Saturday, December 23, 2006

Another day another launch

Check my new site out if you are looking for expired domain names. It's the best list available, period.

Internet Explorer quirks

I am hacking my new site to get it to work on IE. After trying for a while I am instead applying for a gun permit and looking for the home address of the Microsoft employee responsible for implementing PNG support for IE.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Neverwinter Nights 2

Instead of writing tutorials on Half-Life, I decided to start writing tutorials on Neverwinter Nights 2 instead.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Google makes ads more difficult to recognize

I was searching for Yu-Gi-Oh card information and clicked on the first organic link I found, like I usually do.

The page I arrived to was an MFA (made for adsense) site. I thought gee, how is it possible that an MFA site got such a high pagerank that they could be the first result?

At first I thought there must be some new SEO trick out there, but then I noticed that what I had clicked on was in fact an advertisement. They used to be separated with a different color but now seem to have a white background like other search results. Aligned to the right there is a "sponsored link" disclaimer, but on a wide screen it is easy to miss.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Israeli CS player continues to play regardless of bombs

An Israeli Counter-Strike player is pushing the limits on CS addiction. He was seen playing on his usual server, even though the area he lives in might get bombed. When another player asked him what the situation over there was, he replied "I just heard a siren so perhaps I should seek a bomb shelter, but what the hell, my house walls should give me SOME cover". And he just kept on playing.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Kevin Rose says "haha totally" in response to comment

"that's fucken hilarious that kevin rose got his comment pwned by his own system"

There's a story on Digg about a Youtube vid where a weird naked indian cowboy talks about what bad kids shouldn't do on YouTube (with a cigarette and a cowboy hat... yikes). Someone suggests that the video should be playing above the TOS at YouTube, to which Kevin Rose says "haha totally".. and GETS BURIED. -59 diggs and counting on the comment. We must save him, quick, go to the article and Digg him up! Otherwise who knows it will start raining frogs.

In other news, Paul Graham had breakfast. Again.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Can you speak Japanese?

I met Kimmo yesterday and he thought I was prejudicous to think that that there wouldn't be any people with Japanese skills among anime/manga/jpop fans. Maybe I am wrong and there are actually tons of such people! The reason we had this conversation was because I was complaining how I am often wanting to have someone to help me with manga translation issues (not scanlation, real work) or adding products to the manga shop, but that people with the necessary skills don't exist. I would gladly be proven wrong, so if such a person is hiding out there somewhere then please contact me!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Computers ARE part of the crazy utopia!

I spent two years studying Japanese at a university in Tokyo. Every day I spent around 5 hours with other students, doing reading comprehension and kanji exercises. We had spoken language classes as well. It was tough, exhausting but I think about the experience with warm feelings now that I have some distance to it.

A type of exercise I particularly enjoyed was having debates. I even attended an extra curricular debate club once, which was interesting because the debaters were all Japanese but they debated in English. They seemed so "in the zone" when doing the debating, forgetting about trying to speak perfect English but instead aggressively getting their point out. I decided not to join this club though as I felt I didn't need any more English exercise and because I'm not a club-attending personality.

Our in-class debate exercises had some great topics, nothing really controversial or anything, but interesting none the less. The university I was in is called ICU or "International Christian University", but some people liked to joke that it actually means "Isolated Crazy Utopia". It was surrounded by a small forest, which truly was crazy considering how tightly packed the area around it is. I'm seriously digressing here, but just look at the picture below. The green parts are the university and around it are very tightly packed houses.

Our debates were often about about kind of save-the-world utopistic stuff. As if we could actually save anything just by talking about it in class. Well I liked to take it seriously though, even if it was just language exercises it's that much more meaningful if you imagine that the debate is serious. One thing we debated about was what to do about poor people. And I suggested that computers could be the solution. I don't think they understood me at all. Instead of computers they need food and shelter. They were happy with that answer.

So let me continue the debate here. Computers can be part of the solution in my opinion. Not so that starving people can play Half-Life and watch videos on YouTube, but because with a computer almost anyone can become instantly employed. There are plenty of options for making money online and if you have modest expectations of what you can make, survival is possible through the net. Basically I believe that if I have an Internet connection then I will never go hungry. This happens to apply to me because I already have some skills which I can use to work over the net, such as programming and Japanese translation.

I'm not saying that we should fly over some starving country and drop iBooks with a satellite link to the net from an airplane. But even in poor countries not everyone is absolutely poor and there are people who are able to take chances. In India there are now some small companies which hire people to type in text. All you need to know is how to read and type. Materials are sent from abroad to be typed into digital form and then these people do the bulk work and send the results back over the net. This is a service for which there is a need as old archives and such get digitalized. Amazon's Mechanical Turk lets anyone make a few dollars through repetitive simple work. With RentACoder developers can compete to do programming work online.

Taking the digitalization as an example, not even a net connection is required to take part in the work, as the company takes care of that part. Then after acquiring a basic way of supporting oneself it becomes possible to advance to other skills and better pay. My explanation was a bit rambling, but the point is that through the Internet money can be made and your location doesn't matter. I really like the MIT Media Lab $100 laptop project, because through it more and more people can have basic skills on using a computer and take part in the global workspace. I've even personally hired some people through RentACoder. It works great!

So this is what I meant by computers being part of the solution for poverty, dear ICU debate teacher. Of course basic education is needed as well, but a computer is also a learning device. I'm sure many kids in developed countries have learned to read and write (or type) by using a computer. I personally learned English a lot through Sierra's adventure games and learned the basics of Japanese through material which I downloaded off the internet. With free laptops distributed by the millions for free to kids in developing countries they will have this chance as well. Based on what I've read a version of Wikipedia will be included with the computers, among other educational software. I hope they don't forget the games, they provide great motivation.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Microsoft fined -- crazy?

Microsoft got a 270 million euro fine. Umm... seems strange that EU can fine a largely American company. I mean if you think about it, they really should fine Microsoft as much as possible if they are allowed to. After all, it's money coming straight from USA to EU's coffers. Let's fine every American company to their full worth and EU will definitely become the superpower of superpowers! I'm sure we can find something to accuse them of.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Loituma craze part 2

I just noticed that according to Google Trends, loituma is now more popular than Hamasaki Ayumi!

Evil Dr. Kraft acquires biscuit company

Kraft acquires United Biscuits Spain... for 522 MILLION DOLLARS *evil laughter*

"The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program" A computer program with a geeky sense of humor apparently.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Loituma craze

An already folded Finnish band got it's song used in a Flash video which has been spreading now like wildfire around the net. The band is surprised but welcoming the publicity. First time I've ever seen major newspapers write about a flash video. The band has even received fanmail from people who started to like them after seeing these vids.

Sulake Gets $7M Funding From Japan

Online and mobile games company Sulake Corporation has received $7M funding from Japanese SoftBank BB, Asian Groove formed Movida Group. Sulake is the Finnish interactive entertainment company which created the popular Habbo Hotel series of games. Habbo hotels operate in multiple language versions in 18 different countries and receive 7 million uniques visitors each month. Movida Group believes Habbo Hotel has great chances of becoming popular in Japan as well.

TalousSanomat (Finnish)
Sulake press release

Pirate Bay ad revenues being sent to a Swiss bank account?

This is a quick translation of an article which appeared in Finnish. If you understand Finnish then by all means read the original instead.

Stockholm - The image of Pirate Bay as a movement with a cause is crumbling every day in Swedish media. It seems that the advertising revenues are ending up in a Swiss address (minus some fees), an address where a company running "tax planning" is operating. "Tax planning" means channeling funds to countries with low taxes.

Svenska Dagbladet is hinting that Pirate Bay, often considered the flagship of the pirate movement, has no ideology behind it. Not only are large sums of money involved, it seems that there is a Swiss party involved.

After several Swedish magazines attempted to calculate advertising revenues for Pirate Bay, Svenska Dagbladet said that the advertising revenues for the past four months reached 600000 SEK (84000 USD or 65400 EUR). This information was provided to the magazine from the advertising company Eastpoint Media.

Svenska Dagbladet reminds that in reality even larger sums are involved. Pirate Bay operates internationally and advertising sales are therefore also international and being sold by more companies than only Eastpoint Media. In addition it was recently written in Dagens Nyheter that going prices for advertisements on Pirate Bay have recently been on the rise.

Not all of the revenue ends up in the hands of Pirate Bay operators. The companies selling the advertising space take their own share first, after which the rest of the money ends up in the account of a company called Random Media (according to Svenska Dagbladet). The company appears to have a phone number in Stockholm, but its address is in Switzerland.

A company called Geneva Management Group (GMG) operates in the same address with Random Media. GMG deals in tax planning and funds management. Apparently in practice this means channeling funds into countries with low taxes, making it difficult for officials to get information as the banks are very secretive in these countries.

GMC is unwilling to comment on its relationship with Random Media. Daniel Oded, a representative for Random Media, also declined to comment on the handling of funds for Pirate Bay. Oded is said to have patented a system relating to Internet advertising in 1999 and is said to be currently working for an Israeli company called Target Point.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Son dls pron from dad on eDonkey, gets caught

A guy was downloading porn at home in his room with eDonkey, when suddenly he hears his dad yelling from the next room "hey! what are you downloading in there!". So he wonders how could his dad possibly know what he was downloading. In the discussion that followed it turned out that daddy also had eDonkey open on his computer and happened to be sharing the exact file that his son was downloading, realizing this when seeing a familiar IP in the downloaders list.

This must be true because it was said on IRC (#bf). Reported on (similar to

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Steve Jobs' pilgrimage to India

Steve Jobs began to have an interest in religions while studying philosophy at Reed College. In 1974 he was working at Atari, saving money to make a trip to India, "to see his guru". After saving enough he asked his friend Dan Kottke to join him, even offering to finance his ticket after he was reluctant to go because of the expense (later in 1976 Kottke also became the first paid Apple employee). In India they encountered by chance a guru who takes Jobs up the mountain and shaves his head. Later Kottke also had to shave his because of the lice and fleas. They experienced poverty head first, traveling around in simple Indian clothing under the heat, bargaining for food in towns. In the end Kottke's travel cheques are stolen and the trip had to end. Apparently Jobs did not find enlightenment, but his experiences surely influenced his later work.

Please read these sources for a more detailed account:
iCon (PDF, page 23 onward)

Monday, July 03, 2006

DIVs are the source of cool for Javascript

Back in the day people were obsessing about how to shave off a few clock cycles in their rotozooming effect written in pure assembler. You can understand why I feel a bit giggly when someone is fussing about how #000 is so much more smaller and more efficient in CSS than #000000. We have come a long way -- now it is not even possible to write a smooth rotozoomer that works in browsers in a compatible way (there is a trick for that on IE though). We just have to forget about that sort of effects. One sort of pixel-setting which is allowed though are horizlines, continuous horizontal spans of pixels. These are relatively fast to do since they can be simulated with DIVs. What can you make with horizlines? Polygons! In other words you can make 3D. It will be quite slow, so you can only use a very limited amount of faces, but a cube at least is still doable.

If you squint, you can see that it just consists of many horizontal lines. And you can create a horizontal line with a simple <DIV> tag. Use CSS to set the width to what you want, make the position absolute and set it on the screen where you want using the left and top styles. For the color, you can use the background style. Of course a single horizontal line will get you nowhere, so you need to have many of them. In the image displayed above there are around 500 of them. To create movement, javascript is used to calculate where they should be and the styles are modified on the fly. Pretty perverse, really. The inefficiency compared to assembler is mind boggling, but hey it works (mostly).

To create anything remotely cool, you want things moving. And to get things moving, you need to know how to modify styles in runtime. To do this, you first set a javascript timer to call a function say every 20 milliseconds. The setInterval function can be used to do this, as you surely already know. So you do setInterval("tick()", 20) for example, and then your tick function will be called 50 times per second. Inside this tick function then you do your magic and shuffle the pre-created DIVs around.

Okay, this set you wondering about how to precreate the DIVs. I feel sorry for even mentioning that, since now I will have to explain that as well. You could only create the DIVs as you need them and destroy them afterwards, but that would be slow since you would be altering the DOM tens of thousands of times every second. A better way is to just create those DIVs in the beginning. Just use document.createElement("DIV") in a loop.

        // First create a cache of horizlines
var i;
for (i=0; i<cnt; i++) {
hors[i] = document.createElement("div");
hors[i].style['position'] = "absolute";
hors[i].style['top'] = 0;
hors[i].style['left'] = 0;
hors[i].style['width'] = 0;
hors[i].style['height'] = 0;
hors[i].style['backgroundColor'] = "#000000";
document.body.insertBefore(hors[i], document.body.lastChild);

I will not go into any more details now, but suffice to say that inside your tick() function you can then reference the hors array and change the positions using hors[x].style['left'] = 400; for example. If some hors are unnecessary, just use the visibility style to set them to hidden or move them to a negative vertical position so that they will not be visible. Now all you need is some junior high school level math to create a cube out of them. Search the net for "triangle filler" to see how to do that.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Majority Wins AJAX game

Yesterday I made an AJAX-based game. I don't say AJAX just because things are sliding around nicely, but it actually does use XMLHttpRequest to send some data back to the server. The idea of the game is to try to guess what others would guess others would answer to a question. Confused? Just try it at

I was completely in the zone while making this game, it took maybe only 6 hours to make. It's funny how when doing something interesting I can be 10x more productive than doing something I'm forced to do. If I had done this at work, I'm sure it would've taken more than a week.

I posted it on Digg, but only got 4 Diggs. It was a real disappointment, since to be honest it was the whole goal of making this game. Maybe I should've been more blatant and use the words "AJAX" and "Amazing" in the title. It's a bit sad that I've missed my chance now, since reposting wouldn't be very nice.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Jason Steele & Charlie the Unicorn

Update: New videos: Charlie the Unicorn video for YouTube LIVE and Charlie the Unicorn 2

I discovered a pretty funny video called "Charlie the Unicorn". After watching it I Googled for the maker "Jason Steele" and found another good one, "Spatula Madness". Great South Parkish animation and stories with that required sense of nihilism.

Charlie the Unicorn

Found some fan art too. On their site there are some other videos as well, even some live-action stuff, but perhaps it's not as good. If Jason Steele ends up big and famous, Charlie the Unicorn could become cult stuff.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Google reacting to click fraud

I had the Google support people as my pen pals for a while. I was complaining to them about one particular site (axill) which seemed to be doing something fishy with Google's ad blocks, and requested my money back ($70). They said they would investigate. They investigated. They gave me my money back. Thank you Google.

What, no place for positive stories in the world?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Faster scrolling in Windows

I got my first job writing software when I was 15. It was a summer job. I learned programming routine and in addition two things: it's possible to make big money by having your own company, and secondly, you can scroll down faster in Windows if you wiggle your mouse around while doing it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Easy" Internet Cafe

I'm still in New York, and since I'm spending a long time in here, I need to be able to access the Internet from time to time, in order to keep things running in my online shop, move my studies forward and that sort of stuff. But here's the problem: it's impossible to conveniently get onto the Internet from New York. It's incredible.

There are some net points in connection to some cafes, but they tend to cost almost $10 per hour, which is okay for just checking the map or news, but doesn't work if you need to spend 5 hours there writing a school report. Then one day, I managed to find this great place right in the center, on 42nd street, a net cafe called "Easy Internet Cafe". As a kind of disclaimer on what I'm about to say, the business is a franchise business, so the people at the easy group might not know how bad the situation is in here.

The setting is that of ghosts which are between the living world and the underworld, they have gone through a tragedy but they have unfinished business before they can find rest, which is why they are wandering, looking for the thing to satisfy their unfinished business. In the case of this cafe, the tragedy which happens is that people wander in here and decide to buy a pass for using one of these computers. You see, first you buy a pass from a vending machine, then find a computer where you can use this pass. But what you don't realize when you buy the pass is that although it seems as if there are a lot of free computers, actually almost none of them work. So you see these ghosts, wandering from computer to computer, hopefully moving the mouse or trying to turn on the screen, only to face darkness. But they have paid. They cannot leave satisfied until they find a computer which works.

You may think I'm exaggarating. I'm not. Maybe you think that I'm just upset because one out of ten computers doesn't work. Maybe you think I don't understand how fragile things computers are. No it's definitely not me, it's this place. About one fifth of the computers work. Seriously. The other ones either have frozen or blinking screens, windows has crashed, some system files are missing, the computer is endlessly rebooting or something similar. My favorite one is the computer which displays "this computer is free", blinking encouraginly, but then after you sit down, open your Red Bull, thinking that you finally found a computer which works and try to get to work, nothing happens. It's frozen to the "this computer is free"-screen. In desperation you try to hit the keys or move the mouse, but... nothing. That's just too cruel.

Update: One guy started warning others not to pay. The security guards got very angry and threw him out. Even though he had already paid. They said "you are now TRESPASSING" in a somewhat threatening voice, he apologised many times saying "I was only trying to get value for my money" and went outside, followed by the security guards, where the argument continued.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

New York

Finnair had a great offer of 300€ for a return ticket to New York, so I decided to make a visit. I also found a reasonably priced hostel called Wanderers' Inn, which costs just 20€ per night, making this a very cheap trip indeed. Joel Spolsky from Fog Creek Software invited me to visit for lunch, so I had something to look forward to. I have been in New York for a week now. Yesterday I became sick and only reluctantly left the hostel. Later I regretted it, almost throwing up in central park. After walking about 4 miles away from the hostel, the sky opened up and the heaviest rain I had ever seen began. There was so much water it started flowing over from the street into the sidewalks. I had no umbrella and soon I was totally wet. And I was already sick. There was nowhere to go. Inside cafes it is so cold because of the air conditioning. So I walked 4 miles back in the rain. About a mile before reaching the hostel I managed to find a shop selling umbrellas. I almost had a fight with another customer for the last umbrella. Next night at the hostel I was shivering, obviously I had a temperature. I was confused. One moment I was feeling hot, the next I felt shivering cold, all the time feeling a pounding headache. I hope the rain will stop and I could enjoy the city and still see Fog Creek later on.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Improving AdSense relevance (especially for PhpBB forums)

All you need to do for selecting the type of advertisements you want is to put an additional GET parameter into your URL!

If your site is about rats for example and is located at, but Google insists on giving you advertisements about owls because that term just happens to appear somewhere on the page, it seems quite effective to simply make the URL

On my server I have two PhpBB forums, both of which are displaying some advertisements. While they get ~20000 page views per week, advertisement clicks are zero. It was obvious why this was. While the target audience was teenager dog lovers, the advertisement Google's AdSense is displaying are about IT infrastructure and car parts, I couldn't imagine them being any more unrelated.

First of all I wanted to see in what kind of cases the Google server would come and reread the page content to target the ads. If I don't know that, then it would be impossible to make any improvements and know if they had any effect. So I made a test page and tried changing the ad channel name, create a new ad section and change the page content, but none of these caused the google bot to come. However I noticed that changing the name of the page does cause it to come, even if you just add GET-parameters after the URLs (I'm sure it filters out sids and such), the bot comes to reindex.

Okay, now I know how to make the bot come. How do I get it to understand what the page is about? I tried the putting the google_ad_section_start tag around forum posts, like adviced somewhere, but it didn't help at all. But here's the magic worth million dollars: Google AdSense really cares about the NAME of the page. If instead of view_topic.php you have dogs.php for example, it assumes it's about dogs! Well, I didn't want to rename all of my pages, so I tested if it would be enough to just add the a GET parameter about dogs, and sure enough it was. I was finally getting dog-related advertisements.

Now, how to make that happen in PhpBB? Here's how. Go to sessions.php and find a function definition for append_sid. Append_sid is the function which makes sure that even without cookies, sessions won't be lost. Also it's a very convenient place to add new GET parameters, as every URL which is displayed by PhpBB goes through this function. Here's my new function:

function append_sid($url, $non_html_amp = false)
global $SID;
if ( !empty($SID) && !preg_match('#sid=#', $url) )
$url .= ( ( strpos($url, '?') != false ) ? ( ( $non_html_amp ) ? '&amp;' : '&' ) : '?' ) . $SID;

// Try to make adsense understand that this page is about dogs!

return str_replace("?", "?dog&", $url);

After this modification, all of the forum pages now show ads which are relevant. I'm happy, the users are happier, advertisers are happy and Google is happy.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Faster software keyboard

I thought this was cool. Watch the video to see the researcher typing in text painstakinly using a "soft keyboard" (like in some PDAs) and then watch him do it again using an augmented one to speed up the input.

Textinput demo screenshot

I'm getting fond of reporting research done in my university, because there is a lot going on and very little of it ever gets reported outside the research labs, interesting though it may be.

The paper on this

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How I made a fortune with AdWords and AdSense...

I have a confession. I have one of those annoying landing pages which just mostly contain advertisements, but not much content. It started as a legit site where I hosted a sweepstakes competition for a while, but after the sweepstakes had ended and there were still people pouring in, I decided to replace the previous site with a simple link directory and some ramblings sometimes (so there IS content too), but mostly just lots and lots of Google ads. Still the people are hanging around, so I guess they don't totally despise the page as it is now.

It worked. What I discovered is that people who have an intent to participate in sweepstakes have extremely trigger-happy ad-clicking mouse buttons compared to most crowds. The clickthrough rate was 3%, which I feel is incredible (comment if you think it's just normal to you!), especially considering how high in value sweepstakes ads are (average $0.36 per click). As lovely as this equation is, the absolute amount of visitors is very low (200 per day) so only a few dollars at best are generated in a day.

I thought I'd try AdWords, so I started calculating this thing out on paper. If 1000 visitors bring in $10.75 on average, perhaps I could get that many from AdWords with that price and maybe even make some profit. I figured that if I buy site-targeted ads at the lower price, which is $0.20 for 1000 displays and if 2% of people click on the ad, I could get 20 visitors for $0.20. Twenty visitors for my site is worth exactly $0.20, so I could break even. Those people are already proven ad-clickers, so perhaps they would be worth even more.

So I ran a test. I decided to try it out with about $100. I wrote a quick and dirty ad, chose some sites pretty much at random and then started thinking which tropical island I would most like to spend the rest of my life in... After coming back later to check the situation, I found myself a wealthy man. Okay, actually it was a total shocker, it underperformed my wildest imaginations. After 300000 impressions there were only 75 clicks -- CTR of 0.02%!!! That's absolutely horrible. I spent $76 to get $.75!

I made a fortune with AdWords and AdSense alright... for Google.

When examining the situation a bit closer, I noticed that all of the ad dollars had gone to one site, When I went to check the site out to figure out why the CTR was so low, I couldn't even find the ad section. It seems to me that they are somehow syndicating their own AdSense ads away (is that allowed?). I contacted a Google support guy and am now waiting for his reply on this. I'll post again when I get the reply. I did some searching on Axill and they seem a bit shady...

The landing page can be found on if you are in a masochistic mood.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Getting tagged as a bad neighborhood on Google

Google seems to tag some sites as "bad neighborhoods". Such sites are completely dropped from the index and links from these sites will negatively affect the sites being linked to. From my experimentation, I know of two ways to get yourself tagged as a bad neighborhood, and I thought I'd share them with you.

First way I know is being linked to from link collections. If there are large numbers of links to your site from such link lists, Google seems to think that you are attempting to game the system, and your site's position will suffer. It might be that this is just a property of their algorithm and that there are no "bad neighborhood" tags, but effectively your site will be punished if you try to submit to many such lists.

Eventually Google seems to forgive, though. Someone I know was left with the task of trying to restore a site into Google's listings after some excuse for a site optimizer had gotten their site delisted from Google. Of course there was nothing that could be done, as the links could not be removed, but as time passed the site eventually appeared in the listings again.

Second way to get slapped I discovered myself -- typosquatting. I made an experiment where I created a page which contained ten variations of the term "sweepstakes", with links to my own page (on another domain). Google's reaction was fast. Just three days passed, and all the subsites on the entire domain got completely delisted from Google. There were four subsites which had a fine ranking on Google for months, but had now completely disappeared from listings, so it was not just random fluctuation.

The page has been removed, and I'm waiting now if the badness tag I got was permanent or if I will be relisted again on the next indexing round. Moral of the story: don't be evil, and Google will like you.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Star Wreck team to announce new project Monday

Emperor James B. Pirk appeared today in his May Day speech in Tampere, Finland (4 hours ago). In his speech he reminded us that a good working class member is cheap, efficient and obedient. After a song in the Emperor's honor, the Star Wreck team also made an appearance, with director
Samuli Torssonen commenting their production team's intention to announce a new project on their homepage on Monday. He was tight-lipped about specifics at this point. A compilation of the Emperor's speech will appear later on the Star Wreck homepage.

Correction: the monday means 8th of May

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Apple engraves "Apple rocks" instead of "Microsoft 4ever" on iPod

According to (Finnish), someone placed an order for an engraved iPod from the Apple store, requesting the text "Microsoft 4ever" to be engraved on the back, but when it arrived the text "Apple rocks" was written there instead.

I feel this is in line with Apple's policy "We make every effort to ensure that personalisation text for engraved iPods does not contain any errors", since writing that Microsoft rocks would surely be a mistake the policy cannot allow.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Measuring the effect of virtual reality on balance

In a doctoral dissertation (PDF) recently published by Timo Tossavainen at the University of Tampere, Finland (the same department where I study), the effect of different types of virtual reality stimuli on balance was measured with a pretty cool setup. A force platform is placed under the test subject and stimuli very similar to the ones in the 1992 scifi film The Lawnmower Man are shown. The platform can measure whether and how much a person is leaning in a direction. They tried using both head-mounted displays and a CAVE environment where the visuals are projected on walls.

"Dots with CAVE caused 3 test subjects to lose balance and 2 of them also lost balance during tunnel with CAVE" "The direction of leaning is generally the direction of rotation. For example, the subjects tend to lean left during counter-clockwise rotation around the line of sight"

Below are some images which were included in the dissertation, check out the whole PDF for more, including the actual "stabilograms" that the force platform produced.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Business squared

Tampere (Finland) is my home city, a city of red brick factories and green parks with trees, and a river flowing through the center. There are wonderful cafes around the town, trendy new ones near the bigger department stores and the train station, ones where you can order a cappuccino and they actually understand what you're talking about.

There are others with a spirit of the city as it used to be, where you better just order a normal drip-coffee or risk being seen as an icky new-world metrosexual (if they knew what that was). Not that cafes or the city have anything to do with anything, except that I had some thoughts about the different levels of business while searching for some of those old-style cafes.

I saw an advertisement in some restaurants about a new type of service where you can order food to be delivered to you by a telephone call or a visit to a website. The thing is, the restaurants themselves are not providing this service, rather there is a company which will take your order and then order the food and bring it to you. In a sense they are providing food for their customers, as your order can be picked from a common menu, but yet they do not actually have to cook it themselves.

They found a way to take ordering home delivery of food into another level. Instead of providing one type of food and making it themselves, they can provide a more varied menu and provide a better service. There are other examples of this. Take used book stores. How to take that a level higher? Well, there is a company which has contacted many used book stores and provided them with custom software and instructions which enable them to easily sell their books in a common marketplace. Now customers can search which books they can find in many book stores, instead of just randomly browsing through one. Of course the biggest example would be Amazon Marketplace, where Amazon provides the book descriptions and images and sellers can offer those books for sale. For buyers, all the books for sale can be conveniently be found at the same location and Amazon is happy as they can get a cut from all the sales made by others.

Wouldn't you agree that there is something similar about these examples of book selling and with the food ordering service? All of these are instances of taking a common thing and raising it to a higher level. What other levels could there be? If you think of a restaurant, the problem that it is solving is providing people with something to eat. So instead of people making food for themselves, someone might decide to make food professionally for others and start to work in a restaurant as a cook. This would be going up a level. Let me indulge in a bit of pseudomathematical masturbation and call this level x.

There could be yet someone else, who would see that by hiring many people specialized in making and serving food, they could control the operation in an even higher level. Instead of making food as an employee in a restaurant, he could control the whole operation on a higher level, removing himself from the drudgery of actually chopping onions. He has reached x squared in his thinking. Well, I'm sure you're ahead of me here and know what I will say next, but I'll say it nevertheless. The example of the service which provides customers with food from restaurants through a common menu is taking this thinking to x cubed.

Be a clerk at a book shop - x, own a book shop x², start Amazon Marketplace -- x³.

I feel that Amazon Marketplace and the food delivery service are providing useful services. But there are cases when going up a level can be unnecessary. When making computer programs, some things can be done by using ready-made functions or classes arranged into libraries. This can make difficult things easy, like using the Google Maps API to get a map instead of making such a component yourself. Well, there are people who might say that they don't like how the API is and would rather create their own wrapper to it. To which I would say that this "higher level" is unnecessary and possibly even a hindrance.

Where am I going with this analogy? An example of an unnecessary level of abstraction in business would be real-estate agencies. They are providing a service which admittedly does take renting houses to a new level, since they can offer many options, but I feel that this level is now becoming obsolete. People are perfectly capable of communicating with each other effectively enough to make this intermediary unnecessary. A digital camera and a message board on the net is all that is needed. Perhaps the need for this level is still there, but at least it is shifting. By the way, someone came up with a way to take message boards up a level and has a website where people can easily create their own boards for free, of course with advertisements by you know who.

This is an exciting time. I feel that the boom is not over, or perhaps my mind has been irreversibly damaged by it or I am living in a state of denial. I still feel that there are possibilities to take things to the higher level, positions of useful intermediaries still waiting to be filled. And the scary thing is that once these positions are filled, it is often very difficult to change them. eBay has become the intermediary of used goods, and it would be very difficult for others to fill their position, as they have all the users. This is why Skype was sold for that ridiculous price, they have the userbase and competition would now be too difficult. It would not surprise me much to see eBay still being around after a hundred years. I cannot imagine mass desertion of deviantART (according to Big Boards they have 5 million members, same as the population of Finland) or Flickr either, a competing service would have to be significantly ahead in their execution for users to even consider such a thing.

There are still such spaces to be filled, businesses to be squared or even cubed. Whoever manages to fill those spaces properly may get a userbase who will stay faithful. This is especially true for anything with a social aspect -- eBay is all the more useful the more users they have. When the size of the userbase is essential to the usefulness of the service provided, it might be impossible for a competitor to take over. Can it really be true that with a few years of effort, eBay has secured themselves a place in cyberspace which will bring them enormous fortunes for all time ever after until the sun runs out of helium, or will the need for an intermediary shift?

I will end this on a bit lighter note. If you think up from the business cubed to taking it to the power of four, what do you get? Lawyers and investment bankers, helping people like me who are utterly convinced of the unique possibilities of the Internet age lose all their money trying to become the next big thing. How about business taken to the power of five? Monks. No, really. They have realized that all this talk over achieving fortunes is nonsense, that really it is better to forget about wanting anything in the first place. Jules became such a monk in Pulp Fiction. At level six we have god, for whom the whole question of wanting is irrelevant as anything can be created and nothing is needed.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Japanese ninja cockroaches

Warning: you will be grossed out. The first Japanese cockroaches I experienced in our western-style apartment (no tatami mats) taught me to respect these beings, even if they are just insects they are incredibly skilled superinsects at that. I believe each skill deserves to be studied and worshipped in turn in an orderly fashion.

Menacing appearance

They look so ugly and repulsive that if cockroaches made music, thousands of Kiss fans all over the world would jump ship and buy their records. This is a skill, because it is an effective deterrent to us evil humans trying to disturb their peace. I however have gotten quite used to them, they may be as long as my finger with their long black waving antennas but I refuse to be terrorized. They might intend to frighten me into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; I am strong.

Supersonic speed

Pop quiz: what is black, but moves like a lightning? One thing I couldn't read in a book was how fast they are, I mean you'd expect a creature this clumsy in appearance and so large to move at a bit more leisurely pace but oh no, dead wrong, when they move it's like zzzZZZAP. They are one of the few creatures on earth that can move faster than light speed, creating an appearance of several of them as light of the creature in its new location reaches your eyes while the creature is also being perceived in its old location simultaneously (see Picard Maneuver). Or maybe there just are many of them.

Advanced hiding skill

I had been chasing one around the room and managed to corner it into a metal box which had only a few items in it. I pushed the items to the other side of the box and expected what's left to be the cockyroachy thing I was looking for. No such luck. So I start looking at the items I pushed to the side, then remove the items one by one. As there are only two smallish items left I start to believe that the insect must have escaped. Nevertheless I continue to remove the remaining items and what do you know, it was hiding cleverly behind one of them!

Another incredible thing about cockroaches is their ability to fit through incredibly small spaces. I mean for a creature of their size it's not something you would expect. Case in point -- I am chasing a particularly nasty one around our loft and finally have it in a corner where it clearly has no place to escape anywhere. What happened next I could hardly believe, IT PASSED THROUGH THE WALL. Whooo... creepy. On closer inspection there was a tiny little space between two planks of wood but not such that I would have expected anything to be able to pass through. This infinitesimal crack (even if you added an infinite amount of these cracks together, I doubt it would make an actual crack) has since been filled in my neverending attempt to extinguish the stream of these spawns of satan.

Unmatched strength and bravery

I believe this little story will illustrate this well enough. I think this was actually the very first cockroach I ever killed. I had tried to capture it with all kinds of clever methods, without any success. Then suddenly in midrun it flips over. Then while waving its little legs hopelessly it just stays still, since its on its back, on its black shell. Rather than calling it quits and giving mercy, I decide to kill it. I put a newspaper over it and stomp it with my foot. Dead? Nope. I stomp it again. I lift over the newspaper and see it split into two pieces with some internal organs spilled on the floor. Success!

I approach it in order to throw the pieces away, but what happened next I could hardly begin to believe. The thing started moving. It's in two pieces, but it moves! It moves with a purpose, it starts escaping, quite slowly, but it attempts escape. While it's doing this, it's DRAGGING ITS INTERNAL ORGANS BEHIND, which is the reason why this attempted escape is quite slow. I mean come on, it's against the rules of the universe to continue moving when you are in more than one piece with your internals hanging out! They certainly have sisu (Finnish concept of not giving up and fighting 'till the bitter end).

Well, this concludes my little treatise on this wonder of nature. I hope you found it both educational and amusing. Thank you.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Net citation collection

Found a really neat site today, Citation from them: "At any rate after seeing many of the social bookmarking sites pop up I decided to throw some code at an attempt to take my quotes (and those of my friends) online in a searchable and shareable way... was born!"

Citation from me: "Why didn't I think of that!?"

Citation from Jung: "The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves."

Reason for Pirate Bay being down

The Pirate Bay, the ultimate place for finding links to torrents (such as Linux distributions), seems to be down now. I heard their search engine is just broken, so it will be back soon. Message from them: "thepiratebay is down - we work on it, so be cool :)"

Update: They installed new hardware.

Another thing. I posted about my reload compo before. Well, I had to take that compo down. I always did feel that it was a borderline case that Google might not like so much, but now I noticed that there is a part in their ToS which forbids giving incentives for ANY activity on a page. I was never giving incentives for searching and certainly not for clicking on ads, but I WAS giving incentives for visiting the page, therefore it appears I should not have the search box there and I decided to shut the site down.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Yahoo offering prizes too

According to the San Francisco Chronicle "Yahoo Inc. is considering offering free music downloads, discounts on DVD rentals and frequent-flier miles to users who make the Web site their primary search engine". Microsoft was doing the same with their MSN Search competition page. A legit way to get visitors or a pathetic acknowledgement that nobody will use your search engine unless you pay them?