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2009 (Fathom this!)

2009





  • Google Goggles. Use pictures to search the web. A few retailers, such as Amazon, have also launched similar, but more product-focused apps.



  • WP Cumulus is a Wordpress plugin that creates a Flash-based tag cloud (demo).


Helsingin Sanomat adopts new type

Helsingin Sanomat is launching (in Finnish) some changes on Monday. Aside from the changes to the paper’s organization and section, the biggest change will be in the typefaces used. The new types, The AntiquaHS and QuaText, have been designed by Lucas de Groot, the man behind Calibri and Consolas.

Conspicuously missing is the big change that everyone’s been waiting for: switching from a broadsheet to a tabloid format.

I wish I could take a look at the revised paper, but I guess that’ll have to wait until I visit Finland next time.

Ilya
  • Kernest. A rather awkward-looking alternative for Typekit?
  • Kaltura.org. An open source video community.
  • Baseline Magazine. I'd like to take a look at this typography magazine.
  • Underscore.js. "Provides 50-odd functions that support both the usual functional suspects: map, select, invoke — as well as more specialized helpers: function binding, javascript templating, deep equality testing, and so on. It delegates to built-in functions, if present, so JavaScript 1.6 compliant browsers will use the native implementations of forEach, map, filter, every, some and indexOf."

My friend the sudoku master

I sent my friend this sudoku puzzle, billed as the world’s hardest. I didn’t tell him where I got it from, figuring I’d reveal it once he was stumped.

Today he sent me back the solution. When I asked him how he’d found it, he said he solved the first half while sitting on the toilet, and the second half amidst work. It’d taken him just 30 minutes!

Update: Well, one of sharper eyed friends noticed that the puzzle illustrating the USA Today story isn’t the one the story’s about. Shame on me for not reading the fine text. This takes the oomph out of the whole thing.

Ilya


Flooring using double bitwise not

An interesting tidbit from Thomas Fuchs’ Extreme Javascript Performance:

~~(1 * 12.5) is faster than parseInt(12.5).

The ~~ is a double bitwise not, and the multiplication by one forces a string into a float.

Via Janne’s Delicious stream.

Ilya

DHL paid my VAT

To my online shoe shopping experience, I’ll add that I received a letter from DHL today, notifying me that they’d paid my VAT, and that I’d need to pay them back. The bill is straightforward, and the administrative fee they added on top of the VAT is reasonable (£1.25).

(In Finland, your package either gets stopped at the customs, where you pay VAT on pick-up, or it doesn’t.)

So, when comparing overseas prices online, this also should be taken into account.

Ilya
  • etiolate, v.tr.
    1. Botany. To cause (a plant) to develop without chlorophyll by preventing exposure to sunlight.
      1. To cause to appear pale and sickly: a face that was etiolated from years in prison.
      2. To make weak by stunting the growth or development of.
  • NY Times: The Trolls Among Us.



  • acrostic, n.
    1. A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence.
    2. See word square.

Arial vs. Helvetica quiz

So you think you can tell Arial from Helvetica?. I got 18/20. There’s one which is really hard, and one that I just don’t see.

Ilya

Our own little SMS gateway

One of my favorite projects at Kielikeidas, and stories to tell from those days, was when we created our own home-grown SMS gateway.

When a longtime client of our’s asked if we could set up a weblog in a hurry (to start in six days), I said “no problem.” What the client had neglected to tell me was that he wanted the weblog to be updatable via a mobile phone, and from anywhere in Russia. Read more

Ilya
  • FFXporter. A free Flickr eXporter iPhoto plugin. Note: doesn't currently work with iPhoto 09.

Powazek: “FAQ you SEO!”

It’s a bit amusing that Derek Powazek’s own rant-rebuttal is currently the number two result on Google for “SEO FAQ.”

And oh my, his URLs aren’t even optimized!

As a designer-slash-developer, I can definitely understand where Derek’s coming from. But I’m also willing to admit that there’s a legitimate place for specialized SEO experts. Maybe it’s like consultants and lawyers?

Ilya


Iglesia Maradoniana

Iglesia Maradoniana on Wikipedia: “Supporters of the Maradonian Church, supposedly from all parts of the world, count the years since Maradona’s birth in 1960. It is popular among the followers of this religion, and also among other football fans, to use the neo-Tetragrammaton ‘D10S’ as one of the names of Maradona. D10S is a portmanteau word which fuses Maradona’s shirt number (10) and Dios, the Spanish word for God.”

Ilya


Font Squirrel and The League of Moveable Type

Font Squirrel offers hand-picked fonts that are free for commercial use. It also has @font-face kits, which is nice.

The League of Moveable Type has a manifesto. They want “the most well-made, free and open-source, @font-face ready fonts.” An open source type movement sounds good to me!

Ilya

  • Introducing Magnum. Matt Gattis opensources his Python-based HTTP server, which "can run faster than most servers written in compiled code (such as Apache), can handle more simultaneous open keep-alive connections, and works well with slow clients."


My first shoes bought online

Poking around Zappos, of which I’ve heard so many good things over the years, I found a pair of shoes I really liked. Too bad they don’t ship abroad. So I bought the same pair from Shoebuy.com. While Shoebuy is definitely no Zappos (which could also be improved, according to some), all in all, it seemed to work. The site doesn’t look like much, and most annoyingly, they don’t have a “Your account” link anywhere that I can find, but the shoe size voting inspired enough confidence in me to take the plunge.

Shipping isn’t free, of course, but assuming that the shoes will fit (so I don’t have to return them), that expense wasn’t too bad.

Online shopping is a totally new game when living in the UK. (Free shipping for over £5 orders from Amazon.co.uk!)

Ilya



  • Open Source Mac. Open source OS X software. I'd add uTorrent, and, for that matter, a separate list for pay apps.





  • Uni-Form. "Uni-Form is an attempt to standardize form markup and css [...] get nice looking, well structured, highly customizable, semantic, accessible and usable forms."


Changing the table prefix in an installed Wordpress

Changing the table prefix in an installed Wordpress. Otherwise an obvious task, but steps four and five can stump you.

For step five, the following SQL snippet may come in handy.

UPDATE new_prefix_usermeta SET meta_key = REPLACE(meta_key, "wp_", "new_prefix_");

There’s also a plugin available.

Ilya

Secure your Wordpress uploads directory

If you serve only specific file types (eg. images) it can’t hurt to secure your Wordpress uploads directory a .htaccess file. Add to the file extensions as necessary.

Order Allow,Deny
Deny from all
<Files ~ "\.(jpeg|jpg|png|gif|pdf|gz|zip)$">
Allow from all
</Files>

Ilya


Classic sci-fi movies

Movies I want to see (or see again), from Wired’s favorite sci-fi flicks (pre and post Star Wars).

  • The Thing From Another World (1951)
  • The Creation of the Humanoids (1962)
  • Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Silent Running (1972)
  • Zardoz (1974)
  • A Boy and His Dog (1975)
  • Logan’s Run (1976)
  • Capricorn One (1978)
  • Stalker (1979)
  • Outland (1981)
  • Liquid Sky (1982)
  • 2010 (1984)
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
  • The Hidden (1987)
  • Robocop (1987)
  • The Iron Giant (1999)

And from the comments: Enemy Mine (1985) and Tron (1982).

Some movies I’d have added: West World, Barbarella, Battlestar Galactica, Back to the Future, The Last Starfighter, Total Recall, Strange Days, Dark City, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (the best Trek movie by far), Fifth Element, Minority Report, Serenity.

Ilya

Berner’s ‘Flag or Fail’ to be re-issued

9pm Records is putting out a re-issue of Geoff Berner’s first album We Shall Not Flag or Fail, We Shall Go On To The End.

Says Berner: “The whole concept of ‘Flag or Fail’ was to make a full, eclectic singer/songwriter album with no bloody guitars on it whatsoever, and to use accordion in place of where the guitar might go. It was a risky experiment, but it worked. Its release signaled the beginning of the period in my life when I’ve earned my living through music alone. This period continues. Knock wood, and thank you for supporting what I’ve been doing.”

Whoah! 9pm has also released Aavikko, Cleaning Women, and Giant Robot.

Ilya



  • Kotus-blogi. Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskuksen epäblogimainen blogi.
  • Ambigram. A typographical design that may be read not only in its form as presented, but also from another viewpoint, direction, or orientation.

How to retire a Wordpress blog (make Wordpress a static site)

Dear LazyWeb, I’d like to see two Wordpress plugins: one to retire a Wordpress weblog (i.e. generate a static copy of the site, add a “blog retired” note on all pages, and close commenting), and one to export the site, rich text, images, comments and all. The export would mainly be to extract a copy into one document, like a PDF.

Despite the prevalence of guides on going the opposite direction, I’m not the only one thinking about converting a Wordpress blog into a static site. As for the one-document export, I have a quick and dirty solution, which I’ll be posting soon.

As for creating a static copy of a blog, one way to go would be to use a spider tool. I haven’t actually used any of the “grab a whole site with one click” tools, so there may be easier ways, but one great utility is wget.

It’s available on all platforms, and it has tons of nifty options. Here’s a quick run-down of options you may need to grab a Wordpress site. As always, the wget MAN page has all the details.

Why retire?

Why does a Wordpress blog need to be retired? Well, for one, it’ll lessen the strain on your database and speed up the site.

The main reason is that every once in a while, a vulnerability is found in WP, and keeping a bunch of old installations up to date is a hassle.

Create a “retired” theme

I suggest you make a copy of your current theme and do at least the following changes:

  • remove the XML-RPC API link from the header
  • add a note to the header that the weblog is no longer being updated
  • disable commenting and trackbacks

Now, wget it

wget -r -E -T 2 -np -R xmlrpc.php,trackback -k http://[BLOG URL]

I’ll briefly explain the options:

-r
recurse through the sub-directories
-nH
don’t include the host name in the downloaded directory
-T INT
how many times an URL will be tried; this is good to set, as xmlrpc.php will fail
-np
don’t include parent directories
-k
convert links to work with downloaded site
-E
adds .html extension to application/xhtml+xml or text/html content types without .html extensions
-R PATTERN1,PATTERN2,…
reject file suffixes or patterns
-X DIR1,DIR2,…
exclude directories, may contain wild cards

I’ve excluded the xmlrpc.php and trackback files as they are redundant in a static site.

Disable Wordpress

Finally, disable Wordpress. This was the whole reason to retire the site, right?

Ilya


  • “Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you’re as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?” — Brian Kernighan


Twitter clients for Nokia phones

I was going to write up a comparison of various Twitter clients available for S60 mobile phones, but since I haven’t gotten around to it, here’s a list of various apps and approaches.

Native Symbian apps

I generally prefer native apps over Java applets, but in many cases, this means you have to pay for the quality.

I tried Gravity’s free demo, but the demo’s limitation of not being able to post tweets made it hard to get a day to day feel for the app. Still, it seems quite good, and I’d definitely buy it were I not about to switch phones. (Gravity is bound to the device’s IMEI code.)

NokiaExperts compares Gravity and Twittix, and while they declare a draw, Gravity seems to come out on top.

WirelessIRC is from the same maker as Gravity, but has a wider set of features.

An interesting project to follow is TwitS60, an open source Twitter app in the works. Originally slated for a release in July–August 2009, it seems there hasn’t been much going on since early spring.

Java

As I said above, I generally prefer native apps over Java software, but with Twitter clients, if you don’t want to pay, then Java’s what you get.

Twibble is clearly the front-runner of these apps. The app itself works well, but the settings interface and tweet actions contextual menu are quite jarring.

I haven’t used all of these, but based on their sites, screenshots and feature lists, Twibble and Twim stand out.

Web

Twitter’s own mobile interface if fairly good, but it lacks some basic features, such as deleting tweets — and considering how error-prone typing is on mobile phones, it’s a feature that I’ve sorely lacked.

I haven’t used Dabr or Slandr, but they both describe themselves as more full-featured versions of Twitter Mobile.

Others

Finally, there are the strange ones. Via Twitter’s IM and email posting API, there are many other possibilities of using Twitter.

The usually impressive Fring claims Twitter support, though in the first version, it definitely was an underwhelming experience. Fring basically slopped bunches of tweets as chat messages.

Another mongrel of an app is Jargong.

There are, of course, more apps and web interfaces out there.

Final notes

If you want the best client available, I recommend Gravity. Out of the free apps, I recommend Twibble. Casual use is served perfectly well by the web interfaces.

All in all, the apps available for S60 devices aren’t nearly as nice as those for the iPhone. But then again, the same goes for the apps for a Mac versus the ones for Windows.

Update: Added TweetS60 on August 24th, 2009.

Ilya

Understanding Pre’s appeal

Justin Blanton has a nice write-up of Palm Pre. I’ve been having a hard time understanding the excitement the Pre’s generated. Justin cleared up a lot.

Also, John Gruber’s point that only QWERTY-phone owners (I’m a happy one) will find touchscreen keyboards difficult, resonates with me.

Still, I can’t help wonder if maybe part of the appeal is that the US has a big history of PDAs.

Ilya







A fortuitous hypertext trail

Following trails of hyperlinks can be fun. When looking up some javascript type comparison details, I had the good fortune of stumbling onto another, unrelated trail of links; one that I thought I’d share with you.

It all started with an entry in Eric Lippert’s Fabulous Adventures In Coding blog. The fun part (at least for me, I have a penchant for reading semi-diaristic details of complete strangers’ lives) came in the end, filed under “other news”.

Follow the link, read the entry. Eric’s funny — which is to say that he writes nicely and elicits laughter. But not only that (another link, here), he’s an internationally recognized expert on getting boys to like you, and, as the entry clearly shows, a nice guy to beat.

Do note that in the end of this third entry, there are links to parts two and three of his answers for searchers.

Ilya

Oh prolix garbled supercilious perfidy

Or, excerpts of some spam I’ve recently received.

From: Sylvia
Date: Sat, Jun 27, 2009 at 3:06 AM

do trap varied jujube!
borne trowel papal varied.

From: Clio
Date: Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 9:11 PM

Nor for your golden crown
Which they ate with a runcible spoon

From: Gonzalo
Date: Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 2:05 PM

pule pore shay.
botch sally quota who!
cong echo pule who.
ilk sloe inker mushy.

From: Pablo
Date: Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 3:10 AM

mumps vizor airy.
newel fluff after safe.
froze itch elfin for?
kino sprig hoof.

From: Fletcher
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 4:16 PM

me curl airy inky!
wise hoof faith bogy?
wooer rogue kilo froze!
crux cleg frizz ashen.
lieu rogue.
huso kino tray.
mage rep.
curl trow comet kino.
orbed mage.
trace bogy.
tray crick its froze!
itch comet huso elfin.
nick wooer faith rogue!
elfin sprig rimy rep?
relic itch crowd nance!
talon curb vizor kino?
rape crowd hoof.
huso rape ashen orbed?
tray elfin mumps peel!
tyke curb.
tray fugle spunk itch?
wooer tummy wrung sexy!
motif steed inky motif?
stale soup death swain?

From: Louella
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 8:33 AM

cooker bingo brazil ingle.
oakery alb.
coatee luting graft bled!
rococo pray fetid pawn!
arise chump acuity give?
pray voter grouch nimbus!
hubby grouch peso tandem?
hubby gooey lives zoic.
wen fiber feel flood!
valuer chalk ape warble.
hubby bingo.

From: Kennith
Date: Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 3:19 AM

sleety hubby bingo gasper!
glover tempi ingle public?
fully how attic renew?
pawn aerate.
flood lipped mix rococo.
lipped blase sleety sin.
baboo peso mix.
lumper warble sell gird!
emir arise chump.
sap shrink sap.

From: Lottie
Date: Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 2:08 PM

large find fetid.
pray brazil cooker fiber!
cue how pray pawn.
renew wen keeker public?
bay wen thyme gasper!
pray module pawn.

From: Archie
Date: Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 12:16 PM

wen fiber estop.
sleety foci sell farad.
alb tandem keeker.
gasper large gooey how?
fully cashew hubby nibble.
feed attic ape attic?
chump rococo coatee pant!

Ilya



  • jQWidon’t. A Jquery plugin to prevent the single-word rows in headlines (called widows).











  • Gel Videos: Ted Dewan. "Cars drove dangerously fast on Ted's residential street in Oxford, England -- until he began installing activist art on the street. It brought the community together (even the mayor got on board), slowed the traffic, and improved the experience for everyone involved."
  • Bildy. A nice looking new CMS by Aisti.


  • ACQUINE. Neat-o! An automated "aesthetic quality inference engine".

  • Library Books. A neat Mac OS X app that talks with your local library and helps you avoid overdue fines!




  • Urban Dictionary: Feb. 21. February 21st is a day nationally accepted as "Send a Naked Picture of Yourself to Steve Buscemi" Day. Via @Steve_Buscemi

Dune could’ve been the greatest film ever made!

Oh, would that Alejandro Jodorowsky could have made his version of the Dune movie. From Dune’s Wikipedia entry:

In 1975, Jodorowsky planned to film the story as a ten hour feature, in collaboration with Orson Welles, Dan O’Bannon, Salvador Dalí, Gloria Swanson, Hervé Villechaize and others (whom he nicknamed his “seven samurais”). The music would be composed by Pink Floyd. Jodorowsky set up a pre-production unit in Paris consisting of Chris Foss, a British artist who designed covers for science fiction periodicals, Jean Giraud (Moebius), a French illustrator who created and also wrote and drew for Metal Hurlant magazine, and H. R. Giger. Moebius began designing creatures and characters for the film, while Foss was brought in to design the film’s space ships and hardware. Giger began designing the Harkonnen Castle based on Moebius’ storyboards, and Dali was cast as the Emperor with a reported salary of $100,000 an hour.

Ilya

Numeric input on Nokia browsers

Nokia browsers support the WAP input field format. This can be used to have an input field to start with numeric values. The format is fairly badly broken, though, so be warned. For example, it’s nearly impossible to create a filter for a decimal number. (Closest solution: -wap-input-format: "*n", though this makes it difficult to add a period or comma character.)

Ilya







Gigs, records and recommendations

Three fantastic bands:

Saw all three’s gigs during the past two weeks, and bought their albums.

Desibeli.net has an article about Tuomas Henrikin (in Finnish).

Now if Geoff Berner’s live version of The Way That Girl Drinks Beer would start working on Youtube, I’d be a happy man. Fragments of the song keep floating through my head, and the recorded version just isn’t the same.

Ilya


  • Numpty Physics. A neat Crayon Physics-like game, which is available on Maemo devices, such as the N800.

  • RPX. JanRain’s OpenID plugin for Wordpress

Jquery ticker plugins

TickerType — an one-letter-at-a-time news ticker. Headlines are nicely read from styled HTML list elements. Source code: 1 KB.

BBC-style news ticker — another one-letter-at-a-time ticker, this one includes BBC’s visual effect of popping in an underscore before turning that into the actual letter. Also uses list elements to populate the headlines. Source code: 3.5 KB.

Not that anyone should really use tickers on the web.

Ilya

  • Greek to me. A neat mapping of what different languages use to mean gobbledygook.






Making Wordpress mobile-friendly with plugins

Looking for a nifty way of making you Wordpress blog mobile-friendly? There are numerous plugins that aim to do just that. Some are better than others, however.

Note: I’m not talking about making the admin interface mobile-friendly, only the public site.

The plugins don’t seem to have much chatter going on in the Wordpress support forums; this can be considered a good thing: at least people aren’t complaining in droves that the plugins don’t work.

WordPress Mobile Plugin

WordPress Mobile Plugin was the first plugin I tried. The moment I clicked Active, it brought the Wordpress admin plugin page to a grinding halt. While this probably was because the server in question just didn’t allow external HTTP calls (even through port 80), it sure didn’t make a good first impression.

I basically ditched this plugin after checking out its options page. It’s way too deeply bundled with ads.

WordPress Mobile Edition

Alex King’s WordPress Mobile Edition is the plugin that I ended up using. King’s approach is to sniff the user agent string and offer mobile browsers a paired down template (it uses a cookie to keep the ”mobile state”, so desktop-testing is easy to do after forcing the mobile version). The pros to this approach is that main site is left alone, and the mobile template is easy to customize.

Just be sure that you don’t serve search engine spiders the stripped down mobile version.

The plugin works in Wordpress version 2.7.1, though the template does use some deprecated template tags. It doesn’t consider Iphone to be a mobile client, but this can be fixed if you want.

(Another way to go would be to modify the plugin to use WURFL, like done in this tutorial.)

Wordpress PDA & iPhone Plugin

Wordpress PDA & iPhone Plugin — Haven’t tried this one, but it seems similar in approach to Alex King’s, so it might be good.

Mowser Wordpress Mobile

Mowser Wordpress Mobile. The plugin detects mobile devices and uses the Mowser service to render the blog in mobile-friendly way. Generally, my experience with Mowser hasn’t been good. However, with effort, you could probably tweak you main site to work nicely with Mowser.

MobilePress

MobilePress has the nicest looking site of the plugins. But not having tried it, I can’t vouch for it. I do appreciate that it allows you to serve custom templates for Iphone, Opera Mini and Windows CE. Not sure which one would the majority of mobile browsers in the world fall under, though(did someone forget S40 and S60?).

MobilePress version 1.0.3 claims to detect Google and Yahoo bots. Why this is noteworthy, I’m not sure — surely they’re using opt-in for known devices and defaulting to the main site for unknowns?

Ilya

The forgotten tunnel under Brooklyn

A Diamond Below: “Unbeknownst to the thousands of people who walk and drive along the busy streets of downtown Brooklyn every day, they are treading on a 170 year old secret. At 17 feet high, 21 feet wide and 1,611 feet long, it is a big secret indeed, and one filled with greed, murder and corruption.”

Yet another place to visit! Via Kuutio.

Ilya


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