SpikeSource Launches

I first heard about SpikeSource on this Gillmor Gang interview with CEO Kym Polese. The business model made a lot of sense: provide a standard open-source stack and charge a support contract. Given the trepidation with which some companies approach open source, it can be very reassuring to hand over several digits to a company who will make sure it all works. Effectively, outsourcing the IT department workers who’d end up having to support it anyway.

Today, SpikeSource has launched. Unfortunately, their approach is very old-school: The story on the serverside amounts to a rambling press release with obligatory references to “enterprise” and a link only to the homepage … where there is no news of the launch. The blog (a judicious three clicks away from the homepage) , doesn’t mention anything about the launch, and I couldn’t find the actual stacks being released. But hopefully they can sort all that out, because it’s at least a good idea in theory.

Podcaster Bandwidth Problems Solved Already?

One drawback with podcasting is the bandwidth costs, which can be HUGE. Another example of the internet publishing reversal: the more popular you are, the more you pay … advertising often isn’t feasible and subscription or micropayments still don’t exist.

Well, the problem seems to have been solved, at least for now. OurMedia launched the other day, a non-profit with the amazing promise of free bandwidth and content hosting. And, of course, google was not going to sit back quietly: Rumours already (Cheers Scripting News) that google has an imminent announcement on video blogging. And if the past twelve months is anything to go, watch as Yahoo and MSN hustle to add even more free hosting.

The interesting thing about podcasting – and other time-shifted media sucked down by RSS – is that most content providers haven’t got the point yet. They are treating it like any other content, but it’s nothing like it:

  • Reliability is less of an issue. Clients are usually smart enough to try reconnecting later.
  • Performance can be volatile – usually people check the client once an hour or so at most, and often once a day.
  • Popularity for a single feed varies wildly – more recent content will usually be far more in demand, older content will have lighter load requirements (although, since it won’t be coming from a feed, greater probability that someone is requesting it for immediate use).

Some of the newer providers, like Liberated Syndication recognise these discontinuities and are likely to prosper from it. What’s nice about commoditisation of bandwidth is that hosting companies will have to focus more on innovative services.

Firefox Extensions I’m Using

It’s the extensions that really make firefox, but unfortunately they’re gone when you change to a different PC. While in the process of rebuilding firefox on a different PC, here are my favourite extensions I’ll be installing. They should all be available from http://extensionroom.mozdev.org/.

Must-haves: These two tools dramatically increase browsing performance

  • Tabbrowser Extensions – Powerful tab-based browsing. The page says TabMix should now be used instead, haven’t checked it out.
  • Mouse Gestures – Allows most browsing to be performed with mouse gestures (e.g. to open a link in new tab, hold right button while moving up away from the link).

Almost essential

  • Bloglines Toolkit – Allows quickly subscribing and checking references to the current page.
  • Unread Tabs – Italices tabs unread tabs.
  • Download Manager Tweak – Opens downloads in a separate tab instead of popup window.
  • ForecastFox – Shows weather forecast, today and next nine days, using little icons on the bottom of the window. Very handy as I rarely remember to check it, and thanks to podcasting, am not really catching local weather reports anymore. (Until automated weather podcast feeds come along, that is).

And the other excellent extensions I’ll be installing

  • Translate – Translates web pages to/from English
  • Autofill – Automatically fills out forms
  • ** OpenBook** – When you add a bookmark, it adds a bookmark tree
  • Launchy – Open page in IE or other application.
  • Linkification – Convert any URLs into hyperlinks.
  • Sunrise – Sends any page to Sunrise, a tool for reading documents/HTML/RSS offline on the Palm. (Though I mostly connect to my Bloglines account from the Treo lately.)
  • MozCC – Indicates what, if any, Creative Commons license exists on the current page.
  • QuickNote – Adds a sidebar for note-taking.
  • Wikipedia – Enhances Wikipedia experience.
  • Digger – Quickly go to related URL: (e.g. from a.b.com, go to b.com)
  • Langwidge While You BrowseIntegrated language-learning tool, still haven’t found any data files for it though! which I wrote about here.
  • ChromeEdit – Edit user profile

Developer Tools

  • Web Developer – Powerful tool for debugging HTML/CSS problems – e.g. can visualise outlines of tables and see CSS styles being used.
  • HTML Validator – Validates, um, HTML.
  • Live HTTP Headers – View HTTP headers as the page loads.
  • MozEdit – Advanced text editor.
  • Others My usage of these has varied depending on what I’m working on. All are listed at http://extensionroom.mozdev.org/list.php/Firefox/dev.