November 7, 2007
Fact200 still remains largely in maintenance mode as there are other more pressing projects higher up in the priority list these days. For the most part this update consists of updates to the parsing code used to gather results from google and yahoo.
Updated Google/Yahoo Sources
One of the principles of Fact200 is to appear mostly transparent (Fact200 does identify itself in the UserAgent field) to search engines so that it receives the exact same results as a person accessing the search engine directly through a browser. The exception to this is live.com’s search which goes through an RSS interface. The downside of this “same as website” approach is that it’s completely non-standardized and when search engines update their pages, Fact200 needs an update to stay in sync. This only affects natively parsed search like Google, Yahoo, and AltaVista. Searches and sources that go through standardized XML feeds like RSS or Atom will always work because of the fixed standards.
Another new feature in this release fixes one of the major annoyances I had: images in the minibrowser. This has always been controversial to me because images (obviously) add a lot to web pages and it’s what I think most users expect. Unfortunately though, they are not cached by Fact200 and thus they cause a major delay in displaying data (in the minibrowser only) that is otherwise is completely cached on the client side; all style links are parsed and placed inline. This turns near instantaneous loading into sometimes perpetually slow spinning, depending on the website.
A large feature that’s been on the todo list for a long time is library sharing within a LAN. The use case is that a user primarily uses his laptop, but is at home at his desktop wanting to search through his library on the laptop. A second use case is an office environment where people have a common set of searches or news.
A second feature that’s always been around, but is more abstract, is an interface overhaul. I’ve always been aware that the interface is a little quirky in two ways: the main interface supports too many modes and the configuration of libraries/categories/sources is complex.
The configuration portion is lower on the todo list because I consider it an advanced item.
I’d like to revamp the main interface, but am at a loss of ideas of exactly how to go about it. The main problem is that there are 3 primary modes of operation: meta-searching (gather data from different sources), library searching (filtering through data that’s already been found), and news reading (gathering data from regularly updated sources).
Right now, the meta-searching interface is the most direct and prominent whereas the other 2 modes are masked by it. Instead of splitting the two modes off (which would be much easier from an interface standpoint), I’m trying to figure out a way to keep them integrated in a more seamless fashion, the common subject point being search.
There’s also a few more minor interface issues like the minibrowser. The pull in one direction is to make it more like a real browser that accurately matches the captured preview images. The pull in the other is to make a quick method for accessing the textual data in web pages. This release pushes it towards the latter.
But in this end it boils down to time and priorities. Fact200 receives maybe 4 hours of development time a month these days.