An exciting week for the bookmaplet!

Wow, I just had a crazy week with the bookmaplet!

One week ago, last Thursday the bookmaplet got featured on Lifehacker, and shortly after this it was also picked up by MakeUseOf.com and KillerStartups. The net result? Tons of people trying it out. Check out this Google Analytics graph:

About 1200 visits on Thursday, and its settling around about 150-300 visits a day. Before that, I was averaging less than 5 visits a day. For those noticing a downward trend near the end, today I'm already at 208 visits. So, overal I'm very happy with this result.

Best of all, I started getting mails from people. There is something very special about creating something that you believe in, that is easy to use and useful, and then having people you never heard of telling you how much they like what you made. I even got some bug reports and feature requests. So, if you have any comments or suggestions for the bookmaplet, don't hesitate to contact me.

In the coming days, I'm going to look into some of feature requests that I got. So keep your eyes peeled for some new stuff showing up soon.

So, if you haven't done so already, give the bookmaplet a try and tell your friends about it.


Crimson Falls: Studio Report

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to meet up with Crimson Falls in the CCR Studio where they were mixing their new cd, Fragments of Awareness. When I entered the studio, I could already hear one of the new songs, 'The Suicide Circle', blasting through the speakers. The song switches from deathcore to black metal style riffing, has vocals backing both styles up and the singer from Rafflesia as guest vocalist.
In the next song I got to hear, the band still puts a mirror in front of society, with 'The Suicide Circle' being about a wave of suicides with youths not too long ago in Britain.
After this they had five more songs lined up in a first rough mix. The next one, 'Forsaken', will become the opener on the cd. This song reminded me of All Shall Perish through the guitar loops. The lyrics are about Alzheimer's disease and show again that they want to bring real life problems in the open through their music.
The next song, 'If I'd Become A Father', was another deathcore piece with a super heavy slam part near the end with vocals ranging from grunts to pig squeals and even dog barks (? yes, you got to hear it to believe it...).
If you liked the 'In Flanders Field/We Are The Dead' combo from 'The True Face Of Human Nature', then you're in for a treat. They got a similar combo lined up in 'With All Due Respect/Sworn Persistence'. The first part consisting of a clean spoken intro on clean guitar lines mounting of into the slamfest that is 'Sworn Persistence'. Some melodic death riffing near the end of the song turned this into one of my favourites already.
The two last songs that I was able to listen to, 'Cauterize Havoc' and 'Omen', show again the typical Crimson Falls' song writing and Wim switching different vocal styles.
Overall it was clear that Crimson Falls has put another step forward in songwriting, mastery of their instruments and vocal ranges. I can't wait for these rough mixes to get finished and onto a cd. Topping it of with the excellent production of CCR Studio, this new release is going to mark their place in the Belgian metal scene.

Full disclosure: My brother is a guitarist in Crimson Falls and he gave me the opportunity to do this studio report. So I make no garantuees on being completely unbiased...


Lessons learned from building the bookmaplet

Building the bookmaplet allowed me to learn a lot about programming for the Internet, even though it is only small, little webapp. There were quite a few gotcha's as well. Reason enough to share some of the lessons I learned.

Website layouts are hard
Doing the layout for a website is harder than it seems. I have a fair bit of experience with building Java GUIs in Swing, but doing CSS is whole different ballgame. I did not have a lot of practical experience with web programming, but luckily I read Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML a few months ago. The Head First series is an excellent way to get started with a technology you have to learn quickly. Even though there's tons of resources on the Web on this, that book was a godsend to get started in a hurry. Nevertheless, I still plan to have a professional web designer take a look so it can be spruced up a bit more.

Browser differences are real
I naively thought I would be spared of any big issues with differences between browsers. It's only going to be a small site, not a lot of HTML or JavaScript. Of course, I was dead wrong. And it was only after bringing the bookmaplet site live that I noticed that Internet Explorer 6 does not support transparent images (PNGs) like the one I use as a logo. A bit of Internet research later I found a workaround with some HTML and JavaScript mumbo-jumbo, but it is not perfect. You can still see it flicker when the site is loading. I guess it serves me right for not testing in advance.

Using your own domain name
Last Friday evening, I was all psyched up to get my app online. I load it up on Google App Engine and I want to put it on my own domain. I had the idea for bookmaplet a bit more than a month ago and I purchased the domain at that time. I used GoDaddy, no problems there, excellent site to purchase and manage your domain, though they do try to get you to purchase a lot of extra services with the domain. What I did not count on, was that I had to register for Google Apps as well. This was not really a problem but more of an inconvenience as it took time to go through the process, modifying CNAME records, etc.  Unfortunately, after I this, I still could not see my webapp on my own domain because of DNS caching. It took about 20 hours to show up on there (meaning it was afternoon on Saturday). Bummer... In the future, I'll probably set up a dummy page already loaded in Google App Engine to counter this.

These were just some of the things I encountered while developing the bookmaplet. I got to learn a lot about web programming which was the whole point, so I'm pretty happy with that. There are still some bugs I have to iron out (websites with frames are nasty!). Overall, it's going as I planned. If you tried out the bookmaplet, don't hesitate to let me know what you think.


Rumor: Slipknot on Graspop 2009?

Yesterday, I was at the Slipknot concert in Antwerp, and Slipknot frontman, Corey Taylor, mentioned (what I think) is a big hint on their possible appearance on Graspop 2009:

You can expect to see us back sooner than you think!

I don't think they'll do new European tour again so quickly after this one (which ends tonight). This opens the door for them to do a string of summer festival appearances. I'm betting Graspop 2009 is going to be on that list!


Official launch: Bookmaplet

With this post, I'm officially launching my first webapp on Google App Engine:

Have you ever been on a webpage, saw an address of some company and wanted to know where it was located? Maybe not immediately the exact location, but just to get a general idea of whereabouts it is?

That's what you can use the bookmaplet for!

The bookmaplet is actually just a bookmarklet, which is a link that you can add to your toolbar. Drag it over there and you're set. Now, whenever you are on a webpage and you see an address there, just highlight it with your mouse, click the bookmaplet, and small frame will be appear in the top right corner displaying the location of the address on a map. And moreover, it's a fully functional map in the sense that you can zoom in and out with the scrollwheel on your mouse, or with the controls on the map. You can also bring up the sattelite view of you want.

You can of course just copy and paste the address into Google Maps, and this is great if you want to do more with the address, like calculate a route to it. But it also means opening another browser tab or window, and you have to switch back and forth between the original website and Google Maps. So, if you just want to know the general location of an address, I believe that the bookmaplet is a little simpler and easier to use.

So, why not have a look and try it out. And, of course, feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you think.