I am Peter Breuls. I write web applications in PHP, movie reviews and irregularly something on this weblog. Welcome!
Through my company Devize, I'm available as a developer or a consultant for websites or web applications.
I work as an Administrator at online community FOK! and as a Lead Developer at frontoffice supplier SIMgroep.

Google does dynamic

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It's one of those facts that you learn once and then always remember: if you want your URL's to be properly indexed: don't stuff them with querystring-data. Make them nice, like they're static URL's. That's what I always knew. Like riding a bike, you never forget it. But Google says this isn't exactly true;

We've come across many webmasters who, like our friend, believed that static or static-looking URLs were an advantage for indexing and ranking their sites. This is based on the presumption that search engines have issues with crawling and analyzing URLs that include session IDs or source trackers. However, as a matter of fact, we at Google have made some progress in both areas. While static URLs might have a slight advantage in terms of clickthrough rates because users can easily read the urls, the decision to use database-driven websites does not imply a significant disadvantage in terms of indexing and ranking. Providing search engines with dynamic URLs should be favored over hiding parameters to make them look static.
Google Webmaster Central Blog

Not only does Googlebot read dynamic URL's just fine (and now I think of it: why wouldn't one of the largest tech companies make any progress in this area over all these years?), they actually favor it if a dynamic URL is the 'original' of your URL scheme. Googlebot will figure out the parameters and do the indexing the right way.

Of course, static-looking URL's are still nicer for a user to look at, and sometimes a URL that doesn't have querystring-parameters can still be dynamic, but for Google's sake: don't rewrite it just for them. Good to know!

Tools of the trade

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It's always fun to compare tools. Who works with what and especially, why? Following the example of Flickr and some others, let me list my tools, see if you match:

Working:


  • Main machine: MacBook Pro. I have an Ubuntu PC, but that's just 'extra'. I do everything on my Mac, from working to living.

  • Editors: Zend Studio 6 for all the main development tasks, completed by TextMate (and the handy 'mate' cli-command) and vim for serveral minor things.

  • Transmit: used for access to (s)FTP code locations, and to manually check whether (s)FTP import applications do what they should

  • iTerm with usually about six tabs. I traverse folders, grep through them, use CVS/SVN commands and access MySQL from the commandline. And of course I connect to development and production servers using ssh, but that goes without saying.

  • MySQL Query Browser: I can usually do what I want by just using the commandline client, but every now and then I need a little more visual help.

  • Zend Core: used as an all-in-one package for Apache and PHP. I also use MAMP to run a good old PHP4 environment because at one of my employers we're still in the midst of upgrading to PHP5 (I know, shut up).

  • Xdebug: I use it for profiling and I love the way it adapts var_dump() to a more usable way of displaying variables

  • FireFox and FireBug: very important indeed. I can't image having to work without FireBug. I still remember trying to think really hard about my HTML/CSS and placing alerts in my JS as a way of doing some poor-mans-debugging. FireBug is a godsend.

  • YSlow: a man needs performance, and YSlow helps me determine what to do. Very nice!

  • CSSedit: editors for CSS don't do a lot more than text editors, but they help a little and a little is enough.

  • OPML Editor: I keep my notes, todo's and more in outlines. The best outline editor used to be the one from Radio UserLand, until Dave Winer took the tool and released it apart from the weblog editor.

  • VMWare Fusion: although I love working on my Mac, I'm still missing what I already mentioned before: the combination of Krusader and Kompare (and to a lesser degree, Cervisia) for development work. For that, I am trying out using an Ubuntu virtual machine which uses the three beforementioned apps and sshfs to mount the (development) servers I'm working on. Works like a charm!

Living and working:
I take my Mac everywhere. I work on it at work, even though it is a private machine. At home, I use VLC to watch video's and DVD's, NetNewsWire for the daily read, Celtx for screenwriting, Mail.app for.. well duh, RealPlayer to listen to BBC Radio 1 or iTunes for my music collection, Twitterific for Twitter and Unison to eh, browse newsgroups.

Well, that's most of it. What about you?

Mark all as spam

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Holy smokes! I had about 30.000 comments waiting for approval on this blog. Most of them spam, according to a quick manual scan. I'm not going to look at 30.000 comments when I know more than 99% of it will be spam, so I logged into MySQL and marked them all as spam. I'm very sorry if this means your comment, which could have been so insightful and very useful to me or other readers, now is gone. Send me a message about it, I can easily restore it.

Oh, and before you mention it: yes, I am going to upgrade this blog and put in a proper spam filter. Not right now, though.

I'll manually check comments more often from now on. So feel free to leave a comment.

My shared items

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I'm not very active on this blog, mostly becase I do most of my blogging in Dutch and even that actually isn't much. But: I'm a Google Reader user now, and every so often I click on Share when I think an item is interesting.

So if you want to read what I think is nice, have a look at my shared feeds.

Auto-ping SYO

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Dave Winer: "I've written code that allows you to set up NewsRiver to automatically ping SYO when your subscriptions change."

That's great. I'm developing an aggregator myself, and I was thinking about auto-exporting the subscription list to SYO in some way. I hope Dave's feature will have an API, so aggregators can all connect and contribute.

River of News in Yahoo! Mail?

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Last weekend I wrote I'm looking for a new River of News style RSS aggregator. Today Dave Winer writes about Yahoo!:

They're including a nice smallish RSS reader in their Mail app. I had seen it before, and it's a River of News aggregator.

And that, of course, sounds very interesting. I can't seem to find the RSS reader in Yahoo! Mail, so they still have to implement it, I guess. But I'm very curious!

Update: it seems there's a separate private beta for Yahoo! Mail. I didn't know that, but it explains why I didn't see the RSS reader. SiliconBeat has info.

Switched blog engine

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I don't know if you noticed, but I've switched weblog engines. I was using Radio UserLand for this blog, and I liked it very much. But: my ability to blog here depended on my laptop (which Radio runs on) being up and running, and of course being in a place where I can reach it, either physically or using a remote connection. That has been annoying me for a while, and this week Radio crashed while reading RSS feeds. It didn't come back again. That was the limit.

I'm used to Radio being unstable. Every now and then, it crashes and I just have to start it again. Of coure that's not good behaviour for any piece of software, but after using Radio for a few years I don't mind anymore. This time though, it's different. I don't know why the thing crashed, but it does so a few moments after starting the application, over and over again. I can't use it anymore.

Now, I am smart enough to fix Radio, that's not the problem. The problem is that I have to go through a process of digging in the object database, reading and setting variables, tweaking here and there to find out what caused the crash and then disable it. All the data and scripts are stored in Radio's object database and I know how to work with it.

But: I just don't feel like going through all that. I have to get another application that can read the database (the open sourced Frontier will do), dig, tweak, retry, tweak a little more, etcetera. I don't want to do that. I want to read my RSS feeds. I want to blog.

So, I decided to phase out Radio as my weblog engine of choice. I installed WordPress in between the Radio files on this server, and redirected both the home page and my RSS feed from Radio to WordPress. If everything went well, RSS subscribers didn't notice anything. People who actually visit this site will notice the slight change in website design, but that's very minimal.

I won't say goodbye to Radio. I still have all the weblog data on my server, including the categories and OPML-generated pages. Someday I will fix it and I will use it to blog again, but it won't be on the main location of this blog.

Until I fixed it, though, I will have to find a replacement RSS aggregator. I like the one-pane style Radio uses, and all the other aggregators seem to use the e-mail approach: three panes which requires a lot of clicking. I don't like that.

So, if anyone knows of a good one-pane "river of news" style aggregator, I'd be happy to try it. If it runs on Linux, it's twice as good. Any suggestions are very welcome.