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Some of you, when you hear me complain about spam, might have asked "WHAT spam, Pete?" Well, if you have to ask that, then that's a good thing. It means I'm doing my job.
But you do catch a glimpse of them before I delete them, if you click the 'last comments' link. This shows all last comments from all posts, and since I typically leave comments open on all posts indefinitely, much of the comment spam is in posts that are months or years old.
Here's a little gallery of screenshots I've saved of some typical examples. If you see these on your site, you know them now for what they are!
Chinese, I gather?
Never trust anybody with two first names.
But are they geeks?
Some kind of graphics site, posts only in the graphics tutorials.
This one always posts "thanx".
Apparently W0rld-of-W4rcraft g0ld is big business. And yes, I'm deliberately munging the name to ward off search-guided bots.
A bunch of them in the gaming articles.
If you're a legitimate person who has posted any of these, you're welcome to explain yourself here. I could have made a mistake deleting posts sometimes. Some people might have poor English skills or just be unclear on the concept.
I'd also like to say that I'm not against leaving a link to promote your own site along with your comment, if you're an actual commenter. That's why I leave the URL field in the comment box. It's common Internet practice.
But there's a right way and wrong way to do it. To paraphrase a Supreme Court Justice when asked about porn, "I can't define a spambot posting, but I know it when I see it."
Just when you were all wondering if I'd abandoned the dang blog, I'll carry on my Christmas tradition of posting a list of online games and toys that I found interesting this year. Because at least I got Christmas off work!
Gallery of Computation - I love these Flash demo sites. This one has a huge gallery of experiments and explorations in Flash programming. Navigate through this swoopy spacey interface to surf the demos.
Logo in your Browser - Yo dawg! We heard you like Logo, so we put some Logo in your browser so you can hack while you surf! Sorry, it wrote itself. I tried to stop it.
Light Bot - A very unique game. You have to program a bot to walk and hop around, turning on lights on squares to complete each round. To do this, you drag and drop little icons for commands and execute all at once. Also has two functions you can program. Challenging at higher levels!
Texas Hold-Em - Since you hear so much buzz about it - knowing how to program a gambling game site is a good meal ticket for a freelancer - you might as well learn the game. This version was easy for me to learn, although I still regard Texas Hold-Em as "Poker for Dummies".
Sittin' At a Bar - Nothing special about this one - just your typical balance game. Done to promote a song single. With a song you can't get out of your head. Seriously.
Orbs - Has won my award for most innovative useful Flash toy this year. This application lets you compose a simple music loop using a few instruments in two styles and an interface that is so easy, your cat could probably use it. A blessing for somebody like me who has no understanding of music whatsoever. Uh. Anybody know a way to download these as .wav files?
My own Orbs creations:
Super Mario Flash - It's Super Mario in Flash. Compared to the 1000 other attempts out there, this one actually succeeds.
Untangle - A very original game where you move nodes to make the strings connecting them not cross. A lot more challenging than it sounds!
And while we're at it, before my work drags me away from my own site again, Eric over at Binary World has launched a web comic, making him the zillionth acquaintance to have done so while I still sit here pondering how to start mine.
Happy Holidays, you crazy, wonderful blogosphere, you!
I have to conclude that the best way to make an idiot of yourself in public, besides actually getting naked and setting yourself on fire, is to become a tech blogger. The world of computing technology news is 90% made-up, with everything being rumors, vaporware, over-reactions, over-corrections to over-reactions, FUD, speculation, and completely blind guessing. And of course, as a blogger masochistically bent on self-humiliation, you will have endless opportunity to post first and think later.
Witness the train wreck that is the reporting of the release of Google Chrome. Now, when I saw the news, I checked it out, downloaded the Windows version and tried to run it on Wine (failed), then investigated for the Linux version (fail). Then I shrugged and figured I'd wait until I actually had something to say about it before blogging about it. For those of you wondering why I don't post more often, this is why. For every day that I don't post, there's a time when I could have said something stupid but kept my mouth shut instead.
But here comes fun...
"Note: There is no working Chromium-based browser on Linux. Although many Chromium submodules build under Linux and a few unit tests pass, all that runs is a command-line 'all tests pass' executable."
Sweet. There's a source code release for Linux, but it's busted. So you can't run it native on Linux, but you also can't complain that there's no Linux version. And the point of this would be? By the way, Google apologetically displays a message if you go to get the Linux version of Chrome, with an offer to submit an email address so you'll get notified immediately as soon as a Linux port is produced. You know, in case the entire Internet goes black and 38,000 tech bloggers suddenly don't report the news for them.
One of many sites chewing Google out for not making the Linux version yet.
"If Google likes open source so much, it could at least let the most important open source operating system (which the open source crowd pretty much likes, right?) have a beta version to test on their preferred platform…"
See, I could go along with that if you were talking about Google Sketch-Up. The market for 3D/CAD graphics tools on Linux is thin. But how many web browsers does Linux have? Like ten million, that's how many. How many Linux users would actually switch from Firefox, were a Google Chrome for Linux be made available today? None. We would download it, blog-review it, and delete it in three days. On the Windows platform, Internet Exploder still has the majority, and that's the important thing is to kill IE. I'll settle for no Linux version if it meant that Chrome replaces IE 100%. In fact, speaking as a website maintainer, I'd part with a couple of minor organs if anything replaced IE 100%.
Did everybody have fun panicking about the EULA before Google retracted it?
"Google owns everything you publish and create while using Chrome. Ah-whaaa?"
Of course, the EULA OF Death got retracted hours later. How ADHD do you have to be to think (a) this wasn't a mistake, and (b) this was enforceable? By definition, every piece of copyrighted content that any webmaster uploads anywhere would become Google property. Duh, they copy-pasted the EULA from something relating to their search indexing, where it makes a lot more sense because webmasters are always trying to sue them for showing thumbnails of their precious Photoslop disasters in search results pages.
"Yet, for today at least, this is still vaporware with zero users."
Written back on the first of September (Labor day). Because it just simply would not do to wait like a whole day to get your hands on it. Oh, and while we're there, how do you "accidentally leak" a 38-page comic book online? Do you just fall out of bed with a pen in your hand and whoops, you drew a comic book, then feed it into the FAX machine with the number punched in to the office, while thinking it's a shredder? Because nobody draws a comic book with the intention of showing it to anyone. Oh, and you have to guess the pages are "30-plus-page" because you just couldn't bother to find out it was 38 pages? That's the investigative reporting we've come to expect from the crack team of experts on the web.
Oh, where is all this pollution in the tech blogosphere coming from? Let me follow the trail of sewage upstream, until I discover...
"Meet Chrome, Google’s Windows Killer"
I should have known. Michael Arrington, the Pied Piper of Stupid. Whenever somebody around you says something that's incredibly brain-damaged, just assume they're copying TechCrunch - or "SpecHunch" as I like to call them. Yes, go read it yourself, M.A. actually has web browsers confused with operating systems. He's going to deny it later, he's going to backpedal like a sunnuvagun and go 'no I really mean something else', but there's the words: "While it seems that Chrome is aimed at IE and Firefox, the target is really Windows." When even my AOL-using mother-in-law says, "What the heck is he smoking?", you know he's just said something infinitely dumb. And SpecHunch is where news agencies like Reuters get their info. Cthulhu help us all.
"I will demonstrate that Chrome [based on what we are allowed to know] puts strain on the Designer and Developer communities, is not innovative (save for one feature), and copies ideas liberally from Google's worst enemy."
"My greatest problem with the cartoon strip is that while it's supposed to explain how Chrome works, it really explains how all major browsers work, implying that these features were invented for Chrome alone."
It's pretty tough to pick out the single stupidest thing on this page. It's like trying to decide which politician is the most corrupt. OSNews' post is sneaky - it sounds intelligent at first, then starts making bizarre claims, then wanders into increasingly stupider statements. You're just about to wonder at what point the LSD tabs kicked in when, boom, the author starts evangelizing for Internet Explorer 8. Oh, that explains it. Shill.
Actually, I have to conclude that most tech bloggers just don't care a thin damn. They're in it for the paycheck alone; they put their brains on auto-pilot and never take their eyes off the clock until their fingers quit moving on the keyboard, which signifies that it's time to hit the bar. After all, it's not like anybody out there actually reads this crap anyway, right? The boss said "write something about Chrome so we get search hits for it." and lo, much was written.
See you next Goomor.
PS For somebody who actually had intelligent things to say about Chrome, check out Eric's Binary-World review. There, Chrome has been reviewed.
A cool new short cartoon has been released from the Apricot/Peach project. Not only will the link in the title take you to the page at Hackazine with the YouTube clip, but it also has a demo showing how the animation is controlled.
This is an excellent example for anybody out there trying to pick up the complexities of animating a figure, and also goes directly to my own paid work this week.
I loved the movie, too, which is actually funny and as professional as anything you'd see in a theater. I totally ♥ Big Buck Bunny!
Ars Technica shares with us a moment to lift the spirits of gamers everywhere:
"In early 2007 the Florida Bar filed a five count, 38-page complaint against Florida Lawyer Jack Thompson, seeking sanctions against the outspoken critic of video games." ... "The trial ended in December 2007, and the verdict was expected in late April of this year. Judge Dava Tunis had asked for an extension in order to, among other things, deal with 400 'pleadings, e-mails, letters and missives (including pictorials)' sent by Thompson since the end of the trial. Judge Tunis has now released her report, with recommendations that Thompson be found guilty of 27 of the 31 charges."
That's... let's see here... how do I feel about this? I'll let Mark Slackmeyer from Doonesbury sum it up for me:
Boy am I going to miss this guy! Never has there been a more flamboyant public descent into insanity as the story of J.T., over such a trivial issue. Never has more attention to what is really wrong with this sick society been diverted to such a red herring as blaming crime on video games. Never have so many otherwise rational people been so mislead by so much smoke. Why, I specifically got my kids playing first-person shooters just because to do so opposes all that the Jack Thompsons of this world stand for.
I kind of regret that he didn't take up his sword against FOSS instead of video games, because that would have made him my problem directly, and I would have had ever so much more fun with him.
But here's the nougat center of the article, the picture book described at Law.com:
"The court described one of Thompson's recent filings in detail. He dubbed it a 'children's picture book for adults,' interspersing images with text in his motion due to 'the court's inability to comprehend' his arguments. Images included 'swastikas, kangaroos in court, a reproduced dollar bill, cartoon squirrels, Paul Simon, Paul Newman, Ray Charles, a handprint with the word 'slap' written under it, Bar Governor Benedict P. Kuehne, a baby, Ed Bradley, Jack Nicholson, Justice Clarence Thomas, Julius Caesar, monkeys, a house of cards,' the order said."
Oooooh, do I want a PDF copy of that! I want to contrast and compare it with Charles Manson's sketches! I want to print it out and color it! How about it, lazyweb? Got a link to a torrent for me?
UPDATE 5/25/08: Thanks to commenter "Anonymous" (who is one busy guy out there on the web!) who found a copy of the picture book posted in a forum. It turns out that he just included pictures/photos clipped apparently from the web and assembled in a text editor. Bummers! I was hoping for hand-drawn images on stained notebook paper in smeary ball-point ink, as would befit a true Luddite.
Still, it has its high points. good find!
Update 9/25/08: - And lo, it came to pass... Jack Thompson is disbarred!!! Not only that, but he can never reapply! Ever ever ever! Note the Slashdot link, demonstrating a rare instance of the dingdongthewitchisdead tag!
I've just found a Flash demo that is frankly unsettling. Click that link if you dare and wait for it to load. I found myself moving the mouse more to avoid having its gaze look me in the eye. I used to laugh at people who talked about the "uncanny valley", and I am very sorry for that now.
Nevertheless, it got me thinking: We have MakeHuman plus Blender on the Linux desktop, and we have a way to make Flash. So, could we do this demo using only FOSS tools?
I think it may be possible with pre-rendered frames. You could have separate layers for eyes and face movement, and the rest is just head tilts. However, I think they have something more sophisticated going on, like something built into the ActionScript.
Now, as if that weren't enough, here's a four-legged walking thing that will haunt your nightmares. All it needs is a head...
There, that put you in the right frame of mind to do your taxes today, did it not?
Update: After some webvestigating, I found the site that describes the technology, Motion Portrait, in English. Apparently they do it from photographs which are them processed with some kind of algorithm.
So, no, reproducing a similar effect with 3D rendering and a completely generated model wouldn't be copying their method.
Update: Cosmic kismet, I just happened to catch "The Stepford Wives" on AMC tonight - the 1975 classic based on Ira Levin's novel (God rest his profound soul). It brought me back to this post, and I remembered that Japan is in population decline, a story from which I quote:
"The trick will be 'innovation,' Abe said, and economic reform. In fact, robots and other ways to improve productivity are one of four possible routes to economic growth despite an aging population. The others would be making better use of women..."
I followed that Wiki link again to the actroid article. God, we're getting scary-close to Stepford in some parts of the world! I've thought all this time that Ira Levin was kidding, but what if he nailed it? I've known too many people out there who wouldn't mind being a robot at all...
Only a month ago, the entire blasted Internet lit up with the whole Microsoft-Yahoo acquisition attempt. After it went on for a solid week, I shut my RSS aggregator in disgust and turned to other media for my news for a while, only to see the same story hit the cover of half the paper news magazines at the newsstand and a good share of the daily newspapers as well. Even the TV news channels buzzed about it obsessively.
The next time the president wants to start a preemptive war, he should just wait until the next tech-company merger rumor. He could then nuke a couple of oil-bearing countries from orbit during the ensuing media white-out without anybody noticing. Meanwhile, Paris Hilton would grow so attention-starved that she'd fade away like a shadow.
Well, I repeat my prediction: Microsoft-Yahoo ain't happening. And this revelation has apparently dawned upon the Web 2.0 chicken coop, so they just have something new to cluck about: Buying Digg.
I just love how TechCrunch justifies its reporting: We have Very Good Sources. We can't tell you who they are or how we know or link to anything backing this up, and the CEO of Digg just posted to say we're full of baloney, so it appears as if we just pulled it out of our spring-loaded backside and hosed it off, but be that as it may, we have: Good. Sources.
Behold the web media echo chamber: search Google news for keyword Digg and get the same story on Reuters ("According to TechCrunch..."), Guardian UK ("...says Michael Arrington at TechCrunch."), ZDNet ("TechCrunch is reporting..."), and so on.
I find it disturbing that they refer to "somebody close to the deal" when as of yet, there isn't any "deal"! Has the money traded hands? Is the ink dry on the contract? Has the moving van pulled up in the driveway with the first load of furniture? If not, then it's not a deal. It is a "proposed future deal", and if you even slip up in your grammar and refer to it as anything but, you are no longer credible. Daily in conversation, I now have to correct somebody who thinks that Microsoft now owns Yahoo, because of this lousy standard of the media treating every acquisition rumor as a finished purchase.
On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if Digg did sell out to Microsoft. They kind of deserve each other, although not as badly as Reddit; I would laugh (with schadenfreude for both sides) to see Microsoft buy Reddit. I wouldn't even be too surprised if Google bought a social news site or two, although the money would be better spent in re-buying Blogger and this time actually doing something with it.
Anyway, the Digger's comments about this story are the usual frantic panic-attacks you'd expect. I don't know who they're kidding saying Digg users are anti-Microsoft. But then, most social news sites direly want to be known as anti-Microsoft, Apple+Linux-using hardcore ghetto rebels, until you post anything pro-FOSS at which point thousands of asstroturfers show up to troll your story to death.
Let 2008 be known as the year of the IT tabloid headline. Eat your heart out, Brittany Spears.
Continuing from the first half of the list, here's some more ruminations on the obsolete tech hall of fame...
PDP-11 assembler - The PDPs may, indeed, be long gone, but for those of you who still want to keep your hand in in case they ever come back, the SIMH project can emulate PDPs, and a mess of other iron dinosaurs. SIMH runs on Linux and every other computer in the galaxy - even Windows! I have a copy of it on my boxen, and I'm sure I'd be hacking away on it if I had clue one what I was doing. I've learned the PDP-11 'help' command, though!
Playing BBS door games - Oh, yeah? Get DOSBox to run them on, and download some door games right here! DOSBox is ported to Linux and every other system in existence - even Windows! You might have to finagle some bogus BBS configuration files to get some of them working, however.
I got this 8-way slot door game running, for instance. In all its ANSI glory. Waddaya thinka me nooooow?
Playing arcade games - Yeah, so go get XMAME and play the ROMs on your desktop. Of course, this emulator also runs fine on Linux, as well as many other systems - even Windows!
Removing perforations off fanfold paper so it looks like normal typing paper - Yeah, and what I miss was the "buster". In a mainframe-dinosaur pen where I was a corporate slave until I escaped through the ventilation system, we had greenbar. Note that it was NOT the exact kind I just linked to, but more recent than a PDP-8 and a lot wider. Anyway, we'd get 25 to 70 pages printed out at a time, and rather than tear it all up by hand we had this machine, the "buster", where you dump the wad in one side and it separates the pages with a solid smack for each sheet where it busted the pages at the perf. BAP!... BAP!... BAP!... BAP!... It had the best damned beat rhythm you ever heard. We all used to get up and dance to it.
Speaking Latin in everyday conversation - Yeah, what a bummer. We lost a colorful part of our culture after enough Texans heard us speaking Latin and yelled, "This is AMERAHCUH!!! Speak ENGLISH!!! Or go back to LATINSTAN where you came from!!!" so we all had to quit.⚑
Using an adding machine - This entry makes me feel the oldest yet. Yes, I remember ten-key skills, and the little tape it would print out. Then one day I looked up and saw Bill Cosby said it was time to get a TI-99. I couldn't find it on YouTube, but there was the adding machine commercials he'd done before the TI-99 where he's going "I love to save money!" as he kisses his adding machine and then his wife offscreen says "Oh dear! Guess what I just bought!" Yeah, I used that adding machine.
This list has gotten me thinking - there's room for another kind of list. How about: Technology we WISH would HURRY UP and become obsolete? I'll bet we could fill that list even faster...
⚑ - I do hope these "English-only" bigots understand that the English language is actually derived from West Germanic, borrows a sizable chunk of its vocabulary from Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and French, and was imported from the country which rightfully bears its name, from whom we gained independence in government but not in culture. Furthermore, it has been my observation, as a writer possessed of a formidable vocabulary, that the average blond country-music fan has no more grasp of English than they do of a foreign language anyway, preferring to speak in belches and grunts which they believe are charming.
But I digress...
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People said "It's about time." when the idea came up to collect one list in one place of all the skills that are now obsolete. But after a few months, the Obsolete Skills Wiki has obviously been hit by a few trolls.
"fdisk" is obsolete? I use it every week! Lisp??? Not dead at all; in fact I believe that Lisp is still waiting for its day in the sun, which lies in the future. All it takes right now is for one Ruby fanboy to say, "Do they have anything like Ruby, only more elegant?" and bam! Lisp would be hotter than Obama. Other entries are too obvious. Yes, we know churning butter is obsolete; but isn't the purpose of this list to note things that have changed since the dawn of the Information Age?
Nevertheless, the list affords plenty of opportunity for recalling days of technology gone by...
Adjusting rabbit ears on top of a TV - That I don't miss so much, but I do miss having that one person around the house who couldn't stand too close or too far away or raise their arms without messing up the TV reception and making it go all static. Remember that? Everybody else could move around as they pleased, but every household had that one person who was the walking Bermuda Triangle of TV signals. You'd have to turn to that person and say, "Could you just sit still until the commercial?" What the heck was that?
BASIC - Good riddance! Although recently when I was consulting for a client who had a really hairy edge-case scenario with a file portability problem, I was this close to recommending emulating QBasic for a solution. But I waited for a saner idea, because I didn't want to be stuck supporting a BASIC program for the rest of my days.
Entering "freeware" programs from a magazine - After the current Dark Ages of ignorance ends, this will come back into vogue. I mourn for the days when coding was seen as an ordinary everyday skill. Believe it or not kids, there was a time only 15 years ago when you could step onto a city bus and hear ordinary citizens batting around COBOL code and HTML tags as naturally as anything, the way you'd talk about the weather. The public didn't see computer literacy as the exclusive domain of autistic freaks. These days the standard opening line is for the citizen to wave their flippers in a helpless gesture and cry, "I barely know how to turn one on!" God, I get sick of hearing that.
Finding channels on UHF - Ah yes! Back when we got the same quality of television content on 50 back-end channels for free, instead of paying for it through cable.
Gopher - Meh, I don't exactly miss it. Here's a Gopher server. Firefox still supports a Gopher protocol. Other web browser's Gopher status here.
Multiplication using a Sliderule - Sliderules were already going out of style when I was a wee tot. One thing I liked about the sliderule age, however, was that it made people think in terms of significant digits. Digital calculators brought us false precision, along with people who think that every digit of an answer is crucial. Here I am in a store adding up a price tally in my head and I ask somebody what something costs and they say "thirty-nine-ninety-five". That's supposed to be pronounced "forty"! Digital calculators got us people who report every number to ten friggin' decimal places, standing there rattling off increasingly trivial digits like Mr. Spock telling us the probability of escaping the supernova.
Morse-coding messages - Trivia: BSD-games still has a morse program! "BSD" is "daw dit dit dit, dit dit dit, daw dit dit". So there!
Nested table web design - While somebody on the site is protesting "It is still widely used!", it is nevertheless obsolete as churning butter. Just because half the population is still living in 1995 doesn't make their hideous web design current! While we're at it, other obsolete web page tech includes: animated .GIF backgrounds, background .MIDI music, animated cursors, designing a page in MS Frontpage Express, frames, and web content available only in the form of a downloadable .PDF. Since about Ben Franklin's time!
When will blogging become an obsolete skill? Any guesses?