A few people have said they'd like to see an official Last.fm Drupal module, hosted on CVS. I have been using it on my own site, but I have hacked Drupal itself so I can set a timeout for HTTP requests when using drupal_http_request(). My reason for doing this was because Last.fm seems to timeout quite often, and Drupal won't stay up on my hosting if a module times out. This is a bit unfortunate. My development on it has stalled, as it appears finding another job is itself a full-time job. I've also shifted from Drupal stuff to exploring the Zend Framework, as I want to find a decent way to develop PHP applications as properly as possible.
Brian Wood, who has written some patches and done some work on this himself, is being far more active than me in adding functionality to this module, so I've suggested he become its custodian. So attached below is the latest version of my Last.fm module, without the patch to drupal_http_request(). It's primarily here so Brian can see what I've been doing with it. Hopefully he'll be able to pull something together and release it officially.
By the way, the thing I'd like to see in Drupal is a generic way to fetch data from a service and transform it. So far, I've used/written code which does this for Flickr, Last.fm, AllConsuming and TextLinkAds in this site. Each time, the module is using different, replicated code. It would be nice to have a proper Drupal API for this kind of stuff, don't you think? Perhaps there is one already and I just don't know about it.
(...where "challenge" is the operative word.)
Update: In the end, after an hour of trying, I had to give in and find a clue for level 5. I missed an obvious clue, which I realised when I found this solution.
After a suggestion from SteveA in the comments to my last post, I've been working on the Python Challenge. I was quite pleased with myself for the first 4 levels, which I finished with a little bit of huffing and puffing (for example, on level 3, I was getting the right matches, but not doing the right thing with them to get the next URL). Level 5 is an utter pig. I've got so far as unpickling the data, but then I'm not 100% sure what to do with it next. It's a list of lists of tuples, which presumably map onto some data structure, but I'm not sure what. I will persist. It's pretty good fun, though I think it is perhaps overly cryptic. I think there should be slightly more clues about what to do.
We've had some bad news here over the past week or so: OpenAdvantage will go under wraps at the end of September. No money is available for the project to continue, so, consequently, we're all job hunting. This has resulted in a lot of soul-searching for me, an urge to hone my skills, and a need to work out what I'm really capable of. I started looking around on the web for self-tests I could use to determine my skill level and find out where I'm rusty. Like many open source types, I can turn my hand to pretty much anything, but have few certificates to prove it. The training courses for Linux certification, MySQL, etc. are very expensive and time-consuming; I was looking for something cheap and quick, to provide a rough indicator of my skill level. Here are a few resources I found useful:
Even though these services haven't had widespread coverage or acceptance in the UK, they're better than nothing, and a quick way to brush up your skills and identify your strengths. It's occurred to me over the past couple of weeks that programmers need external validation, particularly those of us who work with open source. I'd like to see cheaper, more readily-available courses available for normal developers who work independently or in their spare time, to help fill this need.
If anyone knows of any other self-tests (e.g. where's a good place to sharpen my Python skills?), please add a comment.
I just bought a PDF, legally, from a publisher's website. However, in their wisdom, they decided it would be a good idea to password protect all legally-purchased PDFs. This means that each time you open the PDF using Acrobat Reader, you have to remember and type in the password to read it. (Evince, the built-in PDF viewer in Linux, allows you to permanently save the password, but I tend to use Acrobat as it copes better with some PDFs.)
So, if you know the password for a PDF and want to remove it, you can use the command line tools pdftops and ps2pdf to free your PDF from its chains.
The only thing you lose are any PDF-specific features which don't translate to postscript, e.g. hyperlinks.
Remember, this only works if you know the password for the PDF: it doesn't break the PDF password for you.
Finally, you can now, in the UK, buy a laptop with Ubuntu pre-installed. This is fantastic news. I'll definitely be getting my next laptop there. Just imagine: a laptop with no hardware/Linux compatibility issues. How cool that would be?
I tried putting one together and managed to get 2048Mb RAM, dual core 1.73GHz Celeron processor, plus the basics (basic DVD/CDRW drive, no accidental damage cover, basic screen etc.) for £512. Not bad at all.
Oh, hang on, it still is.
Some tracks by a misguided but utterly engaging pub band. Their rendition of Macarthur Park seguing into Popcorn has to be heard to be believed, including a slightly out-there moog solo. The singer sounds like the pub singer as rendered by Vic Reeves.
LUGRadio Live 2007 is running tomorrow and Sunday. I can't make tomorrow (which is a shame, as most of the good talks seem to be on Saturday), but will be popping in for Sunday. See you there if you're going. If you're not going, I'd recommend it if you're at all interested in free and open source software: I've been to the previous two events, and thoroughly enjoyed both. This year (unlike last year) I'm not doing any talks or BOF sessions, so will be able to just have a good nose around and enjoy the talks. At £5 to get in, it's a snip.
The Open Source Showcase at OpenAdvantage on 20th June 2007 was a great event. I enjoyed putting it together (along with the other staff at OpenAdvantage, of course), and was pleased at the turnout (50 people) and the number of speakers we managed to get (13). Despite my chicken timer (to keep speakers to the 10 minute time limit) almost breaking, everything went swimmingly. Though it was a bit like a wedding, in that I was so busy trying to organise everybody that I didn't get to sit and enjoy it; I just hope the attendees and speakers found it fruitful.
I've written up a report on the event on the OpenAdvantage website.
April of this year marked the end of my first year's trading as mooch labs. I didn't make much money, to be honest, but I thought it best to declare what I had made :).
Last year, I attended two excellent, free workshops organised by HM Revenue and Customs; if you're starting your own business, I recommend you book onto the Becoming Self-Employed and Self Assessment for self-employed people courses. I found them immensely useful in helping me to cut through the masses of forms.
And this week, I've been using the HMRC Online Services to complete my first tax return. It's a really nice web application: not without a few oddities, but very clear, taking you step by step through the process. You have to wait until they send you your first self assessment form, then apply for a PIN to use the website, which I turned around in about a week. Once I got that set up and logged in, it took me perhaps 2 hours to sort out my paperwork, read the guidance, fill it in (though because I have very low profits, I don't have to put much detail in), and submit it. I also rang the business support team at the local tax office with a couple of queries and found them very helpful.
Turns out tax doesn't have to be taxing, like they say on the adverts. Now I just have to pay the bill...