How to Setup your Facebook Connect Application

Note: This post has been moved to here. Please leave comments there instead.

The majority of the email I get from users of the Simple Facebook Connect plugin is questions regarding how to setup their Facebook Application. It’s really not that hard to do, but the plethora of options can seem somewhat intimidating. So here’s the basics of what you need to do.

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SFC Chicklet

I saw this morning that Jesse Stay had created a rather neat little chicklet for his FBFoundations plugin. I thought it was a clever idea, so naturally I stole it and added it to Simple Facebook Connect as well.

Of course, just copying an idea is no fun. So I had to improve upon it a bit for my version. :)

I ended up not using any of Jesse’s code, but I did (mostly) keep the format of his chicklet output the same, so as to try to be compatible with it for styling rules and such.

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Twitter Geolocation

Heard of geotagged tweets yet? Not surprised, a lot of my friends seem to have not caught on to it, so I’m writing this in a possibly futile attempt to get them to try it out.

How to add your location to your tweets

1. Turn on Geotagging. To do this, go to your Twitter settings page. Down under the “Location” section is an option to enable geotagging. Turn it on.

Twitter Settings

2. Get a Twitter client that supports Geotagging. These are generally mobile applications. Tweetie 2 for the iPhone added support for it in 2.1. Several other clients support it as well. Find one.

3. Turn it on in your client. How you do this depends on the client, but it can usually be enabled on a per-tweet basis.

Here’s an example of how it works and looks in Tweetie 2 for the iPhone.

First, you type in a new tweet, and pull open the drop down.

Next, you enable the geotag feature, and you'll see a little red pin appear.

You'll see little maps on tweets with locations attached to them.

Click on the map icon for greater detail.

You can do more with your Twitter location too. For example, this website will read your twitter feed and get your latest location, then send it over to Fire Eagle, which is Yahoo’s location service. Fire Eagle can do all sorts of things, but basically it’s just a service that stores your location for other programs to use. So if you want to display your location on your blog, or on Facebook for your friends to see, or anything else you can think of, you can do that, using nothing more than your already existing tweets.

WordPress Settings API Tutorial

Edit: This post has moved to here: http://ottopress.com/2009/wordpress-settings-api-tutorial/. Take your comments there.

When writing the Simple Facebook Connect plugin, I investigated how the Settings API worked. It’s relatively new to WordPress (introduced in version 2.7), and many things I read said that it was much easier to use.

It is much easier to use in that it makes things nice and secure almost automatically for you. No confusion about nonces or anything along those lines. However, it’s slightly more difficult to use in that there’s very little good documentation for it. Especially for the most common case: Making your own settings page.

So, here is my little documentation attempt.

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Simple Facebook Connect

Working on a new WordPress plugin lately. It’s basically a simple and easy way to make Facebook Connect work with your WordPress based website.

More info about it here: Simple Facebook Connect.

Short list of current features:

  • Simple 2 step setup for Facebook Connect. Just create the App via Facebook and paste in the API key.
  • Share button, with meta support.
  • User status widget
  • Comment using Facebook Identity (alpha, not operational, for testing only, will be working soon).

Like most things I announce early, it’s not fully featured yet. I’m modifying and adding onto it as I go along, so expect a lot of updates to show up in the plugin list if you use it.

And if you have ideas for how to improve it, please email them to me. :)

How to find a backdoor in a hacked WordPress

Edit: This post has moved to here: http://ottopress.com/2009/hacked-wordpress-backdoors/. Take your comments there.

Over here, Jorge Escobar is writing about how he got hacked with the latest version of WordPress. After some minor back and forth on FriendFeed, I got him to do a search which found a malicious backdoor he might not otherwise have found.

In so doing, it occurred to me that most people don’t keep up with the world of WordPress in the way I do, and so have not seen nearly as many hack attempts. So I figured I’d post my little contribution, and show people how to find hidden backdoors when cleaning up their hacked sites.

Non-technical users can safely ignore this post. :)
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Waze – Free iPhone Directions Application

Playing around this weekend, I discovered a neat and fun little app for the iPhone.

A lot of new apps have came out for the iPhone lately that are based around driving directions. TomTom came out with theirs for $100, and Navigon is another popular one that runs $90. But, if you want to try out something a little different, this one is free.

iPhone image

Waze is a free driving directions app, with a twist. Basically, the maps on it are “incomplete”. That is, they’ve got the map data, but like all maps, the data is inaccurate. So, to get the data to be better, they’re enlisting your help.

How do you help? Simple. You use the app in the car, then drive around. As you do so, the GPS will be reading your location and noting that there is indeed a street there. It makes it kinda fun to confirm streets in this way since a little Pac-Man like figure appears, eating dots on the map where you are driving, and giving you “points”. The points aren’t useful for much, except a ranking system with everybody else using the app, but it’s fun nevertheless.

So what else? Well, obviously it’ll do driving directions. However, when I tried it to get to my friend’s place at Cooper-Young fest this last weekend, it was laughably wrong. It suggested an 8 mile trek through ridiculous parts of town for no reason. I drove there the normal route instead, letting it complain that I was “off route” all the way and listening to the Waze-pacman gathering up the points as he munched his way down the road. However, something odd happened then. On the way back, when I turned it on, it knew that route. Investigating today, I’ve found that it really doesn’t like to route people on routes that haven’t been “confirmed” yet very much. So, since I’d confirmed that route already, it picked it for my way home.

But there’s a bonus to all that. By confirming the route, it’s getting more than street maps. It’s also getting average speeds. So it can use that information to give optimal routes, knowing how fast each street tends to be.

iPhone Event Reporting

You can even more than that though. Along the way, you can report events too.

An event is like an auto accident, or a speed trap. Whenever you see one of these, you can touch the report button and report one quickly. If you’re totally stopped in traffic, then you can also type in a short message (it won’t let you do that while moving), and the message will instantly be sent, where other drivers (and their iPhone’s) can see it. Those drivers will then get routed a different way, possibly saving them some time.

Or, even better, somebody else reports a problem, and you get to save some time.

Downsides to the app: Battery life. Like any other GPS app, it sucks the battery right down. You’ll need a car charger to run the thing. Probably a quality iPhone mount too. It does do landscape mode as well, and hidden down in the options is a “3D mode”, which makes the map lay back and look like the more expensive iPhone driving apps, if you prefer that sort of thing. The 2D map is easier to read, to me.

From what I’m reading, Waze has only been around a month or so, and not many people are using it. As far as I can tell, almost nobody in Memphis is using it, since almost all the roads are unconfirmed. But it would be pretty neat if everybody driving around was sharing data like this, what with Memphis traffic being what it is. I sure wouldn’t mind getting routed around half the crap I see on the streets around here.

If you’ve wanted to try out a driving directions app without spending $100 or so, then you cannot beat free. So I highly recommend it. I’m using it all the time now.

Google Maps traffic… it needs work.

I always wondered how Google Maps knew traffic conditions. Today, there’s a blog post where they explain it a bit better.

That ain't on an iPhone...
That ain't on an iPhone...

Basically, they simply have all the phones running Google Maps with GPS send back data as to a) where they are and b) how fast they’re moving. Both of which GPS gives you more or less by default.

It’s a clever idea, and I like it, but it fails in a couple of major ways, IMO.

Firstly, when I use Google Maps on my phone, I tend to not leave it open. Google Maps is fine, but it’s not a very good navigation system. It’s just a map. A real navigation app is worlds better. I recently got Navigon Mobile Navigator on the new iPhone, and it’s pretty slick. Thinking about a dashboard mount for it now, actually.

Secondly, this system relies on a lot of people having Google Maps open and running and sending back data. If nobody with Google Maps running has been on your street recently, you get no information.

What Google really needs to do is to open it up as an API. Let other navigation system manufacturers both send and receive traffic data from the Google Maps system. It doesn’t have to be complex.

Any good navigation app knows your location and speed, so a simple way to send that info could be made easily enough. The problem, of course, is allowing third parties to use the data.

Google Maps works in layers of images, which is one of its major shortcomings, IMO. The street views are images. The terrain are images. Just big sets of tiles that get displayed next to each other. And I’m almost certain that this traffic thing is just another set of images they’re generating or updating. For navigation providers that use 3d views and such, they don’t need that stuff in the form of images, they need it in the form of data. What streets are busy? How can that information be used to improve the navigation? Etc.

Google is generally pretty good at opening up their APIs to third parties. However, they’re generally not good at providing data in different forms. Most of their APIs are “this is what we use, if you need something else we don’t have it” sort of thing. Hopefully, the Google Maps team will see the light here and realize that to get good data, you have to give good data, and start pushing in that direction. Because open traffic data would be pretty cool for everybody.

How to Taste and Describe a Beer

It occurred to me that some of my friends don’t really know how to taste and describe beer properly. Even my wine friends, descriptive as they are, are pretty poor at describing beer. The methods of tasting are not all that different, really.  There’s more of a snobbery surrounding wine and some of people are loathe to come down to the beer world, even though we beer snobs are far bigger jerks. :D

But I figured that I’d try and educate some people on the proper way anyway. What the heck, eh?

There’s four steps to tasting a beer. To make it fun, let’s make them all start with the letter S. :)

1. See.

When a beer is poured it produces a foamy head. This head usually dissipates quickly, leaving behind a bit on top called the “lace”. This same lace remains on the sides of the glass when drinking the beer. Hold up the beer and take note of the color as well. These are all descriptive aspects that help in understanding of the beer.

  • Color describes the malts used, or the brewing process.
  • The amount of foam describes the carbonation.
  • How it dissipates describes the thickness or heavyness of the beer.
  • The amount of lace describes the freshness of the beer, the freshness of the hops used.

2. Swirl.

Yes, damnit, swirl it a bit, like you would a wine. This agitation pulls out the scents and carbonations from the brew. It also tests the head retention, which gives you more info about the lacing.

3. Smell.

Smell the beer, obviously. Something like 80-90% of taste is actually smell. It’s the most important part of tasting. Breath deeply of the beer through your nose and then, yes, through your mouth as well. The combination of these two gives you the best experience of the brew. Describe the scents you have. Wheat beers, for example, are often fruity or citrusy, usually because the brewer adds these types of ingredients specifically. Hops have a distinct odor, of course, but different types of hops smell different. Cascade hops (the most common type) smells completely different from fuggle hops, for example, and they are used in completely different types of beers.

4. Sip.

Take a sip, swirl it around your mouth a bit. Don’t swallow right away, let it warm up a small amount. Important bits to remember here:

  • Mouthfeel. You see this one a lot in beer circles. What does it feel like? What’s the texture of the beer?
  • Consistency. Does the beer change a lot as you taste it? From beginning to end of glass even.
  • Breathe out while the beer is in your mouth. This increases the flavor experience. Really. Google “retro-olfaction”.
  • What does it taste like? Salty? Bitter? Sweet? Acidic? Oily? Fruity? Beer can taste like just about anything, think of what it’s similar to. Describe what it would go with.

Now, once you’ve done this, describe the beer. Here’s an example for PBR:

Clear golden color, with a 3/4 inch thick white head, which quickly reduced to a minimal thin lacing. Pleasant but subdued scent, mostly sweet lagered malts. Slight amount of grain flavors, with subdued grassy hop undertones. Minimal bitterness. Somewhat fizzy in apperance, but only lightly carbonated flavors. Crisp and dry mouthfeel, with a slight hint of oilyness when warmer. Overall clean flavor, very light malts used. Good session beer, would be excellent with stronger beef or spiced chicken flavors.

Simple.

Advertising and Gaming

Dunno if you heard of this one, but I thought it was pretty good.

If you’ve played a lot of games, then you know that some of them have advertising in them. Over the years, games have had all sorts of advertising, sometimes fake, sometimes funny, sometimes real stuff. Many years back, I recall participating on usenet in a discussion of the virtual worlds of games, and the subject of in-game-advertising was brought up.

See, up until this point, advertising in games was mostly a static thing. The games didn’t, on the whole, change the ads much. At some point during the discussion, the idea was advanced to the point of changing them dynamically. I mean, these are just big textures, there’s no reason that the game could not detect an internet connection and download new ones on the fly. At the time, this was roundly hailed as preposterous, mainly because “internet” at that time mostly consisted of modems and dialup connections. Large scale multiplayer gaming was relatively new, and home broadband was basically limited to expensive ISDN connections.

Of course, the idea was natural and obvious, but I quit most of my gaming about then, and so I didn’t see how the idea went on and advanced in reality.

Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have more or less mandatory internet support. That is to say that while you can certainly use the thing without internet hooked to it, virtually nobody does, because it enables the vast majority of the functionality of the thing. And so, naturally, advertising came in-game on those too.

IGN Worldwide handles almost all of this advertising, from what I can tell. And recently, this got a big story boost, as it affects the elections.

Screenshot of the Obama Ad in Burnout Paradise
Screenshot of the Obama Ad in Burnout Paradise

Burnout Paradise on the Xbox 360 and PS3 have billboards beside the highway that show advertising. On the 360 version at least, from October 6 through November 3th, if you are a player in one of ten “battleground” states, then you’ll be seeing Obama ads in the game.

The ads say that Early Voting has begun as well as pointing to Obama’s Vote For Change website.

NPR’s Morning Edition went on to confirm that the ads will appear in a total of 18 different games in those 10 states only, including Madden NFL and other sports games.

They also mention that the ads are targeted to men 18-34, but I’m not certain if that means that they will only be shown to players fitting that demographic or not. It certainly could be, since if you use those consoles on the internet, then you have an account with demographic information like that.

I find it fascinating that I missed this trend, and I can certainly see how it could be a good thing or a bad thing. I would not personally mind my games having live ads like this, as it would add a sense of realism and up-to-date-ness about them. On the other side of the coin though, I can see a lot of gamers upset by this sort of thing, as some people are simply against ads wherever they may be under any circumstances.

It’s still pretty neat, I say.