Hypercubed Blog

Incoherent chatter on issues related to science, computing, and philosophy.
Random chains of thought from a scattered mind.

Hypercubed Blog has Moved!


Hypercubed Blog has Moved!
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2005 10/30/2005 08:06:00 PM

I have moved my blog to blog.hypercubed.com. I've copied all old posts and comments to the new system. Not only does this move allow me guaranteed future control of the domain (the hypercubed.com domain is mine) but also allows me more flexibility and control. The new blog uses the awesome (and free) WordPress application. Look forward to a post soon regarding my experiences installing WordPress and my overall opinion (preview: very good!). I hope I don't lose an readers... all two of you are very important to me! Hope to see you there.

How Much Is My Blog Worth?
Posted Monday, October 24, 2005 10/24/2005 08:52:00 PM

My blog is worth $6,209.94. How much is your blog worth?

My blog is worth $6,209.94. How much is your blog worth? Business Opportunities Weblog has a little applet that uses Technorati's API to compute and display your blog's worth using the same link to dollar ratio as the AOL-Weblogs Inc. deal. This is based on research by by Tristan Louis's research into the value of each link to Weblogs Inc.


Qumana Review
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2005 10/23/2005 01:00:00 PM

While consulting my god google for more info on RocketPost (mainly looking for anyone willing to pay $150 for it) I came across several mentions of Qumana. Well since I'm an app junky I thought I'd give it a try. The good news is that I have no complaints about the spell check (unlike BlogJet, W.Bloggar, or RocketPost ). Matter of fact is probably on of the most robust spell checkers I've seen. Even includes customized autocorrection (so I can automatically convert "teh" to "the").

The bad news is that it does not include the ability to view and edit the HTML directly. I'm sure for most people this is sufficient. But for me I like to view the HTML directly and make tweaks here and there. In addition I don't see anyway to edit the post details like publication time or post as a draft.. Such a shame considering how good the spell check looks and the fact that it is completely free.

RocketPost Basic
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2005 10/22/2005 04:55:00 PM

I'm trying out RocketPost blogging software. The interface is nice and solid. The editor allows switching between design mode and HTML mode which is a must. RocketPost even has the extremely useful feature of being able to download all posts off blogger. This is very nice for backup purposes and such. The interface allows me to edit the publication time and date; something that I’ve seen missing from other blogging software.

With all this application goodness I was floored at the utterly horrific spell check. One of the main reasons I ever want to use a blogging tool is to provided integrated spell check. I’ve tried BlogJet and W.Bloggar and others not worth mentioning. All of them have problems with their spell check in my opinion. Unfortunately RocketPost is the worst. First of all it breaks the standard convention for spell check. Normally when you run a spell check in most applications you will be presented with a dialog box that allows you to ignore or replace the misspelled words one at a time. Often many of the words are not misspelled but just missing from the dictionary. For these you need to either hit ignore or add to dictionary. Because I am often presented with many of these in a row it is easy to just click-click-click through several at a time. In RocketPost you are not presented with a dialog box but rather a drop down menu that drops form somewhere in the vicinity of the potentially misspelled word. So in order to ignore several words you need to click ignore, move mouse to new drop down, click ignore, move mouse... and so on. It eliminates the ability of motor memory as the buttons are constantly moving. Also, sometimes the word you are checking is covered by the drop-down that fails to repeat the word. You stuck guessing... “What word did I type that looks like gurge?”. Also you need to be aware that if your misspelled word contains any punctuation (for example wo'nt) it is ignored and therefore assumed correct. Why anyone would choose to break the well established paradigm for spell check is beyond me.

In addition there is my pet peeve. I am coastally writing the word “teh” rather then “the”. MS Word is smart enough to automatically make all my “teh”s into “the”s. In BlogJet and W.Bloggar I has to perform a scroll to replace “teh” with “the” during the spell check. Even worse in RocketPost “teh” isn't even one of the options. It also provides not capability for replacing the word with your own word not in it’s dictionary. That means every time the spell check comes across a “teh” I need to stop the spell check, change it manually, and start again. That is very unproductive. In then end I still haven’t found any blog posting software better then good old MS word or bloggers built in WYSIWYG editor.

I have also noticed that there appears to be no feature to publish your blog. In blogger you can post an article but it will not be updated until you publish your blog. This means after you post your article you need to log into blogger and manually publish. Then what is the point of blogging software.

[Edit: Wow! They charge $149 for the full version.]

Einstein has his priorities in order
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2005 10/20/2005 08:04:00 PM

hetemeel.com is a very cool web app that allows you to add text to Einstein's chalkboard.


Save Flash from Firefox
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2005 10/19/2005 08:32:00 PM

The other day I posted an article on how to place a flash file for display on your desktop. I mention a couple of methods for saving the flash file to your hard drive. Both methods involve examining the source code to get the flash file URL. Turns out there is a much easier way in Firefox. I'll leave the details to the source but basically, you can view a list of all media on the page, including flash files, from the "View Page Info" menu. Once you find the appropriate item in the media list there is a "Save As…" button that allows you to easily store the file to your HD. Very nice stuff.


Weblog Usability or How I Suck as a Blogger
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2005 10/18/2005 10:32:00 PM

The king of usability Jakob Nielsen has list the top ten design mistakes for weblogs. So I thought I would check out how Hypercubed blog stack up. 9/10 is not bad right? Well it is if that is the number of usability rules you’ve broken. Let's go over them one-by-one:

1. No Author Biographies
Not having a biography on this blog was a conscience decision. I decided a long time ago that this blog was not going to be about me and I avoid writing about myself. My blog is a place where I can share my technological experiences not my personal ones. I tried at one time to talk about my self and my chronic case of mental randomness but I didn't like it. I prefer to stick to science, technology, and philosophy; although I've been weak on philosophy.

2. No Author Photo
See #1.

3. Nondescript Posting Titles
I rarely use descriptive titles. I usually try for something pithy. I most likely fail at that but at least I’m trying.

4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
This is a basic web no-no. I know I should avoid using links that that don't describe the destination like this or that. However, when writing a semi-informal blog I make some sacrifices to allow the content to flow. It is hard to find the time to write as irregularly as I do. If I worried too much about this type of thing it would inhibit my ability to supply content. It takes me too long to write each post as it is. Hell, it takes me several minutes just to get through the spell check (if you ever IM’d with me you know that is true).

5. Classic Hits are Buried
This is my one out of 10. On the right sidebar I've linked to several notable posts. What defines a notable posts is arbitrary but I try to include posts that I thought were especially interesting or humorous or posts that seamed generated a lot of traffic.

6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
Unfortunately a calendar approach is the only navigation of the archive available through blogger. I've been considering several options to add categories including using del.icio.us tags as described here (damn, did it again, see #4). Personally I haven’t liked the results so that will have to wait tell I hack together something of my own (or blogger.com gets on the ball and adds them).

7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
I want to say that I publish when I have something to say but the truth is at any given time I have a backlog of topics I want to write about. Usually the problem is finding the time to create a coherent post. There is a certain minimum level of quality (very minimum) that I'd like to achieve and if I don't think I have the time to dedicate to the subject what I think it will take I don't. I'd rather miss a day (or a week) if it is needed. Is this inconsistent with #4?

8. Mixing Topics
Wow, I really screwed up on this one. Can science, technology, and philosophy all be considered one topic? How about stuff I’m not allowed to talk about with my co-worker, wife, and lunch buddies?

9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
I don't write for my future boss but I am conscious of the fact that people that know me or work with me will be reading. That is one of the reasons I don’t talk about myself and try to keep it mostly safe for work.

10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service
Well, I failed this one too. I’ve considered for sometime moving my blog to my primary website. Matter of fact I have a not so current backup located there. One of the reasons I don’t switch over is that I enjoy hacking up the blogger templates. I can still do that if host the blog myself but I know I’ll have the tendency to start playing with some server side stuff here and there mostly eventually creating my own blog system. That might be fun but who has the time. I consider keeping the blog at blogspot an act of self control. Besides why not use bloggers bandwidth rather then mine.

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth
Posted Tuesday, October 11, 2005 10/11/2005 09:11:00 PM

I get lots of e-mail spam and I mean a lot. For some reason much of it is in Russian. Maybe because of a post I made about the ease of translating e-mails in outlook. I don’t translate it by the way, in case you Russian spammers are listening. The rest is usually trying to sell pharmaceuticals, penis enlargements, or penny stocks. I blogged about using CloudMark (here and here) but the spam e-mail continues to roll in. I also receive many spam posts on my websites’ forums. Most of those are links in Chinese and get promptly deleted. There ar a few more subtle spam posts by some folks pretending (poorly) to have a conversation regarding certification tests. Those I tolerate because I want to see where they’re going. I’m also starting to have to deal with a new form of spam… blog comment spam. Most of theses I delete unless I can find some why to post a humorous comment back.

So what is the deal? Why all this spam? Well unfortunately the answer is pretty easy. Sending spam (or posting spam) is cheap and it works. That is the thing that annoys me most. Why the hell does it work? Who are the idiots that are buying these “Medhictions” that promise to “IMMEDIATE SIZEGAIN ON UR SMALL SIZE @1%# seize”? Would you ever buy anything from a store that advertised satisfaction guaranteed “or your monneyy back without question ask!”… No! So why in the hell are people buying this crap? The solution is as simple as the cause just don’t by from spammers! But unfortunately some people are just too stupid. Maybe we should require a license to gain internet access?

How about the penny stocks... well you might think that the spammers want you to buy them so they can experience a quick price surge and then sell. You might be tempted to try and ride the wave. The truth is these stocks don’t increase much and the drop pretty rapidly. If you need proof read Spam Stock Tracker. This guy tracked several spammed stocks to determine how much he would lose if he had purchased shares in each. At last check he would have lost 7,550.40 of a 17,405.00 investment. Again the answer is just don’t do it!

Ok, now what about my forum and comment spam. We’ll I’m not going to buy anything from these people. What about you my loyal randomly-acquired-and-most-likely-lost reader? Well, if I do my job well you will never see the comment spam. Hopefully the spammers will get the hint and stop spamming my sites (a man can hope can’t he?). But I’ll take it one step further… I’m going to post the names of the sites that are spamming me and encourage you to NEVER buy from these people. I know some will think that I’m giving them extra advertising. This may be true, but in a way I think it is therapeutic for me. Think of it as my public hate list.


Monopoly Best Chance Game 3.0
Posted Sunday, October 09, 2005 10/09/2005 02:03:00 PM

McDonald’s is once again running their Monopoly Game.  For those that don’t know this game is played by collecting game pieces (monopoly properties) through purchasing certain products at McDonalds.  This game is very popular among consumers which is surprising considering that the first 6 years or so that they ran the game were a complete fraud.  Turned out that the Chief of security at that promotion company that had been responsible for administering the contests had been stealing the winning pieces and distributing them to associates for a share of the profit.  In total something like $13 million was embezzled in this manner from 1995 to 2001. In this case they were caught and McDonalds has now setup security measures to make sure it never happens again.  Every time I hear about something like this it makes me wonder how many more times it is happening without anybody being caught.  It is like speeding on the freeway… every time you see one person getting a ticket you know there are 100 more that didn’t get caught.

In any event the interesting part of the Monopoly game is that in order to win a prize you need to collect all of the properties of one color, all four train depots, or both utilities. Makes it sound easy… you collect two out of three and you think “Wow! I’m 2/3rds of the way there”.  Well not really you see two of the three properties are very common while the last piece is rare.  That is how they control the number of winners for each prize.  I think most people realize this and I’m not revealing any dark secret or anything.  What is secret (somewhat) is which properties are the rare ones.  I’m always worried that I’m going to get the rare pieces, essentially winning the prize, and not realize it.  If I never get the other two, which is very likely, I effectively have forfeited the prize.  Well the great google has once again shown me the light.  I found a page that lists all the rare pieces for this year’s game.  So now I can rest assured that I won nothing other then high cholesterol!

My Periodicals
Posted Friday, October 07, 2005 10/07/2005 09:58:00 PM

I was flipping through the periodicals that I have subscriptions to and I thought "What an interesting collection of magazines." Here are a few... What does this say about me? It sure covers my interests fairly well.

P.S. I'm not really a Paris Hilton fan... she just happened to be on the cover this month.

Five-second rule
Posted Tuesday, October 04, 2005 10/04/2005 06:17:00 PM

So I recently was caught in a discussion about the five-second rule.  You know that rule that says if you drop a piece of food on the floor it is ok to eat if you pick it up within 5-seconds.  One person said that they thought the rule was disproved.  I disagreed and said that I thought the rule was proven correct by a high school student science experiment.  With such a disagreement there is only one thing to do… consult the all-knowing oracle or wisdom (that would be Google).  So I did the “research” and discovered that the 5-second rule was proven false… but yet true at the same time.

High school student Jillian Clarke studied the five-second rule as part of summer internship in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Her study won an Ig Nobel Prize for Public Health in 2004.  In the most literal sense Clark’s study disproved the five-second rule.  Clark showed that foods dropped on intentionally pre-contaminated tiles (hard surfaces) were contaminated in less than five seconds.  It appears that five seconds has no bearing on the how contaminated the food will get.  If you drop your food on a contaminated floor it should not be eaten.

So this seams pretty straight forward… right?  Snopes marks this one as an urban myth.  But wait a minute!  They are missing a vital part of Ms. Clarks study.  The details above are from Ms. Clarks 2nd experiment where she intentionally pre-contaminating ceramic tiles with E. Coli, dropped various food products for various amounts of time, and then measured the E. Coli count on the food.   However, the first part of her experiment (details here and here) Ms. Clark and her team took swab samples of floors at various locations around her campus.  They showed that the bacteria levels where not high enough to cause significant contamination of your food product.  It is noted that this is more then likely due to the types of surfaces sampled.  They measured dry hard surfaces.  It is likely that soft damp surfaces will have higher bacterial counts.

So the literal sense the 5-second rule as it is stated is correct for some floors.  If food that falls on your kitchen floor sits for less then 5-seconds it is, most likely, ok to eat.  Matter of fact if the food is on the kitchen floor more then 5-miniutes it is probably ok to eat.  But nobody would suggest you apply this “rule” to food dropped on your damp doggy bed.  Besides what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… right?

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