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Django Girls Sheffield

I don't really like to mention my job or where I work, but just this once I'd like to say how pleased I was that ZOO agreed to host Sheffield's 2017 Django Girls event last weekend.

We use Django for all our software so it was good to be able to give a little something back to the community.

A few of us from the Software Engineering team went along to volunteer as mentors for the day.  It was a lot of fun. I'm impressed with the tutorial we worked through.  If you're looking to learn Python or Django it's a great place to start, even if you can't get to one of the events.
Recent posts

Apple's Podcast Updates

Apple has announced some extensions to RSS to add podcast-specific features.  Of particular interest to me is the ability to group episodes into seasons and specify the play order of those seasons.

Users will be able to download full seasons, and the Podcasts app will know if a podcast is intended to be listened to in chronological order—“start at the first episode!”—or if it’s more timely, where the most recent episode is the most important.Apple Makes Major Podcast Updates -  Jason Snell
This sounds great to me and I hope that podcast players other than Apple's embrace it.  Diving into a podcast mid-stream is not handled well by players today.  I got so frustrated by the experience that I made a service to manage my catch-up experience.  I (and a couple of dozen Germans) have been using it for years, and while I'm not ready to retire it just yet, I am hopeful that I might have to use it a bit less soon.


I have always loved RSS.

Since way back when, RSS readers are what I have made in my spare time.  You, or rather I, spend so much time reading the internet, you want the be experience to be tailored to you.

I have been using the current version of my hand-rolled web-based feed reader FeedThing for something like 7 years.  After the initial burst of activity to get it working, I haven't touched it much except to fix the occasional bug or annoyance.  I got it going to the point that (and only I) could use it and then just tailed off.

During those 7 years, RSS and feeds have become way less popular.  Obviously they were always very niche, but even amongst the small corner of the internet that ever liked them they have fallen by the wayside in favor of Twitter and Facebook and the relentless onslaught of the social.

So it was a pleasant surprise to have a post announcing a new feed format pop up.

I don't know if JSON Feed will take off.  What I do know is that since it has appeare…

Why an Internet Watershed is not actually dumb.

A lot of my friends come down heavily on the anti-censorship side of most debates, and if I'm honest so do I.  So it's not surprising that they are deeply troubled by government proposals to limit access to pornography.

The debate is not helped by government's habit of using vague and confusing language that often conflates legal and illegal content and their desire to ban some things outright but merely limit accidental (read: child) access to the rest.  Equally though the debate is not well served by opposition that amounts to little more than "no no no, internet filtering is always ineffective and/or overreaching you stupid, stupid technophobe".
Rhoda Grant MSP thinks you can stick a "watershed" on the internet, so the smut can be avoided. This isn't a spoof.
— Chris Nicholson (@EraseThisTweet) July 24, 2013Just because someone is technically unsophisticated in your field, does not mean that they are stupid.  MPs lack the…

Sometimes your problems are not caused by Windows

I have a Media Center PC. For my sins, I really like it.

However for the past few (well many) months it has been failing to power manage correctly, never sleeping and running the fan all the time. It has also been running like a dog.

Being the clever computer type I am, I immediately diagnosed a bad case of Windows Rot and tried to make time to reinstall it.

Then we moved house and I noticed it was filthy. Every vent at the rear was choked with vacuum-cleaner-bagesque dust bunnies.

Having administered a quick stiff brushing, it is now running cooler, quieter and faster.

Sorry Windows.

Five minutes with SocialThing

So a five minute play with SocialThing makes it seem really promising.

Being able to into easily import all your friends from all your social networks (eventually) and then easily alias them together sounds like it would be awesome.

Sadly it goes downhill really quickly.

Firstly it requires your usernames and passwords. They explain why - to get otherwise unavailable private data (friends only Livejournal posts for example), but it seems unnecessary and phishing-like. What they really need is to do is offer a "publicly viewable information only" option for these services.

Secondly there doesn't seem to be any kind of history. New items push old items off the list and then, poof, they're gone. That's kind of limiting. There's also no feed produced so I can't subscribe to this stuff anywhere else, I have to go to their site.

Lastly you can only see an aggregate view. Having aliased my friends (when I've been fortunate to have two of their posts from se…


Phil finally gave me an excuse to beat lxml into submission.

And this is the result: wxVenus on OS X.

HOWTO: Install lxml on Mac OSX

lxml is a total nightmare to install on the Mac. For my own future sanity, this is how to do it.
Install MacPortsInstall libxml2: sudo port install libxml2Install libxslt: sudo port install libxsltMake sure DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH includes /opt/local/lib (I am a unix n00b and just edit ~/.bash_profile to have the lines:
in it and restart the shell)Get the lxml code: svn co lxmlInstall Easy_Install (surely you've done this already!)Install Cython: easy_install Cython== the lxml folder run python build --with-xslt-config=/opt/local/bin/xslt-configThen python installLook puzzled when python fails utterlyShrug that off quickly when lxml works generallyThis is for Tiger, it may work on other versions too.