Monday, 31-Jan-05 19:42
See, if you can guess what this is?

Yes, it looks just like... Eww... Could it be?
Yes, it's the Hello Kitty Artificial Vagina!

Well, not quite. In fact, it's a Hello Kitty tissue holder. You put a box of Kleenex inside it and pull them through the small opening that looks like, well, err.

This message has been brought to you by WTF Finland.

Saturday, 29-Jan-05 12:36
Blog spam (not the usual kind)

I got a mail advertising a new Finnish movie blog hosted on blogspot.com. I was going to let it pass quietly and ignore it, but apparently the same person has been mailing other bloggers, as they seem to have received the same spam as well. Because spam it is - unsolicited mass advertising, quite illegal in Finland.

Jussi whoever you are: that was really dumb. This is not the right way to gain good publicity. In fact, it's not even a good way to gain any publicity, as I will never link to your blog now because of your spam (and will remember this for a long, long time, too). Stop doing that.

Friday, 28-Jan-05 23:04
The Long Tail

I had the privilege to listen to Chris Anderson's (Editor of Wired and the author of The Long Tail) talk earlier this week, and took two things with me, neither directly related to the Long Tail (which is a highly interesting read in case you have not yet seen it. It describes the tail economy of the few as opposed to the hit economy of the masses.)

On the scarcity of attention: "Everyone's got a blog. I try to reach a different audience with my blog than as the editor of Wired: If I can reach the 20 people in the world who are interested in the same things as me, it's more valuable to me than having millions of readers."

and

On the tyranny of the hits: "TV is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests." (David Foster Wallace)
Tuesday, 25-Jan-05 18:18
Is "art" art if it's personal?

A must-read article from The New Atlantis: The Age of Egocasting

But scientific study and cultural criticism have never succeeded in persuading Americans to give up their televisions. “Throughout our history with The Box,” argues Bruce Gronbeck, “we have believed fervently that it brings good, not bad; that even when it’s bad it can be controlled; and that when we cannot control ourselves a technology will arise to help us do it.” ~TiVo is precisely this kind of technology. By helping us control what we watch and when we watch it, we mistakenly believe that we are also exercising a broader self-control over our television viewing habits; by only watching what we want to watch, we reason, we will watch less. But early evidence suggests that this is not the case. ~TiVo users actually end up watching more hours of television every week, including shows they might have skipped without regret if they were not available “on demand.” By emphasizing the efficiency of the technology—rather than what the technology is making more efficient—we avoid having to ask whether we really should be watching so much television in the first place, or reflect upon what television does to our intellect and character.
~TiVo is God’s machine, the iPod plays our own personal symphonies, and each device brings with it its own series of individualized rituals. What we don’t seem to realize is that ritual thoroughly personalized is no longer religion or art. It is fetish. And unlike religion and art, which encourage us to transcend our own experience, fetish urges us to return obsessively to the sounds and images of an arrested stage of development.

This is a dichotomy (n-tomy?) that is tearing me internally: The egomaniac in me wants more and more control of my own free time, it wants to say "nobody can say what I can and can't do". The geek in me just marvels at the coolness of all the things technology can do. The marketing manager in me drools at the possibility of providing and receiving completely personalized content. The industry analyst in me nods and says "this is the way people and corporations will want it to go".

The (too-often-neglected) budoka in me just smiles and reminds me that this is still a real world, no matter how much the egomaniac wants to embed itself in its simple and comfortable "me" -world. It tells me to just be at ease with the world, and take a deep breath. There is choice also in listening to the sounds of the streets. There is also choice in turning the television off. There is choice in not saying instantly "X sucks, because it's not perfect" - something I've seen a lot lately. You don't need to become a broadly but shallowly informed, instant critic of everything. You don't need to force everything to like you - because in a world of complete choice, you will be cast adrift by your own whims.

In a world, where every choice is correct, you cannot - would not - take responsibility for your actions. Even if all the technology in the world would do your bidding, other people would not. But no matter, you could escape into your own, private comfortable world where there would be no harm. Or try and force the other people to do what you want. After all, you would be the center of the universe.

There is value in struggle.

(This thing made me think. It would explain a great many matters I've been pondering lately. Must re-evaluate some things yet again. I have much I could write on this, but perhaps I should just shut up for a while.)

(Via Smart Mobs, which also contains a summary critique of this piece with some references.)

Tuesday, 25-Jan-05 17:22
Why Technorati tags don't

Tagging has become the latest hype word-du-jour, mostly due to services such as del.icio.us, Flickr, and now, Technorati. Clay Shirky and others have written strong statements for this folksonomy phenomenon.

I personally love tags. They are a very cool way of attaching meaning to information - essentially put the semantics in the web in the "Semantic Web" sense, even if the metadata is dissociated from the pages themselves. But as a non-English speaker I see a potentially fatal flaw here: Most Internet users don't speak English as their first language. Even if I speak decent English and use a lot of English services, I still tag things in both English and my native language.

And that means that tags will become "language polluted." Take a look at the Technorati tag for "Macintosh", for example. Many of the blog entries are in Japanese.

If you look at Orkut, many of the parts of it suddenly became "owned" by Brasilians, which essentially drove away English speakers (I haven't checked how they have handled this). USENET coped with this by having separate hierarchies for each country (so sfnet is all Finnish) and "accepted" languages on each newsgroup. But tags don't have any way to determine the language.

The situation is worse than it should be, because entries on RSS feeds and blogs almost never state what their language is. In fact, I would guess that most RSS feeds claim that the language is "en-US" regardless of their actual content. People like me write in two languages on the same blog. Atom has the possibility of setting the language-per-entry, but I sincerely doubt that anyone will bother to set the language, unless they are relatively passionate about the subject.

There are three cases of "language collision" on tags (I'm using English and Finnish as an example only here).

  1. The tag is different in English and in Finnish. For example "fishing" and "kalastus". This should pose no problem, as the folksonomies grow on each of the tags independently.
  2. The tag is the same in English and in language Finnish, but the meaning of the tag is different. In this case, the dominant mass of the users will "hijack" the tag.
  3. The tag is the same in both languages, but the web pages will be in different languages. This is the case with things like trade marks (Apple, Macintosh, Nokia), or when people like to tag Finnish pages with English tags (like me: I use the word "blog" to mark any significant articles about blogs, regardless of the language). This reduces the usefulness of tags for people who do not understand Finnish.

There is also an additional tagging problem with languages such as Finnish: the same word can be conjugated and written in multiple ways, depending on the context. It is somewhat the same as the problem of using different words for the same concept, but it does make the number of potential strings increase three-fourfold.

There are few solutions to this problem: and probably all of them involve some sort of heuristic to determine the language of the tag and the web page. Tagging is still a relatively new technique to be adopted in mass classification of things, but in order for it to become truly successful, one must still remember localization. Otherwise, it will be the dominance of the masses that drive the use - and it ain't gonna be English.

Monday, 24-Jan-05 15:19
Quick apology

If you're reading this site through an RSS reader (or some other aggregation service), you will notice some spurious updates every now and then - with no apparent change. This is because I am experimenting with the RSS feed and Atom feeds of this Wiki, which will cause some occasional ghost updates with feed readers that do not respect the Last-Modified -header (like Bloglines and Pinseri).

Sunday, 23-Jan-05 21:06
Finnish blogging service open

Vuodatus.net now offers a pretty comprehensive blogging service in Finnish. It's roughly as easy as Blogger, but offers some additional things like RSS feed integration (you can have your side bar to include headlines from other blogs), quite comprehensive templating, categories (and searching of blogs based on categories), built-in statistics, built-in help on all pages, and naturally it's all Finnish.

Looks very comprehensive, yet easy for a new blogger. And has enough power to work for a bit more experienced bloggers as well. Very good and all the best to them!

(Very few of the blogs on vuodatus.net seem to be in the Pinseri blog-list. Why?)

Saturday, 22-Jan-05 15:04
Blogs for scientific publishing

Like It or Not, Blogs Have Legs, says an article in the Wired magazine and talks about how blogs can be used in scientific publishing:

In a sense, blogs function like peer-review journals do in the academic world, but there's a key difference. The distribution of articles in academic journals is largely controlled by a publishing cartel that charges exorbitant amounts for subscriptions, which are subsidized by the institutions and universities that can afford them. Think of it as the socialist model for informational exchange. This dampens participation (read: supply of ideas and input) and, I would argue, deleteriously affects the level and quality of discussion.

Heh. And the guy hatest the word "blog" for the same reason as I hate the Finnish word "verkkopäiväkirja" :-)

(Via biomi.org.)

Saturday, 22-Jan-05 01:12
JSPWiki supports now the rel="nofollow" attribute

JSPWiki hates spam too. Starting from the current CVS version (2.1.140) JSPWiki supports the Google initiative for reducing comment and wiki spam. Administrators may set the "jspwiki.translatorReader.useRelNofollow" parameter to force the rel="nofollow" attribute to be added to any external links.

(Other than that, we're - or to be more precise, Andrew Jaquith is - doing a complete rework of the authentication system. This means that it will not be available in 2.2, but will be postponed to 2.4. Personally, I find this a great relief - adding the auth system to the wiki nearly killed my interest to JSPWiki development. Wikis and strong permission control just don't go well together. There has been now a lot of new development in the CVS, as I don't have to worry about the auth system anymore.)

Friday, 21-Jan-05 19:50
Obscure Finnish joke

Siinä tulevaisuus. :D

Friday, 21-Jan-05 17:21
Pinserin top-lista on kuollut, eläköön top-lista

Again, a longish rant about Finnish blogosphere. Nothing for you, my dear English readers to see, move along...

Pinserin top-lista on kuollut, eläköön top-lista

Minun on pitänyt kirjoittaa tästä jo pitkään, ja tilanne ajankohtaistuu koko ajan Pinserin uuden blogilistan tullessa yhä lähemmäs ja lähemmäs julkaisua. Nyt kun Mikko Saari teki viittauksiin perustuvan, uuden top-listan, niin kirjoituksen voinee kaivaa arkiston kätköistä ja julkaista. Tiedän, että bloggaamisesta bloggaaminen ja ilmiön analysointi tympii toisia (saa linkittää, jos on asiaa, en minä kaikkia maailman blogeja ehdi lukea), mutta... en minä näitä ole kenellekään tyrkyttämässä - kunhan vain kirjoitan ja itsepä valitsette, luetteko vai ette. Jos se vuoristoradan pultti heilahti jo kyytiin noustessa, niin ihan oma vika jos silti istuu vielä kyydissä...

Pekka kysyy:

Oliko sukellus.fi poikkeus säännöstä vai löytyykö muitakin perinteisen tiedonvälityksen murtajia?
Täytyykö julkisuuteen päästäkseen tehdä Kutri.netit?
Missä ovat kriittisesti uutistapahtumia tarkastelevat tai valtamedian hyljeksimiä aiheita nostavat kotimaiset blogit?
Missä ovat suomalaiset bloggaajat, jotka hankkivat itse ensikäden tietoa euro- tai kunnallisvaalien aikana (USAn pressanvaalien tapaan) ja loivat uudenlaista julkaisutoimintaa?
Vai ovatko kaikki kotimaiset blogit vain minäminä-maan tuotoksia?

Suomesta alka ...

More...

Friday, 21-Jan-05 14:36
Man builds machine gun out of a power drill

Ten points for ingenuity - zero points for common sense:

Hämeen Sanomat (Finnish, translation mine): "An 80-year old man built a machine gun out of a power drill. As he went to the police to get a license for it, to his great surprise he was charged with a breach of the firearms law. The court decided that he was acting in good faith, so he was found not guilty, but the gun was confiscated, and is likely to end up in a gun museum.

"The weapon uses .22 caliber ammunition and can fire up to 420 rounds/minute."

(Click here to see the gun in action - 4.3 MBytes MPEG-PS. Quicktime does not seem to understand it, but VLC and MPlayer seem to work well. I have no idea who owns the copyright on this (a good reason to embed, say, a CC license to your files), but I'll take it off if someone asks.)

Thursday, 20-Jan-05 15:57
Bloggers vs. Journalism

Mieto Marinadi talks about how a column by Matti Wuori in Iltalehti is asking if blogs could be journalism and whether they will overrun the traditional media. I think the fact that the question is being asked now shows clearly how much Finland is not a front-runner in the information society game. In fact, this question is not even asked yet by journalists, but a lawyer.

You see, ~PressThink says the conversation on this subject is already over.

But in order to overrun media, there has to be first a Finnish blog that has something to say in a way that is interesting and new. I much enjoy the writings of Sedis, for example, and I am expecting much from Haltia (and some other political bloggers), now that the Helsinki City Council is starting its work. The new Finland for Thought (in English) keeps also asking important questions, and Kari Haakana is probably the foremost journalistic blogger in Finland. At the moment, Sami Köykkä of Pinseri and Alex Nieminen of sukellus.fi are arguably the most influential bloggers in Finland[1].

But this is not enough. I don't know whether it's even a good start. Most of the "internet discussion" in Finland is done in the scary, yet boring discussion boards of magazines, such as Iltalehti, Iltasanomat, Vauva-lehti, etc, and it is pretty much failing to impact anything. There is little danger to any sort of professional journalism from these discussion boards, who mostly just consist of rehashing the same arguments all over again. The USENET has been in existence for twenty years, and every time I go there, I see the same discussions but with different people. Or sometimes with the same people. It makes you wonder whether these discussion boards ever contributed something to anything, other than in the sense of community creation.

To me, blogs are different from the discussion boards because they are individualistic. A news group is usually referred to by its name, say "the people in sfnet.keskustelu.ihmissuhteet say that...". Similarly in a bulletin board: "Hey, I found this from Vauva-lehti..." On the discussion board, you lose yourself and become a part of a bigger crowd, all shouting at the same time. But a blog is attached to a real person (except for some weirdos who can't seem to be able to decide whether they exist or not). Therefore, whatever a blog says carries more gravity than a random rambling on a news board. It is essentially your own personal publication, and the comments are only a side story - much like "from the readers" -sections on newspapers. Therefore, bloggers are not a community, any more than newspapers are. Some bloggers form communities, yes, but blogs are far too good a ground for egocentrism for communities to become prevalent.

The reason that I find blogs interesting is that they might be the avenue to a real way for individuals (particularly non-journalists and non-politicians) to influence local and national decision-making; the real "information society" that the Finnish media and technology visionaries have been talking about for quite some time now. (I think we can count discussion boards out of this already.) Blogs can keep talking about forgotten facts that the main media is too busy or disinterested to cover, and blogs can also become "flash crowds", a huge number of unsatisfied people who run after a singular cause. This is a powerful thing, if used right - dangerous, if used wrong.

This is, BTW, one of the reasons I oppose the word "verkkopäiväkirja" (literally "net diary") as the Finnish translation of "blog": Creating a believable weblog about current matters is somewhat more difficult, when people automatically assume it is a personal cat-sniffing, oh-i-am-so-alone -angsty kinda thing due to the use of the word "diary". (So yeah, it's a pet peeve. I'm entitled to four, and this is one of them.)

[#1]: This is mild trolling, yes, for a reason: There are some, lesser known excellent bloggers who do actually have something to say, but due to the way the Pinseri top-list works, I fear they may be ignored. If there are any, let me know. Or vote them for the "best column" -category in the upcoming Finnish blog awards.
Thursday, 20-Jan-05 00:17
Deep night weird-o commenters

Odd. Outi seems to have again attracted some weird-o commenters, who seem to be interested mostly in just mocking her. It makes me wonder why there are no weird-o commenters attracted on this blog, even though this is relatively popular for a Finnish blog (something like 800-1000 page views a day, not including RSS aggregators). Four possible reasons come to mind:

  1. I am male (most weird-o commenters seem to haunt young women)
  2. I am boring (technobabble, not too radical opinions, and little personal life; not much to mock me about)
  3. I publish the internet address of every single commenter, so you can't be anonymous to the general public (go to RecentChanges, then click on the "Main_comments_XXX" entry, then "More Info..." to find this information). Transparency rules.
  4. Writing in English raises the barrier of commenting somewhat

I don't know. Perhaps I should just go more for the social porn aspect of blogging... *grin*

(In order for this blog entry to be not completely void of any actual content, take a look at the Committee to Protect Bloggers, a web site which lists and informs about bloggers that have been jailed or harassed for blogging.)

Tuesday, 18-Jan-05 14:47
Squinted.net opened

A new Finnish service called squinted.net has just been opened for any and all Creative Commons or Public Domain -licensed music and media. Very good, and all the best to them! There's not much content, but they have teamed up with Loca Records, so something might be happening there...

However, in order for something like that to be useful (because whatever you may think of the record companies, they do weed out a lot of crap), some sort of preferences/recommendation system might be needed. For example, personal, public, top-10 lists, which one could subscribe to using RSS or browse on the web... People get a lot of music based on recommendations from a trusted friend (or other source), simply because searching through all the available music is impossible. You could spend all your life browsing through the iTunes music library, and not find your favourite music...

(From a thread from net.nyt which contained a bunch of interesting links, though the discussion is pretty much hashing the same old issues that have been heard many times.)

Update: There's a wonderful article on How Copyright Could Be Killing the Culture in the Globe and the Mail

It's enough of a legal rigmarole to make underfunded filmmakers simply avoid using archival clips altogether or to remove footage that they shot themselves that might include someone singing a popular hit or even Happy Birthday to You (a copyrighted song).

It also means that films like Eyes on the Prize, made in a less restrictive era of copyright rules, can simply fade away if the task of renewing copyrights becomes too difficult or costly.

These are exactly the reasons why things like Creative Commons are so important, and why the copyright terms should be shortened to something sane, say 50 years.

Monday, 17-Jan-05 14:26
Henry Jenkins in Helsinki
Professor Henry Jenkins, the Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is visiting Helsinki and has agreed to give a talk on “Serious Play” as part of the Aula klubi series.

Right now, video and computer games are understood by most people purely as a mode of recreation and entertainment. Yet, around the edges, we are starting to see signs that they can be much more than this. Professor Jenkins will offer some snapshots of the “serious game” movement, pointing to key exemplars and what they suggest about the future of gaming.

Professor Jenkins will speak on Wednesday 19 January at 6:00 PM at Korjaamo, Töölönkatu 51 b in Helsinki. The event will be held in English and is free and open to the public, so once again, please spread the word!

(Via Matt and Jyri.)

Monday, 17-Jan-05 14:16
One of them nerd tests

I am nerdier than 98% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Sigh...

(Via Marginaali.)

Monday, 17-Jan-05 01:09
Mediamaster woes, Part X

So, I come home, and my (non-)wonderful Nokia Mediamaster 260C has decided to reset itself completely, and remove all the channels from its memory. However, all the timers and recordings are intact, thank goodness, though obviously there have been no recordings done over the weekend. As I am now rerunning the setup, I would like to teach you some useful words in Finnish:

  • "perkele" - devil
  • "vittu" - vagina (a highly versatile word which essentially fills the same role in Finnish as "fuck" does in English.)
  • "saatana" - devil (same beast, different word. We're very inventive. We have many more words for the devil, much like for snow.)
  • "paska" - crap

(I have to say that I am taking some masochistic pleasure in watching this thing break in new, innovative ways every time I leave the house...)

Update: Jani of SKM is providing a lesson in advanced swearing in Finnish. It's very useful. Especially since my digibox crashed twice while trying to watch the final episode of Angels in America...

Sunday, 16-Jan-05 15:31
Just a small rumor...

Mikael Storsjö, the guy who got in trouble with the Finnish Security Police for hosting the web site of the Chechen (all in the interest for supporting free speech), says in the latest Image magazine (translation and any errors are mine):

I know my emails are being read. I did an experiment, in which I sent a fake message to the Chechens stating that a particular web-address had new page content, and turned on detailed logging. Within the hour the pages had five visitors, two from Russia and three from Finland.

We of course have only his words about this breach of privacy. It's still somewhat worrying, though nothing that wouldn't be obvious.

However, whether this story is true or not, it does however highlight one fact: there are ways of figuring out whether your email is being read or not. Techniques such as web bugs (or just giving out links like this) can be used to determine when and how someone reads an email and acts on it. This is one way how the modern information technology can be used to improve the transparency of governments and secret organizations. Think if everyone would check all their email for any breaches of privacy like this, and then posted everything on the internet? Could secret organizations function in an environment like that?

(Via iMitvit (Finnish), where the comment section always gives me an out-of-body experience *grin*.)

Saturday, 15-Jan-05 00:05
Global warming underestimated

BBC reports that the greenhouse effect may have been underestimated: the amount of particle pollutants we've been releasing is apparently counteracting the greenhouse gases, and as the emissions of these tiny particles is going down, and the CO2 levels going up - the situation may suddenly tip over.

That means a temperature rise of 10 degrees Celsius by 2100 could be on the cards, giving the UK a climate like that of North Africa, and rendering many parts of the world uninhabitable.

That is unless we act urgently to curb our emissions of greenhouse gases.

Considering that there is no snow in Helsinki and the sea hasn't frozen (and it's the middle of January - highly unusual), it may be that we don't have the time to wait for a statistical analysis. It may well be that by the time everyone agrees that there is enough statistical evidence that humans are doing the global warming, we've already created the biggest catastrophy on this planet since dinosaurs were wiped out.

Considering that most of the world's population lives closer to the equator than the UK, the suffering of the past few weeks is nothing compared to what awaits us, as the fields dry out and large masses of people start dying - or migrating to north.

I've many times been angry beyond words at some of the discussion around global warming in Finland. The biggest question is "how is this going to affect us?" and the answer is "well, it's not gonna be so much snow anymore, but on the other hand, our tree industry will work a lot better, and we'll get better crops as well". What kind of inane dribble is that!?! Haven't people yet learned that global warming is a global thing - and the recent events should show that natural disasters touch everyone! What are the Finns going to do, when we see news images of more and more natural disasters, dead people, destroyed homes and famine in unthinkable degree? Are we going to just put our fingers in our ears and hum real loud, pretend it doesn't affect us?

What are the Americans (the most polluting nation in the world, and who have not ratified the Kyoto treaty) going to do? Bomb China for polluting the world?

It's a matter of fear. US government is afraid they'll lose public and corporate support, if they do the right thing and enforce tighter environment laws, which will make lives more difficult to people. The Chinese government, because they are afraid of a revolution, so it's better to try and keep the people under control. The Finnish people are afraid because the "world is bad, and Finland is not", and if we listen too much we might go bad as well. I am afraid because I might have to give up things I really, really like.

Cowards. Every single one.

We have to change. There is no other way. Some have already started.

Friday, 14-Jan-05 12:14
Bloglines 0wnz

From SiliconBeat:

And by our math, that gives Bloglines, based here in Woodside, nearly two million users.

That would seem to put CEO Mark Fletcher in a pretty enviable position once he finally starts "integrating highly targeted contextual advertising" into the service later this year.

These numbers have a high margin of error, but still... Two million users? In about what, a year?

But the thing is - there is no other way for me to manage my subscriptions, as I use different computers at work and at home. There is no proper way to sync the feed lists between two computers (not to mention a computer and a mobile phone), especially through corporate firewalls. And it's even more difficult to determine which articles you have already seen and which you haven't across multiple devices. A web service is the only way to do this.

Also, installing new software on a computer is always a mental cost: how to get it, how to download, how to maintain the newest version. In a corporate setting, it's usually even a big no-no to go and install non-standard software.

In this light, Bloglines' success is not that surprising. But where is their competition?

(Via Jeremy Z.)

Friday, 14-Jan-05 11:22
A Finnish dumb test for a while...

Kun nyt muutkin, niin sitten minäkin:

"Henkinen ikäsi on 16 vuotta."

Taitaapa olla sama tulos kuin viimeksi kokeillessani... Ei siis mitään parantumista havaittavissa.

(English summary: According to a highly reliable Internet quiz, my mental age is 16. My real age is 34. No improvement there...)

Friday, 14-Jan-05 00:23
MMS woes

ObIzzard: Look what I found rummaging through old dusty piles of CD's!

What I really started to wonder was that I took this picture and immediately sent it as MMS to Outi, as I wanted to share it, and that was the easiest route. A moment later, we got bored of waiting and I did the next easiest thing and I sent it over Bluetooth to my Mac, and dropped the image into my IM window - at full resolution, I might add (MMS typically reduces the image size significantly). We laughed at the image, and then I wrote this blog entry on my frigging mobile phone keypad and emailed it into my blog - and the Multimediamessage has yet to arrive!

If I can blog to everyone in the world on a mobile faster and easier (and remarkably cheaper) than share images with my loved one in the "official way", something has gone badly wrong with the design of the whole thing...

Tuesday, 11-Jan-05 02:14
PNG vs GIF debate

Remember a few years back when Unisys was holding the LZW patent, and we wanted to burn all gifs? And people said PNG does not stand a chance, nobody would ever use it, and it will die away so we should just use GIFs?

Well, Google Images now lists 6.010.000 GIF images and 3.120.000 PNG images. So GIF is still leading 2:1, but PNG has clearly found its audience. So hooray for Open Source! And this with Internet Explorer's crappy PNG support as well...

(JPG seems to be leading heavily in the image land at 10 million hits - but then again, it's Open Source as well :-) Or to be specific: an open standard with an open source reference implementation. And 23% of the people coming to this weblog are using Firefox. And the trend is up.

It's just damned hard to compete with free. Especially if the free is better or equal to the commercial alternative. It all leads to software commoditization...)

Monday, 10-Jan-05 23:52
RSS spreading

So, you can now even read CNN using RSS. This is very nice, but my favourite RSS feed is the scraped feed from the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

(Confused? Don't worry, WhatisRSS explains.

Menikö ohi? Ei se mitään, Jyväskylän kaupunki selittää)

Saturday, 08-Jan-05 14:59
Happy birthday, dad!

This is särä, the traditional food of Lemi, and the oldest traditional food in Finland. It's really simple: just well-salted, extremely tender lamb and potatoes, and nothing else. No vegetables, no spices. It takes about 4-5 days to prepare, and for the last six hours it is kept in a low-temperature oven to become something that almost melts on the tongue.

Eating särä is an ordeal of its own: men always start (an old saying says that "men, come to the table so that the women get to eat"), and eating less than three helpings is considered impolite. Today, about 750g of meat has been reserved for each and everyone... They will keep on carrying food until you say no more.

It's pretty good, actually.

Thursday, 06-Jan-05 22:43
Citizens, beware of communists!

Bill Gates calls free culture advocates as 'modern-day communists'.

So, gosh, darned golly, so if I want to give the things I create to people for free, and I'd like others to be able to do the same, I'm a communist?

Now see what happens when kids stop believing in Santa Claus! They become cynical and jaded...

I mean - of course there's some value in defining intellectual property (what a dreadful word), but the current restrictions are becoming just silly, and the reasons why they should be enforced and extended even more are becoming thinner by the day. Look - everybody knows that copyright term is being extended because some corporations (like Disney) don't want to release their money-making pig (or a mouse) to the public domain just yet. It has nothing to do with protecting some lone artist somewhere, and we're essentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater (like the recent decision of Teosto to rip money from kids because they might be singing copyrighted tunes in the day care). At least the corporations should confess and come out and say that yeah, that's what they'd like - and let the techies and the lawyers and the artists and everybody actually work on a smart solution, instead of just trying to blindly kill everything that comes on their path.

I love Lessig's proposal of making copyright an issue of money: You get a certain flat time for free (like 50 years) and once your copyright nears expiration, you can renew it for a very small sum (like 1 dollar). This would release a lot of stuff in the public domain, while allowing the artists and the corporations to keep on things that are still making money (and to get rid of the things that don't). This is one solution. There are more. It's just a question of finding them.

(I just love the flag. Gotta have the flag. Via Boing Boing.)

Update: Ewan says: "Mr Gates, it's the EFF and the Copyleft Brigade. They're Here." "What do they want?"'"I don't know, but they've got a flag..." ROFLMAO.

Thursday, 06-Jan-05 14:30
Six Apart buys Livejournal - confirmed

The rumours have been flying around for a while, but Joi confirms them now: Six Apart (makers of Movable Type and Typepad) has acquired Danga, the company that runs Livejournal. This means that over 6.5 million bloggers will be under the Six Apart umbrella.

This is pretty big. This essentially creates a tripod structure in the blog world - the Six Apart users, the Blogger users, and the non-affiliated rest (essentially Wordpress, Nucleus, the smaller blog hosts like qlogger, etc). So far MSN Spaces and AOL Journals don't seem to be playing.

Blogging is no longer a small game: There are now more Six Apart users now than there are people in Finland. And frankly, it seems that on the average the bloggers are a smarter bunch than the general population over here. *grin*

So, if a population of five million people brought you Linux and Nokia and Esa-Pekka Salonen (and plenty of others), what could do the Six Apart crowd do?

Tuesday, 04-Jan-05 22:10
Blogien lukijamäärä kasvaa nopeammin kuin kirjoittajien

(Since this story has been everywhere in the blogosphere already in English, I'll just provide the Finnish translation here).

Pew -organisaation tutkimuksessa todettiin, että 27% amerikkalaisista internetin käyttäjistä on joskus lukenut blogeja, kun taas 7% on joskus kokeillut bloggaamista. 5% käyttää RSS:ää, ja 12% on joskus kirjoittanut kommentteja blogeihin.

Vuonna 2004 blogien lukijoiden määrä on kasvanut 58% vuoteen 2003 verrattuna. Dokumentin käppyröiden mukaan olemme vasta S-kurvin alussa.

Lisäksi ABC News valitsi bloggaajat vuoden henkilöiksi ja Dan Gillmor (jonka We the Media on jokaisen bloggauksesta ilmiönä kiinnostuneen pakkolukulistalla) avasi oman, ruohonjuuritason journalismiin keskittyvän bloginsa.

Saas nähdä, mitä tämän vuoden Kultaisten Kuukkelien jaon tiimoilta tulee tapahtumaan... Sanomattakin on selvää, että parhaan blogin palkinnosta tulee olemaan verinen kamppailu.

(Apropos, halukkaat kuukkelintekijät (tarvitaan: graafikko ja HTML:n vääntäjä nyt ainakin, myös arvonta -er- äänestysjärjestelmän toteuttaja saa paikan) saavat alkaa ilmoittautua allekirjoittaneelle... Spekulaatio alkakoon.)

Tuesday, 04-Jan-05 16:13
Confessions of an iPod owner

So, I've been an iPodder for two weeks now. I have never before owned a portable music player - not a Walkman, not a CD player, nothing. The closest thing so far has been my laptop, to which I attach myself using an umbilical^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Haudio cable. And it's been fun. But with the iPod Mini, I can take my music now everywhere!

Or so one would think.

I have noticed some interesting... issues in this while iPod thing. Let me recount a few of them:

  • First of all - this thing is damned inconvenient: The headphone wires get trapped in a multitude of latches and notches and creases and folds I didn't even know that my jacket has. In the end, I am crouching down to avoid the headphones from being ripped off my head while furiously trying to reel the wire out of my jacket. Perhaps I should live in California - portable players are definitely not designed for winter clothing.
  • The volume is too loud or too soft. This is entirely a matter of ambient noise: when I'm walking on the street, the car noise drowns out any music - in the office the music is too loud for my ears. And yeah, I've heard of volume control. The thing just is that if I were to drown the street noises (75+ dB), with noise that's 20 dB more, I would almost certainly get permanent hearing loss. I'm sure Spinsteri can fill you in on the interesting details.
    • (And I do have a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Unfortunately, they're so big that they really make problem 1 and 3 stand out - not to mention problem 4.)
  • People look at me strangely when I'm jamming to a particularly good tune. I seem to be completely unable to listen to music as just "background noise". I'm currently typing this text to the exact rhythm of Schiller's Glück und Erfüllung...
  • Loss of awareness. I've noticed I'm far less aware of my surroundings - and in the urban jungle, this is dangerous, potentially even fatal. For many years, I trained myself to notice everything - and now I'm deliberately muting down my only omnidirectional sense.
  • Overall strangeness of standing in the slushy Helsinki, waiting for a tram, and having the image of Kylie Minogue's butt bouncing before my (mental) eyes as she sings inside my head the song Can't get you out of my head NO! I CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD! GO AWAY!
  • The fact that even with automatic intelligence, song scoring, hand-crafted playlists - the damned thing still does not play exactly the music I want at that instant! Why is it playing Kate Bush if I want to listen to CMX?
  • In my daily schedule, there are very few instances that I am not with my laptop or a TV or a CD player or any other source of music. In fact, the only times are while I'm on the street or shopping - and on those occasions it's too noisy to use it. So the only reason to have it is to listen to music while jogging (or going to the gym, which I have simply not managed to do ever since an unpleasant experience 14 years ago).
  • 4GB is surprisingly plenty to keep all my music - and therefore I come to realize how single-sided and boring my music tastes really are...

I guess all this comes from the jarring realization (spawned by this brilliant Slashdot comment[1]) that I don't need a portable music player - never have, never will. Nobody needs a portable music player. Apple has understood this, and is extraordinarily expertly creating a cult of "want" around a small silvery box. The iPod is well-engineered, I grant you that, but so are many other MP3 players. It integrates really nicely into iTunes, and is very usable.

But an iPod is still a complete and utter vanity item. Apple has managed to do what every single brand maker in the world sees wet dreams about (aside from Kylie Minogue, of course): turning something that nobody needs into something that everybody wants. Few people would turn it down, if given one (and I'm sure at least one of them will want to comment on this blogentry). As the commenter on Slashdot says - everybody else is creating products based on what they think people need - whereas Apple is building products based on what they think that people want. This is completely the opposite of common usability and software thinking, where you observe the user meticulously, and then design a product that he really needs, not what he says he wants.

I've been lured to buy one, and I swallowed the bait with line and sinker, and now I'm flailing about without a clue as to why I did it.

In fact, I swallowed the bait so well, that I'm keeping it, even after this story.

Why?

Because it's just so damned cool.

If you excuse me, I now have to go and dance in the office to the tune of A Little Bit of Love by RuPaul.

[1] Yeah, there actually are pretty bright people on Slashdot sometimes...
Monday, 03-Jan-05 02:58
Six months

It has now been exactly six months. And I still love her, more than ever. I feel the pressure of the everyday life coming in, and life is no longer the rose petals and bird song it used to be - but I still want her, need her, and long for her when she is away.

Six months.

When we started, we said that okay - let this be a summer romance, if nothing else.

The nights turned dark, and we were together.

The leaves turned red and yellow, and I still spent my money on flight tickets.

The trees became barren and lifeless, and she still sat on the train for hours to come to me.

The snow has fallen, and I look in her eyes and still see that same twinkle that seduced me on that night.

Six months is not really that long for a relationship. But it's a good start. A very good start.


Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.



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