28 May 2012

Remove Blogger post preview traffic from Google Analytics

Even though offers traffic stats in the default dashboard, the numbers are often inaccurate, being inflated by referrer spam. I have seen traffic spikes on a couple occasions that aren’t reproducible in other traffic tracking solutions like Analytics or the stats offered by link shortening services. Usually Google Analytics is more reliable, since it’s using a script after the page has actually loaded to track the visits, and it’s also integrated in the Blogger dashboard. It does have it’s downsides, one of which is the very complicated procedure to exclude your own traffic from the stats – a method which incidentally isn’t very reliable, in my experience.

Another inconsistency in the stats from Google Analytics I noticed recently is the fact that it also tracks the previews of your Blogger posts before publishing. In a way it makes sense, since the preview is now a full-fledged page with script support, located on the same domain as the site/blog. You can see the amount of visits to the post previews in the Google Analytics dashboard under ‘Content’ ► ‘Site Content’ ► ‘Content Drilldown’ ► select the ‘Page path level/b/. The amount of virtual visits on preview pages should be relatively small (in my case 1.14% over half the previous month) and, depending on the total number of visits, should have a negligible overall impact on the traffic data. On the other hand, these self-visits are registered under ‘returning visitors’ and generate a low bounce rate; this could skew important metrics in the long run.

27 May 2012

Sebastian A. Corn - Adrenergic!

in Bucharest, Romania

Sebastian A Corn - Adrenergic!În metropola South Sabrata, undeva în secolul 22, Tamerlan Banks – un nume predestinat pentru fapte mari – directorul onorific al giganticei corporații United T‑Skell Spaces, își pune în mișcare planurile de a‑l detrona pe actualul director și succesorul său, Hugh Secada. Desigur, n‑ar strica dacă pe lângă faimă, putere și bogății ar obține și atenția Priscillei Ydriss, actuala soție a lui Secada. În goana lui nebună, care durează mai puțin de 24 de ore, Tamerlan se aliază cu contrabandiștii de la marginea societății și cu turboskelii, entitățile cibernetice semi‑inteligente care populează și întrețin reticulosistemul, rețeaua informatică a orașului. Deși luat prin surprindere, Secada știe cum să contraatace, arătând că a ajuns în fruntea ierarhiei pentru că e mai mult decât un fost emigrant columbian, fost șomer și fost spațiofor. Iar turboskelii, deși aparent recunoscători lui Tamerlan, creatorul lor, și dornici de a obține enormul spațiu virtual promis de el în schimbul sprijinului împotriva lui Secada, au propriile planuri învăluite în secret.

Adrenergic! e un roman cyberpunk care‑și respectă pe deplin titlul, asociat cu receptorii de adrenalină din corpul uman. Nu numai pentru ritmul alert care nu obosește deloc și stârnește serios adrenalina în cititori, ci și pentru tehnologia imaginată a viitorului. Aceasta se bazează aproape exclusiv pe biotehnologie, de la banchetele din tentacule amplificate de calmar la clădirile vii, împânzite de ochi pentru supraveghere. Până și banalele tatuaje ca simbol de statut sau apartenență la anumite grupări sunt înlocuite cu implante organice – solzi albaștri de crap japonez sau culturi de mușchi de pădure. Ca să nu mai vorbim de reticulosistem, echivalentul din povestire al Internet‑ului, care rulează în creierele spațioforilor, oameni păstrați în cuve organice care au ales să‑și doneze capacitatea cerebrală în schimbul banilor sau ca pedeapsă pentru infracțiuni. Autorul merge foarte în amănunt în crearea universului, deși romanul este destul de scurt, adăugând până și o asociație care se ocupă de drepturile spațioforilor, Human Anamnestics, care investighează în mod curent practicile marilor companii, avide după putere suplimentară de calcul.

25 May 2012

Make Blogger more printer-friendly

In the current digital world, printing is probably not a big priority for someone building a site, let alone for small- to medium-sized blogs. Nevertheless, some users might want to keep a PDF- copy of some articles, so it’s nice to offer a dedicated layout for print. Unfortunately, Blogger templates don’t offer native print support, as it’s mostly a niche feature most blog owners wouldn’t ask for. So I set out to build my own print style-sheet using CSS media queries.

The idea is pretty simple: you basically want to reset colors and background images to a more print-safe black & white and hide all page elements that don’t make sense in a static medium as print, namely navigation, sidebars and widgets, sharing buttons, the footer, videos and other interactive content e.g. the comment form. But the task is made harder by the way templates handle sidebars, with a combination of margins and padding, probably to keep the best compatibility with older versions of Internet Explorer.

24 May 2012

TechCrunch: “Facebook Redesigns Mobile To Make News Feed Photos 3X Larger”

Facebook mobile app on iOS with larger photos in news stream
If you’re sick of interrupting your news feed reading to open and load photos, you’ll like a new Facebook mobile site, iOS, and Android app redesign rolling out today that makes photos three times larger. Shares of single photos now look a lot like Instagrams, as they appear full width so there’s less need to stop and open them. Meanwhile the bigger previews of photo albums will help you instantly assess whether to dive in or breeze past. Josh Constine

I got this update as well the day before. I don’t think bigger photos work on mobile for three reasons: longer load times (I used to think the Facebook app couldn’t get any slower, but I now stand corrected), more bandwidth (this certainly won’t encourage me to use it over 3G) and more scrolling (before you could see a couple of updates at a glance, now only one). Just look at the example on the right: the photo is so big, that on the iPhone you can’t fit the avatar and the status message above the photo on the same screen with the Like & Comment bar at the bottom. I like to choose what photos I look at more closely, not have all of them shoved in my face. But hey, still no ads! That has to be a good thing, right?

One more thing: while writing the post I noticed on that just launched a standalone app for photos, Facebook Camera. The previous update to the main app makes even less sense now: why change the news stream when you know you’re going to launch a dedicated app with better features in a couple of days?

22 May 2012

A book by any other name…

I hope my poor Shakespearian reference may be excused, but I feel it’s appropriate given the subject at hand: the Kindle. It’s been more than a year since I bought one and in the mean time Amazon has already launched a new generation and there’s even talk about future models with color (no, not the Fire!) or backlit screens. I also had some experience before with a Sony e-book reader. Ever since I wanted to share a couple of thoughts about it on the blog, so now I finally got around to it.

I heard a lot of people talking about ‘the special feel of printed books’ and how they can’t get used to reading on a screen, even on e-paper. I never had that impression, maybe because I consider the physical support less important than the content, the message of the book. And let’s face it: printed books have many disadvantages over the electronic version: they’re heavier, bulkier, you can’t annotate or set bookmarks without leaving lasting marks, you can’t do full text search or look up words you don’t know in the built-in dictionary. The only advantages of classical books that come to mind are the fact that you can easily skim trough and that you don’t need any power to read one – although the Kindle can handle about a month of reading without a recharge. In fact the last couple of times I forgot to check the battery level and had to apply an emergency solution: I recharged it at work with a Samsung changer borrowed from a colleague – hooray for standard USB connectors!

21 May 2012

The New York Times: “The Zuckerberg Tax”

If Mr. Zuckerberg never sells his shares, he can avoid all income tax and then, on his death, pass on his shares to his heirs. When they sell them, they will be taxed only on any appreciation in value since his death.

Consider the case of Steven P. Jobs. After rejoining Apple in 1997, Mr. Jobs never sold a single Apple share for the rest of his life, and therefore never paid a penny of tax on the over $2 billion of Apple stock he held at his death. Now his widow can sell those shares without paying any income tax on the appreciation before his death. She would have to pay taxes only on the increase in value from the time of his death to the time of the sale.

Now compare Mr. Zuckerberg with Lady Gaga. Last year she told Ellen DeGeneres that she had to get “completely wasted” to sign her tax returns because she owed so much. Lady Gaga reportedly earned $90 million in 2010. Because she earns fees and royalties, she’s subject to the highest income-tax rate. So, assuming she’s just as successful this year, she will certainly pay more than $30 million in taxes and probably more than $45 million, which is infinitely more tax than Mr. Zuckerberg will pay on the $23 billion of Facebook stock he now holds. […]

Our tax system is based on the concept of “realization.” Individuals are not taxed until they actually sell property and realize their gains. But this system makes less sense for the publicly traded stocks of the superwealthy. A drastic change is necessary to fix this fundamental flaw in our tax system and finally require people like Warren E. Buffett, Mr. Ellison and others to pay at least a little income tax on their unsold shares. The fix is called mark-to-market taxation. […]

A mark-to-market system of taxation on the top one-tenth of 1 percent would raise hundreds of billions of dollars of new revenue over the next 10 years. The new revenue could be used to lower payroll taxes, extend the George W. Bush tax cuts, repeal the alternative minimum tax, reduce the budget deficit, prevent military cuts or a combination of all of these.

This tax would not affect the middle class, or even most wealthy Americans. Nor would it affect small-business owners. It would affect only individuals who were undeniably, extraordinarily rich. Only publicly traded stock would be marked to market.

David S. Miller

America, truly the Land of Opportunity. For the 0.1%…

via Piaw Na

20 May 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs - A Princess of Mars

in Bucharest, Romania

Edgar Rice Borroughs A Princess of MarsTrebuie să mărturisesc că, deși e considerat un clasic al genului, romanul de față m‑a lăsat rece de la primele pagini. Ba chiar l‑am abandonat după un capitol; am revenit la el de‑abia când am dat de o carte și mai greu de digerat (de Philip K. Dick, evident). De data asta am rezistat până la sfârșit, doar pentru ca prima impresie să‑mi fie confirmată din plin. Acțiunea s‑ar putea să vă fie cunoscută în mare, fie din carte, fie din diversele variante de ecranizare: John Carter, un veteran al Războiului Civil American, ajunge în Arizona în căutarea aurului, când partenerul lui e ucis de un trib de indieni. După ce salvează corpul acestuia dintre ei, Carter se refugiază într‑o peșteră, de unde e transportat ca prin magie pe suprafața lui Marte – sau Barsoom, așa cum e cunoscută de localnici. Capturat de Marțienii Verzi, se remarcă printre ei ca războinic și devine protectorul și pretendentul frumoasei Dejas Thoris din rasa Marțienilor Roșii, prințesă a orașului-stat Helium.

Cartea e o combinație eclectică de elemente care acum ar fi disputate de genurile science-fiction și fantasy – de înțeles pentru perioada din care provine. Burroughs are în repertoriu destule explicații științifice plauzibile: gravitația scăzută de pe Marte, care‑i conferă eroului puteri aproape supranaturale (deși amploarea salturilor lui e compatibilă mai degrabă cu Luna decât cu Planeta Roșie), cei doi sateliți (prea luminoși în roman pentru dimensiunile lor reale, iar văzut de pe suprafața planetei Phobos răsare la vest, ceea ce din câte țin minte nu e descris corect în roman), faptul că John Carter trebuie să învețe limba băștinașilor, descrierile vegetației și animalelor locale, cum ar fi faptul că noi-născuții Marțienilor Verzi au capul proporțional mai mare decât adulții, la fel ca în cazul oamenilor. Romanul introduce multe idei care răspândesc mai târziu în literatura SF: automate care pregătesc mâncare, călătorii interplanetare și sateliți artificiali, terraformarea pentru a supraviețui ecosferei în declin, care trebuie menținută la un nivel suportabil cu fabrici atmosferice sofisticate și sistemul de canale marțiene. Probabil de aceea întâlnim referiri la Barsoom în romane SF moderne, ca Steaua Pandorei.

18 May 2012

Proceedings of the Royal Society: “Cooperation and the evolution of intelligence”

Additionally, although kin selection is still of importance in highly intelligent taxa, high relatedness may hinder the evolution of intelligence by driving unconditional cooperation to fixation in the population, without any need of contingent behaviours.
A trait as complex as advanced intelligence is likely to have evolved owing to a combination of several factors rather than a single factor [4]. Along with the social intelligence hypothesis, many other theories attempting to explain the evolution of advanced intelligence have been suggested, among them that intelligence is an adaptation for tool use [53,54], that intelligence is an adaptation for social learning and the accumulation of culture [5557], and that intelligence is the result of sexual selection [58]. All of these theories are supported by evidence from at least some of the most intelligent animals. However, the difficulty lies in disentangling the traits that are causal factors in the evolution of intelligence from those that are by-products of advanced intelligence. Luke McNally, Sam P. Brown and Andrew L. Jackson

Fascinating study, if a bit too technical, about the emergence of intelligence. Unlike the birth of the Universe and even the origin of life, it remains a largely uncharted area of scientific research. There are many hypothesis but few scientifically verifiable facts. And unfortunately the experimental method is not really an option. This study tries to simulate group behavior in by applying game theory repeatedly, to see if the simulated individuals evolve towards greater intelligence, meaning better strategies for cooperation. The setup is over-simplified, but, hey, you have to start somewhere!

The results are interesting, with complex patterns emerging. I was most interested in the first paragraph above, found towards the end, in the conclusions; it resembles my own views about a science-fiction novel I have recently read, namely intelligence is more likely to develop in larger, mixed groups, than in small ones, where the members are already inclined to cooperate by their family ties. Without a better understanding of the origin of human intelligence, it seems unlikely we will be able to create artificial ones.

17 May 2012

Flipboard update makes it easy to discover sections

Flipboard select related section for FlickrWith yesterday’s update (currently version 1.9), Flipboard announced support for sound playback inside the app in partnership with SoundCloud – not something I would personally get excited about. But I noticed another more interesting feature: the top bar added a drop-down menu where you can quickly switch to another section related to the current social network: your favorites and lists from , your News Feed Links and Photos on , the Flickr Favorites or the Interestingness photo stream (I had no idea such a nice thing even existed before today!). This makes it much easier to navigate to different streams; previously any section not added to Flipboard could only be accessed through Accounts in the app options. It was cumbersome and so I rarely visited anything other than the content I had already pinned to the main screens. After this small change I expect to spend more time in Flipboard and to explore more data sources, especially my subscriptions, which were the most neglected previously. As before, when you open new sections you also get the option to add them to the main screen by tapping on the ‘+’-button in the top bar.

Update: In reply to my post, I received an extra tip from Flipboard for managing Google Reader inside the app:

Official Gmail Blog: “Continuing to bring people front and center in Gmail”

Circles are also now supported in search and filters. Find messages from a specific circle by typing circle:[circle name] in the search box. You can also find mail from any of your circled contacts by searching with has:circle. You can refine your search even further with other criteria and create filters based on circles. This means you can now view all the unread emails from your ‘Friends’ circle or automatically star every message that comes from your ‘VIP’ circle. Itamar Gilad

Finally a meaningful way to use circles in your Gmail inbox! A little bit more automation for managing e-mail can’t hurt, for example a filter like this:

circle:friends subject:-(fw|fwd) ► Apply the label: Friends; Never send it to Spam


-has:circle ► Skip the Inbox (Archive it)

One can’t help wonder why this wasn’t doable with the plain old Groups in Contacts. Going through Google+ seems such an overkill.

I’m curios if this also applies to outgoing mail…

16 May 2012

Daring Fireball: “iOS Low-Hanging Fruit”

iOS is by no means feature-complete. But it’s getting harder to identify the low-hanging fruit — the things you just know Apple has to be working on, not just the stuff you hope they are. The biggest one left is mapping. Today brings a report from 9to5Mac that Apple is set to switch the back-end data in iOS’s Maps app from Google to its own mapping services; John Paczkowski confirms it, quoting a source who claims the new Maps will “blow your head off”. John Gruber

Interestingly, I was just taking with a work colleague about the very same thing a couple of days ago – meaning what new features would we like to see on our iPhones in a couple of months. He’s very into Apple; I wouldn’t call him a fanboi, but he comes pretty close. Between the two of us, we couldn’t find many things missing from iOS.

Sure, there are small refinement that would be welcomed: a way to jump to a specific date in Calendar, a better way to mark messages as unread in Mail (optionally replace ‘Delete’ for the swipe gesture, maybe?), badges for Reminders and Calendar to quickly see if there are pending tasks or events for today. Neither of us cares very much for Android-like widgets, although it would be nice too see some more interactive home-screen icons, like Calendar, which automatically updates with the current date. After all, the weather isn’t always a sunny 23° C! Photos could also feature the latest picture from the PhotoStream for example, for a more personal touch.

The one thing we both would love to see copied from Android is a quick way to toggle a couple of settings, like Wi-Fi, cellular data, Bluetooth. I visit those settings basically every day, sometimes more than once, and that would naturally save time. The Notification Center would be a good place for the quick toggles – and so would the multitasking bar.

But the biggest impact could come if Apple would allow third party apps to become defaults in iOS. Unlike others, I am pretty satisfied with the default Mail app, but I would love to have a more powerful Photo app, like Camera Awesome, sitting in the lock screen just a swipe away. And I’m sure the demand for other default browsers would be pretty big, even if they are limited to the built-in rendering and JavaScript engines.

And here’s another great article highlighting the less polished aspects of iOS, some several versions old. While I never encountered the problem with Facebook sound alerts, I fully agree the multiple keyboard auto-correct needs improvement.

14 May 2012

What’s new in Chrome 20

Google Chrome 20 has larger New Tab button (seen on the bottom) compared to Chrome 18 (at the top)The version increase to v21 is right on schedule, even though the stable channel still remains at version 18, so it’s time to do a quick summary of the changes. Unfortunately, like many of the versions with even numbers before it, 20 brings next to nothing new for casual users – the only change you may notice is a slightly larger ‘New Tab’ button. Most of the updates concern developers and standards implementation, for example:

  • A setting to enable ‘Web Intents’ has been added to the interface, located under ‘Advanced Settings’ ► ‘Privacy’ ► ‘Content settings’ ► ‘Allow Web Intents to enable me to connect my applications’.
  • The datalist element for web-based forms is now available in Chrome – a bit late compared to other browsers, since and already support it.
  • Mobile developers – all developers interested in responsive design actually – can use the Web Inspector to specify the screen resolution and font scale factor in order to quickly simulate different screen sizes; and also emulate touch events with the mouse. You can find the two new options in the Inspector ‘Settings’ menu (the gear icon in the lower right).
    Google Chrome 20 emulate screen size and touch events in Web Inspector

13 May 2012

Quora expands Facebook integration with frictionless-sharing

As the Facebook Timeline rolls out to more users, apps are increasingly taking advantage of the deeper integration available as Open Graph apps. The latest arrival is Quora, as I was prompted today upon visiting the site; I didn't notice the official announcement on Friday – it’s hard to keep track of their blog without RSS. If you didn't enable the frictionless sharing straight from the prompt, visit ‘Settings’ ► ‘Connect accounts’ and then click on the ‘No’-link under . That opens the Facebook dialog to approve the extra permissions for Quora. The link acts as a toggle to quickly turn the integration on or off. At this time no other options are available. You can post your questions or feedback directly on the site or just follow the dedicated topic for updates. Add Quora to the Faceboook Timeline

Haruki Murakami - La sud de graniță, la vest de soare

in Bucharest, Romania

Haruki Murakami La sud de granita, la vest de soareDacă se spune că prima iubire nu se uită niciodată, cartea de față transformă ideea asta în literatură – și una de calitate pe deasupra. Pe Hajime și Shimamoto îi apropie la începutul adolescenței atât faptul că sunt vecini cât și alte afinități, iubirea de muzică și relativa izolare ca unici copii la părinți într‑o vreme când norma erau familiile mai numeroase. Apoi viața îi desparte și niciunul nu face o încercare de reapropiere timp de douăzeci de ani. După care însă flacăra se reaprinde periculos, amenințând existența așezată a lui Hajime.

Romanul e o rețetă relativ tipică pentru Murakami: personajul principal non‑conformist, oarecum singuratic, cu unele elemente autobiografice – Hajime, născut în ianuarie, ca și Murakami, devine proprietar de baruri în prezentul romanului –, pasiunea bine‑cunoscută pentru muzică a autorului și a protagoniștilor, universalitatea poveștii, stilul japonez, curat și înșelător de simplu. Singurul element atipic este lipsa completă de elemente fantastice și suprarealiste, compensate aici prin senzații și sentimente, prin atmosfera dulce‑amară în ton cu melodiile de jazz care îi însoțesc pe cei doi îndrăgostiți de‑a lungul romanului, prin subiectivitatea trăirilor lui Hajime, care dau semnificația fiecărei scene. Deși debutând la nașterea lui și încheindu‑se la vârsta de 37 de ani, cartea acoperă cele mai importante perioade din viața lui – cel puțin din perspectiva lui proprie. Din întregul deceniu douăzeci de viață nu ne alegem decât cu un capitol, și acela dedicat unei posibile întâlniri cu Shimamoto. Aici întâlnim un motiv confirmat și de psihologie, anume că amintirile însoțite de sentimente puternice se fixează mult mai durabil în memorie. Povestea lui Hajime culminează în momentele când e alături de Shimamoto, iar perioadele intermediare se dizolvă în conformism și indiferență.

12 May 2012

Rate your recent apps on Facebook

Facebook Rate Recently Used Apps boxAs you may have heard, recently announced its own App Center, not exactly a full store like iTunes or Play or the upcoming Microsoft Store, but more a centralized location to discover mobile and web apps that use Facebook as primary identity for users. Of course, like any decent recommendation engine, it will need a way to promote quality apps and that’s where the massive user base comes in: they should provide a sufficient volume of ratings for the apps they use.

Most likely related to this launch, I noticed the other day a new box in the right sidebar, where Facebook usually displays ads and friend suggestions. Fittingly titled ‘Rate Recently Used Apps’, it lists a couple of apps – accurately, I would say – and asks users to rate them with a five-star system. Curiously, the usual place where you manage apps on Facebook (under ‘Account settings’) doesn’t have the option to rate the apps you are currently using, but that will probably be added soon, after the App Center is opened. The new box is displayed more or less randomly, every 3 to 4 new page loads, but goes away after you rate all apps listed there.

10 May 2012

The Mozilla Blog: “Windows on ARM Users Need Browser Choice Too”

It’s reported that Windows RT (the name Microsoft has given to Windows running on the ARM processor) will have two environments, a Windows Classic environment and a Metro environment for apps. However, Windows on ARM prohibits any browser except for Internet Explorer from running in the privileged “Windows Classic” environment. In practice, this means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability, and security to which users have grown accustomed. Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can’t do the same.Harvey Anderson

I guess I missed the post where Mozilla complained about the very same practice from Apple with iOS. Or where they announced they will be supporting Internet Explorer on their Boot2Gecko platform. Or where Google announced the same level of support on ChromeOS.

The fact of the matter is this isn’t about having choices. User will always have a choice, to buy an WinRT tablet or not – or to buy an iPad, as they will probably continue to do. It’s about Mozilla’s place in the browser landscape and the fact that they are being slowly, but surely, squeezed out, on the desktop as on mobile – where they weren’t that relevant to start with.

03 May 2012

Browser inconsistencies with ‘transparent’ in CSS gradients

A while back, as I was working on my custom user style for , I noticed a peculiar behavior when I tried to apply a CSS gradient to the feed title section, specifically something like “starting from solid white to 20% transparent, to 80% transparent and finally back to a solid shade of blue”. The result was not was I expected: the transition from solid colors to transparent was murky, mixed with grey. I started experimenting with different combinations of colors and gradients and in different browsers. Finally I discovered that there is a difference in the way browsers interpret ‘transparent’ in gradients: and actually treat transparent as ‘black transparent’, causing gradients to add dark shades where none should appear according to the CSS code; on the other hand makes a smooth transition from the starting solid color to transparency (Internet Explorer doesn’t support gradients at all in the stable channel yet).

01 May 2012

Automatic message translation graduates from Gmail Labs

When I opened my Gmail inbox today I got a little surprise: Gmail prompted me to translate the message from Romanian into English. Not particularly useful in this case, since Romanian is my native language and most of my email communication is in a language I an fluent in, but maybe at some point… The quality of the Romanian to English translation is pretty bad as well.

I searched to see if this was a new feature I missed; turns out this was released back in 2009 in Gmail Labs. It’s not listed in the ‘Labs’ section of Gmail settings anymore and I never enabled it, so I guess automatic translation graduated from Labs and will be available to all Gmail users. Unfortunately, the more advanced options mentioned in the documentation are no longer available: there are no options in the general settings to turn the feature off or to set your ‘Default translation language’, no interface for ‘Translate conversation’. If you turn the automatic translation off, you can re-enable it only from the message context menu: there is a new entry for ‘Translate message’ under ‘Reply’. Gmail automatically translate messages

Nice, published a full 20 min before the official announcement!