Monthly archives: May, 2007

Bandwidth thieves

Some people love using Google Images for finding images to use in their blogs. And they use the absolute URL, which means: they show the image in their sites, but they use YOUR bandwidth. In the last few weeks I’ve discovered quite a lot of webpages that use images located at my domain.

Some days ago I detected one, and I changed the content of one stolen image (a Dali’s clock) to another thing (a gay bears picture), and started laughing: the thief put the clock image beside a text which says something like “it’s time to change”… what a change! :-D.

But due to the quantity of thieves, I decided to create a script to “scare” them. It’s a small .htaccess:

Basically it verifies if the image is NOT referred from my site (or some usual RSS readers), redirecting the request to another place. The funny thing is that if the thieves use Google Images, they’ll see the correct image. But later, when they decide to add the absolute URL in their sites, the “change” takes place… (and sometimes they’ll not realize it because their browser will have cached the image, making more fun for the visitors).

Final tip: Don’t steal!!

On keyboard layouts

Typing hardSomebody at the office played a joke on me. This morning I found my keyboard with 2 exchanged keys: the “Y” and the “I”. It was interesting however. I tried to work without putting them back to their original positions, and the result was quite surprising: if I typed without looking at the keyboard, I did it well; but if I looked at it (even for just a second), I started typing incorrectly. And this is quite dangerous if you use VIM and try to “Ynsert”. So finally I’ve moved them to the correct positions.

But are the keys of the keyboard in the best positions? Of course not.

The current keyboard layout is inherited from the mechanical typewriters, where they configured the key positions trying to avoid hits between the arms of every character. Speaking about keyboard layouts, the Wikipedia has some information about them which is worth a visit. Specially I suggest reading about Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, which is an optimized one for speed and ergonomy (reducing fatigue). And don’t miss the one-hand versions!!


“Good judgement comes from experience.
Experience comes from bad judgement.”

A couple of years ago I was working on an (NLP aided) Information Retrieval system, for my PhD. It was somehow a prototype, with lots of wild modules merged. Now if I try to look back, I can see lots of mistakes in that system.

Yesterday I met up with Yenory, a PhD colleage who still works on developing that system. Better said, now she works on a quite better version, rewritten in C++ with STL. The old system is now called “Franky” (short for Frankenstein), how funny!

When we started 4 years ago, we had no idea of what path was the correct one. Now she is on the good path, thanks to the experience of making mistakes. But I warned her: maybe the current system will become another Franky in the future 😛 Life’s law!

Internet Spanish day

Today is the Internet day in Spain (but I’m not sure if it’s also in other countries). The Government has organized some events in Madrid (yes, in the Real World™), showing no idea of what Internet is. A Spanish newspaper was asking “Can you live without internet (in Spanish)?”… interesting question.

Internet for me is an incredible collection of knowledge. This is mostly good… for example, I discovered my first hobby (the game of Go) thanks to it. And I’ve met with a lot of new people (mostly clever people).

But sometimes it can be bad. I constantly see so in my professional world (web developing) where I met a lot of people who “blindy follows internet recipes”. Let’s explain this. I’m lucky of having an University background in Computer Science. But some people don’t have a background, and use Internet as a “consulting thing” to find information about the problem that they are working on. They usually arrive at a page with a recipe to sort out the problem, like “drop down menus made easy” or “install a CVS server in 30 seconds”. Next they blindy follow the recipe. And maybe it’s not a correct method to use… they see the tree, but don’t see/understand the woods. The worst part is that they have the unreal perception of being good professionals!!

I mean… it’s good having all this incredible amount of knowledge. But sometimes you need a background (real studies, books, and such things) to completely understand the recipes. For example, I play piano and flute, and have some ideas about reading a music score; I even compose sometimes, short songs. But I clearly know that I’m not a good musician.

“The cobbler should stick to his last”
(I’m sorry, I used internet to find this phrase, and I’m not a phrasist professional)

Horizontal or vertical monitors?

Recently at the office we have had some new incorporations, and we had to buy new equipments. It was a surprise to see that our hardware’s manager brought one 16:9 screen… and I suggested that a 4:3 could be better for programming issues. Then we started to argue the differences, and basically I commented that a widescreen is only good for watching films, but is counterproductive for working with code (because you need to see as many lines as it’d be possible). In fact I told him to install it in vertical position, but unluckily it was impossible.

Later I was curious about it, and I started to search about vertical computers, starting with the ancient Xerox Alto. At one step in the computer’s evolution, and for an unknown reason (at least for me), the standard screen orientation became the horizontal one. Why? IMO it seems better to have a portrait screen. Nowadays there are some screens with pivotal options (to configure them as vertical monitors), but they are quite uncommon. Why?

Useless napkins, but widely used

Today I was having lunch with a coworker in a Japanese restaurant and he was becoming impatient because the waiter forgot to bring us some napkins. He really needed having a napkin near his hands. The funny detail is that the cutlery (and also the chopsticks) were invented to keep the hands clean, avoiding the direct contact between fingers and meal… but surprisingly the majority of people need and use napkins during the whole process of eating, for cleaning their hands. But you should only need them to clean your mouth at the end of the meal…

Is the cutlery so bad designed? Or is it a problem from the people?

Some years ago a friend invited me several times to her house to have dinner. It was a surprise to me to see that she didn’t use napkins (for ecological reasons) and only cleaned her hands and mouth at the end. I was in a bit of an uncomfortable situation, because (as my coworker feels) I needed a napkin near my hands. But sometime later I thought about it, and I started to avoid using napkins in my own house. And it works!

Who is the cleanest: the man who constantly use a napkin to clean his hands while dirtying the paper, or the man who doesn’t use napkins at all but at the end of the meal? This could be an interesting question, but we must go further and ask “how can we introduce new technologies to the people, and at the same time let them use the older ones?“. I’m reading “Designing Interactions”, and I’ve found an example of this question, regarding handheld devices: one of the engineers at Palm comments that surprisingly most of the people prefer using mini-keyboards instead the stylus (and their Grafitti language), even the second one is a more “natural” way to introduce information.

Elastic shapes with SVG improved

Shape I have been testing some formulas about elasticity and friction, and finally I updated my shape elasticity simulation with these stuff, creating a nice new version.

Have fun!

Elasticity with SVG and Javascript

Planes. An interesting place to program computers. I find the idle hours, that you spend in the airport and the plane, the perfect time to research on new ideas.

ShapeDuring my last flight (a trip to Germany) I decided to play with some SVG and Javascript, for simulating “elasticity” (inspired by the plane’s wings). SVG could be the standard for web vectorial graphics, but weirdly Internet Explorer does NOT support it nativelly (Mozilla and Opera do). Moreover SVG, with the help of Javascript for managing the behaviour, is a real Flash opponent.

I had done a previous research about the combination of these technologies, so I only needed to create some shapes, program some physics formulas and add a bit of salt. I created a really simplified version to test, but later I’ll create something more realistic (with acceleration and such things).

Here is the result. (Remember it only works in Firefox)

I hope you’ll like it!