Upcoming Changes

I am in the process of moving my blog to a personal mutation of DasBlog.  Already moved all the post and comments over but there are lots of changes to make in DasBlog.  I chose DasBlog because it gives me a good excuse to play with ASP.NET and it offers relatively easy migration from Radio.  It's pretty slow and code itself is not exactly pretty but I can tear into it easily enough.  At this point, I am gearing up to replacing its file-based storage with either Berkeley DB XML or MySQL.

Visual design-wise, I am going to be replacing the calendar with tabs to display the blog in daily, weekly, or monthly views.  Daily views will show posts spanning days.  Weekly view will show post titles spanning weeks.  Monthly views will show post titles spanning a year.  Search is already there but I'll have to checkout its performance before deciding to replace it or not.  And then there is the legacy URL preserving code so old links don't break.  Lots of enjoyable headaches ahead.

I am switching ISP as well, so don't be surprised if the blog becomes unavailable for a few days.

eSignHere.com

I found a wonderful gift for myself today, a nice domain name for a pet project I have been working on: eSignHere.com.  It's a great name and it cost me only $7.95 per year.  What's is the project about?  It's about making e-signing as easy as picking one's nose.  Try selling that to your board.  Ho Ho Ho!

.NET Pervert

There is something pathetic about getting enthusiastic over a geeky article on Christmas Eve but, if you are a .NET pervert, you should read Aleksandr Mikunov's Rewrite MSIL Code on the .NET Framework Profiling API.  The article doesn't say whether the technique still works under .NET 1.1, but it looks promising.

While mutating and hooking managed code is not exactly encourageable behavior, sometimes you have to do it and you can't argue with Gotta.

Learning English Virtually

Learning English is a big deal outside America.  For Koreans, whether or not you speak English affects your career.  English is taught in school but learning English in America is considered to be essential to properly learn English.  So kids of all ages are sent to America.

So I started thinking about a cheap solution.  I thought about a variation of a Rent-A-Sub idea I had long time ago that lets anyone connected to Internet control a little remotely controlled submarine.  You get a little mobile robot with video camera and speakers that a lets Internet users control.  Imagine little robots running around town trying to engage in conversation with townfolks.  There will be lots of problems, but lots of fun also.

More realistic solution is to build a virtual world designed for non-English speakers to learn English by having real world conversations.  Wanna experience MacDonald?  Drive there and order a burger.  NPCs are part-timers who are asked to type-in what they are saying to help students understand what you are mumbling.  Wanna learn what to say in a car accident?  Smash your car into another car and get into a screaming match in English.  Quickest way to learn foul language?  Go hang out at the 'Hood where tough NPCs will rough you up so you can learn English.

For this kind of service, $200 a month subscription is not expensive considering how much other options for English students cost.

Real Speech Recognition

Speech recognition continues to get better and labor cost keep rising, but, as an engineer in habit of jumping 'out of the box' like Jack does, I like to think about alternative solutions.  Here is one that is amusing.

I walk into a little corner restaurant in Paris to have lunch.  As the waitress comes over, I flip-open my cellphone and press a button that was programmed to connect to a translator service which was part of my vacation package.  When the waitress opens her mouth, I point the phone to her.

Francine is sitting in front of her computer and writing into her blog.  She lives in Chicago and works part-time as an on-demand translator.  When her computer beeps and pops open a window, she is looking at the waitress opening her mouth to say something.  She takes a quick glance over to the side of the popup and sees basic info on the client.  His name is Don and his location is in Paris.  Based on his GPS location, he is in a restaurant.  Francine proceeds to help Don order a lunch.

I picked this scenario because, the last time I was in that siutation, I ended up ordering a lunch of just side-dishes.  It involves more than speech recognition, but the core idea is that speech recognition does not manadate machine doing the recognition.

FTP

Scott Watermasysk asks what the hands-down best FTP tool is.  I have been using FileZilla for the past year and have been very happy with it.  It's fast, free, and trouble-free.  Don't let the 'zilla part bother you if you are a softie.

Speaking of FTP tools, here are some features I want in my FTP tool:

  1. Persistent synchronization – intelligently monitor and update local directories to match remote directories or remote directories to match local directories.
  2. Delta archives – automatically record and archive changes.
  3. Integrity checker – detect illegal modifications or additions to remote directories.

Bad Taste of XSLT

Everytime I use XSLT, it leaves a really bad taste in my mind.  I just spent 3 hours writing an XSLT stylesheet for a new XML-based signature verification result format I created for my client recently.

The format itself is designed to capture data associated with signature verification so that it can be used as legal proof of verification at some later date.  This means capturing data hash, signature, certificates, and OCSP request/response pairs for each cert in the chain; basically bagging every scrap of data on the table.  End result should be routed automatically to a backend repository, but some customers will opt to stored them on local drives which means they need to view it locally.

That's where XSLT comes in.  By associating an XSLT stylesheet with the XML file, users can view the file with just a browser (well, IE).  It's a nice solution except writing XSLT can be a real pain in the ass.  Take one little step outside the simple stuff and you are in a jungle and it doesn't get better over time unless you use it everyday.  Since what I had to do involves fairly advanced XSLT, I was not in a good mood by the time I finished.

If you have a choice, avoid XSLT like the flu.  I didn't.  If you really have to, make sure you have a XSLT debugger.  XSLT being a declarative language is a joke.  It might look declarative, but if you do any serious work with it, you will start thinking procedurally in order to make sense of it.  Like I said, it's a joke.

Glitz Twitz

Kaye Trammell, whom I ran across via Dave's post, thinks Fox Searchlight Pictures blog sucks because:

  1. It isn't even hosted on a real server. They host it on blogspot. Don't get me wrong, blogspot is great — if you're a teenager without server space! This is a CORPORATE BLOG for heaven's sake — host it on the company's server!
  2. The content stinks. I don't want mini press releases about award nominations or what cities a movie is in. I want real content. I want to know what it is like on a set. I want some stars to guest blog. I want to know what George Clooney asks for in his trailer. I want content that I can't get anywhere else.
  3. The branding bites. Is this a film company? One tacky mouse over logo – great. Where are the corporate colors? Where is the link to the blog on main site? This blog is missing out on everything freshmen learning in marketing 101.

One does what one can and it takes time for an organization to discover and learn the values of blogging and to commit resources.  Andrew is obviously a blogger doing what he can to convince his company about blogging.  Meanwhile a Miss Perfect comes along and places it at the top of her worst corporate blogs.  Geesh.

Even a big company has to start somewhere and it isn't reasonable to expect every corporate blogs to be top of the line from the start.  If her kinds of nonsense is what they teach in Marketing 101, I am glad I skipped it.

Blogging is about making it affordable, time and resource wise, to deliver fresh content and it doesn't need this "What Mr. Einstein needs is a haircut" kind of vanity.

Screenplay Bug

Since I like to watch movies, I occasionally come down with a screenplay bug.  A screenplay bug is that buzzing one gets inside his head when a neat storylines strikes.  This time its a story about an old man with Alzheimer's disease who forgot everything about himself and is left only with his online identity, specifically his MMORPG character.

He is taken care of by a nursing home staff whom he doesn't know nor care about.  Doctors decided that MMORPG is the best therapy for him so he plays it all day.  While he is playing. he knows exactly who he is because his name is on the screen.  There is no purpose, except surving from moment to moment instead of staring at the wall all day.

While the story would be near impossible to tell visually, it was compelling enough to buzz me all day today.  Now that I spit it out onto my blog, I hope it's gone.  I do wonder though whether video games are good for people with Alzheimer's disease.