Sam Davyson

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Break The Chain.org

29/09/05 - 18.24

BreakTheChain.org - Click Here to Stop the Junk!This is a truly excellent site that clears up a lot of nonsense about chain letters. Specifically it deals with chain emails that clutter your inbox as the are forwarded from one person to another.

Whether the email deals with the fortunes of a Nigerian or your driving licence this website gives the full lowdown on the messages. Including sample emails and discussions relating to the possible damage the continued forwarding will cause. The site also has a page about emails you may get about Hotmail Closure.

And after every article is one solid piece of advice: “Break this Chain!”

September 29th, 2005 - 6.24 PM | No Comments »

Form-Mail.com

29/09/05 - 14.36

Ever wanted to add an actual feedback form to your site rather than just having an email address printed on the page? Well now you can, and for free. Form-Mail.com provides users with a mechanism for getting input placed in forms by users delivered straight to your inbox. It works with a remotely hosted server-side-script which shoves the info from the form into and email and sends it to you.

You have to be competent with HTML as you have to be able to create your own forms. You also have to have a link to Form-Mail on your feedback page. But this can be fairly discrete as it is with my feedback form. The final downside is that there are stirct usage limits. You can have a maximum of two forms with 50 submissions between them per month. If you need more than that you better host your own script (like I am testing here).

I have known about and used this site for months but somehow it escaped mention on this blog.

September 29th, 2005 - 2.36 PM | No Comments »

Search Engine Watch

28/09/05 - 15.11

I said I would do a post about Search Engine Watch so now I will. Search Engine Watch is a very sensibly titled website. It watches Search Engines.

But that doesn’t mean that all of the staff spend day after day staring into the Google Homepage to make sure that nothing untoward happens, instead they provide excellent commentary and comment on all of thge latest search related news. They also often have the news before it is news giving you a preview of what is to come.

The site has news, a blog, forums and loads of other bits and bobs. It is seriously recommended if you want to know anything ever about search.

You can submit comments to the team and sometimes editor Danny Sulivan will even mention you in an article. Which is nice.

September 28th, 2005 - 3.11 PM | 1 Comment »

Site Update

22/09/05 - 23.42

I have started a new Site Update Blog to deal with all (minor and major) updates to the website. Obviously key events may still make this blog.

I have managed to design a system by which the updates to different areas can be colour-coded by their link colours and post titles. This has been largely successful. The layout used is like for like with this one with a different (“site theme” – gray) colour scheme.

Posts will tend to be shorter and very frequent.

Update // Now that I have updated this blog to the WordPress software. I am thinking that I may remerge the two blogs. Maybe using a different style for the site related posts. We’ll see.

September 22nd, 2005 - 11.42 PM | No Comments »

Opera Free for All

21/09/05 - 16.08

Today Opera made a big decision. They’re going ad-free, for free. Previously a subscription was required to remove the otherwise unremovable ad-banner from the interface. This has all gone. It is now 100% freeware for the desktop.

The obvious question is how this is going to work out cash-wise for Opera, given that they are mainly only a desktop browser company. Where is their money going to come from? Apparently if going ad-free can seriously up their percentage share on the browser market then deals with companies (like Google & Amazon in the search box) will still provide profits.

I started to use Opera when it became free for a day on it’s 10th Birthday. I think they were a little startled by the number of people that went in for the offer, and this helped to cause to permanent waiving of the fee.

On the one free day Asa Doltzer from the Firefox team said on his blog:

“Opera Software should do what the mainstream browsers, Firefox and IE, have done, and give away an ad-free version of the application — for free, 365 days a year, not just one.”

And now his request has been fulfilled.

September 21st, 2005 - 4.08 PM | No Comments »

Webmail Wars

16/09/05 - 21.56

Gmail changed Webmail forever when it launched over a year ago. With a proper 1 GB quota of storage, a good interface and subtle adverts it redefined what users who aren’t paying can expect from their email. The service was significantly better than the premium (paid) services being offered by rivals Yahoo! Mail and MSN Hotmail.

These rivals obviously needed to respond if they were going to maintain their user base. They were helped a bit because Gmail was not available on general release (only on an invitation basis) so these competitors had time to offer bonuses to keep their users. Hotmail announced 250 MB for everyone. Over 100 times its previous limit. After sometime (and several smaller increments) Yahoo! went up to 1 GB. Gmail immediately saw its service superiority being threatened and within a week Google announced unlimited storage for Gmail. Of course this is not really the case. Instead the quota is on a counter that is continually increasing. At the moment it is at 2.5+ GB.

But Gmail still lead the interface game. It was built for accessing mail, and not for viewing adverts as many people could easily mistake the design of Hotmail for. But it wasn’t just the adverts. Gmail was dynamic. It’s all written in JavaScript, making it feel much more like a Desktop application than a webpage. Rather the reloading a page to see a message, you call a JavaScript function. This is quicker and extremely smooth.

Yet Yahoo! and MSN are not about to give in. Both have recently announced brand new interfaces for their services and MSN will raise its storage to 2 GB when the new design is unleashed in a few months time. Both have opted for much more dynamic inboxes, with preview screens, keyboard shortcuts and drag-and-drop options. Unfortunately both are in testing and are not available to the general public.

The questions is: Will the new services be better than Gmail? And if they are better will I switch. Admittedly probably not. It is a hassle and Gmail is very, very good.

Perhaps the more interesting question is: What will Gmail do? And possibly most importantly when?

September 16th, 2005 - 9.56 PM | 1 Comment »

Twin Swap

16/09/05 - 21.44

So you’ve seen the Parent Trap and you wonder if it is ever possible that something similar could ever happen in real life. Well thanks to a pair of twins, you can now find out. One of them is doing a psychological study on twins and whether people can notice the difference, and whether the twin can maintain pretence. For the practical study work she has swapped places with her sister. The results are extrodinarily entertaining. It is like a book where absolutely anything could happen. And it is free.

Through double insulated writing (email & then blogging by a friend) the secrecy of the twins is being maintained. Read the latest from them on their blog.

It is currently featured as a Blogger “Blog of Note”. And it is certainly noteworthy. Another particularly interesting blog is that of the DitchMonkey who is living without a house for 12 months.

September 16th, 2005 - 9.44 PM | No Comments »

eChalk: Colour Perception

16/09/05 - 21.17

” …the most amazing optical effect in the world… “

Well, I don’t know if it is the best but it certainly is fairly God damn awesome. Right, before I go one about it you better take a look so you know what I am referring too. Unfortunately I can’t reproduce the image here as it is Copyright of the creator. Obviously this is irritating, but I can understand the desire given the work that must have gone into it. Firstly go to the Colour Perception (note that this is a flash product, make necessary arrangements if you havent already got it) and click the button for the first illusion. Right now do as it says, and be amazed.

Two squares on a checkers style board that are exactly the same colour appear to be very different colours indeed. In fact so much so that I didn’t believe it. You can drag the “swatch” over to compare the shades and it would appear they are the same. But I wasn’t convinced. I thought that the bar could be changing colour. It is on a computer after all. Changing the bar’s colour would be a neat trick if it was done well. I wasn’t happy enough with the removing the mask button either. I though that both of the colours had slightly changed to become the same as each other.

However I thought I’d test it. To see if it is really true. So I took a screenshot, and opened it up in paint. I then choped off a sample of each colour that was relevant so one from A, one from B and one from the Swatch. I found that they were all the same colour. Infact they were all exactly the same. This time there could be no computer tricks, it was my mind being tricked.

There are numerous other and rather similar illusions that you can explore here and here, and you can see loads of other good but not great illusions on the same site.

Some of the illusions are the work of R. Beau Lotto who has their own site where you can see even more colour illusions as well as brightness and form ones too.

I have given up testing them. After my testing experience I’m so sure they’re right however wrong they look.

September 16th, 2005 - 9.17 PM | No Comments »

Google Blog Search

14/09/05 - 23.23

Google launch a Blog Search they announce on their blog, and Blogger report on theirs. This has been drawn together with an update to Blogger.com (as Adam points out) which brings a scroller of the most recently updated blogs and “Blogs of Note”.

When users sign in they also get a bright blue box to greet them on the Dashboard. This is rather against the general Blogger theme of subtle fading browns, and I have to say I think it looks terribly ugly. A “Search All Blogs” link has also been added to the bar that goes at the top of Blogger Blogs. This joins the “Search this Blog” which used to use a Google Site Search to find posts on your blog. I think it was largely useless, as most peoples’ blogs weren’t indexed on Google. However this link has now changed to a Google Blog Site Search using the parameter blogurl:yourblog.com within your search terms. Obviously this is omitted for the “Search All Blogs” option. [As a side note this bar across the top of your Blogger blog is removable contrary to what many Blogger users may believe. Simply select “None” on the template page*. The downside: you don’t get people clicking “Next Blog >>” ending up at our place.]

I notice however that the integration of this new service hasn’t been perfect. For instance, normally searching on Google for a news item alerts you to recents goings on on Google News, or to relevant books on Google Print. But searching for Blogs about Skiing doesn’t say: “Why not try our juicy new Blog Search?”. It would clearly better if it did.

Search Engine Watch
(I’ll review that site itself some day) reports about the launch of the Blog Search including how to make sure your blog is included.

I also notice that Gmail has earned a place on the bottom of the Google Services page. I imagine this was added when it went live a few weeks ago.

//Update: This blog is not very well indexed by the new search engine. Blogger only has the records from the days it was hosted on BlogSpot so most of the posts on the blog are not findable by the search. But, however, Google say it searched for all blogs, whether they are hosted by Google on not. So maybe see increased coverage soon.

*Terms and Conditions Apply. See comments.

September 14th, 2005 - 11.23 PM | 2 Comments »

Aluminium Refreshed

13/09/05 - 16.40

My Aluminium Site has been gaining in popularity recently as it becomes listed in the search engines. People searching for aluminium using the beloved MSN search (my post) find my site on a regular basis, so do Yahoo! searchers, but Google folk do not. At least not yet.

Close analysis of my Statcounter (my post) user reports have shown that users have been bouncing around the maze of redirects that I had set up in order to direct users from pages picked up by a search engine to the same page embedded in my framework. This caused problems for Internet Explorer users where the document.referrer string is blank when the user has not clicked a link (full story). So upon automatic redirect the script couldn’t find out where the user had come from so they were sent to the index. From here users had to make their own way to the relevant page. Hardly ideal.

Now I have set up seperate redirect pages for each of the sites pages, so that users always (fingers crossed) end up moving smoothly to where they should be. I’ve tested it in IE, Firefox and Opera. No glitches so far. Let me know if you find a problem.

September 13th, 2005 - 4.40 PM | No Comments »