Tag Archives: internet


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

Three Hundred

This is the 300th blog post I have made. When I started this back in August 2006 I had no idea that I would still be maintaining it 6 years later. My original plan was to average one post a week – it has been 323 weeks since I started so I am slipping behind.

I am celebrating the 300th post by making a list of blogs I read regularly, not including the technical blogs I try to keep on top of.

People I know who regularly update their blogs:

Simon is an arch-tinkerer, and the only person I know who is Internet Famous for various projects, most notably the Star Wars Ascii Animation.

Stu is runs a tabletop gaming website, and his blog is a font of information on modelling and painting. I never had the patience for these types of games but I find reading about them fascinating.

Nigel hasn’t updated for a long while, but his posts are great and he is pretty much the only person who will spontaneously mention that he reads my blog so he gets included here.

David does a lot of tramping and takes some great photos.

TV and Cinema:

Matt Shot – I love single-topic blogs where someone with an encyclopaedic knowledge in a narrow field talks at length about what they love. I have also always been fascinated with old-time cinema tricks so this is right up my alley.

Strange Shapes – Long, thoughtful articles about the alien series.

TARDIS Eruditorum: A Psychochronography in Blue – Long, scholarly articles on Doctor Who, one for each episode, in sequence, with occasional diversions, written by someone with a PhD in English. At the moment he is up to the gap years where Doctor Who was not in production so he is covering the (fairly terrible in my opinion) spin-off novels. New readers should start at the beginning or just jump to one of the “People Seem To Like These Posts” in the sidebar.

Gavin J. Rothery is a visual effects director, his blog is filled with all sorts of entertaining rubbish.


History Geek – Various titbits of New Zealand history, which some great scanned pictures from yore.

Beachcombing’s Bizarre History – short essays on historical weirdness.

Bad Archaeology – sadly, it turns out almost nothing was built by aliens.

Executed Today – I like to read this first thing in the morning. No matter how bad my day is going this helps me realise some people had it worse.

Futility Closet – A gallimaufry of highest quality.

General Rubbish:

YOU CHOOSE WRONG – a daily scan of a notably grim ending in one of the old “choose your own adventure” type books that were popular when I was growing up. Speaking of which…

Fighting Dantasy is written by a man with a mission. And that mission is to attempt every Fighting Fantasy book ever written. It is not a good mission but an entertaining one.

Finally, if you don’t care about any of the previous links you may like this music video made from clips from the IMDB Top 250.

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; http://www.80legs.com/webcrawler.html) Gecko/2008032620" - - [24/Aug/2012:05:59:04 +1200] "GET /experiments/sketchthispage HTTP/1.1" 301 492 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; 008/0.83; http://www.80legs.com/webcrawler.html) 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; http://www.80legs.com/webcrawler.html) 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; http://www.80legs.com/webcrawler.html) 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; http://www.80legs.com/webcrawler.html) 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; http://www.80legs.com/webcrawler.html) 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.

Another Rant About Google+

I generally enjoy using Google+ – I find it serves a different purpose than Facebook. Facebook is all about friends and family swapping pictures and gossip, while G+ has evolved into a sprawling market of pet projects and technical discussions. With a little bit of work you can find people and communities whose interests match your own, and either passively follow or interact as you please.

But Google has got to do something about the Explore feature. This is supposed to show cool posts that many people have commented on,reshared, or +1ed. All sorts of random, interesting stuff shows up here. Unfortunately, so does a lot of “+1 if you like cookies” rubbish does as well, and it makes G+ seem like a bunch of idiots.

An example of an image being used to display a quote on Google PlusPart of the problem is an interesting difference between the design of G+ and Facebook. On Facebook it has become common for people to use a Facebook app to post a large picture to containing a (usually inane) slogan to their wall for anyone to see. These are hard to ignore in your news feed, but since they are posted by a third party app you can easily block them and all future posts from the same source without un-friending the sender. Almost nobody manually posts these pictures since the app is easier and doesn’t pollute your own photo albums.

But on G+ it is easy to attach a single photo to a single post, and G+ will helpfully show a very large version to all your followers. Unlike Facebook apps, there is no way to block similar posts except by unfollowing that user or at least moving them to an out-of-the-way circle. And there is no way at all to disable these posts in the Explore section of the site, which has become a bit of a bore now that it has been invaded by self-promoters posting unoriginal content as large images.

If Google really want to improve G+, they should take a look at curating the Explore section to discourage posts of low value, even if they have many comments or +1s.

Or perhaps I am just bitter because nobody +1s me.

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.