Archive for February 2007

Digital Keyboard – Missing the e-Paper Boat

Here’s a cool piece of technology: a fabric keyboard that can be turned over to reveal an alternate set of keys. Cool!

fabric keyboard

I guess the engineers didn’t get the memo about e-Paper, my favorite upcoming technology. That same keyboard could have been developed to have a fully dynamic keyboard where the keys could be swapped on the fly, much like a touch pad. Such a space-saving (and low power usage) device would be ideal for laptops and has tons of potential in various data entry applications.

Imagine a device where you can customize the keyboard for your clients depending on the needs of the application. When you click on the media player, the keyboard would switch to media controls. When you click on an excel sheet, a number pad shows up. Or maybe part of it could be a track pad. This invention could have used (and probably some day will appear on) e-Paper.

Take my idea a step further, and you end up with a tablet PC with a full-touch interface, much like the iPhone. Although, I think the ability for e-paper to refresh quickly enough to replace conventional screens is still a few generations away, e-paper as a computer peripheral is just a great idea. See why I think e-Paper has so much potential?

Traffic Spikes and My RSS Feed

Subscribe to my RSS!

So only recently have I been paying attention to the RSS capabilities of my blog. I recently installed FeedBurner, which helps in tracking my readership. Well, another thing I did is install a module that lets me see how many people are currently viewing my blog. Usually, at any given time, I’ll see one search bot and one guest user (you). After my recent request for my readers to subscribe to my blog, I’ve noticed something.

Whenever I make a post, I see a spike of maybe a dozen visitors within one minute of making the post. Neat!

As a side note, my blog continues to suffer from periodic lag caused by FeedBurner’s tracking script. I’ve never seen this be an issue with Google Analytics. Grr. I continue to use it because the stats FeedBurner tracks are more granular than Analytics.

Are you one of my RSS readers? If not, click on that orange RSS icon! :)

Traffic on Google Maps!

Well, this is old news to anybody who uses Google Maps Mobile, but you can now see traffic on Google Maps in major cities.

Google Maps

This was an often-requested feature of Google Maps and will be a welcome addition. I wonder if we’ll see drops in traffic to sites like Sig Alert. Either way, this helps heat up the competition against Yahoo and Map Quest – of which only Yahoo overlays live traffic information.

Fatal error: Call to undefined function mysql_connect()

Hah. It seems the crazy errors are plaguing me today. The latest one:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function mysql_connect() …

Sweet…

We moved to a new data center, and this error seems to be related to using PHP on Fedora or Redhat. It seems their default installation doesn’t have MySQL extensions support.

First, make sure there is no section for MySQL when you execute the following PHP:

phpinfo();

If MySQL isn’t there, it’s time to get your admin in the loop.

Fatal error: Call to undefined function preg_match()

Today’s crazy error of the day is:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function preg_match() …

Wahoo! A built in function being undefined!

So how’s this possible? It seems that if you reinstall PHP without compiling in PCRE (Perl Compatible Regular Expressions), you can get this crazy error. It’s a flag you may need to manually enable.

The MySpace Support Business Model is Dumb

I know there’s a huge iPod accessory market out there. I know.

But it doesn’t change the fact that I think piggy-backing on someone else’s business is not the greatest business plan. And apparently, yet another company had to learn that lesson. Imeem, a media sharing website that integrated into Myspace has been banned from the site. Users are no longer able to embed Imeem widgets. While some websites aren’t exclusively about MySpace, a large part of the viability of these websites relies on MySpace traffic.

Industry insiders have said (and continue to say) that MySpace has had enough of building third party widget providers into massive businesses. They say MySpace is preparing to block all widget providers over time and will let only those who pay a “toll” back in.

In short, if you play by another company’s rules, and that company starts competing with you, don’t be surprised when they change the rules to make you lose. This is an acceptable trade off when you’re just a regular using embedding content, but if you’re an investor in a company, it seems foolish.

Why do people continue to invest in companies whose primary market are users of another company which has a history of aggression against your industry. And believe me: MySpace already hates YouTube. But YouTube doesn’t get banned because it has $1.6 billion and Google’s clout. What’s a no-name company going to do? Nothing. MySpace bans your company and you’re screwed.

While there is a lesson here for us developers (interoperability is good), there is also a yet-unlearned lesson for MySpace. Much like how the iPod accessory market helps keep iPods #1, the MySpace widget ecosystem is what made MySpace so attractive. There’s a reason why people refer to it as an “ecosystem.”

But MySpace has repeatedly stated it intends to clone the best widgets out there and squash external competition. But in reality, given a few years, they won’t have much to clone since their aggressive tendencies will cause developers to shy away from supporting MySpace at all.

I’ll go out on a limb here and call the entire MySpace “ecosystem” a doomed marriage supported by ill-conceived notions on both sides of the aisle.

Kobe Beef is Delicious

So I went to Vegas this weekend and visited the Prime Steakhouse.

I decided to go with the really expensive Kobe beef steak. I’ve tried a lot of good steak before, but this one took the cake (and it better for how expensive it was)! It was tender, perfectly cooked, juicy, and did I mention tender? The restaurant was really top notch, and I had a good view of the Bellagio water show from where I sat.

I must also thank my friend Nick for paying for my meal. :)

The trip ended up making me money, so maybe I’ll go again in the near future. Although, next time, I’m flying.

FeedBurner Lagging My Site! Can’t Fix Until FeedBurner Gets Smart!

Well, today I noticed that each article takes about 10 seconds longer to load because of a little stat-tracking widget I installed from FeedBurner. If this happens a second time, or if this continues for longer than an hour, I’m removing it. I already track my stats through Analytics anyway.

Which, by the way, is an awesome way to track your stats. I’m only using FeedBurner’s because it’s convenient. But if it’s going to jack up my site, screw that!

In my opinion, a JavaScript tracker should be designed so that it doesn’t screw up load times! Why isn’t it load balanced? Why is FeedBurner.com loading just fine? Why can’t they give you an “advanced” piece of code to paste that uses conditional JavaScript loading. From the article:

You may sometimes find yourself with big JavaScript libraries to include in your documents. … add them dynamically via the DOM … This … would … load the file … when DOM is available in the browser, older browsers would not load the file.

In other words, load the JavaScript after the rest of the page has loaded rather than causing the entire site to lag! Like I said, this should be an “advanced” snippet people should be allowed to do.

Thus, the current snippet:

<script src=”http://feeds.FeedBurner.com/~s/MichiKnows?i=<?php the_permalink() ?>” type=”text/javascript” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Becomes:

<script type=”text/javascript” charset=”utf-8″>
window.onload=function(){
    if(!document.getElementById || !document.createElement){return;}
    var newjs=document.createElement(‘script’);
    newjs.type=’text/javascript’;
    newjs.src=’http://feeds.feedburner.com/~s/MichiKnows?i=<?php the_permalink() ?>’;
    document.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(newjs);
}
</script>

Of course, this won’t work on FeedBurner for two reasons:

  1. If they are using onload functions, those won’t fire.
  2. FeedBurner uses document.write, which must be called before the document finishes rendering (during load). 

They use 100% inline Javascript!

Unfortunately, because they are written as in-line scripts which use document.write() statements, there is no easy way to defer their output after onload has fired or request them interactively in a way that won’t be likely to wipe out and completely rewrite the current document (unless you load them into individual <iframe> documents, which is the only guaranteed, though awkward, workaround I can think of at the moment).

So while my solution almost works, it doesn’t matter since they use a bad solution which breaks most workarounds!

When they fix their stupid script or if you know of a workaround, let me know!

Sheesh.

YouTube Developments: Who’s Using Who

So there are a few notable developments regarding YouTube. YouTube’s business developments aren’t all positive, but its market share is continuing to grow. The latest numbers indicate a 56.38% market share, a market share increase of 6.96% in under a year.

Viacom Runs

Viacom has dropped out of letting YouTube host its content exclusively.

The deal is limited, at least at first: many of Viacom’s most popular programs, such as Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report and South Park, will not be available initially. Some of the featured offerings, however, will be MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, Comedy Central’s Freak Show, BET’s American Gangster, as well as feature films from Paramount and its related brands.

Supposedly, Viacom was sold on Joost’s closed model. Joost runs on the idea that they are a content provider, not a content aggregate. In other words, YouTube is all about open and social video while Joost is about hosting closed content. I think this is stupid on Viacom’s part. If hosting their own videos on their own website’s (such as comedycentral.com) isn’t generating much traffic, why would hosting it on an equally if not less popular website yield more results?

Microsoft Potentially Buying Revver

Revver is a pretty slick YouTube competitor that works on the idea of sharing ad revenue. For example, you’ll find plenty of Ask a Ninja clips on the site. Recently, it was pointed out that Microsoft is now in talks to purchase Revver. Revver is definitely the less “fun” version of YouTube and seems like a good fit for Microsoft. ;) No, but seriously, it has a lot of potential, although it wouldn’t be a power play. In December, Microsoft had a 4% share of the video market, nearly half of what they had last year. Still, they are in an admirable 3rd place (Since YouTube and Google are one).

Revver would help Microsoft distinguish themselves in this market, but it’s clear that the purchase certainly wouldn’t help to make them #1. If they do purchase Revver, I’d look at it like an admission of defeat. YouTube owns this market, and Microsoft is likely going to be happy with a #2 niche.

YouTube Doesn’t Have Filtering Technology

It was pointed out today that YouTube’s supposed content filtering software was all a ruse. Instead, they’re licensing the technology from a third party:

YouTube is reported to have licensed copyright filtering technology from AudibleMagic. The San Jose Mercury News cites two unnamed sources as saying that Google will soon unveil filtering technology for YouTube from the leading third party filtering provider, Audible Magic.

This is good news for all of the recent broken deals, since it may bring some people back to the table, but it’s bad news to hear that YouTube wasn’t as on top of their game as many people would have liked to think. Really, Google should be buying this company if their technology is so good. After all, even MySpace is using it.

Maybe this is actually a backup-backup plan. As in, YouTube is in the works for their own filtering software, but this is just to buy time since their old bluff was starting to get called. Just maybe.

Good News: BBC is on Board!

BBC is going to start hosting some of its content on YouTube.

A Google deal would mean cross-platform, worldwide access to the BBC’s shows like Monty Python, Mr Bean and Top Gear.

This comes after BBC initially asked YouTube remove their clips from the site. The most interesting quote from Mashable:

They may additionally use Google Video’s payment system to charge for high quality versions of the content, albeit with DRM.

So it seems Google plans to leverage its new dual exposure (YouTube vs Google Video) to tackle two markets at once: the freebie versus paid. Either way, this should be very interesting.

Adsense to Video

Also, to give Mashable some credit :), they’re also reporting on an Adsense expansion:

In related news, Google is expanding its test of video Adsense to include music videos from Sony BMG and Warner Music Group. They’d previously been testing with videos from MTV Networks. The new system is available to a select few Adsense publishers – it displays a CPM ad at the end of music videos posted to those sites, and splits the ad revenue between Google, the publisher and the video provider.

What’s interesting there is the CPM ad. CPM means it’s not per-click, but rather per 1000 views. This is much more similar to TV ads. Google is definitely beginning to expand their ad model.

Storms Cleared?

Should we still expect smooth sailing by the end of the year? It’s hard to say. Viacom is already on board with another distributor, although they’ll likely come back on their knees in a few months after they realize they aren’t getting any views and all their videos keep appearing on YouTube anyway.

The new content filtering software, even if it isn’t written by YouTube, is a new and very valuable bargaining chip. We should expect YouTube to leverage this heavily in the coming months. Hopefully this means CBS finally finishes their deal with YouTube. If the CBS deal falls through, THEN I’d start to worry.

Wii and Old People = Fun

Here’s a cute article about just how much Nintendo has redefined the gamer market.

Wii is now the latest rage at the Sedgebrook retirement community in Lincolnshire, where the average age is 77. … “I’ve never been into video games, but this is addictive,” said 72-year-old Flora Dierbach. “They come in after dinner and play. Sometimes, on Saturday afternoons, their grandkids come play with them … A lot of grandparents are being taught by their grandkids. But, now, some grandparents are instead teaching their grandkids.”

:)

I’m impressed. Props to Nintendo on this one.