10.10.14

The Easiest Decision

Posted in Futbol at 7 am

The idea of rooting for some random fishing village is ridiculous, particularly when the obvious alternative is to root for Colorado or San Jose to beat Vancouver in the remaining games of the season.

Okay… maybe just Colorado.

09.11.14

Immersive History

Posted in Career, Media, Tech, Uncategorized, Web at 10 am

Recently Tim Bray wrote about some new VR hardware and noted that the software was from Immersive Media, a company that seemed familiar to me. Bray noted that they were in Western Canada, but I seemed to remember working with a company in Portland that was doing 360+° video with that same name. Hurry Kids! To the WayBack Machine!

http://immersivemedia.com/menu.html

Huh, would you look at that? (Not for too long, mind you. HTML from that era was made with a combination of HTML 3.2, font tags and asbestos.) They were a client for a start up web agency that I worked with 1999 to 2001 called Exact Interactive. You can tell the site was done fast and cheap, they even took the discount for us to put our own logo on the site.

Let’s count the oddities on this single page, ignoring the “gateway” page. The GIF logos at the top are atrocious and I can’t fully apologize for the glowing white edges of the RoundAbout logo. Obvious it was originally supposed to be on white, maybe it was originally supposed to use a PNG with an alpha channel, but we had to fall back?

Hey look at that titled background, clouds and a ghost grid. What were we smoking? Maybe it was the fumes from the fixing agent used in the pre-press room we were next to.

Rotating wireframe dodecahedron Ah the dodecahedron animated GIF. Since it is a wireframe you can watch it for long enough and it will seemingly, suddenly, start rotating the opposite direction.

If I remember correctly, there was a math site that had an interactive solids demo that you could rotate via the mouse. I took screen captures of that interactive display, slowly rotating the solid pixel by pixel. I then gathered the screenshots, cropped them down and compiled them into Photoshop layers to align them. I don’t think Photoshop handled animated GIFs at that time, so I probably put them into “GIF Builder v1.0“. [Pause to look at the binary data...] Nope, it was version 0.5. Wow. Okay. Moving on.

And now the piece of resistance: The site menu, placed in the bottom right corner of the page template. This is worse than looking at my high school yearbook photos. Obviously a conscious decision to buck the trend of ‘normal’ or ‘correct’ or ‘rational’ design. IT does force the user to see the whole page in order to link to another page on the site. But ultimately it did not catch on. I cannot imagine why.

Ah the Wayback Machine, what would we do without you? Probably forget our mistakes for far longer.

07.03.14

Cross Contamination

Posted in Media, Tech at 9 am

We have a television from Planar Systems, an overstock display purchased through an employee discount. The TV was designed for a home theater installation, so it has a few quirks compared to most consumer televisions. One of those quirks is having two separate buttons on the remote for power. One turns it on, the other off. Most TVs, of course, have these as a single power on/off toggle button. But in Home Theater installations, this allows for external control of the display for an automation system. Because the automation system can send a specific state (on or off) there is never a concern that the systems would be out of sync. If there was only a toggle switch, then if the tv has a power failure or someone manually turns it off, the automation system would send the next toggle (perhaps to turn the TV off) and end up turning it on. The discreet pair of switches fix that.

However, I am not a rich man. I have no such automation system. What I do have is a TiVo and the very best TV remote control I’ve ever used, the TiVo “peanut-shaped” series of remotes. Like most remotes, it has a single power button, expecting to toggle the power. I looked through all the documentation for the Planar TV. There was no toggle command available. Discreet power on and power off were the only options. I called the tech support people, and since I was an employee there at the time, went to talk to The guy who handled all of the Planar Home Theater product support. There was no way to send a toggle. It wasn’t built to handle that, it was built to be part of a Home Theater Installation, for Home Theater Dealers, using Home Theater automation. A few more hours of research and I came up empty on the power toggle search.

The Pledge: In order to get the TiVo remote (which is programmable) to control the Planar display, I programmed the remote’s power button to send out the Power On signal. I then reprogrammed the Mute button to send the Power Off signal. Not a bad compromise. The green On Button works to get things going. The Mute button shuts the TV sounds off… along with the entire display. It took a few weeks to get used to it, but it worked.

The Turn: A few years later, Amy and I are buying myriad toys for our boy, with trains being the latest fashion. Wooden Brio-style trains are the rage, but the slightly larger Thomas the Tank Engine starter set in the “TrackMaster” style is also in there. At Toys-R-Us, the in-house brand of trains runs the same size as the TrackMaster Thomas, but with a twist: a remote control for the engine (with an unknown signaling method). Forward, backward, blow the whistle, stop the train buttons. But surely this remote would be RF (radio frequency) based, because an IR sensor on a train engine would be turned away from the controlled half the time on a circular layout. Right? Each turn of the track would hide the sensor… unless the sensor was mounted straight up?

Well, it so happened that the control was IR (infra-red) based, not RF. The sensor wasn’t set on top, the engine had two sensors, giving nearly 360 degree coverage. Playing with the new train was great as we set it up in the living room. Four trains on 10 feet of track is tough, but workable, except that every time we started the new remote control train, the TV turned on …and then off. On and Off.

It took a second or five to sink in, but after covering up the TV’s IR sensor (letting us play with the train for the evening) James was off to bed and Dad had a few minutes to experiment with the new toy’s unintended side effects.

The Prestige: So my personal holy grail of IR commands was found. The train’s remote control was used the program the TiVo remotes and now we have a fully functional TiVo/TV system.

06.16.14

Comment Spam Phrases

Posted in Meta, Web at 12 pm

It is interesting to see comment spam evolve and grow. Of course the money is in automation. I got an interestingly mis-configured bot come through this last week and left the following phrases. It would be interesting to study the misspellings (tortured as they are) and the language mis-use that is used to make them look more ‘authentic’.

  • Doubled letters
  • missing letters
  • missing spaces/punctuation
  • substituted letters that use near-by keyboard letters. (For instance ‘avout’ for ‘about’.)
  • additional letters that use near-by keyboard letters. (For instance ‘briong’ for ‘bring’.)

Then there’s the subject matter references. Often perfectly tuned to be interpreted as referring to the post, but complimentary to the author, to encourage the blog author to leave them.

The only trace of the spamming is the URL that’s pointed to in the username, the user web site or sometimes the email address. See the full list that I got below. (Though I worry that posting this will further drop the site in Google PageRankings. Oh well.)

Read the rest of this entry »

04.26.14

Why Facebook prefers Top Stories to Most Recent

Posted in Media, Web at 6 am

When using Facebook on the web or via custom clients, users see a primary stream of news/posts/updates/whathaveyou. There are a few ways to filter and sort the stream. The original way was simply Most Recent. However for the last couple of years the default has become Top Stories.

This shows the split between two types of Facebook usage: those who have Friended/Liked/etc lots of things/people/groups because “Facebook is the Internet” and those (of us) who use it to connect with a select number of people. The former have a firehose of items that cannot be read entirely and must be curated/culled, the later are trying to keep up with every single post from a handful of friends and family.

Guess which group sees more ads, clicks more ad/sponsored stories, spend more time in the ecosystem, are more “invested” in the platform, and are more profitable for FB? That’s the group FB is supporting, if they are smart.

The rest of us aren’t catered to, yet.

03.18.14

Forget all that.THIS is important: https://t.co/hd…

Posted in Twitter at 12 pm

Forget all that.THIS is important: llnl.gov/news/aroundthe… Seriously. This is fusion. Total game changer for humanity. #nif

Awesome geek dream: @jsnell invites me back for 2n…

Posted in Twitter at 7 am

Awesome geek dream: @jsnell invites me back for 2nd part of Dr. Who-themed pundit showdown @theincomparable but I lose to @neiltyson

03.11.14

Read worthy: http://t.co/OUPebJxP0u is part of the…

Posted in Twitter at 7 am

Read worthy: esquire.com/blogs/news/we-… is part of the inoculation for Viral media. Thanks @lukeoneil47 —This, too, shall pass.

03.09.14

“This how the world knows…” 2014 Season Opener tif…

Posted in Twitter at 12 pm

“This how the world knows…” 2014 Season Opener tifo from Timbers Army. (Note: 4 era logos) #realportlandia #rctid http://t.co/TeavhdQexw

BiTv1bzCUAA0zg5

02.28.14

The Life Aquatic & Yo Gabba Gabba

Posted in Family, Media at 7 am

I’m not sure how I missed the Wes Anderson tribute the first 30 times we watched this episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.

Still from "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"

Still from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Although the Gabba gang are not hunting the Jaguar Shark, they are squeezed in to a cockpit and wearing appropriately-colored beanies.

Still from Yo Gabba Gabba episode “Space”.

Still from Yo Gabba Gabba episode “Space”