Monday, January 31, 2005

RSS Feeds

Yesterday I mentioned RSS feeds, so today I thought I would describe them in more detail.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It's sort of like html code, but different in some key ways. Mainly, with RSS feeds the content comes to you rather than you going to the content.

If a web site has an RSS feed option, you'll see a little link or button that says "XML," "RSS," "Syndicate this site," "Atom," or something like that. (The feed URL for this site is to the right near the top, for example.) You may have already seen this button and clicked on it, only to get a page full of text and code that was difficult to read. That's OK, it's just not meant to be read in a web browser.

Instead, what you can do is copy the address for that page of gibberish into a program known as a "news aggregator." That program then checks the feed on a regular basis to see if the website has any new content. If there is, it shows it to you. Naturally, this feature is nice for sites that update often, like news and blog sites. Most of my news comes from the RSS feeds I've subscribed to, although I'll occasionally listen to the radio.

News aggregators are becoming more and more common, and you don't need to pay a dime for a good one either. If you use Firefox you can download an extension to make it an aggregator as well as a browser, or you can go with any one of a number of programs out there. Even Thingamablog (the program I use to make this website) has an aggregator feature, although at this point I much prefer NetNewsWire Lite for OS X. You can even use a web based news aggregator if you use multiple computers (Yahoo! has added this feature, for example), but I much prefer using a separate application.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Test your Art IQ

When Modernism came about, many more traditional artists questioned whether "Modern Art" was an oxymoron or not. Then came Post-Modernism, Installation Art, Performance Art, and all other kinds of fun things that truly tried to turn that fine line between the works of the masters and the quirks of the legally insane into a grey blur. (This is not to say that it was all bad, mind you.)

Ok, enough of my rambling. How about you take the Art or Crap quiz and find out how well you know the works of the 20th century.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Lissa Explains it All

Your first web site is a step into the brave beautiful world of self publishing, where you can share your ideas, your masterpieces, and, dare I say it, your very soul with the world.

Unfortunately, a lot of the so-called web page builders provided by the free hosting services out there leave a lot to be desired when it comes to customization.

Lucky for you, web design isn't too hard to learn thanks to web sites like Lissa Explains it All. (This is quite possibly a take off of an old Nickelodeon show called "Clarissa Explains it All.") Don't let the garish color scheme drive you off, this stuff can be quite helpful.

Sure, you can use a program that writes the code for you. I've used plenty of those myself. However, I've yet to use a program where I didn't have the desire to go in and tinker with the code "by hand." Sometimes it's faster and easier than trying to modify the same thing through the program's menu options. I've yet to see anyone learn to use HTML and then regret the time it took.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

You're in a jam - your computer doesn't work. It could be a virus, but then again maybe it's something you accidentally configured wrong. Could it be that your software's incompatible? Wait ... is smoke supposed to come out of THERE?! Oh, if only your user manual didn't read like it was written in a foreign language!

Fear not gentle souls, for Leo Laporte is here! You may remember Mr. Laporte from the hit TechTV show, "Call for Help." He's also on the air in southern California on KFI AM640, a station with more than one decent show broadcast over the internet.

In my opinion one of the best features of this site is the Town Square, a friendly community message board suitable for all ages and full of people willing to help anyone out if they can. When I have a tech problem, this is where I go.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mark Harden's Artchive

Ok, let's say you're having a discussion with your students and it leads to an artist whose work is pertinent to the conversation. Unfortunately this spontaneous conversation means that you have no preparation time, and you can't find the right picture in your Art textbook (assuming you even have one). What do you do? Why, go to the Artchive, of course!

This gem of a resource, maintained by Mark Harden, lists artists my name and by genre. You've got a hunt on your hands if you don't remember an artist's name or the name of the artwork, but other than that this site is a gold mine for images that are large enough to make half decent 8.5 x 11 prints.