Simply Jonathan

Archive for 2010

Today's Wulff Morgenthaler 

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All great things can be used for stupid purposes.

Announcing Wp-default-links

It’s a time for WordPress plugins for me it seems. After making the one for currencies.dk I have another one ready, one I call wp-default-links.

This next one is one that isn’t of much use unless one uses Michel Fortin’s PHP-Markdown (although I guess you could use it without), but one that I find helpful if one does.

In Markdown, one has the ability to offload the URI part of a link to later time. To do so, one makes a placeholder ID on the link one wants: [Link][placeholder-id]. Later on in the document, one then gets to define said link’s URI with the following: [placeholder-id]: http://example.com/.

I find, however, that I often link to the same resources and in the same way, making this a little tedious. So I came up with the idea to make a central database table of these, to allow common ones to be reused.

It intentionally is very unobtrusive, setting its priority in WordPress to a level that will virtually guarantee it be activated as the last plugin, so as to not risk going off before Markdown has had a chance to substitute the links. Markdown has, as it should, first movers advantage in this field, and wp-default-links will kick in if it finds any leftovers. (Thus it will also work backwardscompatibily.)

The plugin can be downloaded at Github.

Announcing currencies.dk

More than one and a half year after I released the first version of the site, I reckon now would be a decent time to actually announce it to the public.

Though I am a Dane, preciously little of what I read is in Danish, and little of it applies to Danes. This means – among many other things, but for this post this is the interesting point – that currencies mentioned are not the Danish Krone, which is still the currency my mental references stem from.

I thought that, while the Danish Krone is probably not a currency many non-Danes come by on a regular basis, there is still a good deal of mental currency conversion going on in the heads of people. This could be helped.

Most currency conversion tools convert from one currency to another, and put a great deal of focus on the developments in currency rates; that’s fine, they seem intended for professionals who need this sort of information.

I, on the other hand, don’t. I am interested in seeing what a thing someone is writing about is worth in my mental currency. So I came up with an idea for a slightly alternative currency viewer. Instead of focusing on these economical data, it would simply show what a currency is worth, in currency or currencies the user is interested in.

The result is currencies.dk. The site is made with a principle in mind that I deemed crucial, and that I have found very helpful using the site: hackable URIs. This means that by formulating the quite simple URI http://currencies.dk/{amount}/{currency}/ (amount is a number, currency is the three-lettered code for the currency), one could get the list.

Now, that is one side of the coin, being a utility for people to use on their own. It might be a little more convenient to use than most of the competition (I at least feel so), but the real reason for this simple API is to allow blogging applications to use it.

Thus I have also made a WordPress Plugin, intended to simply make it a bit easier for people to turn their mentioning of a currency into links so people can see how much that is worth in the currency they care about.

It is possible to create a user on currencies.dk, which allows one to filter which currency one would like to see. (I have little interest in the worth of a Bulgarian lev, as I realise many people won’t care about the Danish krone.)

So there it is, I have finally told the world about currencies.dk. If you have any questions about or ideas for the site, please let me know at info@currencies.dk.

The Origins of Abc 

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Amazing timeline from I love Typography of the history of the (Latin) alphabet. Interesting to people interested in both typography, linguistics, and history. (Three for three in my case.)

Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names 

Kind of old by now, but useful nonetheless. Quick summary: Everything you believe about names is wrong.

Tools

I’ve been thinking a lot about tools lately. Most of it is just rehashes of things Merlin Mann has said earlier and what Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson say in a chapter of Rework, but that’s just how it is.

The thing is, I believe tools are important. Without tools, very little of what human beings do would be possible. Without a brush and some paint, one wouldn’t be able to paint pictures. Without a camera, no photographer. Tools matter.

I do also believe, however, that there is an unhealthy focus on the exact tools, and that people seem to blame much of their failures on tools, usually a lack of them. This often comes along the lines of someone saying they can’t do anything until the new tool comes out. This could be a painter waiting for a specific brush or a special sort of paint, believing that until these are in his hands, he won’t be able to paint pretty paintings.

This is a problem. Tools matter, but if one lets lack of specific versions of a tool get in the way, then it’s not the tool that’s at fault, it’s the person.

No matter how lovely a pen might be, it won’t make you a better writer. Writing will make you a better writer, and most pens will do the job sufficiently. You may very well prefer some sort of pen (a ball point pen or what not), but if you refrain from writing at all if you don’t have the exact brand you need, it’s not the pen that’s at fault, it’s you.

You don’t need a fancy todo list application; if you’re just starting out keeping score of these things, a piece of paper and a pen will most likely suffice. If you want the fancy one, go ahead and buy it; but if you can’t justify paying for it at the moment, that’s not an acceptable excuse to not keep tracks of your duties.

The tool as a general concept (computer) matters, but for basic stuff, the exact tool (Macbook Pro 17″) rarely does, certainly not if lack of said tool makes you not do what really matters: get shit done.

Yes, I look forward to receiving my iPhone 4, but for now, I will make phone calls, write text messages, and use Mobile Safari on my 3G, thank you very much.

Backblaze 

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Backblaze is a backup service I’ve been using since the start of 2009, and I’ve been very pleased with them, although, thankfully, I haven’t had to make great use of their restoration.

In June they’re having Backup Awareness Month. If you follow the link I’ve supplied here, you will be eligible for winning an iPad, and if you tell that I sent you, so will I.

Backup is important, because hard-drives fail. That’s a fact of life, and using an offsite backup service like Backblaze means that even if something awful were to happen to the place you live, at least your data will be safe.

Good Web Fonts 

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Laura Franz has started a project to make great web font pairings.

Google Font Directory 

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Google’s offering of embedding open source fonts, without hosting them yourself.

HTML5 Watch 

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Never Mrgan of Panic fame is tracking exciting HTML5 creations.

This is Simply Jonathan, a blog written by Jonathan Holst. It's mostly about technical topics (and mainly the Web at that), but an occasional post on clothing, sports, and general personal life topics can be found.

Jonathan Holst is a programmer, language enthusiast, sports fan, and appreciator of good design, living in Copenhagen, Denmark, Europe. He is also someone pretentious enough to call himself the 'author' of a blog. And talk about himself in the third person.