Archive for the ‘Web Services’ Category

File Under: Web Services

Yahoo Kills Upcoming, Archive Team Saves the Day

Somewhere around here you’ll find the Archive Team. Image: JOPHIELsmiles/Flickr.

Yahoo has finally decided to shutdown its long-neglected Upcoming.org, a social event calendar website. Under Yahoo’s leadership (or lack thereof) Upcoming.org went from a reasonably popular way to discover things to do — concerts, art shows, conferences and the like — to a ghost town of self-promotion and spam.

Upcoming.org’s creator, Andy Baio, posted his thoughts on the official demise of Upcoming.org, noting that he was most upset about the data being lost. “In Yahoo’s typical fuck-off-and-die style,” writes Baio, “they’re [shutting] it with 11 days notice, no on-site announcement, and no way to back up past events.”

Of course there’s a well known group of people that have made something of an art out of saving disappearing internet data — the Archive Team, headed by computer historian Jason Scott.

The Archive Team has already saved data from the demise of huge sites like Geocities and Friendster, and the group is currently working to backup Posterous, Formspring and now Upcoming.org.

And you can help the Archive Team save all this disappearing data. All it takes is Virtualbox (or VMWare or the like, but Virtualbox is free) and the Archive Team’s ArchiveTeam Warrior, a virtual appliance all set up to scrap and save data.

ArchiveTeam Warrior is dead simple to use and it works on OS X, Windows and Linux. Just install the appliance, fire it up and pick a project you’d like to help archive. Alternately you can go with the (preferred) option to let the appliance decide, which helps the Archive Team prioritize projects. If you prefer it’s also possible to run Warrior on Heroku.

Baio has put together a little video showing exactly what you need to do to get Warrior running. The only real overhead on your end is disk space and bandwidth. So long as you’re using a recent version of Virtualbox, it’s pretty easy to limit a virtual machine’s bandwidth so you can help out with backup and make sure your web browsing doesn’t slow to a crawl. See the Warrior wiki page for details.

File Under: Location, Web Services

Watch OpenStreetMap Improve in Real Time

OpenStreetMap is improving all the time. Now you can watch it happen. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

OpenStreetMap isn’t just a powerful, open alternative to Google Maps — used in everything from Apple’s maps to those on Flickr, Wikipedia and dozens of other sites — it’s also a great example of the web’s hive mind at work.

Everyday hundreds, even thousands, of people contribute small changes, improvements and new bits of data to OpenStreetMap. A new trail here, an updated road there and so on until the result is something which, in many locations around the world, trumps the level of detail commercial maps offer.

Now you can watch those changes happen in real time. OSM Lab, an organization for OpenStreetMap related projects, recently released Show Me the Way, an OpenStreetMap project that tracks and displays OSM edits in real time.

There are two views of Show Me the Way, the satellite view (using Bing imagery) and the live OSM-based overview version. Both offer a strangely hypnotic peek behind the scenes of OpenStreetMap’s contributions.

The code behind Show Me the Way also offers a nice look at how to work with real time data and maps. You can grab the source from GitHub.

File Under: APIs, Web Services

Mozilla’s ‘TowTruck’ Brings Real-Time Collaboration to Any Website

Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Mozilla’s TowTruck is a new project aimed at making it easy to collaborate on the web in real time — think real-time screensharing and co-authoring on any webpage.

TowTruck is an experimental Labs project at the moment (alpha), but adding it to your site for testing takes only two lines of code. Head on over to the new TowTruck site to grab the code. If you’d like to try TowTruck from a user perspective, check out Mozilla’s demo pages.

Originally conceived as a tool to help budding web developers by offering real-time collaboration — in other words a live, co-authoring environment you can use to demonstrate HTML and CSS — Mozilla says TowTruck is also useful for “mentoring, making travel plans, triaging bugs, navigating large sites or complicated interfaces.”

TowTruck also taps WebRTC for some extras like chat and voice chat, which makes it especially useful as a teaching tool.

Here’s how Mozilla’s Ian Bicking (the creator of virtualenv, among other useful Python-based tools) describes TowTruck on the Mozilla Labs Blog:

Do you love using Etherpad and Google Drive (previously Docs) to collaborate? We do too. The potential for that kind of collaboration is one of the great things about the web – except that only a handful of web applications take advantage of that potential. We think that every site should offer simple, easy-to-use, instant collaboration embedded directly on their site.

As a web developer, you simply drop TowTruck into your site and it just works. It provides the full out-of-the-box experience users need to get things done collaboratively. It will also give you the opportunity to extend TowTruck to enrich the authoring experience.

Probably the best way to get a handle on what TowTruck does and how you can use it is to watch the screencast:

TowTruck is not, as Bicking acknowledges in the Labs post, an original idea. Google has its Drive API and I seem to get at least one pitch a month on similar, independent projects.

What sets TowTruck apart is its simplicity for both developers and users. Its focus on authoring, mentoring and learning to code might also give it an in with the burgeoning “learn to code” movement. Whether or not that’s enough to help TowTruck succeed where so many others have failed remains to be seen.

File Under: Identity, Web Services

Mozilla Wants to Eliminate Passwords With ‘Persona’

Signing in with Persona. Image: Mozilla.

Mozilla has released a second beta of its distributed online identity system, Mozilla Persona.

The Persona project is Mozilla’s effort to tackle online identity management by eliminating usernames and passwords. Instead, Persona shifts the focus away from individual websites and handles the login details for you, using just your email address.

Among the new features in this release are some speed improvements, integration with Firefox OS and, most importantly, support for signing in with your existing Yahoo webmail account.

It’s the latter feature that just might give Persona the traction it needs to convince more big name sites to support it.

Using the new Yahoo email-based sign-in feature you can sign in to any website that supports Persona without creating a username or password — you just drop in your Yahoo email address and you’re done.

Mozilla calls this Identity Bridging and it’s available now for Yahoo.com email users with other popular webmail providers coming in the future. You can try it out on Mozilla’s demo site — click “Sign in”, enter your Yahoo email address and you’re done. To see what it looks like in action, check out the video below:

For more on Persona and the new features, head on over to the Mozilla blog. If you’d like to see what it takes to support Persona on your site (thankfully it’s much easier than OpenID), the Mozilla Developer Network has a good tutorial.

Amazon Takes on Dropbox With New Desktop File Syncing

Amazon’s desktop-centric Cloud Drive syncing. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Amazon has quietly joined the ranks of cloud-based file syncing services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s SkyDrive. The company’s Amazon Cloud Drive — previously limited to a rather primitive web-based interface — now offers desktop file syncing tools like those found in Dropbox.

To test out the new Cloud Drive syncing, grab the new desktop app for Windows or OS X (sorry Linux fans, currently there is no desktop client for Linux).

Once you’ve installed the new Cloud Drive app, you’ll find a new folder on your drive — drop whichever files you’d like to sync into that folder and they’ll automatically be sent to Amazon’s servers. You’ll then have access to them on any computer with Cloud Drive installed and through the Cloud Drive web interface, though what you can do with files in the web interface is extremely limited.

It’s worth noting that the Cloud Drive app requires Java. As our friends at Ars Technica point out, that means users with newer Macs will be prompted to install Java as well (the Windows app comes with Java bundled).

There’s also no mobile apps for any platform (there is an Android Photo app, but all it does is send photos from your phone to Cloud Drive). In fact, while Cloud Drive will sync files between desktops, beyond that there isn’t much to see yet.

Part of the appeal of any web-based sync tool is ubiquitous access, not just via the web but in your favorite mobile apps as well and in that space Dropbox clearly has a huge lead over Cloud Drive.

Amazon offers 5GB of Cloud Drive storage for free, with additional storage available at roughly $.50/GB, which is down from the $1/GB price back when Cloud Drive first launched. That’s on par with SkyDrive’s pricing and roughly half the price of Dropbox. In this case though — at least right now — you get what you pay for. Amazon has the makings of a Dropbox competitor but it still has a lot of catching up to do.