Monday, December 7, 2009

Opera Mail reply without quoting

An annoyance I have with Opera’s Mail client is that if you highlight some text an in email you are reading, and then reply to the email, only the highlighted text will be quoted.  This is obviously a feature that is by-design, but I often highlight text as a read with no intention to quote it.

To get around this feature I’ve created new buttons that deselect highlighted text before creating the reply message.

Reply | Reply all

You can drag and drop these to your Opera toolbar, or the raw commands are:

Deselect all,,,"Reply",Reply & Reply
Deselect all,,,"Reply all",Reply All & Reply all

Friday, December 4, 2009

Queensland partition to introduce R18 game classification

If you’re a Queensland resident who feels it’s about time that adults have the right to play adult-orientated games, now is your chance to have your say.

Queensland residents draws to the attention of the House that the Classification of Computer Games and Images Act 1995 is currently out of step with the wishes of the electorate.

Your petitioners, therefore, request the House that it be amended to permit computer games to receive the R18+ classification when they have been refused classification under the Commonwealth Act.

Sign the partition at 'Classification of computer games in Queensland'.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dillerkind shirts on RedBubble

4203053-1-can-mask-and-overall One of my favourite artists on DeviantArt, Dillerkind, has started selling shirts and prints on RedBubble.

Check out his stuff if you want something unique and fun.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What the Font?

WhatTheFont is a web-based tool for identifying a font in an image.  It’s not a new service and I’ve known about it for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about it and yesterday it was a lifesaver for me.

I had some printed material that I need to create a new document to compliment.  Because it was printed and not particularly large, the scan quality was pretty poor.  And the font had no spaces between the characters, which WhatTheFont cannot handle.  Despite this, WhatTheFont detected the font correctly based on two uppercase characters in my sample.  Amazing!  And the font was very obscure, so I would never have found it otherwise.

As a side note, I believe that a trick you can use to help WhatTheFont identify a font that has no spaces between characters, is to edit the image and put in the spaces between each character yourself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Recommended Reading: Sharp Objects

9780753822210

I don’t read many books, so you won’t see me recommend much.  But I picked up Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn because it’s cover looked good and had a sticker boasting awards it won (how else do you choose?).

I loved it.  It was disturbing and kinda messed-up—the kind of story that makes you wonder about the author (who’s pretty cute, by the way).

I immediately read Dark Places after that, which is also a great story—more violent but less sexual with an ending that it is neither obvious nor ridiculously obscure.

Read Gillian Flynn’s For Readers page to get an idea of if you would be interested in this author:

I wrote a dark, dark book. A book with a narrator who drinks too much, screws too much, and has a long history of slicing words into herself. With a mother who’s the definition of toxic, and a thirteen-year-old half-sister with a finely honed bartering system for drugs, sex, control. In a small, disturbed town, in which two little girls are murdered. It’s not a particularly flattering portrait of women, which is fine by me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to remove the tail-light from a Ford Falcon, style-side ute

I hate forcing things.  I’ll waste much time examining why something won’t move before I force it.  I’ll even search the web first.

When I searched the web to find how to remove the tail-light from my Ford Falcon ute, I found nothing.  So I post this in hope that it’ll help others.

To remove the tail-light from a Falcon, style-side ute, drop the tail gate and unscrew the two screws that would otherwise be obstructed by the tail gate (this is no secret).

This next step is where you may need to apply a significant amount of force.  Two wedged shape pins hold the tail-lights in place—one at the top and the other at the bottom.

The pins are angled towards the center of the ute, so you need to pull the light diagonally away from the corner of the ute.  On my ute they were held very tightly, so it was easiest to pull to release just one pin at a time, rather both at the same time.

Easy when you know how, but frustrating when you think you might be about to break something.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Episodes from Liberty City – She’s Got the Look

Rockstar always make great trailers for their GTA games which always feature great music.  I wouldn’t say Roxette’s “The Look” is a great song, but it works so well in trailer:

I’ll also take this time to say that GTA IV, is the best in the series.  I miss some of the distractions from the previous games, such as “Rampages”, but the missions have the right amount of difficulty, and the story and characters are brilliant.  For all the flak the GTA games get from the media, these games deserve to be played.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Notepad++: Linebreaks in Regular Expressions

Believe it or not, Notepad++ does not support the use of linebreaks in regular expressions for its “find” feature—it’s regular expression support is quite weak actually.

But if you don’t use regular expressions often enough to look for an alternative to Notepad++, here’s a trick to get around the limitation.

Open the find dialog and select the “Replace” tab. Change the Search mode to “Extended”.  Now in the “Find what” field enter “\r\n” and in the “Replace with” field enter “__RN__” and click “Replace All”.image Now all the linebreaks in your file will be replaced __RN__ so you can use this string in your regular expession in place of the \r\n.  When you’re done, use the same method to convert __RN__ back to \r\n.

I used this method to identify multiple linebreaks in an .srt subtitles file and replace them with a single linebreak.

tsMuxeR – Invalid SRT format

I’ve been playing with converting some videos to different formats and tsMuxeR is one tool I’m trying.   When including a subtitle SRT file in the mux, I would get the following error:

Invalid SRT format. "0036D148" is invalid timing info

Google didn’t reveal what the cause could be, so after much trial and error, I found that tsMuxeR does not like it when multiple lines of subtitles are seperated by two linebreaks instead of just one.

So the following text would trigger the error:

22
00:02:26,400 --> 00:02:29,551
He would wait for her

until he drew his last breath,

So it needs to be changed to:

22
00:02:26,400 --> 00:02:29,551
He would wait for her
until he drew his last breath.

The percentage that tsMuxeR errors at is roughly relative to where in the srt the invalid data is.  This can help you identify where to start looking for problems.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PC gaming is on it’s death bed…

… at least for me.

I’ve always invested a tidy sum of money into my computers so I can run the latest greatest games, for at least the first 6 months of it’s life.

But I’m starting to get fed up with having to jump through hoops to install and play a game.  Years ago, it started with having to load the original CD to play games.  The there were games that wouldn’t let you play if you have a virtual optical drive—purely out of spite.  These days having an internet connection is required to activate games.

Spore introduced me to having to install crapware.  I don’t give a shit about online communities, leader boards, trophies, and videos.  I just want to play the goddamn game and not have my system tray spilling over with useless game utility that offer me nothing.

Last night this all got worse for me when I installed Grand Theft Auto IV.  Not only do you have to have the DVD in the drive to play, not only do you have to active it online, not only does it install crapware, you HAVE TO have a Windows Live account to save your game!!!  WTF!?

I was ready to punch something by the time I was forced to wait for patches for the Live client, then patches for the game, then Live kept rejecting my connection.  If you don’t login to Live, you can’t save your game.  If you can’t connect to live, you can’t save your game.  If you can’t save your game there’s no point playing!

I totally resent having to have crapware and a live account to play games.  I bought the game!  I bought it with real money!  And I’m treated like an arsehole when I come to install it.  I so long for the days when you bought a game, you installed just the game, and then you played it, and saved your game to the computers local drive.

I have gaming consoles, but some games I simply prefer to play on a PC… I’m going to have a seriously hard time to justify choosing a PC game in future.

Friday, July 17, 2009

EAC, FLAC and embedded Cuesheets

For the second time, I’ve started the process of backing up my CD collection onto my computer.  I’m doing this with two goals in mind:

  1. Allow me to restore an identical copy of a CD if I were to misplace it.
  2. Allow me to use the backup to produce a copy of the tracks in any format quickly and easily.

I’ve chosen to use EAC to rip the CD because it can correct errors on scratched discs, with the AccurateRip feature you can identify when a rip may not be perfect.

And I’ve chose to store the CD as a single file in FLAC format.  There are other lossless formats that might offer better compression, but FLAC is open source so I can be confident of the formats longevity.

The reason this is the second time I’ve attempted a backup is because I spent so long researching the right configuration for EAC that by the time I got to the FLAC side of things I ran with some settings I seen online which wasn’t the ideal choice when it comes to handling cuesheets.

Cuesheets describe how a single audio file should be split up into tracks.  EAC will create the cuesheet as a separate file which totally fine—unless, like me, you would feel more confident with your backup if the cuesheet can’t be separated from the FLAC file.

The solution for not allowing the cuesheet to be seperated from the FLAC file is to embed it.  But there are two ways to embed a cuesheet:

  1. Embed as a tag named CUESHEET.
  2. Embed in the CUESHEET block.

I’ve chosen to embed the cuesheet in both the tag and block of the FLAC file.  I made this decision because the block option only stores the track running times, necessary to recreate the CD using CD burning software, whilst the tag option allows you to store track information including the track titles which can be used by music players and convertors. 

You could just use the tag option, but all FLAC software should read the cuesheet block, whilst cuesheet tag support could vary and I want to avoid having to export the cuesheet from the tag in this situation.

So here’s the punchline—my EAC command line options to import the cuesheet automatically after ripping:

-5 -V -T "ARTIST=%a" -T "ALBUM=%g" -T "DATE=%y" -T "GENRE=%m" --tag-from-file=CUESHEET="%a - %g.cue" --cuesheet="%a - %g.cue" %s

Here’s a quick breakdown of the parameters meaning:

  1. -5 : The amount of compression (between 1 and 8)
  2. -V : Verify the encoding
  3. -T : Each of the values after the T’s are tags.  I’ve selected to use only tags recommended by the OGG specification.
  4. --tag-from-file : Creates the CUESHEET tag
  5. --cuesheet : Creates the CUESHEET block
  6. “%a - %g.cue” : This will resolve the file name of the cuesheet EAC generates.
  7. %s : The name of the Wave file to be encoded.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good, clean Internet censorship

Censor this?

Good, clean internet censorship? Help get this advert on the air and in the air - on every Qantas flight in the country during the next sitting week of Parliament.

The Government's test trials on internet censorship are about to end, the results are nearly in and they're looking to announce their plans to filter all internet activity.

We know exactly where every politician will be - on a Qantas flight to Canberra as Parliament resumes. Your contribution will allow us to show this ad directly to them, and their staff, making it an issue they can't avoid.

Even if you’re not interested donating, it’s worth viewing the ad.  The Internet is a little “too amazing”.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Novint Falcon – the ultimate FPS controller

This will probably be out of my budget, but it looks amazing.  So I’ll be keeping an eye out for an Australian price.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Enable Gmail themes within Google Apps

Gmail theme

A little while ago I decided to enable Google Apps for my domain for Email use.   It’s free, I can easily access my mail from anywhere, and if I change web hosts I don’t have to worry about backing up my mail.

But one thing I had missed with Gmail under Google Apps, compared with normal Gmail, is the ability to apply themes to Gmail.  I had read somewhere that the theme setting would appear automatically after an undefined period, but was this was wrong.

If you want access the themes in Gmail under Google Apps you need to log into Google Apps for your domain, and go to Domain settings.   Then under the General tab, check “Enable pre-release features” and save the changes.  Wait 20 minutes, or so, log into Gmail and you should see the themes tab under the settings.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jessica Rabbit bikini colouring


Jessica Bikini by ~microUgly on deviantART

Another colouring of a King-Cheetah pencil.  Coloured using Inkscape, of course. 

The sequins were created using Tile Clone, then the Tweak Tool was used to subtly shift their place and jitter their lightness to create a sparkle.  This is the first time I’ve used the Tweak Tool this way—it’s a very clever and useful tool.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Opera Unites us

Just wanted to spread the word that Opera has released a new feature for the upcoming version of Opera 10 (which you get the early builds of) called Unite.

As I understand it, Unite is a web server that installs as a part of Opera.  It then allows you to quickly and easily share content from your PC via the Internet—the idea being that the typical web user shouldn’t have to rely on web hosting, or services like Facebook, to share content.  Anyone can write code to allow you to share your content however you like.

I haven’t explored how it works at all yet—in fact I’ve only just turned it on.  But it makes a lot of sense.  Always-on internet connections, like ADSL, is the norm.  And only P2P software has made good use of that fact.  As internet access gets faster it only makes sense that we all start using our PCs to serve content instead of commercial web hosts.

I look forward to seeing where Unite leads.

On a side note, how did I miss this great Opera April fools joke - Opera Face Gestures.

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Sad Psycho

IMG_0119

This is my Sad Psycho.  It’s a wall decal by Michael Fuchs, available at Blik.  Although, I got mine from Supernice who, unlike Blik, ship to Australia.

It was a little tricker to put on the wall than I expected.  Each colour is on a separate sheet—so you have to place each colour on the wall one at a time.  And they don’t have any overlap at all, so if you’re slightly out with your positioning a gap will be visible between the colours.  It’s also made more difficult by the fact that the backing paper is not transparent, so you can’t easily mark where to position them before applying.

Cutting the decals into smaller sections makes life much easier--and safer, since if you are slight out it’s only one piece that’s effected.  I laid the black outline first as one whole piece then added each colours section one by one.  If I were to do it again, I would have cut his eyes out of the black sheet and put them on after the white face—this is the only area where I didn’t line up things well enough and separating the eyes would have minimised the flaw.  But my mistakes are barely noticeable.

You can see another, perhaps clearer, photo at my DeviantArt page.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Download Apple HD trailers and convert to MP4

9-video-screen I enjoy watching movie trailers, especially high-definition ones on my plasma TV.  I find the best source for movie trailers to be Apple Trailers, but there’s two problems with this:

  1. Apple doesn’t provide links to download the trailer in HD
  2. I play the trailers using a PS3 which doesn’t support MOV files.

Until recently I thought the only solution was to buy the Pro version of Quicktime which both lets you save high-definition trailers, and convert the video from MOV to MP4.  Turns out there’s a free alternative.

To download the trailer, follow the High-definition link for the movie (i.e. http://www.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/9/hd/).  Sometimes these links don’t take you to the correct page—you can tell you’re at the correct page if the URL ends with hd/.  If it doesn’t end with hd/, add it.

Right-click on the button for the resolution you want, copy the link path, and paste it into your browsers address bar and it should look something like http://movies.apple.com/movies/focus_features/9/9-tlr_1080p.mov.  Now edit the url to include a h between the last _ and the resolution number so it looks like http://movies.apple.com/movies/focus_features/9/9-tlr_h1080p.mov—and that’s your download url.

Now to convert the downloaded MOV file to an MP4, download and install Yamb.  Start Yamb and double-click on “Click to create an MP4 file with multiple audio, video, subtitle chapters streams”.  Click the Add button to add your MOV, choose the location for the converted file, and click Next to start the conversion.

The conversion process is very quick because the video is not re-encoded, which means there is no loss of quality.

For more information refer to the HD-Trailers.net resources at Download from Apple and Convert .mov to .mp4.

On a side note, 9 is going to be freakin’ awesome.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Get HD version of YouTube videos

I had to get a copy of the Wall•E/Watchmen trailer mash-up.  I knew their were tools that would grab the video for me, but I really wanted to HQ version, I really didn’t want to have to install software just to do it.

Turns out you can get even better than the HQ version, you can get the original HD version.  And you can get it with a simple bookmarklet.  You can read the details of how at UnlockForUs or just or just copy and paste the following Javascript code into your browsers address bar as you’re watching the desired Youtube video:

javascript:window.location.href = 'http://youtube.com/get_video?video_id=' + swfArgs['video_id'] + "&fmt=22" + "&l=" + swfArgs['l'] + "&sk=" + swfArgs['sk'] + '&t=' + swfArgs['t'];

Windows Live Writer – how do you do?

Penguins I’ve quickly jumped onto using the release candidate of Windows 7 as my primary desktop operating system.  One of the first things I noticed is that unlike Windows Vista, it’s not bundled with Windows Photo Gallery and other tools.  So when getting Windows Live Photo Gallery from Window Live I noticed Windows Live Writer for posting on blogs.

So that’s what I’m doing, posting this blog from Windows Live Writer.  I have to admit, it’s pretty nice.  The editor gives me pretty much exactly what a I need.

I’ve found the web-based Blogspot editor to be limited and awkward—I tend to find myself writing the raw HTML instead of using the WYSIWYG editor.  But Live Writer (do we really need to prefix every Live product with “Windows Live”?) gives me a nice GUI with access to useful properties, such as Title and Rel attributes on links.

I was about to say that as a HTML purist, Live Writer was beginning to turn me on, as it correctly used <p> to create paragraph breaks, instead of <br><br> and even used <p> tags correctly with <blockquote>.  But then I seen it uses <font> tags to change a font-face and <u> for underlines—so they’ve really dropped the ball there.  Is it that hard to make it use <span> tags with inline styles?

Despite using deprecated HTML, I’ll probably still use Live Writer because it’s so easy and works so well.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The ultimate TV

Ah, nuts. I just found my next TV -- Philips Cinema 21:9

It should work wonderfully with Sony's next Piece of Shit.

Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn't Fucking Work

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wall.E Watchmen Mashup

If you thought Wall.E was a movie for kids...

I actually recommend watching the HD version... very sweet :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Apparently Apple invented all the fancy browser features we have today

Wow!  I'm flawed by the arrogance of Apple in their marketing of Safari 4 beta.  

They claim Safari is the first web browser to have features that Firefox and Opera have had for up to 15 years!  Some of the features they claimed to be the first browser to have were available in Internet Explorer 5.

Opera's has document clearly all the dates and version all each feature was included in Opera.

When Google released Chrome, they had the decency to credit other browsers for some of their features.  Nobody cares that they borrowed features.  It creates competition and is good for consumers.  But don't lie to your customers and claim old ideas as your own.

You can read the debate about which features were innovated by Safari and which were innovated by Opera at Call to action: Deceptive marketing of Safari 4.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Diffusion Curves: The next advancement in vector illustrations

I've done a couple of gradient mesh works using Illustrator.  The G-mesh tool in Illustrator works to create organic looking work, but a drawing can become extremely tedious.

Some guys have created what appears to be the perfect solution with Diffusion Curves.  It's difficult to explain how it works, so watch the video:

The tool itself includes a few other clever ideas that I wouldn't mind seeing in Inkscape, such as the "active contour" feature that attracts curves to the contour of underlying image.

I haven't yet tried the tool, but you can download it at the Diffusion Curves publication page.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MadWorld: The next Wii game I'll buy

This time I won't wait 12 months to get it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

No More Heroes no more

Goddammit!  Yet another game I intended to buy for the Wii, once I could find it for a budget price, is no longer in print less than a year after release.

No More Heroes was released March 20 2008 and is not available at any major retailers at the time of this post.

No More Heroes wasn't reviewed as highly as my usual game purchases, but I loved the strangeness of Suda 51's previous game, Killer 7, so was interested to play No More Heroes in hopes of experiencing that same strangeness.

Even though the Wii is super popular, this feels like GameCube all over, where I have to hunt very hard to find copies of games.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gillette: the best a gamer can get

So, Gillette have released a new razor specifically for Gamers.  Penny Arcade have provided a theory for why, and I suspect countless gamers are blogging about how stupid this is.  And therein lies the genius.  The idea that gamers need their own brand of razor is clearly stupid, but by doing so Gillette have generated a viral campaign.  Gamers blogs are now advertising the Gillette brand for them.  And think what it'll do for their Google ranking.  Clever.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mirrors Edge Impressions

I was bought Mirror's Edge for the PS3 for Xmas and I've been playing it very slowly.

I think the game is really clever, and can be a lot of fun.  But unfortuntely I find that it offers as much frustration as fun.

I have to be honest, I've never ever played a FPS using a dual-analogue controller.  So I felt very clumsy to begin with but I don't think it's a limitation for me now.  Having said that, the overall controls and gameplay feels more like you are rolling a dice than mastering a game.

For the most part, running and jumping is great.  I have a hard time maintaing momentum but I know this is because I don't know the levels and I haven't played enough.  But at times you know you have to jump across at a certain point but getting across isn't so obvious.  During these times I'll die tens of times.  Although, to be fair, this is something I can improve at, but it's still extremely frustrating.

The worst and most hair-pulling part is when you have to take on armed foes.  Getting pass these parts is when I die seemingly countless times.  Taking out a foe with a pistol is relatively fun and easy.  You have plenty of time to disarm these guys.  But the guys with shotguns and machine guns are almost impossible to disarm.  You only have a split-second to press the disarm button and I don't know how anyone could ever get it right more than 50% of the time.  And if you miss you're dead.

You can slow down time to so you can do it more easily, but even then, I find myself responding the foes movements rather than when his weapon turn red to indicate when he can be disarmed.  His arm moves over his head to attempt to pistol-whip me, and that's when I press the disarm button, which is too early and then I'm as good as dead.  The ability to slow down time is very limited and doesn't build up until you start running around, and you can't run much after disarming the first guy before the next five have shot you dead.  Oh, and it only takes a few hits to kill you, so whilst sometimes you can run away, often you'll have to run directly at a firing weapon and just hope the guy is sucky shot.

I'm sure there are ways I can improve, and in that regard I wish Mirrors Edge had better training levels where you could practice and master the controls.  The first level introduces what each button does, hints about some of the techniques, slaps you on the arse and sends you on your way.  After that, you die so quickly you really don't get a chance to learn the more advanced techniques that might help.

I do actually enjoy the game, in that I want to play it.  But I only play one level at a time.  Any more  than that and I know I'm putting my plasma at risk of becoming a target for the PS3 controller.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Okami didn't last 12 months on Wii

I was one of the people who were really excited when a port of the PS2 game, Okami, was announced for Wii.  I suspect I was also one of the many people who didn't buy the game when it came out despite my excitement.

A few weeks ago I placed an order for Okami on CDWOW.  A few weeks later and CDWOW is still trying to source a copy of the game.  I've done a search on a collection of other sites and found that nobody else, at least in Australia, are selling the game.

It seems the game didn't last 12 months before they stopped producing PAL copies of it.  I find this quite concerning that a console that is so young, so extremely popular, and yet can't sustain sales of such a highly rated product.  I think this is something Nintendo needs to turn around--in the long run they'll suffer if the Wii becomes synonymous with shitty party games.

I'm truly hoping that MadWorld will be on store shelves for longer than 12 months when it's released.

Hottest 100 videos start tonight

Set up your PVR's--the videos for Triple J's Hottest 100 are playing tonight (Friday 27 Feb) and tomorrow night on Rage.

The first 50 count down tonight from 12:10 AM and the second 50 count down from 11:00 PM, Saturday night.  Rage doesn't normally have videos for all 100, so you can find out exactly what will be playing at the Rage Playlist page.

And don't miss out on Rage from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Saturday monring when they play a collection of videos from past Hottest 100's that ranked between #100 and #90 (I've often found the bottom 10 songs more enjoyable than the top 10 songs).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

World of Goo - get the soundtrack

If you haven't played World of Goo, you don't know what you are missing.  If you have, you'll know that the game has one of the best soundtracks.  It's truely amazing.  And now you can download it.

I spent this weekend pulling together all the audio, reconstructing some of the older songs, and “remastering” them all like they do to Snow White DVD’s. The final soundtrack is about 49 minutes long, and all free here.

This isn't the kind of music you'll put on your iPod, but it's perfect if you ever have a Tim-Burton-theme party.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

DeviantArt BBCode

Here's a phpBB3 BBCode definition to allow people to easily display DeviantArt work in their forum:

BBCode usage
[da={NUMBER1}]{NUMBER2}[/da]
HTML replacement
<div><object width="450" height="{NUMBER1}"><param name="movie" value="http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf"></param><param name="flashvars" value="id={NUMBER2}" /><embed src="http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="450" flashvars="id={NUMBER2}" height="{NUMBER1}"></embed></object>
<br />[ <a href="http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/{NUMBER2}">Direct Link</a> ]</div>

Unfortunately, this is as easy as I could make it. The user still needs to hunt for the correct numbers. The first number, {NUMBER1}, specifies the object height and can be anything, but ideally it you should use height value used for the object that you can find in the embed fields on the DeviantArt art page. The second number, {NUMBER2}, needs to be the number of the art piece. You can get this from the URL. For example, with the URL http://microugly.deviantart.com/art/A-Tiger-100706280 the number will be 100706280. So the entire BBCode usage will be [da=535]100706280[/da].

Let-me-google-that-for-you BBCode

Because sometimes it's fun to be a dick, I've added a Let me google that for you BBCode to my phpBB3 forum. Here's how to add it to your own phpBB3 forum:

  1. Go to Administration Control Panel > Posting > BBCode > Add a new BBCode.
  2. In the BBCode Usage field, enter
    [google]{SIMPLETEXT}[/google]
  3. In the HTML replacement field, enter
    <a href="http://lmgtfy.com/?q={SIMPLETEXT}" title="Let me Google that for you">{SIMPLETEXT}</a>
  4. Click submit and you're done!

Now you can quickly and easily direct people on how to search for [google]something[/google] on Google.

If you would like to be a little less patronising, in step 3 use the following code instead:

<a href="http://www.google.com/search?q={SIMPLETEXT}" title="Let me Google that for you">{SIMPLETEXT}</a>

Violence is healthy

Keeping violent media away from boys could be a bad idea

The media likes to run stories linking violent behavior to video games, but a new book is offering up the theory that fantasy violence is actually good for children's development.

I think people who play games know the truth about violence in video games already (i.e. they don't turn us into murders). But it's nice to have it validated every now and again. And I think most males remember playing games with make-believe violence even when video games weren't around. Cowboy shows were blammed in those days ;)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Beer count

This is my continuely growing list of beers I've tried. It's somewhat a hobby of mine to try different beers. I like to keep a record and challenge friends to get me something I've never had before. Although, to be fair, it's still not that hard to find something.

  1. XXXX Bitter
  2. XXXX Gold
  3. Carlton Mid
  4. Crown Larger
  5. Beez Neez
  6. Carlton Draft
  7. Carlton Sterling
  8. Cascade Premium Larger
  9. Foster’s Light Ice
  10. Pure Blonde
  11. Victoria Bitter
  12. Blue Tongue Premium Larger
  13. Tooheys Extra Dry
  14. Tooheys Old
  15. Corona
  16. Becks
  17. Stella Artois
  18. Bravara
  19. Carlsberg
  20. Carlsberg Elephant Beer
  21. Hahn Premium
  22. Hahn Premium Light
  23. James Squire Original Amber Ale
  24. James Squire India Pale Ale
  25. Holsten Premium Bier
  26. James Boag's Premium
  27. Boag's St George
  28. Heineken
  29. Budweiser
  30. Tuborg
  31. Coopers Heritage Premium Ale
  32. Blue Tongue Traditional Pilsener
  33. Amsterdam
  34. Bitburger
  35. Tooheys New
  36. Tooheys Extra Dry Platinum
  37. Tiger
  38. Brewtopia Blowfly
  39. Amstel
  40. James Squire Golden Ale
  41. Pilsner Urquell
  42. Birra Moretti
  43. Bootleg's Sou'West Wheat
  44. Bootleg's Wils Pils
  45. Bootleg's Tom's Brown Ale
  46. Bootleg's Settlers Pale Ale
  47. Bootleg's American Pale Ale
  48. Bootleg's Raging Bull
  49. Belle-Vue Kriek
  50. Hoegaarden White Draught
  51. Kokanee Glacier Beer
  52. Labatt Blue
  53. James Squire Pilsner
  54. Millers Genuine Draft
  55. Cascade Premium Light
  56. Tuska (Vanuatu)
  57. Deneb Munich Dark Lager
  58. Little Creature's Pale Ale
  59. Grolsch
  60. Guinness
  61. Carlton Black
  62. Kilkenny
  63. Crown Gold
  64. Redback
  65. Carlton Cold
  66. Steinlager
  67. Stone's Premium Ginger Beer
  68. Kirin Ichiban
  69. Hahn Super Dr
  70. Tooheys Pils
  71. Little Creature's Pilsner
  72. Carlton Dry
  73. Bohemian Pilsner
  74. DAB Original
  75. Erdinger Schneeweisse Winterbier
  76. Singha Lager Beer
  77. Michelob Ultra
  78. Tasman Bitter
  79. Knappstein Reserve Lager
  80. Sapparo Premium
  81. Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  82. Peroni
  83. Efes
  84. Kronenbourg 1664
  85. Miller Chill
  86. Barefoot Radler
  87. Bluebottle Beer
  88. Carlton Dry Fusion
  89. Löwenbräu

A little creativity

Catching up on blogs, I missed a gem of a video created by Troy Sobotka over at The Driblet of an Aphorism, filmed in HD with a realatively cheap Kodak Zi6 and assembled with open source software. Check it out…

I'm floored by what can be done with a little creativity and know-how.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How to replace the phpBB3 CAPTCHA

One of the best ways to protect your phpBB forum from spam bots is to replace the phpBB CAPTCHA with your own custom CAPTCHA that the bots haven't been trained to read. So, in this post I'm going to explain how to integrate your own image generator.

I won't be explaining how to actually write an image generator--there's plenty of PHP GD tutorials out there that can help you with that.

The way the CAPTCHA works in phpBB3 is that a code for the visitor is generated and stored in the database. The code can be retrieved based on the users session. phpBB3 can be left to handle this without our intereference, all we need to do is generate an image with that code in it.

The code for phpBB3 CAPTCHA image creator is in includes/captcha/captcha_gd.php and this file included just once from includes/ucp/ucp_confirm.php. So we simply need to create a new captcha file to replace the default one. I like to create my mods in their own folder so I created a /mods/captcha.php file.

Your custom captcha code needs to have the follow format:

class captcha {
 function execute($code, $seed)
 {
   /*
   * Put your code here to create the $img resource
   * using $code for the code to display
   */
   header('Content-Type: image/png');
   header('Cache-control: no-cache, no-store');
   imagepng($img);
   imagedestroy($img);
 }

 /*
 * Create any other methods you like to generate the CAPTCHA image
 */
}

The key with this code is that your class must be called captcha and it must have a method called execute() which displays the image. The execute() method must take two parameter, $code and $seed. The $code variable is the string you need to display in your image. The $seed is used by the original phpBB3 captcha class to seed a lot of the random values. You can use the $seed in your own code if you like, or ignore it, but you must accept it as a parameter for the execute() method. You can then write any other methods you might like to generate the image using the PHP GD library.

After you've saved the file:

Open:
/ucp/ucp_confirm.php
Find: (hint: should be line 67)
include($phpbb_root_path . 'includes/captcha/captcha_gd.' . $phpEx);
Replace with:
//include($phpbb_root_path . 'includes/captcha/captcha_gd.' . $phpEx);
include($phpbb_root_path . 'mods/captcha.' . $phpEx);

And then you are done.

Suggestions for improved Spam handling in phpBB

I run phpBB3 for my forum, InkscapeForum.com and I really can't fault the package, except when it comes to allowing administrators to handle spam.  My forum is open to anonymous posting which means I probably get hit a little harder with spam than other phpBB3 forums.

phpBB3 currently has the following mechanics for helping to reduce spam:

  1. It has a CAPTCHA on the registration page, and on the posting page for anonymous posters to trip up bots.
  2. It allows you to create custom fields with required values on the registration page.
  3. You can not allow posts to display until a moderator approves it.

Now here's the problems with those items:

  1. It looks like from the sudden spike in spam on my forum that the CAPTCHA has been cracked.
  2. Adding a custom field on the registration page will only trick up a bot when it's registering, not when it's posting anonymously.
  3. Moderating a hundred spam messages a day is no fun.

There are a lot fancy ideas for preventing spam, but for the most part I think phpBB needs to have better controls for handling spam.  Here's my suggestions:

1. Custom CAPTCHA.

Customising your CAPTCHA is the most effective way of tripping up spam bots and when I customised my the spam on my site instantly stopped.  The ability to write a CAPTCHA will require a PHP programmer to write, and I found it extremely simple to integrate into phpBB (just one line of code).  phpBB should document this procedure.

2. Allow custom fields on both the registration page, and anonymous posting page.

Adding custom fields with required values is a great way to trip up bots that are trained for a specific set of answers.  So whilst you can add a field to the registration page, it would be nice to add it to the posting page also.

3. Search for users by web site URL

A lot of spam accounts are created and never used.  Instead they sit in the members list with the sole purpose of displaying their spam URL.  So the only way to spot a spam account is by the URL they are trying to advertise and whilst phpBB will allow you to list members by their URL, you can't search the URLs.  Being able to search for "wow", "gold" or "runescape" would bring up a lot of spam account on my forum.  Being able to search for users who have listed a web site, but never posted would also reveal a lot of spam accounts.

4. Delete multiple accounts at once

It takes three steps to delete one account and you can only delete one account at a time.  Once you've identified a list of spam accounts, it would be nice to be able to delete them all at once.

5. Create a reject word list.

phpBB has a word censor list, but if someone posts a censored word it's simply replaced and the message still posts ok.  It would nice to be able to reject posts that contain certain words, such as "viagra".  I ideally the reject word list would work on URLs also.

That's about it. Mostly, phpBB3 just needs a way to quickly find and remove spammers, but a couple more methods to spoil the spammers attempts would be nice also.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sennheiser IE 6 Review

Since I travel on the train to work every week day I thought I should invest in some good quality ear-phones for my iPod.  The standard ear-phones are acceptable, but when I felt the need to turn up the volume I could tell they weren't healthy for my ears.

I chose Sennheiser for being a reputable brand, and the IE 6 has an audio range from 10 Hz to 18,000 Hz.  At around AU$200 they were a bit of an investment, but I was relieved to find they were worth it.

The IE 6 is noticeably superior to the standard iPod ear-phones.  The sound is clearer, and much bass-ier.  Previously I would tweak the iPod's sound settings because the speakers would distort the sound.  But with the IE 6's the speakers don't cause any distortion, but you still tweak sound settings to get the best sound.

Beyond just sound better, the speakers are overall louder.  I normalise all my music with MP3Gain which effectively reduces the volume of all my music.  With the iPod ear-phones a comfortable loud volume was pretty close to the maximum iPod volume.  With the IE 6's I get that same loudness at lower iPod volumes and if I choose to go louder it doesn't feel like I'm damaging my ears with the IE 6's.

I had never used "in-ear" phones so I was concerned I would find them uncomfortable, but this wasn't a problem either.  Since they are "in-ear" they isolate a lot of outside noise--great for use on public transport, not so great for hearing approaching cars when crossing the street.

The only con with these ear-phones is that I have so much trouble spelling "Sennheiser".

Monday, February 9, 2009

Poor audio quality in Guitar Hero World Tour on Wii

I've read reviews of Guitar Hero World Tour for the Wii on a number of prominent gaming sites.  None criticised the sound quality (with the exception of the player created music) so I've been most frustrated that I've found the sound quality so bad.

I own Guitar Hero III on the Wii and (after the mono sound disc was replaced with the corrected disc) I can't fault the audio.  World Tour on the other hand, sounds weak and flat.  It's quieter, and when you turn it up, it doesn't get louder, it gets noisier.

To test, I turned World Tour up to a healthy volume, muted my reciever, swapped out Word Tour for GHIII, started a track and unmuted.  GHIII was so much louder that I was almost knocked over.  GHIII is not just louder, it's punchier and fuller.

Whilst no prominent sources have reported audio problems, many other users have confirmed the poor audio on Wii.  Some have suggested that because Wii uses DVD the tracks have to compressed more to fit them on.  This argument is flawed by the fact the the Xbox 360 also uses DVD, with more channels of sound, higher polygon count for the models, and higher resolution textures.  If World Tour on Wii sound bad because it's on DVD, then with the Xbox 360 version should sound much worse since it has to store more data.

I bought a PS3 a few weeks before buying World Tour for the Wii.  I bought the Wii version because it was one less instrument to buy and graphics didn't matter to me.  But the sound quality is that bad that I really wish I had bought the PS3 version.  The quality is that bad that I have a really hard time enjoying the game.

For reference, Guitar Hero Aerosmith also suffers from weak sound.  I don't own it, but my brother does.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Blogspot widgets as a file?

I've spent the last hour or so trying to get my head around widgets so I could add my DeviantArt favourites.  

The things that has had me stumped is that when you add a widget (or gadget) to BlogSpot, one of the options is to add your own by specifying a URL to it.  So this is what I wanted to do--create a widget file generated using PHP and add it to this site.

The things is, the process of creating a widget file isn't really documented and I couldn't create a file that the Add Gadget process would accept.  I tried XML, HTML, JavaScript and plain text.  Very frustrating.

So instead I've manually added widget code with a JavaScript include, in the Blogspot template, that is generated using PHP… yeah getting the images from DeviantArt to here goes through a lot of loops.

If anyone knows the correct way to format a widget in its own file, please leave a comment.  A simple "Hello world" example is all I need.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Art catchup

So, I have a new blog--time to test this baby out and post some art I never got around to displaying on my old blog.

In chronological order…

This created in Inkscape 0.47dev. The new handing of Live Paths effects made that fur around his face criminally easy for a vector drawing.

This coloured in ArtRage. Pretty much the only thing I've done in ArtRage since I bought it. Original lines by Fooray.

Coloured in Inkscape. The lines were a very generous trade from 2BeanSoup.

My favourite colouring to date. This is time coloured in GIMP--a very first for me. Lines by renecordova.

And lastly another colouring done in GIMP. Lines by Sythe01. There's also a black and white version.

Now, having compiled this post in Blogspot I can say it doesn't make life easier when it comes to managing layout :)

Screw it, I'm using Blogspot

As is my usual style, only a few hours ago I was going to gently ease myself into using Blogspot and examine it's feature and limitations.  But now I've gone in head first.  

I've created a new domain, blog.microugly.com and linked it to this Blogspot site.  I've added the feed to Feedburner and redirected my old feed from www.microugly.com to the Feedburner feed--so people subscribed to my old feed should automatically receive this this post, but I recommend updating the feed URL to http://feeds2.feedburner.com/microugly.

At this moment, the switch to Blogspot feels like a relief.  Some weeks ago I switched my hosting PHP service from PHP4 to PHP5 which killed my ability to post new items--I've just been too disinterested to debug it.  Writing my own blogging software has been great experience, but I don't need it any more.  

I would like to have be able to merge all my content across to Blogspot, but I'll probably just repost the valuable content here and keep the other content there until eventually I tire of seeing it and delete it.

Since Blogspot isn't really a host, I'll keep www.microugly.com for hosting stuff that just doesn't fit in Blogspot.  Now, I have to figure out how to write a gadget to display my DeviantArt favourites here.

So this is Blogspot…

Having ran my own blogging application for some time, I'm keen to give it up in favour of a system I'm not responsible for.

The thing is, will I find Blogspot to restrictive?  I'll have to check out if I can create pages not confined by the template.