Saturday, November 24, 2007

s3fox - a great Amazon S3 explorer and backup tool

I recently had to do some disaster recovery on my mac and made the painful experience that mozy sucks in every way one can imagine. After several failed attempts I managed to restore most of my stuff. Ok, mozy mac version is still in beta, and it is dirty cheap but it is also completly useless for the less experienced user, because it was not straight forward for me to restore large sets of files and it is useless for the more technical user, because it gives you little control of what it is doing and you can't even backup hidden files (e.g. a git repository) and when I asked them about that, I just received a non-answer from somebody who did not understand what I asked. This is my personal experience. I am sure there are plenty of happy mozy users out there.
So I had to reevaluate my options for personal backups. Because I was already a heavy user of Amazon S3 in relation with various web projects, I tried out some of the common S3 desktop tools:
  • JungleDisk (commercial, cheap) - sucks because what you store with JungleDisk you can only retrieve with JungleDisk (with additional effort you can do anything of course).
  • S3 Browser (free) - sucks because there is only a mac version and it has very limited functionality.
  • BucketExplorer (commercial, free while in beta) - sucks because it is written in Java and therefore looks ugly and just feels strange on the mac.
It's a crowded market and there are a lot of other S3 explorer and backup tools out there. I actually had been using one heavily and with great success when it came out: s3fox. It's a slick Firefox extension and it was the only one which exactly worked the way I actually expected it to work. But there was one problem: after initial release, the author did not maintain it, and Firefox evolved, the S3 protocol itself evolved and when I switched to a mac half a year ago, I couldn't use it anymore (I don't remember for what particular reason). Now I checked again and - nice surprise - there is a new version (0.4), which solved all the problems and even got drag & drop and some functionality for synchronizing local and remote folders. Easy to install, easy to use, free. I didn't have to look any further.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

MochiWeb got a HTML parser

Since MochiWeb went open source I have been working with Tait Larson on a Comet server (HTTP push) built on top of MochiWeb. We are not there yet, but it has been a very pleasant experience so far, especially considering an earlier (failed) attempt of mine to build such a thing on top of yaws, where I had to patch yaws and deal with all kind of annoyances (don't get me wrong, yaws is great for 99% of all possible use cases, just HTTP Push belongs to the other 1%).

So today I was just doing some online housekeeping and I noticed that MochiWeb got a HTML parser. Thats great ! So far, it has been asked many times on the Erlang mailing list how to parse HTML. And sooner or later somebody points to the yaws HTML parser, which works reasonably well. One time it was me asking that question and when I got the answer, I started to play with that yaws HTML parser and some simple XHTML (if I remember properly) examples and everything looked fine. But things turned nasty when I tested the yaws parser with real world HTML.

Now I hope people are starting testing and crashing (I just did) the MochiWeb parser with real world HTML and provide feedback to the developers so they can further improve it !

Rounded corners with canvas tag graphics

There exist many different approaches for creating rounded corners on HTML pages, and each of these approach has its problems. Javascript based solutions consume too much CPU cycles (and even more if doing anti aliasing), background-image based solutions are complicated (and even more, if done properly, e.g. sliding-doors based) and involve additional HTTP requests and solutions based on a bunch of DIVs (with border and varying margin to emulate the corner radius) turn any page into a horrible tag soup. The slickest solution, with the cleanest HTML and Javascript code I have seen so far is Greg Houston's mocha. It uses the canvas HTML tag, which is supported by Firefox, Safari and Opera 9. The ugly part of this solution is the heavy work-around required for Internet Explorer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Amazing browser-based Javascript IDE

A few months back I put together a summary about browser-based Javascript code editors. Then I tried myself to create one, with dojo, but I did not get very far. Then Nicola Rizzo released CodeTextArea, which is a dojo widget and a very promising approach. A demo is available and it currently best works with Firefox on MS Windows. Today I learned about TIDE, a full fledged browser-based Javascript IDE, which loads fast, looks amazingly good, provides a lot of typical IDE functionality and has even a bunch of working Javascript demos to play with. It uses the following open source libraries:

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Amazon S3 will soon support upload via HTTP POST

One limitation of Amazon S3 is its strict REST behavior: upload only via HTTP PUT, and that is not possible with most of the browsers. Today a proposal was published by Amazon staff, so the final solution is probably not too far away anymore.