Tag Archives: browser

Blackletter – Unicode Abuse

Unicode is an all encompassing project, its goal is to make it possible to represent all existing documents as a series of bytes, from ancient hieroglyphics to Japanese txt-speak. Of course, with great power comes great abuse.

It turns out that Unicode includes a complete set of blackletter characters – actually two sets if you count bold. These are supposed to be used to represent mathematical symbols in old documents but nothing is stopping you from using them in Facebook posts to amuse and annoy.

You just need something that will easily convert from normal english text into suitable unicode HTML entities. Something, perhaps, like this:

The output may look like English text, but this isn’t the same as just changing the font – the characters are unrelated to the normal ASCII range. You can paste the results into most web pages (Facebook and Google+), but some will strip out anything weird like this. You may have to experiment.

(Before you try it; no, you cannot post blackletter comments on this site. WordPress doesn’t like it.)

Sadly some browsers/devices will not display the glyphs at all, if you only see a row of squares then you are out of luck (iOS devices do not work, neither will Chrome on Windows). Even if it works for you, other people may not be able to see your post.

Another drawback is that the resulting text will not be searchable using normal tools, although this may be a plus in situations you have already thought of.

Google+ Social Media Features

Blog writers want feedback. For ages now I have been running a plugin on this blog that allows readers to quickly post things I have written to Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, etc in the hope that some of my wittier and more insightful musings might be widely distributed. The icons were there for years and, as far as I can tell, the icons were clicked exactly none times. None.

So I have removed that plugin and am trying something else.

Google+ is Google’s attempt at social media (previously) and I am liking a lot of what they are doing. It is sort of like a mixture of Twitter and Facebook, you can follow people without them reciprocating and anything you post can be shared with only a subset of people. +1 is Google’s equivalent of Facebook’s Like button.

If you are logged into G+ you can click on the +1 button to show you approve of the content and want to see more like it. You can go back through the archives and +1 as many articles as you want – go ahead, I’ll wait.

In addition, I have added my Google Plus feed to the sidebar on the right. I am not sure if I will keep this, I post very few updates, but we will see. I quite like having my long form blog posts and my short for G+ updates visible in one place.


Why yes, I do have a Google+ account. Why do you ask?

Actually, it is no big thing any more. Google are slowly allowing more people on as they ramp up their Facebook-beating service. I have been using it for a day now, and I like a lot of what I see. Unfortunately, the rest of what I see sort of mystifies me instead.

Google+ is a Facebook-like service, where people publish Facebook-like status updates to Facebook-like lists of friends, maybe attaching a link or a photo kind of like you do in another social media website whose name has temporarily slipped my mind. Basically, it’s Facebook with a slightly more up-to-date look.

Google+’s main UI difference is the concept of circles. These allow you to easily group your contacts (friends, workmates, family, etc) with a snazzy drag-and-drop interface. Then you can pick which circles get to see each thing you post. It is a lot easier to use than Facebook’s group concept and more offers more granularity without being to complex.

It is early days yet, but there are things that Facebook still does better. Posting a link is nowhere near is easy – Facebook allows you to easily customise the summary it displays where Google+ only allows you to delete the summary, not replace it with your own. Notifications are also slow to arrive, but Google+ does display notifications in the other Google apps (gmail, reader) which is very handy.

One thing I was disappointed not to see what any way to link content from other sites into my Google+ stream. For instance, there is no way to automatically post links to new articles on this blog to my Google+ stream. Facebook sort of allows this with its Notes feature. I don’t use Twitter, but that doesn’t seem to be included either. Google has Friend Connect for following blogs, but that doesn’t seem to be integrated into Google+ at all. It is all very strange.

I haven’t tried the Hangout feature since I don’t have a webcam on my main computer, but it looks like it could be useful if it works as advertised. The Sparks feature (similar to Google news but not limited to current events) seem great, but doesn’t really need to be part of Google+. It would be better as a widget on the homepage.

Social Media only gets it’s usefulness from the number of people who use it regularly. Even if Google+ was as good as Facebook (which it may be soon), there is very little point in anyone maintaining two accounts across different services. Facebook got big because it was a grown-up MySpace, Google+ may be trying for a grown-up Facebook, but Facebook hasn’t annoyed its users like MySpace did (yet). I can’t see a mass migration from Facebook to Google+ happening soon unless Google has a few more cards up its sleeve.

More Boring Blog Statistics

As a follow-up from my last post here are some more visitor statistics courtesy of Google Analytics. These are for sandfly.net.nz as a whole, not just this blog.

A world map showing the cities this site was visited from.
Last year I got nearly 18000 visits from over 4000 cities (not all appear on this map) in 128 countries. The top 5 cities are Auckland (with over 2000 visits), then London, Wellington, New York and Bangalore(!) It seems like the cities with a strong C++ development culture are better represented, but that is somewhat of a guess.

Two pie charts showing the OS and Browsers used to access this site.
These graphs show what browsers and operating systems people are using. Windows is still the most used OS at 58% but MacOSX is doing alright with 29% (Linux does 10%). This probably reflects the techie slant in the subjects I write about.

44% of my visitors use Firefox (which is what I use most of the time), but it is a three horse race for runner up between Safari (19%), IE (18%), and Chrome (13%). Chrome seems to be picking up in recent months so this graph might look quite different next year. A lot of people profess hatred for Safari, but it seems to be holding its market share (only on MacOSX though, hardly anyone uses the Windows version.) The really good news is only 2.6% of visits last year came from IE6 – the sooner that browser dies the better.

I wonder the same graphs would look like for other comparable sites.

TV Theme Quiz II : The Themes Strike Back

It was bound to happen. People seemed to enjoy the first TV Theme Quiz so I fired up Audacity and created another 30 seconds of familiar ditties. Things were solved pretty quickly last time so I tried to make this one just a smidgeon harder – we will see if I succeeded.

Start TV Theme Quiz II

This quiz works in much the same way as the last one but I have tweaked the Javascript a little. I never thought that anyone would bother reversing the hash used to hide the answers on the first quiz but one of my friends admitted that they had done just that. A little salt should clear that problem right up.

This is the post you should comment on for hints and bragging. I only ask that you refrain from posting the actual answers, at least for the first few days. I think it is better to let people work things out for themselves.