Monthly Archives: April 2005

Mums prefer

Tandy catalogue: Mums Tandy to CandyI was browsing through the junk mail the other day and came across a Tandy catalogue, selling stuff for Mother’s Day, with the slogans such as “Mums prefer Tandy to Candy” and “Mums prefer MP3 players” and “Mums prefer printers”.

Now hear this, all geeks. Just in case you thought Mother’s Day was a great excuse to go out gizmo shopping: This is bollocks. Mums don’t prefer electronic toys. Mums do not prefer them to chocolates. My mum would find an MP3 player overwhelmingly useless. She’d know what it was, but she wouldn’t want it. She would not want a printer. In fact I don’t think there’s anything in that catalogue that she’d want.

Okay so there’s probably some hip young groovy mums who might like a new camera phone, but reality is most would consider a new gizmo to be in the same league as the bowling ball Homer Simpson bought Marge for her birthday.

Is it CG, or is it real?

A quiz for you: look at the pictures and guess which is computer generated and which is a photo.

I got 8 out of 10.

Or if that’s not amusing enough, check this for a funny story about a guy goading a l33t ha><0r into attacking his machine… “yes exactly that’s it: 127.0.0.1 I’m waiting for you great attack”

Google tests RSS adverts

Google is testing ads in RSS.

I was reluctant at first to switch geekrant.org to providing full RSS feeds (entire posts, not just extracts), as it would reduce the already-paltry revenue from Adsense. But really, any revenue from Adsense is a bonus in this game, it’s not the end game unless you’re racking up a gazillion hits a day. The main point is to get your blogs read.

This however has the potential of re-gaining some of that advert revenue, even if readers are getting to you via an RSS aggregator. Question is, would people find it too annoying to find adverts mid-feed? If I personally found it too annoying, could I bring myself to include ads in my feeds?

Here we get about 4 times as many hits on the RSS feed as on the home page. But of course we have no idea how many people read that RSS feed, since it goes to places like Newsgator which might get it seen by hundreds of people.

It’ll be something to watch, anyway.

PS. Friday 8am. Dave Winer on RSS ads: “If we wanted to, as an industry, reject the idea, we could, by asking the people who create the software to add a feature that strips out all ads.”

More on iTunes AU, CH, SE, NO, DK

Country flagsAppleInsider has found the icons for the new iTunes countries, thereby confirming iTunes is about to start in Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Not before time for those AU-ers among us. I’m seeing more and more of those white earplugs on the train to work.

It’ll be interesting to see how it goes. So far all the Australian online music stores have concentrated on selling protected WMA files. These haven’t been setting the world alight, partly of course because the files are useless for legions of iPod owners, and from observations, there are hardly any non-iPod portable music players out there in userland. And for myself, I’d refuse to buy files that won’t live beyond the (hopefully long but inevitably limited) life of my player.

Record companies must surely be waking up to it by now. They can’t copy-protect conventional CDs properly — it either breaks the Red Book standard (and thus compatibility) or it doesn’t work. Anything they try is either useless or has been hacked. So you might as well just sell MP3s. They’re no more vulnerable than CDs. And it’s better to be selling copyable songs than no songs at all.

And the reported Apple price of A$1.80 per track is competitive. A quick scout of some WMA-selling stores showed a typical price of A$1.89 per track, with top ten hits at A$0.99.

The other thing this week for Apple fans is the OS X “Tiger” release, though I’m sure they all already know that.

iT’s Coming

Rumours flying around the internet thanks to Mr Russell Crowe that the iTunes Music Store will finally open for business in Australia tomorrow, April 28th. (See the article – free registration required).

The pricing mentioned (AUD$1.50+) means I’ll probably only be using it to buy individual songs as purchasing the CD, which has no restrictions, is much more appealing and better value than purchasing an entire album online. Still, it will be great to finally catch up with the civilised world, even if my Visa card doesn’t agree.

Win2K support go bye-bye

If like me you’re still clinging to Windows 2000 as the best balance between performance on older machines and the functionality of a newish operating system, you may like to take note that Win2K finishes mainstream support from June 30th.

Yep, only six months after NT4 mainstream finished — hardly seems fair, does it? Yeah okay so it’s almost six years since Win2K was released, but NT4 dates back to… what… 1996?

Personally I reckon it would have been nice to have had an all-encompassing final service pack to wrap things up. Makes things easier when rebuilding machines, you know. Instead Win2K will get a “security rollup” which seems to be code for “we can’t be arsed doing an SP” or possibly “sorry, we’re too busy building Longhorn.”

Old game remakes

Gyruss (the original)All the joys of nostalgic old video games without the guilt of not really owning those MAME ROMs you’ve downloaded: www.remakes.org. New versions of all the classics from your childhood: Elite, Lode Runner, Gyruss, Lemmings, egads even Lazy Jones.

You know, it always puzzled me why they didn’t just let us play MULE in high school to learn about economics.

Damn. No Frak!

What next? MyGoogle?

Google has announced search history, and unlike your browser’s field history, it’s attached to your Google account, so it’ll follow you around between computers.

So, let’s see, we’ve got email via Gmail, news headlines from Google News (including personalised news alerts), discussions in Google Groups and now your own search history. How long before a fully-fledged portal brings them all together onto one page? They could call it MyGoogle. (Whoops, they’ve already registered it…)

Queries in OLEDB: keep your parameters in order

If like me you earn your keep writing code to interrogate databases, you’re probably familiar with parameterised queries. If not, take a look here — they offer a way of passing parameters into queries without all that mucking about with formatting for different data types and so on. They also offer (so I’m led to believe) performance gains from the database server. And OLEDB makes it pretty easy to do it, too. So throw away those horrible old queries and switch to parameter queries today!

One thing not often mentioned however is that the parameters have to be in order. Because in the SQL you identify them only as question marks:

SELECT FIELD1 FROM TABLENAME WHERE CRITERIA1 = ? AND CRITERIA2 = ?

they have to be added in the correct order. If you add CRITERIA2 then CRITERIA1 to your parameters, then you’ll get unexpected results. The parameter names don’t actually match up to your SQL by name, only by position. This is kinda logical, because if you wanted:

SELECT FIELD1 FROM TABLENAME WHERE CRITERIA1 > ? AND CRITERIA1 < ?

both your parameters couldn’t be named CRITERIA1.

For some of my code, I build an INSERT or an UPDATE depending on whether I have a new or updated record to write. To avoid two sets of code, I’ll build the parameter list with the key field last, and though it may seem counter-intuitive, I build the INSERT statement to match. Bad semi-VB pseudocode follows:

If (new record) Then
  SQL = "INSERT INTO TABLENAME (FIELD1, FIELD2, KEYFIELD) VALUES (?, ?, ?)"
Else (updating record)
  SQL = "UPDATE TABLENAME SET FIELD1 = ?, FIELD2 = ? WHERE KEYFIELD = ?"
End If

…then add my parameters FIELD1, FIELD2 and KEYFIELD in that order. Easy.

Microsoft 2005 dev tool betas

To those who watch Microsoft’s dev tools, there are betas of the 2005 versions now available. MSDN subscribers can download full products straight away; others can order CDs, or stick to the Express products, which for trying out new languages, are quite nicely featured.

It’s a cunning strategy for Microsoft, helping to counter the proliferation of free programming languages such as Java and PHP by providing free development environments for ASP, VB, C#, C++ and their own (some would say mutated) J# implementation of Java.

MSDE, which has been around for years now, providing a royalty-free cut-down SQL Server, has been renamed SQL Server Express to show its heritage. (Well, its SQL Server heritage… most people know it grew out of Sybase, but that’s ancient history). Keeping it free thus helps fight off the MySql threat and allowing people for whom Access isn’t cutting it to be encouraged up to SQL Server).

Looking back 20 years to when I was growing up, trying out BASIC on my Commodore 64 or BBC Micro, I ponder how the next generation of programmers are getting hooked into this game. I suspect a mix of freebie entry-level products like this (and their counterparts from the world of open-source) is one way they can get involved. Which probably explains MS’s “Coding 4 Fun” web site.

iPod Battering

I love my iPod, it is an amazing piece of technology that really seems to make your life better. Those of you scoffing now obviously don’t have one, trust me, when you get one you will agree.

The only thing I haven’t been happy with the is its battery life. After six months I now lose a quarter of a full charge if I don’t have it plugged in for a day and I’m only getting about four hours of play time at 60% volume, so I called Apple support today. After the normal half hour of going round in circles I was told two things.

1. Don’t recharge using your cradle. There isn’t enough power from the USB card to fully charge the battery. Always charge the pod using a wall socket.

2. Update and reformat the pod. I assume this works in a similar fashion to a defrag. In the fifty minutes since I’ve done this I’ve transferred 2600 songs back on the unit. Thank god for USB2.

I’ll give it a week or so and if it hasn’t worked I’ll be sending it off for a battery replacement, which is actually a pot luck iPod replacement, but I want my iPod to last more than a hundred shuffles.

Dave Winer and Google News

Dave Winer applied to get Scripting News onto Google News, and got rejected.

Apparently they did so on the basis that it’s just him that writes it. I suspect the real reason is that his site is not a news site, at least not in the conventional sense. It’s mostly just pointing to stuff elsewhere on the web, rarely with any comment or analysis. It’s certainly valuable, and maybe the media world will change over time, but for now a one-liner with a hyperlink is not a news service.