Category Archives: Computer


Yes, I have finally broken down and joined Twitter. I don’t know what this development portends for the upcoming IPO but it probably means that Twitter is now officially uncool.

Actually, after 24 hours I am still not sure what Twitter is for. The magical interaction between celebrities and like-minded individuals that everyone claims is Twitter’s raison d’être seems to be hard to find.

I’ll stick with it, but honestly I think I have been spoiled by Google Plus which seems like it was purposely designed to be a grown-up Twitter killer. Basic features like targeting posts at different groups of people and proper post formatting with no length limit are just missing in the Twitter-verse.

What I do see on Twitter is a lot of blatant self-promotion. That is fine (and, if we are being honest, why I joined) but I don’t really care what TV show such-and-such is starring in this week. Some people do post jokes and interesting links, so it is not all bad.

On the topic of promotion, there are good ways and bad ways to tweet your branding. Trying to ride on the coat-tails of a popular TV show is all well and good, but there are limits:

News Tweet

Stay classy, Fox29 Philly



Animoog is a really cool synthesizer emulator for the iPad that simulates the electronics of the old analogue synths that ruled the 70s before digital came along and ruined everything. The interface is a little daunting but it comes will a bunch of useful presets, and the UI encourages exploration with lots of knobs to twiddle and hidden panels to discover.

The awful secret I have discovered is that if you make an interesting enough sound (which isn’t hard to do) then any collection of notes sounds good. At the moment I am sitting on my pouch in the shade recreating the Blade Runner soundtrack by pressing random keys. That Vangelis was a terrible hack!

Apple iBook Store Open in NZ

Apple announced a whole bunch of stuff today; an iPad for little people, an iMac so thin you can shave with it, and some kind of hard drive technology that actually looks pretty cool. But buried amongst the big announcements was the fact that you can now buy new books through iBooks in New Zealand.

Screenshot of iBooks showing the New Zealand store

The iBook store has been open in New Zealand from the beginning, but up until today only offered free, out-of-copyright works to NZ accounts. These are all very well but sometimes you just want to read the latest paperback and buying an ebook is certainly convenient. I don’t mind paying for a good book and up until now I have been forced to go through Amazon’s (pretty good) Kindle service. But it is nice to have another choice.

Let us look at some prices, taken from random titles in the various new and featured sections:

Title iBooks Kindle
Graham Henry:Final Word $24:99 n/a (coming soon)
The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters: Destiny Rising $13:99 $9:85
The Casual Vacancy $28:99 $18:46
Fifty Shades of Grey $13:99 $12:30
A Dance with Dragons (Complete Edition) $13:99 $18:46

(All prices are in NZ dollars. iBooks lists things in NZ dollars and presumably charges GST. Amazon prices are in US dollars but I have converted them using the current exchange rate)

In this random selection of titles from recent “featured” titles, it seems that Amazon is mostly cheaper but not always so it pays to compare. Also, Amazon still has a better selection (Graham Henry’s book being a rare example of something on iBooks but not yet on Kindle), often with multiple editions of the same book available. As always, it pays to shop around.

Now all Apple has to do is hurry up and open the New Zealand TV store. We have waited long enough.

Apple Store vs. Microsoft Store

Apple’s network of shopping locations has been amazingly successful. I suspect they only got into retail in the first place because their products were always relegated to the back shelves in the normal computer stores, and even stores that specialised in Apple gear were strangely useless. For years it was almost impossible to find Apple hardware in any retail space in New Zealand at all.

Having their own retail space enables Apple to introduce products directly to customer without having to convince distributors to stock them, something that used to be a lot harder before Apple’s recent successes. My guess is that Apple Stores exist for that reason (and possibly branding) alone – retail space is expensive and I bet Apple makes no more profit on a iPad bought at an Apple Store compared to the same iPad from the Dick Smith next door.

What ever the reason, Apple’s relatively recent and totally proprietary secret strategy of selling products that people actually want at a price they are prepared to pay is paying off in spades.

Microsoft Store - lots of staff, few customers Apple Store, lots of customers

These are the competing Microsoft and Apple stores at the Valley Fair Shopping Center in San Jose. The Microsoft store is actually larger and more conspicuous than Apple’s and seems to have about the same number of staff. What it doesn’t have is many customers.

Personally, I am not sure why Microsoft has a store. I can’t think of a product that I would buy that I couldn’t get more easily from somewhere else, and Microsoft’s products have never had the same strong branding that Apple’s have. Even the Windows8 phones are better purchased through a phone company.

Maybe I just passed by at the wrong time, but I can’t see the Microsoft stores lifting Mircosoft’s brand (or profits). Microsoft has never had the problems Apple had getting it’s products into the market when it created the stores, and I just don’t see the point.

80legs Is a Pain in the Neck

I got an email from my hosting company (OpenHost – I like them) a couple of days ago telling me that this site had exceeded it’s allocated bandwidth for the month. I found that very unlikely since I pay for 2gig a month and never even get close to that. But investigation revealed it to be true: - - [24/Aug/2012:05:59:03 +1200] "GET /blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/muriwai_gannets-1024x494.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 19040 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; 008/0.83; Gecko/2008032620" - - [24/Aug/2012:05:59:04 +1200] "GET /experiments/sketchthispage HTTP/1.1" 301 492 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; 008/0.83; Gecko/2008032620" - - [24/Aug/2012:05:59:04 +1200] "GET /blog/tag/48hours/ HTTP/1.1" 200 13939 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; 008/0.83; Gecko/2008032620" - - [24/Aug/2012:05:59:04 +1200] "GET /blog/tag/programming/ HTTP/1.1" 200 33193 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; 008/0.83; Gecko/2008032620" - - [24/Aug/2012:05:59:06 +1200] "GET /blog/tag/wii/ HTTP/1.1" 200 9771 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; 008/0.83; Gecko/2008032620" - - [24/Aug/2012:05:59:06 +1200] "GET /blog/tag/horror/ HTTP/1.1" 200 8668 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; 008/0.83; Gecko/2008032620"

This is a small fragment of a logs generated by a web crawler that I had never heard of before – 80legs. A large proportion of the traffic this site gets is via bots, and normally I don’t mind. It is usually search engines indexing the contents – something I want to encourage. But 80legs decided for some reason to repeatedly download this entire site repeatedly, for no discernible reason as far as I can see.

They are very proud of their “grid computing platform”, but I think that the individual members don’t talk to each other much since I see different machines downloading the same information simultaneously. Most bots take the trouble to slowly spider a site over a few days, but 80legs just seems to charge ahead. Worse, it re-downloads data it has already seen such as images linked from multiple pages. What ever the reasons, 80legs might end up costing me money and I can live without it.

User-agent: 008
Disallow: /

So long, 80legs.