Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun (well, okay, some fun) going around the web with Mozilla 1.1 and BannerBlind making all the adverts disappear. Between them, they knock out all popups and most sizes of ad banners. For all the other ones that remain, I just block the images coming from the server (this surely can’t last for long – sooner or later they’ll just store ad images on the same server as the non-ad images).

So I was roving about, blasting away ads from the Onion, Coming Attractions and so on. When I got to Dealmac and blocked an ad there, I took a double take and said (to myself), “Wait a second, I’ve actually seen some useful stuff here before.” And so the ad was unblocked.

Most people already know the spiel about targeted advertising being far more effective – so you’d expect that more ad companies would do it, right? Yeah, right, and then they’d start using text ads.

Daily Summit

Nice to see that the British Council is running the Daily Summit weblog, providing continual coverage of the World Summit. It’s impressively teched up, with RSS feeds, and has a load of original content. I’d say that this was very forward-thinking of the British Council, but to be honest they’ve always sponsored cool stuff in the past.

iPod and RSS

Apple, bless their souls, have just started shipping the Windows versions of iPod, along with the update and restore software that allows users to reset their iPods. Since the Apple and PC versions of the iPod are have basically identical hardware, it’s a simple thing to go and download the update/restore software and convert your Mac iPod into Windows one. While you’re ‘allowed’ by Apple to go the reverse way, from Windows to Mac, they don’t support Mac to Windows (no surprises there). In fact, it’s technically illegal because you’d have to pirate the update/restore software. But that’s never stopped people before, and now I have a fully functional Windows iPod!

It’s come not a minute too soon, as otherwise I’d have had to register my Mac emulation software (now uninstalled), which would’ve involved paying money. I doubt Apple are going to be too bothered about people changing their Mac iPods to Windows iPods – the only people who’d bother changing are Windows owners who bought an iPod before the Windows versions were released – and surely they were doing Apple a favour in the first place.

In other news, is now fully RSSed up, with feeds for all three weblogs available. You can find the RSS links at the bottom of each column or in the about page, and there are also links in the header to allow autodiscovery. At the moment I’m using Feedreader as my news aggregator, with an eye to moving to Aggie if/when I download the required .NET extensions for XP. You’d have thought that someone would have made an aggregator as good as NewsNetWire (Mac only) for Windows, but no. The best Windows aggregator costs $25. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to wait until someone writes Mozilla extensions for this.

A Blog Too Far

The Guardian has just launched a competition for the ‘Best British Blog’. As far as I know, it’s the most lucrative competition of its type ever, with a £1500 prize fund. I, like many others, believe that this isn’t a good idea. It fosters an uncomfortable kind of competition in an area that doesn’t need it, and isn’t even suitable for it – how exactly do you judge what the best weblog is?

I find it similar to the type of competition ABC is trying to create with its seven figure Push, Nevada prize for the mmoe/ARG community, in other words, mildly distasteful and ultimately unproductive. If the Guardian wants to promote the visibility of weblogs and what they are, there are far better ways to do it than this.

Collective Detective is set to be an subscription-based community website that will host areas dedicated to different alternate reality games/mmoes. Developed by players of Microsoft’s AI game, it will be released in early July and it has an impressive featureset geared towards making discussion and playing of games as easy as possible.

It should be a wonderful website for those who join in, and it will be far superior to YahooGroups if it fulfils its expectations. However, I am not certain of its eventual success. I can’t make any definite judgements until I’ve seen the website once its launched and have full details of the subscription costs, but rumours abound of a $10/month subscription cost. I believe that this is just too high.

There have been several posts on YahooGroups detailing why $10/month (or more) is an entirely reasonable amount to pay for the use of Collective Detective, and indeed, to some the cost will be reasonable. To others, its $10/month more than they are paying right now, and its a lot more than other similar websites are charging. Collective Detective is essentially an enhanced messageboard – yes, I know it has a lot of nifty features, but so does Kuro5hin, which is essentially the same thing, and is almost free (K5 recently ran a fundraising drive which produced $35,000 in a few days).

A subscription fee raises a great deal of barriers towards entry of a community. Not only is there the financial aspect – $10/month equals $120/year – but some people, notably minors, simply don’t have the credit cards that are required for payments like these. If there isn’t some kind of trial membership option or limited free membership, then Collective Detective will find it very difficult to get people other than hardcore players to sign up. Furthermore, the limited free membership (the most preferable option) would have to have sufficient features to not completely drive away ‘poor’ users to other free sites (and you can bet that they’ll appear if the genre becomes really popular).

Now, providing that the subscription fee is suitably low – I would be happy to pay something like’s $30/year, for example – and there is some kind of limited free membership, then Collective Detective stands to go a long way. If subscription costs are too high and it’s too difficult for visitors to get a feel of what they’d be paying, then the website could very well go the way of countless other commercial internet ventures.

Google – various neat alpha-stage applications including Google Glossary (works fairly well for the technical terms I tested it with), voice searching and keyboard searching.


The June issue of Wired Magazine is now online – ever since their new editor came in, Wired stopped their practice of putting issues on the web a month late. This was probably a good idea – the magazine is so cheap in America ($10 for a year’s subscription) that you might as well subscribe, and elsewhere it’s so hideously overpriced (almost £4 per issue in the UK, at least five times than in America) that no-one wants to buy it.

Oxbridge admissions

While idly browsing through an Oxbridge admissions website, I came across a report of an interview written by someone who applied to the same course at the same college as I did, but a year later. Curious to see if they’d changed anything, I checked out the questions this person was asked at interview.

Practically nothing had changed – this person was asked exactly the same questions that I had been (enzyme kinetics, sketch y=xsinx). The only differences were due to the fact that there was a physics bias instead of a chemistry bias. Incredible. This just goes to show that if you’re on the ball, you can really get an unfair advantage at interviews by using the Internet.