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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2007 » June

June 2007


Internet and Technology June 30th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

The big ordeal is over. I have defeated the last bug and put the blog onto the new server!

The last problem I had to overcome involved moving to a newer version of mySQL that was causing problems with the character set used in the old database. Let me know if you encounter any problems.

Ramblings June 29th, 2007 by Whitdjinn

For those of you who haven't yet heard, a lake in Southern Chile disappeared at some point in the last two months. That's right, disappeared.

Before and After of 'Lake Houdini'

The lake itself, situated in the southern Andes Mountains, was almost 100 feet deep and had a surface area of 10-12 acres. That's a lot of water, about 39 million gallons worth. (or 390 million - I might have misplaced a decimal.)

So what happened to it?

The best theory that's been proposed thus far is that it disappeared into the earth through several cracks in the floor of the lake, storing it in giant underground fissures. This is interesting because there hasn't been any substantial seismic activity in the area in that time period.

Other theories anyone?

I actually had an opportunity to hear a conversation a co-worker had with a Chilean resident and they said that locally, some believe it to be the work of an extra terrestrial force. Aliens, stealing lakes in Chile? What purpose would that serve? The conversation I had regarding this possibility quickly turned to... "If they wanted water, why not take an ocean? If they did take an ocean, this would cause the global water level to drop rather severely and create miles and miles of brand new land. This new land, who would claim it?" Some of that is decided already by the fact that national borders are already extended several miles beyond the coastline, but what of the rest of it? Surely this would cause brand new islands to crop up around the world. Would this be substantial enough to re-surface the Bering Straight? Would Hawaii become a single land mass?

 Lets say for argument's sake that an Alien being decided it would be a good idea to just take the entire Indian Ocean. How far would Sea Level drop? What exists in the space between current sea level and this 'Proposed Sea Level'? Anyone knowledgeable in things like this?

Regardless, it looks like the experts probably have this one right, as there is an existing crack in the lake large enough to lead into a giant fissure inside the earth that was far enough along to not take a whole lot of Earth shaking to become a huge funnel. But hey, the wild speculation was fun while it lasted.

I love my job...

Politics June 29th, 2007 by Danny Mc Guire

I know this has been floating around the Internet for many years but it is such a great illustration of how the American tax system works that I would like to share it.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with
The arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.
"Since you are all such good customers," he said,

"I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."

"Drinks for the ten now cost just $80."

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so
the first four men were unaffected.

They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the
paying customers?

How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from every body's share,
then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's
bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20,"declared the sixth man.

He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar,
too. It's unfair that he got TEN times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back
when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get
anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine
sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the
bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough
money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how
our tax system works.

The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction.

Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not
show up anymore.

In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is
somewhat friendlier.

- Author unknown

Internet and Social Bookmarking June 29th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

It has recently come to my attention that the blog tracking site Technorati is suffering with a math problem. Yes, the site that tracks millions of blogs (and rates them by popularity) does not understand that their Top 100 list should be just that, a top 100 list. Instead their Top 100 list appears to be a fictional list of blogs that they think should be the Top 100 blogs.

Take a quick look at their Top 100 list. The blog currently at the number 1 position is Engadget. If you click on their summary page you will see that they are number 1, with an authority of 31,053 (as of this writing). Everything seems good.

Now take a look at blog number 100, The Blotter from ABC. According to its summary page it is number 112 with an authority of 3,499 (as of this writing).

If this blog is not in the Top 100 why is it listed in their Top 100 list? How many other blogs are not properly listed in the Top 100 when they should be?

After looking through multiple blogs on the Top 100 list I found that the majority of them were in the accurate position based on their summary pages and some were in the Top 100 but in the wrong place on the list. There are a few possible reasons for the inaccuracies in the list.

  • The list is updated via cron job at certain hours of the day
  • The list is updated by hand
  • The list is so important that it involves money changing hands and new blogs are not just added automaticaly.

I'm hoping it is just an issue of it being a cron job. Constantly regenerating that list (and the most favorited blog list) must be a server drain. Finding the Top 100 out of millions of blogs probably takes a second or two of time on the database server and, with the amount of traffic Technorati gets, generating that list on the fly would likely bring the site down or seriously slow it down.

Why do I think it might be politics or "pay-to-play"? Just look at John Chow's blog summary. He is listed as number 55 with an authority of 4,980. Yet, he is nowhere to be found on the Top 100 list.

It's no big secret that being in the Top 5 of both Technorati lists can get you some nice traffic and exposure. I would hate to think that those top five spaces were under some sort of political pressure. I mean, it's not like Technorati ever removed any blogs from their system for jumping into the Top 5, right?

Wondering about me? HMTK.coms summary page.

Internet June 28th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

image from flickr user zacksphoto

I read a lot of blogs, a lot. One of the blogs I used to consider a daily read was recently sold... for $20,000! That's a lot of money for a blog that has not been around for very long.

The blog in question is careerramblings.com. According to the Whois database the site was first registered/created on 2007-01-23 18:45:55.0. That means the site was not even six months old when it was sold.

The question you are probably asking yourself is, "How do you flip a website in under six months for $20K?" The answer is deceptively simple.

Page Rank
One thing you want to improve prior to selling your site is the domains Page Rank. The higher the Page Rank, the more faith Google has in your site and the more money you can get for the site. Gaining Page Rank can be very easy if you know how to get back links.

Like the great John Chow, Career Ramblings took a tip from the man and instituted a "review for a link back" policy. Doing this cost Career Ramblings next to nothing (an occasional post) and appeared to grant a PR6 back link to the writer of the review.

I have done this myself in the past (wrote the review for a link) but I stopped doing it after I fell out of the zero Page Rank crowd. I still get a laugh when someone offers me this "great deal" where I write about them and I get a link from their site. It's BS people. Unless you are just starting out, don't do it! All the benefit goes to the site you are reviewing.

With all of these sites linking back to you your Page Rank will begin to rise. Add in some links from some Social News sites and it will rise even higher and faster.

Technorati
Another benefit of all those blogs linking back to you is that your Technorati score will fall like a rock. On Technorati, a low score is better than a high score.

As of writing this Career Ramblings has 1,244 back links on Technorati which puts them in the Top 10K with a rank of 8,605. That is a very nice number. A lot of things open up for you when your blog enters the Technorati Top 10K.

Social News
Not all social news sites are equal. Digg will send you tons of traffic (when you make the home page) but it is traffic that acts like a swarm of locusts. They suck up a bunch of bandwidth, stress out your server, and leave nothing in their wake but a low CTR for your advertising. This can be good if you sell CPM advs, not so good if you run CPA or CPC advs.

Netscape, on the other hand, will send you far less traffic when your story makes it to their homepage but, Netscapers are an older bunch who like to click on advertising and follow through on CPA advertising. While diggers are like locusts Netscapers are like a bus full of senior citizens spending their child's inheritance on trinkets and doodads to bring home from a sight seeing tour.

Yes, I prefer the Netscape traffic.

Getting content on these social news sites also benefits you in the Page Rank department. When I last checked both of these sites were PR8+. You can do a lot with a collection of PR8+ back links!

What about StumbleUpon? StumbleUpon is a different beast...

Increasing your Page Views
Having a high Page Rank and a low Technorati score is great but you still need Page Views to show how popular your site really is. People might be bookmarking your site as a favor and not actually going there.

Getting on StumbleUpon can greatly impact your Page Views but only if your content is good. If you are printing junk than Stumblers will just give you the thumbs down.

When Career Ramblings was sold they boasted of over 60K Page Views a month. That works out to about 2K Page Views per day. They also claimed to be averaging $2K in earnings between all of their revenue streams.

It is clear they were getting a lot of traffic that liked clicking on advs but were they getting repeat visitors? I did not see any information on RSS numbers.

With only 60K Page Views a month how could they possibly be making this amount of money? It defies all web logic. Unless you discover how they managed to constantly stay on Netscape's home page.

Gaming The System
It's not that hard to game the social news sites. It has gotten harder to game Digg but it is very easy to game Netscape. Let's look at who has been submitting the Career Ramblings content to Netscape:

    Submitters

  • Jane May - founder of Career Ramblings. It is interesting how she stopped submitting AFTER she sold the site.
  • JoshCR - New PR man for the site? Notice he has only submitted two stories thus far and they are both for Career Ramblings?

Netscape is coming down on sploggers and it looks like Career Ramblings has morphed into a splog over the last few months. I even tried to submit a story from Career Ramblings a few weeks ago and was beaten to it by Jane May! One of the first rules of social media is not to submit your own content. You can break that rule every now and then but to submit everything you write? Bah!

Conclusion
It is very easy to game the system and sell a site for far more money than it is worth. Selling a site for ten months "projected" revenue tells me that the gravy train was coming to an end.

To go from $0 to $2K (in under six months) in monthly revenue shows extreme growth. You do not sell a site with a growth rate that high unless you feel it has run its course. Further you don't sell it for a mere ten times current revenue.

Image used under Creative Commons License from flickr user zacksphoto

Nintendo and Wii June 27th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

WiiSANTA MONICA, Calif., June 27, 2007 – The search for the next ingeniously ground-breaking video game has begun. At a private developers conference this week, Nintendo announced the introduction of WiiWare™, a game-creation service that will allow developers large and small to create new downloadable video game content for sale by Nintendo through the Wii Shop Channel of the hot Wii™ home video game system. WiiWare paves the way for smaller, more creative games to make their way to the public at lower prices, without any inventory risk to developers. The first WiiWare content will launch in early 2008.

"Independent developers armed with small budgets and big ideas will be able to get their original games into the marketplace to see if we can find the next smash hit," says Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. "WiiWare brings new levels of creativity and value to the ever-growing population of Wii owners."

The possibilities for WiiWare are limited only by the imaginations of developers. WiiWare provides game creators a simple method by which they can get their games to the public. This approach, combined with the remarkable motion controls of the Wii Remoteâ„¢ and Nunchukâ„¢, will give birth to fresh takes on established genres, as well as original ideas that currently exist only in developers' minds. The reduced barriers to development provide developers the freedom to create and an inexpensive, clearly defined path to reach consumers who will ultimately determine which game will become the Next Big Thing.

WiiWare will be posted on the Wii Shop Channel. As with current Wii Shop Channel offerings, users will redeem Wii Pointsâ„¢ to download content. It will support a variety of pricing options. Details about that and upcoming projects will be announced at a later date. For more information about Wii, visit Wii.com.

No information yet on pricing for a dev kit.



Apple June 27th, 2007 by Stephen

According to Hitwise the volume of US searches for the term “iphone” increased 583 percent in the past four weeks (from the week ending May 26, 2007 to the week ending June 23) leading up to the June 29 launch date. The market share of US visits to the Apple iPhone website increased 185 percent in the same time period.

Search Analysis

In the four weeks leading up the release date, the most popular queries that contained the term “iphone” were focused on price, recent news, reviews and the release date. The search term “iphone price” received the largest percentage of searches outside of “iphone” and “apple iphone,” at 4.23 percent of all US searches containing the word “iphone.”

The top website to receive traffic from searches on the term “iphone” for the four weeks ending June 23, 2007 was the Apple iPhone website, receiving 54.44 percent of all US traffic from the term. Following Apple was its wireless partner, AT&T Wireless, which received 6.52 percent of search volume, Wikipedia, at 2.95 percent, Engadget at 2.80 percent and MySpace with 2.48 percent of search term traffic.

Analysis

All I can say is, "Way to go Engadget!" Grabbing 2.8% of the search traffic for the iPhone is very impressive for a tech blog/site. What happened to at&t? Apple gets 54.44% of the search traffic and at&t (the reseller/service providor) only gets 6.52%?

Why was MySpace getting traffic from the iPhone searches? The only thing I can think of there is that people are writing about the iPhone on their Myspace pages.

Apple iPhone Market Share Analysis
Some folks are thinking that the iPhone will attain a 10% market share by years end.

Neil Mawston, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics said, “We forecast 20 million smartphones to be sold in the USA during 2007. We expect Apple and its iPhone portfolio to account for 2 million of that total, giving it a 10 percent share by the end of the year.”

Chris Ambrosio, Director of Wireless Device Strategies at Strategy Analytics, commented, “Apple has a strong brand and good retail presence; now it needs to deliver on the product. Competitive pricing, of course, will be critical, as will the device’s usability and reliability.”

David Kerr, Vice President at Strategy Analytics, added, “A critical question will be what percentage of iPhone buyers will be churning from other operators? A second key issue is whether the iPhone will draw users who would otherwise have bought Nokia N series music and multimedia devices, eroding their premium tier share, or will iPhone most dramatically impact the SEMC Walkman series fortunes? The pressure is on Apple to deliver a great mobile media experience with the iPhone when it is launched on June 29, 2007. Its previous entry, with the Motorola Rokr music phone, in 2005, was a flop, and the industry will be watching carefully to see how much Apple has learned from that failure.”

My thoughts on iPhone
I still see the iPhone as a flop. Yes, I know it looks cool and sexy. Yes I know it's an Apple product. I also know that you can get most of the same functionality in a less expensive product.

I have a cell phone for one reason, to make phone calls. I don't want all the extra crud Apple is putting into this thing. I already have an iPod (that I hate) so I will be staying clear of the iPhone.

Games and Nintendo and Pokemon and Wii June 26th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

Pokemon Battle Revolution CoverI just picked up my copy of Pokemon Battle Revolution for the Wii and I'm reading through the instruction manual. I have not played the game yet so this will just be a "first glance" article where I cover things from the instruction booklet that I feel will interest you.

On the back of the box is a symbol indicating you will need two Wii-remotes. There is also DS connectivity as long as you also have a Diamond or Pearl game in your DS.

    Save Games

  • 29 Blocks of Wii system memory are needed to save the game.
  • Up to four save game files.
  • You can not move the save game information to an SD card.

I was worried that they would only allow for one save game (as was standard on the Game Cube RPG games) so I am glad to see that up to four save games will be allowed. Not being able to move the save file to an SD card means don't bother looking online for hacked save games.

    Colosseum Mode

  • Use rental Pokemon or Pokemon 'copied' from your DS games.
  • Multiple colosseums all over Poketopia.
  • Customizable Battle Passes.
  • Transfer a Battle Pass to your Wii-Remote memory.
  • Copied Pokemon also keep their held items.
  • Copied Pokemon remain in the DS game (think of it as a clone being made).
  • You can battle against 'friend passes' even hen they are not online.
  • Playable with the Wii-Remote.

The Colloseum Mode is very much like the older Pokemon stadium games from the N64 days. Pokemon do not gain experience while battling and you don't lose them from your cartridge. It looks like it copies ALL of your Pokemon at once, that means ALL of the Pokemon in your cartridge become available for battling!

When battling you can earn something called "Perfect Points". Thse points are earned by beating a trainer and not having any of your Pokemon faint. You can use these points to re-fight a battle you have lost rather than having to fight all the way through that colosseum again. You can't re-fight all battles and you lose the Perfect Points after you defeat that colosseum.

You also earn Poke Coupons when you win battles. These can be redeemed for gear and...

Mystery Gift
Yes, you read that right! You can get (and transfer to your DS) Mystery Gifts in Pokemon Battle Revolution.

You will be using the "Get Via Wireless" option on your DS game to get the Mystery Gift from the Wii. You then pick up the item from the deliveryman in the Pokemon Mart.

    Colosseum Rules

  • Lv. 30 Open - opponents Pokemon will be at a minimum of level 30 if your are lower. Otherwise they will all be of a level equal to your highest level Pokemon.
  • Lv. 50 all - Everyone becomes level 50.

Some Colosseums only offer the Lv. 30 Open option

    Free Battle / DS Battle Rules

  • Anything Goes - well, anything goes!
  • Lv. 50 all - as in Colosseum mode.
  • Editable rules - customize the battle rules as you see fit.

I'll go into the multi-player battling after I have had a chance to play the game. One thing I did notice is that when battling multi-player over Nintendo WFC Pokemon will use their type name not nickname. This takes car of the problem where people name their Blastoise "Venusaur" and then trounce your Fire Pokemon!



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