September 2011 Archives

Autumn Decorations, Treats, & Jewellery: Etsy

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In autumn's approach, it is time to begin decorating and treating the senses to autumn-inspired eye candy. I have located some classy finds on Etsy to help get you in the mood. These finds include everything from autumn jewellery for your wardrobe, cookies, wreaths, cards, bunting, fabric decorations, soap, and paintings. This post has really gotten me into the mood for autumn; though I have not enjoying these chilly mornings at all.
Enchanted Leaves:
I like the simplicity and natural (yet modern) feeling with these various necklaces from EnchantedLeaves. The acorn necklace comes in different colours; I have one, and it makes an appearance with my autumn wardrobe.
1) The Midnight Orange:
I love autumn colours in bronze, gold, and crimson. These clay-sculptued acorns (with natural tops) are painted brightly, and there's also an option to buy glittery ones.
2) handmade colectibles:
This autumn wreath, made with felt rosettes, makes me wish autumn would never end.
3) sweet harvey:
The pumpkin letterpress notecards are stylish.
4) The Polka Dot Magpie:
I love the colours in this bunting.
5) Instead of buying, why not bake your pumpkin sandwich cookies? (Not on Etsy).
6) polished two:
Autumn also means Halloween is approaching, so I included some cute ghostly ear rings.
Decorations made from wool/felt seem to be popular at the moment, and I singled out these cute pumpkins and acorns.
1) builton branches:
2) Fairyfolk:
3) Fairyfolk:
4) scratchcraft:
1) Sarah Niebank Hoffman:
These painted cloth cat decoration are available in Halloween/autumn black and orange colours.
2) Lippincott Soap Co:
This pumpkin soap claims to smell as delicious as it looks.
3) Pen And Paperie:
I would love to receive one of these illustrated pumpkin cards in the post.
4) beadinbythesea:
This is a lovely silver acorn necklace.
5) Sewn Natural:
There's more handmade felt decorations with these autumn acorns in red, orange, and gold.
6) Rachelle Levingston:
A watercolour pumpkin painting would look nice on the wall.

I hope that these products will get you in the mood for autumn, even if it does mean that the cold and dark days of winter are yet to come.

(Note: All photographs on this page were taken from the respective Etsy seller's web store.)

Classic Car Show

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During the summer, classic car shows are popular. The week after the classic tractor show at the Coshocton County fairgrounds, a classic car show was held with several types of car ranging from Model T Fords to VW Beetles, to an army jeep, monster truck, several large American cars dating from the 1950s-1970s, and pick-up trucks. These photographs were taken on the 16th of July in Coshocton, Ohio.






Future for Facebook and Introducing Google+

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Last week, a conference was held by Facebook to discuss the future of the company and the direction that they were preparing to take for the social media giant. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook were planning to become more of a media hub and have established partnerships with Spotify, the Guardian, Netflix, and other media companies; this would allow users to read up on media stories without ever leaving the Facebook website (1). These changes will allow Facebook users to share their interests even more and to let all of their friends know what music/movies/television are most important to them. (This would also be used to target specific advertisements to users.) The Washington Post has also just revealed a Facebook version for the newspaper, and users can share stories and see what their friends are reading.

One of these media companies, Netflix, had a social media element as a part of is own website, before Facebook, but the feature was unpopular with users, and the company stated that it was "ahead of its time" with this feature as the users felt uncomfortable sharing this information online (2). However, current legislation in the United States, dating from the late 1980s, prevents users from sharing this information on Facebook as it is a breach of privacy, and they are current trying to get new legislation passed.

In addition to offering media and entertainment sharing through Facebook, Facebook also announced that it would be adding a TimeLine feature to a user's profile to document important aspects of the user's life. Mark Zuckerberg called this feature "the story of your life" (2), and it would show a better picture of its users lives through status updates, photographs, and other content shared.

More news in the social networking arena happened this week with Google launching its own social networking website, Google+. Although some feel that Google would not be able to compete with the likes of Facebook (3), I personally feel that Google may give Facebook a run for its money. 

Google is widely-used and established; it already has many users signed up to its email service and manages huge amounts of data, which can be used to target marketing campaigns to particular users. Google has also been around a lot longer than Facebook, so there is an element of trust, whereas Facebook always seems to be in the sore spot for privacy concerns. Google also became popular as a search engine because of its simplicity and simplifying the search experience for users. (I believe that Facebook also obtained many of its users from the doomed and unfriendly user interface of MySpace because Facebook was easier to use, although there was no way to customise your own personal pages to the extent of Facebook.) However, Facebook seems to be making mistakes as of late with alienating users by offering radical changes. Google, however, introduces its changes slowly for minimal impact. For example, I know Google uses A/B Testing techniques to test varying changes to its website before launching the changes permanently. Google studies its user data, and Facebook just seems to force these changes, major changes, on its users. I don't think anyone should write off Google+ just yet.

At the moment, I feel that Facebook is the most popular tool for friends to exchange personal information. Twitter is popular for celebrities to keep in touch with their fan base, and it is used more by the media and as a professional tool. MySpace, which was replaced by Facebook, was widely used by its users, but they moved away due to the complexity of MySpace. (Facebook's early days mimicked MySpace with the ability to clutter up your profile pages with many applications and blinking animations, which Facebook eventually did away with, much to the dislike of its users at the time.) MySpace was became a more popular tool for musicians to share their music and generate a fan base, but as MySpace died, musicians turned to join other social media websites to promote their music.

(1) Halliday, Josh. Facebook to transform into an entertainment hub. The Guardian. [22 September, 2011].

(2) Levy, Steven. Exclusive: Inside Facebook's bid  to reinvent music, news and everrything. Wired Magazine. [22 September, 2011].

(3) Levy, Steven. Inside Google+ - How the search giant plans to go social. Wired Magazine. [28 June, 2011].
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Beaulieu to Bucker's Hard Walk in Photographs

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Before summer comes to an end, we decided to walk from Beaulieu to Bucker's Hard. The walk is through meadowland and forest, and part of the path can be followed around the Solent to get good views over the water and to admire the little boats docked in various places along the river. 

The first part of the journey from Beaulieu winds down a dirt lane through meadowland. The flowers were out in full bloom, and the blackberries along the lane near Beaulieu were also starting to get ripe. The lane eventually turns into a forest area, and taking the riverside path leads you through a small path through the forest and by the river for good views. Eventually, the path leads to Bucker's Hard, an old ship-building town with two rows of brick houses overlooking the Solent. There's a museum here, water activities, a gift shop, historical buildings, a cafe, and a pub. (We stopped to have tea before continuing on our journey.)

This is a nice summer walk, best completed on a sunny day; leave plenty of time to explore Bucker's Hard and take in the nature.







Users Angry with Facebook's Most Recent Updates

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Normally, there's some criticism from users when Facebook updates its website, and the users eventually get used to the new quirks of the user interface. (In fact, here was a redesign only weeks ago). However, yesterday, when the most recent Facebook redesign and new features went into place, there was even more of a backlash.

Virtually everyone on my Facebook friend list that posted a status update, including myself, were critical of the new layout. In fact, I feel that the changes made were massive changes, and changes that users can no longer customise or have much control over.

The most widely-complained-about change was the inclusion of a new "news and updates ticker", which displays most recent updates in the upper right-hand side of the screen. (I am not sure how this looks on a desktop computer, but on my MacBook Pro, it was difficult to read as it constantly scrolled, scrolled too quickly, and only provided a small window for the displays; virtually this was unreadable to me.) The main area of the news feed has been transformed into an area of 'top news', so many updates are now hidden from view. Now, I like to read my friends' updates; I am unable to log into Facebook regularly, but when I do log in, it's in the evenings, and I catch up on the day's events by browsing through the news feed. I am unable to get onto Facebook during the day. According to Mark Tonkelowitz at Facebook, the updates to the news section with "top news" was to mimic a newspaper with the most popular stories, so that users with varying levels of Facebook usage are clued in to the most 'important' updates (1).

I wonder if this is an attempt by Facebook to ensure that they keep users, as Google+ social network (a new Facebook rival) has been launched. In fact, the Google+ interface looks remarkably simple, and this reminds me of how Facebook used to look years ago. (Google is the expert on simplicity, though, and the reason that Google became more popular than the likes of Yahoo! was down to its simplicity.) In fact, many users wrote on their status updates yesterday, when the changes went into action, that they would be switching to Google+.

I also feel that if Facebook intend on making changes, they should do it slowly and make minor changes, while testing these changes through A/B testing techniques. I feel that this more complex and less-customisable and less usable layout is trying to be too clever, and this is alienating many of its users. (Certainly users should be able to choose and customise what news they want to see - either 'top news' stories or 'most recent'.) Although I have not had much time to play with the new Facebook interface due to working hours and other committments, I am basing much of my feelings on first impressions and feedback from others, and I do feel that changes may have been accepted more positvely (or less negatively) by users if they were not all introduced at once. (I did notice many other new security/privacy-related options under the administration section of Facebook last night, and I am curious to know what else has changed.)

Facebook will be making more changes in the coming months, and I have read rumours of different buttons, similar to the popular "Like" button. They will be releasing more information at their annual conferencem, which takes place today (22nd September).

I predict that Google+ may be increasingly popular. It's done well in the search arena, and I believe that this, coupled with social networking aspect, could become a very powerful tool. Imagine being able to conduct a search and receiving websites that are relevant to you and your interests, or the ability to share interests based on others with similar interests and introducing yourself and your friends to new music/movies/popular culture based on those interests? (It is a little worrying, however, when the web knows so much about you and your interests.) For now, I will wait and see how this plays out, but I do predict that Google+ will be more popular in the future. Let's see!

1) Bates, Daniel and Wraugh, Rob. "Omg it's horrendous! Facebook revamp promps furious user backlash. [22 September 2011].
On Friday last week, the "Wow! Gorillas" sculptures, which I first became acquainted with in Bristol last month (Wow! Gorillas in Bristol), were on display near Tower Bridge. During my lunch break on Friday, I took a walk across the river to have a look and get a few photographs. Upon seeing each one, I remembered where I saw it in Bristol, and they brought back so many memories of that weekend and the people who admired them.

In short, Wow! Gorillas is a charity event that aims to provide funding for gorilla conservation. The event brings community, business, and the arts together. The gorillas were painted by artists in Bristol. Similar large animal sculptures were seen in London and Bath last year. (I blogged about these here: Spot the Lions in Bath and Parading Artistic Elephants in London.)

The gorilla sculptures were only in London for a few days, and at mid-day, many tourists and workers on their lunch break swarmed to get photographs. (The riverside walk is always popular over lunch with many City workers getting a breath of fresh air, exercise, and with tourists visiting Tower Bridge). In my short time there (twenty minutes), I saw many smiles and photographs being taken of the sculptures. One of the sculptures was being painted; on the partially-white-gorilla-canvas, a portrait of a gorilla beginning to take shape. The artist, Nicole Antrobus, specialises in painting wildlife; her website can be found here:

While admiring the artwork, I also witnessed a City worker phoning his young son (presumably), with a 'surprise' photo of the Spiderman-inspired gorilla. I heard others talk about the elephants in London last year and the pigs in Bath a few years ago; sadly, the pigs arrived the year I left Bath, and I had no knowledge of them. It is good to see these works of art educate others on gorilla conservation issues and bring a smile and ignite a memory in so many.


Enjoying London: Thames Festival 2011

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London's Thames Festival, a free festival put on by the mayor of London in the middle of September, attracted huge crowds and held a variety of events and activities. After spending the majority of the weekend in London soaking up the festival atmosphere, I have included several photographs from my collection. 

The weekend's events included a free IMAX screening, browsing the thousands of shops and soaking up the atmosphere set up along the Thames between Hungerford Bridge and Tower Bridge, eating cupcakes, enjoying various outdoor music experiences, and viewing the boat parade on the Thames. On Sunday, I viewed the colourful night parade and the fireworks finale on the Thames. I managed to get a few photographs, but these were taken with a cheaper camera; I need to get a new digital SLR to replace my broken one.

Recently, I wrote about the "Rivers of the World" art exhibition, which is displayed in the OXO Tower gallery and along the Thames. (This is available here: "Rivers of the World" Art at Thames Festival in London.) 

Cupcakes for sale at the Festival Market

Scarecrows on Southwark Bridge



A close-up of the "fish cake" on Southwark Bridge

Yummy-looking pink cupcakes from the Festival Market

The Boat Parade makes its way past the Tower of London

The Night Parade was colourful.

Large props were used in the Night Parade in London

Colourful dancers lit up the streets of London in the parade.

A fireworks finale marked the end of Thames Festival.


Artwork Made from Crayons

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Crayons are not just for children anymore, as these various pieces of artwork demonstrate. The following artwork made from crayons has been created by adults.

Pete Goldlust carves intricate designs into crayons.

Christian Faur creates portraits using whole crayons.

Herb Williams creates sculptures using crayons.

Diem Chau carves the tops of crayons into miniature characters.

Jessica Kerbawy creates art made from melted crayons.


Spring in Lisbon, Portugal

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A weekend away in late May, I expected to get some colour in my pale skin by booking a long weekend away to Portugal. However, the weather did not cooperate with its rainy skies and cool temperatures, so a relaxing holiday turned out to be a primarily sight-seeing one. That was alright by me, though I wish we had been a little luckier with the weather. On the other hand, Portugal (Lisbon) is a beautiful place to visit with plenty of sight-seeing opportunities. I booked four nights to stay in a hotel in Caicais and was not far from Lisbon and not far from Sintra, a National Heritage area in the moutains north of Cascais. The palaces and castle here were the highlights of the trip. Additionally, I enjoyed Lisbon's cobbled streets, the castle, the elevator (built by the same man who built the Eiffel Tower), and the quaint trams zipping around (and up hills). Lisbon is a fairly small city, and the central sights were easily viewed and walked to within a day. Another collection of tourist sights are located just west of the city, along the coast.

Cascais ended up being an excellent base for exploring. The village is on the coast (west of Lisbon; this was about a thirty minute journey on the train) with beaches, a shopping mall, and restaurants within the main square. The food was delicious here, and the prices were good value; the wine was also delicious and cheaper than the United Kingdom, but then most places are cheaper than the United Kingdom.

Here are a few of my favourite photographs taken in Portugal - in the Lisbon area.












Using JSON to Populate CQ5 CMS Dialogs

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Although Adobe's CQ5 CMS has many quirks, it can be a powerful tool once you discover the how to achieve certain tasks. For example, one of my tasks recently was to obtain a list of users in a particular group in CQ5 and to display all users in a drop-down menu in a dialog. The Content Editor could then select a user, and the user's name and other details about the user would be displayed on the web page. (This was built to associate a particular user, that may or may not be the Content Editor, with specific content.) The component created would display automatically within the page template, and the Content Editor would simply be able to edit the component directly.

This article explains how the task can be achieved. This article also assumes that you have created a group and added users to the group.

Create the Component and Include it in the Template

1. Create a folder (type cq:Component) for the component, and name it mygroup-users.

2. In your template, include the new component directly, as below:
<cq:include path="users" resourceType="[my project]/components/mygroup-users"/>

Create the Dialog

3. In the mygroup-users component folder, add a new dialog (cq:Dialog) named 'dialog'. (Add a 'title' property for the dialog and an xtype of 'panel'.)

4. Underneath your dialog, add a new node - cq:WidgetCollection. Name it "items".

5. Underneath the 'items' node, add a cq:Widget, and name it 'users'. Add new properties, described in the list below:

  • fieldLabel = Select User: (String)
  • name = ./users (String)
  • xtype = selection (String)
  • type = select (String)
6. Add one last new property to the 'users' node. This will allow the dialog to look up the script that processes the data. The property is known as optionsProvider (String). The path is to the JSON code, which will be created in the next step, with a cachebreaker.
function(path, record){
return CQ.Util.formatData(
 '/apps/[path to component]/users.list.json?' 
+ (new Date().getTime()))));

Create your JSON, JSP and a Reference

7. Now, you will create a JSP file (nt:file) to include the Java code that you will write to obtain the data. The file will be placed in the root of your mygroups-users component. (It should be named mygroup-users.jsp.) Here, you will write the code to output the data onto the web page. (I'll let you sort this yourseldf, but I used the UserManager class.)

8. Now, you will create the JSON code. This file (nt:file) should be named list.json.jsp, and it will be placed in the root of the component (mygroup-users). The naming is important to specify the component's default in CQ5; we're extending this list component. The code simply is a loop to list all users to print them out.

  • Initialise the content type: response.setContentType("application/json");
  • resolve the UserManager: final UserManager um = resourceResolver.adaptTo(UserManager.class);
  • Get the Groups: Iterator<Group> groups = um.getGroups();
  • You'll need a framework, as below:
String delim = "";
while (groups.hasNext()) {
   // get the name of the group, and extract all the members from that group.
  // the member is an Authorizable class.
%><%= delim %><%
%>"value":"<%=  member.getProfile().getAuthorizable().getID() %>",<%
%>"text":"<%= member.getProfile().getName() %>",<%
if ("".equals(delim)) {
    delim = ",";

9. Now, you'll need a reference (sling:Folder) to your users. Underneath the mygroups-users component, create a new sling:Folder, and give it the name 'users'. Add a new property called sling:resourceType, and it should be the path to your component: [myproject]/components/mygroups-user


10. Test your changes.

The JSON should be output to http://localhost:4502/apps/[path to component]/users.list.json.

The JSON will be returned in the browser, if working correctly. It will look like below:


  • -
    • value: "john_doe"
    • text: "John Doe"
    • qtip: ""
  • -
    • value: "joebloggs"
    • text: "Joe Bloggs"
    • qtip: ""

I hope that you have fun building your own custom components based on the JCR.
Artwork showcasing rivers of the world has been erected along the south bank of the Thames in London for the annual Thames Festival this month. The artwork was created by 2,000 schoolchildren from all over the world (including Thailand, USA, Ireland, Korea, Turkey, and Argentina) in London's partner cities under the guidance of artists. The artwork created is inspired from learning about their rivers.

Google have launched an animated "Google Doodle" featuring Freddie Mercury (lead singer of the 1970's band Queen) and his music. Freddie would have been 65-years-old on Monday. 

Once the Google logo is clicked on, it scrolls past a few illustrations of Freddie before displaying a view of the singer on stage. The video then depicts clever and colourful illustrated scenes from Queen's music videos. The end sequence shows a ghostly Freddie on stage with Google's logo in bright disco lights.

Here are a few scree shots of the "Google Doodle" animation.


The Adobe CQ5 Content Management System

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Over the past four months, I have been involved in a project using Day's (now owned by Adobe) Comminique 5 (CQ5) Content Management System. In the past, I've used several off-the-shelf and custom Content Management System. CQ5 is most comparable to Magnolia, a product that I used last year. CQ5 uses the Java Content Repository and Apache Sling to create a powerful tool. This Content Management System is being used by General Motors, McDonalds, Volkswagen, and Audi (1).

When installed, the application comes with a default project to base ideas on. CQ5 also allows marketing campaigns and the ability to serve up content across multiple channels, such as mobile. It also comes with social networking aspects, including blogs and forums and the ability to set up custom workflows for publishing and approval of various aspects (2).

Here are a few of my thoughts about CQ5 over the past three months:

1) I think the tool could be a powerful one, but there is a steep learning curve involved, and I've had to pick this up myself, without any training or guidance. (The same happened last year when I learned Magnolia.) Unfortunately, there's little of documentation available and a lack of a support group; there is a Google forum and an API.

2) Lack of consistency with the code.

3) Stability issues with the environment.

4) Lack of up-to-date and correct documentation available. On the Day website, there are tutorials to help you get started, but these tutorials were out-dated and simply did not work when followed. This was not due to user error as it was also reported by all of my colleagues. (At least there is an API to help guide you, but a lot of the comments are out-of-date or non-descriptive.)

5) The development environment that you need to use to develop is CRXDE, which is based on Eclipse, but it is buggy and adding a file manager (Vault) to the process causes even more complications. I was also getting many crashes using this, and a lot of Java "Out of Memory" errors. (This mainly seems to have been solved with a new machine, however.)

6) Ability to make content editing easier. Despite the product's downfalls, I think that the finished product can be customised enough to give more freedom to the content editors. They will still need training, but the ability to drag and drop components around a page and copy and paste them to a new area is more flexible and quicker. However, there are areas where it can be just as slow; for example, I am not quite happy with table management aspect. It does not give the content editor enough freedom to copy and paste multiple rows/columns and apply styles across multiple rows/columns.

7) Extending components is fiddly.

8) Incomplete and incorrect code. For example, I wanted to create an Accordion-style layout by using a Multifield component that takes a CompositeField, consisting of a 'richtext' component and a 'text' component. Although this is meant to work, it didn't. A quick look into Day's code showed that this feature had areas commented out with "//TODO" comments to get the multifield working with other combinations. (I decided to find another way to accomplish the task, and I must have tried three other ways before brainstorming with a colleague to come up with a completely different solution that wasn't as user-friendly for the content editor, but it worked.)

9) A lot of patience is needed as well as a lot of fiddling around and trial and error.

10) There's generally been a lack of support from Adobe or a lack of training/consultants available from Adobe to get started or fix issues initially.

Here are a few thoughts from other developers.

Guseva, Irina. Day's Software CQ5 WMS. [2009].

(1) Websmart. What is Adobe CQ5? [2011].

(2) Taft, Darryl K. 10 Ways Adobe is Transforming Enterprise Digital Experiences. [February 28, 2011].

Adobe Edge: HTML5 Interactive Content

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Adobe have launched a new tool (known as Adobe Edge) that allows developers and designers to create interactive content (in place of Flash) by using HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript. Many mobile devices do not use Flash, so Adobe have developed this tool to bring animation and interactive content to users on all devices easily, and without needing to code extensively. Adobe Edge is laid out like a standard Adobe product and works similar to Flash, but instead of ActionScript, the coding is completed in Javascript.

A free preview of the Adobe Edge tool, which will be released sometime in 2012, is in development, but this in-progress tool can be downloaded and explored via the Adobe Labs website:

Let me know what you think if you downloaded or have used Adobe Edge.


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