October 20, 2009

A Quick Wave

Just embedding a quick Google Wave to see if it works 🙂

For those without access to Google Wave yet, this is what the wave said:

When Lions (or Lionesses) Attack ..

The original story is here. But I thought the pictures by themselves told a different story 😀

Hey, handsome! You look interesting …

What’s a little bit of playful nipping between friends, eh?

“Let go you crazy, lioness?” What do you mean?

Have you tried this position?

Don’t leave me!

Waah, I promise, I’ll be good!

I finally got away from that crazy, lioness, whew!

Where is he? Where is my honey?

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Posted by Fahim at 11:41 am  |  No Comments

November 1, 2008

Back to Googled Hits

I’ve been on the Internet since the mid ’90s and have had my own domain since early 2000. So I’ve been around quite a bit of time and there’s a lot of content by me (and about me) all over the place on the Internet. Not surprisingly, this has meant that I’m pretty easy to Google and discover. In fact, about the first seven pages of hits on a search for "Fahim Farook" are almost exclusively all about me 🙂

So imagine my surprise a few months back when I did a random search for some site keyword, (I think it was "Solipsistic Meanderings") and found that I didn’t appear anywhere on the first page of results! I then continued to search for other keywords, including my own name, and nothing! I just didn’t seem to appear on Google till you got to page 6-10, or sometimes, even further.

I was really busy around this time and so I gave up further investigation. However, Laurie did a little bit more digging and she did discover that there was a theory going around at that time that text ad links caused your site to be either penalized by Google or to be removed from their index altogether.

Now I’d put up some text ad links a few months earlier but they weren’t bringing in a whole lot of money and it didn’t seem urgent enough at that point to do too much digging. So I simply informed the people for whom I had placed the ads that I was discontinuing them at the end of the month, did so and then promptly forgot about the matter because I figured Google would restore my search result rankings when they next crawled my site.

Additionally, around the same time, a client of mine had his site removed from the Google database because they suspected that his site had been hacked and invisible spam links placed on his site. He received notification of this via Google’s Webmaster Tools. (If you don’t use it, and have a site that you’re interested in monitoring/optimizing, you really should sign up. It’s really useful :)) All I had to do at that point was to check my client’s site to make sure that it didn’t have any hacked content and then send a request for reconsideration to Google via his Webmaster Tools account. A few days later, my client’s site was back in Google.

Given that experience, I thought that if I had been penalized in some manner by Google, that I would receive a notification as well. So I wrote off the whole incident as being either something which had just happened (and so they hadn’t had time to notify me) or that my keywords had indeed really fallen off the map because I don’t do any SEO work on my site – it’s just a personal site and I’ve never even needed to (or seemed to need) any sort of SEO work because Google always picked up my entries.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I only vaguely remembered all of the stuff that had happened before but I did have some time on my hands. So I did another search for "Fahim Farook" and again, nothing. I was more concerned this time because it had been months since the first incident and I was still not showing up on a Google search. So I did a few more keyword searches and still the same thing.

I checked Webmaster Tools and it showed that my site was being crawled quite often by Google. So what was going on? So I did a search combining my site URL and a couple of keywords from a recent entry. That turned up my post. But when I searched by just the keywords (without the site URL) my post wasn’t there on any of the first few pages. So it did look as if Google was penalizing me somehow.

So I did some searching and it turns out that Google does penalize you for text link ads but it seems to be random and the site owners are never notified. It might just be part of Google’s strategy to keep people guessing as to what triggers the penalization because if people knew the exact parameters, there are of course folks who’ll try to tweak things and get around the penalization while still doing what they’re not supposed to do 😀

But the fact remained that my site was still penalized and removing the text link ads had not helped. Some people claim that they automatically regained their search rankings after they removed the ads. Others said that they had to request a reconsideration. So I went into Webmaster Tools and did a request. (In case you can’t find where to do it, it’s on your Webmaster Tools dashboard on the right-hand set of links under "Talk to Google".)

That was about three days ago. Last night, when I checked by doing a search for "Fahim Farook", I was back again on the first page of results! So one thing to say about Google is that they are really fast 🙂 In fact, when you do the reconsideration request, they mention that it might take several weeks. But I’m happy to be back so quickly – don’t think this is a complaint :p

But I thought of writing this post as a warning to others and a sharing of information. It might be that your site has been penalized and you are totally unaware of it. So do some checking every once in a while. Make sure that you aren’t losing any traffic to your site because you had been penalized and you didn’t know about it …

If you are penalized, read Google’s Best Practices guidelines, especially the Webmaster Guidelines. See if you are not adhering to any of the guidelines. If you are, then fix the issues and then request a reconsideration. You’ll probably be back in the Google listings in no time. And good luck 🙂

October 28, 2008

The Multiple-life Syndrome and Other Stories

I’ve been on the Internet a long time and all this time, I’ve never (except during the early stages and even then only sporadically) used a handle, pseudonym, nickname or what have you. I’ve always been Fahim and it’s been easier to do things that way. I didn’t really want to have a whole second life on the Internet – I just considered the Net an extension of my existing life.

So it always amazes me when I hear stories about people who create a completely fictional life online just for their own jollies. Or in some cases, to make profit or to harass people. It gets even weirder when people create multiple lives for themselves online. I read about a couple of instances which truly boggled my mind yesterday and so I just had to comment on them 🙂

I came across the name Cassandra Clare because Laurie was reading this long thread which had something about her and a plagiarism brouhaha (more about that later …). So I became curious and began reading about Cassandra Clare (or Claire, as she apparently also spells here name).

Basically, she had first shot to fame with a parody of The Lord of the Rings called The Very Secret Diary, written in the vein of Bridget Jones’ Diary. (There’s something interesting there too – according to some, she stopped writing The Very Secrete Diary herself but was incensed at others continuing her work. That sounded very strange to me but I guess I’ll have to get back to that later in my discussion about plagiarism …) Anyway, Cassandra had then moved on to Harry Potter fandom and wrote quite a bit of fan fiction set in the Harry Potter universe and this apparently made her even more famous. So famous, that she became a BNF (Big Name Fan) and apparently everybody wanted to be her friend.

And it was at this point that we have the second player in the drama, Msscribe, makes her entrance. Apparently Msscribe wanted so much to be a friend of Cassandra, that she created other personas (sometimes known as "sock puppets" on the web :p) to talk up Msscribe and to link her to Cassandra (and her circle of friends) at any and every opportunity.

The complete story is so bizarre that I don’t think I can do justice to it in a brief fashion. But suffice it to say that she had not one or two, but at least half a dozen (probably more than a dozen according to the truly wacky story that unfolds if you do some research) different identities either supporting her or attacking her. And all this to gain the friendship (and the reflected status) of somebody who was supposed to be a BNF.

Of course, some of the reading (and summarizing) makes it seem so surreal because some of these created personalities change age/profession/location at various places. Guess when you’re actually going through all of this over a long period of time, it’s really hard to keep track of who does what. But still, when you see that somebody who is originally Msscribe’s new-found fan goes from being a 31-year old mother to an 18-year old student to being Msscribe’s live-in nanny, you know that you’re not in Kansas anymore 🙂

According to all the stuff online, Msscribe was finally shown to be a puppet-master extraordinaire and she also seems to have made some really bad choices in picking real enemies to attack (not just made up ones who were also her) and so became unpopular. Interestingly enough, it also appears that Cassandra herself provided some information which confirmed that Msscribe was the same person as some of her puppet personalities. And so ended the saga of Msscribe.

But back to Cassandra. It turns out that she had copied portions from a published author’s novel and used it in her fan fiction after changing just the names. Her excuse? She had written the paragraph(s) in question down in her writers’ notebook and came back to it months later and didn’t remember that it had been written by another author and thought that she’d done those. So the names in there was changed by the tooth fairy? Or did the Easter bunny have something to do with it?

The truly amazing thing here is that fan fiction is supposed to be a labour of love. Most writers would say that there is no money in fan fiction. But Cassandra had managed to make thousands of dollar (according to some accounts over ten thousand dollars) by writing fan fiction.

How? By preying on the generosity (and gullibility) of her readers. In this case, she played pretty much the same game as Msscribe, but without the sock puppets. She (or rather her friend) announced that Cassandra and her room-mate had had their computers stolen when their apartment was burgled. So this friend started a fund drive among the Cassandra Clare fans, purportedly to buy a new computer so that Cassandra could keep writing her fan fiction.

But once the amount collected went over what was needed to buy the stolen computers, other things got added to the list of stolen stuff and the fund drive continued on. And this is not counting the money that Cassandra Clare was making off of various CafePress stores that she’d created to sell items from her fan-fiction, which was itself based on copyrighted material belonging to someone else.

The biggest surprise of all? After doing all of this, Cassandra Clare has gotten a book deal with a well-known publisher and is now a published author! Surprising? In this day and age, I wouldn’t call it surprising. In fact, if I was a cynical person by nature, I’d say that she got the book deal because of her infamy rather than in spite of it. The publisher probably figured that she was well-known enough that she would sell whatever she wrote – I just hope they check the stuff before it’s published to make sure that she hasn’t accidentally copied something on to her new draft that was written by somebody else …

The other thing that struck me while reading the whole Casandra Clare affair was the whole copyright thing. Cassandra had apparently been in the habit of quoting things from well-known TV shows and movies in her works (in addition to taking stuff from other authors). Now it appears to be often said that she should have attributed all of these sources in her material or that she was in copyright violation and I’m not so certain about that. But that’s probably another entry for tomorrow …

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Posted by Fahim at 5:52 am  |  1 Comment

September 3, 2008

Polishing Up the Chrome

Google has their own browser! Yes, you heard me, a new Google browser has hit the streets as a beta 🙂 And what’s more, it seems to be mostly faster and better than the existing crop of stable browsers …

The new browser, named Chrome, has been built from the ground up with the latest web technologies in mind. So, each tab in the browser, as well as every task/process within each tab, is it’s own thread. What this means for most users is that the whole browser does not lock up because one site on one tab has issues or is busy. In fact, in using Chrome, I found this difference to be crucial because the browser performance was super smooth for each and every tab I was working with.

If that wasn’t enough, Chrome also appears to be ahead of the pack with regards to standards support. While most of the existing stable versions of browsers aren’t doing so well on the Acid3 test, (and no, don’t bring up the browsers that do pass the test :p), Chrome appears to score about 79 out of 100 on the Acid3 test whereas the latest FireFox (3.0.1) manages only about 71 out of 100. And that’s better than how IE fares 😀

Of course, there’s one thing funny with the how Chrome handles the Acid3 test, it seems to take longer and the score isn’t always the same – it’s almost as if the test was created for single-threaded browsers and the multi-threaded nature of Chrome throws the test off somehow …

Additionally, Chrome imports bookmarks, site passwords, browsing history, and a host of other information from FireFox and so, if you use FireFox, once you start using Chrome, it’s almost as if you’ve not changed browsers at all. All your previous settings and browsing history is all intact.

I won’t go into all the other great features of Chrome, especially the address bar which does FireFox‘s nifty new address bar one better, but the one thing I do miss is the ability to extend the browser using extensions, as is possible with FireFox. I haven’t checked yet to see if Chrome supports extensions/plugins but I sure do hope it does …

June 26, 2008

What’s Aptana Up to?

Ever since they first appeared on the scene, I’ve kept an eye on Aptana. First, because I like knowing about the IDE options available to me for the various languages and technologies I work with but also because they had taken on one of the few Ruby IDEs that I had been comfortable with, RadRails.

Of course, I haven’t been using Aptana recently since most of my recent work has been in PHP and with ExtJS and I hadn’t been really happy with Aptana’s support (as I’d last seen it) for either. So I was excited to hear that there was a new beta version of Aptana available that had better PHP support. And when I checked out the news, I was even more excited to learn that there was also something called Aptana Cloud in the new release!

I did some further checking and all that I read seemed to indicate that this was something that I’d be really interested in 🙂 So I went ahead and applied to be a beta tester yesterday and today in the morning, when I checked my e-mail, there was my invitation to join the beta. Talk about fast!

I was busy most of the morning doing other stuff but just got time to start doing a little work with Aptana. And so far, I like what I see 🙂 There is a new home screen which looks sparkly and pretty and there’s lots of new stuff to discover and explore. Of course, the first thing I did was to create a project based on an existing application that I was working on and then create a Cloud for it. And let me tell you, the Cloud creation couldn’t be any simpler (or faster) even if they tried 🙂

I had my Cloud, and a blank website, up in less than a couple of minutes. Then I used the project synchronization feature in Aptana to upload all my project files to the server. Two or three mouse clicks and the project synchronization was underway. Once the synchronization completed, I took a look at the various server status information displays which are accessible from within Aptana itself. Pretty nifty. I could check on server status, browse the databases on the server and do several other things from one centralized interface!

I then changed one of the project files externally by overwriting the version in the project directory with a different one and tried synchronizing again. Aptana did a comparison of the two sets of files and let me know that the changed file needed to be synchronized again. So far so good! But when I checked, it turns out that Aptana had downloaded the version on the server down to my local machine because the local version was older. Ah well, guess I can’t expect it to be a mind reader :p

There’s a lot of other stuff to explore in the new version of Aptana that I still haven’t gotten around to because the evening’s coming to a close and I have to get going. Hopefully, when I have a spare moment, I’ll be able to come up with another blog entry detailing my further adventures with Aptana Studio …

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Posted by Fahim at 5:58 pm  |  No Comments

June 15, 2008

True Knowledge

Like most people, I use Google most of the time when I need to find some information. I do my unit conversions in Google too – if you didn’t know how to do that, you can simply type in "20 km in miles" or "10 usd in lkr" into the query box and you’ll be provided with the correct conversion. But what about the times when I need specific information? Like say Sir Issac Newton’s birthday?

What I’d normally do is go to Wikipedia, look up Sir Issac Newton and find the information. It’s not that hard but it could get a bit complicated if I misspelt the name or if I’m looking for somebody who might not be listed on Wikipedia yet. And then there’s things like "How old is Michael Jackson?". Nothing that I knew of, till now, would give me that answer because it’s an ever changing answer.

Well, that’s where True Knowledge comes in 🙂 It *can* tell me how old Michael Jackson is! In fact, it is a new search engine which tries to answer your questions with a direct result rather than a list of search results which might (or might not) have the answer you’re looking for. You should really take a look at their demo video to get a clearer overview of the capabilities (and goals) of the search engine than my not very clear or concise explanation 🙂

True Knowledge does a lot more than tell you how old Michael Jackson is. It can answer questions by inferring the answer using the facts in its database. If True Knowledge does not have the answer, you can even submit a correct answer yourself and expand the extents of the information contained in their database. Pretty cool 🙂

The search engine is in beta at the moment and so you need to get an invite from them to participate in the beta testing. However, it is well worth testing out if you are geek just to see where search engine technology is headed 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:01 am  |  2 Comments

May 29, 2008

All Things Art and Good VI

(The reasons behind the series of articles titled All Things Art and Good and the format followed in each article is explained here, in the first post in the series.)

I have not been able to find the first artwork of Ron Crabb‘s that I saw on his site. Instead, I guess I will have to link to it at the original location at the CGTalk forums. The painting, called Keep a Sharp Eye, is simply brilliant! It’s from a series that Ron calls Illustrations from Untold Stories and is supposed inspire writers, storytellers and other imagineers to come up with a story to fit the image. And I tell you, this is the kind of image that can send you off on all sorts of voyages of the mind 🙂

I absolutely love the dark and gloomy swamp, the little flickers of firefly glows creating holes in the shroud of darkness, the warm glow of the torch held by the boy at the front of the boat, and overall, the entire image which seems to proclaim that dark and foul (or mysterious and exciting) events are afoot. Most of all, I love the feel of the painting. It has the the feel of an oil painting by one of the old masters like Rembrandt or Da Vinci – clean lines, great lighting and great colouring. Yes, if you couldn’t tell by my previous words, I love this style of digital painting 🙂

Exploring Ron’s site, I came across more gems in a variety of styles. There’s the imposing and mysterious Petra which seems to hint at a forgotten civilization and age-old buildings full of treasures hidden away in the mountains or the desert. Or the breathtakingly golden beauty of Arabian City, left and right, which I can’t help wishing was available as a single image so that the viewer can see the full glory of that wonderful mural. I love the little splashes of colour from the awnings on the buildings appearing as sudden splashes of colour across the golden browns and yellows of the desert and the buildings. And those feathery streamers of clouds across the blue sky sort of crowning the whole thing, what can I say except that this is another painting by Ron that I just love gazing at for hours? 🙂

If you wanted something different, then there’s the cartoony line drawings like the Kitsap County Fair mascot – the horse reminds me a bit of Jolly Jumper, Lucky Luke‘s horse 🙂 Or, there’s the Foosball table top which is colourful and interesting and has a different style. And of course, if you were to explore Ron’s Fine Art section, you’ll find a whole new world of paintings to gaze at for hours on end 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:41 am  |  No Comments

May 26, 2008

Interesting, but weird :)

Apparently, I’m published with Reuters. Yes, *the* Reuters 🙂 I didn’t know about this at all, though I believe traffic has been slightly heavier than usual, till today 🙂 And even then, it was totally by accident.

This blog is part of the BlogBurst network, which syndicates blog RSS feeds to online media sites. I’ve been with them for years and as far as I know, I haven’t been featured by any of the BlogBurst media partners. So I haven’t actually paid much attention to what was going on with BlogBurst.

However, I was fiddling around with the RSS feeds for the site today and so decided to go check if BlogBurst can still access my RSS feed and to my surprise, I found that my site had been featured on Reuters! Of course, I was curious to see what had been featured and so I did some more digging and came up with this article.

Now the funny thing is, that article is on the Reuters Investing Blog but it has nothing at all to do with investing 🙂 So I’m not sure why the article was picked unless it was the word "China" in the title. Guess I should experiment by adding more country names to my titles :p

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Posted by Fahim at 10:50 am  |  No Comments

May 16, 2008

All Things Art and Good V

(The reasons behind the series of articles titled All Things Art and Good and the format followed in each article is explained here, in the first post in the series.)

I first came across Dan Phyillaier‘s artwork on the CGTalk forums. It was a painting called Meeting of Land and Water. As I’ve mentioned before, I love paintings with neat lighting techniques. And of course, I love paintings with nature scenery and then if that wasn’t enough, this also includes angelic/cherubic kids, fairy tales, and lighthouses! My cup ran over and filled a few others too when I saw this one 😀 It is a wonderful piece of artwork which manages to freeze a dynamic and magical moment of time forever. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I simply adore the lighting effects – the rays of light from the lighthouse tinging the clouds with a sparkling bit of gold, the tiny pinpricks of light on the bridge connecting the lighthouse to the mainland, the rosy golden hue cast by the lantern on the boy’s face, the blue-greyish cast to the entire scene indicating that it might be dusk; it’s all so wonderful and moody.

And to show how addicted to lighting effects I am, there’s also In the Beginning. I have no idea of the history behind the painting but it has a religion meets science, Noah’s Ark meets Gene Roddenberry, kind of feel to it 🙂 I’m left wondering as to the events leading up to that image. What happened there? What is the story? It almost tempts me to start writing the story myself and when that happens, it’s a good image, at least as far as I’m concerned 🙂

Then there’s Dan’s landscapes, like Genesis I, or Genesis II, or Homestead which fill you with longing for wide open spaces; land unsullied by the hand of man; crystal clear water that is icy cold to the touch and refreshing to drink; and vast tracts of land which make you realize just how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. It’s the kind of wonderful imagery which makes you long for a different time, a simpler time, and lets you escape, at least for a little time, from the world we live in. Powerful stuff 🙂

There’s plenty of other wonderful digital artwork on Dan’s site. So go, explore lands untouched by humanity and feel the wonder and joy that explorers must feel, at least virtually 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:29 am  |  3 Comments

May 13, 2008

All Things Art and Good IV

(The reasons behind the series of articles titled All Things Art and Good and the format followed in each article is explained here, in the first post in the series.)

The first digital artwork of Erwin Madrid‘s that I ever saw was Amends. For some reason, the painting reminds me of a dark, Disney vision. The girl and the slight sense of light playing around her gives the feel of a classic Disney heroine while the crows somehow manage to evoke all the dark and evil step-motherly feelings from all the classic fairy tales. I also like how the crows are almost like leaves on the tree and how all the lines in the painting, the bark on the trees, the way the branches are laid out, the angular lines created by the crows, the girl’s dress and even the stripes on her socks, create a world of lines. It might not be very colourful but it sure as heck is an interesting painting that I can stare at for hours!

Then there’s Erwin’s Umbrella on Balcony. This is another one of those classic play-of-light paintings. I love paintings where the light becomes almost an entity by itself. Here, the light does just that. There’s hint of sunlight coming off from somewhere behind the roof of the building at the left edge of the painting. The light turns the church spire golden, limns the laundry hanging on the lines so that it’s transformed from common laundry into something ethereal and then burnishes the edge of the umbrella on the balcomny with gold. You can also see a hint of the gold on the climbing plant on the balcony. It might not be a very detailed painting but what I love about the composition is the fact that the light does most of the work for you. The light is the central player and it gives you visions of hazy golden afternoons, idle Sundays where you just soak up the sun, and of warm sunlight playing gently on your skin. Sometimes, less is more 🙂

Erwin has quite a few other paintings which evoke various feelings of awe, wonder, and joy in me. And I’m sure you’ll find your own favourites too if you explore his site. However, I feel that I must mention Factory, if not for anything then because it is so different from the other two paintings that I mention here 🙂 This one is so dark, foreboding and damp that I can only imagine that it’s from a far future when the world is bereft of sunlight because everything is smothered in smog. Sure there is a golden haze through the murk but it seems to be more of a promise of sunshine (perhaps if the world got rid of the dirty smoke from the factories) rather than any actual sunshine. While it is a bit of a downer after the brightness and gold of the previous images, Factory is an image which still manages to transpose me and think of far future worlds where factories will sit by bleak coastlines like some fat, bulbous insect and belch smoke and dirt into the air, covering up the last bits of golden sunshine.

When you have such powerful imagery, what else would you need? 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:30 am  |  1 Comment

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