Monday, November 29, 2004

Crazy internet speeds in Japan... 

Wow, this is amazing. Aparantly 100mbit internet connections on fibre are availible in some parts of Japan, with that speed for upload as well! 100mbit/8bit=12.5megabytes a second, or a full CD-ROM in about a minute or so. And that's for somewhere around $50-60US a month, not much more than cable here. And even for their cheaper DSL, it is around 12mbit download and 1mbit upload. For DSL through Verizon in this area (at $30 a month!), it is just 1.5mbit download and 380kbit upload.

Not only that, according to this, people in Japan will start getting 1gbit access in some areas, with 10gbit to follow by 2010. Most ethernet cards are only 1gbit and hard drive writing even slower than that. You could split the connection between two computers and still write to your drive as fast as physically possible...

This is really crazy territory. If you think stuff like movie piracy is prevalant now, wait until everyone can get full quality video at faster than real-time. It is already happening in Japan... Of course, there are big ramifications in the legal realm as well. That would finally open the door for streaming movie rentals to be practical over the internet (I've heard it is already popular in places like Korea). Having a fast upload connection also makes hosting your own website a reality, even for relatively high-bandwith sites. It really just changes everything...

Oh well, I'll be happy when I finally get DSL at home, which should hopefully be in a month or two at the most. That'll make a lot of things much easier to deal with. :)

Comic Book Encyclopedia... 

Well, at first this sounded pretty promising, but then one of the posters links to this entry on Neil Gaiman's blog and it sounds like the book is a bit disappointing. That it has a lot of typos and factual errors, along with too much focus on golden age characters. I might still flip through this at some point, since my knowledge of a lot of the industry is pretth sketchy at best, but I share Neil's disappointment that there isn't something out there that is totally reliable and what you think of when you think "encyclopedia".

Speaking of which, I wish the Anime Encyclopedia would get updated. I have some issues with basic features of the book (lots of opinionated reviews, which tend toward bashing newer series, and a lot of series ending spoilers that aren't marked in any particular way), but I think I could deal with that if the factual information got updated and corrected. There was a thread back when it first came out, with a pretty long list of corrections needed, though obviously it is hard to get everything right in something that big. I think a second edition that fixed all of that and updated with titles up to 2004 would go a long way toward making it a more solid reference work.

Friday, November 26, 2004

B&N comic shop rumor... 

I probably shouldn't post this, since who knows where the rumor originates or how reliable it is, but I have to say that the concept in and of itself is certainly interesting... from a new post by travis on this old thread:

see, i heard a rumor that barnes and noble was planning on opening a chain of comic shops. bad news for local shops except that the b&n stores wouldn't stock back issues. also, they'd have everything that diamond puts out, which is pretty cool, but they would end up returning unsold books over time with the covers ripped off like they do for books. that would be bad news for small-time self-publishers might have to return money. eeeewwww. hrm. corporate america smells like pee. anyway, just something i heard. sshhh!!!

What do you think it'd mean if something like that ever came about? Personally, I have my doubts they'd try it or manage to be successful if they did. It seems like things are going so well with graphic novels, would they really want to try to fuss with the monthlies, even if returnable? One of the reasons for newstands not wanting to carry comics is the dollars per square foot isn't so great with monthlies versus $8 glossy magazines or regular books. I'd think it'd be more likely for them to try small GN-only stores if anything, but I'd still wonder about how good that'd be. I mean many B&N shops are large enough that they can stock a pretty large selection of GNs. And someone shopping for those may see another kind of book they'd like to buy and vice versa. I'm not sure how much they would gain from making a specialty store versus having a large selection all in one place...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Glad I don't have cable anymore (G4TechTV troubles) 

A while back we decided to drop cable, mostly for financial reasons. One of the things I hated getting rid of was TechTV, since I watched The Screen Savers on most days. Screen Saves was pretty fun, a live tech show that was a bit rough around the edges. I know some people scoffed at it, but they had some decent news and features and encouraged a lot of people to get into technology a bit more actively.

I got rid of cable right before the the merger of TechTV and G4. Now, I also did like watching G4. I wasn't so much into their original programming since it felt pretty flat to me (like Pulse), but they ran a lot of shows made by others. For instance I seem to be one of the few people who likes Judgement Day and Filter was a pretty fun way to spend some time. Nerd Nation had a couple of good shows (I especially liked the original one), though it was kind of annoying that they tried to shoe-horn disparate canadian standalone specials into one show. I can't remember if Icons was original or not, but I'm a sucker for pop culture history, so that was great as well.

But G4 also had quite a lot of dead space. Tons of re-runs and stuff like Cinematech. TechTV also had its share of padding, though not nearly as bad as G4. I was hoping that the merger would let both of them get rid of the fluff and make a more solid content-rich network, but it certainly doesn't sound like it panned out that way.

First they lost both Leo and Patrick as the hosts of Screen Savers, both of which was a great loss. Leo had a tendancy to go a bit weird and say innapropriate things at times, but he had some good knowledge and enough clout to get some good guests on the show. Patrick I think had become a real heart to the show, with solid knowledge and very strong views against things like the DMCA. Kevin and Sarah both seem like good people, but I don't think would really have the clout/authority the same way as the others. Like I couldn't see Kevin getting away with some of Patrick's strongly stated opinions...

I never had the chance to see Alex, who would become the new co-host with Kevin. It seems like that doesn't matter now, because neither are hosts anymore! I mean geeze guys, talk about a lack of stability. I can understand Kevin wanting to get back to doing more content development, but why get rid of Alex not long after hiring him and having him move to the area? Why shake up things for an audience already unsettled by the merge and host changes? And Periera might be fine as the new host, but since he already does hosting on other G4 shows, that takes away from some of the individuality of the screen savers. There's also the fact that he's known more for game expertise, which fits in with the seeming elimination of most tech stuff for gaming. I'd heard from a friend that SS already wasn't as tech-centered as it used to be, having more fluff spots and less important guests. I can't say this additional shake-up is boosting my confidence..

The second big thing of late is that Unscrewed is now gone. I never actually had a chance to watch the show, but lots of people unhappy.

It just seems like there is barely anything of TechTV left in the line-up. IMO, it was pretty silly to just buy up another station and then use barely any of the content. Maybe they wanted to remove the competition, but it seems like TechTV was really filling a niche. If they just destroy what there was, I'm guessing someone else will just start up a new technology channel to compete. It is only a matter of time really....

Oh well, TechTV was nice while it lasted. Here's hoping either G4 gets its act together or new competition isn't too ong in coming...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Incredibles was incredible! 

So, my Mom and I have had a pair of free tickets for a while now, and kept forgetting to use them on anything. I'd been hearing good buzz on the Incredibles for a while now, not just online but from coworkers and others. As an interesting added bonus: the lack of cable has meant that I've barely watched any TV for some time now. Why is that important? Because I saw the trailer for the movie on Quicktime's site once and that was it! No scenes drilled into my head a million times.. just a rememberance that I liked what I saw in the trailer and not much more.

Today was pretty dreary out, so the perfect day to stay in. At first we thought we wouldn't make it there in time, but got there at 1:15 exactly and so the trailers were still going on by the time we got in there. Got a pretty good seat, and also got to miss out on the commercials.

The Pixar short before the movie was a bit on the heavyhanded side maybe, but still fun and great anaimation as always (and great sense of motion)... Now it was time for the movie, and it was one of those rare great movie-watching experiences. Sound wasn't so loud that your ears were ringing after, the kids in audience were pretty well-behaved, and everyone (including us) were just into it all. Seriously, this is up there with some of my favorite movies, and I feel like it captures a sense of wonder that you don't often see these days (like the old Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies with a little Bond thrown and a strong family core). It tackles some serious issues without getting bogged down, has nostalgia while still being contemporary, it has great characters, and very good comic timing.

In short, you should really go see it if you haven't yet. I don't want to overhype it and give impossible expectations, but all I can say is that it was a really well done and enjoyable movie. And while this wasn't like the first showing of a LotR movie in terms of audience participation, it certainly didn't feel like a movie that's been out for a while now. It was the kind of thing where everyone felt like clapping at the end (though only a couple actually did) and there was a couple of throngs of people talking about it afterward... cool stuff. :)

If you've already seen it... see below for a bit more thoughts with spoilers:

---------------------- spoilers -----------------------
One of the comments that a co-worker made to me was that it was a movie that manages to appeal to kids and adults without having to do the tact of pop culture references and double entendres. However, having said that, it still isn't afraid of having stuff in there that younger kids won't understand or care about. It is just that it is done more like how things are in real life. Stuff like Elastigirl being worried he's cheating on her, or being unhappy with herself in the mirror, or the exact nature of what's going on in the insurance firm, or what the designer character is spoofing, but that isn't necessary to enjoy the movie. They'll certainly understand that Incredible's boss is a jerk, etc. This is the way a real family movie is made. Not by dumbing everything down to the lowest common denominator, but telling a good story and having enough cool stuff going on that there's no worry of boredom..

BTW, was anyone else surprised at a couple of things they got away with? I'm thinking especially the scene where Dash is asleep on Violet and kind of holding her and then wakes up and jumps off disgusted? It is kind of open to interpretation on if he was thinking of his Mom or something else, but it feels like a real moment.. something that could easily happen between kids in real life.

Also, one of the moments where the movie really impressed me was when the missles are coming at the ship and Elastigirl is yelling for Violet to put up her force field and in the end Violet just can't do it. Between her frailer personality and being told for so long not to use her powers, it is all way too much for her to handle. Again, that felt like a real moment, and I really expected that the movie was going to take the easy way out...

I loved the way the powers were used in this movie. The stuff at home was well thought-out and the fights were pretty creative at times (obviously just about any possible use of these powers has already happened in comics before, but that doesn't mean a movie couldn't botch things up). You really got the sense that the characters grew up with these powers (though of course somewhat surpressed in the case of the kids). Actually, I was impressed by those scenes with both the kids and parents where it becomes obvious just why the parents have the reputations they do. The kids themselves are amazed by just how skillful their parents really are. It is interesting in that while (as an adult) you identify with them in their normal lives, you're also seeing them as their kids have only know them. It is only later on when you really glimpse their past lives, and are now in the same position as the children of seeing it happen.

The characters are just really good in this movie. Violet has that shyness and almost a goth feeling at first, Dash manages not to be annoying, and the parents pretty well-rounded. And you really feel the vunerability of both Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible (his admission at the end), while also seeing their overall strength of character. And while Violet perhaps seemingly changes the most at the end of the movie, it also feels pretty natural. You can see from her interactions with her brother that she has a personality just screaming to get out...

As for the side characters, that boss is the slimeball you love to hate. Cheers to Wallace for still getting work. That designer lady (Edna) was amazing! Just such a funny and cool character. You can't help but love her. Is IMDB correct that that is actually the director doing her voice??? Frozone is neat character and despite not getting too too much screen time, those scenes really benefit from him. His lines in the burning building and then the cup of water were classic. It is also amusing that you never actually see his wife, only hear her voice...

I also liked that the henchmen get fleshed out ever-so-slightly. It would have been easy just to stick a mask on them, have them never talk, etc.. Everything from the guy throwing sand into the water, to them celebrating their aparant victory in the van were nice touches. Obviously Buddy is an interesting character, a pretty twisted guy. For Mirage, certainly in the Bond vein of exotic dangerous lady that falls for the hero. If anything bothers me in the movie, it is that her change of heart seems a bit quick and major. I suppose one might argue she got attracted to Buddy's power and got wrapped up in his plans without really thinking of the consequences.. I still would have liked to see a bit more deveopment for her, but the movie was already two hours long, and I'm glad they gave the time to the main family that they did. Also, those two scenes where Incredible nearly kills her were pretty bold....

I just saw some quotes from the director Brad Bird and one thing he mentioned is that while he's a fan of comics, he isn't a big trivia buff, and that he feels like some people are too busy trying to throw out references. I think that was one of the things I got from this movie was a real love of super-heroes without getting bogged down in continuity and nods. It essentially just takes the various archetypes and treats them as straight characters. I think it would have been diminished as a movie if they'd felt the need to throw in more direct references to their inspirations instead of concentrating on what actually makes superheroes so interesting in their basic sense. Despite the serious elements that balance things out, I think someone would be hard pressed not to dream of being able to stretch, run fast, etc. after seeing this movie. :) As I said to start with, I think it captures a real sense of wonder and excitement...

Lastly, it is nice to have a movie where all the humor seems to work, and does it without being really annoying or too wink-wink. The running gags with the kid on the tricycle and the trouble with capes were classic, and the gags at the expense of the heroes' old age weren't over-done, something which could have easily turned them into caricatures..

In short... I like this movie.. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Disney's galling hyperbole.... 

Thanks to Kevin for pointing me on the right track to Tom Spurgeon's entry. Among other things, it links to the official press release and a newswire article.

So, does Disney's original claim to 50% of worldwide comics publishing stand up? Not by a long shot.. What makes me mad is that even with this additional information, no single source is providing the whole picture and frankly who knows what else they are leaving out of the equation.

Let's start with with the official press release:
Disney represents approximately 50 percent of all children’s comic magazines sold around the world, reaching readers of all ages with 220 million comics each year.

OK, the actual number of comics is a good statistic to have. This gives us something a bit more solid to work with. The other aspect is two narrowing words "children's" and "magazines". From that we can gather they don't mean graphic novels and they don't mean comics for adults. Of course "children" is pretty broad in itself. Do they mean just little kids, or are they including teens?

This is all well and good, but it can't possibly be the whole story. Why? The big M: manga. Looking at Dreamland Japan, the stats for manga magazines in 1995 is a staggering 1.6 billion copies. Taking just Shonen and Shoujo, that is still 800 million. Now, that was nine years ago, but it is my understanding that overall manga is still doing pretty well in Japan, and certainly hasn't lost anywhere near a fourth of their sales.

Looking at the other article gives us some answers:
Disney owns about half of the nonmanga comic book business worldwide, though Dugan said that the vast majority of sales are outside the United States.

So, this time they specifially say manga isn't involved, but now they just refer to comics in general, not saying anything about comics for children or the magazine format.

The only thing that seems half-way plausible to me is that they have 50% of the market of comic magazines that are aimed at children and are not manga.

But even that doesn't really tell us enough. OK, so manga is out, but what about Korea's rising comic industry? What about Hong Kong? Also, what about manga sold in other countries? Are the various manga magazines like Shonen Jump USA and those in countries like Germany being counted or not?

I probably shouldn't be dwelling on this so much, but it really is annoying to me that they'd try to get away with such a huge misrepresentation. Yes it is nice that Disney sells a lot of comics throughout the world. If they'd merely said they do 220 million issues a year, I would have been pleasantly surprised and congratulated them. It is a shame that they feel like that isn't enough and that they have to be vague in general and specifically ignore the biggest comic industry in the world just to try to make some point. I don't know what the actual breakdown of automobile manufacturers is, but imagine the uproar if Honda did a marketing campaign where they said something like "We have 50% of the world automobile market..." and in fine print said "not counting US companies". It is laughable just trying to imagine the idea...

As an aside, I think it is pretty sad that everyone (including the comic news sites) seems to know so little about the world comic market that something like this can go relatively unchallenged. I mean I'm just a random reader and red flags went up for me right away. I knew they couldn't possible have 50% of all comics in the world period, though I was having a little self-doubt in that I found it hard to believe they'd be THAT grossly misleading and that people would just parrot them if it wasn't at least partially true. I also figured maybe they just meant thin monthlies and not thicker magazine anthologies, since it'd be galling for them to just not count manga. In any case, it shouldn't be bloggers that are the ones trying to figure this stuff out..

I hope some people are feeling a bit embarassed at this point and telling certain Disney reps to be a bit more clear on their statements in the future...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Disney publishes 50% of comics in the world?? 

So, I was reading this article on the aquisition of CrossGen's assets by Disney, which seems like it could work out well. However, I was pretty surprised by this:

“Disney, worldwide, accounts for 50% of all comics published, which is an enormous number, but our presence in the US isn’t as visible, mostly because our comic books go through other distributors,” Brenda Bowen, VP and Editor in Chief of Hyperion Books for Children told Newsarama. We’ve been starting to think that since we’re the biggest comic book company in the world, maybe we should be looking at more domestic comics, and see what we can get from them, and see how we can use them in our different formats here.”

Does anyone have any more information on this statement? I'm sure that Disney's comics do really well in many countries, especially in europe, but it still seems to me like there must be some sort of unspoken qualifier to it. I just find it hard to believe that with manga's reach in its own country and internationally that it is taking up less than the comics world in relation to Disney's comics. Are they maybe just counting what we consider "comic books" (i.e. the thin monthlies) and not the thicker magazine anthology format that most manga uses? Then again, I thought a lot of Disney's big sellers in europe were anthology magazines?

Maybe they really are just that big, but color me pretty skeptical at this point...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

When you thought they'd never be licensed... (Jo Jo manga and Slam Dunk anime) 

Two interesting licenses as of late (well, there's been a bunch, but these two I'm most familiar with). ListerX has word that Viz has licensed Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventure, which is backed up by this Amazon page.

Jo Jo is one of the longer manga series around, split into various sub-series, all by the same author. It starts off in victorian times, and goes all the way up to the 21st century, following various members of a family. As far as I know, this is generally a fighting show, with many characters having "stands" which are like invisible entities with special powers. Various contemporary series like Shaman King were obviously strongly influenced by Jo Jo. It would seem that the big draws are his art style, which is unlike most manga (though it has some feelings of Berserk, Fist of the North Star, Burne Hogarth, and some of the over-the-top fashion of something like Aeon Flux). Take a look at some of his artwork.

Another draw would be the inventiveness of the powers of various characters. I've seen mention that many manga creators when running out of ideas of super-powers for their characters will just go to Jo Jo for inspiration. One person described the battles as more of a "rock, paper, scissors" situation where someone has specific powers that are very strong, but weak in other areas, much like american superheros. Someone else has called this a "glam version of Fist of the North Star".

Combining all of that with the various time periods, lots of settings in various places in europe like Italy, and at least 75 volumes of GNs makes for quite the series. Here is a FAQ, though beware of spoilers. I those images linked above from this Italian site. Here's an american site with plot overviews, gallery of the cover art, etc....


Geneon has also announced a partnership with Toei Animation, which includes the Slam Dunk anime. Remember when sports titles were untouchable as far as licenses went? I've read a bit of the Slam Dunk manga, and it is a lot of fun. This is definitely one of the names that always comes up when one talks of sports anime/manga, and a pretty long series.

Are you a female in your 20s or 30s who's into manga? 

It looks like Tokyopop is going to embark on a PR push for some of their "chick-lit" titles and wants to hear from you:

It's Julie from TOKYOPOP.
We are doing a big PR push for our "chick-lit" manga (Erica Sakurazawa, Happy Mania, Tramps Like Us) and are looking for e-mails from female fans in their 20s and 30s (or 40s!) who love manga. If you're into any of the three books I've mentioned, we'd love to hear that too.
Please post here or send me an e-mail at juliet@tokyopop.com telling me WHY you love manga so much, what you love about it, and why manga isn't just for teenagers anymore!!
Thanks a million,

This could be very cool folks... I can't wait to see what TP have up their sleeves as far as a PR campain goes...

[via AoDVD]

ComicsOne rumors and super-cheap manga... 

I need to add my voice to those that'll be really sad if the rumors of ComicsOne dying come to pass. I really want to read Iron Wok Jan, and they have some other interesting titles as well.

Something that isn't exactly encouraging is this site, which is selling ComicsOne manga at insane discounts. The site itself has been around for quite a while, but it used to focus mostly on discounts for ComicsOne's oldest and less popular titles like Wounded Man and Weed. But now, just about everything in their lineup is affected.

I mean look at it.. you can get all 7 volumes of Iron Wok Jan that have been released thus far for a total of $21! The first 5 volumes of Crayon Shinchan for $5 total and volumes 6-8 at 50% off cover. Joan is supposed to be a great series and is just 3 volumes long, for a total of $3... Shipping seems to be (for Ground), $5 an order and $1 for each item. Not the cheapest ever, but the discounts on the titles more than make up for it.

It doesn't actually say anywhere on the site who is in charge, but ComicsOne is prominently mentioned on the home page, and there is no manga from any other companies on it. You'd think it must be connected to them in some way...

As they say, get it while it lasts... Most of them seem to have complete series, but the first Bride of Deimos is missing for instance...

Creative Commons gets Wired... 

It is always nice when things like Creative Commons get more exposure. It seems that the latest issue of Wired includes a CD of 16 songs that people can feel free to sample. Three of those can only be used in noncommercial efforts, but the rest you can use even for commercial purposes. Pretty cool stuff...

I recently used one of a song from Brad Sucks (via Magnatune in a yo-yo video I made and it is a nice feeling when you can do something that is 100% legit...

Doggy Poo 

Well, it has finally happened.. I have seen Doggy Poo. As crazy as it might sound to someone who hasn't seen the movie, this is a touching children's movie that is literally about the life of some doggy poo. This korean claymation film was based off of a popular children's novel, with the moral that everyone has a place in the world. The poo itself is just adorable and sooo sad a lot of the time, just like a kid. The design and voice of course help with that...

This actually reminds me of a cartoon I saw as a kid, which involved a Christmas ornament. It has the same sort of theme of a young inanimate that discovers the ways of the world through various other characters that advise it or cause trouble (in the Christmas cartoon, the ornament's main mentor would be the Christmas tree).

Fun stuff... :)

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Updated blogroll... 

Well, I finally got around to updating the links in my sidebar a bit. It still needs work and I'm sure I left out some people, but it is a start at least. To show you just how out of date it was, Franklin wasn't even on it and I've been reading his blog for ages. Of course none of the "newer" ones like Johanna's were on there... I have to say it was a little depressing that my top three links had to be removed since they don't exist anymore. :(

Anyway, they aren't really in much of an order at the moment, so don't feel bad if you're at the bottom. I'll probably do alphabetical at some point. I may also switch it so that they're sorted with topic as the main category instead of blog versus forum.

Cheers... and thanks to everyone that hasn't given up blogging as of yet. You're all an inspiration for me to try to keep this thing going and a great source of news for someone that doesn't have time to be on all the forums and news sites anymore. :)

Disney back on for Miyazaki movies.. with a change.. 

Well, I'm really glad to see that Disney is back on for releasing three Miyazaki movies on February 22nd. However, I really wish they'd just stop second-guessing themselves with the constant delays and undelays and everything. I having to be in the "I'll believe it when I see it" mode of thinking..

Anyway, the interesting change is that The Cat Returns has been swapped in for Totoro. Perhaps their reasoning was that since Fox released a bare-bones version of Totoro a while back, they'd make more money with a different title. I'd really been hoping to finally see Totoro, though, and I also question the choice. Cat Returns is a sequel to another movie (one of my favorite anime movies.. Whisper of the Heart), and while I doubt it depends all that much on having seen the first movie, you'd think they'd just release Whisper first... Oh well, hopefully they'll get their act together and get all the Ghibli movies out eventually...

Friday, November 12, 2004

On voting methods... 

I don't like getting too too much into politics on the blog as I'm not really an adversarial sort most of the time, and lots of other people do it better anyway, but here's a couple of things...

Did Bush win legitimately? Hard to say... I think he probably would have won no matter what, but some of the issues raised make me nervous for whatever person would have won. I especially just don't like how the electronic systems have no paper trail. I work with computers all the time and I see how often they mess up. While surfing around, I came onto a post about the voting in Venezuela, and that seems a lot more like what we should be striving for. Obviously it doesn't all apply since people in the US aren't required to have IDs, but we seriously need open source voting machines and the multiple paper results tallied by two different sets of people would be very nice as well.

I think we're too obsessed with getting results as fast as possible, when a slower method that makes us all feel more secure in the end would be a lot better...

As an aside, I don't really agree with everything in this other post, but it does bring up some interesting thoughts. What would it be like if we only had write-in instead of multiple choice? Actually, the idea I like most is the one that the last response had, which was a option for "none of the above" for all offices. I'm not sure that'd actually be a positive thing overall, but it'd be pretty interesting to see a real guage of no-confidence instead of the varied nonsense write-ins that usually happen.

Lastly (and more practically), Johnny mentions the concept of Instant Runoff Voting, which aparantly is already used in some countries like Australia. In this method, people can rate several candidates if they want, and if a single candidate doesn't get 50% of the vote, the one with the lowest vote gets removes and the second place entry for each of those voters gets put into the pool, until someone finally gets over 50% of the votes.

I think one of the biggest poxed on our system right now is the feeling that you can't vote for who you really want to, for fear of taking away votes from the "lesser of two evils". This method would let people vote for whoever they wanted to in clean concious. It is beneficial to smaller parties since people will actually vote for them and beneficial to larger parties since their votes won't be split unless one of the third parties gets strong enough to actuall get a 50% vote. It'd also be a powerful gauge for "no-confidence" in and of itself, since you'd be able to see that before the runoffs happened, how split the voters were. Lastly, if done state by state, it wouldn't need the constitutional ammendment that getting rid of the electoral college would need..

I think IRV is something I really feel like I can support. Many thanks to Johnny for bringing it up!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Hashcash versus spam... 

I'm always interested in things like security, cryptography and spam, so this method of deturring spam was pretty interesting to see.

This is one of the classes of solutions that tries to use cost as a deterrent to spam. In most of the past proposals from various sounces, cost is in terms of money, with some sort of micropayment scheme. That has a ton of problems. A lot of people wouldn't want to pay even fractions of a cent, what about people with no credit card, who organizes everything, is there taxation, what about other countries, etc. I think anything like that is doomed to failure...

The hashcash method takes a different direction, where the cost is computer power. The idea is to make the sender incur some processing power to sent a valid e-mail. The seconds it'd take would be negligible for a normal user, but less practical for a spammer (they might still be able to send tens of thousands of messages a day, but they'd probably usually send millions an hour..).

It works by using an algorythym that takes a semi-random string (like the e-mail being sent to, the time of day, and some random numbers) and gives a specific result. They key being that it is slow to generate that result, but quick for someone on the other end to plug in the values and see that it is correct.

The recepient sets a certain strength and if they get an e-mail who has a header proving they did the work to that strength, it doesn't get filtered as heavy (or perhaps even whitelisted) by whatever anti-spam measures are in place.

This is a pretty cool idea, but still see some issues. Some are fairly easy to results, but others less so. For friends and for mailing lists you actually want to get, it is easy enough to white list those, so that only strangers need to do the extra work.. My main concerns would be that it seems like some spammers make quite a lot of money, so specialized hardware solutions may not be out of the question for them. Does anyone know what typical margins are like? Could they afford special farms or chips to help the calculations?

Another concern is less powerful machines. People with old computers are used to suffering a bit.. what about people who use bluetooth or whatever to send e-mails through their pda? My other concern is how does one get the word out on what strength someone needs to be able to get through to someone? Could put it on a website and tagline and such, but it seems like there'd still be a lot of issues.

They seem to be going about it in a more lucid way than many others (i.e. they are trying to slowly blend it into other solutions instead of needing a mass acceptence to be successful), but I still have my doubts on if it'll get anywhere. Still, I like it a lot more than those challenge/response things that won't work if two people have them at once, or the efforts to try to remove a lot of the anonymity inherant in the internet...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Firefox 1.0 

So, I'd been waiting to update most of my machines until the official 1.0 release. I had 0.7 on my machine at work and 0.8 at home. Yesterday morning I happened to browse to Mozillazine and wondering why it was so slow, I soon saw that 1.0 was out! This was fairly early in the morning and soon everything just halted as things got slashdotted (I'm sure Mozilla.org itself was long since down). In order to get the release, I ended up using the google cache of the mirrors page to find an ftp which had the release and torrents. I decided to go with torrents to help save someone's server and that worked great. It seemed like I wasn't doing any uploading, though, so I looked with TorrentSpy and saw 900 seenders and 50 downloaders. Talk about a nice ratio. :)

Anyway, I have to say I'm liking 1.0 a lot. It seems more stable and a bit more responsive than some of the previous versions and I'm ok with the default theme though gray is a bit blah... One nice thing is that secure page actually really stand out, with both the gold locks and gold url bar. I was pleasantly surprised by the new "search on this page" type bar which appears right above the status bar and scrolls down the to first instance as you type. You can even have it highlight all instances on the page at once.

Relating to blogging, it has a feature where most pages with RSS automatically show an icon in the corner letting you easily bookmark the feed. Then when you look in the bookmarks, it shows up as a folder with entry titles as items inside it. I think that's a bit too much on the basic side for me, but still pretty cool for those that want to get their feet wet with feeds.

I have to say that a definite lowlight to me is the fact that it still has no icon under windows in terms of the upperleft corner of the window and when minimized to the taskbar. Not a huge deal in terms of functionality, but it is one of the few things left that makes it seem a bit unprofessional. Why whould an app this big be showing a generic windows icon instead of its own logo? The other obvious lowlight is a lot of the extensions not working with the new version yet.

But overall I have to say that I'm really happy with it. It is such a world away from those early Mozilla versions ages ago and even the earlier incarnations of Firefox itself. Good going guys... it is looking pretty solid.

Edit: Aparantly the icon thing was just a Win98 issue. Thanks everyone who helped clear this up.. :)

Blogs with your newsreader? 

Hey now, nntp//rss is a pretty cool idea. It sets is an RSS reader that sets up a usenet type server on your machine, with each feed as a group and posts like news posts. That lets you use any of the newsreader software out there to check up on news or blogs. I haven't tried it as of yet, but I may give it a shot, since some of the newsreader software out there is pretty advanced..

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