Google Reader

Oops, Google is doing something again. They just launched Google Reader, which looks like an RSS reader, and also a website subscription service, combined in one! Just what I was looking for, actually.

Update: No, it seems that I can only subscribe to feeds. Google’s terminology is a bit confusing, actually! For now, I’m assuming it’s an RSS reader. But I’ll try it out!

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RSS Bandit Alpha

I’ve been annoyed by the sluggishness of RSS Bandit recently, so I did some research on whether another reader could be as user friendly, and in addition, faster. I tried a few of them, got annoyed by clunky GUIs, and finally realized that I hadn’t yet had the courage to install the Nightcrawler alpha release of RSS bandit. I did, and it’s much faster than the latest stable release! It has lots of other nice features, too, like marking as read in the "newspaper view". Pretty stable, too. No more complaints from me!

Memeorandum

Probably you’ve already noted Memeorandum, which collects the most "popular" topics that bloggers write about, and provides you with "global" discussion threads across different blogs. Nice thought. Look here for the principles behind it.

But I wonder what will be the result when everyone will be reading Memeorandum itself. Topics which are popular will become even more popular just because they are popular, making that topic occupy more space in the blogosphere than what it would have gotten otherwise.

An interesting thought experiment would be let Memeorandum run without anyone watching it. What would be the difference from letting everyone see it?

So my prediction is that we’ll see what’s very popular in a larger quantity than what corresponds to how popular it is, and then not much of the "slightly less popular".

The only way out I can see is that Memeorandum somehow includes a compensating factor, so that the more popular a topic is, the harder it is for more of it to get into Memeorandum. Something like that. Perhaps they’re doing this already, who knows?

Setting Up a Blog

It’s not a trivial task to set up a blog! At least it wasn’t for me. I’m sure there are plenty of nice tutorials on this out there, but unfortunately I couldn’t find them, so I thought I’d summarize what I did.

I started by registering a domain, drakengren.com at GoDaddy.com. After all, that’s a big, well-known registrar, so there shouldn’t be any problems with that.

At the other end, I needed a blog hosting service. Blogger and TypePad are the big ones, and both of them support custom domain names. Blogger is free and TypePad is not. But Blogger requires web hosting, which doesn’t come for free if you want some decent quality of service, and no commercials. TypePad comes with better features, too, I think, so it got my final vote.

This is what we do when we develop software, too, right? Making the obvious "big" things fixed (the architecture), possibly doing some investments in that (domain registration fee!), and then we’re just supposed to fill in the rest, and if the architecture was a good one, there shouldn’t be any big problems. So, were these choices good enough?

First, let’s look at my requirements for setting up the blog.

  • I want to be able to change the blog hosting service at any time.
  • I want to start out small and cheap, but with the possibility of growing, in size, capacity and features.
  • I want the blog to be a subdomain of drakengren.com, named blog.drakengren.com.

So, to satisfy all these, now we just need to configure the DNS at GoDaddy to direct my subdomain to the blog at TypePad, right? Not so simple. As far as I can tell, GoDaddy only supports redirecting requests to a subdomain to an URL, and at best, I could "cloak" the destination URL with my own subdomain. Then, who could be so kind to direct my subdomain to my TypePad blog?

Finally, I found the service Zone Edit, which provides free DNS hosting for low-traffic sites, with nice scale-up options for later (but not for free; hm, I forgot to check the pricing for those). With their service, I could map the CNAME record (don’t ask me what it means!) to point at my TypePad blog address. Some hours later, when the DNS data had propagated on the Internet, the mapping was complete! Just don’t forget to follow the instructions at the TypePad site for setting up a domain mapping.

So it turned out that the initial architecture was good enough, we just had to add another component. Perhaps I could have found another domain registrar which supports subdomain DNS mapping, but it’s not obvious that this would have been the better choice. We would have gotten rid of one possible point of failure, Zone Edit, but perhaps we would have lost the stability of a big, well-known domain registrar. And it is indeed possible to change this solution if GoDaddy will introduce better support for subdomains. So I’ve got a nice, evolvable architecture for my blog!

I made this process look pretty deep, didn’t I? 😉

Introduction

Finally, a chance to expand my ego!

No, seriously, I usually have lots of vague, abstract ideas about things, and blogging will probably force me to turn them into less vague, more concrete ones. My hope is that the results will exhibit some kind of conceptual integrity (see Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"), hence the name of the blog. If some of it turns out to be worth reading, that’s even better!

The main topic of the blog will be software, but I’m sure there’ll be a few posts on music (but not much from the last two centuries), books, science, technology, and perhaps even philosophy.

I work as Chief System Architect at a telecom company called Caine Technologies, Stockholm, Sweden, but what I’ll be writing here won’t be very much connected to my work. At least not directly. And I’ll try to keep my private life out of this blog.

Welcome!