Spambot with a sense of irony

April 7th, 2008

Elsewhere, I received the following comment spam:

Every time I visit this website I loose [sic] my assurance that everything written here is real. But even if it’s not true, I keep on visiting it because it’s interesting. There are many posts which you can’t find anywhere else.

I laughed out loud. How’s that for ironic?

I was tempted to respond:

Every time you visit this website I have complete assurance that everything written by you is not real. But even if it’s true, SpamKarma will keep moderating you because you look like spam. There is spam like yours that can found everywhere else.

But what’s the point of debating my existential uncertainty with an automated email script?

Web Design Methodology: Rats in a cage

November 26th, 2007

Just passing on a fraternal thump on the back to woowoowoo. I don’t know what’s been going on down there but he must have been having a “fun” time last week: this cartoon illustrates what it’s been like in his sphere recently. Caged rats as web designers—sound familiar?

I’m just happy that the little corner of the web that comes under my administration these days is largely mine alone to control. Who has the time or energy for pointless hoop-jumping?

Snap Preview Anywhere: the blogger’s BLINK tag

February 1st, 2007

There was a time when the HTML <BLINK> tag was the defining feature of one of two particular kinds of web designer: either the raw newbie (intent on using anything and everything in the web design toolbox) or the terminally stupid. Its problems include being one of the uglier design options for highlighting text, being non-standard, and having serious usability/accessibility problems.

But above all else, it just plain pissed people off.

So why (oh why, oh why) are so many bloggers repeating almost exactly the same problems with the Snap Preview Anywhere widget?

I can’t say it any better than Nick Wilson:

Its intrusive, obstructive and unuseful in almost every respect and use case. The fact that so many big blogs are using it, big well respected blogs, does not mean that it’s useful, it just means that they, like most bloggers, have all the self restraint of a magpie in a sparkly things factory.

If I want to see what someone else’s web site looks like I’ll bloody well go there when I’m good and ready. Sheesh, don’t be in so much of a hurry to get rid of me!

For a good laugh, have a look at the testimonials on the Snap Preview Anywhere page. I notice that a number of the testimoners—including one who said “we’d probably pay for the service”—no longer use it on their sites. I wonder how many complaints they received (or how much traffic they lost!) before they woke up and removed it.

Nick Wilson again:

All joking aside, SPA is not helpful, it’s not cool, and it’s not winning you readers — It’s bling, a silly little shiney thing designed specifically to increase awareness of — no bad thng, and certainly an shining example of how to use widgets to gain links and attention, but, come on ladies and gentleman, show a little self restraint, show a little consideration for your users.

Now, can you all stop using it please?

Gliffy gives good graph

November 14th, 2006

I’m sure I’ve got a short attention span. And I guess I can be easily distracted by pretty, shiny things. So although I haven’t really begun to get to grips with Zotero (still trying it out), I’m already moving on…

My latest distraction is a handy complement to the Snipshot online image editor that I thumbsed-up in June. Gliffy is a tool for making vector diagrams. You know, all that flow-charting / floor-planning / UML-ing / network-diagramming / general-jiggery-pokery that you can do with Visio, OmniGraffle and the like.


There’s a reasonable set of shape templates, all the usual features for editing properties of shapes, and being an online tool, it’s got the collaboration and online publishing features that you’d expect. You can also export diagrams as JPEG, PNG, and very cool SVG.

They don’t have a pricing model as yet, but it appears that there will be a subscription version with all the attachments (including the thing for getting stones out of horses’ hooves) for the corporate presentation-making power user, and a free, ad supported Gliffy with limited feature set for the miserable skinflints like me.

Zotero: the EndNote-killer?

October 30th, 2006

Now this looks very, very good:

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use research tool that helps you gather and organize resources (whether bibliography or the full text of articles), and then lets you to annotate, organize, and share the results of your research. It includes the best parts of older reference manager software (like EndNote)—the ability to store full reference information in author, title, and publication fields and to export that as formatted references—and the best parts of modern software such as or iTunes, like the ability to sort, tag, and search in advanced ways. Using its unique ability to sense when you are viewing a book, article, or other resource on the web, Zotero will—on many major research sites—find and automatically save the full reference information for you in the correct fields.

Will it have the folks at EndNote shaking in their shoes? Probably not. But for many a struggling scholar, the price is certainly right!

Seriously have a look at this thing—it may not be the EndNote-killer but if it’s half as good as they say, it could well be the killer extension for Firefox 2.

Unfortunately I don’t have Firefox 2 setup on the office beast just yet, so I’m leaving right now to install this beauty at home…


“Why i can’t see images on this resource?”

October 10th, 2006

This blog is possibly the quietest corner of the web. So when a comment arrives, it is usually cause for much celebration.

Actually, that’s not true. It’s usually cause for me to delete another round of comment spam. Usually it’s pretty easy to spot: obscure comments, mangled language, generic congratulations, and yet another remark to the effect that my site is very cognitive

“Small problem…”

So how concerned was I when I got this comment from ‘Green_Monkey23′?

Sorry for your time…. Why i can’t see images on this resource? My Browser is: Opera. Thank you.

Mildly. For about the half a second it took to get my brain into gear…

Read the rest of this entry »

At last, something useful to stick into your USB port: a battery

September 21st, 2006

Don’t you just love an invention that was practically begging to be thought up? You know, the ones that make you smack yourself in the forehead and say “I wish I’d thought of that!”


The how about this idea: USBCELL. They’re batteries that recharge when plugged into the USB port of a computer. Nothing else required: no extra cables or recharger dock, just stick ‘em in the hole.

Now that it’s been invented, it’s obvious isn’t it? I guess the thinking went roughly like this:

  • every computer has a USB port (usually several) as standard equipment
  • USB provides both data transfer and power supply
  • fancy “USB toys” (lamps, fans, Hello Kitty crap, even Air Darts) have been around for ages, so we know people will buy all kinds of tat to stick in their USB ports
  • what does everyone use in this age of portable digital devices?

Answer: batteries

It’s simple and brilliant, and these guys deserve to make a million (or ten).

[via TrustedReviews]

Deep-linking PDF files

September 1st, 2006

You probably know that on many web pages you can make a link directly to a specific spot within the page. For instance, let’s say you wanted to point someone to the information about the Web Site Design SIG at Melbourne PC User Group - it’s at this web address:

But there’s a lot of other information on that page and you can be even more helpful by directing your friend right to the relevant part of the page, by doing this:

Where there’s a marker in a web page, called a “named anchor”, you can link directly to that spot by adding the name of the anchor (in this case “webdes”) onto the end of the web address with a # symbol.

Seen it?

Well, you’ve probably seen that trick before - but did you know the same idea also works for PDF files? There’s something about PDF files on the web, isn’t there? They’re often huge and they’re always harder to navigate than a normal web page - so much the better then if you can offer a link that takes people right to the relevant page.

Now let’s say you also want to recommend some books on web development to your friend. Well, the Melbourne PC User Group library listing is available at:

But it’s 26 pages long! How could you help your friend locate the relevant books? They are listed at the bottom of page 6 and the top of page 7, so perhaps you could provide a link that goes straight to the top of page 7:

image of the Melb PC User Group Library listing file

Do you see how it works? Nominate the appropriate page number and add it to the web address with a # symbol. And unlike web pages, this works for all PDF files without needing to have special anchors included in them.

Open parameters

There are several of these “open parameters” that you can play with, for example:

Since I was shown this trick by a friend at work, I’ve used it frequently and I reckon you’ll find it handy as well.

More information

For more information on “named anchors” in web pages, see:

For more information on PDF “Open Parameters”, see:

Geriatric cuts loose on YouTube

August 14th, 2006

I might as well join the crowd who are clamouring for geriatric1927 over on YouTube.

Surely, this is really what YouTube was invented for. This is only his first try, so make sure you check out his other videos as well.

Internet folklore in the making…

Update 15 August

And he’s made it into the mainstream media now: see the story over at Reuters

Snipshot for online image editing

June 23rd, 2006

Well Photoshop it aint’, but Snipshot doesn’t intend to be. It’s just a site that provides “Basic editing tools like crop, rotate, resize”.

screen image of Snipshot in action

Keep this one in the toolbox.

[via templatedata]

Old adventures never die…

June 20th, 2006

Well it looks like I was right: old adventure games never die - they just get a facelift and come back as freeware.

screen image of the Kings Quest II remake

A mob calling themselves Infamous Adventures has just released a remake of the classic Kings Quest III graphical adventure game with the following new features:

  • All 16 color backgrounds remade into stunning VGA graphics
  • Enhanced Close up cut-scenes and dialogue pictures help immerse you into what is known as the first plot driven chapter of the King’s Quest series.
  • Original music by professional music composer(s)
  • Re-experience the adventure with a stunning new interface (no more typing) And if you never played well, you’ll probably enjoy it anyway.

Personally I don’t see that “no more typing” is necessarily an improvement, but I’m sure they’ve come up with a good interface that will still allow for a rich player experience. The screen images are certainly pretty lavish:

screen image of the Kings Quest III remake

Infamous Adventures claims to be

a game development group focused on bringing adventure games back into the mainstream by updating classic adventure games as well as creating new masterworks of our own.

Their site also points to a group called Anonymous Game Developers Interactive, a “team of dedicated members … devoted to bringing adventure games back into style”, who have a couple of older projects I hadn’t heard about previously: remakes of Kings Quest I and Kings Quest II.

screen image of the Kings Quest I remake


If you’ve never played the Kings Quest games before, here’s you chance to have a bash at some genuine gaming history, as the AGD Interactive folks explain:

King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown, a revolutionary game designed by Roberta Williams and released in 1984, epitomizes the adventure gaming experience. This game was the first of its kind that allowed the player to interact in an entirely original 2.5D world, and can be credited as the game that started graphic adventure gaming on the PC altogether. King’s Quest was not only groundbreaking, but also history in the making, and was followed by seven more games bearing the King’s Quest title.

So download ‘em and have a go – they’re tons of fun.

Hmm, I think I can see another wasted weekend (or three) coming up…

Put a bullet through it

June 2nd, 2006

When it comes to security of your personal information, don’t trust it to anyone else: put a bullet through an old hard drive before you dispose of it. That’s what Henry and Roma Gerbus should have done before they had a hard drive replaced at “Best Buy”. According to Yahoo! News, some time later Herb…

got a phone call from a man in Chicago. “He said, ‘My name is Ed. I just bought your hard drive for $25 at a flea market in Chicago,’” said Gerbus … A total stranger had access to the couple’s personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank statements and investment records.

That’s a pretty amazing feat given that “Best Buy” had assured Herb that they drill holes in old hard drives to make them useless.

Don’t outsource this job

Personally, I’d have done the replacement - and destruction of the old drive - myself. It’s really not that hard. But if I had to pay someone to do the job, I’d be demanding the old drive back as well. With all the best intentions in the world, you can’t rely on some bloody chain store to always do the right thing.

“I’m not leaving myself open to identity theft,” said Gerbus.

Sure, Herb, sure.

“Wrong Guy” is alright

June 1st, 2006

For the sake of completeness…

Well, the inevitable has happened: famous “Wrong Guy”, Guy Goma is now a celebrity, with his own web site and several other onscreen appearances to his credit.

His fans even have an online petition to the BBC to have him employed there. Personally, I reckon they ought to make him a technology reporter - he’s got great screen presence and he knows stuff.