Archive for the ‘Random Thought’ Category

What Makes a Blog Good?

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Content! Duh! Here’s some blogs with some good content…

Left Behind at the Fishbowl

This anonymous blogger sifts through papers left in the printer just before “the Fishbowl” a University of Michigan computer lab, shuts down for the night. Then, they go and critique the essays, drawings, emails, and other print outs. With their trusty blue pen, creativity, and humor in hand, they proceed to mark all over the print out, scan it back in, and post it on the internet for all to see.


TechCrunch covers mainly news about internet companies, both the big ones and the up and coming ones. So, if you are a Web 2.0 startup, you might want to get on this guy’s good side so that you can get some good traffic from the early adopters like myself.

Google Maps Mania

When the Google Maps API first came out, there were tons of people ready and willing to create mashups. So many in fact, it was difficult to keep track of them all. Google wasn’t keeping track of them, so this blog filled a niche and reports on the new ones as they come out

Social Networking Sites Traffic

Friday, December 8th, 2006

I was playing around with Alexa, and I thought I would plot the charts of some popular social networking type sites. I noticed a few things… Xanga‘s traffic seems to start going down exactly when MySpace‘s goes up. Coinsidence? Also, there is a huge gap of facebook‘s traffic in the last few months of 2005. I believe this is because they just switched from to just, and Alexa didn’t track facebook until the start of 2006. If you plot, you’ll get the same graph as


AJAX Grocery List Manager

Monday, November 27th, 2006

Here’s an idea I’ve had for an AJAX web application for a while, but have never actually got around to implementing yet. It’s pretty simple. My hope is that someone makes something like this so I don’t have to. There’s a lot of other stuff I’m working on, and this seems so simple, yet so hard to get perfect because this is competing with pen and paper, and pen and paper isn’t THAT bad for making grocery lists.

What I’m looking for is an application which manages my grocery list. The main point of it, is to remember what I usually buy, and have that be the default list for the next time I go shopping. From there, I should be able to add/edit/delete items. I should be able to print the list and/or send it to my cell phone or PDA somehow. There… that’s the basics.

A few other non-essential features come to mind with this grocery list manager. When giving my grocery list to someone else so that they can shop for me, they will need to know specifically which items I prefer. For example, below is a mapping from what I should be able to type and what should show up on the other person’s list based on what I usually buy. If I have to type this in the first time, no big deal, its a one time thing unless you want to change something.

milk => 1 Gallon Skim Milk
deli meat => Plumrose brand sliced turkey and ham
salad => 2 bags of Dole Greener Selection salad
carrots => large bag of Bolthouse Farms Baby-Cut Carrots
cereal => Granola with rasins, Basic 4
pasta sauce => Ragu Super Chunky Mushroom

So, if an entire house (ours being an example with 7 guys) wants to put their lists up on the site, people won’t have to go shopping as much because when someone goes, they can just pull up everyone’s individual lists and buy everything. When it aggregates these lists it should be able to indicate who wants what in order to keep track of money if its not all coming from the pot.

I’m thinking that the grocery list should have categories organized similarly to how a real grocery store is organized so that when you go to the store, items near each other in the store are near each other on your list. It should be able to tell you which isles you need to go down and which you can skip, but this may require some information on the layout of the specific store. A map of the store itself and where you can find everything is another feature which may be useful.

Also, it would be nice if the list knew how often you needed things, and could suggest things based on when you actually need them. I suppose it could make intelligent guesses based on how often you put things on your list.

Ms. Dewey Phrases

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

Yesterday I found this unusual site via MetaFilter. It’s called Ms. Dewey. From first glance it appears to be a search engine that has a human talking to you. It’s really pretty useless, but its fun to see what you can get her to say. So… I tried a bunch of different queries, and I got a suprisingly large number of video clips played back to me. I decided to keep track of what she said, and transcribed it all here. If you have any to add or have a favorite one, leave them in the comments. My favorite is the first one below.

Oh, and for what this actually is, I have no doubts that this is a viral marketing scheme for a Microsoft search engine. I predict they will announce what it actually is in about a week.

I’ve got a little secret to share… I invented the internet.
You know I was consieved in SF.
I tried a dating service once. (answering machine: “You have 121 messages.” Crash!)
I like to bring my laptop to meetings. That way, I can keep up on myself.
In this corner, weighing 157 pounds, the worlds loneliest man.
The amazing thing about Wifi, is you can watch me from wherever you want. And, by amazing, I mean creapy.
I tried that with three close friends once. Let’s just say my memiors would fetch a million.
Keep asking questions. The more you ask, the more I will know. And, soon I will rule the world.
You’re interested in art? I mean the real kind, not body paint.
I read in a magazine that aliens snapped up the most beautiful woman in the world and put her on the internet, and that you can ask her anything and she’ll have an answer for you. What a crock.
Hold on, I need to get my clone on.
I suppose I’d be more flattered if I wasn’t the most animated women you’d ever met.
What do you think this is, some dirty little chat room?
You come on like some prime time special, but I smell rerun.
It’s time to get naked. Not me silly, you.
Hey, if you can get inside your computer, you can do whatever you want to me.
Something tells me this isn’t the first time you’ve tried to woo a computer screen with such persuasive vocabulary.
Hey there, big guy. Watch it. Or, maybe I should just turn your name over to the justice department? Ooo… not so tough now are we.
Like I always say, a girl’s got to be prepared. (takes out whip and slaps it down)

Are you just letting your dog type now?
Are you trying to drunk dial again?
Now, that is a facinating topic. Frankly, I don’t believe people spend enough time talking about it.
Remember, its better to keep your mouth shut, and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.
Well played, indeed you do give good search.
Sorry, I can’t talk about that, my hands are tied. (shows tied hands)
Dewey says never use pirated software. Unless its mapping software. I figure pirates know something about that.
It’s searches like that that just say beat me up and take my lunch money.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover. Unless of course you are talking about me, in which case, your judgement would be 100% on.
You know, you can ask me anything at all, and you are going to waste it with a question like that?
You are kidding right? Hey Ricardo, come look at what this guy did a search for.
I’ve been all over the world back when I was a groupy…, Missonary, whatever. Depends on who you ask.
Ah yes, 72 suburbs in search of a city.
If television is the opium of the masses, what does that make the internet?
Have you ever met one of those poor soles who look for the next big thing on the net? Have you looked in the mirror lately?
I am independantly weathly. Lets just say I knew when to dump my dot com stocks.
I’m sorry, I can’t make any sense of what you are asking. Wait, have you been at the pub all afternoon?
As a child, my parents gave me gender neutral dolls to play with. Really? Not really.
Ones and zeros, Ones and zeros, all the useless coding, underwear on your head, and you still couldn’t create the women of your dreams? Poor you.
Oh, do I know shopping.
Ladies and Gentalmen, in this corner, weighing in at 157 pounds, the worlds loneliest man.
Somebody needs to get a hobby, like say, something interesting.
Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Hello, type something here!
Are you as confused as I am? Actually, I’m never get confused, but you seem downright flumixed??
(Takes out a huge glue gun) This happens to me all the time.
(does mime stunt) From my mime troupe days, I call it “nerd looking through a pub window at people who actually have a life”
Whoa, down boy.
That’s interesting in an anthropological kind of way. Would you care to rephrase the question?
You know, when i first saw you, I had a feeling you were going to type in something like that.
Looks like someone didn’t take their medication
I suppose I’d be more flattered if I wasn’t the most animated woman you’ve ever met.
You know what they say about dating these days? It’s a jungles out there. Although, it appears your jungle has been clear cut, South American style.
(singing) I’m gettin’ some spam, I’m gettin’ some bad spam. (puts a bomb next to a computer, and it blows up)
Here’s a thought, naked croquet.
I’ve never been one for the casting couch, not when there is one of those dot-com chairs handy.
(holds up hammer) It’s a girl’s best friend.
Like my mother always told me, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, except sometimes you get a wicked rash along the way.
Honey, have you seen my birth control pills? You didn’t mistake them for breath mints again, did you? (guy drinking glass of water spits it out)
I’ve been acting professionally for years. Depends on the man.
Been there, done that.
Saftey first, and make sure you get it on film.
It’s not easy to find someone who will love you for you. And I do mean you specifically.
Method acting is showing up to the set drunk and doing whatever the fuck you want. Works for me.
They need to be house broken… men.
Why don’t you email me? Maybe I’ll write you back. Emphasis on maybe. (email address:
Are you really asking how old I am? Ricky, are they really asking how old I am? I’m not going to answer that, its even in my contract.
I’m sorry.
I don’t trust the mainstream media. I get all my news from a ranting maniac on AM radio. That way I know what to think and what to feel.
There are farm animals who don’t even do that kind of thing, what makes you think I would?
Before we go any further, I’m going to need you credit card number, your social security number, and a note from your cardiologist.
Someone’s going to get a timeout if they’re not careful.
I just got satelite radio so I could hear what’s his face swear. You know what, I don’t see what the big f’ing deal is.
Nothing caps off the evening like a good round house kick to the groin… but maybe that’s just me.
If these walls could talk, than its starting to kick in. (face distorts) I better go now… I’ll see you later.

Somebody tell me please, when does the reality begin to kick in?
There are really only five types of personalities in hollywood… in, out, hobolla, or just plain fucking crazy
You’ve insulted my family. I will dance across your rooftops at a high rate of speed and somehow in a country of one billion people, no one will find a gun.
My grandfather was a big supporter of starving artists. But of course, once they stopped starving, they stopped painting too.
Sooner or later, I knew that was going to come up (lists off elegibility requirements)
I’m tired of this shit. Tell me where the prom queen is buried, or the DA will be on you like a stage mom at a beauty pagent. And that ain’t pretty sister.
(takes a polaroid) There, I have my photo, and my restraining order is complete.
Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the time, unless you think you can get a presidential pardon.
(Takes a shot, rewinds to take it again.) Oh, how I love my DVR.
Do I look like the kind of girl who would answer a question like that? Well… there you go.
Be prepared, that’s my motto (pulls out a bomb)
I’m such a good actor, I don’t need a director. (Director: “Uh, Dewey, can we get that again, this time with a little more conviction?”) No, don’t ever do that again.
Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to Amsterdam.
(in chemist outfit with beaker) Ricardo, come here, I need you. (Ricardo comes, drinks, falls back) Hmmm… needs more testing.
Oh, I love the holidays. Especially the greeting card holidays, like unpaid intern day. Raise a glass to… (Ricardo comes out with wine glass) get back to work!
Are you ok? One of the signs of having a stroke is loosing the use of one of your hands. I’ll call for help. (picks up phone) On second thought, you’ll be ok.
Out of all the searches in the universe, that was definitely one of them.
(Puts on and takes off invisible ring from Lord of the Rings.)
Now, just what are you planning on filming with that camera? Nothing naughty I hope.
Cooking… in my book, you can never use too much garlic… or butter.
I was hoping to run for office, but they rezoned my district. Too many beautiful people in one county I guess.
If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy. (pulls trigger on power tool)

I saw a newscast where the women were doing the news in the nude. Sadly, the ratings weren’t the only things sagging.
Television ratings… who are these people, and how can I convince them to stop watching such crap?
In business, my philosophy is simple, leave a little something on the table. Of course, if he’s cute enough, I’m the something.
You know… I am sick to death of all these computer generated muchisimo and beautiful women, they all look so fake to me.
When I read history books, I feel like I’ve missed out. When do I get to take part in a land grab?
(in japanese) I find anime fasinating. Manifestation of post-war japanise society.
I’m sorry, did you think this was, because that is simply not the case.
Are you feeling ok? Maybe you should have someone take your temperature.
(does the robot, pretty well actually)
That’s not a gun, this is a gun, and I can strip it down in seconds.
Girls, don’t let him fool you, sometimes it is the size of the gun.
Guys who read comic books are so sexy. Especially, if they have stained shirts and don’t wash their hair.
All your base are belong to us.
Oh… I know a great halo hack. In ascension, go to the dead center of the map , wave your hands up and down and squawk like a chicken. Makes you invincible.
Ohh… you are one of those. Say it to yourself: It’s not too late to meet a real woman.
Between you and me, virtual reality really creeps me out. I mean… talking to someone who is not real? eww…
In the cage, I’m all about submission holds, on the street I’m all up brawler. You were asking about dating, right?
Another guy asked me something like that once. I still don’t think they ever found him.
Ok, take off your clothes. That’s right. Socks too. Now, fold them neatly, and toss them all out the window. (rings buzzer, you hear sirens) There, now you are screwed.

You know, its easy to make jokes on the president. So easy in fact, that I’m going to pass on it.
I’ve found the quickest way to a man’s heart is right through his rib cage.
Oh, you don’t say. Hold on a sec. (dials phone) The police should be ariving any minute now.
I’m writing a book you know. (intern brings in lots of paper) I kiss therefore I tell.
If I were a magic 8-ball, I wouldn’t even float to the top after hearing that.
I used to be 25 pounds over weight… really… ok, not really.
I don’t bore easily, so I have to congratulate you.
Did you think I got this gig taking the GRE? No, I got this gig by writing the GRE.
Every couple of years we like to have Dewey family reunions, or as I like to call them interventions.
Something about artists, is that they drink to much and act irrationally. Oh, I just love the arts.
From here, I’d say its time for a drink.
Watch this. (magically fills a huge glass with beer) I know, you’ve never felt this way before, I understand.
Doing the same thing over and over didn’t do anything for the last woman in your life. What makes you think I’m any different.

SSL Name-Based Virtual Hosts

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Why can’t you have SSL name-based virtual hosts?

I discovered that this was impossible… twice. So, hopefully this explaination will satisfy people’s curiosity and stop the frustration trying to get this to work when it just won’t.

The problem lies with the way name-based virtual hosting and SSL work.

Name-based virtual hosting is when you have more than one domain name being served with the same IP address on the same port. DNS takes care of giving you an IP address based on a domain name. Then, when that domain name gets sent via an HTTP header to that IP address and port, the web server, (usually Apache) can determine which web site to display. This is all well and good. The web server can figure out which domain name you want on each request, because your browser always sends it. But, what happens when we go to a secure page and add SSL to the mix?

HTTPS uses SSL to encrypt HTTP traffic. Before the HTTP request is received by the server, the server must send a certificate to the client verifying the server’s identity. The certificate contains a domain name. How does the server know which domain name’s certificate to send if it hasn’t received the HTTP request yet? It doesn’t. So, the server just sends the only certificate knows how based on the IP address and port number that the connection is coming in on.

This is why you can’t do SSL name-based virtual hosts with Apache, or any other web server for that matter.

Hopefully this explaination helps some people save a lot of time.

The Next Big Thing: VoiceXML

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

I think VoiceXML will be the next really big revolution on “the web”. Of course, its no longer the web because they aren’t really webpages. They are XML files that are read to you and have programmed responses. VoiceXML is an easy way for developers to create interactive voice response systems. Combined with a dynamic scripting language like PHP, these XML files can be very powerful.

Instead of a web browser, people will have voice browsers. These voice browsers will parse the XML, turn the text into voice, and receive specific voice commands based on what’s in the XML. Once a voice command has been interpreted, it sends it back to the server to fetch another VoiceXML page.

Notice how this way of doing things limits the bandwidth across the network and also makes the server extremely scalable because the server doesn’t have to do any processing of voice. Instead of sending voice across the network, we send text which the browser translates to and from speech.


In response to Dave’s first comment below:

I’m pretty sure the blind already have this kind of technology to read web pages. In fact, I just looked it up and found this:

Sorry that I didn’t mention mobile applications in my initial post. I definitely don’t see voice browsers replacing web browsers on full sized screens. People can read much faster than they can listen or speak.

Depending on how small your screen is on a mobile device, it might be more efficient to listen than to try to read the screen. It is definitely faster to speak than to try to type on a very small keyboard if your device even has a keyboard at all. So, this would be perfect for small devices where the other methods of getting information in and out are inefficient.

Also, like you mention, it would be good while you are driving, because you need to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Or, you could just turn on the auto-pilot. Oh wait, we don’t have that for cars yet.

Flickr in Gamma

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Maybe this is old news, but I found it amusing that Flickr is now in… no, not beta… GAMMA! Check out the logo on their page. Not exactly sure what they mean by gamma. Here’s what they have to say about it.

How Website Problems Should Be Presented To The User

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Maxis Technical Difficulties

Facebook Expands to Companies

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

Oh boy… facebook is expanding to include companies. I can just see where this is going. The amount of time wasted at work browsing facebook is going to be phenomenal. See… there’s a big difference between college and the corporate world. In the former, you are paying to be there, in the latter, you are getting paid to be there. I can’t imagine companies are going to be very friendly to the idea of people using company time to browse the facebook.

I wonder if there have been any court cases involving companies blocking certain sites. Here’s a wild prediction of a possible court battle…

Microsoft starts to see a bunch of people using the facebook… and not for business purposes either, just for social, outside of work type stuff. Microsoft says, “Hey, our employees are wasting time on a site that doesn’t do our business any good. Furthermore, we have been developing internally our own version of the facebook, but more geared towards businesses than the facebook currently is. We’ll block facebook so that our employees will be forced to use our not-as-cool facebook clone. Once we have Microsoft employees on board, we’ll sell this software to other companies and make lots of money.” Then, facebook sues Microsoft for loss of business or something and it goes to the supreme court, and they make some sort of ruling.

Ok, so I admit, that’s a pretty wild prediction. There are at least a few problems with it. 1) The number employees at Microsoft is really small compared to the number of people using facebook, so I can’t really see any one company with that scenario. 2) I think companies have the right to block things going to their internal networks. After all, they own their network and everything inside it, right? 3) No one will dare to challenge Microsoft in the legal realm unless they are sure to win…

So, basically, my point is that, facebook as it currently stands is not suited for corporate use, and companies will catch onto that fact very quickly and ban its use or create policies against it or whatever. Maybe facebook does have plans to make their service more useful to businesses and eventually companies won’t mind their employees using the service. But, they better get moving quick, or another site will push them out of the market. I kinda doubt facebook will change much to accomodate large corporations though. They have a good thing going with the college market. What they might want to do though is to make facebook less of a time waster and more of a school helper. I don’t know if that’s even possible, or if that’s what people really want.

Hmm… interesting. I just looked at the facebook terms of service. It specifically states that facebook may only be used for non-commercial purposes:

“You understand that the Service and the Web site are available for your personal, non-commercial use only.”

Here’s a couple related entries from a blog I just found called Inside Facebook:

Congressman introduces bill to block Facebook

Facebook opens its doors to a slew of companies

Interaction With Small Mobile Devices

Friday, April 21st, 2006

What is the best way to access information via mobile devices like cell phones?

There are many answers to that question. When it comes down to it, I think the main problem is user interaction. What is the best way of getting the information to the user in the format they want it and can handle it. Out of all the senses, the only ones that make sense for retrieving information are sight and hearing. So, you could have voice which speaks the information, text describing the information, or possibly more visual information such as maps, diagrams, or charts.

The other problem is trying to get the right queries from the user into the phone. That can be tricky with such a small screen. Hopefully voice recognition will be good enough to work on small mobile devices. That seems to be the main way of getting a query to whatever service you are accessing. After that, maybe some sort of intellegent menu system. I know this has already been done with many hotlines where you listen to a menu and select the correct choice… but wouldn’t this be a ton faster if this was a text menu instead of listening to a voice read you the menu?

Here are some of the main technologies I’ve seen that might have a chance in the next generation of user interaction on small mobile devices: