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!


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.


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 »


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.


Apple OS unification complete

Posted in Apple, Tech, Web at 9 am

This week there has been discussion (John Kirk) (John Gruber, Daring Fireball) (Dr. Drang) about whether Apple will ever unify iOS and OS X. I say they already have. I can easily pull up a VNC client on my iPad and with some tweaks to the universal access preference pane and single window mode, I can have an OS X experience on my iOS device.

Today I have a GUI interface inside a Touch interface. (A TUI if you will.) It’s not perfect by any means, but with a few tweaks and some polish by Apple and it would be just fine.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Have you ever used terminal.app? Only a slim sliver of the Mac-using population ever have. But there’s one unification right there: a commandline on top of a GUI.

Both of the scenarios above are nigh on impossible to enjoy on an iPhone. But it works in a pinch. But on an iPad it is serviceable. And if there was a mythical iPad Pro? Then I might never buy another Mac again, except as a server.

Let’s take a fundamental digital era task: creating an event in a calendar.

I could use my mouse and keyboard in the calendar desktop app. (Traditional GUI)

I could open up a terminal.app window and use a commandline tool. (CLI)

I could run an AppleScript to create the event. (ASI?)

I could use VoiceOver and never touch the screen. (VOI?)

I could use the calendar app on my iOS device and only ever touch a screen. (TUI)

I could logon to the iCloud.com website and create the event through a web interface. (WUI) [And that might split into AJAX vs. REST techniques.]

To a certain extent the unification that people are talking about is simply a bit of polish and a tiny step forward. It sure is a good thing Apple never makes incremental improvements towards a larger vision. (AppleScript in Numbers) (Mavericks Full-Screen mode) (iWork Platform Independence) (iWork 2013 on Web/OS X/iOS)


Forcing the connection

Posted in People, Tech, Web at 11 am

Trying to connect @t and @StevenF on notes/editing tools github.com/panicsteve/w2wiki tantek.com/2013/331/b1/lose-data-apple-ios-notes-five-easy-steps This should go out via Twitter and Facebook (once approved), and WP is pinging Tantek’s post. Trying to be indieweb.

Note to Tantek: Perhaps change to Indiweb rather than inDIEweb? I would hate for Jorn Barger to get a hold of this.


Who can save Flash? Adobe of course

Posted in Design, Tech, Web at 11 pm

This whole tempest-in-a-teapot over Flash on the iPad/iPhone platform is silly.

1) Any site that shows a ‘missing plug-in’ error is seriously behind the times. Planar.com’s Flash banner drops back to a JPEG with a clickable image map. Anything else would be criminal. (But, don’t look at our Control Room site just now…) The same fallback plan should be made for ANY plug-in: SilverLight, QuickTime, Java.

Mantra #7: If it’s not HTML + IMG, then it should have some back-up in case the content isn’t available.

2) Adobe makes money on authoring tools, tools of creation. When Robert Scoble asks Can Flash Be Saved he left out a crucial distinction: Flash the Authoring tool (and Flex, I suppose) vs. Flash Player the plug-in software for a multitude of platforms. All Adobe needs to do is re-target the Authoring tool to put out Canvas-based HTML 5/SVG/SMIL/JavaScript.

Suddenly they are free from having to support the development of the Player. Maybe they can even volunteer to A) Contribute to the open-source toolkits that would improve the H5/S/S/JS stack to the point where it reaches parity with Flash’s current features, B) add that support directly into the Flash Plugin for IE8, thereby removing one hurdle to getting that stack adopted universally.

Adobe can save Flash, that’s who.


Interconnected publishing

Posted in Media, Meta, Web at 6 pm

I’ve been working on getting my WordPress/Twitter/FaceBook spaces working together and I think I’ve hit on a pretty good system.

It comes down to two sides: how do I publish things and how do other people read and stay up with that stream (as underwhelming as it is.)

For the first side of the coin, I like to publish three different types of content: Super short stuff and pithy comments which obviously fit into Twitter’s paradigm quite well. For timely commentary on things and longer thoughts, WordPress is a good choice and is the latest in a long series of journaling and blogging software tools that I’ve either used or built myself. Finally, longer form pieces essays or research or archival stuff seems to make more sense as web pages on my personal site.

For the audience side of things, I’m seeing 4 or 5 different methods that people use to keep up with individuals. Web site reading from bookmarks would be one (Hi Mom and Dad!). People who do a lot of web reading might use an RSS feed reader (Hi Micah!). Others may rely on Twitter to keep up with me and some others may want to keep an eye on things only through FaceBook. There are other channels like MySpace, but the ones I’m listing here seem to be the right ones for my audience.

So what have I connected? 1) I’ve connected FaceBook to Twitter using Twitter’s application. Next I added TwitterTools to my WordPress install and that takes care of cross posting between Twitter and WordPress entries. So now I can post tweets and they show up in my FaceBook status and they show up in WordPress on a once daily basis. (This might be annoying to some, so I’ll have to keep an eye on this and perhaps reduce the re-post rate to once a week or so.)

As for research and essays, I’ll post them to my site and then make an annotation here (as I’ve usually done over the past few years.) So if we follow the chain, 1) a page added to my site leads to 2) an announcement on my WordPress blog, which 3) triggers a Twitter tweet, and then finally 4) updates my FaceBook status.



Wireless publishing

Posted in Media, Tech, Web at 8 pm

It seems that by adding a little extra code to my .htaccess file was all I needed to finally get the WordPress app running on my iPhone. The answer was in a thread on the WordPress support site. This applies to v2.7.1 at least in my case. This thread titled xmlrpc.php 403 Forbidden error noted a (now closed) MSN Groups thread with the answer. Fortunately ‘mkenney’ the OP included the actual code:

[Files xmlrpc.php]
SecFilterInheritance Off

(Just change the square brackets to angle brackets and slip this into your .htaccess file)

My efforts were complicated by my web host who turned off access to the file but made it look like a “404 File not found” error rather than the real error: “403 Forbidden” which sounds far more ominous.

The way to discover this for was to open the URL to the xmlrpc file directly in Safari and then bring up the Activities window which showed the text “forbidden” that was otherwise hidden from view. What tangled webs, indeed.


History meme

Posted in Tech, Web at 10 am

From the History meme, which I find kinda fascinating. Here’s mine, with the command split into three lines for display purposes. If you try this, you should put it all on one line.

history | awk ‘{a[$2]++}END
{for(i in a){print a[i] ” ” i}}’
| sort -rn | head

72 ping
72 ls
63 curl
62 cd
37 cal
32 whois
20 ssh
19 man
15 sudo
7 traceroute

I would suspect this is a common set for most web developing people. That ‘cal’ entry is because I often want to pull up a quick calendar for the year to check dates, but I don’t want to open iCal. Terminal is often open so it’s an easy reach to type ‘cal 2008’ or somesuch.


Wither X-UA-Compatible?

Posted in Tech, Web at 3 pm

IEBlog : Microsoft’s Interoperability Principles and IE8:

We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can. This decision is a change from what we’ve posted previously.

Yay. Nice of them to come to our senses.