Category > Tech

Shazam!

11 December 2003 » In Tech » 2 Comments

At one of the pubs in London – The Ship, I think – we heard a song that seemed familiar but we could not come up with the name. So Darren said, “Watch this”, and dialed 2580 on his mobile. After the connection was established he held the phone up and waited. In 30 seconds the other side hung up and in a few minutes Darren got an SMS from that number. It was the song, identified – “Get Off” by Dandy Warhols. I was amazement personified.

Apparently, this service is called Shazam. It’s not expensive at all (50 pence for every confirmed song) and they have a database of 1.6 million tracks, plus it keeps a history of the songs you requested identification for on their website, so you can come back and see the list at any time. Now that is a clever application of mobile technology. I would definitely pay to use something like this.

First post!

20 August 2003 » In Tech, Work » 3 Comments

Apparently Google has recently added a couple of features to its search box. Namely, calculator and units conversion. When I noticed that I thought, “Damn, where did I see that before? That’s right, on AlltheWeb.com.” As far as I know, back in April or May, when I added these features to AlltheWeb, it was the first search engine to have those. Of course Google picked up the idea and made some things better, but for what it’s worth, we were first. 🙂

x2x

21 May 2003 » In Tech » 1 Comment

This is the coolest little piece of software I have seen in a while. Basically, it lets you control one X display from another. I love it.

Hva sier du?

19 May 2003 » In Rants, Tech » 1 Comment

When I was in Norway this past January, I wanted to get a DVD that had audio tracks in both English and Norwegian, and the subtitles in the same languages as well, so that I could use it as an educational tool in my learning Norwegian. Apparently, the only types of DVDs that could satisfy the requirements were the ones intended for kids, so I purchased Toy Story 2.

Now, my regular DVD player at home is region 1, and the disc would not be recognized by it. “No problem”, I thought, “I’ll just fire up my laptop and use mplayer”. 2 hours, 3 cups of coffee, and an untold number of lost neurons later, I still could not get the subtitles to display. The movie played fine, the on screen display indicated that subtitles were turned on, and yet all my efforts were for naught. I read through the man page, the online forum discussions, and googled for answers. Eventually, a post on some message board revealed that one needs to specify the exact location of the font and the encoding for the subtitles, which proved to be the answer I needed. I could finally watch Buzz express himself in Norwegian.

The point of the story is, those who say that Linux is ready for desktop should check in with Reality from time to time. Now, I am fairly familiar with hardware, software, and other aspects of technology, and still, it took me a better part of the day to figure out what unique combination of options would get the DVD to work, so I don’t see how an average person can be expected to use Linux for any sort of multimedia without experiencing major frustration. And I wasn’t trying to do anything obscure — just turn on the damn subtitles. I’m sorry, Linux desktop-prime-time advocates, but that’s pathetic. Whatever bold proclamations you make, Linux will be relegated to the backend server room until glitches like these are a thing of the past. I will happily use Linux for software development, but on my desktop machine at home I will run Windows and save my neurons for something better.

Akebono

14 May 2003 » In Tech » Comments Off on Akebono

Michael Radwin wondered how many links still point to akebono.stanford.edu, which is the original home of Yahoo!. Well, it’s pretty easy to find out with AlltheWeb URL investigator tool.

AlltheWeb Update

15 April 2003 » In Tech, Work » Comments Off on AlltheWeb Update

Yesterday we pushed out the new release of AlltheWeb. This one, while smaller in scope than originally intended, has nevertheless some fairly nice and even hidden features. There is also a short announcement about the new stuff that is a bit more verbose. And WebmasterWorld started the discussion of the new features, generating some wild theories along the way.

Readability of XML

09 April 2003 » In Rants, Tech » Comments Off on Readability of XML

Today I was reading an article in Dr. Dobb’s Journal entitled “XML & Relational Databases”. It discusses the advantages of presenting the SQL query results in an XML format, due to better abstraction, clearer presentation of hierarchical relationships, platform independence, and human readability. Wait just a second, human readability?

This brings up a pet peeve of mine. Don’t get me wrong, XML is a good, flexible format and has many uses, but why must every XML-related article tout the fact that it can be read by mere humans? What is the inherent advantage of this “feature”? Not only does it increase the space required to store the XML documents, but the XML processors must deal with the larger amount of data, which must affect performance on some level. Who benefits? Companies making storage solutions and processors.

There has to be a better way. I don’t peruse low-level machine code, so why should the computer be stuck with handling the verboseness of XML? Equality for all, I say. There should be a compiled version of XML that the software can work with natively, and if a human needs to look at that data, well, they can just run an XML viewer or editor. To respond to expected arguments of “with plain-text XML you don’t need a special viewer or editor”: that’s fine, keep your config data or whatever else in XML, the software should be smart enough to compile it automatically. But it’s silly to have two computers communicating with each other via human-readable XML files (think SOAP), even if they are compressed — generate XML, compress, send, receive, uncompress, parse, process. There are definitely superfluous steps there.

And now Microsoft says that the next generation Office will store everything in XML. Well, okay, but what I am really going to do with plain-text multi-megabyte documents living on my hard drive, except using them in Word? Open them in Notepad and admire the hierarchical structure? Give me a break. Compile them instead. Leave the space for more MP3s – a format, mind you, that doesn’t use musical notation for storage.

Page 3 of 3123