Sunday, 21 August 2011

Turning Chinese, no such thing as a standard search?

Short but sweet, this one. I have already noticed the filtering bubble on one or two sites that I use, particularly I increasingly get the "Chinese influence". Because of my interest in Chinese language, language learning related things and particularly Chinese related things and people I get increasingly connected to Chinese things and Chinese people. This is actually starting to become a hindrance, from the point of view of some services the granularity of what I may be interested in Chinesewise is pretty low. For example I can usually work out why Linkedin is suggesting I want to link with most of its suggestions, however on more than one occasion now it throws in a random Chinese person, who I have not worked with, isn't interested in the same things as me (technology or otherwise) and isn't even geographically that close (although to be fair UK rather than China is somewhat closer than it could be).

How many ways, are decisions about what I see being influenced by what is on my profile? On one site in particular I seem to get a suspiciously high number of adverts regarding hair restoring products and eye-care/laser treatment/optician related links. I don't search for these things, but it wouldn't take much processing to target me based on my follically challenged, bespectacled profile picture.

Once we wrote content for people to read, then wrote content for machines to read, now write content for people that machines may decide they want to read.

The thing I find really interesting however is that, if you are considering search engine optimisation you also increasingly need to consider the profile of the person who is doing the searching, because all search results are not equal. Perhaps even more worryingly increasingly more of our lives are being determined by computer algorithms, we are moving closer to time when algorithms control the world.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Getting around DNS

This is an old post pulled from another site (for preservation)

Jotting this down really, because it is the type of related problem that crops up every now and again and sometimes if my brain is not firing on all cylinders I get stumped for a while.

The problem

Really wanted to check out an open-source project NOW yet svn checkout couldn't resolve the host for the repository. My PC can't find the DNS, other PCs on our network can't find it, it was there yesterday (or rather it was there for me at home).

The solution

First checked that the site was available for some people by checking on apparently it is just me (and a few others I guess). Next I need an IP address so searched in Google for sites that give IP address if you know the DNS (because I can't do this for myself right now), first one couldn't find it (down for them also it seems), the second one gave me an IP address(phew) Next problem is that the IP address just takes me to the server for their hosting company, so I need to add an entry in my own hosts file (/etc/hosts) on my Linux system and another entry for the svn. address I was originally trying to use there. Bingo now my PC knows how to find their server and make the request in a way that takes me to the pages and data I want (using the expected host). In the past have also resorted to trying different DNS servers (opendns or googledns) Additional later note: and of course I could always get a command-line on a remote server somewhere (we have a client server in Hong Kong for example) and use that location to do my investigation from.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


This is an old post pulled from another site (for preservation)

JavaScript has always been an important programming language for me, I use the term programming language rather than scripting language deliberately. Now I am taking the time to rationalise the technologies that I use and develop in (develop my skills in), I have to say that JavaScript is part of the core. JavaScript has often been associated with the web-browser and treated there as something to add a little bit of visual whiz-bang or tie together a few things that you might want to do in the browser that are not covered in standard HTML. bandwidth, performance, the danger of JavaScript being turned off, the single execution thread ("a script on this page appears to be busy") and other factors have contributed to a general feeling of "not wanting to do too much in JavaScript". These days performance appears to be much less of a problem, Linux on a PC emulator running in your browser for example. The single execution thread blocking problem is solved with HTML5 web workers. Various libraries from JQuery to Extjs allow you to create an interface entirely in JavaScript. You can build sophisticated mobile applications using Phonegap and Titanium. I feel that as more people develop for HTML5 factors like the scriptable video and SVG and going to drive a lot more development in JavaScript and of-course applications like node.js are continue to raise the profile of JavaScript in other areas. Something that has me really excited though and something I will definitely want to play with when I get a nice stretch of time is Quake2 in JavaScript. This project is based on Jake2 which was a Java port of the open sourced Quake2 code that did leave me with mixed feelings (the code very much looked like a conversion from C to Java mostly via implementing a bunch of static classes), however a long time ago I had some fun writing a mod and experimenting with the original Quake source code. The project looks like it needs a bit of effort to build but I am looking forward to enjoying that at some point.

Moving some posts in here

I recently started posting some random thoughts, comments etc, mostly about techie stuff else where. i think they are better posted here so I will drag those four articles into this blog shortly

Again the purpose of this blog is mainly just to collect together things I might want to come back to, being online it is accessible anywhere, and although nobody else reads it, it helps me to focus by knowing that in theory they can.