A Blog of Very Little Brain

'What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?' said Pooh. 'For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me.'

Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Drolling down the river

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There’s nothing like starting a new week with a bang.

Sadly, the only bang worth speaking of comes from the Large Hadron Collider. Now, I’m not that puritan, but those Brits and their sexual leniency can sometimes get on your better opinions.

I mean, c’mon. Not only they have a huge phallic object, supposed to recreate a “big bang”, but they keep referring to it as the “Large Hardon”. Yuch.

With that out of the way, it may seem that we are going for a week composed mainly of “meh”, not that its predecessor was anything exciting.
Despite the “yes, we *are* getting another Katrina, praise the lord!” announcements coming from different media outlets, Hurricane Gustav failed to really do much damage, apart from the damage to said media outlets’ ratings.

Also, Google released a browser. Or should I say “Google! Released! A! Browser!”. Once the dust cleared, people rushed to the scene to discover that it: loads web pages.

True that it has a newandexciting rendering engine that loads rich web “applications” in a newandexciting, multi-processed way, with a newandexciting javascript engine to create a newandexciting user experience. But other than that? It’s a browser. And it loads web pages.

Is it any wonder that a few uninspired desktops are toted as “The Amazing Artwork of Fedora 10“?
Is it of any difference that two parrots that can whistle 4 notes in order are described as “The Greatest Thing You Will See On The Internet All Day“?

And so, with no major war planned anywhere, all we left with, this week, are warm noodles described as “a new triumph in Pasta”. Allez Cuisine!

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Written by Erez

Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 9:58

Posted in Internet

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The origin of Kung Fu Panda

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Last week we watched Kung Fu Panda (capsule review: it’s mostly like Advil), which is a fun and funny DreamWorks Animation film about anthropomorphic animals in mythological China.

As expected, it manages to pull most of the ‘right’ levers. The Chinese references are mostly good, in a non-patronising way, although they do pull a Katzenberg (e.g. where all the characters are ‘in-character’ but the main character is Robin Williams) with the Panda, US accent and all. The actual animals are either Chinese, or from the Chinese culture, with some interesting choices (a mantis and viper as Kong-Fu fighters, a turtle as the ancient master). Also, no dumb pack animals are shown pulling crates or working, a usual miss in anthropomorphic works. The Red Panda Shifu (a Chinese word for martial arts master) is probably the best character in the whole film, artfully played by Dustin Hoffman.

The morals of the movie are also hit-and-miss, they do base on a lot of Zen/Chinese ideas, but it is the Big-Mac version. On one hand, the Panda remains an obese slob throughout the film (good), on the other, that is his “inner strength” (wot?). There’s a huge gap between saying “the power is within you” and showing you a mirror. The art is mostly good, although its Computer-Generated nature sometimes gets a bit overdone. I’m a fan of hand-drawn animation, so I’m biased, but I prefer my CGI “obvious” as in the Shrek, or Toy-Story way, rather than in a “drawn 2d” way. But I digress.

The whole reason for this review is that I kept wondering about where does the whole “Panda as a martial arts master” idea comes from? It’s obviously not original, DreamWorks are not known for inventing wheels. After all, we are talking about the studio that released “Antz” two weeks before “A Bug’s Life“, both starting production about the time Katzenberg left Disney (Pixar’s former publishers and current owners). But it’s more than just that. Pandas are not connected with martial arts the way other animals are. The film’s Furious Five (a tigress, a crane, a monkey, a mantis, and a viper), represent familiar Kung-Fu styles. The Panda, while is a Chinese animal, does not have any connection with Kung-Fu, or anything seemly resembling martial arts.

That is, if you stop looking at history and culture and start looking in pop-culture.

In April 1st, 1999, Blizzard, deep in the production of Warcraft III, “announced” that a new race was in the works for the game: Pandaren Empire.

The page included a fleshed history of the race to make it look an integral part of WarCraft’s world, complete with some units details, art and mockup screenshots.
Reaction was immediately favourable. The race, basically Panda Samurai, appealed to a lot of WarCraft fans and gamers in general (regardless of the Pandas being Chinese animal and the Samurai being Japanese), and managed to create a buzz around the concept, soon leading to some interesting results.

In the WarCraft III expansion pack, one of the playable characters was a Pandaren Brewmaster, sort of a Drunken Master warrior, but a panda. Here, once moving from the mock to the official, the character moved from the oriental mashup of panda samurai to a more Chinese oriented ideas.

Once this became “official” it just kept rolling. In World of Warcraft, there was an idea to capitalise on the Warcraft/Panda connection, with Pandaren Xpress, a delivery company for Chinese food. Later, a Panda cub was added as a pet.

With World of Warcraft being the no. 1 online RPG for several years now, its no wonder that Dreamworks Animation decided to roll their own version with a Kung-Fu Panda. With the last Warcraft-panda hulabaloo taking place circa 2005, it should coincide with the film’s production start, and nail this conspiracy on the head.

Written by Erez

Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 18:13

Buzzword compliance test

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I saw Scribd‘s embedded web document on a couple of sites; although I think the “web-document-format” is a good idea, I was sort of turned off by two elements. The first is the actual document format, which is Flash (blech). Making it less of a Web-based document and more of “embedded element”, which isn’t quite the same. The second being the “document” name: iPaper.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but naming your product after the latest brand-buzz doesn’t sound like “the here-to-stay next-development-in-web-technology”, but more like “Take the Money and Run“. In a sense, iSomething is akin to eSomething from the days of Ye Olde Web, and there’s not much going around that carry that moniker.

To test that, lets run Scribd’s “platform page” through my imagined iBuzzWorth scanner and see what we find out:

1: Company name is spelled in a "cool, vowel-less" web2.0 name.
2: Product is being presented as a development framework.
3: Use of Apple's iProduct trademark
4: Product is described as "beautiful". No explanation is given to this.
5: Description terms are capitalized, as if they represent a term rather than an adjective.
6: Simple CRUD interface for uploading/embedding documents, no added horsepower to vindicate the claim to power.
7: Usage of the plural form of API, indicates this isn't the technical term, but the marketing one.

There’s more, naturally, but I’ve turned the program off.

Written by Erez

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 11:40

Posted in Internet, Marketing

Tagged with ,

Cynic’s corner or: why I don’t buy it.

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Saw this on Last.fm’s blog:

One of the nicest bits of feedback we’ve had here at Last.fm HQ in the past few weeks was a message from two users who had just started a life together. They wrote to say that it all started through common musical interests on Last.fm, which led to them becoming friends online, and, over time, to discover that they were true soulmates. Yes, honestly.

Honestly? Don’t buy it.

I may be an old cynical, with my romantic nerves rugged and my soul tattered, but I’ve seen this too many times. It just happened that they got a way-too-cool-to-pass PR story that *just* coincides perfectly with the way they’ve “been using the idea of a musical soulmate (…) to guide the development of our new neighbours service”. And they don’t put their names, or faces, on it?

Yes, its quite the thing, I think its a PR thing, since they didn’t make it look like a PR thing. But think, if this was a true story, you’d get down their names, or even their Last.fm usernames, with those funky avatars they have. Its not like they have confessed to liking bestiality, and for a few dollars, this story could’ve made much more sense and go much better than an opening paragraph in a blog.

On the other hand, I’ve seen this before. The just too good to be true story, with no names, no real details, just a ‘believe you me, ’tis be ‘onest tale’ hand around the shoulder confidentiality. I worked in this place, where as incentives to the more efficient employees, used to give raffle tickets to the lottery. When asked, the managers used to tell how “once, this girl actually won 10,000 NIS from one of those”. She didn’t, but the story got carried on, even appeared in a couple of articles on the company. It’s a white lie, no real harm done, win-win situation, so to speak. I just don’t buy it any more.

Update: And not two minutes after posting, I read this item in ValleyWag about what Venture Capitalists really think about the start-ups they invest in.

Written by Erez

Friday, August 22, 2008 at 17:30

Posted in Blogging, Culture

Tagged with ,

I am community, hear me roar.

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Only last week I pointed that Trying to build Moose-depending modules was problematic since there isn’t a Perl 5.10 ppm package for it. I also commented thus on the Monastery.

Less than a week later, lo and behold, Moose has been built on ActiveState Perl and can be downloaded from here: http://cpan.uwinnipeg.ca/dist/Moose

Written by Erez

Sunday, August 17, 2008 at 16:28

Posted in Internet, Programming

Tagged with , ,

That doesn’t work!

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Some things just don’t do what they are supposed to. Such as placing a link in the post title.

GoComics: Love the site, reading about 15 of the comics they post there, but they don’t seem to “get” RSS. I keep finding myself being sent to yesterday’s strip, or the day before, or even older than that, until I get a “you need to subscribe to read this strip from the archive”. I thought RSS update means the latest, but I guess somewhere along the way things got a bit off.

ActiveState Perl: They did a great job of bringing perl to the mush that is Win32, but when it comes to installing modules, usually a very transparent trip to CPAN via the commandline tool. With ActiveState’s flavour, cpan crashes with an odd message:

Alert: While trying to 'parse' YAML file
'.\Perl\cpan\FTPstats.yml'
with 'YAML::XS' the following error was encountered:
Usage: YAML::XS::LibYAML::Load(yaml_str) at .\Perl\site\lib/YAML/XS.pm line 70.

using AS own ppm is good, but to a point, there seems to be some funky issues with updating/upgrading modules, and naturally, it’s limited to AS own pre-compiled modules.

I eventually managed to get stuff to install and run, by downloading the module locally, and then running cpanp.bat (i.e. CPANPLUS) from the extracted directory. Such issues reinforce the CPANPhobia I occasionally encounter on Perl-related issues, and doesn’t do much good PR to neither Perl nor CPAN.

Also, I always wonder, I often remark that the Internet is not the Web and vice versa. The question is, how much of the Internet does the web take. Email traffic, naturally, takes a huge slice of the pie, in the sheer number of emails being passed each day. But, being mostly textual, this slice’s bandwidth is relatively lower (I’m guessing here). OTOH, File-sharing traffic is probably lower in its pie-slice (users and items), but way heavier in the actual bandwidth and packets transferred. And, there are many other protocols. I’ll try looking up some actual numbers.

Written by Erez

Monday, August 11, 2008 at 9:20

Posted in Internet

Tagged with , ,

Thou shalt not steal what is already at your possesion

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So…. there I was, minding my own business like I usually do, and happened across the webcomic Silicon Apartment, which is like Everybody Loves Eric Raymond, but with actual drawing instead of the photo-collage, and the characters are corporate moguls Bill Gates and Steve Jobs rather than Free Software leaders and hangers-on Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds and Eric Raymond.

At any rate, looking at it was I, when I noticed the page is really heavy. Tabbing through it caused Firefox to stutter, which is odd, considering none other of the usual 20+ tabs gave me any trouble. My initial assumption was that the image is heavy. Might be that it’s actually a full-resolution monster resized by setting its width and height rather than compressed properly, or mayhap it’s just a very high-quality image. So I right clicked and chose “view”.

Whoops. This is the actual page I was taken to using Firefox’ “view” option. Attempting to right click and “save as” resulted in the browser trying to download same empty “dontsteal.png” image.

So, what’s wrong with this picture (apart from being an empty .png, that is)? One, the “dontsteal.png”. I realise writing about Gates and Jobs gets you in a certain mood, but, calling your customers thieves is a privilege saved for mega-corporates and Copyrights-enforcement organisations, not budding cartoonists. Two, it’s annoying.

But third, and most obvious, this is a webcomic about two tech figures, which, I’m assuming, is targeting tech-guys. Exactly those who, in face of your ingenious plan, can find their way to your precious images.

Here’s a small advice. Once you place your picture on a web page, that can be seen on a browser, and a user loads the page on his browser, YOUR IMAGE IS ALREADY BEEN DOWNLOADED AND SAVED ON HIS HARD-DRIVE.
The whole “right-click to save image” is BS. So is “view”. It’s there, along with the page’s html, javascript, css, and the rest of the images. If a user really want to steal your images, all he needs is to open the cache folder and copy it. Firefox 3 makes it even easier, with the “Page Info” feature, allowing me to click on the page’s “media” tab, and save every, and any, image (in practice, copying from the cache to my folder of choice). So now I have a copy of “0006.png”, which turns out to be of regular image size and weight, and not the cause of the site’s problems. Perhaps it has to do with this snippet of algorithmic wizardry found on the page’s source:


//specify corresponding links below
var imagelinks=new Array()
imagelinks[1]="mailto:ad@siliconapartment.com?subject=Please send me more Informations about advertising at The Silicon Apartment!"
imagelinks[2]="mailto:ad@siliconapartment.com?subject=Please send me more Informations about advertising at The Silicon Apartment!"
imagelinks[3]="mailto:ad@siliconapartment.com?subject=Please send me more Informations about advertising at The Silicon Apartment!"
imagelinks[4]="mailto:ad@siliconapartment.com?subject=Please send me more Informations about advertising at The Silicon Apartment!"
imagelinks[5]="mailto:ad@siliconapartment.com?subject=Please send me more Informations about advertising at The Silicon Apartment!"
imagelinks[6]="mailto:ad@siliconapartment.com?subject=Please send me more Informations about advertising at The Silicon Apartment!"
var ry=Math.floor(Math.random()*myimages.length)

Written by Erez

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 11:31

Posted in Comics, Internet

Tagged with , ,