Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Converting and Encoding a URL Containing Extended ASCII Characters (Delphi utility with source)

It has come to my attention that some programming languages do not always make it very easy to convert and encode a URL.

While helping someone with bug testing and adding Last.fm support to a media player, we came across a problem with opening URL's to the correct page on last.fm's site when the title, artist or other tag info contained extended ASCII characters.

Example:

  • Artist: Bjørn Lynne
  • Title: Methydias Cloudship

This would be the correct URL on their site for this song:

http://www.last.fm/music/Bj%C3%B8rn%20Lynne/_/Methydias%20Cloudship

But in AHK, which does not support unicode, attempting to come up with the URL resulted in this incorrect one:

http://www.last.fm/music/Bj%F8rn%20Lynne/_/Methydias%20Cloudship

The problem was that you have to convert the URL from Ansi to UTF-8 before you encode it.

At first he wasn't sure if he could fix the problem, as that was what he thought he was doing in the first place.

So, while he decided to take a break from bug fixing to go play with his kids, because all coding and no play can make a coder and his family miserable, I decided to go ahead and make a little helper utility for him, just in case he couldn't resolve the issue.

Now I am not too sure on the particular details of how he fixed it, but he did and didn't need my little utility, after all.

But I am not one to let code go to waste, and my intention was to help someone resolve a problem, so I decided that this code will still do just that, one way or another. I am pretty sure that there is someone out there somewhere that could find this useful for something.

So, here it is, a small command line utility for Windows that will accept a parameter of a URL containing extended ASCII characters, convert the URL to UTF-8, then properly encode it, and finally, open that URL in the system's default browser.

I have included the Delphi source in case you may need that, too.

While testing this with various browsers, I noticed something peculiar. Certain browsers will display the URL in the addressbar differently than what the URL actually is. Although it is properly converted and encoded, the addressbar will display the original extended ASCII. I suppose this is to make it look pretty.

The following browsers exhibited this behavior:

  • Firefox 3
  • Opera 9
  • Chrome 1

Additionally, while both Firefox and Chrome copied the correct URL to the clipboard from the addressbar, Opera did not.

Opera copied extended ASCII, instead.

Internet Explorer did not exhibit these behaviors and displayed the actual URL used, in the addressbar.

Rest assured, this application does work properly, even if your browser isn't displaying what you think it should be showing in its addressbar.

Now I don't care if you use either the code or the compiled utility in an open source or close source project, for non-commercial or commercial purposes, and you don't have to give me any credit or compensation if you use it.

My goal was to help someone and if this can help you in some way, feel free to use it in any way you wish. I have released both the utility and the source into the public domain.

 

Creative Commons LicenseThis application and its source code is dedicated to the Public Domain.

Download: Delphi encodeURL utility with source

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to Download Microsoft TechNet Spotlight Videos

Microsoft offers a lot of great presentations on their TechNet Spotlight site.

The problem is that for some of them they will offer downloads, and some they will not, or they will not offer everything for download, as is the case with the Advanced Malware Cleaning presentation. They only offer the Powerpoint slides for it.

Missing Downloads

What if I don't want to or can't install Silveright? What if I want the high or low resolution video for offline viewing? Or the audio, too? Or what if I have issues with streaming the video and need to have a local copy in order to view it, at all?

I have seen some tutorials that require you to use various applications such as URL Snooper, Firebug, and VLC media player, to obtain an .asf file, but doing it that way is making it much more complicated than it has to be. Besides, you can't get everything. All you can get is a lower quality video intended for streaming purposes.

There is a simple solution, though. Whether the materials are offered with a download link on the page, or not, they do exist at the following URL's:

Powerpoint (ppt or pptx): http://microsofttech.fr.edgesuite.net/msexp/download/spotlight/XXX/XXX_pres.zip

Video - Hi Res (wmv): http://microsofttech.fr.edgesuite.net/msexp/download/spotlight/XXX/XXX_high.zip

Video - Lo Res (wmv): http://microsofttech.fr.edgesuite.net/msexp/download/spotlight/XXX/XXX_low.zip

Audio (wma): http://microsofttech.fr.edgesuite.net/msexp/download/spotlight/XXX/XXX_audio.zip

Just replace 2 XXX's with the number of the presentation, which in the case of the Advanced Malware Cleaning one, would be 359.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Add a TwitThis Button to your Blogger posts

Wouldn't it be great if you could add a button to every post that would make it easy for your visitors to share your posts with their followers on Twitter?

The following is instructions to do just that, for Blogger layout based blogs.

Using the information at TwitThis, I was able to tweak their bookmarklet code a bit and use the image from one of the other codes to create this one that works in Blogger.

This will require you to edit the HTML of your template. While I have tried to make this as easy as possible, those that don't feel comfortable with this, should not try it.

The button will only show on post pages and not the main page of your blog. It's not wise to do this any other way, as the URL that will be supplied on Twitter will be the URL of the page in which your button is clicked. If it is on the main page, the post may not be there when someone reads the entry on Twitter or FriendFeed, and it is likely not to win you any new loyal readers, so use this only on post pages.

I have also added some comments in the code that will make it much easier for you to add additional buttons in the future, and have them appear on all pages or just post pages.

NOTE: If you have added the Google Reader code from one of my other posts, then you just need to add only the yellow TwitThis code above or below the Google Reader one. If you have not added that one, then you need to use ALL of the code.

1. On your Blogger Dashboard, click the Layout link for the blog you want to add the button to.

2. At the top of the Layout page, click the link for Edit HTML.

3. Where it says "Backup/Restore Template", click the link that says "Download Full Template" and save the .xml file to your hard drive. This file will help you restore your template, in case anything goes wrong.

4. In the "Edit Template" section, check the box at the top right that says "Expand Widget Templates".

5. Use your browser's search function to find this line:

<div class='post-footer'>

6. Find the 2 lines in your template that look like this:

<div class='post-footer'>
<p class='post-footer-line post-footer-line-1'>

7. Copy and paste the following code between those 2 lines:


<!-- Footer Button Codes BEGIN -->
<div>
<p><span id='footer-buttons'>
<!-- things placed after this line will show on all pages -->


<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == &quot;item&quot;'>
<!-- things placed after this line will only show on post pages -->

<!-- TwitThis Button BEGIN -->

<a href='javascript:(function(){TwitThisPop=window.open(%22http://twitthis.com/twit?url=%22+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+%22&amp;title=%22+((document.title)%20?%20encodeURIComponent(document.title.replace(/^\s*|\s*$/g,%27%27))%20:%20%22%22),%20%22TwitThisPop%22,%20%22width=600,%20height=500,%20location,%20status,%20scrollbars,%20resizable,%20dependent=yes%22);%20setTimeout(%22TwitThisPop.focus()%22,%20100);%20})()'><img alt='TwitThis' src='http://ajax.twitthis.com/chuug.twitthis.resources/twitthis_grey_72x22.gif' style='border:none;'/></a>

<!-- TwitThis Button END -->

<!-- Do Not Paste Any Code Below This Line -->
</b:if>
</span></p>
</div>
<!-- Footer Button Codes END -->


8. Click the button at the bottom of the page that says "Save Template".

If you get any red errors, leave a comment stating the specific error message, and I will try to help you out. If you get any errors beginning with "bX-", just try again tomorrow. Sometimes Blogger has issues with itself and waiting a bit can resolve them.

9. Look at your blog. If you have done this correctly, the button should appear on post pages only, and not the main page. Test the button by clicking it on a post and sharing one of your posts on Twitter.

10. If you would like to add other buttons to the footer of your posts, the comments in the code will help you decide where to put your button codes. One place will show on all pages, and the other will only show on post pages.

Credits: 99% of the credit for this goes to TwitThis. I just tweaked it to work on Blogger. No big deal.

EDIT 10-16-2009: Image URL was changed (Thanks Alex!)