WordPerfect Lightning Almost Makes the Grade

WordPerfect is one of only a handful of software applications that bring back memories of both enjoyment, and extreme rage.  My first experience with the application was in 1994 with WordPerfet 5.0 for DOS.  The blue screen, grey text and excessive use of the function keys were so natural to me back in high school.  Thanks in part to my 5 point handwriting (seriously), my teachers had asked that I start typing out my essays and reports.  They said it was to give me practice typing, but I know it was because my teachers didn't enjoy reading my work with a magnifying glass.

So I became very proficient with the DOS-based program and even used it to type out the manuscript to my published short-story "The Box" (1994 - Susan Carol Publishing -- I wish I could find a link), and several dozen other unpublished works.

As time went by, Windows95 became the common operating environment for most PCs, and I started using WordPerfect 6.0a for Windows.  This was when things started to go down-hill.  Application crashes, critical exceptions in Windows (only when WordPerfect was running), corrupted documents, format losses, and a slew of other problems drove me away.  I had given WordPerfect 7.0 a try, but this application would crash every 10 to 15 minutes.  Editing a 2 page document often involved 5 restarts and using one backup .wpd file because the main one was corrupted in the last crash.

My God, what a nightmare.

So after a short learning curve and some cursing while looking for similar functionality, Word97 became the editor of choice and I've stayed with suite up to now (though I don't think I'll be upgrading from Office2003 anytime soon).

So what's all that have to do with WordPerfect Lightning?

Well ... I guess it's because I'm surprised the WordPerfect software is still around.

Lightning is quite a bit different from the actual WordPerfect application, in that it has only a subset of the features.  Since hearing that it has some integration with WordPress, I've decided to give it a look and was impressed by some of the features this 20 Meg software package comes with.  Though it's only in Beta form, the application does run pretty smooth.

I like the Navigator allows thoughts and similar data to be grouped in idea trees, and the ease of ripping information out of existing documents (almost regardless of format) is pretty sweet.  If I were still in school, I could see this is being a very useful tool when keeping like-data together.  The online collaboration is also pretty smooth, though I can't see this function being used too often in my case.

What really piqued my interest, of course, was how well a formatted document from Lightning would appear in WordPress.

Using one of my development sites, I started writing some fake entries and decided to even test the drag-and-drop plagorism capabilities inherent in Lightning by grabbing some of my previous posts with images and specific formatting.  Uploading the content was relatively straight-forward and the formatting remained intact.  I'll admit that this might be the biggest selling feature of the application, but I can't see it catching on enough that people start using it more than the existing post-writing screen in WordPress.

This post was written with Lightning, and though it doesn't have any special formatting, I think it's relatively decent.  I am curious to know whether something like lightening will be offered on mobile platforms.  Typically, when I'm sitting at a computer, it has internet.  So something like Lightning doesn't really fill any of my needs.  But if I could get something that would allow me to write or publish blog entries on my PDA (be it Windows Mobile, PalmOS, Symbian, etc.) or mobile phone, then I can see a bit of a market.

Of course if I could do such a thing, then I would want that mobile software to handle certain functions and features that I've become accustomed to with WordPress.  Such as Post Timestamp modification (since I usually write all my posts a day or two in advance), category selection, image embedding with automatic upload, and various plugin support such as the GeoPress GeoLocation plugin.  If I'm going to be writing and publishing from a mobile device, chances are I'm not home anyways.

It will be interesting to see what functions and features this application may have by the time it's out of Beta, and moreso when a 2.0 is released.  But for the moment I don't think it will replace my existing document creation and handling methods.

So How Much Is Your Site Worth?

My Site Value as of May 18, 2007So how much is your site worth?

As of this writing, mine was valued at $12,419.88.  I happened upon this site while reading Ms Danielle's site and couldn't resist seeing how this site fared.  I must say, I'm almost disappointed by the low value.  There are many other blogs online that are much younger than mine with values in excess of $175,000.

Naturally, the length of time that a site exists does not mean it actually has value.  One of my employers has had an eCommerce site up for the better part of a decade with yearly redesigns by professional web designers, and they haven't generated much more than a few hundred orders from it.  So after reading explanation behind the math at title="TNL.net - Doing the numbers on the AOL-WeblogsInc Deal">TNL.net, I started thinking about ways one might go about skewing these numbers.

This isn't to say that I'm looking to have a false and over-valued site.  Lord knows I don't have this blog for money (though a generous donation towards my upcoming wedding would be greatly appreciated).  Instead, after many years of programming and having users find ways to defy expectations and break rules embedded in software, I tend to think of how someone might exploit holes or other unforseen circumstances.  From what I can see, this value is derived based on the number of links to and from the site.

Does this mean that those Godless sites that are nothing but links and popups would have a higher net worth than a site with human valued content?  I certainly hope not.  Any script-kiddie claiming to be a l33t ha><0r could run something from HotScripts that would dynamically generate websites on free hosts with garbage for content, ad-sense for filler, and tens of thousands of links and keywords for good measure.  Then of course they would have these crap-sites point to each other for a higher chance of collecting false-positive hits from people using search engines like Yahoo, MSN and Google.

I wonder if ChaCha and title="PreFound.com - An Alternative Search Engine">PreFound will filter these out of their searches ....

Either way, this dollar value should be good for a bit of bragging rights.  I'd definately recommend this to anyone that's had a blog for a while and would like to know if it's time to sell out :P

Wedding Date Set!!!

Okay, I know that I've tried to limit myself to a post a day (unless timezone changes get in the way), but this is just too exciting to keep locked up until tomorrow.

As a few people know, I'm getting married next year to a wonderful woman.  The great news today is that the official wedding date has been set.

Reiko and I will be getting married on the afternoon of May 1st, 2008 in Nagoya, Japan.  What's cool about this is that the place of the ceremony will be less than 1 km away from where we had our first date, the Nagoya Aquarium, two years to the day.

Reiko and I will  have quite a bit of work to do between now and then, but I am confident that we'll meet all our goals and then some.  If I'm really lucky, I'll have work in Japan for this coming fall and I'll be in Japan for the six months or so leading up to the big day.  Of course, if you'd like to help, Paypal donations are greatly appreciated :)

I know we all say this, but I plan on getting married only once in my life.  So, that said, I'll do everything possible to make sure it's everything Reiko could ever want.

Too Hot to Handle, Too Cold to Hold

GJ 436b - NASAThere's been quite a bit about exo-planets in the news today.  It's almost as though the scientific community fears their funding is about to be cut off without some solid results, and they're scrambling to get the word out.

Of course that's not what's happening now ... but it's interesting how so much space-related news is coming out lately.

All that aside, it seems that a planet that defies conventional design has been found to be in the galactic neighbourhood.  Only 33 light-years away (6 weeks journey at Warp 5 if you're planning a visit), a planet designated GJ 436b has been found to orbit quickly around a relatively cool red-dwarf star.  This odd planet, the size of Neptune, is made of (what appears to be) mostly hot, solid water.  The mean temperature of the planet is 250 degrees Celcius, but the gravitational pull of the world is so strong that the water vapor is held in a solid state.

Essentially, the water is scalding hot due to the planet's proximity to its star, but frozen due to the mass of the world.  As pressure rises, so does the boiling point of liquid.

For those that pay attention to exo-planets, you might recall that GJ 436b was discussed in The Astrophysical Journal back on June 20th, 2005 in a paper titled "Toward a Deterministic Model of Planetary Formation. III. Mass Distribution of Short-Period Planets Around Stars of Various Masses".  The discovery of this world, and others like it, posed a challenge to the theories of planet formation.  You can download the PDF from SFSU here.  Somehow, though, I doubt very many people even knew about this star system before today, and will likely forget about it before too long.

What's interesting is that researchers believe that this planet may be blanketed by hydrogen.  While these conditions are hardly conclusive to the existence of life, there are many species of heat-loving organisms that thrive from the searing heat put out by the Earth's hydrothermal vents.

Perhaps in a hundred years or so we'll be able to send a remote probe to this world in some faster-than-light vessel to explore the ocean depths.  It would certainly be a sight to behold.

Did the Oil Company Miss You?

Yesterday was the unofficial "Gas Boycott" of 2007.  I wonder if the oil industry even noticed.

Considering how Vancouver is said to be a very "green" city, I was expecting transit to have a few more people than usual.  Oddly enough, there were more new cars on the road, and the busses were quite empty both on the way to work and back.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous outside, so why would anyone want to spend the $2.25 on transit just for the opportunity to sit next to people who go out of their way to ignore you?

I wonder who started the email chain calling for the boycott.  It wasn't the same crowd that pretends to be begging our help to illegally smuggle a few million dollars out of the country (for a small up-front fee and all our personal information).  But just like the Nigerians, big numbers were thrown around in an attempt to sell us on "Oooh" and "Aaah" factors.  Here's a copy of the email.  Oddly enough, I managed to get one this time:

Subject: FW: Don't pump gas May 15th 2007

NO GAS...On May 15th 2007

Don't pump gas on may 15th

In April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On May 15th 2007, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.00 a gallon in most places.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on the internet network, and the average car takes about 30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,000.00 (that's almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on May 15th and let's try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

If you agree (which I can't see why you wouldn't) resend this to all your contact list. With it saying, "Don't pump gas on May 15th"


I'm curious to know where these figures came from.  Sure, it's some pretty big numbers, but somehow I doubt that every person on the internet has a car.  And I really doubt that everyone has to fill up each and every day.  If I was paying $30 a day in gas, I'd have to be either very stupid or a member of some royal family.

I don't recall a "gas out" in 1997, but I know there was one in 1999.  Gas prices didn't fluctuate at all according to historical trends and, despite the popularity of the email campaign, very few people took part.  How many people had email in 1999?  A few million?

If, say, a hundred million drivers refused en masse to fill up their tanks on May 15, the total of what they didn't spend could amount to as much as $3 billion. However, it doesn't follow that such a boycott would actually decrease oil companies' revenues by that amount, given that the average sales of gasoline across the entire US is under $1 billion per day in the first place.

Whether the total impact was a half-billion, 3 billion, or 10 billion dollars, the sales missed due to a one-day consumer boycott wouldn't hurt the oil companies one bit.  Think about it.  Every single person who doesn't buy gas on Tuesday is still going to have to fill up their tank on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, making up for Tuesday's losses.  Sales for the whole week would be normal, or very close to it.

A meaningful boycott would entail participants actually consuming less fuel -- and doing so in a sustained, disciplined fashion over a defined period of time -- not just choosing to wait a day or two before filling up as usual.  Perhaps the next campaign should focus more on getting people to carpool or taking transit on alternate weeks.  Since I live alone and have nobody to drive around, I gave up my car years ago.  For less than $1200 a year I have relatively unlimited travel in the Vancouver area, thanks to my bus pass and solid knowledge of what's available in the community.  Sure, I can't just hop in the car and go somewhere, but it means that I'm putting less carbon into the atmosphere.  I really dislike seeing a hundred SUVs pass me by where there the only person inside is the driver.  It just reeks of waste.

Having money is just fine.  But try to leave some of the planet behind for the rest of us.

AMD's Phenom Announced

I was wondering when AMD would get around to showing some of their upcoming 4-core technologies.

I've been watching the processor wars from the sidelines and it's clear to everyone that Intel's Core processors have taken back the market lead from AMD's Athlon line of processors.  Despite being a bit slow on the update, Intel's designs seemingly destroyed everything that AMD had to offer for quite some time.  The quad-core processors from AMD were nowhere near ready for deployment, and the Athlon X2's just couldn't keep up with the Core2Duo's.

But this may be about to change.

Today AMD announced their upcoming four-core processors (called Phenom) at the same time as their ATI HD 2900 series power-hungry video cards.  What I like about the Phenom's is that the cores are all built into the same processor, unlike Intel's solution which pairs two Core2Duo processors on a single die.  This will allow for some incredibly rapid execution between the cores and should result in some serious raw processing power.  These things apparently continue to fall into the existing power envelope, which is pretty impressive as conservation seems to be the theme of the year.

While I doubt that I'll make use of such technology in the short term, I'm happy to see AMD come back with some strong technology of their own.  This should keep the innovations from both Intel and AMD coming at a respectable pace, and pushing computing technology to the very limits of the physical universe (as we understand it).

Keep them comin', AMD.  My old Opteron processors have exceeded expectations, and I'm sure these new Phenom's will make my apps fly like Windows 3.1 on a P4/3.2 (am I the only one that's ever tried this?).

The World's Best PDA

HTC Advantage x7501Why can't I find these things in Canada?

I have been looking for a replacement PDA for the last little while now as mine is becoming less and less reliable every week.  So while going around eBay to see what deals I might be able to find (can anyone actually find deals on that site?), I happened to come across this happy little device.

HTC's Advantage x7501

The first thing I thought when I saw the specs on this thing was "zomg, this is everything I've ever wanted in a portable device."  So naturally, I can't find one within the whole of Canada for sale.

Being the geek that I am, I am absolutely in love with some of the specs on this thing.  Windows Mobile 6 is nice, but the 5 inch LCD and detachable keyboard are the primary sellers.  I don't need a keyboard on my portable devices as on-screen block recognizer (Grafitti 1 for Palm users) suits me just perfectly.  And a 5 inch screen ... that's the very size I've wanted for the last few years.  But of course that's not all this little device has to offer.  It also comes standard with WiFi and Bluetooth, both of which are quite important to me and should be on my next device.  Add to that the fact that this computer is also a cell phone with WCDMA, and you have yourself a winner.  Then, just for the added bonus, HTC also threw in a GPS receiver and 8 Gig of storage.

It's as though the device was designed with people like me in mind ... I want one.

The sticker price is a little heavy; about $1100 CDN.  But when you look at everything this little device can do, and what it can offer, the price is most certainly worth it.  I plan on moving to Japan in the next few months, so having a mobile device that can communicate with WCDMA is quite important to me.  Of course it also has the standard Quad-band GSM capabilities, but that will soon be a feature that's only used on vacation.

Considering how my portable devices are now required to last at least two years before replacement, and how my current machine is 3 years old and apparently suffering from a form of digital alzheimers, I think that this machine may be the perfect solution for me.  With the GPS and a set of Japanese maps, I stand less of a chance of getting lost (though it'll happen anyways).  And with the WCDMA capabilities, I should be able to keep my Canadian phone number for just a bit longer so that friends and family don't need to worry about calling international ... even if it means I'm paying roaming fees.

But of course the 5-inch TFT is a huge seller.  The 3.8-inch models I've been using since 1999 have been great, but it's time for a bit more mobile-desk space.

Now, if I can only find a Canadian distributor ....

Analytics vs. FireStats vs. Raw Access Logs

I love data collection, and summarizing that data into useful information.  I've done this on some epic scales with some of my employers recently, and I also enjoy doing it with the data collected on this site.  One thing I have noticed, however, is that Google Analytics often displays very different results from what I'm finding with two other sources, and it makes me question the validity of Google's data.

At first, I was interested in numbers.  But after 8 months of blogging, I believe that this site has pretty much peaked for the time being.  Unless I can offer something of real value to the online community, I don't see my existing numbers changing too much.  So aside from sheer access counts, I've also been seeing what operating systems people are using, what browsers, and (more importantly) where people are accessing this site from.

To share just a little of this data, over the last 8 months I have logged 1.8 million page visits.  Of these, 128,912 have been from real people (as best as I've been able to weed out).  From these 129 thousand people I've learned that 88.3% of them use a variation of Windows, and 3.2% use Mac OSX.  Ubuntu is the most common flavour of Linux seen, with 0.4% of all visitors using that user-friendly OS.  IE is still on top of the market with 72.6% of the share, Firefox with 19.5%, and the remaining 12 browsers duking it out for the rest.

While that data is partially amusing, it doesn't really hold much value for me.  My site will load properly in all the major browsers and I'm content running Windows, FreeBSD and Solaris for the various roles and tasks that my computers must fulfill.  What really fascinates me is the global locations of my visitors, and how the data went completely against my expectations (data rarely ever surprises me at work).

In the first few months of operation, traffic was as expected.  The United States made up the lion's share of my traffic, followed by Canada and Japan.  The occasional hit from Korea, Italy and Mexico would catch my eye, but I had expected people might stumble across this site while looking for something completely different.

However, shortly after I moved my site to ANHosting in January (mainly because my home webserver was seemingly overwhelmed with all the crawlers, and my monthly bandwidth allowances with my ISP were starting to break records) I noticed that I was receiving far more hits from these unexpected countries.  In the same month, I had added Global Translator to my site and the crawlers had a hey-day with this.  Every page was translated into nine other languages, then stored and indexed for future requests on Google, Yahoo, MSN and a plethora of other search engines and universities.  From here, the international traffic took off.  No wonder my little home server was choking....

In the last 90 days, Spain, Brazil and the US have been the three countries to visit this site the most.  Spanish seems to be the language of choice for most people reading my content, which makes me wonder just how accurate BabelFish's machine translation engine really is.  Greece is right behind with Italy, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Britain trailing behind.  Then comes Japan, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ukraine and Korea.  Then there are another 44 countries all sharing the rest of the traffic.

This site is read mostly in Spanish, followed by English, German, Chinese, Arabic and Japanese.  Russian is the least accessed language.

All of this has been gleaned from the raw access logs on the web server, then downloaded into a custom database developed in SQL 2000, and sorted from there.  I've been using IP2Location's IP-Country-Region-City database in order to determine approximately which cities people are in to narrow the criteria down further.  Please note that I don't do any of this for marketing purposes.  I will not have any AdSense ads or anything that remotely looks like an advertisement on this site.  The most that I'll do is offer a link for a product or service that I find useful.  I try to give credit where credit is due.

All this started when I first installed Omry Yadan's FireStats.  I really like this plugin for WordPress (and almost any other site if you know how to integrate it) as it's easy to install, collects data very quickly and displays accurate information that's less than 0.5% different from what I find in the raw access logs for this site.  The differences occur primarily with 404's and downloads.  I can live with this as my raw data lets me know how often people go to a non-existent page, or when one of my plugins are downloaded.

Because FireStats is so in line with these other logs, I tend to use this as my primary source of information.

Yet with all the talk about Google Analytics, I decided to give this a shot just to see if it could provide value that isn't easily available elsewhere.  And while this is mostly true, it also shows data that I cannot confirm in my own raw access logs.

Over the last few weeks, Analytics has shown hits from countries that I'm surprised has access to the internet, let alone time to use it.  According to their data, I've had visits from South Africa, Kenya, Iraq, and Somolia.  South Africa I can kind of understand, but I can't find any South African IP's in my access logs.  Nor can I find any Iraqi, Kenyan or Somoli IPs.  My IP2Location database is right up to date, and while IPs ranges can hop between countries, I can't see this happening often enough that these countries all show up as false positives within the same week.

Using May 10th, 2007 as the base, I took sample of all the traffic between 00:00:00 GMT to 23:59:59 GMT and found that Google was often only collecting 4% of my actual access data.  Thinking that they were blocking out all the crawlers (which makes sense) I then compared the data for the 10th using only valid users, and found that Google was still only showing just under 70% of my expected traffic.  Just for giggles, I then compared the country information between the two sources and found that three countries reported by Google were not found in my access logs.  To further validate whether I had data from the exact same time frame, I examined the access logs in search of these three countries and found that I have not had hits from two of them in more than 14 days, and the other was from the day before.

So I'll give Analytics that one country.  They may not be using GMT in their access logs, and I can live with that (it seems to be PST when I examine, so perhaps the logs are shaped based on the time zone the viewer is in).  But where is this other data coming from?

Aside from the Geolocation map and language graphs that Analytics offers, I do not see much value in this for me.  Maybe if I was taking part in AdSense or some other marketing campaign management where visits and clicks equate to dollars and cents ... but even then, if my raw access logs are showing so much more activity on my site, I wonder just how accurate the dollars and cents reporting from Analytics would be.

I've tried putting the Google Java in the header, footer, and everywhere else on my site in the event some people stripped out the sidebar, but no dice.  I am forced to wonder what value Analytics would offer to businesses if the data collection could be foiled just by a user preventing Java from running on their machine....

So for anyone that hosts a site and would like to know where their users are from or how many hits they receive in a day, I'd suggest using FireStats.  The interface is very clean and it integrates quite easily into WordPress.  If anyone knows why Analytics' data is so different from my access logs and/or FireStats, I'd love to know why.

Edging Ever Closer to the Tropics

Global warming can have some pretty scary side-effects, but one positive note is that the areas of the country that aren't submerged by the rising waters will be able to host a greater variety of farmland.

A computer model developed by Royal B.C. Museum sceintists suggests West-Coast climate conditions could change so dramatically within the century that warm-weather crops such as oranges and avacados could be grown on southern Vancouver Island and the province could become one of North America's primary farming regions.  The Global Climate Model uses historical temperature and precipitation observations to project future climate conditions based on the current rate of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The potential is there for much of the province's marginal pasture lands to become major areas for food production and security.  Of course, this wouldn't be an overnight success story as there are many factors that could get in the way of such production.  Pests and diseases, water availability, other demands on agricultural lands, soil suitability and preparation could all stand in the way of turning much of the land into an agricultural heaven.

The pine beetle has destroyed quite a bit of B.C.'s forests, and as the temperature rises, there are sure to be other destructive insects to get in on the action.  Of course other factors include the preservation of the Agricultural Land Reserve as well as the surrounding lands.

But with the expected 5 degree celcius rise in mean planetary temperature expected this century, I'm curious to know which crops could be realistically grown in the province and other areas of Canada.  According to these computer models, some areas of British Columbia will be suitable for avocados, sugar cane, lemons, oranges, pecans, rice, olives ... the list is quite extensive.  However, if the temperature rise proves to be true, agriculture may be more about sustinence crops such as grains than other goods like grapes and peaches.

I'm also curious to know what human migration patterns will be like in the next half-century.  With some areas of North America reaching 45 celcius in the summer, there are bound to be many people moving farther away from the equator.  Canada has plenty of space to handle an exodus from many equatorial nations, so if we were to become even more of an agricultural powerhouse for the world, I'm sure we could offer plenty of work to those uprooted from their homes.

Not that Global Warming is a good thing ... but at the very least we could offer some opportunity to the people forced from the heat.

[email protected] WordPress Plugin

Okay ... call me cheap, but here's yet another BOINC-related plugin.  I've decided that this will be the last stand-alone BOINC Stats plugin I'll release, and the next ones will allow users to display any of the projects that are currently available without using seperate plugins that are pretty much the same.

But enough of that ... on with the release!

Einstein Stats is a WordPress plugin that displays your current [email protected] Stats.  This was put together mainly because of the recent server failure at the BOINC SETI Project.  Since my computers were sitting idle for far too long, I gave them another task.  I must admit ... Einstein is much harder on the processors than SETI ever was.  It takes just over 26 hours for my pair of Dual-Core Xeon's to get through a work unit each ... which is almost unheard of with my SETI data.

That said, this plugin is a little light on features.  Currently it will display your total work units, average work units, and team name (if applicable).  In the future, I plan on having a user-configurable option to display other data like number of PCs on the project, pending credit counts, and personal standings.

You can download the most current version of Einstein Stats here.

Requirements:

Einstein Stats has been tested on WordPress 2.0.4, 2.0.5, 2.0.7, 2.1, 2.1.3 and 2.2 RC1.

Installation:


  • upload the contents of the zip file to your “wp-content/plugins” directory (be sure to write them to the einstein-stats directory)

  • go to the “Plugins” main menu and find "Einstein Stats Display”, then click “Activate”

  • go to the “Options / Einstein Options” menu and enter your account id, and set the number of hours between stat refreshes


Using:


  • modify the theme file where you wish to display your Einstein stats (usually sidebar.php) and type in the following line:


<php get_emc2_stats(); ?>

Uninstallation:


  • go to the “Plugins” main menu and find “Einstein Stats Display”, then click “Deactivate”

  • delete the files from your “wp-content/plugins” directory


Change Log:


Bug Reports:

As always with initial releases, I’m sure there will be one or two things that I forgot to check.  If you happen to find a bug, please let me know.

Enjoy!

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