About

POKE is the personal weblog of Marcus Campbell, a computer programmer who was born in Canada, brought up in Northern Ireland and currently living in Vancouver.

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Now, What About Developers. What About Developers.

Steve Jobs at the D5 Conference, May 30th 2007:

"That client is the result of a lot of technology on the client, that client application. So, when we show it them they're just blown away by how good it is; and you just can't do that stuff in a browser."

"The marriage of some really great client apps with some really great cloud services is incredibly powerful and, right now, can be way more powerful than just having a browser on the client."

Steve Jobs at the WWDC, June 11th 2007:

"The full Safari engine is inside of iPhone and it gives us tremendous capability, more than has ever been in a mobile device to this date. And so, you can write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look exactly, and behave exactly, like apps on the iPhone."

Update: Apple Press Release, June 20th 2007:

"A new Apple-designed application on iPhone will wirelessly stream YouTube's content to iPhone over Wi-Fi or EDGE networks and play it on iPhone's stunning 3.5 inch display"

"To achieve higher video quality and longer battery life on mobile devices, YouTube has begun encoding their videos in the advanced H.264 format, and iPhone will be the first mobile device to use the H.264-encoded videos."

14 June 2007 · 0 comments

Scuttle.org Moving Hosts

Just in case you're trapped on one side of the DNS timeline, somewhat akin to a less bloody Cube 2, I'm in the process of moving scuttle.org onto a new host. Like anything involving DNS voodoo (as well as exporting, rebuilding and importing files and data) it'll probably take a wee while.

Up until now it had been hosted on the very capable, UK-based 34SP.com that I've been happily using for years now. (In fact, tecknik.net is still hosted there.) The uptime has been great, the support has been great and I'd happily recommend it on that basis.

Now, why would I switch?

  • My account expires again this week.
  • It's still relatively cheap for a year's hosting, but you don't get a lot of bang for your buck: the space and bandwidth allowances are really quite stingy and I've ended up paying quite a bit more in overages over the past year.
  • According to the details on the e-mail reminder sent to me, existing accounts apparently aren't automatically given the same limit increases that new accounts are advertised at.
  • Load times were really starting to struggle.
  • Now that I'm living on the other side of the world, I figured it'd be nice to have my data a little closer.
  • Which reminds me: the exchange rates make it more expensive still.

Anyway, I decided to make the jump this morning and pick one of the few hosts in North America that I always hear about on these Internets. After a bit of humming-and-hawing, Dreamhost stood out as the most obvious choice for me.

It allows tonnes of space, tonnes of bandwidth, supports lots of programming doodahs and has very few limits at all on what you can add. For instance I could, and probably will, host all the domains I own on this one account. Above all it's still fairly cheap and, while there are always a claxon of complaints whenever things go barmy, they seem to have a good reputation.

Of course, getting a $97 discount off the first year made it even sweeter… but it also caused me more grief to find a promo code that gave the full discount but wasn't going to eventually reward some scuzzy spammer. (Search for 'dreamhost promo' and you'll see what I mean.) Although referrals and commissions come off the same lump of cash, meaning affiliates get nothing for offering the full discount, affiliates still get a wee bit for referrals of referrals.

It feels a bit coarse to stick my own Dreamhost promo code in a post that's really about switching hosts but I'm going to do it anyway because, frankly, it helps people who were gonna switch anyway and doesn't funnel any benefits to OMGZORS! SUPERGREATPROMOCODEZ! websites: POKE97

Anyway, we'll see how the new host malarky goes.

13 April 2007 · 3 comments

Compizzle, Fo Shizzle

This morning I noticed that an Nvidia screen was appearing before Gnome loaded, implying that the proprietary drivers had (somehow) decided to kick in. I took that as a sign that I should try to install Xgl and Compiz so that I could enjoy all the whizzy effects I'd seen demonstrated on many a blurry online video.

Installing turned out a lot easier than I thought. The main two packages — xserver-xgl and compiz-gnome — are in the Ubuntu repository these days, ripe for the picking. After grabbing them, I thumbed through these handy instructions written by a guy called Dave Hayes and was able to write a new session option that would load all the right guff automatically.

Afterwards I installed gset-compiz to tweak the effects I wanted without having to fiddle with parameters, followed by cgwd, so that I could pick new themes. That said, the "choice" compiz users have at the moment is roughly between 50 knock-offs of Vista and 5 knock-offs of OS X.

Which shouldn't be a surprise, given the technology.

The effects really are impressive on first run: smoothing, drop shadows, opacity, wobbly windows, Exposé-esque window management and, of course, manipulating workspaces as the faces of a cube. Sweet.

Apart from the fact that I don't use multiple workspaces, ever, and the wobbly windows lose their appeal after five minutes, the remaining improvements do a good spit-polish job on Gnome. If they ever get bundled by default in a distro like Ubuntu, I can easily see it turning the heads of a lot of non-techies who would otherwise be distracted by Apple's shininess.

21 August 2006 · 2 comments

Scuttle in the Opera 9 Changelog

It may be a little late to bring this up, considering it was two months ago, but it was really cool to see Scuttle mentioned in the changelog for Opera 9.0:

Bookmarks exported to HTML are now in the Netscape Bookmark File Format, making them compatible with Yahoo bookmarks, Scuttle, MyBookmarks, etc.

Not that there's much to be proud of in inadvertently helping to promote a ropey old bookmark format, but still…

21 August 2006 · 0 comments

Scuttle 0.7.2

I've just released a new minor version of Scuttle — 0.7.2 — that includes a few minor bug / compatibility fixes, cleaner URLs using Mod_Rewrite, watchlist feeds, three new translations (Danish, Lithuanian and Brazilian Portuguese) and a handful of updated translations too.

It's also the first release I've done in Linux using a heap of new tools so I'm hoping I haven't managed to banjax it somewhere along the line.

Update: Aye, seems I broke the first ZIP file by uploading it as ASCII instead of binary. Doh. I was so used to having an FTP program on Windows which autodetected all that malarky that I forgot all about it on gFTP.

28 April 2006 · 2 comments

Smithy Code

Justice Peter Smith, the judge in the copyright case between the authors of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" and "The Da Vinci Code", apparently snuck an encrypted message into his judgement. How cool is that.

I've managed to eke out the following italicised letters:

smithycodeJaeiextostgpsacgreamqwfkadpmqzv

…but I haven't started working on it yet.

Update: I've gone through it again now that I've had a bit of sleep and it seems that I had missed quite a few letters. I've corrected the sequence accordingly. As you can see, regardless of what the article in The Guardian claims, there are definitely more than 25 letters after "smithycode".

Update: In the end it didn't take very long before Dan Tench, the laywer/journalist who broke the story, managed to get prompted enough into breaking the code itself too:

JACKIEFISTERWHOAREYOUDREADNOUGH

27 April 2006 · 0 comments

Linux Vicious Circle

Over the past 10 years I have, on occasion, willingly subjected myself to a severe punishment known as trying to switch to Linux without first being an expert in it. The Linux vicious circle.

The story began many moons ago with my attempts to dual-boot Slackware (ha!) on a rusty ol' Compaq — failing immediately when I couldn't get beyond the console and bare-bones X because the integrated graphics chip wasn't supported. As years passed, I tried handfuls of releases — Debian, Red Hat, Suse, Knoppix, Slax etc. — in the hope that one would be the Linux messiah, with automagical built-in support for everything.

Each new release had clear and impressive improvements, but it became very clear to me that Linux without an Internet connection was going to be impossible to troubleshoot. Originally this problem was solely because I only had dial-up, and on a separate machine at that, but these past few years it has been frustrating to know that all that stood in the way of me and Happy Linux Land was my wireless card. If only I could get my wireless card to work in Linux, I could find out how to get my wireless card to work in Linux! Repeatedly booting to Windows and back was simply not helpful.

It was only with my latest, and perhaps third, attempt at Ubuntu that I have finally had success in activating my wireless card and receiving a working Internet connection.

Believing the latest release is often the best, regardless of stability disclaimers, I decided to try the latest testing release of Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake).

Ubuntu truly is a lovely distro, built on Debian's great hardware support and further improving its ease-of-use. The installation, although typically lengthy, was as friendly as installing a new operating system could be. My only sticking points were in repartitioning (not being absolutely certain whether resizing the partition referred to the existing or new one) and, perhaps the cause of future grief, skipping the wireless setup because I didn't have my WEP key written down.

16 April 2006 · 1 comment

The Arrogance of 37signals

37signals apparently just can’t resist complaining in public about its customers. It’s astounding that any company would think this is good business practice. The fact that they try to weasel around it in the comments is even more pathetic.

12 April 2006 · 2 comments

Jut Ad Ater

it probbly an't the bet iea to make nother attempt at ual-booting linux the ame evening i pilt rink over my poor lptop. hy an't liuid an eletroni jut get along?

Update: you know you have a problem when ctrl an alt aren't working. i've manage to massage some o the letters back, but the keyboar stroke somehow spread to other keys while i was sleeping.

getting a key to work again is a long boring process of popping off the keys, taking out the spring mechanism an suggestively playing with the nipple-esue button unerneath. i on't know the specifics of why it eventually works, but it seems to.

10 April 2006 · 2 comments

Warcraft Background Downloader

Apparently Blizzard decided the best way to make their downloader not suck was to make it run all the time. This was really the most obvious solution: leaving millions of uploads active instead of the limited selection of users that are still downloading.

Blizzard, however, didn't seem to think people would object to paying for the pleasure of World of Warcraft leeching their spare bandwidth on the sly. They removed the ability for the customer to choose to share their bandwidth and they did it without much fanfare.

Funnily enough, I didn't get to see if this intrusion even improved the download speeds. Knowing that the downloader usually sucked, I managed to get the UK patch off a website before it was released to the European servers. That, at least, took a fraction of the usual time.

04 April 2006 · 5 comments

Photos

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