Slashzilla is a sidebar panel that provides the user with an enhancement to the interface provided by Slashdot.

Slashzilla provides you with easy to access information.

Slashzilla's Big Brother

August 30, 2003

Recent changes in my schedule have finally freed up some time for me to work on Slashzilla and projects beyond. Some may recall some discussion a while back about expanding Slashzilla's capabilities to make it a generic web information organizer. I have some good news and some bad news:

The Good News: Some may be asking, "How does 'Mercury' affect Slashzilla?" Basically, once the first version of Mercury is available with all of the planned features (see below), Slashzilla will simply become a branch of Mercury. By simply locking in a set of rules for Mercury that is Slashdot specific, Mercury can be made to work exactly like Slashzilla does now. Actually, Slashzilla will greatly benefit from using Mercury as a code base.

More Good News: I have begun working on what I am currently calling "Mercury." Mercury is a Firebird extension that allows a user to define how web pages are handled. Mercury provides mechanisms for modifying web pages on the fly, gathering data from web sources, and displaying content dynamically. See below for more information on each of these features.

The Bad News: I don't really think "Mercury" is a good name for the new project. I picked that name because Mercury was the Roman god of communication. Mercury brought information to those that needed it, which is similar to what this new project does. I personally don't like it, but I needed to name it something so that I could put some soft of name in the code. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I'd like your suggestions for a name. You can either edit the Wiki page I created for this purpose, or you can e-mail suggestions to me and I'll add them to the list.

For those that care, here is more detail on the capabilities of Mercury.

  • Dynamic page modification: Mercury will let you define (via an XML document) how incoming web pages will be modified. For example, you can delete any Flash files from incoming web pages. Or perhaps you want to remove ads? What if you wanted to strip every headline from a page (like Slashdot) and simply display a list with links to the article? Although it won't be ready with the first few releases, eventually you will even be able to rearrange the page as you see fit. Perhaps you want to see the ads, but you want them to appear at the bottom of the page?
  • Gathering data: This feature works either alongside page modification, or by itself. This feature allows you to take information from a web source and store it in a central information source where it can be referenced later. Data can either be pulled from the web pages you are viewing or invisibly at given time intervals from pages you define. This data can then be inserted into the page you are viewing using page modification or it can be displayed in the sidebar (read the next bullet).
  • Dynamic content display: Mercury will also provide a sidebar that is populated with HTML exactly to your specification. You can simply pull a web page from elsewhere or you can define the HTML yourself. Basically this gives you the power to place anything you want in the sidebar. From a list of links on the current page to a list of Slashdot headlines. But your content need not be in the sidebar, you can also generate content on the fly for insertion into pages using page modification.

I think that gives a pretty good summary of the abilities of Mercury. If anyone has any suggestions for samples to include with the first release, let me know. So far the progress on Mercury has been very fast. I'm expecting the first version to be ready to go in the next week or two. As soon as I have something that I'm not embarassed to show the public, I'll be posting.

Slashzilla version 0.05 available

July 23, 2003

Finally, after months of struggling to find the time to work on Slashzilla, a new version is ready to go. This version adds nothing except Firebird compatibility.

A very special thanks goes out to Jed Brown. He submitted the necessary changes to get Slashzilla working with Firebird.

Firebird Compatibility

May 5, 2003

I have received a large number of e-mails in the last few weeks asking about Firebird compatibility. To answer everyone's question's in one sentence: I know it doesn't work and I'm working today to fix it.

Expect to see a new version of Slashzilla complete with Firebird compatibility this week. What else will be included in the new version? Nothing... sorry.

"What about the new features you mentioned in March," you ask? Now that my schedule has opened up (a little), I'll be working on these. The change is dramatic enough that I'm not sure the new project should be called "Slashzilla" anymore. I'm open to suggestions... What would you call a Firebird extension that allows content to be harvested from web sites and redisplayed as the user wishes?

Slashzilla Not Dead Yet!

March 21, 2003

After months of inactivity, the Slashzilla scene seems to be flaring up again. I've gotten multiple e-mails, comments, and bug submissions in the last couple of weeks.

To all the loyal Slashzilla users out there, Slashzilla is not dead. It's just on hold. I apologize for the lack of updates, but real life is getting in the way for the moment. I'm a humble college student that also works full time, combine this with a programming contest I'm participating in and I have zero time left for Slashzilla.

But fear not, I have big plans for Slashzilla. Once time clears up for me (hopefully soon), I will once again be rolling out the updates. And the next update will be huge.

Just to give everyone an idea of where Slashzilla is going, I'd like to share my thoughts and make a request for some comments from people.

Slashzilla began as a tool to allow Slashdot users to more easily browse Slashdot content. In order to achieve this goal I hacked out some code that parses the Slashdot main page. Then I worked on the SZCode parser, which renders content. Using some SZCode, one can easily display the Slashdot headlines however they wish.

After making the SZCode portion as generic as possible it occured to me that there was a flaw in the design of Slashzilla. Anyone looking at the source code will immediately notice the horrible ugliness of the code that parses the Slashdot content (actually the XML parser is good, the HTML parser is gross). So what's the solution? Well, I need to make the parser as generic as possible too. So I've designed a parser that will work using and XML specification for each type of page. The parser reads the XML file and uses it to harvest information from a page, neat eh?

But what does this mean to the end user? Basically, Slashzilla will become a far more powerful tool. Not only with it be more readily capable of parsing Slashdot, I don't see any reason why Slashzilla can't be expanded to harvest content from more web sites. All someone would need to do is create an XML file for CNN and suddenly Slashzilla will be able to show CNN articles too! A Google file will allow search results to be shown (I know, I know, Mozilla already does it). An (already in development) RSS file will allow any RSS content from any site to be shown.

With that said, I'd like to hear comments/suggestions from users. Does this have some potential? Which web sites would you like to see Slashzilla work for? Anyone want to volunteer to create a file XML files for different sites? Please let me know!

Slashzilla v0.04 released

January 6, 2003

Despite having not reached my original goal for 0.04, I've decided to go ahead and release what's ready now anyway. I have come to a point where I'm happy with the way everything works and Slashzilla is stable so I don't see any reason to delay the release.

The new version has a much-improved customization engine which introduces an aspect of Slashzilla that I am very excited about, SZCode. SZCode is basically a method of defining the way that content is rendered using HTML and JavaScript, along with a few addition abilities.

Unfortunatly, there is no documentation for SZCode ready, so I wish everyone luck in figuring out how it works :). But do not fear, Slashzilla also now has a "Normal" customization option that will let you tweak minor appearance options. You can now decide what the link will do, move the icon around, resize the icon, and move the number of comments around.

Another neat new feature of Slashzilla is the automatic updating everyone wanted. Slashzilla will now update automatically every 30 minutes.

I think that's about it. For the next release I am planning to include a display at the top that shows some higher-level information (customizable through SZCode :)) and a help system for those that can't wait to do some high level customization through SZCode. (I know there's a few of you!)

Slashzilla logo contest

January 6, 2003

Well folks, version 0.04 should be ready to go shortly. Included in this version will be easier customization and a display showing Slashdot user information.

But there's a problem, at the top of the interface there is a spot for a logo of some sort, and I'm a terrible graphic artist! If anyone out there is up for the challenge, I'm looking for a logo of some sort. Preferably there would be two logos (or two variations of the same logo), one that is more or less square in shape and one that is horizontally rectangular.

While this is a contest, I must say that I have nothing to offer the winner. Reasonable requests will be accepted.

Mail any entries to me. (Don't forget to change my e-mail address, spam-bot blocker in effect.)

News template created.

December 27, 2002

I finally got on the ball and created a template for posting news on the main page. There isn't really anything else to report at this time.

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