I'm making a switch from the IE team to the Windows team where I'll be working on the next version of Windows. As a going away surprise Jen and Nick added me to my gallery of Bill Gates (discussed previously). Here's a close up of the photoshopped cover.
QFC, the grocery store closest to me, has those irritating shoppers cards. They try to motivate me to use it with discounts, but that just makes me want to use a card, I don't care whose card and I don't care if the data is accurate. They should let me have my data or make it useful to me so that I actually care.
I can imagine several useful tools based on this: automatic grocery lists, recipes using the food you purchased, cheaper alternatives to your purchases, other things you might like based on what you purchased, or integration with dieting websites or software. At any rate, right now all I care about is getting the discount from using a card, but if they made the data available to me then the grocery store could align our interests and I'd want to ensure the data's accuracy.
I built timestamp.exe, a Windows command line tool to convert between computer and human readable date/time formats mostly for working on the first run wizard for IE8. We commonly write out our dates in binary form to the registry and in order to test and debug my work it became useful to be able to determine to what date the binary value of a FILETIME or SYSTEMTIME corresponded or to produce my own binary value of a FILETIME and insert it into the registry.
For instance, to convert to a binary value:
[PS C:\] timestamp -inString 2009/08/28:10:18 -outHexValue -convert filetime 2009/08/28:10:18 as FILETIME: 00 7c c8 d1 c8 27 ca 01
Converting in the other direction, if you don't know what format the bytes are in, just feed them in and timestamp will try all conversions and list only the valid ones:
(it also supports OLE Dates, and SYSTEMTIME which aren't listed there because the hex value isn't valid for those types). Or use the guess option to get timestamp's best guess:
[PS C:\] timestamp -inHexValue "40 52 1c 3b" 40 52 1c 3b as FILETIME: 1601-01-01:00:01:39.171 40 52 1c 3b as Unix Time: 2001-06-05:03:30:08.000 40 52 1c 3b as DOS Time: 2009-08-28:10:18:00.000
[PS C:\] timestamp -inHexValue "40 52 1c 3b" -convert guess 40 52 1c 3b as DOS Time: 2009-08-28:10:18:00.000
When I first wrote this I had a bug in my function that parses the date-time value string in which I could parse 2009-07-02:10:18 just fine, but I wouldn't be able to parse 2009-09-02:10:18 correctly. This was my code:
See the problem?
success = swscanf_s(timeString, L"%hi%*[\\/- ,]%hi%*[\\/- ,]%hi%*[\\/- ,Tt:.]%hi%*[:.]%hi%*[:.]%hi%*[:.]%hi", &systemTime->wYear, &systemTime->wMonth, &systemTime->wDay, &systemTime->wHour, &systemTime->wMinute, &systemTime->wSecond, &systemTime->wMilliseconds) > 1;
Before we shipped IE8 there were no Accelerators, so we had some fun making our own for our favorite web services. I've got a small set of tips for creating Accelerators for other people's web services. I was planning on writing this up as an IE blog post, but Jon wrote a post covering a similar area so rather than write a full and coherent blog post I'll just list a few points:
There's no easy way to use local applications on a PC as the result of an accelerator or a search provider in IE8 but there is a hack-y/obvious way, that I'll describe here. Both accelerators and search providers in IE8 fill in URL templates and navigate to the resulting URL when an accelerator or search provider is executed by the user. These URLs are limited in scheme to http and https but those pages may do anything any other webpage may do. If your local application has an ActiveX control you could use that, or (as I will provide examples for) if the local application has registered for an application protocol you can redirect to that URL. In any case, unfortunately this means that you must put a webpage on the Internet in order to get an accelerator or search provider to use a local application.
For examples of the app protocol case, I've created a callto accelerator that uses whatever application is registered for the callto scheme on your system, and a Windows Search search provider that opens Explorer's search with your search query. The callto accelerator navigates to my redirection page with 'callto:' followed by the selected text in the fragment and the redirection page redirects to that callto URL. In the Windows Search search provider case the same thing happens except the fragment contains 'search-ms:query=' followed by the selected text, which starts Windows Search on your system with the selected text as the query. I've looked into app protocols previously.
Inspired by one of Penn's (of Penn & Teller) articles in which he mentions he has his computer tell him what he wrote in his journal that day the previous year, I've wanted to implement a similar thing with my blog. Now that, as I mentioned previously, I've updated my blog such that its much easier to implement search and such, I've added date range filtering to my site's search. So now I can easily see what on Delicious and my blog I was doing last year.
I've also otherwise updated search on this site. You can now quote terms to match an entire string, stick 'tag:' in front of a term to only match that term against tags as opposed to the title and body of the entry as well, and you can stick '-' in front of a term to indicate that it must not be found in the entry.
On Friday Sarah and I went to the Mariners vs Rangers game at Safeco Field with Eric and Jane. The Mariners lost but then before the game the announcement made outside the stadium guaranteed the best service and a good time, not a winning game -- and they were right about the good time.
Last weekend Sarah and I mounted the TV to the wall which was exciting and we saw a mouse in the house!
I've looked at my web server logs previously to see if anyone had used my Web Frotz Interpreter and until recently didn't realize that awstats (the web server log report generator) was truncating the query from my URL, so I couldn't tell that anyone was actually using it. But after grepping the logs manually I've pulled out the URLs of visitor's text adventure sessions. If you'll recall, my Web Frotz Interpreter stores the game state in the URL so its easy to see user's game states in the web server logs.
I've put some of the links up on the Web Frotz Interpreter page. Some of the interesting ones:
I'm excited by HTML5's video tag as are plenty of other people. Once that comes about and once media fragments are adopted, linking to or embedding a portion of a video will be as easy as using the correct fragment on your URL thanks to the Media Fragments WG who has been hard at work since the last time I looked at fragments.
However, until that work is embraced by browsers, embedding portions of videos will continue to require work specific to the site from which you are embedding the video. On the YouTube blog they wrote about how to "link to the best parts in your videos", using a fragment syntax like '#t=1m15s' to start playback of the associated video at 1 minute and 15 seconds. Of course if you want to embed part of a Hulu video it will be different. Although I haven't found an authoritative source describing the URL syntax to use, you can follow Hulu's video guide on linking to part of a video and note how the URL changes as you adjust the slider on the time-line. It looks like their syntax for linking to a Hulu page is to add '?c=[start time in seconds](:[end time in seconds])' with the colon and end time optional in order to link to a portion of a video. And the syntax for embedding appears to be "http://www.hulu.com/embed/.../[start time in seconds](/[end time in seconds])" again with the end time optional.
For more sites, check out the Media Fragments WG's list of existing applications' proprietary fragmenting schemes.
The weekend before the previous, Sarah and I moved our belongings into the new house and spent a lot of time packing and unpacking, and now we're officially living there (interested Facebook friends can find my new address or just ask me). The Saturday of the previous weekend Sarah's family came over for a half house warming and half Sarah's birthday celebration which was fun and served to force us to do more unpacking and forced me to take trips to Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. On Sunday, Sarah and I went out to her favorite restaurant and she opened her gifts that I had to hide to keep her from opening before her birthday. Happy Birthday Sarah!
While at Home Depot I had trouble finding what I was actually looking for, but I did find everything I needed to terminate the Cat5e cables that are wired in the house. Each room has a wall plate with two RJ45 sockets, both sockets wired to Cat5e cable. One of the cables per plate was already hooked up to a standard phone service punchdown board and the other cables per plate were all hanging unterminated next to the punchdown board. So now I've terminated them all with RJ45 connectors and hooked them up to my hub, wireless router, cable modem, etc. I had the same sort of fun setting all that up as I did playing with model train sets as a child. Hopefully no therapy will be required to figure out why that is.
Looking at the HTTP traffic of Netflix under Fiddler I could see the HTTP request that added a movie to my queue and didn't see anything obvious that would prevent a CSRF. Sure enough its pretty easy to create a page that, if the user has set Netflix to auto-login, will add movies to the user's queue without their knowledge. I thought this was pretty neat, because I could finally get people to watch Primer. However, when I searched for Netflix CSRF I found that this issue has been known and reported to Netflix since 2006. Again my thoughts stolen from me and the theif doesn't even have the common decency to let me have the thought first!
With this issue known for nearly three years its hard to continue calling it an issue. Really they should just document it in their API docs and be done with it. Who knows what Netflix based web sites and services they'll break if they try to change this behavior? For instance, follow this link to add my Netflix recommended movies to your queue.
Netflix lets you watch a subset of their movies online via their website and a subset of those movies are available to watch on the Xbox 360's Netflix app. so its not always easy to find movies to watch on Xbox 360. Yet, I regularly see my Xbox friends using the Netflix app and its a shame they didn't make an easy way to share movie recommendations with your friends. Instead we must share movie recommendations the old fashioned way. Here's the movies I've found and enjoyed on my 360.
A while ago I promised to say how an xsltproc Meddler script would be useful and the general answer is its useful for hooking up a client application that wants data from the web in a particular XML format and the data is available on the web but in another XML format. The specific case for this post is a Flickr Search service that includes IE8 Visual Search Suggestions. IE8 wants the Visual Search Suggestions XML format and Flickr gives out search data in their Flickr web API XML format.
So I wrote an XSLT to convert from Flickr Search XML to Visual Suggestions XML and used my xsltproc Meddler script to actually apply this xslt.
After getting this all working I've placed the result in two places: (1) I've updated the xsltproc Meddler script to include this XSLT and an XML file to install it as a search provider - although you'll need to edit the XML to include your own Flickr API key. (2) I've created a service for this so you can just install the Flickr search provider if you're interested in having the functionality and don't care about the implementation. Additionally, to the search provider I've added accelerator preview support to show the Flickr slideshow which I think looks snazzy.
Doing a quick search for this it looks like there's at least one other such implementation, but mine has the distinction of being done through XSLT which I provide, updated XML namespaces to work with the released version of IE8, and I made it so you know its good.
On the topic of made up words: I get made up words for made up things, but there's already a name for cell-phone in English: its "cell-phone". The narrator notes that the book has been translated into English so I guess I'll blame the fictional translator. Anyway, I wasn't bothered by the made up words nearly as much as some folk. Its a good thing I'm long out of college because I can easily imagine confusing the names of actual concepts and people with those from the book, like Hemn space for Hamming distance. Towards the beginning, the description of slines and the post-post-apocalyptic setting reminded me briefly of Idiocracy.
Recently, I've been reading everything of Charles Stross that I can, including about a month ago, The Jennifer Morgue from the surprisingly awesome amalgamation genre of spy thriller and Lovecraft horror. Its the second in a series set in a universe in which magic exists as a form of mathematics and follows Bob Howard programmer/hacker, cube dweller, and begrudging spy who works for a government agency tasked to suppress this knowledge and protect the world from its use. For a taste, try a short story from the series that's freely available on Tor's website, Down on the Farm.
Coincidentally, both Anathem and the Bob Howard series take an interest in the world of Platonic ideals. In the case of Anathem (without spoiling anything) the universe of Platonic ideals, under a different name of course, is debated by the characters to be either just a concept or an actual separate universe and later becomes the underpinning of major events in the book. In the Bob Howard series, magic is applied mathematics that through particular proofs or computations awakens/disturbs/provokes unnamed horrors in the universe of Platonic ideals to produce some desired effect in Bob's universe.
I've made an extension for Internet Explorer 8, FormToAccelerator which turns HTML forms on a web page into either an accelerator or a search provider. In the design of the accelerators format we intentionally had HTML forms in mind so that it would be easy to create accelerators for existing web services. Consequently, creating an accelerator from an HTML form is a natural concept and an extension I've been meaning to finish for many months now.
This is similar in concept to the Opera feature that lets you add a form as a search provider. The user experience is very rough and requires some knowledge of accelerator variables. If I can come up with a better interaction model I may update this in the future, but at the moment all the designs I can come up with require way too much effort. Install IE8 RC1 and then try out FormToAccelerator.
The text/plain fragment documented in RFC 5147 and described on Erik Wilde's blog struck my interest and, like the XML fragment, I wanted to see if I could implement this in IE. In this case there's no XSLT for me to edit so, like my plain/text word wrap bookmarklet I've implemented it as a bookmarklet. This is only a partial implementation as it doesn't implement the integrity checks.
Check out my text/plain fragment bookmarklet.
I just upgraded to the Zune 3.0 software which includes games and purchasing music on the Zune via WiFi and once again I'm thrilled that the new firmware is available for old Zunes like mine. Rooting around looking at the new features I noticed Zune Badges for the first time. They're like Xbox Achievements, for example I have a Pixies Silver Artist Power Listener award for listening to the Pixies over 1000 times. I know its ridiculous but I like it, and now I want achievements for everything.
Achievements everywhere would require more developments in self-tracking. Self-trackers, folks who keep statistics on exactly when and what they eat, when and how much they exercise, anything one may track about one's self, were the topic of a Kevin Kelly Quantified Self blog post (also check out Cory Doctorow's SF short story The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away featuring a colony of self-trackers). For someone like me with a medium length attention span the data collection needs to be completely automatic or I will lose interest and stop collecting within a week. For instance, Nike iPod shoes that keep track of how many steps the wearer takes. I'll also need software to analyze, display, and share this data on a website like Mycrocosm. I don't want to have to spend extreme amounts of time to create something as wonderful as the Feltron Report (check out his statistic on how many daily measurements he takes for the report). Once we have the data we can give out achievements for everything!
Eat at least ten different kinds of animals.
Meet at least 10% of the residents in your home town.
Visit a city in every country.
Survive at least 80 years of life.
Of course none of the above is practical yet, but how about Delicious achievements based on the public Delicious feeds? That should be doable...