Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
User Journal

Journal: Nintendo Announces DSi and Wii storage solution

Journal by AKAImBatman

Earlier this morning, Nintendo made several major announcements in a press conference in Japan. Ranging from a new Nintendo DS to a Wii storage solution. Nintendo's first announcement was a brand-new handheld in the Nintendo DS line of consoles. This revision of the DS brand will be a significant break from the previous DS Lite console. It will be named "Nintendo DSi". (Nintendo DS-Eye, get it?) Nintendo also announced a solution to the Wii storage problem. Unfortunately, it sounds like players will be able to download to their SD Card, but not actually play games directly from the card.

Firehose Link: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=1225579

(Still trying to figure out if the firehose does anything.)

Spam

Journal: Online Tool to Scan for Spam Links on Web Site

Journal by saskboy

Do any of my computer savvy readers know of an online tool that can scan links on a website to see if they still work? Even better, something that scans to see if links have changed into a splog (or spam blog)?

I got the idea for this tool when I noticed that in my archives I had a link to iamnotafraid.ca which was a short lived political action group, and it has been co-opted by a spammer looking to benefit from the Google Page Rank that comes from many blogs linking to it.

User Journal

Journal: WiiCade Open Sources Flash API

Journal by AKAImBatman

Slashdot doesn't seem to get much news about Wii Homebrewing, so I thought I'd throw out an article on the latest updates to the popular Wii Web Gaming site WiiCade.

According to GoNintendo, they have released a new version of their Wii Remote API under a combination of the GPL and LGPL licenses. To sweeten the pot, this new version offers cool new features like IR-Based Motion Sensing, 4 player support, control over zooming, and partial Nunchuk support.

To celebrate, WiiCade released 5 new games that use these features. These games are Icy's Droplet Gathering Adventure, Space Shooting Mania, Asteroid Falldown, Bumper Car Madness, and Catch a Falling Star. It looks like someone has already released another game called WiiCade Snake. And for you Bush lovers/haters out there, they also have a Make Your Own Bush Speech "game". If you're into that sort of amusement, that is.

I personally recommend Bumper Car Madness. It's a rather crazy and fun arcade game that has you competing to see who can get the most tokens. It offers three control schemes, two which allow you to steer by twisting the remote, one which follows the cursor. It's tons of fun, especially with friends.

It looks like they also got a new look to go with the upgrade. Decide for yourselves if it's better or not. I like it, though. :-)

Censorship

Journal: The Internet's Journalists Are Still Threatened

Journal by saskboy

Here's significant media coverage following up on the progression of the lawsuit that is taking on Google, Yahoo!, bloggers, and essentially the Internet. Here's the background to this story as covered by Slashdot.

Many bloggers like Michael Geist are standing up to those who would bully political (and other) bloggers. Mark is one being sued.

S.B. kindly demonstrates how a clueless commenter can unleash a can of worms if there is a libel-chiller in the pack reading (with a lawyer on speed-dial).

If you've EVER left a comment about a Canadian on your blog, you could be sued. Scary stuff, eh? Now please leave a comment about how stupid the law is right now in Canada.

User Journal

Journal: Interesting Misconception 4

Journal by AKAImBatman

Today's lesson on taking things out of context. Here's a post I made today:

How is Science any different from groupthink? Scientists are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. The only checks and balances in place are reviews by scientific peers!

Think about it.

Shocked yet? Frightened at how I could possibly say such a thing? Clamoring for the mods to continue my fall to oblivion? I even got this response from an AC:

You're usually more level headed than this. I think you're just being silly.

Interesting thing, though. No one read the context. Here's the post I was replying to:

How are they different from groupthink? or the political bias at times that persists in Wikipedia?

Their top level admins are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. Obvious subjects to avoid on Wikipedia are those which are based on religious, political, or environmental, concerns. People have taken "maintaining" those types of entries to ridiculous levels that whole pages of discussion exist behind the page where the various factions bitch at each other. The best way to see the bias is to watch what they require to have accredited links and what they do not, let alone what sites they consider credible sources for disputed information.

While it has much useful information there are just certain subjects to avoid

Now let's re-read my text in context:

How are they different from groupthink? or the political bias at times that persists in Wikipedia?

Their top level admins are no where near as impartial as they claim to be.

How is Science any different from groupthink? Scientists are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. The only checks and balances in place are reviews by scientific peers!

See it? Still want my head on a platter?

An interesting experience.

Editorial

Journal: iPhone: Why So Negative? 4

Journal by AKAImBatman

I just got back from reading the Chicago Tribune's various stories on the iPhone. The reviews were very positive, if not a bit reserved. Sales may have topped 500,000 units. And sales have been so good that the AT&T activation servers have been overloaded. All in all, a very good launch for the iPhone. Not perfect mind you, but nothing ever is.

So imagine my surprise when I checked Slashdot this morning to find that the only story on the launch is Activation Problems in iPhone Paradise. No mention of the 500,000 unit estimate. Nor is there mention of the strongly positive reaction by the market. The only thing discussed is the activation problems, which are blown incredibly out of proportion. From the "long-wait-short-celebration" department tag, to a link to an engadget poll that won't let you see the results unless you vote (There's no "I don't have an iPhone option?" WTH?), all the way to using a random blog of one guy's experience as the basis for what all ~500,000 users (estimated) are experiencing.

Maybe it's just me, but this has gone way too far.

Slashdot is a place where intelligent people tend to hang out to converse. Because these people know a lot, they easily become jaded. I know that I personally have struggled a great deal with becoming unintentionally negative. And it's not necessarily the problem of dealing with people who know less. That's a reasonable excuse for tech support reps, but it doesn't hold up for professionals. In fact, I often find that I can become so indoctrinated in a certain way of thinking (because I know quite a bit about it) that anything that seems to violate that doctrine must be wrong.

Of course, this is a very dangerous trap. There are always clever ways around problems without violating the laws of physics. In fact, the solution presented often solves the problem in a very unique way that requires a dramatic shift in thinking.

For example, hydrogen cars are often criticized for requiring grid power to generate the hydrogen. Thus many discount the option because it "doesn't provide an alternative fuel source". Which is true, but it misses the point. Hydrogen provides a shift in the way that our infrastructure works. Rather than having millions of inefficient, dirty, smog-inducing, portable combustion engines on the road, we could generate all the power from relatively clean and efficient sources like Nuclear power plants then distribute that power to a "vehicle grid" using hydrogen as the storage and transmission device. From that perspective, hydrogen suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. (Without diving into the logistics issues of converting fueling stations, of course.)

Thus I can't help but wonder, is Slashdot getting too negative for its own good? I've been noticing a sharp increase in stories that are either overblown or outright inaccurate. From PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games (the original interview states that PopCap is distinctly unaffected by clones), to W3C Bars Public From Public Conference (the newsie apparently couldn't understand English), to Judge Orders TorrentSpy to Turn Over RAM (Judge ordered web logging to be turned on), I'm beginning to wonder if the general status of the Slashdot users and editors isn't taking a turn for the worse. I'm seeing fewer and fewer stories with a positive slant. Those that do have a positive slant are either overblown claims (which results in a negative reaction) or misreported claims (which results in the same negative reaction, except that all of Slashdot is barking up the wrong tree).

While I understand that much of the confusion and negativity is pouring out of the press, it's important to keep a cool head on our shoulders and think critically about every piece of information we see. While I don't directly blame the Slashdot editors or the readers, I do think that all of us can make a contribution toward positive reenforcement on Slashdot. We readers can do two things:

1. Try to make sure that the stories we submit are correctly stated and reflect the true issue at hand.

2. Keep our replies civil. It's so easy for all of us (myself included) to get mad at the other guy thinking he doesn't know what he's talking about. Yet sometimes he actually does. So please be gentle when correcting each other. You'd be amazed at the smart people you'll develop a rapport with!

For the editors, I can offer one major suggestion: Apply critical thinking before smacking that "Approve" button. I know you guys see an absolutely incredible number of submissions day in and day out. The catch is finding the submissions that are worth posting to the front page of Slashdot. As of late it seems like submissions are being chosen more for their yellow (read: inaccurate) headline rather than their substantiveness as news. So please be considerate when choosing submissions.

Thank you all for listening! :-)

User Journal

Journal: Did you open your eyes? 34

Journal by AKAImBatman

In a recent post on the topic of altruism being hardwired into the human brain, I challenged others to think about the theological implications of this. As the article suggested, many people jump to the conclusion that science is disproving the existence of a higher being. I used the exact opposite extreme to point out how silly that is.

Here it is again, but this time with the bolding reversed:

I figured it would be fun to respond with a similarly goofy argument:

It seems to me that if man is hardwired with an sense of altruism and a desire to believe in a super-being, there can be no other answer to this question than the existence of a Creator.

The question is, how many of you got the message? How many of you jumped to disprove a statement that did not need to be disproven in the first place?

Slashdot is composed of some of the smartest people in the world. Yet sometimes the smartest people can close their minds. The truth is that science does not prove or disprove religion. It cannot do that as it only concerns itself with the universe at hand.

Faith-based religion is not science. Let's not treat it as such. But science is not faith-based religion. Let's not make the mistake of mistreating it, either.

User Journal

Journal: How I Slashdotted Google 15

Journal by AKAImBatman

It's not every day that you get someone from Google showing up to check on the spreadsheet you shared out using the Google Documents site. But that's exactly what happened after I posted such a spreadsheet in a Slashdot comment and accidentally created an impromptu chat room.

Someone over on Google must have been curious about all those server spikes, because a viewer with the address of google@google.com showed up shortly after the user traffic peaked. In fact, I had never expected that the discussion feature of the spreadsheet would attract so much attention. I figured that people would simply look at the sheet and discuss it on Slashdot. Perhaps even make a copy, modify it, and share it out.

So what could I do when the Google lurker was noticed? Quickly yank the spreadsheet from the public eye? Close my account and hope Google never traces it back to me? No, I went for hollering out an apology for the Slashdotting over the aforementioned discussion feature. This must have satisfied the lurker, because he then exited the sheet without saying so much as a word.

Then again last night, the sheet received a chat from a person with the gmail name of "google". The message was simply, "A chat room through the spreadsheet discussion? Who would have thought?"

While there's no concrete proof that these users were indeed from Google, it does seems likely given how Google tends to control its name inside its own system. Thus I have to wonder, will there be any repercussions from this? Will Slashdoters regularly create impromptu chat rooms with spreadsheets? Will Google use this as an example of how well their collaboration features work? Or will the whole thing simply blow over?

Who knows? But I can say that this little spreadsheet gone haywire was a fun experiment. And if we want to keep Google on its toes, we can always do it again!

Editorial

Journal: A Day Without Mono is like a Day Without a Bullet in my Head 7

Journal by AKAImBatman

I have to admit, I think I owe Miguel de Icaza an apology. When we last butt heads, I believe I accused him of choosing .NET over the existing Java projects out of a case of "Not Invented Here" syndrome. And after the Silverlight announcement (which he wants to name fad-da daw'), I was even starting to buy into the idea that he might be a blind Microsoft follower.

But after spending a few days with Mono, I have changed my mind. It is quite obvious to anyone using the platform that the Mono team is not in bed with Microsoft. In fact, it would seem that the Mono team is explicitly trying to warn you away from .NET technology. Otherwise, why would they make it SO GODDAMN HARD TO DEVELOP FOR?

Excuse my outburst, but I'm just about at my wits end. Allow me to explain.

The whole thing started when I was working on a side project that required ASP.NET. As much as I might want to get around this requirement, it was non-negotiable. So, I looked into Mono and found that they had a special development server capable of running ASP.NET pages. I thought, "Great! Now I can develop on my Mac on the go!"

So I downloaded the Mono for OS X package and installed it. It compiled the requisite "Hello World" program with no issues. (Though it spat out Hello.exe for a binary. WTF?) The XSP server also ran a simple ASP.NET page without any problems. Great! Now all I needed was some documentation.

Before I get to that part, however, let me take a moment and address Microsoft documentation. I've heard plenty of programmers beam about how wonderful Microsoft documentation is, and how they absolutely love Microsoft documentation. If they had it their way, every program would have Microsoft documentation. Personally, I've always wondered what these people are smoking.

My experience has been that Microsoft documentation is poorly organized, lacking in detail, designed to run you around in circles, and packaged in a proprietary format that makes it non-portable and generally quite useless. The only positives to Microsoft documentation is that their docs are very pretty to look at and there is a LOT of it. (Which is what happens when you try to document every possible use rather than how to use the technology.)

Back to my story. Here I am thinking that I will simply download an HTML class reference and be about my business. After all, I'm an experienced programmer. Just tell me the library calls and I'll be good to go.

A quick check of the official Mono site produced the necessary HTML documentation. But only online. Nowhere could I find a download that I could take with me. The more I looked, the more I realized that the Mono folks want you to use a GTK# MonoDoc Browser. Oooook....

MonoDoc browser is (unsurprisingly) not shipped with the Mac OS X Mono package. So I went and downloaded the only package available: The sources. Of course, the MonoDoc browser requires GTK#, so I download those sources as well. It's all cross-platform code, so it should be easy to compile, right? *sigh*

When I untarred the source archives, what do I find? Something incredibly simple and reliable like ANT? Nope. The same old configure/make scripts that have been giving me nightmares for the last decade or so. No problem. I can do this. It's CLR code, so it MUST be a simple compile, right?

First thing that happens is that the configure script can't find Mono. Wait, what? How can it not find mono? It's in the path! After some checking around, I find that the build script is using pkg-config and pkg-config doesn't know about mono. Ok, so I create a mono.pc file in the /usr/lib/pkgconfig directory. Still can't find it. I move the mono.pc to /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig. Still can't find it. I set the PKG_CONFIG_PATH to the folder containing mono.pc. STILL CAN'T FIND IT!

As you can imagine, my blood pressure is getting dangerously high at this point.

I go back to the configure scripts to see if I can simply route around the check. No, it's pretty integral. But I do manage to find that the pkg-config it's pulling is an older version in /sw/bin. Mono apparently installed its own copy in /usr/bin. Ok, I can see that. So I switch the path around (making certain it's exported to the environment) so that /usr/bin will get checked first. It still finds the older copy. I struggle with it a bit more. It still finds the old copy. Finally, I rename the older pkg-config to pkg-config.old.

Eureka! It finds mono! Just to fail on GTK+!

Wait... what?

According to the configure script I don't have GTK+ or Pango. Yet I know they're both installed because of a few other OSS apps I compiled a while back. Finally, I give up. This is a dead end that's already sapped too many hours of my time. The craptacular Linux build process bests me again.

Let's try another tack, shall we? The mono package contained a pre-compiled (thank God) tool called monodocs2html.exe. All I need to do is feed the documentation sources into the tool, and voila! Instant HTML docs! Or so I hoped.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make heads or tails of the process. The documentation on generating documentation seems nice and all, but is a bit difficult to understand without some experience with the platform. And since I can't get any documentation on how to use the platform, I'm kind of stuck with a catch-22 there.

In theory, I just point the tool at the "assembled" documentation and it works. In practice, it keeps telling me that I need index.xml. Yet there's no index.xml anywhere in the lib/monodoc/sources directory. Not even inside the Mono.zip file. Rats, foiled again!

At this point I've resigned myself to wearing the ball and chain of an ethernet cable. After all, why would anyone possibly want to take HTML documentation on the go? Not that I've been too impressed in the online docs themselves. In Java, you tend to document API methods as you go. But with Mono, they separate out the docs from the sources, ensuring that no one ever documents anything! Documentation is handled entirely by online volunteers in a Wiki-like fashion, leading to a great deal of the library being documented with "Documentation for this section has not yet been entered."

So here I am now. My laptop useless in the face of such incredible resistance to using Mono. My blood pressure at all time highs. My patience long ago exhausted. For an instant, Google gives me hope that someone else has shared their generated docs! Yet it's nothing more than an apparition of a carrot dangling in the air as if to mock me.

I really do owe Miguel an apology. His team has been making wonderful strides in ensuring that the platform is completely inaccessible to new users. Thanks, man! We always knew you were secretly anti-Microsoft.

Worms

Journal: Zero-Day Virus Affecting Bloggers - Blog Dump Virus 1

Journal by saskboy

Last week Microsoft notified people that their animated cursors contain a serious flaw that can be exploited simply by getting a victim to view a malicious webpage or email on their Windows computer.

On Saturday a serious virus that exploits this hole in Windows was discovered in the wild. Symantec, Grisoft, Trisf-Lirpa Software, and McAfee, don't yet have detection for this serious virus threat. There are of course as many names for the virus as there are antivirus vendors, but the most common name you'll hear is the Blog Dump Virus.

The Blog Dump Virus has a two part payload. The first part hacks your website through keystroke detection, and then deletes blog content on both Blogger and WordPress. If you're using WordPress.com it will steal your password and delete your account name which makes it very hard to get your name back! WordPress.com has a policy where it doesn't undelete a blog account which has had its name used, in order to combat spam and fraud.

The second part of the virus payload affects the Windows image mapping process, by changing the orientation of random photos you load in your web browser.

I've developed a browser based test for the virus, and will provide the patch soon if Microsoft doesn't get to it today.

Communications

Journal: How to write BAD web sites 1

Journal by imroy

Thanks to Stumbleupon, I recently came across Josiah Cole's 19 Things NOT To Do When Building a Website. He concentrates mainly on commercial websites, which is something I have not been involved with. But I have created a number of small web sites, mainly for myself or my family. And I've been using the Internet and World Wide Web for over ten years now, so I have a good idea of things that web sites do to annoy me. Here are some of my thoughts on features to really avoid when creating a web site, or even just a single page.

How to write BAD web sites.

  1. Have one big Flash object
    I use Firefox 2.0 with the Flashblock extension. If I go to a website and all I see is Flashblock's 'play' buttion in the middle of a large area, I usually just close the tab. For a site to be all Flash typically means it has little or no content and is all show. No thanks, I'll go find something more interesting to do with my time.
  2. Force links to open in a new window
    Ever heard of tabs? It's annoying for links to open entire new browser windows. Is there a Firefox extension that can redirect a new window into a tab?
  3. Use JavaScript links
    Breaking tabbed browsing even more. If it looks like a link, I expect to be able to middle-click on it and have it open in a new tab. Even more annoying are the ones that simply do a document.location=http://.... WTF?
  4. Use JavaScript to reinvent the way page navigation works
    You know, games are fun. But when I'm trying to navigate a web site and find something, I might already be frustrated by your site layout. The last thing I want to do is have to figure out new rules for interacting with your website that are different to most other web sites. For example, I expect links to change the mouse cursor when the pointer is over them. Don't try to be clever by using the "onClick" event and JavaScript on images and div's. That's not a link. I can't middle-click on it to open a new tab. And here's something you might care about: search engines won't follow it.
  5. Play music in the background
    Surely people have heard of MP3's (even though my collection is mostly Ogg's). I also have a tuner card in my computer. At any point I could be listening to MP3/Oggs, the TV, or radio. And some site starts playing music or something else in the background. Ctrl-W. Bye bye.
  6. Use vague icons for navigation
    This might just be me, but I've always had problems with icons. I have trouble trying to figure out what they mean. Just give me text so I can read it. Is that a stick? A pen? A finger? What ?!?
  7. Use a disruptive background image
    Litter the page with animated GIF's
    Have 'Best viewed with Netscape/Internet Explorer' buttons
    Have a 'Designed for 800x600/1024x768' button
    Use table-heavy HTML created with a WYSIWYG HTML editor
    Use the <font> tag
    Change the font colour a lot
    Hello, 1996 called and they want their trashy web pages back! Seriously, we've been there, done that, and decided it was bad. Please use CSS, simple (verified) markup, and pastel colours. It's much easier to read and often uses less bandwidth.

As you might have noticed, two and a bit of my complaints deal with links. This is not a minor point. The World Wide Web is a huge collection of web pages and sites linked together by hyperlinks. Without links, the web would be useless. They are the number one feature on the web. New formats such as RSS/Atom feeds, and the semantic web do even more with links.

If a user has difficulty finding links, opening links, and bookmarking (or emailing) links, that web site or page has failed.
Simple as that. Make links usable.

United States

Journal: If John Howard was running al-Qaeda in Iraq...

Journal by imroy

Our gutless PM, John Howard, has weighed in on US senator Barak Obama's stated plans to pull US troops out of Iraq if he is elected president.

"If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats" [*]

Isn't this basically the same fear-mongering bullshit the Bush camp was using against John Kerry back in 2004?

Hey Johnny, you're three years behind in your pro-neocon rhetoric.

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. - Voltaire

Working...