Monday, October 25, 2004

Technology run amuck

I've been experimenting with another Lazlo "blox", LinkBlox. Results are to your right. I currently have mixed feelings about using it, but am going to leave it up for awhile. I'm not sure how intuitive its use is. Feedback would be appreciated, you swarms of fhb readers you.

Pros: It's cool. :-) Using it taught me a little bit more about writing/editing XML, although I'm basically in "monkey see, monkey do" mode. The app pulls data from an external XML file that I have on my site. Took me some experimenting to modify the code to make the email link work. Also found out that XML is very touchy. Doesn't like ampersands, for example, and it was easy to make the code barf an error message. For reasons I don't understand, I had to remove some header code that worked in the original, seemed to work if left intact when on my site, but freaked out when I made modifications to the original. Who knows? "FM" ("fucking magic"), as an old friend used to say when confronted by a piece of confusing code that worked/didn't work without anyone understanding why.

Cons: Lots, the primary being that control freak Fred isn't in control. The actual applet, like WeatherBlox, is hosted on a Lazlo server. It goes down, as the WeatherBlox server has done several times since this weekend, so does the LinkBlox. Since the applet has to be pulled from the Lazlo server, which in turn has to query the XML file on my site, loading is noticeably slow.

I could live without the "Steal this Widget" header. There's also a limit to number of links you can insert under each category, according to a thread on the Lazlo support forums and, I would assume, the same limitation applies to number of categories too.

Most of these problems can be fixed. If I was really dedicated to the idea, I could fire up Flash and probably build something in Flash itself a few days weeks months time (I'm having way too much fun with strikethrough code lately), although I'm not sure whether I could handle the expansion problem. But there's a hint in the Lazlo support forums (also down, as are many things Lazlo today) that one of the other "Blox" has expansion capabilities, which means it should be fixable within Lazlo itself.

In any case, according to David Temkin's site, and rumors elsewhere, the need for a presentation server will become optional, and it should be possible for me to build a "LinkBlox"-type app myself without needing a Java-enabled server... which shoestring Bals does not have.

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