PHP Proxy Script for cross-domain requests

I wrote this php-proxy-script and have been using for different purpose (loading cross-domain data like text, xml, swf, image, etc. or for YouTube REST API  in flash, flex applications).

People keep asking about proxy-scripts in forums to manage various things (cross-domain AJAX issues). Download the proxy.php.txt, and use to solve such problems. You can also fork it on Github, and improve it.

Usage:

http://yourserver.com/proxy.php?url=[&mimeType=]</pre>

Examples:

  • To load XML/Text:
    http://yourserver.com/proxy.php?url=http%3A//abdulqabiz.com/blog/index.xml
  • To load a SWF (binary-data):
    http://yourserver.com/proxy.php?url=http%3A//abdulqabiz.com/files/some.swf&mimeType=application/x-shockwave-flash

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YouTube RSS feeds don't validate

I noticed that YouTube has recently included a element in their RSS 2.0 feeds which contains "duration" attribute to hold duration (in seconds) of the video. As per RSS 2.0 spec, there is no duration attribute for , however, "length" is a required attribute, which is also missing.

No big deal, lots of feeds are broken on the planet and it is not a topic to be blogged like this. But my point is, we don't expect such things from Google/YouTube, they must be using some tool to validate their feeds as their QA process?

I use Feed Validator for feed (ATOM, RSS etc) validation. Thanks to Mark Pilgrim, Sam Ruby et-al for making it.

You can also see what feedvalidator reports about YouTube's feed.

BTW! I got happy for a moment when I saw duration in their feeds, I have to use YouTube API to get it.

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Microformats: Interesting presentations

Alex Faaborg of Mozilla UI Design team gave an amazing presentation on Microformats at Web 2.0 Expo.

Please check it out, it's really cool. You can download the slides (PDF-144 pages, 54.8 MB)

You can also check out the presentation by John Allsopp (author of Microformats: Empowering Your Markup for Web 2.0). I got a slideshare version of the same, embedded right here:-


Download above slides (PDF).

Mixercast: Alanis Morissette Videos

I created a Mixercast using Alanis Morissette videos from different sources, check it out.

Alanis Morissette Videos on Mixercast

Revision3 is not good at feed offering - could be better with Media RSS

Revision3, a great site for videos on various topics (Diggnation is one of those), offers different RSS 2.0 feed links for different video-formats? Is that good?

revision3_feeds.jpg

AFAIK, Media RSS specification allows you to group all (seen in above picture even Bittorrent feeds) that in one feed and RSS feed readers can show/download the content they are capable of playing/rendering?

Update: I have sent couple of emails to Revision3, requesting them to implement Media RSS for feeds. I have not heard from them, so I posted here on my blog :)

Twitter adds support for Microformats

Twitter has added support hCard, hAtom and XFN Microformats. I noticed about it via Chris Messina's post.

Microformats are cool, I am reading and quietly noticing thing about it on web/mailing-lists. I have slowly started adopting, wherever I can, f.ex. this blog would have some of them soon.

If you are interested about Microformats, check out these links:-

Some thoughts on Syndication and Aggregation

Syndication feed formats (RSS/Atom) seems to have support for various kind of metadata (directly or through extensions/modules). However, not all publishers seems to be using it consistently. I also notice, presentation specific markup being mixed with metadata. Is it because feed-publishers assume client to be a web-browser?

For example:-

  • Description text is in complex-html (presentation specific).
  • Inserting advertisements in certain places
  • </ul>

    With Rich Internet Application platforms (Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Apollo, Microsoft WPE/WPF etc), content can be presented into different metaphor provided it's easy to get the relevant data and related metadata from feeds. Above example poses a simple problem of extracting description (actual metadata), if it's semantic-html it's cool otherwise a problem for client to parse and extract data. Similarly, there could be more problems and inconsistencies in feed-publishing as of today.

    Monetization and Advertisement through Syndication are not totally solved problems, most of the solutions available today only work in context of web-browser.

    If feed reader(aggregator) is something else (f.ex: Adobe Flash/Apollo client or Microsoft WPF/WPE) than Web-Browser:-

    • How to take care of branding?
    • How to show advertisements?
    • </ul>

      I am sure, these can be solved using syndication formats it's just we need to do it consistently. Also, while publishing feeds it's good idea to think of all kind of clients that would be consuming it.

      Note: I am fairly new Syndication/Aggregation, whatever I talk here is based on my experiences and understanding in last a few years. Problems, I faced while writing aggregators, clients or feed-publishing-engines.

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Facebook - Apollo

You must heard about new Facebook platform and API. How about Facebook Apollo client? Social networking on desktop, excited :-)

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Bi-Directional text is coming in Flash Player (next release)

I just got the link of Emmy's post about bi-directional text-support in next major Flash Player release, via Matt Chottin. Thanks Matt for posting, I would have not noticed it otherwise.

It means, more projects would adopt Adobe Flex/Flash in future. I remember, Infosys dropped on of the projects in 2005 because they needed bi-di text support for Arabic and other languages. This news would surely make loads of folks happy, I remember there is entire petition site asking for this feature.

Anyway, you can read the Flexcoders thread, where it was first disclosed.

Update (March 24, 2009): Adobe Flash Player 10 has been released and it has support for Bi-Directional text.
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Media RSS with different media (video) formats - problem and solution

Most of video sites are providing Media RSS feeds but not all of them provide URL of Flash Videos or Audio. Some (YouTube, Brightcove etc) use element to point to their player (or page) and some provide videos in different formats (mov, wmv etc) and some (Revver etc) have videos encoded in Flash-Video-Format (flv) but their Media RSS contains (different formats mov, wmv etc). Due to various reasons (monetization purpose, traffic-statistics, advertisement, not enough resources to of transcode media etc), these sites are not providing the link to Flash Videos (.flv files) in syndication-feeds. I understand the concern and problems but there is solution that would probably:-

  • Increase traffic i.e. monetization
  • Solve Usability problem - discussed later
  • Allow third-party developers to get a clean way of integrating things instead of hacking f.ex: YouTube FLV URL hacks/workarounds
  • </ul>

    Let me give an example, look at following YourMinis! widget for Brightcove:-

    </embed>
    For more widgets please visit www.yourminis.com

    Problem:

    • Context Change: User can't see the videos within widget, it requires to go to Brightcove's site.

    Solution:

    • Provide a shorter duration (10 secs) preview/sample Flash Video file (.flv) in feeds.

    Media RSS spec suggests that has an "expression" attribute that determines if video (media) is a sample or full version. Why aren't publisher using it for sample videos also? Now imagine, if Brightcove had provided a link of preview-flv-url in their RSS feed or API, this YourMinis! widget could have provided a better experience by helping user to see preview before deciding to watch full video. There are various open-source tools to transcode, process, split and merge Flash Video Files. All these sites can automate the process of creating preview-flash-video-files and also provide their users a tool to create previews using online-front-end (made in Flash/Flex). We all know that Adobe Flash Player is not only most-ubiquitous browser-plugin but also most-ubiquitous Video-player on the web ( and hopefully on desktop once Apollo is there), so why not use it? Everyone (Google, Microsoft etc) is talking about widgets that can consume distributed-data. But it seems publishers are little reluctant and doing what their competitors are doing. I believe, this is time to solve the problem of monetization over syndication/distributed-data (APIs etc) irrespective of content-type (text, images, videos, audios etc).

    Update (March 24, 2009): Adobe announced support for some more video and audio formats in Flash Player in August 2007. By now, most of us have Flash Player with those new capabilities installed on our machines. So the idea of this post, where Flash applications can consume vidoes in media-rss feeds, seem to have gone easier.

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