Max Romantschuk's weblog – June 2004 archive

WikiWikiWeb

Thursday 3rd of June, 2004 - 12:12 – Permalink

Not so long ago I had a discussion with a friend of mine about Wikipedia. I explained that the beauty of a wiki is the fact that anyone can edit a page. My friend argued that a wiki could never be a credible resource, as it would surely be used to spread propaganda and whatnot. I disagreed, but the discussion was rather pointless given the lack of scientific research on the subject.

Thanks to Andrew Lih of the University of Hong Kong this issue has now had some light shed on it. Andrew's paper Wikipedia as Participatory Journalism: Reliable Sources? Metrics for evaluating collaborative media as a news resource looks into the mechanics governing the quality and credibility of wiki articles. It's a rather hefty read, but skimming the paper turned up a gem or two. I'd recommend it for all who wish to educate themselves on the issue of wiki information trustworthyness.

Via Blogdex.

Move along, there's nothing to see here.

Tuesday 1st of June, 2004 - 10:38 – Permalink

I moved the entires for February, March and April into the archives. I don't have time (nor content) for a proper post today, but maybe you've missed something in the last few months which strikes your fancy?

People with no sense of humor Freak Me Out.

Wednesday 30th of June, 2004 - 10:55 – Permalink

I find the lack of a sense of humor very disturbing. I guess I feel that humor is such an integral part of being human that the lack of it makes me question very humanity of the subject. That's just how I am.

On the other hand, matters of taste concerning humor is no problem for me. Personally, I find the collective works of Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler hilarious, but I suspect most people would just be offended. I also consider the combination of a coulple of friends, alcohol and Joe Cartoon to be a good idea, and I've read every single UserFriendly comic strip published to this date. I'm pretty darn sure that this associates me with a rather small minority.

In any case, if you don't have a sense of humor, today's entry is not for you.

A softer world.

Petri of /var/log/orava pointed me to web comic a softer world which looks like something I would definitely like to read from now on. Seldom have I seen such an elegant merger of graphic design, photography and humor. It gets a Max's Extra-special Sooper-Recommendation -Award. Yes, I just made that up.

COPY THIS BLOG ENTRY AND WIN MONEY QUICK!

If you've been on the Internet for as long as I have (ten years and counting) you probably have recieved an email from Bill Gates asking you to test his new email tracking program. I sure did, but I also realized it was a hoax. But lot's of people didn't... Wired is running a story on the Bill Gates email tracking hoax, complete with a history of the hoax and some interesting observations about the social engineering aspects which cause people to respond to stuff like this. Via Slashdot.

Given the importance of the Internet in modern society I really think schools should teach critical thinking and data validation techniques on the Internet. Typing something into Google and sourcing your info from the first site you find at random is generally a Bad Thing.

Popular Craftsmanship

Monday 28th of June, 2004 - 12:15 – Permalink

I've pointed to interesting computer case mods before, and plan to continue doing so when I run across stuff I feel is in a league of it's own. Check out these pics of the Blackmesa HL² by piloux. The attention to detail is simply amazing, regardless of what you think of the look. There's a huge thread in the bit-tech.net forums documenting the process.

Another equally impressive mod is Orac³ by G-gnome. Check out the pics on the first page of Part 5 for a look at the finished mod. There are five articles documenting the modding process, parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Case modding is an interesting art, as the artwork itself is also a tool. One might claim case modding is a decendant of the artful hand crafting of tools common before industrialization of our society. In any case, some case modders simply are in a league of their own.

The inherit beauty in Mathematics

Wednesday 23rd of June, 2004 - 13:13 – Permalink

On New Year's Eve last year I wrote about fractals, one of the prime examples I use to convince people that math can be beautiful. Today I ran across an article in The New York Times on computational origami done by Dr. David Huffman (don't wish to register? BugMeNot.com.) Dr. Huffman's work has opened a whole new aspect of origami, very different (in looks) to the traditional Japanese variant. I also found a small gallery: Geometric Paper Folding: Dr. David Huffman. Very impressive stuff. Via Slashdot.

Code-focal

Tuesday 22nd of June, 2004 - 11:16 – Permalink

As I've mentioned before I've been working, on and off, on a new engine for this site. Lately I've been coding rougly every other day on my lunch break, which in turn deducts from my blogging time. But do not despair, dear reader, I will continue to blog.

The new engine is slowly taking shape and it's approaching what the current one can do (which is pretty much just display pages.) I'm not sure what the final feature set will be, but here's a a draft for the interested:

  • A PHP based engine with an XHTML data storage backend.
  • Real weblog functionality (the current one is hand-coded HTML.)
  • Commenting features for the weblog.
  • An RSS feed.
  • Image gallery functionality (so I can finally get some photos of mine up here.)
I'm not sure which of these features will be included when I migrate my site over to the new system. Basic page display and the weblog are the minimum requirements, other than that time will tell.

Why? When?

So why am I doing this? There are myriads of content management systems available, why build your own? One reason is the fact that that I will get exactly what I want. I also wish to keep my skills on an acceptable level, and this project is a good way to learn XSLT, among other things. Mostly I do it because it's fun.

So when will I release this new and improved system of mine? When it's ready. - That's when.

Spin, little wheels, spin.

Wednesday 16th of June, 2004 - 12:08 – Permalink

Lately I've been researching options regarding my future bike purchase. I've also been researching riding in the winter. While asking about my choice of bike in a thread on Fillari-magazine's forum (in Finnish) I ran across a very entertaining piece on commuting by bike, also laiden with lot's of useful tips on the subject. Highly recommended.

My winter riding research has netted my discovery of the ICEBIKE web site. While not the most elegant web design I've ran into thus far, the site is packed with lots and lots of useful information for winter riding. Have a look!

Blogging, about blogging, about blogging.

Tuesday 15th of June, 2004 - 11:51 – Permalink

Time magazine is running an article titled Meet Joe Blog. It's a rather interesting piece, given that it is written from the perspective of mainstream media. I doubt the facts and sites mentioned are unknown to hardcore bloggers and/or blog readers, but I think the article is readworthy none the less. Via Slashdot.

Bloat, looks and more looks

Friday 11th of June, 2004 - 11:35 – Permalink

Bob Marr has written an interesting piece on why Linux needs a diet. And he's got a very good point: While it used to be true that you could run a Linux system on an older machine, this is no longer the case with modern Linux installations. Personally I agree with Bob that Linux development should focus on lesser features done faster and more reliable rather than trying to do it all and end up like Microsoft Windows. It's a good read, check it out. Via Slashdot.

Why God, why?

Speaking of operating systems, I've long felt that Mac OS X is probably the best desktop operating system out there at the moment. For me the only show-stopper is wanting to stick to my existing hardware. But some people really go over the top... it's about more than eye candy, you know? A good operating system isn't defined just by how it looks. I guess I can only repeat myself saying Why God, why?

It Looks too real.

The human brain is a complicated thing. I'd estimate we have disovered less than one percent of what is to be known about the brain to this day. One brain-dependent thing which I stumbled upon today was this: In 1978, the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori noticed something interesting: The more humanlike his robots became, the more people were attracted to them, but only up to a point. If an android become too realistic and lifelike, suddenly people were repelled and disgusted.

It seems this applies to computer games as well. Also via Slashdot.

Workrave

Thursday 10th of June, 2004 - 12:21 – Permalink

Blogging has been a little slow this week, largely due to my kids deciding to stay awake until around eleven, which is rather unbeneficial when you still have to eat, pack your stuff and help keep the household in one piece before going to bed. Add to that feeding once or twice a night and getting up at five... Suffice it to say I've been a bit tired this week. But it's still totally worth it though, wouldn't change a thing.

Anyway, the focal point of this entry is a piece of software called Workrave. It's a software designed to remind you to take breaks. I use it to remeber streaching my arms and hands. The RSI problems I dealt with over the past year are now largely gone, but I sure as hell don't wish to repeat the same mistake twice!

Workrave is free as in beer (gratis) and free as in speach (free software.) Take a look! There's a nice Workrave PDF leaflet as well.

PS. Workrave also keeps some rather cool statistics of your work. Today I've moved my mouse 84 meters, clicked the mouse button 1546 times, and typed 7221 keystrokes... make that 7255, no... 7285, umm... You get the idea.

On Hardware and Spam

Tuesday 8th of June, 2004 - 11:32 – Permalink

Many people are familiar with captchas by now. If you wish to sign up for a Yahoo mail account for instance, you have to pass a test which haves you identify distorted text within an image. This keeps spammers from creating scripts to make tousands of accounts in no time, and use them to send spam.

I've always said there's no technical barrier conceived by a human which can't be circumvented by another human. Yet again this has proven to be true... I stumbled across a blog entry relating to a rather ingenious way of getting around captchas without having to manually create accounts: Check out Solving and creating captchas with free porn. The Wikipedia entry for captchas explains the circumvention process in greater detail.

Hardware

I've always had a soft spot for cool looking computer hardware, especially when dealing with designer quality stuff. I've also said that future PCs will be smaller, quieter and better looking as the PC migrates into our living room.

In relation to these observations I've mentioned Hush Technologies before, and now I'm happy to add SilverStone Technology to the list. SilverStone has some very nice looking cases, and there are both traditional PC tower cases as well as HIFI equipment style cases available. They also have a completely fanless (ATX form factor) power supply. Take a look at the SilverStone enclosures page for a quick overview of their design abilities.

The Past, the Present and the Future

Friday 4th of June, 2004 - 11:31 – Permalink

It's hard to imagine an office computer without a spreadsheet. 25 years ago Dan Bricklin, Bob Frankston, and Dan Fylstra created VisiCalc, and forever changed businesses' relation to computers. Check out PC World's interviews with the creators of VisiCalc. Good stuff, via Slashdot

The Present

A while ago I noticed that the Opera browser had trouble with an XHTML document I was working on. Opera decided to disregard CSS style sheet information encountering an empty span tag written like this: <span />. Writing <span></span> instead worked fine (and it means the same thing, <span /> is just shorter,) so I thought nothing of it and pretty much forgot about it.

Today there was a bit of discussion about CSS in relation to invalid HTML on W3C's www-style mailing list. I posted a message describing my earlier findings with Opera. Around fifteen minutes later I got a mail from a person at Opera Software asking me if I could provide an example of the bug, which I did.

I must say I'm impressed with Opera Software's actions. Following public fora and showing genuine interest in fixing even obscure bugs like this one is just right. I just recieved a mail from Opera Software, and it turns out the MIME type of my document was inappropriate. Changing it from text/html to application/xhtml+xml should apparently fix the problem. Have to check that out later...

The Future

Jeff Reifman's editorial in the Seattle Weekly: Microsoft's Sacred Cash Cow is a very worthwhile read. I don't agree with all of Jeff's views, but as an ex-employee of Microsoft he sure has more insight into the future of the Vole than most of us. Much of it applies to all of the proprietary software business... Yet again, via Slashdot.