Dec 17

O’Reilly sues TIME over Web 2.0

Tech 2 Comments »

Time must have been pretty desperate this year, voting YOU as the person of the year.

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It’s not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it’s really a revolution.

I guess 2006 was a crappy year? :)

Dec 16

Google Code hosting gets better

Tech 2 Comments »

When Google Code hosting first released, there was a mixed response. Many have been frustrated with, so looked forward to the new hosting, but there were features missing.

It was good to see
Greg Stein announce a couple of important features that they just added

File Downloads – this has been the most-requested feature since we launched project hosting here on Google Code. We knew it would be, but wanted to ship earlier rather than later. We think you’ll like what we did… one-click downloads and scriptable uploads, as well as searchable summaries and labels.

Wikis – all projects now have a tightly-integrated wiki appearing under a new Wiki tab. The really cool thing here is that the content is stored in your Subversion repository under the /wiki/ directory. You can edit the pages with your favorite editor and commit them with your favorite Subversion client! Additionally, you can add labels and page summaries to wiki pages for improved searching.

Both are cool. The traditional thousand clicks to get a download has always been a pain on (especially if you want to wget the darn file to a remote server), and the idea of keeping the wiki content right there in your SVN to edit in a decent editor is cool too.

It was also interesting that they couldn’t use one of the many wiki packages out there (MediaWiki, MoinMoin, XWiki, and the 300 others) but had to write their own due too:

Most of the existing wiki products cannot scale to the size and concurrency that we expect, so we had to design one to work to our demands, using Google’s infrastructure. In addition, we believe that tools are most useful when they are easy to use and well integrated into the collaborative development environment. So, we are offering a simple wiki that works well with our existing tools. If you find that your project needs some highly specialized formatting, you can link to Google Page Creator, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Groups, or other pages hosted elsewhere on the Internet.

Dec 15

The relationship between label size and lawyers

Personal No Comments »

I think I have found a very important correlation that should be someone’s PhD.

My hypothesis is that the size of toy labels is in proportion to the number of lawyers in your society.

This came to me as I see the size of labels on toys. The picture below says it all.

Of course, most kids like to play with the labels more than the toys themselves, so maybe this is a selling point, but man this is getting ridiculous.

Soon we will have to swear some oaths before we can get through the packaging. A digital note will be sent back to basecamp to let the lawyers know “Yup, Daddy said it was OK. Now he can never sue us! mwhahaha”

Dec 14

British show the way on trees for christmas

Personal 1 Comment »

I thought that the war on Christmas was won this year, with Walmart switching back to “Merry Christmas” from “Happy Holidays”.

Then I saw that my co-worker Jim got a Frasier Fur from the local Home Depot.

My family took the traditional route. We hunted out in the wilds of the country (Brooklyn, WI) and we bagged a tree. Sam was strapped to my backpack. We braved the snow. We bagged a wild tree, and helped out the locals.

I do respect that it probably would take a few hours to find the tree section at Home Depot, but come on Halbergs….. don’t be embarrassed by a brit next year.

Dec 13

Skype is doomed? (slowly but surely)

Tech 2 Comments »

Now That You Are Hooked on Skype, Fork Over 30 Bucks says Erick Schonfeld.

Is that going to be the final blow for Skype?

I rarely use Skype these days because:

  • Adium can’t speak it. Why have one IM client for ALL other services, and another for Skype?
  • Many of the other services have voice
  • Skype on the Mac is a CPU hog (although to be fair the latest rev is better)
Dec 13

Tarpitted by gmail || How large providers can get you by the balls

Tech 1 Comment »

Seeking Alpha has email subscription services, and lots of people are signing up for email alerts.

This has been great, but with success you often get pain.

As our user base has grown, some mailing providers have noticed, and a couple wondered if we were spam. Yahoo! did this once, but luckily we work with them as a partner, so the team added us to their whitelist quickly.

Then starting to tarpit us:

2006-12-12 13:13:15.143259500 delivery 32151031: deferral:

When this happens, you are in trouble. Our email queue keeps growing and growing as they defer and defer and defer.

What adds to the problem is when some people use gmail to check their mail.

Eg. if you have a domain and forward mail to gmail as a copy, for web mail, as a spam helper, etc.

This means that you have a recursive issue that gets out of hand.

Trying to contact “the right person” is really hard. Everything is walled off behind a web form that feels like no one will ever look at it.

If anyone happens to know a nicer Googler who knows a guy who knows a guy who can look at the blacklist and let us through. Let me know!

Dec 13

Logic based CAPTCHA to beat the blog spam bots

Tech 7 Comments »

I have been fighting spam in email and on community sites forever. Man what an arms race.

When it makes sense to only allow community members to be able to post, life gets simpler, but in many cases you do not want to narrow the field. If I end up on some random blog and they need me to login? See-ya.

I have tried a lot of stock plugins for handling spam, and although a lot of good work has gone into the like of Spam Karma, WP-Hashcash, and the many others, I always have had problems.

I chose an image CAPTCHA on this blog a long time ago, and spammers now can do OCR and get right through it. I am moving to a new blog shortly, so will fix that issue at that time.

The problem with image CAPTCHA (other than the accessibility issues) is that the arms race means that already you either get beaten by smart spammers, or the image is so hard to read that HUMANS can’t read it. I have personally been baffled a number of times as I type in what SURELY is the right mix of numbes and letters, but the system tells me that I am wrong.

I recently had an attack of spam at (a great little site by the way) and it was the last straw.

The only solution that really made sense was to get out of the herd mentality, and go it alone.

That is why I choose a logic-CAPTCHA that asks a brain dead simple question that a human finds ‘duh’ but ideally is hard for a computer to grok.

The simple math based questions (4 + 14) are destined to be beaten by spammers as soon as there is enough of them and critical mass means that the spammers need to write the simple bot that can eval: 4 + 14.

The plugins that only work if JavaScript is understood also didn’t work for me.
The damn spam bots were smart enough and go through the system. I guess it isn’t that hard to embed a JavaScript interpreter, but sheesh!

Anyway, back to logic CAPTCHA. The beauty is that you get to write your own questions that you ask people to answer.

You can ever ask things that only your audience would know. For example, on we ask questions such as: “What does the X in Ajax stand for?” (even though Ajax isn’t an acronym).

When you get personal like this, you are out of any critical mass. Chances are unless you are a huge company, the spammers will not think it worthwhile to beat your little set of questions (which you can change too of course).

It is a pain for people to have to answer the question, but at least we keep the spam bots at bay.

For now.

Dec 12

Java SE 6: I don’t need any beans with my Java

Tech 10 Comments »

“Download Java SE 6 with NetBeans IDE 5.5 today”

Don’t force this stuff down peoples throats.

How many downloads of NetBeans are people clicking on the wrong download link?

Dec 10

Being a power user and little tools

Tech 2 Comments »

Joel quoted himself writing:

“Most of the time, what happens is that they give their program to a journalist to review, and the journalist reviews it by writing their review using the new word processor, and then the journalist tries to find the

Dec 08

Rewritting malloc for that extra bit of performance

Google, Tech 3 Comments »

A long time ago, I was leaked the codebase of a popular id software game, both before optimization, and after.

When you ended up seeing was:

  • prototype: mainly C/C++, with some assembler
  • production: assembler all over. all over.
  • They also used a special malloc. I remember at the time thinking: “they freaking rewrote malloc?”. In fact the special version came from a Finnish group of uber-hackers, and even that was customized for certain corner cases when it made sense.

    This all came to light when I read tcmalloc success which discusses Domas Mituzas of MySQL using tcmalloc (an open source Google perftool) to debug some nasty memory leaks.

    Nice. I hope I don’t never have to use it ;)