Archive for the ‘Geek’ Category
So first it began with people tagging their friends on Avurudu (New year) greetings, then school/college/office/party function adverts. Then it turned out that there’s a whole subset of pictures which you can get tagged in on Facebook. Depending on what your friends think you are, you will find yourself tagged on a generic photo.
This is kinda cute, but can be downright annoying if ever you try to log in to Facebook from a different country. Should you choose to verify your identity by correctly identifying friends in photos, then heaven help you if the ones that turn up are assorted greeting cards and tag-friendly ones. I guess this has implications for anyone who wants to recover their account – forget your secret question? Then hope the friends whose photos turn up are unlikely to be tagged in generic photographs on FB.
It’s just as annoying as getting friend requests from people who have flowers/kittens/manga as profile pics. I for one am going to spend some time untagging myself from a lot of photos…
For those of you who have noticed the lack of unstructured Sinhala poems (Nisadas) on this blog;
I wanted to blog as well – lack of talent notwithstanding – and tried to come up with a name for the whole thing. In my attempt to find a name that rhymed with Vesess (Sinhala for “Special”), Nidahas (Sinhala for “Freedom”) and Adahas (Sinhala for “ideas”) I put Nidahas and Adahas together -> Nidahas Adahas = Nisadas. So no, I can’t write poetry,
While Nidahas is no longer updated, you should definitely check out Adahas. Venushka is back from whatever dark place he was hiding. If you are one of those people who runs WordPress on your own domain, then you should definitely pay him a visit. Go to http://adahas.com now!
Not long after my serendipitous discovery of MobilePress, I wondered how cool it would be if all the WordPress.com blogs that I visit via Achcharu/Kottu were more mobile friendly. Especially since I spend more time reading up on the blogs via mobile browser.
Turns out that WordPress.com has taken a move in the right direction. As of today (at least, as per this article “The Hero Is In Your Pocket” via Chanux) blogs hosted with WordPress.com will adjust for access from mobile devices. It also refers to two more mobile-friendly WP plugins – WPTouch and WordPress Mobile Edition which would be of interest to anyone hosting their own WordPress blog (like yours truly). I’m not aware if other blogging services like Blogger and Typepad have adjusted accordingly, but it’s good news with positive ramifications.
The future is most certainly mobile.
I’m pretty sure that the Sri Lankan online community includes more than a few freelancers who primarily operate off the web. Even then, there’s probably just a handful of freelancers or even small businesses that have given any thought about their invoicing. I’ve seen plenty of individuals and SMEs sending out invoices which are clearly MS-Excel spreadsheets or even MS-Word documents (Excel makes sense, but why anyone would go through the extra hassle of using Word is beyond me).
That’s why I thought of sharing a resource for invoicing which some of you may find useful – CurdBee. The objective is simple – if you’re doing some sort of business, it helps to look professional. So what better than a free solution that allows you to send out professional looking invoices?
Of course, you needn’t take my word for it, check out what the rest of the web has to say:
- Manage Client Invoices and Accept Payments with CurdBee by Rick Broida on BNET.
- Included in WebWorkerDaily’s list of 10 apps you can’t do without
- Featured on ES Developed, in a post about CurdBee’s new features.
- Used as the billing method at WeAreAGoodCompany.
In the interests of full disclosure, I used to work at Vesess - the company behind CurdBee – for around a year, ending November 2005. The only reimbursement I would get out of publicising their service is the satisfaction that I was part of a small Sri Lankan company which is now able to offer world class solutions.
The first time I came across the Opera browser was somewhere around 1998, just around the time I’d gotten access to the Internet. It was trialware and therefore not usable for long, but compared to my other options – IE and Netscape – it was so much better. I especially loved the way I could easily switch off images with a simply click and make the most of the 4kb/s bandwidth on my dial-up connection (I’d enable images on those early mornings when everyone in the country was asleep and I’d get 7kb/s).
Starting with version 5 in 2000, Opera became ad-supported and I weaned myself away from Netscape’s Navigator (I used every browser on the planet that’d keep me away from the monster). Until I joined Vesess where GP and Lankitha converted me to Firefox, it was Opera all the time.
Nowadays, the utility of having so many add-ons (DownthemAll, AdBlock Plus and ChatZilla to name a few) keeps FF my browser of choice, but that hasn’t stopped me from checking up on Opera and its latest incarnation.
The latest offering is certainly something of a godsend for anyone who’s been left out of the broadband revolution and even those with daily/monthly download limits. Opera 10 brings with it the Opera Turbo feature which builds on Opera’s experience with Opera Mini, its application for mobile phones. By routing the information through its Opera Turbo servers, the browser has less to download, resulting in savings in bandwidth usage.
Pretty neat, although it does crumple images and turn off flash by default. Unless of course you’re like me and actually want that as part of the browsing experience.
The difference in images can be seen from the two screenshots of the Opera homepage below:
Clearly, this is the most visible difference, but there is definitely an improvement in terms of speed. Being a user of a low bandwidth internet connection on weekdays I’d gotten used to carrying out chores while pages loaded, but once I got Opera running on Turbo I’ve even been able to access Facebook. Lower quality images is an easy trade off for quicker page loads. The difference in speeds is visible in a promotional video over at Opera Labs, where you can learn more.
Opera comes in a number of flavours, with customized installation options for your flavour of Linux as well. Definitely something anyone with bandwidth caps on their connections should check out – and hope that it comes out soon!
Facebook and Privacy
All this made me a little worried about what happens to my content, until I remembered that being slightly paranoid pays off.
Not being the most social of people, I stayed out of the Hi5 and MySpace networks for quite some time. Soon after, I began to realise that I was losing touch with some of my good friends, so much so that I’d be sure to drop a brick on the conversation once if ever one happened.
The result of this was my foray into social networking via Facebook. Its initial attempts to scan my email accounts for potential friends bothered me no end. How could I be sure that they wouldn’t just steal my details and use them for some nefarious activity?
My fears are hardly unfounded, but as can be seen from the power of the community that has been built in Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg will have a hard time doing anything that can be construed as “evil”.
That said, it’s still a good idea to ensure that you upload nothing on the net that you wouldn’t want other people to see. Once it’s on the net you have no control over what’ll happen to it.
As a result, I’m a very boring member of Facebook. I don’t add applications that let me do weird things to my friends and I don’t upload crazy photographs. But it still lets me keep in touch, which is what matters. The only photos I do upload are the ones I don’t mind sharing.
Applications on Facebook are yet another concern for me. Their need to access my information is a little scary, given my nature. But it turns out that applications are not the only possible culprits in data theft as can be seen in this article on Yahoo.
Furthermore, I found the following email in my inbox recently:
While the subject immediately gave it away as spam, you’ve got to give the creator some credit for making it look like something legit straight out of MSN. Had you been a regular newsletter subscriber and thought this was something you accidentally subscribed to, any attempt to unsubscribe would lead to a chinese url, as seen at the bottom left.
This isn’t the only method currently being employed, as can be seen from various users’ experiences when you do a flickr search as below:
With such attempts at data theft and scamming getting more numerous by the day, it’s up to all of us to be more careful when on the net.
During my days at Vesess, making presentations was pretty much 80% of what I did. Design support was from Prabhath, while tweaking the overall focus was done with Lankitha’s support.
My experiences in debating lent themselves to an advantage in presenting in front of an audience, which sometimes led people to think I had an innate talent in presenting.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Being an inherently shy person and a Geek to boot, social interaction was never my forte. That is probably why my mother encouraged me to join in debating and Interact. During my stints in both organisations in school, I studied my seniors as well as others in how they presented themselves, developed relationships and handled situations. These self-taught lessons would thereafter be mashed together with my own perspectives to define my own style of doing things.
So while I may have had some experience in speaking in front of an audience (which in many cases is the biggest hurdle of them all), I was by no means an accomplished presenter. However, thanks to the internet I was able to expand my learning and thought I’d share some of my favourite resources with you:
- Seth Godin did an ebook called “Really Bad Powerpoint”. A google search would yield the .pdf file, while his article can be found here.
- Garr Reynold’s did a summary of a book by Dr. John Medina – “Brain Rules” – on Slideshare, which can be found here.
- Garr Reynold’s site “Presentation Zen” does a good job of highlighting the work of one of arguably the world’s best presenters – Steve Jobs.
- You can watch Steve Jobs demo the Macintosh in 1984 on Youtube by clicking here and you can watch him demo the iMac here. Both are interesting to watch. If at all, I identify with Steve not so much in terms of presentation skill, but in terms of receding hairline…
On a completely unrelated note, many thanks to Jack Point for linking to some cool retro songs!
Lifehacker did an article on Windows performance myths sometime last year which mentioned that RAM optimizers/defraggers were the equivalent of snake oil.
However, the benefits of defragmenting the hard disk haven’t been debunked yet (or at least not as per my cursory googling), so my obsessive weekly/monthly defrag runs haven’t been in vain.
One tool that would be of use in keeping a well defragmented hard disk would be a simple command-line utility called Contig. This doesn’t help very much in putting files towards the beginning of the partition like other defraggers, but when you have a few files that are regularly fragmented (thus causing delays in file access) Contig can help ease the trouble by addressing only the specific files affected.
I generally run Contig after first using the built-in Windows Defragmenter tool to see what files have the highest fragmentation. I then run Contig on these files (generally my Personal Mail folders – .pst files) to ensure that they form contiguous files and therefore should increase system performance.
Do you defragment your hard disk? What do you use for that purpose?
Occasionally, I surf the web using a Suntel CDMA connection. On such occasions, watching paint dry would possibly be less time consuming. Even with images switched off, Firefox takes some time to load pages. That is why I want to find out where I can get my hands on the much vaunted Airtel data package with its low low rates… (of course, it could be marketing gimmick that turns sour later on…)
Until then, whenever my surfing requirements don’t really require logging in for any services and are purely information based, I use Lynx. With its simple requirements and text only interface, I feel like I’m at my old 486DX machine sometimes. It’s also pretty zippy with the information, making good use of the bandwidth.
Information doesn’t always have to be all images and colours… although there’d be no point in putting that Flash tag cloud (wp-cumulus) on the sidebar if everyone was on Lynx.
Not so long ago, a number of people fell for a clever prank. An email did the rounds, promising its forwarders the opportunity to win an Apple iPhone along with the launch of AirTel. Of course, everyone wants an iPhone, so Thomas, Richard and Harold’s local counterparts were sending out the email with some obscure gmail account on copy. I managed to dig out the one I got:
AirTell Launch in Sri Lanka
Date: 13 th November 2008
Venue & Time : To be notified via public media.
As part of our launch, we have decided to give away THREE Apple iPhones and TWO Life Time Connections to FIVE lucky winners.
These prizes will be give away as part of our promotional campaign and winners will be unanimously selected based on the most number of times this mail has been forwarded.
What will you have to do ?
To be eligible to win the above mentioned prizes, all you are required to do is to forward this mail to as many people as you can and make sure you copy it email@example.com . The winner will be selected on the 9 th of November 2008, and details on how to claim the prize will be notified via email.
.Apple iPhone is a registered product of Apple Inc.
Best Regards Sanjaya Weerakkody
Senior Public Relations Manager
AirTell Sri Lanka
I’m not even sure that there is such a person as Mr. Weerakkody, or even if his name was added later by someone editing the email with the intention of forwarding it.
The general response to the email was very simple – at least 95% (a guesstimate of mine) of the people who got that email forwarded it to their friends and everyone else in their address book. Not many stopped to consider the validity of the offer or even wonder why, when it’d cost no more than sixty dollars (on average) to own a domain and email address, a massive company like AirTel would have to resort to using Gmail accounts. That’s where the true genius of the email lay = the company being launched was “AirTell”, so in any case no one could really blame the real AirTel if no one won or something unethical was going on.
I wrote back to some of the people who forwarded this email to me and kept everyone else on copy when I pointed these things out. Not everyone felt good after seeing the issues I pointed out and there was an initial period of unpleasantness until I’d explained my intentions in using the “Reply-to-all” function. All I was trying to do was reduce the spread of false information.
However, it’s been no big surprise that as of late my office email address will report at least one email advertisement per week in the Junk email folder. This ad will have the unsubscribe address as “RemoveAds@gmail.com” which leads me to suspect that whoever sent out the initial email has stepped out into the world of Email Marketing and is probably charging someone for the facility to intrude on my mailbox with their message.
As this is not the first time I’ve had my email address shared with a third party without my knowledge, I’m thinking that Email Marketing seems to follow a process like this;
- Create Gmail or similar disposable account. Let’s call it the deposit account (DA).
- Compile email with details of fake competition. This should ideally play on the news of an upcoming event or on basic greed.
- Send out the email, asking people to keep the DA on copy.
- Collect the email addresses that flow into the DA and compile a “comprehensive database of email contacts” with which you can “deliver advertisements to the right crowd” or some similar market-speak.
- Charge people for the Email Marketing campaign and earn money while doing so.
The way I see it, this kind of marketing is bad for both the advertiser and the person doing the mail address harvesting.
Why it’s bad for the advertiser
Pretty simple really – I’m (in this case the user/recipient of the email) being interrupted/having my privacy intruded by someone without my permission. I’m also probably not interested in what the advertisement is all about, so that’s money wasted. Online, most people are unlikely to welcome advertisements that are forced on them. When it tends to land in their inbox, it’s pretty likely going to end up being deleted without even being read.
Why it’s bad for the Address Harvester
For starters, you’re not quite as anonymous as you think you are. If I call up the advertiser and casually ask about who he’s paying in order to bother me, I’d be able to find you. Then I can easily tell the world about how you resort to unethical practices in order to earn money… not a pleasant situation. A bit of the proverbial dung drop in the milk pail, I think. Add to this the possible legal issues – I’m not sure if there’s much legal recourse for fake advertising victims, but if the party has enough clout I’d not want to be on the receiving end…
So called for its “opt-in” approach to marketing of products and services, Permission Marketing is a concept that needs to be popularised in Sri Lanka. Given that many people still don’t have proper internet access, other internet based marketing methods might not have the same user access as email; many companies will give their employees email, but not internet access. When this is the case, building a sense of trust and respect from the target market is what will set the email marketer apart from the rest of the crowd, IMHO. There’s no point in setting out to make money when you are sabotaging your chances of continuing to make money.