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June 20th 2008

Change is good. Without change, we'd still be throwing stones and sticks at each other instead of bullets and nukes. And again, that's good, right?

Take the new Firefox in its glittering third incarnation. Praised as the final nail in Internet Explorer's coffin, this new piece of fine programming offers quite a few changes that are supposedly good. Because, remember, change is good.

Or so they say.

Now, when I fired up my fox on the very same computer I'm typing this here, it became hungry. So hungry in fact that it started eating my hard drive. I heard loud rattling noises coming out of the computer case and it sounded like a party in there. Or mayhem. Either way, I realized the fox was guilty because when the fox was gone, the party was gone too. So I summoned the fox again and did a google search. Some people were actually experiencing the same party in their computer cases. What a load of fun, I thought. I stumbled upon a small hint, too: Enter about:config in the new "smartbar" (I'll get to that), look for the value "Urlclassifier.updatecachemax" and set it to 104857600. Word on the street was that Firefox for Linux already had that value set. Only Windows' foxy browser had the peculiar -1 as default.

I restarted the fox and the hunger for hard drive was stilled.

Now the "smartbar" is another one of those changes. In previous installments of the browser you started typing and it suggested URLs starting with the letters you just entered. The new addressbar actually looks up URLs where the entered letters are anywhere in the URL or in the title of the page you're trying to find. I realize it is a plain matter of habit. We simply re-learn how we're looking up visited pages. But here's a quick example:

If I were to go to I could now simply write "pers" and it would get me the URL for the website with the title "Personal Halfquake". That's fine by me. Now if I want to go to (for whatever reason) I type "mudda" and I get the URLs for,, and other URLs I apparently visit more often than itself - leaving me no other choice than to write the whole address letter by letter.

I'm not complaining here, just examining. Change is good and humanity is flexible enough to wrap its brains around anything.

There's another exciting feature I would like to present. I'm sure you've noticed that whenever an image gets resized, the new graphics engine in Firefox 3 actually displays the image very smoothly (just like Opera and I believe all browsers on Mac running OS X). I can think of a few occasions where this might come in handy for masters of the web. But all in context with laziness. Well, laziness is such a harsh word. Let's call it convenience.

Take image galleries, for example. Normally you have a bunch of thumbnails acting as a general overview of the whole collection of pictures. Clicking on one nail opens up the high-res version. Thumbnails were created either manually or automatically to make the thumbnail appear "smoother" and also to reduce traffic. Now, some people might come along and say, y'all got cable, I don't need no thumbnails on my website - and just throw in the full resolution images into the overview page with a fixed width and height. Well, it does look good in your browser, and that's what counts! Or so the excuse might sound like. Hell, some people already do that today, only now they look "better" doing so.

It also works the other way around. A website normally has some kind of logo. If the page design changes, the logo might be too big now. No problem, says the webmaster, I'll just do a width="300". Problem solved - it still looks good anyway. Problem is: Some people already did that when images didn't get smoothed out. But now it might just become a popular habit. With probably more and more images resized on the local machine, let's hope Firefox, the third, can handle all that live-smoothing.

Alright, now for the last point on our agenda: Pixel art.

Some of you may remember Kid Radd. Dan Miller, the creator, had the ingenious idea to make small graphics - thus decreasing traffic and download times - and double the size of those images for display. Now look what happened:

(Left: Old; Right: New)

Now this Dan right here might have to redo his whole comic in a different format. That's 600 strips. And Dan is definitely not the only one using that pixel technique for art. Lots of other websites need to figure out a way now to resize the images before sending them out to the browser.

You know, I like change. To me it's a synonym for "decent challenge". And the internet is all about "change or be changed". That's probably because I like it here.

June 16th 2008

I thought I'd break the silence around here and throw out some project status updates.

I'm participating in a book project, in which international people submit up to five short stories, including at least one artwork each. The deadline for those submissions is October 1st, and at the moment there are approximately ten writers in total. I've got two stories in development right now. The book will be available in physical form (obviously) and also as a PDF document for free.

The Taskless Sheep album is nearing completion with 13 tracks finished and more to come. I'm not sure if we can finish it before end of 2008 since we're all a bit short of time, but we're trying.

I'm a Dragon is actually in development (very early stage) with massive help from Steltie.

As for my new book, I've got everything planned out until the end and I just need more time to write everything. At the moment I've written about twenty percent of the whole story.

And Halfquake Sunrise has got about thirty traps right now.

Now for totally unrelated news:
- Mass Effect for PC is absolutely awesome.
- I'm currently enjoying a book called The Pillars of the Earth.
- The Wire is now one of my favorite TV series (it's also the highest rated series on IMDB - next to Planet Earth).

April 16th 2008

I'm probably going to regret outsourcing the Quick Movie Reviews, but it allows me to focus more on my other projects, so please bear with me.

April 15th 2008

Ever had a melody in your head and you just couldn't figure out what song it was from? If so, how about a music search engine? Basically just like Google, but instead of letters you enter the melody you have in your head - rhythm doesn't matter. If no matching array of notes could be found, there would be the obligatory "Did you mean..." phrase with a slightly altered melody suggested. Since most songs are made of various layers of instruments, you could have an advanced search and maybe select the type of instrument you know the melody of (voice being also an "instrument" in this case). It should also work for percussion, but that should be a separate option. Maybe instead of piano keys you could see a set of drums to input whatever you have in mind.

Interestingly, such a search engine could be used to make melodies that are more or less new by finding combinations of notes that haven't been stored in the database yet. Even more interestingly, you could finally find all the similarities in a large collection of songs. With another added function you could search purposely for songs that use similar melodies to the one given, sorted by relevance.

There could be more options, such as to search for harmonies, for a specific rhythms, accords, and maybe even popularity or complexity of melodies.

A quick search through the internet has shown me that there are already people implementing that idea, such as Melody Hound or Musipedia. There's even already some kind of patent that describes the process in detail. Also, Wikipedia shows an article about the Query by Humming method. Song Tapper lets you search a song by tapping the space bar to the melody in your head - a very interesting and intuitive solution, making it accessible to people who don't have the knowledge of playing the piano or the talent to sing a (more or less) exact tone.

Further investigation led me to a research document called "Query by Humming: How good can it get?", which basically describes the experiment of how a QBH system performs against simple human listeners. Unfortunately I couldn't find out when this document was published. But the research's result was that QBH has still a long way to go.

The QBH entry on Wikipedia led me to sloud, a website offering the QBH solution for implementation in other projects. It is however limited to singing "DA-DA-DA" and, according to the website, the search results "depend on your ability to sing". Their list of potential applications suggests the idea that you could create a contest for your music store: The better your customers sing their favorite tune, the higher the chances of getting a discount for that song (or maybe for the CD the song's featured on). They mention that this technology will draw instant attention to your online music store. And last but not least they add that this search by voice technology is part of MPEG-7, apparently the standard for description and search of audio and visual content.

Searching for melodies is still more or less in its infancy. Though I guess that in the next few years Amazon will have a Query by Humming feature and they will tell you to have a listen to songs which people bought who also hummed that tune.

March 31st 2008

And now it's time for Gary Ordinary.




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