Robert Hahn

inspired by integration

I'm always interested in infrastructure that brings people together and facilitates communication. I'm currently exploring social software, markup & scripting languages, and abstract games.

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noted on Thu, 29 Jul 2004

Content Negotiation with RSS

A recent post on the Blosxom mailing list reveals that maybe those people who build RSS aggregators should add a Accept-Language HTTP header to help those of us who have multiple-language blogs deliver the correct RSS feed. Get in touch with your favourite RSS software developer and have them tuck it in.

See this page on Content Negotiation for context.

noted on Wed, 28 Jul 2004

UTF-8 and Web Site Development

This post will contain some tips on how to set up your web development process to use UTF-8 end to end. What happened was, I saw a pair of posts by Sam Ruby (Unicode and weblogs, Aggregator i18n tests). I can be a bit of a careful (read: slow) thinker at times, so I had to let this percolate through my brain for awhile. But these posts were published during two projects that I was working on.

The first project I was working on was a site containing English and French, with a ColdFusion based content management system, and was trying to deal with accented characters. With my co-workers, we figured out how to reliably cough out entities in the right places.

Another project was an XML/XSLT based one that was getting some fancy characters like bullets and emdashes from some form submissions, and dealing badly with them. I think we did the entity replacement trick here, too.

What we found remarkable was that we’ve been building web sites for years, and it seems like all of a sudden this has become a problem for us.

Well, finally I grokked what Sam was talking about, and I went ahead and modified my web development toolchain to work in utf-8. Let me tell you: it was far easier than I had originally thought it was going to be. This blog hasn’t been updated yet, but my other website is running as UTF-8.

Even if you're English, you should care

See, unicode is a lot more than just accented characters, or Asian characters. It’s also got all the finer typography controls too — you want curly quotes? Emdashes? It’s all there. With a little wiki magic, you could even set up your content management system to automatically convert standard ASCII quotes to curly quotes, and dashes to emdashes, so you’d never have to learn how to input them!

Seriously, you don’t need to use HTML entities anymore, barring angle brackets and the ampersand. That’s a big win — it makes your source code readable if the HTML is stripped out. Everything still looks good in plain text.

How to do it if you've never done it before.

<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

acceptcharset="utf-8"  accept-charset="utf-8"

Content-type: text/html; charset=utf-8

AddCharset utf-8 .html

Even with all this, I still don’t feel like I’m an expert. For example, the accept-charset tags mentioned above aren’t supported in version 4 browsers. What’s the encoding of text submitted by form on those browsers? If it’s not UTF-8, then you’d need to patch your CGI’s to check for these browsers, and convert the contents to UTF-8. As I learn more, I’ll try to keep you updated.

Other links of interest

noted on Mon, 26 Jul 2004

Fabulous Adventures of Robert Hahn

I have a friend who would periodically send out “Fabulous Adventures” email to a bunch of us at once, which is his way of catching us up on his latest doings. The meme kinda stuck with me, so I’m going to come back from the dark to do a Robert Hahn’s Fabulous Adventures story.

Why has this blog been dark? Not for lack of trying, let me tell you. I have been extremely busy, both at work and at home. My big at-home project was to build my sister’s bookstore web site. The place is called Upper Case Books, you should check it out and send Kristen a nice note. She’ll be happier if you see her new digs, and believe you me, it is well worth visiting. She’ll be even happier if you buy a book from her. So, as I said before the site is mostly done; I just have some CMS bugs to iron out there.

The other big news was that I was also really busy at work until two weeks ago, when I was laid off. Yep. I was stunned at the news too. However, I bounced back quickly and saw this as an excellent opportunity to break out and start my own contracting/consulting business. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and while it’s earlier than I’m comfortable with, seeing that I have two kids under 4, and a stay-at-home wife (yes, we’re a single-income family, and it’s something we’re rather proud of!). But nothing happens by accident, and all timing is perfect timing. Just you wait and see. I have good vibes about this.

The parting of ways was very amicable. I have it from two people there that I’m going to be the first person they’ll call if there’s any overflow work, and they’re making good on that claim already. But I’ll need more clients, and I bet at least one of you readers might be, or have connections to someone I should be having a conversation with right now. Without further ado:

Introducing my new website: Please visit it and see what kind of work I’m pretty good at. Then contact me so that we can get started on that project you’ve been wanting to get done.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll move this blog over to the new domain name yet. If you care one way or the other, please let me know. Your input may well decide the issue for me.

Special thanks go to all friends and family who came to my aid during this time of transition. Because of my friends, I have some free web hosting, a deal on my high-speed hookup (I’ve been on dial-up for the past 3 years), some WiFi equipment for my home office, some leads, and some good business/accounting advice. Thanks also go to my previous employer, Quarry Integrated Communications who has been very supportive when I was employed, and even now. I make no boast when I say that I have made some raving-fan customers while I was there, but I can also say with no reservations that I’m a raving-fan of Quarry.

tall ship