I happened to pop over to Mininova to get something for the weekend. All my searches came back empty. Then I noticed the banner at the top of the page and clicked on the latest blog post.

It’s a familiar story, and one I’ve followed, all the way back to Napster in ’99. Ahh, happy days. The social interaction of the early Napster was half the fun, being able to browse each other’s collections and chatting about shared interests. Then came Limewire, WinMX, and Shareaza — that last one ended in a particularly bizarre situation, when the site was hijacked by an organization linked to the RIAA that proceeded to distribute infected files.

Now I’m curious to see how quickly a new sharing service rises, as it surely will.

Update 091201: Lifehacker provides a useful list of alternatives to Mininova.

Sibling rivalry 2.0

As technology evolves, so do the arguments between siblings. Until recently, we heard outraged voices shrieking

“Mama! She broke my Wookie!”


“Don’t touch my My Little Pony stud farm!”

Things grew quieter when they started squatting in front of our laptops and watching Youtube and playing online games (with obligatory headphones).

Two days ago, however, I foolishly told our two oldest kids about using our Wii to surf on our wide screen TV. I have to admit that it slipped out because I was excited about getting something so cool for free. I had previously tried to use the TV as a screen for one of the laptops, but the resolution was too poor, especially now that we get snooty about anything under 1080i these days.

We downloaded the Internet channel for the Wii and sat in hushed awe as we navigated some favourite sites using the wiimotes.

By this morning, however, the thrill was already gone, and from opposing corners of the couch came the old voices:

“How come his Youtube works and my neopets.nl doesn’t. It’s not fair!”

“You’ve had two goes already on “Dressing Up Beverly Hills” while I was peeing! It’s my turn now!”

Plus ├ža change …

The good news is that today is the last day of the holidays.

Yayyy! (You can almost hear the echoes around the neighbourhood.)

What does not kill me, makes me stronger

After spending a few days in the north of Senegal, I returned to Dakar to find one of my sites had been hacked. Each page of my photoblog, Ria Galleria, had a long list of ads and links above my own photo posts. The ads were all related to travel, which is preferable to zoophilia, although the centred alignment was crime enough, typographically speaking.

After some frantic searching, I learned that I had been hit by a php injection, which is not the latest form of synthetic drug abuse but rather a hack that places a line of malicious code at the top of all the php files on your server. Given that my blogging software, WordPress, is built on php, this was a serious problem.

How did it get there? Probably through some security weakness in my outdated version of WordPress (or possibly an associated plugin). Updating is an obsession at WordPress, annoyingly so at times, but plain stupid to ignore for as long as I have. My excuse was that I could not rely on stable power supply long enough to undertake such a laborious process of synchronizing hundreds of files.

This hack attack was the push I needed to upgrade. I started with Ria Galleria, using a fully automatic update by SimpleScripts. It was simple, but it lost lots of tags and all the links to the photos — a pretty basic flaw for a photoblog. Still, I was happy that I had the basic setup back, and will re-upload the photos as and when.

More daunting was this four-year-old blog. Mon œuvre! ;-)

I decided to do the upgrade manually, and, several hours later, it’s up and running. For you, dear reader, there is very little difference from the previous version. If only you could see behind the screen … gone is the linoleum and the bakelite cabinet; now all is cool whites and a single pulsing red LCD atop a burnished titanium cube.

Actually there are a million tabs, tags, options and other delightful distractions to fiddle with. I won’t have any time left to write anything.

I mentioned that you would not notice anything different after the upgrade; that’s not true. As with my previous upgrade (two years ago, oops), some things don’t make it through to the other side. Last time it was the Ultimate Tag Warrior, a plugin that was as heroic as it sounds; this time it was my AudioScrobbler, which showed you what I’d been listening to. It seems the developer got fed up with working on it.

So now I have to write out what I’m listening to: Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie – Dark Eyes
Now it’s Eddie Palmieri – La Verdad. Next Goldfrapp – Utopia (New Ears Mix) … Phew … there’s got to be another scrobbler out there. [UPDATE: fixed — see sidebar]

On the plus side, the upgrade means I can use some new eye candy, such as this:


So much sexier than the static tag cloud I had before.

Wrap-up at five after midnight: I was hit, knocked down, got back up, dusted myself off, walked away looking better than before … and yet … I have a lingering fear that something is still lurking in a database somewhere, ready to strike again.

Blistering bandwidth!

I signed up with Sonatel last week and got a phone line installed. The broadband services are predictably very expensive, and I chose the cheapest one, which gives us just 512k downspeed … or that’s what I thought. In fact I had already warned the salesperson that, annual tied contract notwithstanding, if I didn’t get the speed I paid for, then I would break the contract. So there I was, squatting on the floor, Mr B’s laptop balancing on a suitcase, primed for high dudgeon. I logged on to speedtest.net, and sighed when I saw the nearest server was in Bamako, Mali; hardly the centre of highspeed telecommunications, I thought.

The ping came out average and I waited for the downspeed test to begin. I blinked. The needle jumped and fell back in a microsecond. I looked at the measurement: over 9 Mbps. While I pondered that freak result, the upspeed test chugged round and clocked in a measly 65 kbps. Still, I tried the test again; again over 9 Mbps.

He-he-he. I thought to myself. I’ve got a fat tube and no one’s checked. I can hardly complain about the upspeed, however.

How long will it last before they realize? Have I got the Internet equivalent of the light bulb that never dies? I mean, the speed is obviously possible, and the reason everyone doesn’t have it is purely commercial, and not technical.

This morning, of course, when I wanted to take a screenshot of the test. The result came in at under 500 kbps. I tested it again immediately and got the following result:

Blistering bandwidth!

So it is obviously very erratic, but I haven’t had any cause to complain about the speed in practice.

Of course, having no electricity for eleven hours (no modem) did slow things down somewhat.

Photos in motion

Here are a couple of examples of a very neat little program called Sqirlz, which makes water-related animations out of photos. In the first example, of Villa Sonsbeek in Arnhem, I tried to capture the slow swell of a breeze-blown lake. I’d give it 5/10.

In the second example, more appropriate for this time of year, I tried out the “snow” option, which is based on the “rain” option. I mention this because it is quite hard to generate a realistic impression of falling snow. In the program “Help” file, it states that speeds of under 1.0 will be jerky in the movie loop. The problem is that any speed over 0.6 is like a blizzard. As a compromise, I set the speed to 0.5, then when I saved the file as a Flash file, I set the frame rate to 10/sec, rather than the default 15, thereby slowing the movement.

What do you think? I’d give it 7.5/10.

For the eagle-eyed among you, this is the same tree-lined path that I photographed in autumn: Grimm Times and A walk in the woods.