Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar - the movie

Firstly WOW!

Avatar is an amazing movie, the attention to detail is immense. I mean they production team created not just a world, a language and a culture from scratch but they immerse you into this place called Pandora from the start. There is a short no intro to the story form the main character but the rest you learn as the movie unfolds.

I have tried to leave any big story line bits out of this, but if you haven't seen the film, trust me it is good and stop reading now until you have seen it.


Some small things I think made the movie;
- Real pandorians have 3 fingers, human avatar clones have 4 (guessing its because of the genetic mix)
- Every breathing animals breathes through openings on their body, not through their mouths
The Hallelujah mountians.... cool (glad to see earth physics doesn't have to follow humans around the universe)
- The big tree - it is BIG, I mean BIG
- The scene where 'Jack' walks for the first time.
- Sigourney Weavers Avatar was 6 yrs younger than anyone elses as hers was the first to be created

A couple of things that got missed during the edit;
- One of the human avatars gets killed then appears in the closing sequence?
- Where humans can and cant breathe the 'air' on Pandora needed to be explained a little as sometimes they could other times they needed breathing masks.

My thoughts;
Okay I did think having an 'Aussie' with a blue face getting the crowds riled up to go to war was a little too braveheart, but who cares really at that point of the film you are so immersed in the story that it does not matter. But maybe as a kiwi I am biased.

The story behind Avatar is not a brilliant one, however if any more time was spent on explaining this and that it would never have got finished and would have ended up a bit like The Lord of the Rings films - a lot of film for a single story - keeping everything in one film was a big project on its own, I wonder how much footage we will get in the directors cut?

So many times during the film I found myself going 'cool' or 'wow' or 'awesome'. I realise it is being pencilled in as the most expensive film of all time and I dont care if it is because you get to see all of the money being spent. In every scene there is something hapening on the edge of the shot, moving, changing colour.
I am a geek but even the computer termail workstations in the human complex with their curved translucent touch/hologram screen were cool - and unlike other SciFi films you can see these being built soon with the current technology we have now.

Okay Avatar is set in 50-60 years in the future, but all of the cool military kit would fit in now to our world now, it was all 'petrol' powered, it looked real and sounded real, it fired bullets, not laser beams etc.

Avatar had some amazing scenes, but everything was so (and I say it again) immersive that you had no problems believing that what was happening on the screen wasn't impossible.
The film has something for everyone, even the girls get a hidden chick flick romance in the background. For the guys there is a bit of "murder, death, kill" and the kids get cool plants animals and ofcourse loads of blue people.

All in all an amazing film that I will happily see again, probably in 3D.

Monday, December 07, 2009

realisation - its all about knowledge

Last week I attended the - codefest event, Matt Lacey set us all a task to build a competitive Connect4 player to compete against each other and a 'Random' player he wrote, we had 2 hours.

Seemed like an easy task, use visual studio to build a .dll that can beat the pants off the other developers attending - simple, bring it on.

This is when I realised, that after 7 years of programming, that I had forgotten a lot of my windows forms days (desktop software).

Web vs Windows
Now if the code is the same, the data is the same and the architecture is similar (more so now than when I started), what was the problem? - one too many pints before we started (nope).

Using a stateless environment (the web) to run my systems has made me far too reliant on session variables, view state bits'n'bobs etc.
The fact I had no data source of any kind to store any data in threw me, how would I know where the connect 4 pieces were, let alone who owned which piece. How would I count to 4 in any direction ... aaarrgghhhh I need a session.item()!

After much playing and re-coding, all while running the clock down, I ended up fudging the code to play a set stratedgy of moves, all dependant on where the last piece was played. Not good code and well embarrassing. With everything hardcoded I was a sitting duck for an intelligent player.

I lost by the way, full credits went to someone who knows far more about desktop software than I do!

The blackhole of knowledge between web and desktop publishing is not a big one, however I think to hop from one to the other without thinking about the two is something I am gong to try and tackle over the next few months.

It is so easy to get into a comfort zone of code, I know all of my code and what is possible to do within a web environment, but throw me a windows app and I really have to think about what I have to do and what can and cant be done in that environment.
There is no easy step-by-step to make this transition easy, it is hands-on process, you make a mistake and fix it.

I found it really interesting to hack my way through Matts project, I do think that I have forgotten more about developing for windows than I would care to remember.
A humbling experience, it's the small things that make you sit back and think!

Thanks to Matt and everyone else who thrashed me at devevening, look forward to seeing everyone next year on Jan 28th!

Monday, November 16, 2009 has been nominated for 3 crunchie 2009 awards

Wow, I just found out my big project for the year has been nominated for 3 crunchie awards, thanks to those who nominated wemoot for the awards!

To win this I need everybody to vote for wemoot by clicking on the links or buttons below and remember to use the 'share' button on the crunchies site to tell all of your friends, if you haven't registered with wemoot, now would a great time too.

Voting closes on 21st December - Only one vote per day per link per IP address, but dont let that stop you!

Vote for wemoot - Best Social Network App

Vote for wemoot - Best Bootstrapped StartUp

Vote for wemoot - Best International StartUp

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PayPal Buy Now button on an page

This problem has annoyed for a very long time, you can add a paypal buy now button to any website, you login to your paypal account and fill in a few boxes and presto out spits a few lines of html to get you going.

<form action="" method="post">
<input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_s-xclick">
<input type="hidden" name="hosted_button_id" value="9225183">
<input type="image" src="" border="0" name="submit" alt="PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online.">
<img alt="" border="0" src="" width="1" height="1">

Which when added to my page directly (or via my CMS) just doesn't work - I won't go into the reasons why right now.

After many hours of trying to find a simple solution so my clients are able to add these adhoc buttons via the CMS, I realised I was trying to over complicate things by writing loads of code and generally wasting precious development time.
Taking a few steps back and going throguh the whole process again made me realise that when you create these buttons on paypal there is a second tab above the html window that says 'Email' when you view this tab you get this;

which you can email out to people to pay for an item - can you see what it is yet?


Simply add an href using the 'Email' link with the paypal button inside...

<a href=";hosted_button_id=9225183" target="_blank"> <img border="0" alt="" src="" /></a>

Sometime the answer is staring you right in the face.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google indexing and how I think it works

These ideas came about after a lot of research into data replication for a client and from listening to search experts from google and microsoft, obviously there is a lot of guesswork in there as well.

I could be wrong, hey I could be right, we will probably never know.

I started trying to answer this question at loving tech forums - - about duplicate content and my answer slowly ballooned into more of a tech article than a quick reply.

There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of google bots out there trawling the pages to generate a massive list of URLs - example: one of my sites has had 400 hits from googlebot today in 12 hours from about 8 different IP addresses so 8 different datacenters.

Google has hundreds of datacenters around the globe so when we do a search we get the 'best' DC for where we are/least busy etc and these DC's can have a DIFFERENT set of results to look into for us

Don’t belive me? - Goto and do a search for [google datacenter] (remove the []), select the 35 from the dropdown and on the results page you will see each datacenter's results for the search term, scroll down and you will see that the results are the sort of the same and the number of results is different

Results 1 - 10 of about 7,890,000

Results 1 - 10 of about 7,900,000 etc

Why the difference? – now the fun stuff

Each Googlebot stores it list of found URLs in it’s own datacenter and from time to time this massive list is taken offline and the pages are cached locally so they can be crunched by a load of servers inside this DC this builds a new search index that it will use to show us the results for our search make sense?

Doing it this way makes real sense form an IT/hardware point of view, it means you can do this massive amount of data analysis at anytime without affecting the user who is trying to search for free a delivery pizza in their area.
Because the pages are cached locally in the DC they can be compared to older versions or instantly be seen as new pages, flagged as duplicate etc

It also means that the new index can be tested with

Obviously this is where the magic happens – throw in some google algorithms, hop on one foot, do the secret handshake, close one eye, do a little dance, make a little love – you get the picture. Out pops an update to the google index, still steaming ready to be pushed to the live index.

All of this new indexed data is made available to the DC is and mixed up with the old data – hence the number of results can be different across the DC’s

The big data replication bit comes next, this is a data nightmare when you think about the volume…I mean millions or billions of rows of data that has to be the checked etc.

On a scheduled basis every DC will slowly replicate it’s data and propagate it’s changes to every other DC, but because this happens completely independently to the offline data crunching then the DC’s will never ever be 100% the same unless everyone on the internet does not update their site for X amount of time to give google a chance to catch up and I doubt this will ever happen.

So my answer to the question;

One thing that makes me think that the duplicate content thing is tricky to track is the fact that there is no way that the ‘real first’ copy of any content can be tracked as every googlebot talks to different DC’s and spiders pages at different times, is stored locally at different times and is indexed at different times etc.

The problem with duplicate content is that because EVERY page fights against EVERY page for ranking then if you are psoting the same content across multiple sites (not a good idea) then the site that google ‘see’s as the most appropriate will probably get the higher result rankings.

This is not an exact science so anything could happen, but I think the best bet is to play safe and try and avoid duplicate content.

More stuff to get the brain working;

Floating DC’s

DC n a box

Monday, September 14, 2009

Live writer


Well so far (only a few characters in though) so good.

Live writer (part of the Live essentials download) is pretty simple to use, install/download takes about 3-5 minutes (no restart needed) and once I remembered my password it all loaded nice and fast.

Obligatory screenshot:

I am impressed by the way it works,  there are enough functions to keep someone like me happy, you can set daes to future publish blogs, copy/paste images straight in, preview/edit the blog etc.

The interface doesn’t look like is has been touched with the Office 2007 brush, very basic.


I wonder why they can’t have this functionality directly in word/OneNote etc?


Score 8/10



Take off at least 4 from the 8/10 score as you cant upload images directly you, guessing if it was a MS bloghost it would work though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

short URL's made easy

With many of us on twitter, tweeting about other websites can be difficult as you are limited to the number of characters you can use, so I went on a search for a good fast and free URL shortening site and found where you can simply type in the link you want to ‘go to’ and the short (or shor7) title for this page, which gets turned into something like which will send you to, best bit is that it is SEO safe so you get all the strength of the site its on passed to on! will also email you a link to view the stats for your shor7’s!

Goodluck with the tweets!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hot August fringe festival London

Everyone has to go to this!!!!

The first annual Fringe Festival at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern ( is taking place from 27 July - 28 August 2009 featuring the best of London's alternative performance scene.

Performers include Rosie Wilby, Sarah-Louise Young, Dicke Beau, and David Hoyle, to name just a few

See up to four shows each night including cabaret, magic, music, theatre, sketch comedy and more.

£7 entry per show.

Shows start at 6:30pm and run through to 12am.

Check out for more details.

Monday, March 30, 2009

wemoot - it's alive!

wemoot - the cultural community I have been building wemoot with Jorge Gonzalez in secret (kind of) for the last 8 months or so, fine tuning and redeveloping his idea to give everyone the oppurtunity to share/find and learn from a single place on the internet.

When asked what wemoot is I normally say "It's like Faceook with brains", don't get me wrong old facebook does a great job, but it doesn't have any 'information' in it, it's great for keeping in touch with friends, but I can't learn anything from it.
Wemoot gives me somewhere to share information I find/know and to do it easily, yes I could have gone to wikipedia to leave information, but I have tried that before and have had this information rewritten or deleted by other people, for me I wanted somewhere where I could write an article about web design for example or search engine optimisation and share it with a community of people in the knowledge that it was mine and it could not be edited by others, they should be able to discuss it and leave feedback etc, but it's still mine.

And that's why I thought Jorge's idea was a fantastic one and one I know will have great success and possibly change the way a lot of people interact with content.

I suppose the tech name for wemoot would be a content distribuition platform, with relted discussions and personal messaging. more wemoot tech stuff here.

The test site went live on the 9th of Febraury 2009 (929) and thanks to all the popel testing the full version went live last week!

If you have ever wanted to share some information you think others would be interested in or just want to throw some ideas out to a communtiy of people register and become part of the internet's coolest new cultural communitiy

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Open Space Code - a good day out

I spent my saturday with a group of programmers form around London taking part in the 2nd openspacecode event, I had never heard about these types of events before but it seemed like a great idea.

As a sole developer it can be really hard to 'see' what is going on in the industry, especially when all of my projects are based loosely around the same technology and 'patterns & practices'.

The day started with a short group planning session, where everyone is given the oppurtunity to put forward topics to discuss.
Following a brief democratic process we had our morning topics inplace - I was off to learn about BDD - Behaviour Driven Development

Thanks to Ian Cooper for filling us in on BDD, the topic was covered well and I got 2 main things out of the 2 hours or so.

1- I need to spend a fair chunk of time learning more about testing
2- I should probably take some time out to move some of what I do to c#

We then all headed off to lunch at Nandos!

The afternoon started with a quick planning session to decide what was going to be discussed over the afternoon session - I went a long to the DSL - Domain Specific Langauge talk.
Which although is probably not something I will be doing in the near future it is defeinitely a part of software development that I will have to use.

The day finished off with everyone back together to discuss the day, pros and cons etc.

Then something I have been looking to do for quite awile - I got to play on one of the few 'Microsoft Surface' devices in the world!
This is a cool piece of technology, if I had a spare £12k I would really like one, not sure what I would use it for, but there would never be a shortage of conversation starters (for those who haven't seen/heard about Surface, this one was an interactive coffee table with brains).

Special thanks to Alan Dean for organising a great event and to cochango for letting us use their really nice offices and allowing some of us to play on the Surface!

If you are a software developer and live in London and are keen to see how other developers do what they do, these events are what you are looking for!

Friday, January 16, 2009

be carfeul of skype when editing your website!

I have been building websites for a number of years so many in fact I now build websites to buld websites (content management systems), so it came as a surprised that while I was editing a customers live website I noticed a lrage number of missing images on the contact page.

This was easily fixed by turning the skype browser button OFF and removing the skype injected code from the editor before I saved the HTML again.

It's interesting to note that when this skype bar is turned on it has rendering control over every page you view, that is it can inject its own html/javascript into the page as its being rendered by your faithful browser. - is this some kind of loop hole int he broswer security?

So if you do use a web based wyziwyg editor, be careful of toolbar injectors, they can create a LOT of code that you will never need to use.