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Preview: Feed2JS Updates

Feed2JS Updates

Updates, bug fixes, and miscellaneous announcements

Published: 2006-05-30T22:38:07-07:00


Download Support for Podcast Enclosure


We've yet to hear any reports of problems using the May 7 update that allows support for RSS 2.0 media enclosures, so we've rolled the code into the current downloads (mirrors have yet to be updated, this will be done by end of the week). All style sheets available from this site contain basic styles for formatting the buttons to link to the media files; some crude instructions are provided from that same link. Users are left to their own resources to augment their style sheets to format the links. All media links open in a new browser window, and rely on suer settings to deal with .mp3, .m4a files. Until I have some more time later in June, no new mirror sites can be set up-- the future scenario will make registering a mirror site a self-service operation.

Beta For RSS Enclosures


I have a preliminary version of Feed2JS running on this server only that is aiming to support access to RSS enclosure media for podcast feeds. I hope I can get a few testers to try it out before it gets rolled into the download versions. There is a new option on the Feed Builder form to indicate whether enclosure media should be displayed (default is "no" just so we do not present any surprises to current users). If you have a current Feed2JS code embedded into your page, you can activate this merely by adding &pc=y to your JavaScript string, or rebuild the feed completely with our new form. As is, this new feature will display a "Play MP3" or "Plat M4A" link for every enclosure found which will appear before the item description. Links go to the media (in a new window). It is set up for output with a new CSS class (div="pod-play-box") and some classes for the links so they can be nicely formatted. Currently only the basic1.css style (used on the preview pages) has these classes. If the functionality tests okay, it can be distributed into all code in a week or two.

Feed2JS Updated And Mirrors


There is no time better than what is left. With only 1.5 days left before I leave Maricopa, I plundered ahead and updated the source code and site for Feed2JS. The big difference again is if you have created your own style sheets to display generated content. You must edit all CSS classes that have names like .rss_XXXXX to read .rss-XXXXX which will make it compatible with CSS standards. In addition, we have turned off the forms that allowed people to share their own CSS styles. The management of them was way to tedious, and there is no one here who will be able ti monitor them. I winnowed down the example list to 100 different styles. This does not mean you cannot use our Style Sheet tool to create your own individual styles for your pages; it just means you cannot upload new ones to our collection. We've added a bit of explanation of how the UTF-8 option can deal with strange characters in the displayed feed content. Finally, the Build a Feed Form will now generate cut and paste code that is valid XHTML. Also, I have manually updated the remaining mirror sites with this version of the code (I lost about 4 since my ftp access was denied). Remaining to be done is support for RSS enclosures, moving this information site to an Open Source Forge site, and setting up a better system for mirror sites to set themselves up and register. Happy Feeding, this might be my last update... Alan Levine

Major Feed2JS Changes / Roadmap


The first week of April 2006 brings a number of changes in Feed2JS, all to make it bigger and better. First of all, anyone using the primary "jade" server at Maricopa, this server will be going offline for a few hours starrting 8:00am Tuesday, April 4 (MST), as the server will be moving from my office up to the main server room in our bulding. In the long run, this will increase the speed and uptime of our server. Also, due are some new code changes in the Feed2Js script. The first is to fix an issue in the generated content for the way CSS classes are declared (my mistake, we use invalid "_" characters). When this change happens, it only affects your site if you are using your own style sheets to control the display of the feeds. You will have to edit your CSS style sheets to replace all "_" with "-". I am sorry but after lots of experiments could not find anyway to preserve things for exisiting sites. For the near future, I am hoping to move the primary site and location of the download to an open source site- a place holder has been set up. In addition, the set up of new mirror sites will/should be more self service than it is now. Also on the roadmap to be added is support for RSS enclosures to handle podcast content. This requires some modifications of the MagpieRSS code which still lacks this as a built-in support. Finally, I should let it be known that as of April 7, I am leaving my position with the Maricopa system fot a new role with the New Media Constortium. This "jade" server will not disappear in the near future and hopefully in the long term, and I will still have involvement in the Feed2JS code (it is my baby after all), but am hopeful with the code in an open source site, that others can contribute to its devlopment and evolution. Lots of changes coming very quickly.

Minor Fix for Atom HTML Display


Minor update to script to deal with situations where the Atom item description/content is delivered with HTML entities escaped (all HTML rendered like: <img src=""> <a href="">go</> <br> Which does not render with the HTML display option on. The code is updated on the main Maricopa site only as we plan to invoke a larger update that addresses the CSS class naming mentioned previously. This new fix is an easy edit for existing scripts. Around line 254, replace: if ($item['content']['encoded']) { $my_blurb = $item['content']['encoded']; with if ($item['content']['encoded']) { $my_blurb = html_entity_decode ( $item['content']['encoded'], ENT_NOQUOTES); This merely decodes the escaped HTML entities (except quotes, they should display as desired in escaped format).

CSS Update Notice


I am almost too embarrassed to admit this, but thanks to an email from Keith K, it was pointed out the CSS class names used by Feed2JS are not exactly W3C valid since they use underscores (e.g. .rss_box) and this may/will cause display problems in Internet Explorer (See Underscores in class and ID Names) I've given some thought to this and have no clever way to do a workaround that will preserve the existing usage, so I am setting a future date when the script will be changed. This could happen in two different ways. (1) The script changes. Any users who were using the current style sheets would have to edit their CSS to change all underscores for hyphens. (2) The feed2js script gets changed and saved as a new name (feed2js2.php or feedtojs.php) that generates the proper classes, and the style builder will reference a copy of the original set of styles. This would mean old instances of the script will stay as is, but newer builds will be set up for the correct CSS declaration. I more likely favor option 2 since it does not harm to current users, and I always aim to keep this backwards compatible. I am taking comments on this, but will implement a change by February 10, 2006.

Feed Building Bookmarklet


From a idea suggested by Bruce Arnold via email, we created a browser bookmarklet tool to help you build a Feed2JS script. Just drag this bookmarklet to your Favorites or web toolbar. All you need to do is to follow a link to an RSS Feed (that is viewing the feed in its full or prettified XML glory). If you click the bookmarklet link, it will pop it into the Feed2JS Build a Feed form, with the default settings. You can change or copy/paste from there. Is this useful? I dunno.

Beta Test Timezone Offset


I've been bothered by the timezone issue of items. The version of Feed2JS running on this site only has a new parameter named tz. If not defined, Feed2JS will just echo the string it finds in an item as the published date. However, if you specify your local timezone offset from GMT, it should correctly display the date and time in your local zone. For example, here in Arizona, the offset value is 7 hours ahead of GMT, so I enter -7. Since the date/time stamps parsed from Magpie are local to my server, I have a new variable that adjusts this time to GMT, and then makes another adjustment based on the user entered offset. If I get some feedback on if this works well, I will roll it into the downloads and the mirrors by next week. My time.

Magpie Update 0.72


We just updated MagpieRSS to the released 0.72 version (some small but important security fixes), and added one more item date stamp piece of logic (Atom 1.0 uses item->created). Hopefully in the next few weeks, we will move the primary information and download site to an open source repository and develope a better method of releasing updates.

Our Clocks Have Been Wrong For a Long Time


Thanks to some keen observers who have recently noted a long standing problem with Feed2JS-- for the display of the date and item was posted, we had been using some Magpie and PHP functions to convert the date/time stamp of an item to a milliseconds value and then using the php date() function for the screen display. Yet I was overlooking the fact that the functions were converting the time into one relative to the local time on my server. Of course, when testing against my own blag, the date.time stamps were okay since its on the same server and in the same timezone. To calculate the time zone offset will take some effort since the date/time formats of feeds have about 5-10 different variations. One option is to include a new parameter that will allow a user to indicate the timezone offset from our local time-- this can be as simple as the build page displaying our local time and giving a drop down menu to select offsets from +12 to -12 to correct the offset. Until I figure that, I have recoded the date/time stamping to just use whatever string is provided in the feed item; and some simple clean up such as removing "Z" from Atom date/times, and stripping the time zone offsets from RSS 1.0 feeds.

Pesky Curly Quotes


Numerous problems with strange characters in feeds are due to character encoding issues, especially content derived from sources that publish those pesky curly quotes. If your content is displaying unexpected characters, then there are two things to adjust- first is to select the UTF-8 encoding when building your feeds, but also your content page must either serve all content as UTF-8 or have in its HEAD content: Unfortunately, I discovered that our preview.php script used on this site and distributed was not properly testing for proper encoding, so sites using Feed2JS can either download the most recent version or siply make this update to preview.php. FIND: REPLACE with: '; } else { echo ''; } ?>

Scheduled Outage


This is a reminder that the Feed2JS server will be offline on Saturday, August 6 from 7:00 AM PDT (check world time clock for your local time) to 5:00 PM (check world time clock for your local time). Our building's internet connection will be off due to work on our electrical system.If you wish to avoid an interruption on your use of Feed2JS, we suggested modifying the JavaScript code to use on of our mirror sites instead. All you need to do is to change the part of the url that reads and use instead: Vindbaarheid (The Netherlands) OpenGUI (California, USA) Astra Systems (U.K.) trendnetters (The Netherlands) firebase software (Dallas, USA) KinScape (Michigan, USA) (California, USA) UNITEC (New Zealand) You may decide just to keep your feeds there and spread the load!

New Mirror in the Netherlands


In just about 15 minutes of set up time, we had a new mirror site up and running in the Netherlands at vindbaarheid, originating from Utrecht, thanks to Mike Platenkamp.As an FYI since some folks are confused, the purpose of our mirror sites are to provide more or less a clone of this original site running on my humble server in Arizona, at other geographically spread locations around the world. I have no interest in creating gobs of mirror sites (we have plenty in the US). This is nothing much more in terms of functionality than one gets by downloading our source code and running it on your server, except you get all the pages and orange colors of this site. For an example, see the Chinese translated version of Feed2JS, which is an available service built on the download, though not strictly a mirror site.

Potential Service Outages


Please note that due to some building electrical upgrades, the server hosting Feed2JS is scheduled for some downtime as listed below. All times are Pacific Times (as if we were in L.A.). These are some long stretches but necessary.If this presents a major problem, you may want to consider switching your feeds to use on of our mirror sites. The outages are scheduled for Saturday July 30: 7:00 AM - 12:00 noon Saturday August 6 7:00 AM through Sunday August 7 5:00 PM

Did The Lights Blink Out?


Apologies if there was Feed2JS outage in the last 24 hours. I was unable to reach any of the servers in my office area and being the weekend,. I was unable to check on it. The server hosting Feed2JS had lost its connections to services, still trying to research why. For thos that ask, any outages are temporary and the service will never be shut down completely without sufficient notice.