AvantGo and RSS

One of the aims of the update to WWF-Australia’s website was to improve RSS support across the site. The new CMS enables RSS for pretty much all types of information, including articles, events, news items, jobs, and volunteer opportunities.

I’ve provided a bit of background on RSS on the site for those that don’t know what RSS is.

We enabled auto-discovery of feeds to each relevant page. One of the happy side-effects of doing so is that AvantGo supports auto-discovery. Which means our CEO anyone that uses AvantGo can simply include the URL of a news article or the news list page into the AvantGo channel manager and you can view the WWF-Australia website from your PDA/mobile device.

It’s nice when things like this just work

Live-search and auto-complete usability

Looks Good Works Well: Distraction or Narrowing: Looking a Little More At Live Search. Great analysis of various models of auto-complete, live search etc. Pretty much matches my thoughts to a tee.

We used auto-complete in NETaccounts for contact names and inventory codes/descriptions. Makes a big difference in those two use-cases as well – when you can’t remember the full details of what you are needing to enter, or there are simply too many to pick from a list. In both cases we set up the auto-complete function to ensure the user was in control, and used timing and checks to ensure that only a reasonable number of items were returned, and to reduce the chance of performance issues.

And it took a lot of time to get the behaviour of the box selection/key nav just right. A lot of the implementations I’ve seen around suffer a similar fate to many of the DHTML/CSS drop-down menu implementations I’ve seen, in that they are very un-user-friendly and non-standard (i.e. they do not conform to typical user interface implementations, and therefore require re-learning).

Hopefully that article will do its part in getting the “gee-whiz” backed up with better usability and usefulness.

MT theme

I’ve also updated the theme to a default MT theme to fix a long-standing issue with archives. The default theme appears to be broken in that it doesn’t correctly display the sidebar in Firefox or Safari on Mac OS. I’ll be updating the theme soon to correct those problems (and maybe, just maybe, get that new design that I’ve been wanting to set up for ages up and running).


I’ve just upgraded to MovableType 3.2 which has improved comment management features that I’m hoping will solve the problems people have experienced on this site the past few months. Please let me know by email if you still have issues so I can work to find a solution.

Firefox themes

If you’re looking for a Mac OS X friendly theme for Firefox (which recently turned 1.5), check out these themes – I’m not sure why but I can’t seem to find them listed in the main Mozilla theme repository.


Picked up a PreSonus FireBox over the weekend. So far it’s doing everything I’ve wanted it to, apart from a few initial glitches getting it set up.

Apart from the fact my old USB I/O box died a few months back, the two main reasons I went with the FireBox is that

  • it’s bus powered (meaning you don’t need to plug in a power pack as it gets it’s power from the Firewire port of the computer)
  • it allows configuration to send any of the three output pairs to the headphone output

The first one is pretty common nowadays, but my old USB I/O required a power pack, which was a right PITA when having to transport it. When I first attached the FireBox to my iMac it didn’t seem to work – it’d start up then lose power. Plugging in the power pack (which is supplied in case your computer/firewire hub doesn’t supply enough power) got the unit to work.

After using the Firebox off the power pack for about half an hour I could remove the power and it would work off the Firewire bus. However, this morning the same thing is happening again. This might be a faulty unit, I don’t know. But it’s frustrating to say the least.

The second thing (routing outputs to the headphone out) is something that I’ve not seen on any other unit in this price range. The reason I wanted this feature is so that I could send an independent mix to the drummer in a live setting, without having to mess around with headphone amplifiers or any other fiddling.

When I attached the unit, I went to the PreSonus page for the FireBox and downloaded the Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) configuration utility. This utility allows the setting of some options on the unit, but didn’t allow for configuration of the outputs (something that is advertised on the website). So I downloaded the mixer application that was included in the 10.3 set of applications. It worked just fine under 10.4, and after a few minutes messing around in Live, I was able to get exactly what I wanted. Why PreSonus don’t include the mixer utility with the Tiger package I don’t know – it’s very confusing.

Hopefully I can sort out these bus power issues, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the unit – good sound, flexible – and I expect that I’ll be happy with it’s recording capabilities, apparently the pre-amps are really good.


I’ve been caught in the rain walking home twice in two weeks. And it’s been strangely refreshing…

How much further papa smurf?

Well… it’s been a hard slog the past few months (thus the lull in posting here), but just over a year since I started at WWF-Australia I’m proud to point y’all to the updated WWF-Australia website.

There’s some big things, and many, many small, but important, things that have changed on the site. It’s very much a “version 1.0” – lots of stuff on my todo list to work through between now and Christmas. But the bulk of what we set out to achieve is now done.

The site is driven by a custom developed, PHP/MySQL-based, content management system, which is where a bulk of my time has been committed on the project. The admin system is fairly rudimentary at the moment, but this was by design so that we could get the first version up. I expect that it will continue to grow, develop and be refined over the next 12-24 months. Many thanks to Jeremy from GreenAsh for helping bootstrap it all.

The core engine includes some nice things like version control, structure editing, content routing (routing content to various sections based on content), heaps of RSS support (including enclosures for podcasts when we need them), among other things. Conceptually the system is a little bit like a mash-up of Drupal and some other CMS systems. I hope that we can continue to refine the system and turn it into an open source project when the time is right.

The design was produced in collaboration with Leonard from Aurum3. It’s been a challenging, sometimes frustrating, process due to so many competing requirements. But I’m quite pleased with the result.

We’ve got some cool things planned for next year as part of our web strategy – so I’m looking forward to unveiling some new projects over the next year.

There’s so much on the technical, design and content fronts to talk about. But it’s been a long few months and I’m taking a few days off to recuperate. I’ll see what sticks out as worth writing about over the next few months. Certainly I hope that I’ll have a bit more blogging time now 😉

Thanks to anyone who’s looked at rough designs, helped with testing and technical issues, put up with my venting/frustrations/ruminations. And for understanding when I’ve not had time to do other stuff. Your support is very much appreciated.

Anyways… I’m off now to play with my new iMac and maybe do some music stuff again (something I’ve not had the time to look at for some time). Have a good weekend y’all, I sure will 🙂