed to paper; there might still be time for newspapers on papers for some time. Paper is still cheaper than iPads for quite bit of time but if digital readers become as cheap as some moderately expensive books then it will become less and less ideal to run paper via traditional printing processes.

Paid news aren’t going away but there is surely need for more options on how people can get the news they want, easily as possible. While digital distribution isn’t exactly even close to “free” (there can be quite bit of costs for larger news providers), some might save large amounts of money per magazine as traditional printing costs go away. Wholeheartedly hoping that people trained as journalists still continue what they do, even when their distribution channels will change from paper to various different electronic devices.

Future of news is in mobile reading, not in traditional computer screens. It’s not to say that there wouldn’t be huge need for information via large screens (it’s often more effective way of reading things) but more about the availability of mobile devices out there. While there are problems in data transfer of 3/4G networks, it should be noted that much of content distribution can be done with just MMS messages. It might not be even close to same interactivity but at least there are larger amount of capable devices/users compared to those who use Internet via mobile browsers.

Things are moving fast and hopefully people find new ways of communicating more effectively, whether on large screen or on other electronic devices.

Newspapers Web Development

Newsreader for newspapers (minus papers)

Just wondering if people would be more willing to pay for news if news organizations would allow to use some sort of API or at least made usable newsreader. User Interface that would allow people to browse news via keyboard, set up filters to show right kind of content and avoid all unrelated advertising (content-based related ads could be OK in free version; paid subscription would remove ads).

Many would pay for the news if it just would be easier to get quality news content with full text articles and quality photos, right to the well designed UI that would make it easy for people to theme it to their preferences. Cost of printing would be avoided and overall cost of distributing content could be dramatically lower compared to traditional printing process.

Started to think after reading Kyle Neath’s article What’s your focus? that talks about importance of clearly defined websites that make it easy for people to focus on the most important thing they want to do. In case of newspapers, people buy them to read news.

What if people could actually get same content but with power to customize the look and feel of it? While allowing unrestricted access to all news content in full text form might not be the best way for all companies, at least they should try to invent something new instead of just complaining about how many people don’t want to read newspapers anymore.

I’m not saying that there wouldn’t be any room for printed media, just that it would be reasonable to offer good digital alternative that could be used, instead of just read.


Adjusting OS X for development

How to make OS X feel more useful as development platform?
Here are some things what I did.

Package management

Mistakenly installed MacPorts first and realized that things could be easier with something else. Moment after realizing that, found instructions for installing Homebrew, lightweight package manager for command line. More about it on Engine Yard’s blog post Homebrew: OS X’s Missing Package Manager.


Already had previously installed Git (instructions for installing). Basic tips for using Git and more details about setting things to work with GitHub. It’s needed for getting latest changes to the my dotfiles so I could pull changes to more than one computer from single location.


Having previously found nice command line config files made by Todd Werth, I adjusted them to fit my system better. Current state of my version of dotfiles can be seen at dotfiles includes whole bunch of things to make vim more usable besides of all other adjustments for general command line usage.

There is also link script but be totally careful with it because it can remove your command line settings if you don’t remember to back up them first. Have to think of better way to make initial adjustments to avoid problems with it…

Terminal colours

Werth has also created a black OS X Leopard Terminal theme that is actually readable. Installed SIMBL first.

After that, it was turn to install TerminalColors. But to actually make it work on Snow Leopard, I had to install modified version of TerminalColors that had been updated to support 64-bit version of Terminal.

After installing both of them, I went back to InfiniteRed’s theme page and downloaded theme file. After downloading, just clicked it to install. Had to click Default-button to make colour sheme to… well, default.

Original font settings didn’t look so nice so adjusted it to Monaco 12 pt.

Color theme for Espresso

Text editors are nice so I thought it would be good thing to make them feel nicer. There is version of IR_Black theme for Espresso. How to install it? Download latest version of theme from GitHub. Go to Settings, click Colors tab and from there click button Reveal in Finder. Put IR_Black.css to directory and set it as Active Theme (might have to restart before seeing it in the menu). Installed also Inconsolata-dz font to make things look better (used font size 12pt ).

Colour theme for Xcode

There is also version of the aforementioned color theme for Xcode so why not try installing it too. As with Espresso, I used Inconsolata-dz also with Xcode.


I’m still wondering if there would be any benefit from installing new version of Ruby and if installing it via Homebrew would work. There is also option of manually installing Ruby, RubyGems, etc. but I probably won’t go that way at least now. Haven’t tested much of RubyGems yet so not still sure if preinstalled Ruby of OS X is good enough.


Moving between Mac and Linux

Found interesting post about Moving From Mac to Ubuntu. Had to read all of the comments besides the writeup since there was quite bit of interesting conversation in between.

I have been using computers for most of my life and gone from MS-DOS to Windows 3.11 to Win95 to Win98 to Win2000 to Debian Linux while also using different Macs in the same time (not at home since I didn’t have enough money for Apple hardware).

Used Apple OS 8 and 9 before starting to find more of OS 10.3 or .4 installed at computers. Wouldn’t say I know too much about low-level details of different operating systems, but I have surely read quite bit of documentation and been using them for various tasks from plain old gaming to graphic design to server administration.

I like Apple’s user interfaces (mostly consistent usability requirements help to create better combination for users) but have experienced more problems than I would have wanted to. Yet, while I have seen wide array of “interesting” error code numbers in screens of Mac computers, I have mostly been liking the use of Macs. Sadly there aren’t that much of good/stable alternatives for Photoshop (+some other software) as it’s one of the main reasons I’m using OS X.

Having experienced good and bad sides of more than few operating systems I find myself going to the mix of both Mac OS X and Linux, running on different computers. Macs are good for graphic design and digital photography (RAW image processing, retouching, etc.) and UI is mostly reasonable for daily usage. Linux (recently mostly different flavors of Ubuntu) has it’s own kind of problems but package management feels more powerful than with OS X.

Anyway, both systems have their uses. I’m just not trying to do everything with one tool anymore. Use what works for you, even if it’s more than one tool. (Some developers of Microsoft Windows actually use Linux as their main development environment as it’s more suitable for large scale software development than the Windows environment itself.)

Photography Software

Best Photo Organizer?

Lifehacker writes asking what would be best tool for getting your photos in order. What it would be? I have been using different ways and software to do things depending on what kind of computer I find myself using. I have photos in portable hard drive so I can edit them at different computers.

I mostly use directory structure like this:
Photos –> 2007-01-28 –> name-of-event

As for software, I find Adobe Bridge quite nice. While it lacks some things compared to more advanced photo library managers, it’s still very good tool especially when using build-in Adobe Camera RAW Converter to tune photos to better.

Some people (including one contact who is doing advertising photography) recommend Aperture over Lightroom because of much better image quality but I haven’t had opportunity to test both with same RAW image files. Should try, if I get possibility to have some time with some Mac.

Picasa looks nice but I haven’t used it much because I find easier to have directory-based photo library instead of collection-based. Maybe that is just because I have really big amount of photos. For some people, XnView could be useful tool for organizing smaller collections of photos (it even has build-in RAW converter). Anyway, I would recommend to try different tools to find what is best for each task.

Little bit more about things to do with photos.

Research Standards Web Development

XHTML 2 + HTML 5 = Better Combination?

Just read Mike Malone’s nicely written article about differences between of current XHTML2 and HTML5 standard development drafts. There are certainly some details that article about main differences don’t include but as an overview it’s good. As for the features in those specifications, I’m not sure which of them will get more support in the end. It feels for some odd reason like mix of two standards could be the best for most people (if it would be done in good way).

XHTML2 has probably simpler basic syntax and several new things in it make coding faster and cleaner. While I’m not sure about now larger parts like XForms could make things somewhat more difficult it seems that overall approach of things is to better way. One of the things I like most in XHTML2 is ability to create link from any element by adding href attribute to it. It also looks like making of navigation lists has been defined in much better way because it’s simpler and cleaner than what HTML5 offers for that issue.

HTML5 has many good ideas but for some reason it feels like they are not making it as good it could be. They have introduced many new elements to standard but good question is if those additions are enough in longer timeframe. XHTML2 has more modular way of thinking that allows to add more features in parts instead of having to define everything in one big specification. Also it seems to be bad thing that HTML5 still supports writing of markup in way based of old HTML standards, because it could allow people to do more mistakes in syntax if they get used to writing in bad way (or think they can do stuff in the same way as in HTML4).

As what goes to big additions in HTML5 to improve making of web-based applications I’m quite pleased that things are really going be better. New API’s help to make web more integrated to desktop software but developers of browsers need to make sure that security of users is taken care of because new ways of doing things present dangers for new types of malware. While API that exposes the browser history (allowing applications to add to it so they don’t break the back button) is good thing to add it has to be done in way that it don’t allow website to get all information of browser history. Also network API makes it possible that some web-based software could use it to make bad things. While it’s still quite good addition for many things, security side of things needs to be planned well (but that is more likely problem of browser developers than people planning standards).

But is one of those two standards going to rule the world or is there room for both? Mayby. Or could it be better if more fluent way of developing web-based applications (as in HTML5) would be integrated to somewhat more clean way of XHTML2? Whould that create one standard with best set of features that would still have simple basic syntax? Or do we need to make all more advanced features as extensions to language if keeping of basic set of features is what people need?

Anyways, my understanding of specifications is still quite limited so my current opinions about them could be wrong but just wanted to share what thoughts I had about them. If something I wrote didn’t make sense, it would be nice to hear what you think about subject.