Thursday, June 22, 2006

Slimming down Ajax

Ajax is an impressive technology--both in appearance and potential. Already, it's infiltrated the web in Gmail, Flickr, meebo, Writely, and thousands of other sites that use a combination of Javascript and XML to dynamically refresh page components.

However, that combination, specifically the XML, provides a major drawback to Ajax applications. Each broswer--IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc--parse XML differently. Thus, Ajax-coded webpages need a large amount of browser-specific code to make it work. The program becomes larger and consequently slower on the net. That's bad.

So how can it be fixed? How can we make Ajax work the same on every browser. Webmonkey reports one idea, called Fjax, that uses Flash to parse the XML and thus remove all browser-specific code forking. The result is a much smaller and more streamlined program--all of the XML parsing, for every browser, is done in less than 4Kilobytes. When was the last time you saw something less than 4K?

Already, Ajax provides much of the functionality as desktop programs. Maybe with technologies such as Fjax, we'll start seeing the same speed.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Alex's Lemonade Stand

This weekend (June 10-11), is the official fundraising weekend for Alex's Lemonade Stand. "Fighting childhood cancer one step at a time."

Alex was a 4-yr-old cancer patient who set up a lemonade stand in July 2000 with her brother Patrick to raise money to help fund cancer research. She continued her stand for four years, until passing on August 1, 2004 at the age of 8. By May 2006, the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation raised over $6-million for childhood cancer research.

I am organizing with three others an Alex's Lemonade Stand event at the New Hope-Solebury High School (map here) on Saturday, June 10, 12:00pm - 4:00pm. We have scheduled live outdoor music from
  • Universtity of California at Santa Barbara Boys Wind Ensemble
  • Dodge City
  • The Scenic
  • Limeskin
  • Blue Sky Invention
  • Glaa
  • Omar
  • Rhythm's Crew (some sweet breakdancers)
There will be some simple games that everyone can play--you know you love wiffleball. And kickball. And four-square. And knockout. And Ping-Pong. And Ultimate Frisbee. There will be facepainting, waterice, and carnival games for younger kids. There will be hamburgers, hotdogs, and hoagies. And lemonade. Lots and lots and lots of lemonade.

Hope to see you there. New Hope-Solebury High School, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 18938. Saturday, June 10, 2006. 12:00pm to 4:00pm, with some bands playing later.

If you don't live near New Hope (in Bucks County, PA, just north of Philadelphia), keep an eye out for other Lemonade Days around you. Alex's Lemonade Stand is a great cause. Help fight pediatric cancer.

FOLLOWUP: NHS Lemonade Day was a huge success. We raised over 2,000 dollars, way more than any of us expected. Thanks to everybody who came, to all the bands, to everybody who helped out, and to everybody who donated money and supplies and food. It couldn't have happened without you. See you all again next year--this is going to be annual.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Registered with Technorati

I claimed my blog with Technorati this morning. Blogger, my blog host, automatically put me in Technorati's registry already, but by registering I added tagging support and accessibility to a few more features. For example, on the sidebar now there's a Technorati box, search, and profile.

Mostly, I added my blog to Technorati to try to get some more visibility. According to Statcounter, there are only a few IPs who regularly visit my blog for any length of time greater than 5 seconds. Thanks to those of you who do; I'm glad you like what you read.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

OSS 3D Modeling with Blender

Blender. It doesn't sound like a real significant piece of software. Maybe it sounds like a little sound mixer, or maybe a small photo editor. But Blender is none of that. It's a full-fledged, surprisingly powerful, and inspiringly agile 3D Modeling program, complete with a thorough manual, wiki, support forum, and tutorial collection to get you well on you way towards professional modeling.

From the Blender website,

Blender is the open source software for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback.

And Blender more than lives up to it.

Just look at some of the screenshots of renderings made with Blender I snatched from the gallery:

Blender is released under the GNU Public License, and the source code is easily available on the main site. The Windows executable is small (only 6.5MB!), so it's no big deal to download Blender to give it a try. The entire GUI is OpenGL, and the interface is spectacularly intuitive; don't let the initially daunting appearance fool you. It is one of the easiest programs to use once you get a hang of the shortcuts and redundancies, in spite of the plethora of features in such a small program. Blender seems to be one of those golden OSS programs that has not become bloated or inefficient or buggy, and is the epitomy of what Open-Source should give the world.

I don't want to try to describe the beauty (both art-wise and programming-wise) and power of Blender. Download it yourself, and start experimenting. It's so natural, that even a complete non-artist like myself can create some pretty sweet renderings. Have fun!

Thursday, June 01, 2006 Social Music Revolution

I just signed up with, a social networking music community. I think it's going to be really cool. It uses open-source plugins and players (under the Creative Commons license) to integrate with your media library and current media player (support for WMP, iTunes, Winamp, and a bunch more), to automatically send anonymous listening information to your account. It synthesizes the data it recieves, and builds a set of "Neighboring" users who like the same music as you. You can listen to their songs if they have a paid account. also has web radio stations of a bunch of different genres at 128kbps (CD-quality) that stream through an opensource, extremely small player. supports tagging, blogging, etc.

It also generates listening statistics for you, following trends automatically.

To me, however, it's the community surrounding that seems most wonderful. I never jumped on the MySpace bandwagon--I'd rather stick with real friends, not virtual avatars. But is your "music friends." I like that: it's a way to find out about bands that I'd never find otherwise.

Which is the other plus of There's a massive library of full-streaming and 30-second sample streaming indie songs that are really good, but don't get publicity because they aren't on a major label.

Finally, here's my profile. If you like what I listen to, add me to your friends list. also generates a list of the most recent songs you listened to. Here's mine as of this posting:

Edit: Actually, the above list isn't as of the posting; it changes automatically as I listen to more music. What you're looking at now is the most recent songs I've played on my computer.