Friday, December 01, 2006

OpenStreetMap is so cool

For some reason I love maps and aerial photos, so naturally I love OpenStreetMap!

If you don't know what OpenStreetMap is about, its essentially a project to create "Open Source" (actually a Creative Commons license) maps for the UK (because the real ones are copyrighted and cost loads to use!) and the rest of the world using a load of volunteers wandering around the country with GPS units. Sounds like it might be crap but check out this image of London generated a few months ago:

Pretty cool huh? Obviously there are big areas without any data, but the potential is there! At the moment one of the main guys in the project is doing a community-sponsored week of full time work on the project so there is a lot of activity going on, so go and check out the progress.

I liked the whole concept so much I even donated some money...lets just hope I don't regret giving the money away in a year or two if it ends up like the stupid mess that Wikipedia has become!

Friday, November 24, 2006

StumbleUpon for fun and profit - Part 3: Analysis

In my previews two posts about my run-in with StumbleUpon, I talked mainly about the number of visitors that ended up going to one of my sites.

I concentrated on the numbers of visitors as, according to the monetization (sic) community anyway, its all about visitors; the more you have the more money you get. Unfortunately for me, it turns out that this was the exact opposite. Instead of making a few extra dollars for a couple of days during the peak in traffic, I actually experienced a drop in click throughs for the next month!

To me that sounds kinda counter-intuitive. Lets take a look at the graphs:

The top graph is the real number of click throughs a day (not the percentage!), and the lower graph is impressions across all of my sites that run Adsense ads. The thick line is the line of best fit (showing a nice steady increase in traffic and money!).

As can be clearly seen, around about the 22nd September the StumbleUpon traffic arrived for one of my sites. It died away again really quickly (see the full write up about the traffic profile here: StumbleUpon for fun and profit - Part 2: Results).

But what is really curious here is the uncharacteristic drop in click throughs for the following month across all my sites. As you can see, click throughs are way below the trend up to ... are you waiting for this ... the 22nd October, i.e. exactly a month after the StumbleUpon traffic!

Does Google check referrers?

So this lead me to thinking - is Google checking the referrers before it decides which adverts to display for my pages. Maybe if it detects a lot of "low quality" traffic from sites like Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon etc it puts your account on a black list, and then puts up some uninteresting, low paying adverts that no one is interested in to protect its advertiser's budgets?

That seems a bit far fetched maybe, perhaps it is the case that Google simply monitors the number of impressions and, upon detecting suspicious activity such as a huge spike, sends out the uninteresting, low paying adverts as above?

Whatever happened, exactly one month later my click throughs were back up to a healthy level. Unfortunately I didn't notice this happening at the time otherwise I might have disabled my adblockers and had a look at what adverts were actually showing - hopefully next time I'll catch it in time!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why I wont buy another iPod

I've had a first gen 2gb iPod nano for just over a year now ... yes I was one of those people who was sold the moment they saw one, although to be fair I was looking at buying a new mp3 player anyway so it wasn't a total impulse buy.

Anyway, about 1 year later I think its time to upgrade to a higher capacity device. But will I get a new iPod? The simple answer is a "no". Here is why:

  1. iTunes. I'm not talking about the shop (I've always used AllOfMP3!), I am just talking about the software. Its the biggest heap of shit I've ever used. It is slow, bloated, buggy and most of all its crap at its main purpose of loading music onto the iPod! For example imagine you had 100 albums you want to copy to your iPod, but only space for 50; does iTunes copy over the first 50 complete albums? No that would be too sensible - instead it copies over a random selection of tracks from all 100 albums...why?!!?!!
  2. It is no longer "cool"...I'd be tempted to say that it was "cool" only for about 6 months before people actually knew what it was, but that is perhaps another story...
  3. Despite everyone ranting about how well designed these things are, you cant unplug the data-cable without having to unplug the headphones first because they put the plugs too close together.
  4. The data cable shell breaks after a few uses.
  5. The Hold-Play-To-Turn-Off implementation is irritating; it sometimes takes several attempts to turn the damn thing off.
  6. The so-called gapless playback is pretty random. An album will be gapless one day, but not another?
  7. The latest firmware has changed how the device works when skipping tracks. Now it seems that to rewind a track I need to press the back key 3 times, even if I am only one or two seconds into the track: once to "wake" the iPod up, second to rewind the track, and third to actually go back. I am convinced that this never used to be the case - now it just feels like its not responding or broken or something when trying to go back a track.
  8. Its really fragile and prone to scrapes and dents and all sorts of injuries despite living in a case all the time.
So there we go. Rant over. Basically I have been pretty disappointed with it all, particularly the software. If they were hoping the iPod would drive mac sales then they should have spent a lot more time working on iTunes because at the moment it just leaves a bad taste as it were.

What will I get instead? No idea to be honest - the zune is looking interesting. Maybe I will get one of those if it can update its music wirelessly (i.e. not just sharing tracks with others wirelessly).

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Windows Live Messenger/MSN8 loves your ram.

A while ago I switched over to Windows Live Messenger (aka MSN 8). I'd avoided the beta for months and months and months because I often have problems with Microsoft's beta stuff and its just not worth the hassle so I thought I'd wait until it was all dandy and fixed and ready for release.

Turns out that its still a huge memory pig. At the moment it is using about 25 meg of ram. Due to the quirks of Windows though, if I minimise it, it drops to using about 4 meg of ram - but if I send it to the tray, it still uses about 25meg! Windows unloads an app's working set from ram if its minimised, so it seems like the developers missed a trick when sending it to the tray ... I'm guessing they are just making the form invisible rather than minimising it. See my blog is both educational and informative! :)

Anyway that all pales into insignificance compared to what I experienced the other day. Came back to my computer and thought things were going a bit slow (click for bigger image)...

Thats right - its using over 260 meg of ram, and 470 meg of virtual memory! Thats more than even Firefox which is well known for its memory leaks!

From my experience, you need to completely shut Messenger down and restart it every few days, otherwise it tends to go mad and do things like this.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Inside a PG-40 ink cartridge - Part 2

In my previous post I was musing about the possibility of refilling a PG-40 ink cartridge as there are no 3rd party alternatives from what I can see.

From that post you can see that the ink cartridge is nothing more than a box with some foam in it, so I was confident about refilling it.

As it turns out it is pretty easy to do, and it works really well too. Here is what I did - please follow these steps at your own risk!

  1. Remove empty cartridge from printer - an MP150 in my case.
  2. Be careful not to touch or otherwise allow things to come into contact with the print head (thats the really inky long metallic looking bit at the bottom of the cartridge!)
  3. "Pop off" the grey lid of the cartridge (see in the video in the post mentioned above) - you can use a vice or a G-clamp to do this. If you dont have either it might be worth trying to drill a hole through the "a" of "cartridge" on the label, but be careful you dont let any of the bits of plastic get in the cartridge.
  4. Using a syringe and needle - like the one that you get with Tesco ink refill packs - push the needle down into the base of the foam and inject the ink.
  5. Place the grey lid back on the cartridge, and secure with some sellotape. Make sure that you attach the tape horizontally on the cartridge - i.e. with the label facing you with the writing the correct way up, put the tape horizontally across the label and use about an inch of tape either side to attach to the sides of the cartridge. Make sure you do not tape it on vertically as you will cover up the gold-coloured contacts.
  6. Place the cartridge back into the printer.
Having done this you can now simply unpeel the tape to refill again next time. Because the print head is integrated into the cartridge, you may find that after a few refills you will need to buy a new cartridge as the head may have become damaged or clogged up.

One side effect of this is the printer still thinks that the ink is low. From what I can gather, there is no way for the printer to actually know how much ink is in the cartridge, and it just guesses by keeping a count of how many times it has printed and how much ink it thinks it used each time. There might be a software work around for this - if I find anything I will make an update.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

StumbleUpon for fun and profit - Part 2: Results

Ok so in my previous post I talked about StumbleUpon and a huge increase in hits I got from it having received a stumbling.

I was wondering how long the effect would last, and what the hits would be like afterwards. Turns out that what I blogged about before was pretty much it - nothing much else happened after:

As you can see I got about 3 days of high traffic, then it dropped off quicker than it picked up! One side effect though is that I am now getting about 3 or 4 times the average previous hits since the stumbling, and a slow trickle of referrals from StumbleUpon still. I appear to be getting more search engine traffic now too - this could be coincidence of course.

Its a bit of a strange profile - I can only presume that my site was temporarily on a "Whats New" type page for a little while, and has now slumped down to the usual listings.

Still, an interesting experience!

Update: I have had a closer look at what happened to my advertising revenue during and after this event. Check out the details at StumbleUpon for fun and profit - Part 3: Analysis

Saturday, September 23, 2006

StumbleUpon for fun and profit

For the past few months, I've created a couple of websites made purely for putting adsense adverts on. My first site was a bit of an experiment, and has been pretty successful (for what I wanted anyway - I doubt others would class it as a success) by making a quid or two a day in advertising which is exactly what I wanted.

So I thought I'd start a new site to get some more money as its so easy. As is often the trouble though, getting it noticed and getting people to visit it can be a problem. With the first site I traded a link or two, sneaked a link into Wikipedia here and there etc. Its only getting between about 50-100 unique visitors a day which is pretty crappy really, but the click through rate is amazingly high (we're looking at anything in the region of 5-25%!) so it works.

But with the new site I've not really done what I did before. I was getting a small dribble of search engine traffic, but it was only about 10 uiques a day. So I decided to submit it StumbleUpon to try and get some more traffic. That was a day or two ago now - today I checked on the site's webalizer stats and was pretty damn surprised by what I saw:

As you can see, thats some pretty mental growth in hits. Yesterday I got 1277 uniques; so far in the first half an hour of today I've got about 40 uniques which works out at about 1900 uniques multiplied up. But is this ethical? Well who knows - I'd argue that its more of a "grey hat" method - I'm not gaming the system, the site is genuine and there is no hidden tricks or anything.

I've got no idea how long this will last - will it just dribble off into nothing after a day or two, or will it carry on? I'll post an update on this blog at some point in the future when something interesting happens!

Update: I have blogged about the outcome and side effects of a StumbleUpon "stumbling".